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A new take on fairy tales

Posted : 9 years, 9 months ago on 3 August 2008 02:38 (A review of Stardust (2007))

I'm a huge fairy tale nut, and Stardust is the sort of story that manages to catch every bit of that love and throw it back to me. Gaiman is a genius. The plot is light and silly, but at the same time, manages to catch every bit of the wonder that makes the Grimm tales so enticing. In a way that movies like Ladyhawke and The Brothers Grimm do not.

I highly recommend it.

Now, for the detail.

Overall, I loved this film. It's sweet, and uplifting, and the few flaws are mild enough not to annoy me, and I'm the sort who can easily find that some flaws keep me from enjoying movies, so that says a lot, I think. The story is simple enough. Tristran is sweet and rather innocuous. The girl-next-door that he wants at the beginning of the film is vain and spoiled enough that you know she isn't the one for him. The set up about the royal family of Stronghold, and their succession is humorous, if a bit obvious. The star in the form of Claire Danes is lovely. She occasionally overreacts, but as a non-earthly creature, it works quite well, really. And Michelle is incredibly perfect as the evil witch. All in all, excellent casting.

Two things I'm incredibly pleased by in this story: the magic and fact that those little threads that most writers would let dangle were actually pulled back into the main thread of the story. The magic feels real, like it actually has rules behind it. Like someone's given it thought. Hubby tells me this is just Gaiman's usual magic, but I'm still pleased to see it. He did a lovely job of it.

As for the storyline threads, there were so many that I wouldn't have been surprised to see dropped, but most of them were still wound back into the story. The story about Tristran's parents: not only her "story" that she tells to his father about being a princess, or the chain he cuts to try to free her then gives their son later, but also the name she gives her son: Tristran is a version of a name that means "sad." What better name for a girl to give her son when she's been held captive who knew how long, and she was going to have to give him up, and possibly never see him again? And as for the chain that his father chops off, it is not only used by Tristran on Yvaine, but later another version is used to bind her and Una together. And the idea that only powerful magic -- including a unicorn horn (a nice touch) -- can remove the chain is very nice. There's more, of course. These are just the ones that immediately come to mind.

Actors: Peter O'Toole's cameo was fun. As was Rupert Everett's. Michelle was utterly lovely. At the moment she started sobbing about loosing her sisters, I was utterly disappointed, so when we found out it was entirely put on...I couldn't help but grin. And she did not only a lovely acting job, but she did it through a ton of makeup. Claire did an okay job. I've seen her do better, but she held up well. As for Deniro? He was a slasher's dream. I think he may well have stolen the movie. I just loved him.

In fact, I will say that the point the movie and the two heroes' come into their own is the entire sequence on the air boat. The movie is especially fun during that whole part of the film. Captain Shakespeare's reasoning for his name, his closet, "cutting" Tristran's hair longer, the fighting and dancing lessons... I loved it all. Particularly Septimus's attack once they've left the ship. Absolutely priceless.

I do have to say that the story surrounding Tristran's parentage and the "secret" about his mother was a bit anticlimactic. Meaning that the moment the King asked where "Una" was, I knew that Tristran would end up the king, with Yvaine as his queen. I would have liked something more subtle, at least. But I am glad it wasn't the only storyline. Some of the acting was a bit stiff, and a few accents were dropped. But overall, I thought it wasn't enough to really upset the balance of the film.

My overall impression? Excellent movie. I highly recommend it.

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A worthy translation

Posted : 9 years, 9 months ago on 3 August 2008 02:30 (A review of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

When I heard this was being filmed, I had a little checklist of things in my head. Things that the movie absolutely had to do right for me to be happy coming out of the theatre. They had to show the interaction between Lucy and Tumnus well. I didn't want Tumnus to come across creepy and squicky, especially. I wanted to see the scene between the Queen and Edmund. I wanted to see the presents from Santa, even if we didn't see Santa. And they absolutely HAD to have grown-up Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy on a hunt at the end. I was not disappointed by any of those scenes. They were all there, and they were all wonderful.

Tumnus--what can I say? He was perfect and timid and just wonderful to watch, and the costume and effects for his hooves were perfect. Even his scarf was lovely. :D The scene with him lulling Lucy to sleep by playing his pipe, and Aslan breaking the spell is absolutely gorgeous. And his horror at what he's been forced to do was well-played.

Tilda was lovely, if extremely understated. I'm still trying to decide if I would have wanted someone more over-the-top for the Queen. I love Tilda, but I was expecting more histrionics, I guess. On the other hand, she was gorgeous, and definitely coldly cruel. And the scene where she made a hot drink and Turkish Delight for Edmund was perfect.

The scene with Santa was almost exactly word-for-word from the book at the beginning, though I did miss him giving them the presents for Edmund as well, and apparently the beavers deserved nothing... I do understand why they cut that part of the scene, but still.

But my favorite scene was the Hunt. I was so worried they'd sell it short and keep them kids, but I desperately wanted to see the older versions of them, and the return to the "real world" as it were. It was so perfect, and the falling out of the wardrobe kids again was just the way I imagined it.

Now, I'm a long-time fan of the Narnia books. Read them several times over the years. And though I didn't see the Christian imagery when I was a kid, it's blatant to me now. While I'm stridently anti-religion, and those sorts of things usually annoy the heck out of me, I can honestly say that the scriptwriter did an excellent job on transferring it all across. There was no new imagery to "suggest" further religious stuff, and I don't particularly think they toned down what CS Lewis actually had in the story itself. I thought it was actually quite well-handled, considering the subject-matter.

Other bits and pieces:

* Jim Broadbent as the Professor. Such an excellent casting choice. He really does the childlike surprise and interest well.
* Aslan. I would have liked a stronger voice, actually. I love Liam Neeson, but I don't think he was strong enough for the part when it came right down to it. I guess it felt to me like Aslan was holding back a bit.
* The Beavers were fabulous. The animation was perfect, and the interplay between the two of them was wonderful. And Dawn French was terrific, as usual. :D
* I have heard others say that Edmund steals the movie, but really, aside from one scene at the beginning of the movie, really, everything I saw in the movie with him was stuff that was straight from the book. And the boy they got to play him did an excellent job.
* Peter--the young man they got to play him was excellent. He is how I have always seen Cedric Diggory in my head, if a touch younger than Cedric in GOF.
* I quite liked how they illustrated the realities of the children's situation before they got on the train, and also how much the kids really felt like siblings. Whoever was responsible for that did an excellent job.
* My husband was thrilled at "Aslan's on the move." Rather important line, and nicely done. Sent a thrill through me when I heard it. And another wonderful line that I'd totally forgotten about until it was said: "Ward Robe in the land of Spare Oom..." Which makes me think of Rock and Rule now, but it's an adorable line. :D
* The wardrobe itself was an absolutely gorgeous thing. WETA outdid themselves, and not just on that, either. The costumes after they arrive at Aslan's camp, and the weapons and crowns were all gorgeous.
* Tumnus's punishment. I was practically biting my nails waiting for Edmund to stumble across Tumnus in the Queen's courtyard, but when they showed him it was utterly perfect and so miserable. Poor Edmund...
* And OMG, the swordfighting. I kept snickering at Peter using his sword like a gun, keeping it trained on whoever he was fighting, but I love that in the final battle sequences they were actually swordfighting--meaning that they weren't fencing with the ruddy things or using them like clubs. Tilda especially shone in the battle sequences.

So, overall? Good movie. I highly recommend it.

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Not Burton's best

Posted : 9 years, 9 months ago on 3 August 2008 02:18 (A review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

The first thing I must say is that I read this or was read this book when I was very small, so I can't recall the differences between the Musical and the book. Despite that, I could tell that there were a lot of places in the movie that went back to the original source material, just from what I remembered. I also think Tim had a huge impact on the changes from the original storyline, and anyone who knows his work will see it.

I did enjoy it, but could have done without his special addition, to be honest.

Johnny- I love Johnny. I'm a fan from way back in the teen idol days. I watched 21 Jump Street as consistently as my parents would allow (in other words, not regularly). And when he moved to movies, I made sure to watch as many as I could. I love how his career has grown, and how careful he is with the characters he chooses to play. They're always different, and he never plays the same guy twice. Even if it feels like the same role at first.

I liked him in this. But... when I first saw the original commercial for the movie, I was a little freaked out. And I couldn't figure out why he creeped me out for a long time. Until something made me compare him to Gary Oldman. His Willy Wonka reminds me of Zorg from the Fifth Element. Not that he was evil in that way, but in the horribly plasticky look they gave him. And I do understand they were trying to stylize him, but even so, it left me cold. And after seeing the movie, I also have to say that he just kind of floated through the part. He was good, he was believable, but he didn't always feel all there during some scenes, and I mean that in the not acting way, not in the "he's insane" way. As far as I'm concerned, he didn't claim Willy Wonka as well as Gene Wilder did in the Musical.

The kids- Charlie was lovely. I think the kid they got to play him did an excellent job, though there were moments in the movie where Tim (or possibly Roald, I'm not sure if the scenes were straight from the book) got a bit too preachy about how good and wholesome Charlie was. Luckily, there weren't too many.

Agustus Gloop almost felt like he was a computer animated character before they ever got to the factory. But I was pleased that his mother got a bit more screen-time in this one. It wasn't just her shrieking about Augustus.

Varuca Salt was perfect. Evil and conniving and petty.

Violet had an interesting twist to her character: her mother was the one pushing her to be competitive. I also liked that she and Mike TV ended up with reversed parents. Instead of Violet's father going along, it was her mother, and instead of Mike's mother, it was his father.

Mike was the one I had the most trouble with, to be honest. Instead of being a simple TV junkie, which I agree doesn't happen so much any more, he was turned not only into a video-game-shooter kid, but he was also rather a genius when it came to technical stuff. Now, the technical stuff worked as far as his wanting to use the Wonka-vision, but I kind of wanted to see this violent streak, which they alluded to a few times in the movie, used in his punishment in some form. Well, now that I think on it, it was a bit, with the way the Oompa Loompas smack him around while they're singing, but it didn't seem enough, really.

Tim's addition- now, anyone who knows about Tim Burton knows one of his themes is fathers. Which is fine. But did he have to add it to this movie? It had themes enough of it's own. I wanted to see the bubble room--though the way the Charlie acted in this one, he'd probably be too perfect to try it. And my husband said he missed seeing the office and the signing of the contract. The father stuff worked okay, but I would have rather seen the original story, and not a story that was chopped in half and changed into a Tim Burton story... They just didn't feel like they were part of the overall story to me. But since I knew the story beforehand, that might just be me.

Other bits- I loved that the grandparents (grandpa Jo and grandma Josephine and grandpa George and grandma Georgina) all had extremely distinct personalities that came out onscreen. And particularly enjoyed Liz Smith (who played Letitia Cropley in the Vicar of Dibley series) as grandma Georgina. I loved the Disney-esque entrance to the factory, which then proceeded to blow up and catch on fire.

I know this sounds like I hated it, but I really didn't. It was a lot of fun to watch, even if there were several wincable things. It's worth going, just be prepared, because it's definitely not the same.

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Batman Begins review

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 27 July 2008 03:07 (A review of Batman Begins)

An enjoyable film. I think it's a great restart to an excellent story that was sold a bit short with the last round. The thing that sold me the most was Gary Oldman and their choice of villains.

I love Gary Oldman. He made this movie worth watching for me. And you could tell he was having fun, too. Particularly when he got to use the Batmobile. And I love that they showed his family. Also, Ra's Al Ghul's part in the story was perfect. I had my doubts when I saw that the person playing him wasn't well-known, but trust me...he's PERFECT. Also, I loved that they used Crane/Scarecrow in this very first story. It ends up setting up everything to come.

Things that I particularly enjoyed: the training sequences, particularly the final training fight between Christian and Liam, which was excellently choreographed.

I also enjoyed how they played up the Wayne corporation in the movie. The idea that Wayne Enterprises was being run by a board worked well with the idea that his father was a doctor in canon, so it was a nice nod to why there was a corporation. And Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. And he was excellent. And the fact that he knows about where all the bat-toys come from. "Mister Wayne...Don't think of me as an idiot."

The slow development of Bruce Wayne, depressed and guilty millionaire's son to Batman was just about perfect. The final scene with Gordon and Batman on the rooftop (another great line... "I couldn't find a mob boss"), and his clue for this Arkham criminal Batman's going to have to capture (no, I won't say which. It's obvious when you see the clue, but it's a biggie. ;D ) were excellent. Gives me hope for good movies in the future.

The not-so-great stuff: I felt rather beat over the head with the "Fear" mallet, specifically at the beginning. And they didn't follow through on it nearly enough. They were obviously having too much fun with the car-chases, blowing things up, and other action scenes. Also, I don't hate Katie Holmes, but does she have any other acting style? I swear she was just being Joey from Dawson's Creek. Not what I wanted to see. I would much have preferred to see Talia (Ra's daughter) as a love interest. Seeing as how she really didn't do much for the plot, and their "romance" was nonexistent. Michael Cane was nice, but felt mostly unused. I would have liked something more for him to do than snark sweetly at still-evolving Bruce.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, but there is definitely some growing room that they took great advantage of in the sequel. Definitely worth a watch.

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Lucas finally ends it all

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 26 July 2008 11:41 (A review of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith)

Episode 3 wasn't as bad as 1 or 2. But it was in no way as good as Empire. No matter what some reviews said. After thirty-odd years, you would think that he could at least come up for a worthy end for his series, but apparently he just couldn't. There are some good bits to this film, but mostly, it's just more of the same, and quite painful to watch.

The Tie-fighter-like ships at the beginning bugged me, but the scenes on the ship were good until Duku appeared. I really expected more from that sequence, but it was so flat. I did like the end of the fight, with Palpatine egging Ani to kill Duku, and Duku's shocked look. You could almost see him saying "but master..." Very Luke/Vader in Jedi, really. I liked the ship plunging towards the planet, and the fact that General Grievous escaped. Sliding down the elevator chute when the ship righted itself was good...different. :)

The Padme/Ani stuff didn't bug me as much this time round. Still wasn't great, though this time it was her that bugged me more than him. Like the second she decided she loved him, she turned into this whiny, clingy, boring person who had no other life beyond him. yeesh. Oh, and she was so not big enough to be pregnant with full-term twins (and both of those babies were definitely full-term). They should have been tiny.

I did think that Ani's journey was a lot less whiny this time round. He actually seemed confused, and it felt to me like he was trying to work it out, at least. The scene with him thanking Ben before he left to get rid of Grievous was excellent, particularly since the next time they saw each other, they were on opposite sides. And his turning was near-perfect, actually. Sam Jackson did a great job of playing both sides of what was going on. Both that he was honestly trying to get rid of a threat to their way of life, and someone who had gone a bit too far over the edge and was trying to kill a community leader. I could see Ani struggling with the ideas he'd been fed from both sides, and trying to come to a decision. Well done, really. Still a bit wooden, but better than most Ani scenes in Clones. You can almost feel the sorrow of the realization that if they'd just trusted Ani a bit more, things would have gone the other direction. There was real horror in his face when he realized Palpatine was Sideous. He would have helped them if they had arrested the man. But Windu and the rest of the council are so blinded by what "must be done" that they just don't get it.

The scenes in the temple were the only thing that was touching enough to make me cry in this film. I cried at the end, but that was because it was over, and I was feeling emotional from realizing the future Luke and Leia had to look forward to. Ani activating his lightsaber after the kid asks him what they should do... So dark.

The confrontation between Ani, Amidala and Ben was perfect. Shows the true problem with "just doing it for the knowledge." You might be, but the knowledge isn't positive or pure, and it changes you. As does killing. It becomes a habit, and you forget your true intentions. I liked him choking the life out of Padme, very fitting. And the scenes between he and Ben were perfect. They played off each other well. The fight left a bit to be desired, but the finale was perfect. No big, "oops, I left my padawan in a lake of boiling lava...oh, well..." His warning to Ani not to do it, and that flash of lightsaber when he jumped were perfect. Gruesome, but perfect. And the best touch? Ben taking his lightsaber as he left.

The rescue and resurrection of Ani was perfect. And Palpatine telling him he'd killed Padme was excellent. I liked the idea that he couldn't even recall what he'd done. Him having a fit about it and pulling free of the restraints was good, though it was hard to get much emotion from that suit. Only to be expected, but I had to say it. The Padme dying scenes were stupid. I hated them. She should have been in a coma for the entire thing, and hence unable to name the children. She was certainly far too coherent at the end there when she did. And she said the names like they meant something. What was that about? I wanted more from her side of the story. I felt ripped-off. I wanted to see her interacting with Bail, and a lot more interaction with Ben. Emotional connections. Plans. Something.

I liked the Wookie planet, and the fact that we saw Chewbacca (I knew it had to be him, but I wasn't sure until Yoda called him by name), and I'm quite glad there was no little Han, thankyouverymuch. Yoda really kicked ass this time. He was perfect. And Order 66? Eerily perfect. Though I did get a bit sick of Yoda's reactions each and every time...

The dialogue? Who did he hire to write this? A six-year-old? Just made me want to tear my hair out. Not like he couldn't have afforded a good writer by now. However, I was pleased that Jar Jar had no lines, at least.

As I said in the section about Ani's downfall, the point where I got all emotional was the moment they showed Alderaan. I've been waiting to see it for thirty years. And it was beautiful. I really would have preferred a very different story here, as I seem to recall reading in the Jedi novelization that Leia knew her mother (but I could be imagining things...), and I would have liked to see Bail/Padme, even if one-sided. I think she was a strong enough character before they were married. And it wouldn't have been that difficult to save her, but let Ani think she was dead... Watching Leia and Luke with their respective adopted parents just made me bawl. By the last shot, I had tears streaming down my face, knowing what they had waiting for them in the future. Just so sad.

Oh, and the "training" Yoda sets for Ben? That seemed a bit too contrived to me. I mean, I get that Lucas was trying to connect that to the "Jedi ghost" thing in the original three, but come on...

Anyway, ultimate feeling on this? I needed to see it in the theatre, but just the once. Maybe I'll get lucky, and it'll age well. Not that I really believe that.

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Douglas would have loved it

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 26 July 2008 11:29 (A review of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

This was a movie I've been looking forward to for a very long time. My family used to listen to it every night when it was on NPR, and I've always adored it. I have two things to say before I go on to the spoilerish stuff. One is that it was fabulous, and if you like the series in any form, you should go see it. The other is that Douglas Adams would have loved it. And that, beyond anything else, is a great reason to see the film.

Let's start with what I wanted from this movie. I didn't expect a faithful recreation of either radio-play or book, as both end on cliffhangers, and wouldn't work well for a movie. I did expect most of the same basic storyline. Man wakes up to find house about to be smashed down, friend comes to save him, house gets smashed, Earth gets blown up, he and friend are captured, he and friend are saved via ship, ship takes them to strange planet, where they learn that Earth was just a construct. It was all there. And more.

As for the actors, the actor they chose for Arthur (who played one of the body-doubles in Love Actually) was perfect. Maybe not as exclamatory as he could have been, but bewildered and funny, and there. Alan Rickman, who did the voice of Marvin, was great, but was cheated again, as there were so many great Marvin lines that had to be cut to make way for the changes in the story line. Zaphod (who acted with Rickman in Galaxy Quest as the "extra"), was really pretty much perfect. Obnoxious, egotistical and brainless. Exactly how I see Zaphod. Trillian, on the other hand, just seemed wrong to me. I didn't want a brainless bubblehead like the had in the BBC TV show, but I would have liked someone with a bit more energy, and a British accent, at the very least. She wasn't bad, I just wanted her to fit better into the cast, and particularly with Arthur, since he's her love interest. Oh, and for those who care, the original Arthur Dent, as well as the BBC TV Marvin show up in the movie. No, I won't tell you where, but keep your eyes open. :)

On to the storyline changes...The storyline is much the same, but they took the overriding storyline that was the main focus of the first three books (the idea that Earth was a giant computer built to discover the ultimate question), and made that the ultimate focus of the movie. I thought they did an exceptional job keeping everything leading to that point. A few things got dropped along the way, and a few things had to be added, but not one scene felt like it couldn't have come from the books.

For me, though, the most important thing about this series, and the thing I was most waiting to see and hear, was the Guide. After all, it is the title of the movie. And they did several entries, but there were whole sections of the movie where this idea seemed forgotten. The thing that made the original radio show stand out for me were the frequent breaks in the story where all action stopped, and the Guide took over. It was so different from anything that had come before it. It made the show more fun, and more interesting. Now, the entries they did were fabulous, but it quite disappeared in most of the sections where they'd created new scenes to explain some of the action. I think that to make this movie perfect, they would have had to add at least three more Guide entries.

Other bits and bobs...Loved Ford arriving with the trolley full of alcohol and peanuts, and bribing the demolition crew with them. Loved the inclusion of the stories about how Arthur and Ford met, and how Arthur, Trillian and Zaphod met. Adored the Vogon Constructor Fleet, part, particularly the pub patrons lying down on the floor with paper bags over their heads. The Vogons were fabulous, but the poetry wasn't nearly dreadful enough (maybe needed more of a book entry, like in the BBC TV version?). "Resistance is useless" written seven years before Next Gen, thankyouverymuch... The Heart of Gold (and the sighing doors) was adorable. Trillian showing off the kitchen, with the particular highlight of the mini-lightsaber used to toast bread as you cut it. :D Eddie wasn't quite as up as he could have been. The Pan-galactic Gargle-blasters were perfect. I loved the inclusion of Zaphod's arch-rival, who turns out to be the leader of a certain church mentioned in the Guide... Slartybadfast (sp?) was excellent as well, and another actor who was in Love Actually, to boot.

The ultimate scene, though, was when Slartybadfast took Arthur through Magrathea's planet-construction chamber. The scenery was amazing through the entire sequence.

All in all, if you go with an open mind (or a Douglas mind?), I think you'll very much enjoy the experience. Go see it.

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A pleasant surprise

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 26 July 2008 11:17 (A review of The Butterfly Effect (2004))

To be honest, I do not like Ashton Kutcher. But I remember seeing the preview for this movie and going, hm, that doesn't look too bad. But I stayed away.

When I finally watched it on TV, I was completely blown away. Very well done. Possibly one of the best modern thrillers since Hitchcock's death. Some of the ideas weren't fully explored, but they did an excellent job with what they did explore, given the time constraints on a feature-length film.

By the end, I'd totally forgotten the main character was Ashton Kutcher. And that's a very good thing, if I can forget who the actor is and start to enjoy the film in spite of that. And the ending was perfect. Not happy, but not sad, either. Just a touch melancholy. Perfect. I highly recommend it for those who don't mind a bit of time travel, and like thrillers.

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Bride & Prejudice review

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 26 July 2008 10:59 (A review of Bride & Prejudice)

Having not seen Bend It Like Beckham, or anything that was even close to a Bollywood flick, I wasn't sure what to expect. However, I had two thoughts while watching this movie. First, that it was similar to My Big Fat Greek wedding on the romance side, as it was a love story which dealt a great deal with the culture one of the love interests is from. I loved the glimpse it gave into the non-commercial world of Indian culture, and how the creators weren't afraid of laughing at the silliness of Bollywood movies. The other was that despite the change of location and time from the original subject matter, Pride and Prejudice translated amazingly well, and I was often surprised at the bits that translated almost directly from the original story.

Characters: the lead ingenue, Lalita, is lovely, and quite believable. Her sisters are all lovely as well. The eldest, Jaya, has her own little love story, with Balraj, who is played by Naveen Andrews, aka Sayid from Lost. One of the younger sisters, Lakhi (Lucky) has a love story as well, though if you know Pride and Prejudice, you'll have some clue as to how well that turns out.

A surprising bit they managed to pull from the original story was the youngest daughter's artistic talent. In this case, she does a dance for their guests. Absolutely hilarious scene.

The suitors were well-chosen. Darcy was perfect, a rich outsider who just doesn't get it, but keeps trying. Balraj was sweet, though I would have liked to have seen more of him. Mr Kholi (the suitor that their mother wants Lalita to marry) is obnoxious and overwhelming, and just utterly perfect. I had honestly forgotten that Wickham even existed until he'd appeared on the screen, but the actor that they got to play him was perfect, sleezy and sweet in turns, and always believable in each role.

One surprising bit from the book that did not appear in the movie: in the book, Darcy's friend's sister is trying to get him to court her, and she is constantly getting in between him and Elizabeth. While Kiran (Balraj's sister) did seem to be headed this way (she flirts with him a bit at the beginning of the movie), they never did much with that part of the storyline. I assume they probably intended to have it in there, but decided it complicated the plot too much. No big, as I didn't particularly miss it, but it did surprise me that it wasn't there.

Favorite bits: the wedding dance, with Balraj egging Darcy to dance with Lalita so he can dance with Jaya. The snake dance mentioned above when Darcy, Balraj and Kholi are there for dinner. The spontaneous choir on the beach when Lalita begins to fall for Darcy. And Wickham's "You've always been the only one," after Lalita slaps him for absconding with her sister, at which Lucky turns and slaps him as well before the two girls leave with Darcy.

It is a Bollywood film, which means two things. One, that there will be lots of music, singing, and dancing. But all of the numbers are done in good-hearted fun, and they're quite willing to laugh at themselves (cross dressers in the scene where the girls are wandering around downtown before the first of the best friends is to be married and move to England!). And two: no kissing. It wasn't until the Bakshi family were in Hollywood attending the wedding of Lalita's best friend that I realized there had yet to be a single kiss in the entire film. But honestly, you never miss it.

Just trust me, if you like romances, particularly if you liked My Big Fat Greek Wedding, go see it. You'll love it. :D

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The Phantom of the Opera review

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 26 July 2008 09:50 (A review of The Phantom of the Opera)

First, let me say that I loved the stage version. And I went to the movie with every expectation of enjoying it, knowing that there would be differences. I was even sure I could avoid the inevitable “they were no…” syndrome. And I’m glad I went. But the movie I saw wasn’t the one I was hoping for.

The actors were generally well-chosen, and didn’t feel as though they were out of place, though I could have wished for a Christine with a stronger voice, and Raul was a bit too milquetoast. I didn’t have the trouble with the Phantom that most people seem to be having. He was older than Christine, and that’s all I really needed on that line. I did have two problems with him, though. One wasn’t the actor’s fault: the makeup they made for him made no sense. Throughout the movie we see his right eye looks exactly the same as his left. Until the mask is removed, and then suddenly, the skin underneath the eye is pulled away from it, and the eyelid seemed saggy. Wouldn’t we have seen this through his mask? The other was that, as nice as the actor was to look at, I do not see the Phantom as buff. Not in any way, shape or form. It just doesn’t work.

I was also mildly annoyed by the fact that they took part of the Phantom’s story and toned it down. The Phantom was the one who designed the Opera house. Madame Guiry says that he was an architect, and he’s constantly referring to the place as his. So why did they feel the need to take this from him? I realize that the little story they made up for him was nice and dramatic, and put Madam Guiry more firmly in his camp, but it bugged me anyway.

I found the faces I recognized in the movie quite interesting. Miranda Richardson was a lovely Madam Guiry, and Minnie Driver was perfect as Carlotta. A particular favorite scene of mine was the “Prima Donna” scene, where she’s about to leave the opera house, and they see the crowd waiting, and all assume it’s for her, and she opens the door, and a man hands her a rose, saying “Could you give this to miss Daae?” and she shuts the door and says, “I’ll stay.” Perfect. She plays to the hilt, which is exactly what the role needs. Oh, and the stage-hand mooning her as she prepares to leave was priceless, too.

Scenes: I liked the interspersed bits with Raul in 1919, particularly seeing the woman who I assume was Meg Guiry. And I remember thinking, “How can they possibly make the chandelier going up exciting in a movie?” But what they did was perfect, turning the chandelier into a time-machine, and sending us back to the opera at its height. The managers being introduced to everyone, and drooling over both Meg and Christine was amusing, and Christine’s first solo was lovely, if a bit weak.

They had me, right up to the point where the Phantom appeared in the mirror, and then suddenly I was watching a very bad rock video version of the Phantom of the Opera. Particularly the multiple images of Christine as she approaches the mirror, the arm-candelabra-filled hallway, and the (wtf?) horse. I couldn’t help but laugh. And for that scene, that simply wasn’t okay.

The chandelier’s crash being moved didn’t bug me too much, surprisingly, as I always kind of thought it was an odd place to put it, though I suppose it makes sense to have it end the first section of the play. Gives it a dramatic finish that simply isn’t needed in the movie. The duet between Christine and Raul on the roof was a touch nauseating, mostly because it went on too long.

The masquerade, which has always been my favorite part of the soundtrack, and which I expected great things from, fizzled. The costumes were lovely, but why weren’t Raul and Christine wearing masks? And as for the Phantom, if anything, his costume should have been bigger and flashier than the one in the stage production, if for no other reason than that this is a movie, and they can blind us more. But no, you barely even noticed his entrance, which could have gone unnoticed if the screen hadn’t shifted to show him. The change in the lyrics here worked surprisingly well, given that it was the combination of two scenes, but I was wondering if he was even going to notice the ring Raul had given Christine.

I was pleasantly surprised by Past the Point of No Return, however. After the muck they made of the title song, I was expecting more of the same, but this time, it worked, and the scene was perfect.

All in all? I’d say if you’re a big fan, do go see it, but if you’ve seen the stage production, understand that it’s definitely not as good.

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) review

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 26 July 2008 09:45 (A review of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004))

I highly recommend Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. If you haven't seen it yet, all I can say is that if you like serial-style movies, or Max Fleischer cartoons (the old superman cartoons), or movies set in a Pre-world war II era, go see it. Or even if you like Gwenyth Paltrow or Jude Law. That's all I can say without spoiling anything.

This movie is amazing. Angelina was fun, but wasn't in it much, and what they did with Olivier...I'd forgotten it was him until after the movie was over, and my husband pointed it out. You wouldn't even guess that the actor never actually played the part. Scary.

The flaws I saw were all of the kind that made me go, "did they do that on purpose, or to copy the style of the serials?" Jude Law was great, and Gwenyth was perfect. The thing that makes it especially amazing is that the entire movie, aside from the actors (minus Mr Olivier, of course), was all computer generated. If you sit through the credits, you see that just about every effects studio in Hollywood was involved with the making. And Gwenyth and Jude never make you feel like they're not seeing what's on the screen. I personally think that this stretches Ms Paltrow's talents as much as Shakespeare in Love did, and I thought she was excellent in that.

The movie could basically be split into three different sections: The beginning is the Max Fleischer bit, with the robots invading New York City (which was a touch too realistic after 9/11, despite the fact that it was robots). This was the "superhero" bit, with Jude Law as someone outside the usual official channels who helps the world in extreme situations.

Then, when his base is attacked, it falls into a war-hero serial mode, with the two main characters off to save the world from the evil forces before it's too late. Again, the scenes of destruction here are so realistic that it's a bit overwhelming. But the style keeps it from being to hard to handle. Just as everything gets to be too much, the hero or heroine pop up with a comment, or an action that is straight out of the old serials that could be considered a touch silly nowadays. It keeps the movie from getting too heavy.

The last section of the movie is when they wake up in Nepal (okay, I'm still not going to say exactly where, in case someone didn't listen and is still reading this without having seen the movie first). This is the Adventure/Fantasy type serial, and leads all the way through to the end of the movie, with glimpses of Dragons, underwater architecture, and even a space-ship.

I think what's most amazing to me is the fact that even though I can see the movie in those three forms, it still felt seamless. The scenes blended perfectly from moment to moment. This is a great movie, following the traditions started by Lucas and Spielberg in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and continued by Universal with the Mummy series and Van Helsing. I think, though, out of all of those movies, that this is the one that sticks closest to the original source material. And in doing so, it becomes the most intriguing of the lot.

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