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Frozen Fever (2015)
A 7-minute short feature, a musical birthday.
I just watched the newest 'Cinderella' on DVD. And a bit off-topic, it is a very nicely made version of the classic tale.
The DVD extras are sparse but one of them is this nice little 7- minute short movie. The title is a reference to it being a birthday but someone is sick with a fever.
It has many of the same performers and same characters as in the feature length movie 'Frozen.' In that movie Elsa, the Ice Queen, spent a lot of effort staying away from Anna. Now it is Anna's birthday and Elsa wants to do something special for her, a birthday party. But Elsa isn't feeling well, she has a fever, and in the end Anna has to take care of her.
This short is done in a traditional musical style with one long song and most of the characters singing their lines at one point or the other.
All in all a nicely entertaining short, especially if you like 'Frozen' the movie.
Have courage, be kind, and look for a little magic along the way!
This may be the perfect telling of the Cinderella story. I viewed on DVD from my public library. It also has as an extra the short 7+ minute film 'Frozen Fever', which is just a short musical where all the characters sing and celebrate Anna's birthday.
This movie starts when Ella is about 10, we meet her mum and her dad, a merchant who travels to foreign lands to bring back goods of interest. Her mum gets ill and dies and poor dad makes a very poor decision, he takes in a widow and her two daughters. When dad dies on a business trip when Ella is in her late teens, the wicked stepmom turns on her jealousy and hate full-blast.
Cate Blanchett, with her too-wide mouth and not quite attractive bumpy nose, is a perfect wicked Stepmother. She and her daughters treat Ella in the long-standing manner, and when Ella sleeps one cold night at the hearth of the fireplace, and wakes up with cinders on her face, they start to call her Cinderella.
The rest of the movie pretty well follows the traditional fairy tale but the dialog is written so well and the scenes are set up so well this rendition easily rises above the former ones. It reminds me of the 1998 "Ever After" with Drew Barrymore, but this Cinderella is not as headstrong and does make use of a little magic.
Lily James is just perfect as Cinderella, and she even sings the song in the closing credits "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes." Plus Richard Madden is just perfect as the Prince who becomes the King when his father dies.
My very favorite scene was when Ella was rushing home from the ball at midnight and her carriage and attendants began reverting to their original forms along the way. That was inventive and very well done.
Several others deserve mention. Helena Bonham Carter is the Fairy Godmother and does some narration. I especially enjoyed Nonso Anozie, all 6'-6" of him, as the Captain who insists that they investigate the singing coming from the attic of the wicked Stepmother's residence. Against the will of Stellan Skarsgård as the dastardly Grand Duke who was scheming against the Prince.
Also Derek Jacobi as the King, Ben Chaplin as Ella's Father, and pretty Hayley Atwell (of Agent Carter fame) in too brief a role as Ella's Mother.
A really, really good version of the Cinderella story.
Furious Seven (2015)
'The thing with street fights, the street always wins.' Toretto
I have not seen all of the "Furious" series of movies. But I was a Paul Walker fan since I saw him in 'Pleasantville'. His death in a car crash almost 2 years ago was so close to real life imitating art. Filming for this movie was not yet finished so they had to jump through a few hoops, including using Paul's two brothers as body doubles in unfinished scenes. Plus using some footage and cut footage from prior 'Furious' movies.
All in all it works very well, if we had not known of Paul's death we would never have guessed that he was not involved in the whole shoot. Now 'Furious' movies are not for all tastes but when you look at the box office numbers one must recognize the success of the franchise. I like the 'Furious' movies for the absurd action and sound they provide. Plus the actors are all good, the characters all interesting, and the story is good.
Vin Diesel, also a producer, is back as Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner. A new villain is introduced, Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw. He is a trained special ops guy who has turned to crime and in particular he is out to get those who put his brother in the hospital.
So most of the movie has the good guys chasing Shaw and the men who help support his cause. There is a very cool mountainous chase scene supposedly in Eastern Europe but actually filmed on Pike's Peak in Colorado, both the winding roadway to the summit and the crashes down the mountainside.
Michelle Rodriguez is back as Letty, needing to get her memory back. Of course Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs. The cool new character is Kurt Russell as 'Mr. Nobody', providing tactical support for the good guys.
SPOILERS: In the end, of course, Toretto gets the best of Shaw, and as the movie draws to a close Shaw is shown being put into a maximum security prison cell. I suspect he will escape and be a villain in a future 'Furious' movie. Plus there is a tribute of sorts to the deceased Paul Walker, we see his body double on the beach with his wife and child, then as he and Toretto are in separate cars, driving side-by-side, conversing with windows down, an aerial shot shows the cars parting as they come to a 'Y' in the road, Walker's car going its own way.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The roar of the grease, the smell of the desert crowd.
They are on their way to Valhalla. Witness!
This is a re-imagining of the original Mad Max movies with Mel Gibson. There is no direct link other than Max. On these boards I asked "What is the basic story?" A couple of interesting replies are:
" In the new world order there is a family (faction?) in monopoly of (each of) the resources, one has the water, another the oil production, and another the gun production. Furiosa escapes the clutches of the water baron taking his captive breeding women. He pursues her with the help of the other monopoly members. She realizes her dream homeland is gone so she returns to the water baron's place, killing him en route and taking over his fiefdom. Along the way Furiosa encounters Max, who decides to help her. "
" Leader of bad guys has 5 models who are his brides who have his children for breeding the pale white guys. girls run away, bad guy chases them across the dessert, max helps the girls and battles the bad guy. max wins by ripping off the bad guys face. end of story. boooooring as hell but pretty to look at scenery and oh so cool chase scenes. "
So whether one considers this boring or exciting depends on one's frame of mind. In the chases across the Namibian desert it is almost nonstop action. Chases, shooting, flame-throwing guitar playing, cars and motorcycles crashing, explosions. I have to give credit to the filmmakers, and the sound track has much deep bass to emphasize all the action, you need a home theater with a good subwoofer to really appreciate all of it. I watched it at home on DVD.
I enjoyed all the main actors, Tom Hardy is Max and Charlize Theron is the crazy lady, Furiosa, who takes the truck and the women to set out to find the Green Place of her childhood memories.
Wish You Well (2013)
Pleasant coming of age for a budding writer in the 1940s Virginia.
We found this movie on DVD from our public library. Everything in it has been told many times in various forms so there is another reason to watch it. For the characters and the actors who represent them.
It is about a couple of children, maybe 9 and 11, who must move from New York when their dad dies suddenly in a car accident, and their mother is physically uninjured but in a catatonic state. So they go to where their dad was raised, a rural mountainous part of Virginia. To live with their great grandmother who raised their dad after his mother deserted.
The great grandmother and land owner is Ellen Burstyn, about 80, as Louisa Mae Cardinal. The side story drama is created by a coal company attempting to buy up all the surrounding land but since Louisa won't leave they try to pressure her.
The young girl, maybe 11, and budding author is Mackenzie Foy as Lou Cardinal. (As an aside she played the younger Bursten character in 'Interstellar'.) The family lawyer and all around friendly guy is Josh Lucas is Cotton Longfellow, distantly related to the author Longfellow.
Overall this is a nice, small movie with a good message about family and there being more to life than trying to get rich.
Japan has Godzilla, now New York has its own monster!
I had heard about this movie but had failed to see it until now, on DVD from my public library. For anyone who likes this movie the extras are interesting from the design of the monster to JJ Abrams talking about how Japan has Godzilla and it seems to be in their popular culture, so maybe the USA needs its monster. It seems Abrams was hoping that this one would become that. Pretty lofty expectations, eh?
In a nutshell, the story focuses on a small group of shallow 20- somethings in Manhattan. They are throwing a goodbye party for one of the gang, Rob, who is going to Japan as a V.P. with some company. The party is in progress, petty gossip fills the air, when about 11PM and exactly 18:18 into the DVD we hear and feel (for those of us with a powered subwoofer) something that might be an earthquake. But we soon find out it is a 300-foot-tall monster that is as menacing as Godzilla (but looks more the MUTOs of the most recent Godzilla movie).
So all the characters switch from party mode to survival mode, trying to escape from Manhattan to Brooklyn via the bridge. The effects are very authentic, borrowing a lot from actual footage of the 9/11 attack with buildings imploding and dust clouds being pushed down the streets.
The storytelling mode is shaky camera and found footage. For those who like this sort of move it is very well made. I am not a big fan, the footage shown contains a lot of them walking, running, climbing, fighting off smaller monsters released by the large one. There is no real resolution, footage cannot be "found" unless the filmer perished. Maybe the monster is still out there?
Deux jours, une nuit (2014)
Sixteen angry men and women, will she keep her job or not?
I am a very big Marion Cotillard fan, I consider her one of a very small handful of really great female actors working today. So it was quite a treat for me to see her in this movie.
She is Sandra and while we don't get much back-story it becomes obvious as the movie unfolds that she has had some medical issues, mostly related to insecurity and depression, and has been off her job as a blue-collar worker in some sort of plant.
The plant has been suing 17 workers so when she had to take a leave they had to do the job with only 16. However during that time they apparently found that they only needed 16, so Sandra didn't really need to go back to work when she was well.
However Sandra and her husband, Fabrizio Rongione as Manu, really needed her extra income, they had two children and neither of the adults earned a lot of money. But there was a vote at work, if they hired Sandra back then there wouldn't be enough money for bonuses of about 1000 Euro for experienced workers.
And that is what this whole movie is about, can Sandra over the weekend, two days and one night, convince her co-workers to take another vote on Monday and choose to let her stay on while they forego their bonuses. Sandra doesn't really want to go talk to each one but Manu urges her on, almost forcing her to do it. A big part of the story arc is Sandra growing in her confidence and learning to approach people constructively. We see that the mostly older workers sympathize with Sandra and are reluctantly willing to give up the bonus while the younger male employees get mad at Sandra for causing trouble. They want their bonus!
While I enjoyed it because Cotillard really is that good, I also can see how many viewers could find the movie somewhat dull and tedious. It is a character study, mostly of Sandra but also of her husband and co-workers. The DVD from my public library has a good 'extra' where the actors discuss their roles and what the story means.
SPOILERS: Monday comes and Sandra has done her best to get 9 votes needed out of 16 to keep her job. But it is split 8-8 and without a majority she is asked to clean out her locker. But the boss calls her in, he says when September comes he can let go a fixed term worker and re-hire her, but she says 'no' because she doesn't want someone else to lose their job because of her. She walks away, even with a small smile, she will seek work elsewhere.
The Age of Adaline (2015)
This is a very nice and entertaining romantic fantasy. Ah, to be 29 forever!
A romantic fantasy because what we witness, as far as modern science and medicine can tell us, is impossible. But some of my favorite movies over the years have an impossible theme. That's why I watch movies, to be fascinated and entertained.
Blake Lively is Adaline Bowman. She is born in 1908, she gets married, and because of some atmospheric disturbances that happened years ago half-way across the globe, it is snowing in California when her "incident" happens. She accidentally runs off the road, into cold water which puts her into a suspended state for a few minutes, then when lightning strikes she is revived. All is well.
Yes, all is well but not normal. Her "incident" was in 1937, when she was 29, and it rearranged her biology in a way that she no longer aged. As she lived and moved forward to present time she still always looked 29. And presumably she would never develop a serious illness. But living as a perpetual 29-yr-old has it benefits and its disadvantages. Particularly it is hard for her to commit to any serious relationship, and she doesn't want her secret to be known to the curiosity seekers.
So the movie is really about her life with this "burden" and how she lives it. Plus a curious case of meeting up with a long-ago lover. It is a good movie, it gets you to think while it entertains. And the acting is first-rate.
SPOILERS follow: In present time (she is over 100 years old) she meets a very nice man who is enchanted with her, Ellis Jones played by Michiel Huisman. She wants to run off but she doesn't. She agrees to go with him to a family event and there she meets his dad, Harrison Ford as William Jones. It turns out she and William were lovers back in the 1960s, almost engaged but she didn't show up back then. He recognizes her and is shocked, but she lies, tells him Adaline was her mother and she resembles her strongly. But William finds a scar on her hand from back then when she cut herself and he sewed her up, he knew it was her. She had to tell him the whole story. Of course it was too late, he now in his 70s and she still 29, plus he was happily married. But it is fitting that she loves his son. The problem is "fixed" when she has another "incident" while driving away, this time it cancels the former effect, now she will age normally. She knows this when a year later we see her noticing a gray hair. Ellen Burstyn has an interesting role as Adaline's daughter Flemming.
'If anything happens to Cher I have a .45 and a shovel and I don't think anyone would miss you.' (Dad)
All these 20 years since the movie came out I had either missed it or just wasn't interested enough to take the time to see it. Now I found it on Netflix streaming and watched it today. For what it is, what what it sets out to do, it is a really good and entertaining movie.
The star is teenage Alicia Silverstone as Cher. Her mother died when Cher was very young, from a common liposuction procedure gone bad. That is an appropriate clue to Cher's world in Beverly Hills.
Her dad is a high-priced litigation attorney so Cher pretty much has the run of her credit cards and going to the mall is one of her primary ways to relieve stress of school or boyfriends.
But Cher in her own way is very intelligent and caring, her focus is just superficial. Her best friend is Stacey Dash as Dionne and they quip that they each have names of formerly popular singers who do commercials now.
One of the reasons I chose to see the movie now is for Brittany Murphy, before she became well-known, as Tai the new student. Cher takes pity on frumpy red-haired Tai and takes her on as a project. Murphy is very good in this role.
The other main character is a young Paul Rudd as Josh, a college student who is Cher's dad's former stepchild in one of his marriages gone bad. Dad still likes him and Josh hangs around. Dad wants Josh to become an attorney.
Of course the whole movie is a parody of teen life and teen issues, and at its core is just an absurd comedy, and a very good one.
SPOILERS: For my own recollection ... after all Cher's fretting about her virginity and finding a boyfriend she at the end realizes that Josh and she are the best match, he is a nice guy who is intelligent and ambitious and he stands up for her when others criticize her. So they become a couple and the rest is uncertain.
Miss Julie (2014)
You really need to like long conversations about nothing in particular to enjoy this movie.
I found this one on Netflix streaming movies. I like all the actors and each does a fine job with their roles.
However I don't care for the movie. It is well-made for what it is, an adaptation of a stage play. But save the very last scene (after SPOILERS below) nothing at all happens. It is a morality play. They talk, for very long periods of the film, trading ideas on life, engaging in some word-play, but nothing happens.
Jessica Chastain is Miss Julie in 1890s Ireland. She seems spoiled and abuses her power over the service staff. Nothing serious just orders them around for her own amusement. She isn't a very nice person.
Colin Farrell is John, the master's valet. He is a good, honest, level-headed person who seems to have a nice attachment and relationship with Samantha Morton as Kathleen the cook and kitchen manager. But Julie seems determined to get John to seduce her and he has to delicately balance saying 'no' with not being insubordinate. He didn't want to lose his job and he doesn't want to alienate Kathleen.
I am certain that there is an audience for this movie but it is not me. The actors are good but the movie uses 2+ hours to tell a 20-minute story.
SPOILERS: At the end when it became obvious that Julie was not going to get her way, at the same time realizing what a shallow and messed up person she is, she walks out to the back of the estate, reposes at a stream, and kills herself, we see red blood flowing to fill the stream with color.