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One for the Money (2012)
Pretty Good...Hopefully the Sequels will be Even Better!
I have read almost all of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. The first few books in the series were definitely the best (I have not read the last one as yet...I just can't whip up enough enthusiasm for it). The best thing about the books is definitely the wise cracking humor. The movie had a little of it, but I wish it had more of it.
That having been said, I think Katherine Heigl is just fine as Stephanie Plum. I've always liked her as an actress, even in some of the terrible movies she's done in recent years. I thought she was believable as a Stephanie Plum the bounty hunter who is just a big marshmallow inside. My problem with the Stephanie Plum of this movie is her wardrobe! She was wearing fancy suits way too much. In the book, much attention is paid to the fact that Stephanie is usually wearing jeans and T shirts. O'Mara grew on me as the film went on. I had pictured him as a lot bigger and a little more Italian (as he is in the book...after all, his name is Morelli!!) But he and Heigl have chemistry. I appreciate that the sexual tension between the characters is left unfulfilled as it is in the book. I really liked the casting of Debbie Reynolds as Grandma; wish they'd gone a little more into Grandma's love of funerals. In the book, that's what gives us lots of laughs and lets us see more of Stephanie's relationship to her Grandmother. Ranger (Daniel Sunjata) was well cast as Ranger. Sherri Shepherd was just about perfect as Lula, but they didn't give her enough laugh lines.
Overall, the movie stayed fairly true to the book, but it could have been funnier. I am hoping that there will be sequels and that there is a bit more humor in them. Not that this movie was completely without humor; it just could have included a bit more of the wise cracking stuff that's in the book
Jane Eyre (2011)
Very well done!
Jane Eyre is my absolute all time favorite book. I have seen many different film versions of this over the years. I loved the Orson Welles version, the Timothy Dalton version, and the Toby Stephens version. I was not too crazy about the Ciaran Hinds version (although I do like Hinds as an actor in other films), and absolutely HATED the 1996 version which starred William Hurt. That particular film managed to change the characters so much that they were unrecognizable. Besides, it's just blasphemy to have an American playing Mr Rochester!!
I was nervous about this version of the film, as generally, the story is too long and complicated to be told in a two hour format. Those who are extremely familiar with the story may find this film to be lacking their favorite bits of the story. I can understand that. I did find a bit of that in this film. Parts of it seemed rushed as many of the scenes were combined or cut short in the film as compared to the book. One aspect that seemed odd was that Grace Poole's character is nearly non-existent in this film (she does appear briefly in the scene which finally reveals Mr. Rochester's deep dark secret). Having to leave out parts of the book is to be expected when making a Jane Eyre movie, and for the most part, the film stayed true to the essence of the book.
Mia Wasikowska, as Jane, has captured the fiery spirit of the character as portrayed in the book. Michael Fassbender is a fine Rochester, not being particularly handsome (as in the book), he is charismatic yet brooding. Judi Dench adds much in her role as Mrs. Fairfax (of course), and Jamie Bell makes a severe St. John Rivers.
Overall, I enjoyed this version of Jane Eyre very much. It managed to stay true to Bronte's characters while telling a compelling story. I liked the flashback vehicle of telling the story (this was also used in part, in the BBC version which featured Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson).If I want the whole detailed story, I can still watch the 1984 BBC version which featured Timothy Dalton. To this day, that version, while leaving a lot to be desired in production value (cheesy sets, make up, etc)tells the story that is most complete.
**A bit of a spoiler follows** One thing that annoyed me about this film is that the Rivers family in the book is revealed (to Jane's happiness) to be Jane's cousins; her mother and their father were siblings. That they were truly cousins was left out of this movie, instead the Rivers agreed to "adopt" Jane into their family; make her their "honorary" sister. This made little sense and seemed silly to me. Part of the appeal of the story is that poor Jane thinks she is utterly alone in the world and then turns out not to be. Family connections are very important to Jane Eyre, and for her to find that she indeed has family who love her is one of my favorite parts of the book! I don't know why the screenwriter chose to leave the cousin aspect out of the film. *(The squeamishness of marrying cousins was also in the previous BBC version (Toby Stephens/Ruth Wilson), where Jane in that film exclaims that she and St. John are "half cousins"...What??? Her mother and his father are siblings...that makes them FULL cousins, doesn't it???) IT seems to me that the custom of first cousins marrying in times past is well known and to pretend it didn't ever happen is to rewrite history.
Another aside: another reviewer expressed dismay that Jane is made an heiress in this film. Go back and read the book! It's in the book and also included in many previous versions of the film.
Dark, depressing, only mildly amusing
First off, this is NOT a kid's movie and shouldn't be marketed as such. The showing I attended consisted of at least 50% children, and I heard no laughter from them. In fact, I am not sure WHO this is for because the first half of the film d r a a g g g e e e d on and on and on and by the time the action picked up, I really just wanted it to be over. Ugh. What a mess this was. I don't even know where to begin with the criticism.
Let's see. First off, a line of dialog says that the setting is the "Mojave Desert". As a former (and hopefully future) resident of the Sonoran Desert (which is located in much of Southern Arizona and Mexico)I know for certain that Saguaro Cacti (the tall ones with the big arms) only grow in the Sonoran Desert. Fact check, anyone? Why not be true to your dialog? How hard would it have been to change that line to "Sonoran"?? And another thing. What the HECK were those animals supposed to be? There was an extremely ugly flob nosed thing...(actually several of them) that was virtually unidentifiable. It had humanoid disgusting yellowed teeth and was difficult to look at. It seemed to me that the animators were trying to create the ugliest, scariest characters they could with no regard to any animal that exists in nature. The Sonoran Desert is FULL of fascinating creatures! Why not animate REAL animals. Study them (as the great animators do) and portray them with their real characteristics. Why on earth, for instance, would you have a venomous snake squeeze its prey? Most 5 year old boys know (and girls too, if they like snakes) that there are two kinds of snakes! Constrictors squeeze, venomous snakes bite! The dialog seems to be aimed at adults, and there were lots of references to pop culture movies (many of them, such as Brokeback Mountain were rated R!) that would just fly right over most kids' heads. My husband and I were bored silly during the first half. I must have checked my watch 5 or 6 times.
Don't waste your money on this one. It's a dud.
The Ledge (2011)
Surprise, surprise, the Christian Fundamentalist turns out to be evil...
Out of the 10 films we screened this year, this was our least favorite. The film opens with scenes of a police detective (Terrence Howard) finding out he's sterile, which sends him into a tizzy since he "has" two children. He then reports to work where he is assigned to a jumper (Charlie Hunnam) who plans to jump at noon or someone else will die.
We then find out about his story via flashbacks. He's living next door to a religious fundamentalist (Patrick Wilson) and his wife (Liv Tyler). Turns out the wife used to be a hooker/drug user till she met her husband. Wilson's character is a cardboard extremist, and Tyler is a limp rag who is only married to him because he rescued her from her horrible life. Of course Hunnam's and Tyler's character proceed to have an affair and eventually things lead to Hunnam's "having" to kill himself. Howard's storyline is also ludicrous and silly and unbelievable. Then there's the gay roommate of Hunnam's character, who seems to be thrown in there for good measure.
I didn't care about ANY of the characters in this film. They were all stereotypes and the story is extremely one-sided. It's as if the director never knew a Christian in his life. At the Q and A, he said that he'd talked to "lots" of them. Perhaps, but it's apparent that he never really listened to any of them. This movie wasted 2 hours of my life, and I don't recommend it to anyone.
Perfect Sense (2011)
Drama? Romance? Nope. Thriller, maybe...
In the Sundance catalog, this was made to sound like a drama/romance. It was more like a psychological thriller; I'll admit up front, this is NOT the kind of movie I enjoy, so perhaps I am not the best person to review...however, here I go anyway. The story involves an epidemiologist (Eva Green) and a chef (Ewan McGregor) who, when we first meet them on screen, are both cold and distant. They do nothing in the film to change our image of them, and truly, I didn't see any chemistry between the two. Sure, there's a physical relationship, but apparently, they just get on each other's nerves and have sex.
Green's epidemiologist is apparently fighting a worldwide epidemic illness that causes people to lose their senses. First it's the sense smell, then taste...and then, well, you get the idea. Each episode of loss is preceded by emotional breakdowns (first grief, then anger, then more anger, then more anger...oh, and finally, a sense of peace...well thank goodness for that!) I know the director was going for horrific, but I found myself laughing when people started eating everything in sight. It was also quite repulsive to watch those scenes. I was thankful nausea didn't follow (at least on screen). Green's character apparently isn't very good at her job because she doesn't ever find out a single thing about the disease, just that everyone in the world is going to get it. Everyone's DOOMED.
Mercifully, the film was short. At the end, I supposed we were to come to the realization that the "perfect sense" is our sense of feeling/emotion. Yawn. McGregor performed well, as usual, but his performance did not make the movie worth seeing for me.
See also Rachel Gordon's review; she says what I was thinking but in a much better way than I did: http://www.filmcritic.com/reviews/2011/perfect-sense/ (if the link is broken, it's at filmcritic.com)
The Ugly Truth (2009)
Not wonderful, but not totally horrible, either.
After listening to and reading many, many negative reviews from (of course) male movie critics, my expectations for this film were extremely low. The same critics who loved Borat and Knocked Up and Superbad are now complaining that THIS movie is "too crude". Since no one brought excrement to a dinner table in THIS film, I am thinking that this one isn't nearly as disgusting (or mean!!) as Borat (which I will admit I haven't seen...after hearing about that scene, I didn't want to). But I digress. The other reviewer who mentioned that certain critics just can't handle mixed genre films must be right...my view is that it's okay (to the male critics) for "guy" movies, or movies sold as straight comedies (The Wedding Crashers comes to mind) to have crude language, but if a "chick flick" has bad language, then it's disgusting. I don't get it. I DID think much of the dialog in this movie was unnecessarily crude. However, I didn't think it was the worst film I've ever seen. I do think I enjoyed it more than "The Proposal". I am a fan of Katherine Heigl (I loved 27 Dresses), and Gerard Butler. Another wee criticism I have for this movie is that I just don't understand why they felt the need to HIDE Butler's accent. Why not just let him be Scottish? It was distracting to hear him slip into his natural dialect. I found myself wishing they'd just had him speak in his normal voice. I also enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I would.
A little Disappointing
Tom DiCillo did an excellent job finding unseen footage of the doors. This film was "his baby", and it shows that he loved the subject matter. Clearly he is a big fan of the group and there's a religious respect that he feels for these people.
Unfortunately, there is really nothing new in this movie. Most of this stuff is well known. The group is iconic, after all, and there HAVE been other projects. What I was hoping for, since the remaining members of the group are still alive, is some "talking head" interview type things, or some interviews with other members of Jim Morrison's family, or of Pam Courson's family. Some new angle, perhaps, that was before unknown.
Not a total waste of time, but unfortunately, nothing new here, either.
La Nana (2009)
This was one of the movies we saw at Sundance 2009. We found it to be an interesting portrayal of the relationship between a live-in maid and "her" family. The family portrayed was from Chile, and reflected the writer/director's actual family.
The maid shown in this film truly runs the household and has a strange power over the family. She knows what happens to everyone and how to sabotage them if need be. She has a love/hate relationship with most members of the family, some of it closer to hate more often than not. She also will not allow another maid to share "her" household, until she meets a certain someone. Since this is a realistic portrayal of Chilean family life, we found it fascinating to watch. Good job to all of the actors!
Lulu und Jimi (2009)
Something Got Lost in the Translation
This was one of the first movies we saw at Sundance, 2009, and one of the most disappointing. It follows the story of a young black man in Germany in the 50s (or possibly the 60s), and a rich white girl. They fall madly in love, and that should have been enough for a good story. But the girl's mother is a loony Nazi sympathizer who brings in a "Dr. Mengele" type to drug the girl. Just seemed weird weird, weird. The actor who played the lead did a good job with what he was given, but his English accent was awkward (he is British, we found out afterward, which would explain that).. Some people from Germany sat behind us and said that the movie was much funnier in German, so either, something needs to be done about the subtitles, or a reworking of them might help.
The Greatest (2009)
This is not a "feel good" movie, but its feelings are true. The story follows a family (mother, father, brother) of a young man killed in a car accident in the first scene of the movie. Their lives are jumbled up by the introduction of the son's (brother's) girlfriend. I thought all of the actors turned in fine, powerful performances. Even more impressive is that the writer/director of the film was a first time filmmaker. That she was able to get such a marvelous cast in her first film is amazing. This movie reminded me of "Ordinary People," updated for today. Of course there are differences, but it's the same genre.
Although I recommend the movie, know that it's kind of a downer. I have a feeling it won't do well because these days people want movies that are more of the "feel good" variety.