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Girl with a Pearl Earring is based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, who
tells the story of a forbidden love affair (pardon the cliché) between
painting master, Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), and the only woman who
seemed to appreciate his work, a timid young maid named Grit (Scarlett
Grit is hired to work in the Vermeer household. Had you not known anything about Vermeer prior to viewing the film, it seems as though he is some deformed creature the family wishes to keep secret. The family always linger near the door to Vermeer's studio, as though something dangerous was contained within. And, as the story goes along, you might get the impression that he is a nasty fellow, the way everyone approaches the studio so delicately, careful not to disturb anything. Says one maid to Grit, he doesn't like people bothering him when he is working.
In a way, Johannes is a real bastard to his wife, children, and mother-in-law. As a painter, they're never sure whether he is going to get the commissions from the arrogant, but jolly rich patron Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), or whether they'll be escaping debtors by fleeing in the middle of the night.
Grit is curious, and at the same time, smitten with Johannes Vermeer, probably because of the initial mystery. She gains an interest in Vermeer, and in a way, also becomes his painting apprentice, helping him to mix paints, making creative suggestions about the paintings, and so forth. Vermeer introduces her to a rather different world that Grit has never known. And the two for a silent bond, a love for each other. Johannes appreciate's Grits company as a comfortable contrast to his mother-in-law, children, and especially his wife, he only seem to try to discourage his silly hobbies.
But, Johannes and Grit cannot act on their feelings for each other, at least not aloud. Divorce was highly out of the question, for one thing. But second, Johanne's was dependent on the arrogant Van Rijn for his commissions, and Van Rijn wanted Grit. Disgusted as Johannes may have been, and only slightly able to protect her (you'll see what I mean in the finale), he can't totally reject his financer. Plus, there is the barrier of master and maid, presenting a rigid social structure. And for Grit, she can only play out her affair with Johannes vicariously through her boyfriend, the Butcher.
Even if the story is not grounded in fact, or is based on little fact, the story of how Vermeer's painting, The Girl With a Pearl Earring came to be is one that presents a little mystery and romance to a painting. You can find something to appreciate it, beyond just consideration of the artistic elements of lighting or coloring, etc. In fact, art is always more fun with an intriguing story behind it (consider the controversy behind Whistler's 'Peacock Room').
I thought the movie did a fantastic job of recreating 17th century Netherlands. But what you may not know without having seen many 17 century painting, is that nearly every scene in the movie is constructed from 17 th century paintings, of Vermeers, Frans Halls, Van Dyke, and many others. The entire movie is, as one other viewer coined it, a "cinematic painting," but not just because it is a movie about the beauty of one painting, but because it is a movie entirely constructed from paintings. It was really incredible how precise everything is. Lighting, placement of figures. The actors would have to walk around a room and then at one point, hit their points precisely (props and all) to capture that one moment reflected in the painting from which it was taken from. This is really a great film for the art direction alone.
I have just finished watching the Complete Series DVD collection of
"Freaks and Geeks," one of the best high school television series on
televisions that, thanks to idiotic network executives who continue to
make the decisions that make network television more and more
unbearable to watch, have truly missed out on a gem. And, thanks to a
healthy fan network, I was able to enjoy every bit of the series (as
short as it was) on DVD.
Freaks and Geeks was one of the most honest portrayals of high school life, pleasantly departing from the overrated attention given to other television series and films who consistently focus on the "untouchable" classes of the dreaded high school social caste system that we are all likely too familiar with. The assorted teen dramas, and the difficulty of just subsisting in the often passively rigid classes within the high school social scene. This television series presented things from two perspectives: a group of freshman friends marked as "The Geeks" and a group of older friends, underachievers known as "The Freaks." The Geeks often provided the comical element to the show, while the Freaks often explore more dramatic story lines such as problems with parents (a constant subplot), self-esteem, drugs, and more. Although the Geeks confronted their own share of problems, their youth and easygoing attitude often made the situation more light-hearted.
Other commentators have often posited the question (on the "Freaks and Geeks" board along with other short-lived television series) why shows like these never last long on television. While "Saved by the Bell" might have been the only show to be quite successful with it (though only after significant retooling of the original series, "Good Morning Mrs. Bliss would NBC even agree to pick up the show), my guess is that this show may have initially had a difficult time finding a loyal audience in the crucial early days of the show. There were issues of drug use and teenage sex which some might not have found ideal for the younger viewers of this show (people in their very early teens as this show tended to sometimes celebrate drug use...even though there was one episode that was clearly anti-drug). Five years ago was a different time, however. And shows like "The O.C." (on Fox) seems to get away with stories surrounding its "young" characters and attitudes towards casual sex. Sadly, however, the network, too, is to blame, as it shifted the show into unrecognizable time slots, airing a show that was ideal for young audiences at a time when they would least likely be watching television--Friday and Sunday evenings. I cannot say that this would be why other television series surrounding high school would also be canceled.
It might also be that the show was never given a fair chance. Some might have quickly judged it as a rip-off of "The Wonder Years" (John Daly and the Geek Gang--especially Neil and Harris--did look like characters you might find on that show, not to mention the high school looking just like that in The Wonder Years).
My other guess for the reason that shows like these are often short-lived is that they are too expensive to produce. "Freaks and Geeks," like "My So-Called Life" filled a lengthy time slot of fifty minutes or so. Filmed partially on location and partially on a set (like "Sqaure Pegs" and "My So-Called Life"), a show like this becomes very expensive to produce and, may unfortunately force some hasty decisions about how long a network would ride out slack ratings.
I still think NBC passed up a good thing, and possibly other networks if it was pitched to them once being canceled. It was a great show that tried to produce a very dynamic set of characters and stories and did well.
I would also like to say while I adored nearly every character on the show (except for Nick who's obsession with Lindsay transformed him into not only a bizarre, but a boring character), I thought Martin Starr was the best as the witty Bill Haverchuck (I love his Bionic Woman bit when he is getting his costume ready in the Halloween episode). Though I thought him to be needlessly bizarre in the beginning (particularly due to his gawky appearance), he turned out to be one of the best characters. He always tried his best to be a good friend to everyone and, he always had some of the funniest lines in th show (Joe Flaherty, as Sam's dad, also had a bunch of good one-liners). And, while he was not in the show but sporadically, I also loved 'Harris,' the Geek mentor who always seemed so confident about everything.
Long live Freaks and Geeks! May the television show's creators reconsider trying this one again (even if you have to start over with a new cast, since everyone has aged six years--as of this writing).
84 Charing Cross Road is one of my favorite movies. Based on the
memoirs of Helene Hanff (the book contains the letters from which they
read throughout the film), this is the story of a single New York woman
named Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft) who builds a forty-year friendship
with some people who work in a bookstore in England. The movie begins
during WWII as Helene, a writer, is searching for out-of-print books
and, frustrated at the poor selection in the city's bookstores, starts
writing letters to the Marx brother's bookstore in England. Through her
letters, she not only becomes a frequent customer, but eventually,
becomes quite close with all of the bookstore's employees. And through
their letters, they share experiences over the years, which the viewer
witnesses through a juxtasposition of two different cultures: American
I like the technique used in this film. The interaction between Helene and her British friends occurs only through letters, so rather than have the characters write a letter and then dub what is written, eventually, the characters just face the camera and say what they would have written, with the camera cutting back and forth for each others response at times as though we suddenly become the recipient of their conversations.
The film also has a wonderful cast with Anne Bancroft as Helene, Anthony Hopkins as the generous Frank P. Doel, Judi Dench as his wife, and Mercedes Ruehl as Helene's neighbor. It is a wonderful story.
Cat City was my first non-childrens cartoon. And I absolutely loved it. It
was not a giant cornball cliche at all and it was funny as hell. The
animation was super in that "A Wrinkle In Time" style and the story was
terrific: The Evil Cats of Cat City hypnotize mice to service the evil deeds
of the cats. Gumshoe, a Rat, is hired to stop them before it's too late.
My favorite part is at the end when the little fat patrol mouse is caught in the jungle with the bats. And, instead of them feasting on him for dinner (or whatever designated mealtime it should happen to be), he serenades them with a swinging trumpet solo, to which the Mexican bats contribute to. It is most excellent.
I highly recommend Macskafogo (aka. Cat City) for anyone looking for a good 'cartoonie' cartoon.
Prospective Monster Squad viewers may recognize the name Fred Dekkar,
the director of another 80s cult classic, a zombie horror called Night
of the Creeps. Monster Squad follows in that tradition as the
horror-comedy about a gang of young kids who save their town from
Dracula and his goons. In my opinion, Monster Squad is a much more
enjoyable movie than Night of the Creeps.
The Monster Squad refers to a tree house club of five kids who are self-proclaimed horror fanatics. Little did they know that their enthusiasm in the genre would suddenly come in handy as their town in suddenly invaded by Dracula and a few other memorable horror villains in their classic form. Drac is terrorizing the town, trying to locate a powerful amulet which has the potential for serious disaster. When no one else believes the kids, or when no one else is powerful enough to stop them using traditional crime fighting methods (arresting the Wolfman didn't seem to work out), the Monster Squad (with the help of Scary German Guy and Frankenstein) takes things upon themselves to save the day.
This movie was great because, although the monsters may appear somewhat corny (not forgetting that it is technically a family horror film), it still has a heap of great qualities. The kids are actually all pretty cool (especially Rudy, even though his wears his pants so tight, you can see what side he tucks on). Great music, great cast (Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Ryan Lambert, Stephen Macht, and Jon Gries), and great fun!
Fans of obscure 80s movies are sure to add to the cult following. You won't be disappointed. It is loads of fun. Bona Fortuna!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Sandlot is one of the greatest kids movies ever. It is a refreshing
break from the family movies of today that mostly concentrate on stories in
that upperclass Reiner-esque suburbanite setting of husband and wife and two
and a half obnoxious kids. Instead, The Sandlot falls into a line of
memorable adventures like 'House Arrest' and 'The Wizard.'
Flashback to the 1960s. Scotty Smalls, newcomer to the neighborhood, narrates (in a Wonder Years way) the hilarious adventure of how he got he and his baseball playing buddies into the biggest pickle ever. Smalls is the shy brainy kid who makes friends with a bunch of baseball fanatics. While learning the sport of baseball, he learns of an exaggerated legend of something called 'The Beast,' otherwise known as Old Mr. Myrtle's junkyard dog, which is chained up in the fence just behind the ballpark. The kids like to play baseball. And the Beast likes to eat them. Not to give too much away, but, "the pickle" that Scotty gets his friends into, involves a pretty valuable baseball, one slobbering beast, and kids who try to do anything they can to save their buddy from being grounded for an eternity. The mess they get into and the junk they try to get themselves out is simply hilarious. That, and the subplots of a clever move on a lifeguard and the determination to show up some very obnoxious rival baseball players.
It's a funny, fantastic film that most kids will likely enjoy--the boys for baseball and the girls for those noteable teen stars like Mike Vitar, Tom Guiry, Chauncey Leopardi, and Will Horneff. It's loaded with laughs and good time adolescents, despite Tom Guiry hamming it up only slightly. Plus, it's got a good theme about friendship and drive and determination to do what you want to do. I highly recommend it, if for nothing else, then the part where Squints tells the story about the history of the beast.
I can see from the message boards as well as other viewer's comments that it still has a rather memorable following, despite it's age. Definitely a must see!
It's funny that the plot of 'Back to the Future II' should be based on
altering Marty McFly's future. Wasn't Doc the one who was so staunchly
opposed to knowing too much about their future, preferring instead to
let things take a natural course? 'Destiny!' he called it. But that is
exactly what the sequel is all about, Doc's proposal to altar the
future. And this leads not only to bad news for Doc Brown and Marty,
but for the your Density? I mean, Destiny? (flashback humor).
The story focuses on Marty McFly's future. Picking up right where we left off in the first movie, Doc informs Marty that in the year 2015, Marty's son partakes in some unfortunate activities with Griff (Biff's grandson) that lead to his arrest and incarceration. While in the future to fix up that little mishap (again, messing with 'Destiny'), Marty picks up a sports Almanac to take back with him. The Almanac contains all sports scores since something like 1955 (why it is only the size of a magazine, I don't know, considering it covers major college and pro sporting event for a whole lot of years).
The Doc, in disgust at Marty's foolish get-rich-quick desires, throws the magazine out (while still in 2015). Unfortunately, Biff, now an old man, gets hold of both the magazine and the Delorian and travels to his young self in 1955. This sets off a change of events in the past so that when Marty and the Doc, now in the future, are ready to go back to 1985, suddenly find themselves in an unfamiliar hell. With Biff changing the past, he also changed the future, creating a desolate, alternate 1985. One where Biff is the richest man in Hill Valley, though still the sleaziest. And where a lot of other things have changed as well. Now, Marty and the Doc have to go back to 1955 and get the magazine from Biff if they expect to restore the future and erase the alternative 1985.
This is a great sequel to a great movie. You get the 1989 version of the future (I don't know that 2015 will make the kind of progress we see in the movie with cool flying cars and dehydrating pizzas and hoverboards). This is the special effects and visual beauty of the second, whereas in the first one, it was recreating the past. Marty had to once adapt to 1955, now he has to do the same for 2015, even if only for a moment.
But, it also ties in another creative aspect: when Marty and the Doc must return to 1955, they only know the whereabouts of Biff based on where they last saw him in that year--the school dance and all of that which took place in the first movie. Going back to that past means that a Marty "Calvin Klein" McFly is already there, and the events are taking place again just as we saw them in the first movie. And now, the Marty and the Doc from the future are intermingling once again with their past versions of themselves. So, in essence, the filmmakers had to recreate some of the scenes from the old movie, from different angles, and the actors had to play dual roles (which they do often throughout the trilogy) by being added into those scenes. It was a great special effects/visionary project to undertake, and what makes the series so damned creative and really a fun idea. And here, too, the goal is to avoid running into your past self because, yes, it could altar events once again. I wonder how the future changed since Marty and Doc's intervention in 2015?
So, prepare yourself for what may arguably be the best movie out of the trilogy (probably because you get to see the future and past and everything in between; although, I'm still torn between rating the first or the second as my absolute favorite). It is the continuation of a fun first movie, and keeps up the creativity and novelty. I think that was the reason most responsible for its success: the ability to keep offering something new (although some things, are obviously repeated, like the running gag of Marty blacking out and waking up to some version of his mother informing him of what year it is after he tells her what an awful dream he had).
So, sit back and let the Delorean be your guide.
I often wonder why it's so damn hard to just be a big kid no matter how
old you are. Big is a movie about hanging on to that carefree child
even when you grow up. It's about not getting caught up in stringent
rules and routines, remembering those things that made being young so
great, the outlook on life, especially when facing the mundane world of
adulthood. Big strikes the balance between the two.
This is one of those movies that nearly everyone has seen. And, I suppose it's the precursor to that movie, 13 Going on 30, despite some differences in how the metamorphosis occurs and the result and everything.
Big is the story of 13 year-old Josh Baskin who is tired of missing out on all the privileges of being an adult. He's tired of simply being a kid. One night, he makes a drastic wish at a carnival arcade machine, and in the next day, he wakes up 30 years-old (or so). So the kid gets his wish, and while trying to return to normal, is a 13 year-old kid faced with a 30-year old's responsibilities. And it's a lot of fun. He works at a toy manufacturer. He gets the most excellent loft. I remember wanting a place like that when I was a teenager. Eventually, the 13-year-old must balance with the responsibilities of being a 30 year-old when Josh falls seriously in love with Susan (Perkins).
Big is one of the greatest movies ever simply because of the idea of a kid trying to be an adult and an adult still trying to hang on to being a kid, and all that things that Josh Baskins gets to experience while doing that.
As one of Penny Marshall's most notable production, this is enjoyable for nearly any age group. Everyone in it is fantastic--Hanks, Perkins, Loggia, Heard, Rheul, Moscow, and Rushton. It's a tough thing trying to hang to being young when you get older, but Big's a good reminder to keep trying.
80s! I'm living in the 80s! If you love 80s teen movies, then Weird
Science ought to be in your catalogue. It is one of director John
Hughes most memorable, and one of the 80s most original.
Written in two days, this is a teen science fiction film, the story of two teenage loners, Wyatt (the always grimacing Ilan-Mitchell Smith) and Gary (Anthony Michael Hall before he went deadpan) and their weird way of discovering girls. A variation on Frankenstein, the teenagers create a beautiful woman (the super cool Kelly LeBrock) using their computer and some clever hacking skills (of course, it's exaggerated). Their creation is Lisa, the chic English accent woman who brings a little life to the subtle Illinois suburb. As the antithesis of both Wyatt and Gary's personalities, she's going to show these boys a little adventure, get them to loosen up, and for crying out loud, gain some self-esteem.
Because Lisa is a lady with some supernatural power like freezing grandparents in time, erasing the memory of a bad first impression with Gary's parents, turning Wyatt's obnoxious military school brother Chet (Bill Paxton in his funniest, most arrogant role yet) into a giant pus maggot, or even having a gang of mutant bikers storming a house party. And Lisa's greatest gift to the boys: showing them true love by helping them along to meet the two girls they've been after all along, their high school classmates, Deb and Hilly, who are unfortunately hung up on the dweeb bullies, Max (Robert Russler) and Ian (Robert Downey, Jr.). So essentially, it deals with many aspects of teen angst (but more like just teen self-esteem or self-consciousness issues) within one story. Parents, class status (done subtly here as opposed to Some Kind of Wonderful or Pretty in Pink), relationships, etc. It works well, and is done quite humorously.
One of my favorite scenes is when the trio (Lisa, Gary, and Wyatt) go to the night club looking pretty out of place (they're not only the only white people there, but probably the only ones under thirty). Once Anthony Michael Hall's character, Gary, gets drunk and starts with his slang, it's hilarious. Reminds me a little of Adventures in Babysitting when the gang drops in on the club and they're not allowed to leave until they sing. So eventually, they loosen up and have a little fun.
It's a wonderful movie with a classic John Hughes comic touch (says the mutant biker to Gary and Wyatt after they threaten to kill them if they don't leave, "Please don't tell anyone about this. I'd hate to lose my teaching job.). Plus, it's got a great soundtrack, featuring Killing Joke, Lords of the New Church, and Oingo Boingo doing the title song. The music video for it was fantastic, and not only features clips from the movie, but Kelly LeBrock herself in Oingo Boingo's own rendition of creating the woman via technology.
Although not one of John Hughes' best (I think Sixteen Candles is still his greatest), it is certainly one of his most memorable and one that I will love no matter how old I get. So have yourself a lazy Saturday, pop in the movie, and enjoy.
Why does everyone knock the Legend of Billie Jean so much? For me, it's
one of my favorite 80s teen movies. And it's a good exploration into
the concept of vigilante justice as a natural response to not only a
cumbersome justice system, but also a discriminatory one.
Helen Slater is teenager Billie Jean, a nice girl from "the trailers" of Corpus Christi, Texas. When Hubie Pyat (Barry Tubbs) and some other local pranksters trash her brother Binx's (Christian Slater) motor scooter, she demands compensation. But Hubie refuses to pay and his father uses the opportunity to offer that Billie Jean trade some sexual favors to him for the cash. In the midst of her flight from the pervert, there's scuffle, and Mr. Pyat is accidentally shot. So, Billie Jean, her brother, and two friends involved in the accident, suddenly finds themselves on the run from the police.
Rather than surrendering, they use their new teenage fugitive status to stage something of a protest ("fair is fair"), and Billie Jean becomes their hero and icon for teenage rebellion as well as feminism. They become the martyrs of teenagers while the adults dismiss the entire thing as a bunch of rambunctious teenagers gone out of control. So, there is political significance in the story of Billie Jean in looking at the criminal justice system (although some of the discrimination against Billie Jean such as denying her any sort of expedited compensation occurs as a result of the system not intervening at all). If Billie Jean was an adult, would she have been taken seriously? What if Billie Jean were a male? Would that change the situation. Indeed, this movie suggests that it would.
In a decade filled with themes of teen angst, this one offers one story of the possibility of teen (and female) empowerment in a way that Pump Up the Volume or other movies like that did. I always thought it was a pretty good 80s movie and one that, judging by the message boards, still caters to a loyal audience as many of those long-lasting 80s movies do. Plus, as far as important 80s movie characteristic go, it's got good actors (Helen Slater, Christian Slater, Peter Cyote, and Kieth Gordon), and a good soundtrack (featuring Pat Benetar's "Invincible" and the Divinyls).
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