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Asesinos por naturaleza (1995)
Visuals become more integral to the experience
I caught this dubbed version on one of our local Spanish channels late at night--it was odd to hear Mickey/Woody Harrelson's drawl rendered in rich, carefully-enunciated, deep-toned Espanol! Since I haven't taken a Spanish class in over 20 years, I only caught every other word, but it made the visuals more integral to my experience.
This is a very, very difficult movie to watch and digest; I saw it in its original release in theaters, I saw the directors cut (I really would have liked to see what Tarantino did with his own script) on video, I've read the original script and the novelization, but I feel that I got a new level seeing it in a language not my own. I recommend catching this, even if you don't speak Spanish! :)
Charlie and Lola (2005)
"Charlie and Lola" is a lovely, sweet show, done with respect for its young audience. Far too many shows seem to come from creators who think "Hey, they're just kids, we don't have to make it good!"
My daughter is 8, a bit above the age-level at which the show is aimed, but she loves it and I tape it for her every day. I love it too!
I second Chris451's comment that it's wonderful to have real children doing the voices--Lola's best friend Lotta's giggle is particularly delicious!
If you haven't read them, find the books (not widely available in the US, but not impossible to find)--the show is quite true to them, but both are charming. "I Am Not Sleepy and Will Not Go to Bed" is particularly nice for a bedtime stories.
Because of Winn-Dixie (2005)
Beautifully captures a beautiful book.
My local children's librarian who coddles her adult patrons who read kidlit, made sure that I read _Because of Winn-Dixie_ not long after it came out. About a year after that, I brought it home for my seven-year-old daughter and my mother, who do Catherine's nightly reading assignment together. The edition I brought them was a teacher's edition, full of questions at the end, and they must have spent an extra two or three hours going over the questions.
Mom and I were a bit worried, because the previews have been promoting the slapstick and the dog's CGI smile, but what's in the previews is just about all that's in the movie. It captures a beautiful book beautifully.
A few of the story arcs were cut back for time (particularly Sweetie-Pie's), but everything that made the book so lovely was there. The best scenes, in my opinion, were people's stories. Eva Marie Saint (80 years old and still radiant)as Miss Frannie Block telling about the bear, Cicely Tyson as Gloria Dump explaining her problem tree, and a very understated and touching Dave Matthews (yes, the singer) as Otis.
The movie was filmed in Louisiana, but it looked like Florida, at least the Gulf Coast of Florida. I spent some of my childhood and teens in a Florida town about 3 times the size of Naomi, and the movie captured the essence, the gorgeous antebellum homes beside tin shacks, the feeling that the city's future is in the past, the slight small-town suspicion. But director Wayne Wang never makes fun of the various archetypal Floridians (except maybe the police officer).
I've heard a few critics dismiss Annasophia Robb's performance as Opal, calling her "grating" and "over-the-top," but I disagree. I get the feeling that these critics are so used to movie and TV versions of children as wise-cracking miniature adults that they are put off by one who acts like an actual tween. Little girls can be VERY over the top--their emotions stay right near the surface. Maybe I just like Robb because she looks a lot like my daughter (She even has a slight gap in her teeth.), but I thought she was a perfect Opal.
What movie did people who love "Manhunter" see?
THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!
I admit, I am one of those come-lately fans who did not read Thomas Harris' novels until after the movie "Silence of the Lambs" was released. And I read _Silence_ before reading _Red Dragon_.
I didn't see Manhunter until February of 2004, well after the video release of the newer film "Red Dragon." I was looking forward to seeing this "stylish thriller" that so many critics, amateur and professional, said was much better than the newer version.
What movie did these critics SEE? Much has been made of the 80's feel of "Manhunter." Obviously, it was made IN the 80's, but did Every! Single! Location! have to be hi-tech white? Graham's home, the victim's homes, and Dol(l)arhyde's home (which was his grandmother's huge old house full of antiques in the book.) even the prison (No, real prisons aren't as atmospheric as the cell in "Silence of the Lambs," but neither are they pristine and white like "Manhunter's" location.) all seem to be filmed on the same white soundstage, with few props and nothing to make them look like real locations.
I remember 1986, and my life did not look like a set from Miami Vice, nor did I have cheesy love songs playing at inappropriate moments.
Overall, I thought that the film was far too rushed. I was disappointed that "Red Dragon" did not show the book's flashbacks into the horrific childhood that made the serial killer prey on families like the one that abused him, (I can see why not, though; this would have been traumatic for a child actor.) but "Manhunter" left out MUCH more of the book, including important scenes that gave insight into investigator Graham and the grown-up serial killer.
Yes, Anthony Hopkins went over the top in "Silence" and "Dragon." He's playing an erudite serial killer trapped in a cell, with nothing to amuse him but his books and a very rare visitor to scare. If it weren't for Hopkins' performance, no-one would remember that Brian Cox played Hannibal Lecter (Strangely enough, spelled "Lecktor" in this movie.), because his performance is as dull as the rest of "Manhunter."
William Peterson's acting brought out none of the likability of the Will Graham in the book.Part of this is in the writing: for example, the scene where he hugs blind Reba--never touch a blind person without letting them know--and tells her "I'm Will Graham"--which means nothing to her--has none of the sensitivity of the Edward Norton version of Graham's gentle speech about how "you didn't draw a freak, you drew a man with a freak on his back."
Tom Noonan tries as the serial killer, but isn't given much to work with. I was particularly irritated by the fact that his character is said to "avoid sibilants and fricatives," seconds after he delivers a line full of them! This is BAD writing; scriptwriters need to pay attention to their own words. Joan Allen is the one who comments on the his odd speech pattern, about two minutes after her character, Reba, meets Noonan's Dollarhyde. This is too bad--in the book and the movie, time has passed and they are actually in her house when she delivers this line. Their relationship is an important part of the book and the "Red Dragon" movie, but, like the rest of Manhunter, it feels rushed. It's a pity that Joan Allen wasn't given more to do--she gives a lovely performance, understated without being wooden.
There were many, many minor details that made "Red Dragon" seem real and human and "Manhunter" seem like a made-for-TV movie. One example that sticks out in my mind is the home movies. In "Red Dragon," we see the families that were killed, and feel, with Ed Norton's version of Will Graham, sadness that such sweet loving people have died. As in true home movies, the families talk to the camera, make self-conscious jokes and seem very, very real, though not glamorous or exciting. But "Manhunter's" home movies show silent actors ignoring the camera. O1ne scene where the whole family was in front of the camera eating breakfast made me wonder who was filming and panning around the table. It's a small detail, but yet another thing that made the movie far too stylized and not nearly as interesting as its source material. It was much more like watching video surveillance than watching genuine human emotion.
If "stylish" means "stark and slow," Manhunter is, indeed, stylish.
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
Not nearly as good as I expected
I had heard this movie compared to My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which is also based on an autobiographical play) and Bend It Like Beckham (which is also a coming-of-age movie about a girl who doesn't conform to the culture of her parents), both of which I loved.
But the lead character, Ana, isn't all that likeable--she comes across as self-centered and with a chip on her shoulder. She's not just rebelling against her overly-strict mother--she snaps at her caring English teacher, derides the "sweatshop" at which her sister has worked so hard to keep going and has sex with her one-dimensional boyfriend, seemingly for the hell of it rather than out of any care for him. If a boy had treated her the way she treated him afterwards, the audience would hate him. Ana has LOTS of lines like "There's more to me than what's between my legs," or "Women have minds and thoughts," but she TELLS us this rather than showing us!
I think my least favorite part is all the things that are kept from the audience. Except for a brief sequence where she's typing a college application essay, we don't see Ana doing any of the writing that supposedly makes her teacher want her to apply for Columbia (we don't even get to know what's in the essay!), we don't see her WEARING the symbolic red dress, we don't see why she likes her boyfriend (and he seems to like her for her body only--there's not much conversation between them) we don't know what happens to her sister's dream, etc. It feels as if scenes were edited out, but it's only an 86 minute movie.
I have heard that the play focuses more on the older sister, and that the mother is less of a stock strict-ethnic-mother character. I'd like to see that.
I don't feel that 86 minutes were stolen from my life, but I can't recommend this movie. Too bad, it had tremendous potential.
Why does Hollywood think no-one reads?
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a very dumb movie based on a very smart graphic novel. I've seen enough movies based on other sources to know not to expect an exact translation of the original source, but it would be pleasant if it seemed as if the screenwriters had ACTUALLY READ the original sources.
The idea behind the graphic novel (and the movie, sort of) is that all of the characters in Victorian fiction actually exist: the adventure heroes, the science fiction travelers, the children's characters (including, in a very witty scene in the graphic novel, the anthropomorphic animals, explained by another Victorian novel!), even the pornography. They all live in the same world and sometimes interact. This makes for a wonderful graphic novel, and should have made for an excellent movie.
The addition of Tom Sawyer is silly because there was no particular reason for him to be there (I assume that Hollywood thought that Americans could possibly relate to a bunch of Brits) and stupid because he would have been about 65 years old in 1899 (the actor, Shane Thomas, is in his mid-thirties and plays Sawyer younger than that. He does a creditable job, but the character shouldn't have been in this movie.)
The addition of Dorian Gray is irritating because he's also not necessary (except for a convoluted plot twist that the audience can see coming from miles away.) and, if the screenwriters ever read "The Picture of Dorian Gray," they certainly assumed no-one else did. (SPOILER IN THIS PARAGRAPH. You can skip it, but they won't really ruin the movie--they're pretty obvious early on.)In the book, Dorian Gray dies when he stabs his portrait. In the movie, he dies when he LOOKS at it. #1) Much is made of the fact that he's removed it from his wall right before the league comes to visit--why would he have something that would KILL him if he looked at it hanging in his living room? #2: When forced to look upon his portrait, why didn't he CLOSE HIS EYES? Stupid.
The casting (except Townshend as Dorian Gray, who should be a golden-haired youth in his early 20's--why does Townshend keep playing characters who were blondes in the book?) is one of the few good points in the movie. Connery almost saved the movie, Naseeruddin Shah as Nemo (Nemo is actually played by an Indian, which he in Jules Verne's book "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," though previous movies cast him as an Englishman.) captures the deep sadness , and everyone else does the best they can with a mostly inane script. The jokes and the plot "twists" are explained in excruciating detail, just in case you're stupid and missed something. (In fact, more than half-way through, everyone listens to a gramophone record that says "Everything up to now has been misdirection" and EXPLAINS EXACTLY WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON. Is there a WORSE way to try to salvage a disconnected script?
This COULD have been such a good movie. Read the graphic novel instead. Read the original books on which the characters are based. You could even watch the Sean Connery James Bond films, from which LXG seems to draw more inspiration than it does from literature. But the Bond movies were fun. LXG has a few fun moments scattered throughout an idiotic script and video-game style special effects. (One scene looked EXACTLY like fighting the "boss" at the end of the level in a 1980's arcade game--all it needed was to show the health bars at the top of the screen!)
The graphic novel of "From Hell" was also written by Alan Moore, and that movie captured the book's tone (and the Victorian setting) though it told the story from another POV. But "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" took a very, very smart book, one that assumes that its readers are intelligent and will get its jokes, and turned it into just another stupid summer blockbuster, aimed at Hollywood's idea of what 14-year-olds will enjoy.
When I was 14, I'd READ _The Picture of Dorian Gray_, _The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_, and some of the other original sources from which these characters were taken. I would have been insulted by this movie then, let alone now.
Strange adaptation of a very good book
Iris Ranier Dart's novel was obviously written with Bette Midler in mind (there's even a mention of a movie called "Jilted" which is the Midler character, Cee Cee Bloom's version of Midler's own fiasco, "Jinxed.") So, she's wonderful in the role, and Mayim Bialik is perfect as the 11 year old Cee Cee. But Barbara Hershey (as "Hillary", a character called Bertie in the book) is cold instead of cool. Besides the odd name changes (Bertie/Hillary's daughter's name is changed from Nina to Victoria) the movie left out a key scene (it takes place in Hawaii) which explains one of the turns that their friendship takes. The movie replaces this scene with more of Hershey being cold and Midler being angry.
Midler gives some terrific musical numbers, but they don't work within the structure of the movie (its understandable that they couldn't realistically flashback to her being a 19 year old in summer stock, but "The Factory" and "Otto Titzling," respectively fascinating and funny, belong in another film.)
I understand when books are changed a bit in order to fit into a two-hour-movie. I DON'T understand changing plots --why buy the rights if you're not going to keep the story? Write your own!
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Too clever by half, and far too aware of the fact
At least the first hour of "Shakespeare in Love" beats you over the head with its own wit. It is like listening to someone who actually IS funny, but who follows every punchline by nudging you in the ribs and saying "Get it! Get it! See, I'm alluding to this one Shakespeare play. Wasn't that a funny allusion? And you're SO smart for getting it!" The jokes are good, but too self-aware, too twee.
Once the characters start acting actual Shakespeare, the film gets much better.
I liked everything about it but the too-cute scripting at the beginning. The acting is fantastic, the jokes comparing 16th century English play producing to modern day Hollywood are funny, and the Renaissance atmosphere is perfect--the audience watching "Romeo and Juliet" is especially good.
Dame Judi Dench gives her usual flawless, many-layered performance, this time as Elizabeth I, and makes the movie even better.
Waters at his warmest
On the surface, this is a rather mainstream "small-town boy makes good in the big city" film, but it still has all those sleazy little John Waters touches.
The cast is bigger than in any other John Waters film, but he still casts Dreamlanders Mink Stole and Mary Vivian Pearce. That's just cool!
As ever, (except maybe Serial Mom) John Waters respects his characters and his audiences' intelligence, and it makes a film that, for all its bizarre subplots, is really warm and witty.
I was most impressed with how well the movie flowed, For example, with simple lines like "You know I don't like you going there!" Waters builds our expectations, making us ask "Where? Why doesn't his Dad like Pecker going there?" Then he delivers, "there" is just one of the twists that make this movie different. But it's not just a string of gags. It's a wonderfully coherent story that's actually rather sweet, despite the sleazy veneer.
Silly, sweet fun. Don't take it seriously, just enjoy it
There seem to be two types of folks who detest "Cry-Baby;" those who think Waters sold out by making anything that cost more than $500 and didn't include coprophagy, and those who insist that all movies be Art with a capital A.
I was well into my 20's when the movie first came out, not a fan of 21 Jump Street, and no stranger to movies, including masterpieces and early John Waters, but I LOVED it, and have caught the uncut version on USA network quite a few times.
Cry-Baby is no Citizen Kane, and it's no Pink Flamingos, but, at risk of being pretentious, I will say that its full of something that makes art: Truth. Even in incredibly silly scenes, the movie is based in real and true emotions. John Waters' love for the fun parts of the 50's, (and hatred of the status quo that obviously made his teen years a living hell) is all over this film.
Yes, scenes such as the orphanage are silly, but the cynicism of the orphanage workers and the angst of the mother are as real as can be. The silliness works because the John Waters BELIEVES in what he is saying, and makes damn sure that his actors are with him!
All of the actors, from Johnny Depp who (as with all of his roles) *becomes* the character to Joe Dallesandro who barely can get his lines out, believe in their characters.
"Cry-Baby" parodies 50's "Teen Rebel" musicals such as "Rock Around the Clock" and "Don't Knock the Rock", but with obvious affection.
Yes, it's a musical. If you're one of those cynics who says things like "But people DON'T just start singing in real life" don't see it. Movies exist to give us a break from real life while mirroring it enough to be cathartic. Musicals and parodies take it one step further. They're not diaries, they're not reality, they're MOVIES!
"Cry-Baby" is a lot of fun, and the soundtrack is terrific (and "Hairspray"'s is even better!).
If you liked "Cry-Baby", I recommend "Hairspray" (not quite so silly, just as sweet.) and "But I'm A Cheerleader," which is definitely Waters-inspired, from its use of pink to its incredibly true emotions within very silly situations.
If you didn't like Cry-Baby, how sad. You obviously missed something.