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Sometimes It Takes the End of the World To Find Out Who You Are
On a macroscopic level, this story provides brief varying perspectives of how people would react to the knowledge of Armageddon, both good and bad, including chaos with riots, orgies and drugs.
The maid and the cop demonstrate how some people are in denial by carrying-on with their daily lives in order to grasp anything left of normalcy. There's a small group of militants who have made plans and preparations to survive. Those at the diner intend to go out with kindness while having a blast. A hoard of people seeking spiritual peace follow a preacher to get married/baptized before the end comes. A man who cannot cope, hires a hit-man to randomly take him out.
Then you have the protagonists, Dodge and Penny, who are lonely people trying to make sense of it all, while maintaining their dignity. They have been neighbors in the same building for several years without ever actually meeting, but they finally do under the unusual circumstances. Of course, emotions run high when you are faced with imminent death, and this movie tells an effective story of how an unlikely pair found each-other under these unusual circumstances. They are actually incompatible with the exception that they are looking for something meaningful before their demise which makes them a perfect-match because, for their brief remaining time, that's all that matters to them.
Moreover, the movie effectively delivers this romance story with elements of tragedy and comedy, which if not carefully done given the intense subject matter, could have made the movie depressing or vacuous. Steve Carell demonstrates that he can act, but you wouldn't know it from the genre of mostly campy, albeit successful, flicks he's in. I'm also a fan of Kiera Knightley, but she needs to slow down the pace of her speech.
Red Eye (2005)
Modern Day Hitchcock-Style Thriller
This movie is so Hitchcock. Like so many of his thrillers that open with a light, friendly everyday situation, it starts out with Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy, who initially meet at an airport terminal while waiting to board a flight, and they strike up a romantic banter, while surrounded by a bunch airport clichés (the irate passenger on a delayed flight, the nosy passenger, the flirty blonde passenger and the pushy stewardess). So you think this is going to be a rom-com, until about 20 minutes into the flick, Cillian turns completely psycho, revealing to Rachel that he is going to use her to carry out his agenda to kill the head of the Department of Homeland Security, and if she doesn't cooperate, her father will be killed.
Then the cat-and-mouse thriller begins. Cillian manipulates Rachel with emotional threats and physical violence on a plane full of passengers with such subtlety, that no one else notices. It's carried out so believably, and that's what so brilliant and scary about the movie. For example, Cillian attacks Rachel in the bathroom, and the stewardess shames them when they come out, accusing them of trying to join the mile-high club.
This has all of the elements of Hitchcock: a beautiful and immaculate leading lady, seemingly unsuspecting/nice people who are actually evil, an everyday situation turned desperate, and random elements of humor mixed in with suspense which takes the edge off things. And like a Hitchcock pic, not everything about this movie is entirely believable, but enough of it is so that you can sit back and enjoy it for what it is.
The King's Speech (2010)
Ggggood, bbbbut not great
This is a biopic of King George VI (Colin Firth) which focuses on the formation of his friendship with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist who taught him how to overcome a stammer, so that the King could deliver inspiring speeches to his British subjects, particularly during World War II. Logue succeeds where others have failed because he refuses to patronize the King simply because he is royal, and instead he provides the King not only with speech therapy but also much needed emotional counseling which allows the King to mature into a man, if not a monarch.
The King is depicted as insecure and childish who apparently acquired these traits as well as his speech impediment during his childhood as a result of an overbearing father, mean nannies and having lived a sheltered, privileged life. His wife, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) appears to be his polar opposite - a confident, somewhat haughty take-charge type of gal. However, this was distracting because the real Queen was nothing like this and the portrayal of such a mismatched couple leaves the audience wondering how the two could have related to one another on any level.
With a timeless story line and a dream cast who delivered excellent performances, this was clearly a good movie, but worthy of the Best Picture? I don't think so. Although this is a buddy-flick, it has the characteristics of a trite love story where boy meets girl, then loses girl, and then gets the girl in the end. And the ending falls flat - the King manages to deliver a public speech without falling apart (hence the namesake, "The King's Speech")...the end, or more appropriately...ThThThThat's all folks.
This movie probably won best picture because it is so relevant to Hollywood. Movie stars are America's answer to royalty where you have bunch of egotistical, pampered wrecks who surround themselves with "yes" people when what they really need is someone like Logue to give them a good slap in the face.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
DoDo Gets Serious
In this Hitchcock suspense/thriller, an unsuspecting American family (Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day and their young son) get caught up in political intrigue while vacationing in Morroco after they befriend a mysterious Frenchman. But the Frenchman gets stabbed because he knew too much (an assassination plot which is going to take place in London), and as he lies dying on a street full of onlookers, he confides to Jimmy about the plot. However, in order to keep Jimmy quiet, the conspirators kidnap his son. Since Jimmy and Doris can't go to the police and they can't just allow the assassination to take place, they take matters into their own hands...
When this flick was made, Jimmy and Doris were at the zenith of their careers, and they both deliver exceptional performances, especially for Doris where we get a rare chance to see her showcase her talent as a dramatic actress. They have great chemistry together as an "old married couple" which is something that the Doris character vehemently denies in the picture.
The portrayal of their relationship is something that should not be overlooked. Doris is a former singing star who sacrificed fame and career so that she could be a housewife to Jimmy, who is a doctor practicing in the Midwest. However, she seems to harbor some resentment for having made this decision, and you can see from her constant ridiculing and scolding that she believes that she is his superior. Their relationship seems to be crumbling and in one very emotional scene from Doris, it does not appear that the marriage will survive. However, the kidnapping ultimately provides them the opportunity to bond as they work together to try to get their son back.
This is one of the most interesting, suspenseful and enjoyable of all Hitchcock films, but because it was a remake, it did not receive all of the acclaim it deserves. This movie has everything, including comedic elements and great music (Que Sera Sera and a score from Bernard Herrmann) that is worked into the storyline. This is a must see that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
A Titanic Production with a Storyline that Sinks
The main character, Rose (Kate Winslet), is a 17ish year old society girl setting sail on the luxurious Titanic to America with her extremely wealthy, handsome fiancé who adores her. What else could a girl want...or so you'd think. Well, inexplicably and unbelievably, our Rose believes that her life of luxury is just too boring for existence, so she decides to jump off the ship until Jack (Leo DiCaprio) talks her out of it. From here, you can see that a love story will unfold...
Rose soon learns that Jack is a dirty, struggling American artist who hangs around one-legged French prostitutes, and she becomes impressed with his obscene drawings of naked women. Why wouldn't she dump her rich, adoring fiancé for this guy? So how does the romance develop...? First, there's beer chugging, smoking and dancing at a raucous party held by the steerage class. Then, Rose takes Jack back to her room, rips off all her clothes and demands that he draw her naked. After Jack fails to take this as a hint that she's in heat, Rose drags Jack to the cargo deck where they have sex in the backseat of some stranger's car (how romantic)...and, appropriately enough this is when the shi! hits the fan...I mean the ship hits the iceberg.
The problem is that no carefully brought up girl in 1912 would behave this way. In that day and age, this would be throwing her life away just as if she jumped off the ship. Clearly, our Rose has a death wish because she also gives up a spot on a lifeboat choosing to go down with the ship, knowing that she will most likely freeze to death when she hits the water.
Despite the storyline and the poor acting, the movie was well produced. In all fairness, it's understandable why the studio went with this story. This was a huge budget production, and if this had been styled as a historical drama with young ladies behaving properly, it probably would not have had the box-office draw the studio needed. All in all, this was an entertaining and watchable movie (though unnecessarily long), but entirely over-rated.
Original, Interesting, Intelligent...in a word...Excellent
This drama is about three lonely people each living in different countries whose lives become indelibly connected in an unforseeable, yet touching way. The story centers on Matt Damon, an American, who apparently has the psychic ability of contacting the recently departed, however, he believes that this "gift" is a "curse" because it renders him a social outcast. There is also a French woman who has a near death experience and a troubled British boy grieving over the loss of a loved one.
I am not a firm believer in a hereafter life or psychic abilities, and what is great about this movie is that it addresses these issues in an intelligent way without asking the audience to debate their existence. Instead, it focuses on the characters and how these issues affect their lives. There is nothing cheap or gimmicky about this movie. It simply tells a touching story without being overly sentimental. Clint Eastwood delivers a great picture and Matt Damon an excellent performance. The round-out cast deserves a big-hand as well. Keep in mind that this is a character drama and, like cooking a good sauce, takes its time to develop a richness. So if you're the type of person who only responds to immediate sensory gratification, this movie might not be for you.
Due Date (2010)
Due Date Doesn't Leave You Feeling Happy or Amused
The movie actually starts out good. We are introduced to two men on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles - Peter (Robert Downey Jr.), who is an expectant father anxious to return home to witness the birth of his first child, and Ethan (Zach Galifianakis), who initially comes across as a quirky and confident wanna-be actor with the ashes of his recently deceased father in tow.
However, about 15 minutes into the flick, Ethan's character inexplicably changes into a stupid, sad and reckless individual, and once problems start to arise, Peter becomes dark and mean. Of course, these types of unlikeable personalities do not work well in comedy, and this is a big reason why the movie fails to deliver. For a majority of the screen time, Peter is bloodied and exhausted from a number of serious injuries, and having to endure watching this just saps-out any humor.
Nor is there any shortage of unimaginative and crude comedy rip-offs that just didn't work. The movie "Vacation" contains the classic scene where everyone asleep in the car wakes up after bumpily (but safely) reaching their destination not realizing that Chevy Chase was asleep behind the wheel the whole time. In Due Date, it doesn't work because, when Ethan falls asleep behind the wheel, he totals the car and nearly kills himself and Peter in the process. Another great comedy scene is in "Meet the Parents" when Ben Stiller accidentally knocks an urn off the mantle, and the cat pees in the ashes. In Due Date, the scene where the ashes are mistaken for coffee grinds is not particularly original, and Ethan's constant grieving over his dead father is depressing. Also, there is no comparison between the hysterical wake-up scene in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and the crude masturbation scene in Due Date which falls flat.
Although Robert Downey Jr's acting is brilliant, this was supposed to be a comedy and it's hard to feel happy or amused after watching this movie.
Love Actually (2003)
Two Hours of Nothing
I didn't absolutely hate this movie, but it had some real problems. It's a mish-mash of vignettes that lead nowhere with absolutely no development of the characters or their relationships.
To begin, there is the dorky British bloke who flies to America looking for sex, and literally just after he arrives, has a group of beautiful women ripping his clothes off...ha ha, end of story. There is also the grieving widower, who happens to meet the lust of his life, a look-alike Claudia Schiffer...ha ha, end of story. There's also the shy porn actor who musters up the courage to ask out his co-star who he just shagged...ha ha, end of story. While these are cute little "what if" stories, this is where they start and end, each taking about 3.4 minutes of screen time, or actually wasting 3.4 minutes of my life.
Other story lines are disturbing, and do not work well in a rom-com. There's Laura Linney who uses her emotionally imbalanced brother as an excuse for not having a life of her own. Then there's the little boy who, instead of grieving over his recently departed mother, only cares about being noticed by the popular girl at school who he's never even spoken to. There's also the story of the guy stalking newlywed Kiera Knightley by going to her home (with her husband in the next room) and declaring his undying love for her by flashing a picture of a decomposing mummy. And what rom-com would be complete without the exhibitionist, drug-addicted, washed-up rockstar who emotionally abuses his manager one minute and declares his gay love for him the next? Instead, the movie should have focused on the stronger story lines involving Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant - none of which were properly developed.
13 Frightened Girls (1963)
Campy and Fun Comedy
This is a fun, tongue-in-check espionage movie, similar to the campy Disney flicks "That Darn Cat" and "The Moon Spinners". Even the production style and cinematography are similar. The main difference is that the Disney movies have more polished story-lines with better actors.
The protagonist is Candy Hall, a teenager who attends an all-girls school for daughters of diplomats around the globe (hence the frightened girls). While visiting the embassy of one of her girlfriends, Candy witnesses a murder and so her life of a spy begins under the assumed name of "Kitten"...
Because the movie does not take itself seriously, the horrible acting and outrageous antics provide non-stop comedy. Clearly, this movie was not intended to depict genuine political intrigue or high drama, and if this is what you are looking for, then stick with movies like the "Bourne" franchise. It's the random scenes (the careening bus, the pouncing cat, the tennis match, etc.) that provide unexpected comical elements. So if you want entertaining 60's style fun and camp, this movie is perfect.