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Blows your mind four times a minute.
I began watching this only because I wanted to hear the chocolatey baritone of Benedict Cumberbatch, but in about five minutes my nose was glued to the screen.
This stuff is like a Doctor Who episode without the 'fiction' label. I personally found the time travel episode mesmerizing. I definitely recommend this series... especially to people like me who may regretfully lack a very good familiarity with physics. This is very easy to understand, and will blow your mind at least four times a minute.
I am an average young adult (blonde, no less) who got through physics class in high school by memorizing formulas I didn't understand and cramming them into my cranium so I could remember them for an hour long exam, and forget them the second it was over. Why bother to retain it? I was planning to pursue music in college anyway... and I feel like there are all too many people out there who did similar things. Ignored the beauties of physical science to provide more time to do the things which seemed - and undoubtedly were - more important. This is a series which really provides insight into the world of science - the world we all know exists, but often try to ignore, since we know we will never likely have the patience to try and understand it. Beginning to understand this stuff makes you realize why all the annoying genius students in 10th grade would get so obnoxiously excited as they conversed using terms which seemed like other languages.
The possibilities of the universe are really very startling, and very exciting. I recommend this series to anyone who as any interest at all in the potential of humankind.
Jane Eyre (2006)
I believe that Jane Eyre (2006) is one of the greatest period dramas of all time, and almost definitely the greatest period romance. There is next to nothing that I would like to criticize about this miniseries. The perfectly written script combines with the marvelous acting to make a brilliant masterpiece that beats every other version of Jane Eyre I've seen (and that is saying something, because I liked the 2011 version very much). Even my brother, one of the harshest movie critics I know and a hater of silly love stories, found himself drawn into the room while my friends and I watched it for our girls night movie, and he proclaimed it an excellent movie. It is perfect funny, scary, sad, romantic, and (to those who have not read the book) extremely unpredictable.
For the purpose of this review, I'll put aside my personal love of Bronte's characters and storyline not only to avoid spoilers, but also so I might analyze aspects of this film itself. It is brilliantly done. To say that Ruth Wilson is impressive in her first real role (right out of acting school) would be an immense understatement. Jane Eyre's reserved nature and intricate mind make her an extremely difficult character to portray on screen, and Wilson accomplishes this task beautifully. She looks the part - somehow she just seems exactly the sort of person the book describes, though I know that's a very opinionated statement. The emotion she is able to deliver to the audience even with her character's reticence is neither too great nor too small. I see almost no flaws in her portrayal of Jane Eyre.
I believe I fell in love with Toby Stephens over the course of this series. Readers of the book will attest to the fact that Rochester is "supposed to be ugly." It's one of the biggest problems fans of the book cite when analyzing others who've portrayed this character Rochester is too handsome or too young, or both. Still, what girl can deny that she secretly hopes he'll be at least a bit attractive? When this Rochester came on the screen, I think many book fans (including myself) were sufficiently pleased with his rough, not-really-that-handsome appearance (forgive me for lack of a better adjective than 'not-really-that-handsome!') But even with this observation comes the worry that he'll not be very likable after all, we all know that a character's good looks contribute a great deal to his or her likability. By the end of this film however I didn't remember ever having considered him anything but handsome. The character is charming, interesting, and on several occasions absolutely hysterical. My whole living room was laughing at some of his conversations with Jane. He flat out nailed the role of Edward Rochester. I'm convinced someone charmed the character to rise off the pages of the book, and he happened to take the form of Toby Stephens. It is that good.
The side characters are all very good as well, but the real commendation should go to the screen-writers. Film adaptations of books obviously need to have discrepancies, and there is a science to making this work well. Some seem to pull the dialogue right from the pages, word for word, creating a rather restricted atmosphere. Other times you feel in your bones that the dialogue is too modern. Often, as well, plot points are jumbled together within the script in a rabid attempt to get everything said, so that the script sounds like an eleventh grader reading out his plot summary for English class. Obviously the length of this film made it possible to gradually introduce and develop each plot point, but that takes nothing away from the brilliant dialogue with which this was done. I felt like I was looking through a window into 19th century Britain. The makers of this film brought Charlotte Bronte's characters to life in the most brilliant way possible.
It's about the time where I generally find something anything to criticize, but I can think of nothing. Lovers of the book should have nothing to complain about, since I feel that it contained almost every scene from the book. If I had to name one problem I suppose it would be young Jane. I love Georgie Henley, but I do admit that her acting seemed a bit forced, and didn't really capture the essence of young Jane. Still, Georgie Henley looks so much like Ruth Wilson (I marveled at that for about twenty minutes) that I feel I probably would have made that casting choice as well.
All things considered, this is the closest thing to a perfect period drama I have ever seen. Miniseries such as this one have the unique privilege to be able to contain nearly every plot point, since they are allowed to be long, and are thus generally very good and well-liked by book fans. This one in particular just seems to do everything a half step better than the rest. It is truly excellent. Watch it, see for yourself, and enjoy!
Bright Star (2009)
If you're looking for the perfect love story, or even for a really original and well-constructed movie, look elsewhere. However, if you're looking for something extremely interesting and rather smart, try this out for size. 'Bright Star' is as sappy, corny, and dramatic a love story as they come, and yet I somehow don't judge it too harshly. I found the acting believable, and even the storyline seemed somehow harshly realistic.
I began this movie knowing very little about John Keats... little more than that he was a poet with a very interesting mind (as if there were any other kind). Immediately, I found Whishaw easy to believe as Keats. His initial awkward nature and occasional outbursts of mirth and folly somehow seemed just right for an ever-dreaming poet. Cornish, I will admit, annoyed me at times, but it was her character which did that. I found myself somewhat annoyed with her character's motivations and priorities, and personally saw very little in Fanny that was either admirable or likable, and yet such was the character, and I believe Cornish played it in about the only way it could have been played. Her solemnity adds a layer of interest to the character. And to be fair, she had her moments of tenderness with her siblings that allowed the audience to see her as somewhat three-dimensional.
While I cannot claim to have been overly fond of any character, nor particularly taken in by any of them, I must admit that the aura of this movie captivated me completely. The lack of a soundtrack in many scenes added to the theme. The idea that words really controlled this movie and provided the background beauty, rather than only music, was a very interesting one. I did enjoy the way the movie delved into the purposes of poetry as well as its sensory nature. I actually wish the film had focused more on this than on the romance!
In short, it is by no means a great film, but an interesting one. I commend the actors, I think they did a wonderful job, and I look forward to seeing Whishaw in many more demanding roles.
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Not That Funny...
This movies is funny, but not that funny. Obviously that is an extremely opinionated assertion, but it's my opinion. There just wasn't enough humor to cover up the obvious annoying clichés and the painful lack of likable characters.
This movie does absolutely nothing to draw you in and make you care at all about what happens to these creatures. The premise is great - a hotel where all the terrors of the past and present congregate? How could such an interesting idea be messed up? Like this.
For one thing, there were no surprises. Without giving too much away, I can say that it was obvious from the beginning what was going to happen to each one-dimensional character, and even more irritating was that it all happened using the same formula as every other stupid teen angst movie ever made. None of the characters interested me. None were developed enough.
Were there funny moments? Yes, and of course they managed to fit in the tiny, harmless yet funny reference to the certain famous/infamous series regarding sparkly fanged creatures, and that was all good and satisfying. Still, there were few rib-crackers... nothing that made you fall out of your seat giggling.
Okay, I'm only just getting to my real problem with this film - it's obvious political and social messages. Bottom line, let your kids go, they should be given room to breathe, etc. Whether you agree with that message or not, we see it so sickeningly often in film these days, it's become a kind of disgusting platitude. Originality? Anyone? And also, they do next to nothing to veil the obvious metaphor of monsters living in hiding (literally in closets, for some of them) misunderstood by the rest of the world. I make so social or political statements here when I say that it was way, way too obvious. And it makes the movie, for me, far more dramatic than it needs to be. Obviously, no one is going to take such a silly animated movie seriously, so why try to stuff dramatic messages in there? And why is it that a kid's movie is all of a sudden the place to be stuffing these political messages? In short, there was nothing about this movie that made me think, "Heh, that's interesting. I like that." I'd seen it all before. If it had cracked me up, perhaps I could have given it a pass. But it just wasn't that funny.
Somewhere in Time (1980)
Only for the very worst of the hopeless romantics
It has a rather sweet romantic premise, but I'm afraid that unless you're a completely hopeless romantic, you'll likely find yourself constantly raising your eyebrows and chuckling.
"Somewhere in Time" is clearly meant to appeal to emotion - particularly as it relates to love and the supernatural. It offers an interesting glimpse at the mysteries of the universe and the power of love across time, yet I'm afraid it isn't enough to cover up the silly sappiness of the rest of the film. The acting isn't the worst I've ever seen, but it wasn't good either. It wants desperately for dialogue! It has a nauseating tendency to fall into the "we're going to stare at each other constantly instead of talking" category of movies (which, in its defense, was a popular fad in '80s movies). The moments where there was actually some dialogue between them was great! I liked the characters, the relationship, everything... but then it went right back into "we're gonna stare at each other some more" mode. And the movie chooses to skim over their first real conversation via a montage! Excuse me? I like to SEE my characters developing their relationships, I don't want to have to assume it happens!
Do I even have to talk about the main character? He was dull as rocks. Nothing interesting about him at all... I mean who finds themselves in the past, and only thinks - literally ONLY thinks - of finding this one pretty girl? I mean he didn't even THINK of going to check out some other stuff while he was there? A little sight-seeing? Nope... just the dewy-eyed lover boy who... stares at people creepily.
And Christopher Plummer's character? Ahem? He was the only halfway interesting character, and they just left him... unresolved! No finalization, no slap on the wrist for being a jerk, nothing... I mean what?
And I understand that their purpose was to keep a lot of things shrouded in mystery, but I really would have liked to know... what happens to his physical body in the present day when his mind goes back? And vice versa? Did he just disappear? And last but not least, how did the girl figure out he was a time traveler, and thus know he'd be alive in 1979 to give him the watch? That was never resolved.
OH! And one more thing... she literally knew this guy for a day. And she remembered him her whole life? Now I know that's more of an opinionated issue, and it's meant to demonstrate the power of love, blah blah blah... I mean don't get me wrong, I love a good love story. I can even deal with sappiness when it is done well. This is not done well. Too sappy, too silly.
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (2008)
Very Interesting, Very Harsh
I am going to be frank, without giving too much away: if you're looking for a happy, light-hearted love story, look elsewhere! That said, however, this movie is very interesting. It is, for the most part, well acted, and contains some extremely thought-provoking material. Particularly the events at the beginning of the second episode... you will understand my meaning once you have watched. It is so interesting, and often heart-breaking, to see these issues handled in society in this time period - to see the reticence and misery that must be endured. I found myself constantly wondering who was right, and who was wrong, or if anyone in the film could really be considered right or wrong. And by which standards? This is not the typical BBC love story where we love the heroes, admire their virtues, and despise the villains, while secretly amused by them. I personally found myself disliking each character very much at at least one point in the film. These characters are very real people. Each one is flawed, and each one knows it too. This makes for a remarkably interesting tale, that kept me riveted from the very beginning.
With all that said, it is exceedingly dramatic... a little overly so at times. And it is harsh... very harsh. and very raw. So yes, do watch it, but do not expect it to be a sweet, witty love story. You may expect, however, to be very impressed. After all it made me cry, and I very rarely cry in movies!
Fly Away Home (1996)
A Timeless Classic
"Fly Away Home" has been a favorite in my family for years. The story is classic, with every element of a film that is sure to last. The movie gives a vivid and often raw presentation of the relationships within a family, particularly between estranged members, and raises interesting questions about what family itself is and what it means. The view is utterly breathtaking as we're taken on a flight through the Canadian skies, following both the physical and emotional journey of Amy and her father. The father-daughter relationship, in any context, is often a touchy subject, and many films have a tendency to overdramatize certain elements of such a relationship. While the drama is certainly here with this one, we see less of the verbal, noisy drama than we do the quiet, awkward, tense, and somewhat snippy sentiments which exist between the two. Anna Paquin is flawless. Jeff Daniels will make you laugh, cry, and applaud. The chemistry between these two actors is beautiful, making this film one of the first and only that I have ever seen that has not made me despise the "rebellious daughter" figure. If this movie has a flaw, it is only that it is a bit slow by times. Still, for those who, like me, don't mind those sweepingly beautiful images of Canadian landscape, even if nothing much is happening... you'll enjoy the film.