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Charlotte's Web (2006)
Humble Adaptation of a Radiant Book
This isn't the worst adaptation. It's better than the 73 animated adaptation in my opinion. And, I'll admit that I'm biased. Charlotte's Web is one of my favorite books of all time. I have not seen it translated into a movie perfectly yet. I think that they missed the spirit of the book. It all seemed kind of dumbed down to me. For me, it's the musical version of The Producers, it got the basic plot and characters in, but missed what the original was. I understand that it is a children's movie and that things can't be overly complicated in them, but the book was a children's book as well and was just a lot more intelligent and well thought out. There have been examples that I have seen on the screen of beautifully made kid's movies, that keep their intelligence: Bridge to Terabithia, A Little Princess (1995), The Incredibles, Beauty and the Beast, Anne of Green Gables, I can go on, but I don't think that it's necessary. This is not to say that this is a terrible movie because it isn't. The voices are done adequately, although Julia Roberts is probably the weakest one (I didn't even cry when Charlotte dies and I still do every time I read the book and even when I watch the animated version). Steve Buscemi as Templeton is perfect and the stand out for me. Dakota Fanning, who is getting a little old for these parts, was believable as Fern. On the whole, the acting was decent, although nothing to rave about. Many of the stars that they got seemed to fade into the background and I never really noticed for cared about the characters (that is one thing that the animated version did better, I cared about the wonderful secondary characters from the book). The effects are flawless. The animals all seem as good as it can get. The main thing that annoyed me was that the entire movie was a lesson about friendship and the book goes into so much more than that. While much of the plot of the book is about friendship, E. B. White brought out so much more than that. This adaptation is just so basic and rudimentary in the script and they had such good source material. If you want to see a good kids movie about a pig, see Babe. They just didn't do Charlotte's Web well.
Return to Oz (1985)
Possibly the worst adaptation that I have ever seen
OZ is a magical place. It is where I always wanted to live as a kid. Some people here were impressed by the fact that they made an OZ movie dark and scary, but by making scary, they miss the whole point of the OZ books. I don't even care as much about the stupid mistakes like making Mombi and Princess Langwidere one person. They were both villains and I don't love that, but okay I accept it. I thought that the Judy Garland version butchered the OZ series as much as humanly possible until this movie came along. At least they got the mood of OZ correct. The plot is that Dorothy's aunt and uncle put her in an institution and she escapes with the help of a mysterious blonde girl. Uncle Henry and Auntie Em would never do that. Even in th Emerald City of OZ, when they are going broke and extremely worried that their niece is going insane, they try to shield her from all the hardship in their lives and tell her to go in the attic and dream and say that she should go to OZ while there is so much trouble. It is nuts to think that they would put her through that. They also messed up my favorite character of all time. Princess Langwidere is vain and silly, but not a malicious, evil character like the one portrayed. At one point, she wants to swap heads with Dorothy, but it is only because she forgot and is wearing her head that is impulsive and has a bad temper. Mombi was a evil, but she wasn't nearly as bad as the woman portrayed. She also had absolutely no connection to the Nome King. He was also silly. He was a villain, but in the books, he is a fat, rolly-polly, little man with a huge belt that turned the entire Royal Family of Ev into ornaments. Not exactly the evilest man in the world. Also, one of the best parts of the series was the second book, where you find out that Mombi turned Ozma into a boy and hid her that way. The mirror thing was just so silly and they took away one of the best twists ever. These books were written during the Depression as a form of escapism. It wasn't dark; it was happy. You don't mess with perfection. Why did they have to butcher the series?
The Break-Up (2006)
Watch the last fifteen minutes, but skip the rest
I have to give it a 5 because it has a wonderful and truthful ending (which movies today rarely have). It is one of the only movies that has come out in recent years that has the courage to say that the couple sometimes be together when they meet and are sometimes better apart. Most of the movie goes through a break-up between a nagging control freak and a sloppy, lay about. They torture each other and end up hurting themselves more in the process. The thing, is that I never see them as a viable couple for most of the movie. Maybe that has something to do with the premise. You only see them together for the first fifteen minutes and then they fight for most of the movie. While it funny for a little while, it gets boring quickly. Jennifer Aniston is, as usual, playing Rachel once again. She is the former Park Avenueish girl, who has a good education, is a bit controlling and boring (I loved Friends, but I always found Rachel the dullest character and never understood why she was the most popular). Now, I know she can act. I hope that she picks parts that will showcase the talent she has soon. Vince Vaughn is his usual beer bellied, a bit vulgar, uneducated, wise cracking man. I never really understood his character's appeal. I know that there was a scene that shows where they first meet, but Aniston looks extremely uncomfortable for the entirety, but the truth is, Aniston and Vaughn, tabloid stories aside, don't match. They have absolutely no chemistry. They have nothing in common, no sex appeal together, and no actually good moments in their relationship that the audience sees. It has a great supporting cast, but they can't save it. The end is the thing that comes closest to saving it, but it doesn't make the cut either. The ending is great, everyone who says that the ending is bad because it is too open be d@mned. It admits that the character have to be apart in order to grow and mature. It says that they may not be meant to be together. They may get back together. They might not. But because they knew each other, they have been able to grow as individuals because of this break-up, so it doesn't really matter. That is a brave move for a mainstream romantic comedy. That is what makes the movie bearable.
One of the funniest movies made in the last ten years. Now, if you can't stand violence and pervasive profanity, don't watch it. You will hate it and you walk away within the first ten minutes. But, if you think that an insane crack whore being hogtied by police, Reese Witherspoon yelling, "Look who got hit with the ugly stick," and Brooke Shields in a perfect eighties bow blowing the back of her head off with a shotgun are hilarious, this is the movie for you. It takes everything that might be bad and multiplies it by twenty to get its point across. There's $hit in this paradise we call America and only a strong person can make it. She might not be smart, or even literate, but she can blow that face off of a pedophile trying to kill her and gets out of an unjust prison with a sadistic matron. Vanessa Lutz is my personal favorite of all of Reese Witherspoon's roles (Walk the Line came close, but she couldn't sing, so I got bumped down to two). Kiefer Sutherland is perfect as the pedophile, necrophiliac, serial killer. He manages to be a charming geek and intensely creepy. The entire plot is ridiculous, but the execution is amazing. That's what matters. The movie's results are in large part due to the writer the script is hilarious. There will probably also people who will take this at face value and they will hate this. But, look past that and you will see a work of art in the guise of a trash C movie.
Imagine Me & You (2005)
I dare you to love me
This movie will no doubt be labeled as another gay movie. Let's face it, they did it to Brokeback Mountain and they'd to it to this one if it were more well known. This is a beautiful romance though. I'm happy to see that Piper Perabo has gotten down from dancing on bars. She's a talented actress (her English accent in this movie is actually one of the best that I've ever heard). It was nice to see real chemistry between two romantic leads. It's kind of rare now to see anything other than the let's jump into the sack chemistry or the it's so subtle it's not there chemistry. This is funny and sweet. It's a pretty simple plot. Rachel is getting married to Heck, her best friend, who she thinks she loves because he is truth worthy and loves her. She is happy to walk down the aisle with him and enjoy her happily ever after when she sees Luce across the room. It's love at first sight. The kind of love that hits you and you just know. Now, this is not enough to break up a marriage and Rachel knows this and she marries Heck. They are happy enough. He works at a job that he constantly complains about, but keeps it because he has a wife and responsibility. A friendship goes between Luce and Rachel, but their mutual attraction is still there. Rachel tries to ignore it, but finally can't anymore and tells Luce that she has to go back to Heck. Heck quits his job one day and comes home completely plastered. She tells him that night that there was something that happened with someone and she's staying, but she thinks that he has passed out. Only, he was actually awake. This information tears him apart. He finally figures out that it is Luce and tells her that he loves her enough to let her go. I guess you are smart enough to figure out what happens from there on in. This film isn't a drama though. It is actually hilarious at points. Especially the scenes involving the customers in Luce's flower shop and heart to hearts between anyone and Rachel's parents. This movie would have been a 9 though if the director hadn't felt the need to say that the parents were soul mates as well. It just dragged down the plot in the end, when it is supposed to be fast paced. Matthew Goode is well good in this film. He is heartbreaking at many times. You can really tell how desperately in love his character is with Rachel and the unbearable pain he goes through at times. But, he still manages to keep himself a supporting character, refreshing in a time where everyone tries to steal the screen. Piper Perabo and Lena Headey bring the dilemma of infidelity into reality. It is a rare time when the characters actually fight everything and try not to be in love. I also doubted at times whether they would get together at times, which is also rare these days when the movies all have to have a Hollywood ending. It also doesn't go into the whole "ethical dilemma" that gay people are "supposed to have." It could have just as easily been a man that Rachel fell in love with (actually I think it was originally a man she fell in love with) and I think I would have liked the movie just as much. A well-written love story is a well-written love story and they're rare now. It is a beautiful story. I didn't want it to end.
Rumor Has It... (2005)
I had originally rented this movie so that I could sit there and laugh at it, like I do sometimes when there are no good new releases. But, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The premise sounds terrible. A confused woman finds out that her family may have been the premise of The Graduate and seeks out the man that slept with her mother and grandmother to see if he could be her father and ends up sleeping with him even though she is already engaged. Now, I'm not saying that this movie will win anyone any awards, but it is funny and has very natural acting. It is more about the character growing up and finding out that things don't always make sense. She has to take the best things she can out of life and not question the good things she has so much. Shirley McLaine works her magic and is absolutely hilarious as the woman on whom Mrs. Robinson is based. She supplies that largest laughs of the movie (unlike in that horrible remake of Bewitched). She is pitch perfect as the foul mouthed and completely inappropriate grandmother, but still manages to give heart to the role when she confronts Kevin Costner near the end. You can easily see her being Mrs. Robinson, or in this case Mrs. Richeleiu (sp?). Jennifer Aniston is decent for most of the movies, she has one monologue that seems very forced when she talks to Kevin Costner near the end but other than that her acting is very natural even if it is a bit Rachel. But, it might be the sad case that she is destined to play Rachel Greenlike characters for the rest of her life (think about it besides for The Good Girl and Derailed, in which she really miscast Derailed not Good Girl, she has only played Rachel again and again). Mark Ruffalo was the passably handsome, good guy that the girl ends up marrying like he has is many other movies and he is his usual charming self. I only hope that he gets more of a chance to showcase his talent in future in more mainstream movies, where people will notice it, unless he does, he will become Luke Wilson. Mena Suvari plays a 2D character, but she still gives a few laughs. It is a very small part, I'm surprised that she took it, it is so small. Kevin Costner reprises his role in the Upside of Anger only he doesn't do as good a job in this movie. But, he job is still pretty good. Richard Jenkins is my favorite character in the movie though (not Shirley McLaine as many others have said). He is perfect in the role as the suburban father, who is still living in the fifties a bit, but is loving and supportive. I almost cried when he told about how he decided to marry his wife after she came back from a tryst with Beau Burroughs. In summation, it is a nice growing up story, with some laughs along the way. It isn't perfect, but it is a nice Saturday night. I dare anyone of you to not want to say blunt testicular trauma over again and over again after seeing this movie.
The Fantasticks (1995)
Disappointing, but not Unexpected
The Fantasticks is the longest running musical of all time and is amazing to see live. It is logical that at some point a movie version would be made, but the movie version being bad is not unexpected. The musical is strictly a stage play. The actors have to speak to the audience a lot and much of the set is seen in the abstract. Visualizing it and making it into a movie would be an extremely difficult and only good it if was done by a gifted director. RENT managed to do it pretty well, but even that didn't go perfectly. In this case, the director seems strictly average and he couldn't control it. They also took out some the best songs. The worst exclusions by far are taking out Plant a Reddish and truncating Try to Remember. Another one that bothered me was taking out the Rape Ballet, while I realize that the song sounds strange and might be awkward, but adding the horrendous the Adbduction Song is atrocious. They also decides to unnecessarily add new lyrics and take out great ones from songs, which makes the song seem less powerful from Beyond that Road and Metaphor. The one ingenious twist was adding in the carnival and if this were a better movie, it would have worked wonderfully, but it is not handled well. It ends up stilted and doesn't make much sense. It goes past the funny- because-it's-so-fake point and goes straight back to ludicrous and ridiculous. My biggest surprise was. How disappointing Joel Gray was. He is normally great, but his performance is forced is this. His dancing is also disjointed and looks untrained, even though it isn't, but is looks awful. Their El Gallo is my least favorite piece of casting i nthe entire film. It doesn't quite hit my personal ten worst miscast in film history, but it's close. The character has to be mysterious and sexy, but theirs is ugly, exaggerated and doesn't have a very good voice. Mortimer's part is also reduced and his monologue in the play about becoming the man who dies is one of my favorite parts and it is completely cut. The one good thing in this is Jean Louisa Kelly, she has the perfect blend of naiveté and dreaminess is perfect. Her performance looks forced at times as well, but given the director I am not surprised and she still stays the best part of the play. Her version of Much More is wonderful. Her voice is clear and sweet, her dancing is flowy and smooth and this is one of the few times where I actually believed an actress was 16. Out of ten stars I give this 3
What were they thinking?
The Importance of Being Earnest is one of the greatest English farces ever created. So, why did the director feel the need to change it so much. He made an adaptation a few years earlier of An Ideal Husband and it was very good. It stuck mostly to Wilde's play and the changes that were made were not major and fit in with the spirit of the play. In The Importance of Being Earnest, I think that the director might have been given too large a budget. He for some reason felt the compulsion to add things that served no purpose, ruined the flow of the play and messed up the characters. The cast itself of was decent. Rupert Everett was his usual charming self. Colin Firth was able to play Earnest well enough. Judi Dench has the air of the aristocracy that made her perfect for Lady Markby and Frances McDormand, although not that great, was decent enough, although I wish she would make everything so dramatic. The One unfortunate miscast in a lead was Reese Witherspoon, an actress I normally adore. You can tell that she is trying her hardest, but her English accent is atrocious and she looks out of place in many of the scenes. They should have picked an English actress to fill the role. The additions to the movie sometimes made you cringe like Algernon being chased around London and jumping in people's carriages to escape bill collectors or Gwendolyn tattooing Earnest on her butt or the ridiculous piano number that Algy and Earnest sing or Cecily's dream sequences about knights or the hot air balloon Algy arrives in the country in. Others are out of character, Earnest going to a Folie Bregie like dance club with Algy or the Reverend drawing pictures of Miss Prism in Greek garb. And still others that mess up the play like Lady Markby marrying Lord Markby while she was a pregnant dancer or Earnest's real name being Jack. Many parts of Wilde's scenes were also taken out. There is only about a third of the conversations between Cecily and Algy as well as half of the muffin scene, which is one of the best in the play. While I do not mind omissions in movies most of the time, they took them out to make room for useless and awful scenes not in the play, so I have to object. They should have left well enough alone. I'm not saying that the entire movie is bad there are some brief shining moments in it but they are few and far between. The actors themselves seem to realize how awful the script is and it seems that they are not really trying there hardest in it, with the possible exception of Reese Witherspoon, but as I already said her performance isn't anything to laud. There is one adorable scene at the end with a funeral for Algy's made up friend Bunbury, but its at the end and you would have to sit through the entire movie to see it.
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
One of Billy Wilder's Best
From the opening of the dead body in the swimming pool to the last shot of a fuzzy Gloria Swanson, it is mesmerizing. The casting is brilliant. First, Gloria Swanson, a famous silent movie actress, was picked to play the insane and creepy Norma. While Swason herself wasn't like the character herself, she understood her situation so completely that despite the character's hugeness. Even though everything is overexaturated, you see that it is done because of the character's background, a silent movie actor had to act larger than life so that there emotions were conveyed, Norma can't distinguish anything in her life anymore. Swason was able to make the character real. William Holden was having a slump at the time after Golden Boy. He mixed the right amount of sex appeal and cynicism in the role to make it perfect. Erik Von Stroheim, the failed director, was basically playing himself in many ways. His career went down the drain after a failed movie with Gloria Swanson called Queen Kelly. He was the perfect pick for the role and made the character. Nancy Olsen is exactly what she is supposed to be, a fresh face that brings the only heart to the movie. The basic story is a failed writer named Joe hides his car from the repo men in what he thinks is an abandoned house. Norma, a formerly famous actress from the twenties, brings him in because she thinks he is there is bring the coffin for her dead chimp. She keeps him there to rewrite her putrid script called Salome and gradually turns him into her new chimp all the time abetted by her exhusaband, discoverer, butler named max. He becomes a kept man a sexual plaything. He trys to leave, but she attempts suicide and he stays. As her starts to hate himself more, he starts to sneak away to write a screenplay with young Betty Schaefer and falls in love with her. Norma then finds the screenplay, Untitled Love Story and starts to call Betty. Joe overhears and tells Betty to come to the house, tells her what he is and then sends her away. Joe then tries to leave Norma, but she shoots him and he falls into the pool. At this point Norma has completely gone off the deep end and goes down the stairs when police are there thinking that the newsreel cameras are movie cameras filming Salome. As much as this film is about how Hollywood is an awful place, you can still see that there is a love for film in it. Betty and her work with Joe on the screenplay is all sweet, careful and done with love. Norma herself shows love for film, despite how demented she is the final monologue shows a genuine appreciation for film. It shows how the business destroys the film making, but still appreciates it as an art.