Films

Intense, heavy, tragic, excellent…

Now…where do I even start? This is such a difficult movie to “digest”. I find it extremely disturbing and heart-breaking yet I do fine Brothers (2009) an excellent movie.

Well, I guess I should start at the beginning. We’re introduced to Marine Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and their two little girls. We’re also introduced to Sam’s brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) just as he is being released from prison. And then, we discover Sam is about to leave for Afghanistan in the line of duty. Shot down and reported dead, in reality he and good friend Private Joe Willis (Patrick John Flueger) have, in fact, been taken captive and undergo extreme torture* by the Taliban in a remote village.  Back home Grace and the family try to make sense of it all while Tommy additionally needs to deal with getting his own life sorted.

*I barely managed to watch these scenes on my first viewing so please be warned…they are not easy watching. And may disturb you long after the credits roll.

brothers-movieThis in itself is so heartbreaking to watch as every member of the family, from father to son, mother to daughter and even friends have their own personal daemons and grief process. While watching this I found it difficult to even try to understand what these people are going through with such a loss. The blame, the guilt, the hope and the list goes on. And we see how everyone has their own means of dealing with it. This must be so unbelievably difficult.

On the other hand, we also see positive healing in an unexpected manner. Tommy, the son who never followed his father’s military footsteps and instead went the criminal route, finally finds responsibility, a purpose and a way of rebuilding his life.

2009_brothers_011But then, Sam comes home. And things become even more difficult. The effects of Sam’s traumatic and extreme experiences (I won’t go into the details) are of course felt by all. And once again, an entire family must rediscover itself, it’s purpose, redefine relationships and question everything they thought they stood for. It almost becomes even more challenging because when presumed dead, Sam’s family had some means to move on and rebuild. But will him back that normalcy falls away. Relationships are tested. And we are reminded of the emotional impact of war. The ever-lasting after-effects. How, when the physical scars heal, those mental ones are barely, if at all, heal-able. I cannot imagine that anyone can ever fully recover from experiences such as Sam (and countless others) have.

Sam’s final line sums it all up perfectly: “Only the dead have seen the end of war. I have seen the end of war. The question is…can I live again?”. And that’s the sad thing…the lives that are ruined.

Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal as always, deliver stellar performances and even Tobey Maguire is superb in his role, earning a Golden Globe nomination. Overall, absolutely worth watching but as I said, this is a heavy one.

For more Marine related movies, head on over to my blogging friend Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews (here) and her co-host J-Dub of Dubsism (here) for their The Send in the Marine Blogathon.

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Grace shines again…

Rear_Window_film_poster…as always. I’m really enjoying watching Grace Kelly and this time I finally got around to a movie that I’ve been meaning to watch for ages. Rear Window (1954).

Here she takes on the role of snob high society fashion expert Lisa, who is desperately trying to win the full attention of her boyfriend Jeff (?, hmm, is he really? Maybe she thinks so…I’m not convinced he does). He, however, is confined to his apartment in a wheelchair due to a broken leg courtesy of some action shot he took (he’s a photographer). Bored, Jeff (James Stewart) spends his days spying on casually watching the comings and goings of the surrounding neighbours. One couple living across the courtyard is constantly fighting until suddenly, the wife is gone. Under very suspicious goings on. Lisa at first isn’t really interested – she’s more worried about serving lobster and being the perfectly styled lady around. Oh, and becoming the undivided attention. However, gradually she is pulled into the mystery of the missing wife. And eventually is fully involved in contributing theories.

I absolutely love watching Grace Kelly go from pretty much being disinterested to being hands-on with this personal investigation going on. An absolute pleasure to watch her transform yet still allow the underlying prim and proper lady to shine through. And she seems to manage this so will in all the movies I’ve seen her in (which, I’m afraid is really a small handful). She has the knack of subtly bringing out a woman who does, in fact, have more substance/strength than we initially believe. And yet she always keeps her poise.

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As for the movie, well, let’s just focus on Grace here. She is magnificent. And gives another fine performance.

Here the movie that first introduced my to this actress: Grace Kelly’s Mrs Kane in High Noon and here she is in another Hitchcock movie: To Catch a Thief (1955).

For more of this wonderful lady, head on over to The Wonderful World of Cinema (here), Musings of a Classsic Film Addict (here) and The Flapper Dame (here), the wonderful hosts of The 5th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon.

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Northanger Abbey? Gothic?

Northanger Abbey_1I was quite surprised to see an image of this wonderful Jane Austen story on Pale Writer‘s Blogathon announcement. So I learn something everyday…and actually, it is right there, so obvious. Because Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey’s main character is engrossed by Gothic stories, particularly Anne Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho. Ms Radcliffe was, in fact, one of the first writers of Gothic fiction. Or, at least someone key in making it a “genre” if you like. Something else I’ve learnt.

Any excuse to watch the 2007 rendition of Northanger Abbey again…this time for the Gothic influence. It is absolutely wonderful watching Catherine, played perfectly by Felicity Jones, daydream (and dream) of all things “horrid” and terribly suspenseful, all influenced by those novels she loves to engross herself in. I absolutely love how this movie integrates the characters into her various fantasies all dark and moody (I’m not sure how they are portrayed in the book…will find out soon though as I have it waiting patiently on my bedside table to be read) from her daily encounters…including Henry Tilney and his brother. Ultimately, our dreams and daydreams involve people we know, I guess. And don’t we all build up our own expectations of the unknown…like Catherine expects a haunted mansion with ghouls and ghosts. And Henry just loves to tease her about it.

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Felicity Jones is perfect as Catherine who gives us that wonderful contrast between innocence and her “wild” haunting romantic dreams. I’m enjoying J.J. Field (Henry) more and more…

Her staying over at the Tilneys’ place is a delight. I thoroughly enjoy watching her build up her own mysterious world based on her readings and what she’s heard. The lightning storm adds the perfect atmosphere.

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All-in-all, a wonderful movie, well worth the watch.

For other entries of the Dark and Deep: The Gothic Horror Blogathon give Pale Writer a visit (here). And be sure to check out my Sleepy Hollow post for the same Blogathon (here). And while not part of this Blogathon, also thematically fitting is a previous post of mine on The Crow both comic and movie over here (here).

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Some delightful magic…

practical-magic-poster-01Practical Magic. Remember that one? One of those feel-good Sandra Bullock movies with a bit of magic and of course, romance. I came across it again last weekend. And thoroughly enjoyed it. Again.

There’s a curse around. A curse on the Owens witches. Passed from mother to daughter, generation after generation. All because of love. Or, rather the “agony of love”. Maria Owens, casts a spell that any man who is truly loved will die. And that’s exactly where the problem for sisters Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) comes in. Sally falls in love, with detrimental effects and Gillian, well, she also meets a man but has other problems. Ending up temporarily living with the aunts who raised them, these problems needs solving and the two sisters are left to deal with it, and a handsome investigator mostly on their own. What results is a wonderful, feel-good movie of magic, spells, family, laughter and love.

Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are perfectly juxtaposed as sisters – different enough yet still convincing. Who better to play the two wacky aunts, and wacky they are…chocolate for breakfast, no things as bedtimes or brushing teeth (eeuw), than Stockard Channing and Diane Wiest? They remind us of what we should do a little more in our lives…worry less about what others think and just be ourselves. Granted, that is not always easy, but honestly, I think rate others’ opinions of us far too highly. There are some other lessons to be learnt but I won’t bore you with that right now.

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Back in the late 80s and early 90s, romantic (comedies?) movies had something that just worked. They were light, delightful and just…well, uhm, romantic. Especially if you had Sandra Bullock and Aidan Quinn (remember him?) crossing paths. Aidan Quinn is Gary Hallet, the detective following a lead and finding himself face-to-face with the most disliked ladies in town. Ladies who are totally misunderstood.

So, if like me, you are way too scared to watch real horror movies for Halloween, give Practical Magic (1998) a watch. You’ll smile and you’ll feel good by the end.

And remember ladies, “There’s a little witch in all of us”. Well, that’s what the aunts think anyway.

Not so sleepy…but very creepy…

…and absolutely wonderful! Full of atmosphere and eccentricity. Oh, those worlds Tim Burton can submerse us in! Welcome to the town of Sleepy Hollow:

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Where the headless horseman is in search of such object. A head that is. So intent on his mission that body after body is found clean cut and cauterised, “as though the blade itself were red hot. And yet, no blistering. No scorched flesh”. Ah…”The devil’s fire”.

Or, maybe not. After all, that’s what the constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp, who here reminds us that there once was a brilliant actor before Jack Sparrow) is here to prove. “Murder needs no ghost to come from the grave. We have murders in New York without the benefit of ghouls and goblins.” But Baltus Van Tassel (Michael Gambon) reminds him that “You’re a long way from New York, Constable”. Ichabod isn’t convinced despite shaking in fear that he can barely hold his cuppa “The assassin is a man of flesh and blood and I will discover him.”.

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So his investigation begins. With magic and sorcery and curses. Add some greed and other small town secrets and you’ve the start of a potion to behold. The key ingredients though are Tim Burton and the entire cast (Johnny Depp, Michael Gambon, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Christopher Lee and every single other actor and actress involved, with Christopher Walken topping it all off as the Headless Horseman.) Finally, Danny Elfman’s music makes this cauldron of art boil to perfection.

Sleepy-Hollow-Poster-202x300Tim Burton is just phenomenal with the fantastical words he creates for us. No matter which story he tackles, he weaves a gorgeous canvas that is utterly over the top yet at the same time moody and convincing. Don’t be misled by the seeming “lighter” parts he gives us – those bright and dreamy sequences that are as menacing as the dark and misty ones.

This Halloween, enjoy some Gothic Horror with Sleepy Hollow (1999). It is worth every millimeter of film.

And if that isn’t enough, there’s plenty more of the like over at Pale Writer and the bloggers of her Dark and Deep: The Gothic Horror Blogathon (here).

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Shelley takes no nonsense…

This is Shelley Winters to me:

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Always has been. Always will be. In fact, I don’t know her in any other role. That is, the cigar-smoking, non-nonsense taking Kate from The Scalphunters (1968). So there you have it…another secret is out. I guess I should try watch at least one other movie of hers…but you know what? I quite like her as this western lady. The one who gives tough-as-nails leader of the “wickedest, crookedest”* scalp hunters, Jim Howie (who else but Telly Savalas?), a run for his money:

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She has to though…who else would put up with kissing a man who chews tobacco and likes prunes:

Kate: “Look. Look at my skin. It’s getting all dried up. Pretty soon I’m going to look like an old prune.”

Howie: “Well, I like prunes”

She’s not scared to tell Jim Howie to run his business “like you knew what you’s doing” in such a way that all he can reply with is  “ain’t she pretty?”. And that she is. Underneath all her toughness, she dreams of a fancy house and beautiful skin. And, she’s Shelley Winters, really a pretty lady who has the perfect balance of sweetness and feistiness to pull off this role. I’m not sure who else could have been so perfectly cast opposite Telly Savalas, himself at times overpowering the screen.

Here she is, promised that after having had her hair shampooed by the humble cactus, she’ll be a fine lady:

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I think that goal was definitely achieved:

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Throughout the movie, Shelley Winters is just fabulous in her role. The perfect fit here and when facing the Kiowa chief, offering him a bottle of whiskey, she sums up her character (and performance) absolutely perfectly: “Indian Man, I don’t know how many wives you got now…but you’re going to have yourselves the damnedest white squaw in the Kiowa nation.”

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, do so. Aside from Shelley‘s performance, Telly Savalas, Burt Lancaster and Ossie Davis add their great acting skills to this western (with some comic moments added in). The story is about a fur tracker who encounters some Indians and being forced to trade his precious goods for an escaped slave. Things are further complicated when the furs end up with the renegades. For a more detailed review of the actual movie, head on over here (here).

*as so aptly described by Joe Bass (Burt Lancaster) to Joseph Lee (Ossie Davis)

Now I’m heading over to Realweegiemidget Reviews and Poppity Talks Classic Film the hosts of The Shelley Winters Blogathon  (here) to be enlightened on some more of this actress’ roles.

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Costumes and all the drama..

220px-Plunkett_&_Macleane…yep, we’re looking at costuming up within a costume drama…and some drama it is…with highway robbers and damsels (definitely not in distress). Let me introduce Plunkett & Macleane (1999). One of my favourites (thank you Paul).

Ah, what a wonderful movie. Plunkett (Robert Carlyle) and Macleane (Jonny Lee Miller) encounter each other one dark and dreary night during some grave robbing ruby retrieving activities. And what a perfect pair of (gentlemen) highwaymen they become…Macleane’s former socialite statues gets him back amongst the wealthy while Plunkett’s criminal know-how… well, you get the basic scenario. Add Lady Rebecca Gibson (Liv Tyler), who’s star-struck by our pair (well, one in particular) and finds it all quite daring and so much more exciting than being the prim and proper niece of powerful Lord Gibson (Michael Gambon). And definitely more adventurous than being “courted” by halitosis suffering General Chance (Ken Stott) who’s always (mostly) one step behind getting the pair behind bars. Ensuring some wonderful entertainment, Lord Rochester (Alan Cumming) and his cronies just round it all off. Especially on the costume side of things:

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“You forget something. I have morals” Oh please! The morals are long gone. Targeting the rich…not for the poor but for the grand plan of going across to America. For new beginnings. And gosh, the quotes are just wonderful. Actually, the whole movie is just great but if I tell you anything more you’re going to miss out on this gem (hmmm, no pun intended).

With a gentleman highwayman, ruby births (you’ll understand), gallows and balls…what more could you possibly want? Oh, you even get the costumes and the drama (and lots of comedy). I highly recommend.

Let the fireworks begin! Have fun! PlunkettMacleane8

And head over to Moon in Gemini for some other entries in this wonderful Costume Drama Blogathon (here)

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