Review

Fonda…the bad guy…

fondathon-2-text1Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), one of my favourite Westerns. And the perfect entry to focus on Henry Fonda for The Fondathon, hosted by Sat in your Lap.

Fonda is Frank. Totally ruthless. What more proof do you need when his “introductory” scene is one of gunning down a whole family…even the little boy frozen to the spot who you’d hope would be saved? But no…not Frank.

He’s got his orders. The family that he’s just disposed of…well, the land is in prime railway territory and business is business. Railroad baron business. Problem is…there is a young widow around. And she’s on her way to the exact piece of land. The killings are pinned on outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) who befriends widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale). Together with Harmonica (Charles Bronson), he sets out to find the real killers. Of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye…Harmonica has his own motive…

Henry Fonda is just excellent. He has this perfectly calm coldness to him. Accentuated by the eyes. Especially in the close-ups. And there are plenty of those. Sergio Leone presents us with such wonderful visuals in this one. In fact, I believe those eyes are what the director really wanted to stand out. To be recognisable. As Fonda. From what I’ve read, Fonda arrived on set with a fake moustache and brown contact lenses…and that didn’t fly with Leone.

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“People scare better when they’re dyin'”…what a ruthless character. And once again…he’s so casual around the unexpected business events. Things he didn’t plan on. And Fonda is absolutely, totally convincing. The real, nasty bad guy.

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What I hadn’t realised until now (my lack of Henry Fonda knowledge) was that this role didn’t fit in with what he was typically cast as. He was always the good guy. And here’s something interesting I found on IMDB: Henry Fonda originally turned down the role of Frank. Director Sergio Leone flew to the United States and met with Fonda, who asked why he was wanted for the film. Leone replied, “Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera pans up to the gunman’s face and…it’s Henry Fonda” (until then, with one exception, Fonda had only been cast in “good guy” roles. Leone wanted the audience to be shocked).

But, not knowing this in the first place, I was still shocked at how ruthless a man can be. Fonda or not. I guess…at the end of the day, the actor totally managed to convince me . What sheer acting brilliance.

So, this being my first Fonda film, to me, he’ll always be the bad guy stereotype and I’ve yet to discover him as the nice guy. I’m sure I’ll be shocked…

For my other thoughts on this one…head on over here…here.

Now…head on over to Sat in your Lap for the other Fondathon entries here.

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In a Nutshell: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

the_guernsey_literary_and_potato_peel_pie_societyI’m often amazed at how single events or encounters can change so much. In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a “simple” letter inquiring after a book changes Juliet Ashton’s (the wonderful Lily James) life altogether taking her from a comfortable (but unfulfilled) London to Guernsey. All because of the resulting letter exchanges.

In Guernsey she meets the people in the titular society and is drawn into their lives. Intending to write about them (she’s a successful writer) and their experiences under former German occupation in World War II, she doesn’t only find these people, but also herself. Sounds cliché, yes, but it really is a lovely movie and not as soppy as you’d think. Heartbreaking at times but also uplifting in terms of the will of humans and what they do to survive. Or the ultimate sacrifices made to make a small difference to someone else. But…not heavy either.

Absolutely well worth the watch. It stars Michiel Huisman, Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay, Glen Powell and Penelope Wilton. You’ll even be treated to Bronagh Gallagher we all remember from The Commitments.

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Peaky Blinders…series 3 excellent as ever

peakyblindersseries3I just can’t get over how brilliant this series is. From the very first episode in series 1 right to this last episode of series 3…all I can say (and do say to everyone who’s looking for something great to watch) is…”watch it”.

Ok…so I’m way behind with watching (I’ve had the Series 3 DVDs waiting since their release, series 4 too) but I just haven’t had time. I guess that is rubbish because the moment I had a chance to watch the first episode of this series I was hooked (as per series 1 and 2) and finished all episodes in two days. I guess time can be made.

In this installment of the BBC crime drama, a wedding serves as a kickoff for business (what else would you expect?) and so the Shelbys get involved with the Russians, their jewels and weapons. A dodgy Father John Hughes has his share in a whole lot of dirty negotiations and Alfie Solomons is brought back into the wheeling and dealings. If you know the series so far, then you know that you’re in for lots of backstabbing, corruption, family disagreements (and agreements) and the works. Even the women surprise you in this one.

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The story is always intriguing and you never see the twists and turns coming. Accompanied by an excellent soundtrack and stunning cinematography, this is one of the only series that I’ve ever watched and not given up on (the other being Rome).

Just be warned…you will sit there in disbelief as the last scene plays out…

…and now I just have to start series 4. Tommy Shelby…what a bastard you are.

Here are some thoughts after Series 1: Peaky Blinders – a work of art and how Tommy Shelby is totally crush material: Sexy Crush…Peaky Blinders’ Tommy Shelby

In a Nutshell: La Reine Margot (1994)

la_reine_margotBased on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, La reine Margot (Queen Margot or Die Bartholomäusnacht) is quite a movie.

On the evening of the forced marriage between Margot (Isabelle Adjani) of France and Henri de Navarre (Daniel Auteuil) in a political move amidst the religious war between Catholics and Protestants, what is meant to be a wedding party is turned into a massacre (well, the guests were strategically invited) of the Protestants.

Margot finds herself under house arrest and struggles to juggle the agendas of her brothers and mother, keeping alive her husband and satisfying her own lover La Môle (Vincent Perez).

Coming in close on 3 hours, this is definitely not a light watch with Catherine de Médicis (Virna Lisi) instigating trouble wherever she can with poisonings, incest, murder and so on. With graphic violence and sex, this may not be for sensitive viewers.

In a Nutshell: Venom (2018)

venomWell, well, well…I never thought I’d ever watch this one. And I can’t tell you why I even switched it on…maybe holiday boredom…but actually…

…not at all what I expected. Not as bad as I expected. So yes, at the beginning I was thinking that this is just another action movie. Besides, I’m not really a supporter of villains. But little by little, I was won over…not sure if it was by Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock (or just Tom’s acting) or the dry humour that slowly seeped through. I quite enjoyed the Eddie/Venom combo.

Oh…the story…Eddie, a hard hitting journalist loses everything for a potentially big story but gains a symbiote (I have since learnt that this is a Marvel race who require a host with which they become one entity). Of course, the reason he picks up this “parasite” (ah, love that constant argument) is because of some power-hungry guy wants to exploit the possibilities and create a new life form and so brings these gooey gunky extraterrestrial things back from a mission. Naturally they escape…naturally, things go wrong…

…but, sit back and enjoy. Don’t think. Don’t reason. Just sit and watch.

Just love that final dialogue scene about eating the bad guys…not the good guys.

Have fun!

In a Nutshell: Lawless (2012)

lawless_posterWow…what an excellent movie I’ve just watched. And to think I avoided it…somehow it just hadn’t appealed but for some reason I was meant to watch it these holidays.

Let me introduce Lawless. The story of three bootlegging brothers and their fight with the law. In Franklin County, Virginia, the Bondurant brothers have always managed to get by with their illegal Depression-era business with even the local law contributing to sales…until corrupt Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce, oh how shady he can be), comes along and makes it very clear that “I’m the one who’s going to make your life real difficult from now on if you don’t tow the line, country boy”. And that he does. What a bastard. But the Bondurants don’t just give in like the rest of the residents. Nope…and boy does it get brutal.

Based on a true story, Nick Cave brings alive Matt Bondurant‘s novel about Jack, Forrest and Howard played by Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke respectively. Joining the cast are Jessica Chastain,Mia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman amongst others. All to make for one impressive performance by all involved.

Absolutely brilliant. Just don’t expect light escapism…

Here’s the trailer:

 

 

Before…Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight

Back in 1995 Before Sunrise totally passed me by. Never heard of it…therefore, never seen it.

But then, somewhere around 2004 (probably 2005/2006 by the time it was released down in the far southern hemisphere), I watched Before Sunset and really enjoyed it. It has Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy), who met 9 years earlier in Before Sunrise, meet again as Jesse promotes his latest book in Paris. They spend time together casually catching up about their lives as they became and slowly their encounter those years before comes to the surface again. I remember people commenting that this movie was boring but somehow I felt not. It was so real, a reflection of two people remembering, mulling over decisions made and the pathes taken. For me, the real-time story (Jesse has only an hour before he is due to catch a plane) adds to the realism.

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Naturally, I had to go find Before Sunrise. The story that started it all. How Jesse and Céline met in Vienna. How that wonderful night, that first encounter, inspired the bestselling book being promoted in 2004.

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And that was that for a while. I was satisfied how the two stories worked together.

Then, the 2013 Before Midnight came out. Once again Jesse and Céline and their current lives. 9 years after their second encounter, which was 9 years after their first encounter. While this one left me slightly despondent it still worked for me due to the elapsed years since the previous one and thus the contemplation around how time impacts relationships. The realism of it all.

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What makes this “Before trilogy” stand out is the approach in terms of the number of years that have passed both within (or should I say, between) the stories but also within the actual filming/release times. It adds a genuine touch. That we grow up or mature with the characters and the actors.

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But, I think this wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t have Richard Linklater writing and directing all three of them. And, we consistently have Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Céline. They also add their writing skills to Before Sunset and Before Midnight. So, from viewer to director to writer to actor to character…we’ve all grown together, we’ve all changed but our core is still the same.

If you would like something slightly different, something where you feel like you are accompanying a couple sharing their thoughts, something thought provoking, then give these three movies a go. In chronological order though.

Head on over to MovieMovieBlogBlog for the Year after Year Blogathon where the entries have to deal with a time span of at least one year.