Review

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.

PracticalMagic2

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:

SleepyHollow2

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.”.

SleepyHollow6

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).

gothic-horror-banner-2

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:

PlunkettMacleane5

“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)

cosdra1

Kelly’s Heroes…good fun

Kelly's_Heroes_film_posterI’m not a big “war movie person” but with Kelly’s Heroes (1970) I make an exception. Because this movie isn’t just a war movie, no, it goes far beyond that. It is memories of those Super 8 movie days with my father. And of us quoting various scenes from Kelly’s Heroes by heart…

…for example “Sixty feet of bridge…” aah…but I get ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack just a little…I think I should give you a rough breakdown of the happenings first:

So, we have Kelly, of course, who hears about a stash of gold that would be good for the taking. Problem is, said stash is behind enemy lines. But, fear not, Kelly, being a tough soldier gets together his band of “heroes” with some added takers who end up in the group just because they happen to be in the “right” spot at appropriate time (think “Oddball” here”…I’ll explain later). And off they go…with all sorts of antics along the way. Remember, this isn’t a war war movie, no, it’s more of a comedy war movie (of course, with serious moments along the way).

Anyway, this became one of the most quoted movies in our household…mostly, because the memorable lines come from Donald Sutherland who was my father’s favourite actor. Like when all the bridges are being blown up just as our band of heroes want to cross. And Oddball, yes, Donald Sutherland (who else?) is tasked with finding a bridge…part of his telephonic negotiation goes along the lines of this:

Oddball: “…look baby, I’m kinda hung up. I need sixty feet of bridge.”

Bellamy: “Hey kid. They haven’t got you in the nut ward again?”

Oddball: “Ah Bellamy, for cryin’ out loud………I don’t need you. Sixty feet of bridge I can get almost anywhere. Schmuck!”

Oh boy, and the “negative waves”…always positive even when the bridge gets blown. As for his “battle tactics”:

Oddball: “These tanks are faster than any other tanks in the European Theater of Operations. Forwards or backwards. You see man, we like to feel we can get out of trouble quicker than we got into it.”

kellysheroes1

And when Kelly asks if he has any other weapons:

Oddball: “Well yeah, man, you see, like, all the tanks we come up against are bigger and better than ours, so that all we can hope to do is, like, scare ’em away y’ know. This gun is an ordinary 76mm but we add this piece of pipe onto it and the Krauts think, like uh, maybe it’s a 90mm”

Further explaining that “We have a loudspeaker here, and when we go into battle we play music, very loud. It kind of…calms us down.” and “We got our own ammunition. it’s filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes… pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people!”

But, it isn’t only Oddball who’s fantastic in this one. The whole bunch of heroes work so well with nobody out-shadowing the other. Clint Eastwood, is of course Kelly, all serious and leader of the group. Second in command, if you like, is Big Joe…ah, what a character – also his own entity and always shouting about as only Telly Savalas can. Crapgame, Don Rickles, is always wheeling and dealing in some way or other. And the list goes on making for a well worthwhile watch.

Another thing that always sticks out for me is the opening (well, not opening but the first piece) song “Burning Bridges” by the Mike Curb Congregation. Back in the day, before online shopping, I searched many a CD store (remember those?) for this title…and finally found it on a compilation CD. Here it is with some snippets from the movie (so, possibly spoiler alert):

Overall, a treat of a war movie.

Thanks to Maddy of Maddy Loves her Classic Films together with Jay of Cinema Essentials for hosting this Blogathon. Head on over to their sites for other great entries.

ww2-2

 

Animal Farm…thought provoking

I’d always “known” about Animal Farm by George Orwell but it is another of those books that, embarrassingly, I’ve never gotten around to read. Until now…and I should have read it a long time ago. But then, I’ve always believed that a book finds you at the right time…

…you see, I’ve been on a serious reading drought for the last, hmmm, two years…but, recently a work colleague recommended it. Said it was a nice thin book that I’d get through quickly. Hmmm, ja, maybe, we’ll see…besides, I don’t like asking people for their books…but somehow I asked after all…

Well worth it. And yes, it is a quick and easy read, but by no means to be underestimated. It is thought provoking both while you are reading and long afterwards.

The story, is about a bunch of farm animals who are convinced of a cause. Of getting rid of humans and running the farm themselves. Such they do, starting off with reasonable ideals and living well as a community. But, from the get-go, you have an inkling around the cracks that are inevitably going to appear. Of course, as the story unfolds, these cracks get bigger and bigger and by the end, the initial cause is no longer recognisable, although, you saw this coming all along. It’s all so clear. Well, obviously not to the animals. Or maybe it was?

While the allegory is on the events leading up to the Russian Revolution and the following Stalinist era, I wouldn’t restrict it to that – reading it, many other situations/events came to mind. In fact, we can simply go down to a general human nature level with this book. I’m sure you too will be able to pick out people you know. Look no further than your circle of acquaintances (possibly even friends), people you engage with at work or just the community on the whole. Interestingly, Mollie, Boxer, Clover and Benjamin immediately brought known people to mind, even Moses seemed familiar. In fact every single animal or group of animals could be associated in some way or other in the current time.

As for the helplessness or inevitability of the situation…nothing more frustrating than being the outsider who just knows where it is all heading. And the signs are so clear. I just wanted to scream at the animals…can’t you see where this is all going? But so too I guess is the real life situation…frustration at why people just can’t see what is happening. Frustration at why people don’t change things, or why they don’t change things earlier. Why they allow themselves to be brainwashed, to become indifferent, to just accept things, to accept others’ egotistical goals and power kicks. It is seemingly easier for many to remain in a comfort zone, even if it isn’t an ideal one, than to stand up for things, to question, to challenge. To simply accept someone else’s “me, me, me” approach. And so often the gripes are vocalised (amongst the discontent) but never actioned upon because status quo appears to be better than to ruffle feathers. To just continue because “it is done” or because “what difference will it make”. But, this is a touchy subject, one that I will ponder some more, take it offline.

And on a different note, ahh, the book itself…visually, striking. I had it lying on my desk at work and the cover caught the attention of quite a few people.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) looks really good too. Just bought it and can’t wait to get stuck into it!

Sexy, oops, I mean, Mean Villain…

…gosh, what’s on my mind? This is the Great Villain Blogathon…right? And I’d put my name down for Prince John from Robin Hood (2010)…right? And, my mind is clearly elsewhere because I got sidetracked…right? Wrong…because…actually, the real villain here is not Prince John (Oscar Isaac)…he’s merely being, should we say, gently guided, by the sexiest nastiest man with ulterior motives. Oooh….but there’s just something about Godfrey, who just wouldn’t be the same if played by any other actor than Mark Strong.

MarkStrongRobinHood

I’d very quickly realised that Prince John is simply a spoilt brat who wants his way. And he’s too busy having his way (not with his wife) to really pose any threat. Yes, he might have his moments, purely out of having some sort of power kick, but Godfrey, he’s there ever so subtly, or not, steering things. Weaseling his way into everything. Being English “when it suits me” French when that works better.

Godfrey has this presence from the very start. He’s clearly not phased by airs and graces, so comfortable is he around Philip of France during their (and our) first encounter. With that introduction comes…a perfect piece of music that will forever be associated with him…this one:

…it is Godfrey for me…staccato, slightly evasive, yet with an underlying hardness, energy, gradually increasing in drive, just like this man…all to gradually crescendo to a point where he eats the human blood stained oyster. The things people do. He encourages his men to plunder from the dead and doesn’t hesitate a moment to yank on the lance embedded in a dying knight. All in a day’s work it seems. And he’s so smooth when he does this.

And if his initial presence isn’t enough, somehow the scar on his cheek from Robin’s arrow simply makes him meaner in terms of personality as well as looks. Oh, and according to seasoned expert Prince John, the “ladies will love you all the more” for it. It amplifies his sexiness, oh no, did I write that again? “villain-ness” while he’s always listening, always scheming:

Godfrey4

Addressed as “my Lord” by both the French and the English, this man will casually instruct his men to get rid of someone or patiently wait in the sidelines for an opportunity to present itself. Strategically positioning himself during court meetings, saying just the right things, while Prince John is too busy dealing his family and greed issues. Wait…isn’t that an ever so slight (sly) smile on his face as he is about to officially serve the crown? Nicely played Godfrey, nicely played:

Godfrey5.PNG

“Choose carefully the spot Godfrey, where you would place your dagger”, so obvious to everyone including William Marshal (William Hurt). A man to be wary of.

Villain Banners 2019This must be one of the most heartless villains…who gives an old man news of his son, proudly telling him that “I’m the one who killed him” (left in a French ditch)??? To entice a fighting reaction from a blind man…plain mean.

Yet, at the end of the day, things must come to an end for him. And, while cowardly trying to race from the battlefield, this villain has had lots of personality. He has a certain presence that doesn’t even need his “signature” theme music. You notice him in all the scenes he’s in. He’s so bad yet somehow I feel drawn to him. He has the blatant audacity to pursue his goals. The way he holds himself. Confident, almost elegant. And while I obviously don’t support his behaviour, it is this type of character, acted perfectly by Mark Strong, that allows that “guilty pleasure” of being drawn to the bad guy. Because, that’s what movies allow us. Escapism.

For my previous entries to the Great Villain Blogathon, pop past Villain, Villain on the wall (here) and Meanest of the Mean…Ma-Ma (here). I’ve also written a piece on Mark Strong as a character actor in A Strong Character… (here)

And of course all the other entries to the Great Villain Blogathon can be found here (Shadows and Satin), here (Speakeasy) and here (Silver Screenings).

Here some impressions together with his theme song:

10 Things I Hate About You…

10_Things_I_Hate_About_You_film.jpg 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) is already (!!!wow, can’t believe it!!!) 20 years old yet it never feels that way…I still enjoy watching it as much as I did when it came out.

First things first, the plot: Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) transfers to Padua high where he is smitten on first sight with Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik). Telling his new friend Michael (David Krumholtz) that he would like nothing more to date Bianca he finds out that she isn’t allowed to date. This due to strict dad-rules which unexpectedly change: Bianca has a sister Katarina ‘Kat’ (Julia Stiles) who everyone deems scary, anti-social, ant-establishment etc. So, “knowing” that nobody would ever think of even approaching Kat, dad allows Bianca to date if Kat does. And the challenge is on! Find a guy crazy enough to date Kat so that Bianca can do so. Enter Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) the guy who has supposedly eaten a live duck, done time, donated his liver etc..

Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, you know you’re in for a good one when a character is introduced accompanied by Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. And that’s the refreshing part…Kat doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her and she is who she is, having “swore I wouldn’t do anything just because everyone else was doing it”. The reasons become clear during the movie but I really think this is such a valid point. As is Patrick’s comment to Cameron of “don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want”. So there you have it…the guy who uses his flip knife in science to dissect a frog isn’t all that bad. Oh, and he even buys her a Fender guitar instead of flowers and chocolates to apologise for messing up:

10-Things-I-Hate-About-You-1999-600x338.jpg

I never tire of watching this one. While it may be predictable, it is still a pleasure watching the characters fall in love. Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger have really good chemistry together and at the same time are convincing in their outward “mean and scary” demeanor yet showing their underlying true personalities in just the right quantities at the right time. But it isn’t just these two. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Krumholtz, Larisa Oleynik and Andrew Keegan (who plays stud Joey Donner) gel well together with their respective characters being absolutely believable. The magnitude of teen high-school problems and dilemmas come across perfectly.

So, if you haven’t seen this one yet, go give it a go. It really is worth the watch. And, after that, you could even give the series a go. I thoroughly enjoy it too (watching episodes here and there when the mood strikes) and it is a pity that it never got past the first season.

Head on over to Pop Culture Reverie and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood for some more entries into this It’s a Young World Teen Movie Blogathon. And finally…enjoy the week ahead.rebelbanner