Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ode to the Outstanding Tom Hanks!

So thanks to AMC and their “Can’t get enough Gump week”, I’ve watched Forrest Gump at least six times this week, in it’s entirety once and then in parts the other five times! Now, A League of Their Own is on Bravo and I find myself unable to go to sleep…
On to the point of this post, Tom Hanks is one of the best actors of our time. As I’m watching him in A League of Their Own, I realize that I don’t see Tom Hanks, I see Jimmy Dugan. He is one of those few actors that doesn’t just portray a character, he creates a persona that takes of life of it’s own. After pondering his filmography I begin to gain a new appreciation of him. I’ve always refered to him as the “all-American” actor, but in reality he’s extremely versatile. Able to not just portray Carl Hanratty (Catch Me If You Can) but become him and generate a completely believable character with personality, quirks, likes, dislikes, etc. On the other hand, becoming the strict, somber prison guard Paul Edgecomb (The Green Mile), he embodied the character, heart and soul. I could go on and on describing all the different personalities he’s created and portrayed.
So here’s to you Mr. Hanks, I love to watch you become these people! Thanks for creating them and portraying them so well I don’t even see “you” in them.
p.s. So who’s your favorite Hanks persona? Here's his filmography.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shutter Island - You’ll never leave this island.

I love to watch all types of movies, but I especially love the movies that require a second watch in order to be truly appreciated. Shutter Island is definitely one of those films! It’s set in 1954 and follows two US Federal Marshals as they investigate the disappearance of a patient in a mental hospital for the criminally insane. Martin Scorsese (director) is a master behind the camera. He created elegantly intense scenes using simple, but unique camera angles, coupled with an astounding musical score that kept the viewers on the edge of their seats from the first frame.
There was an air of mystery woven through out the film, the audience kept questioning what was truth, what was a ploy, who do you believe? Teddy Daniels (Leonard DiCaprio), the protagonist, seemed to be the only person that the viewers could ultimately trust, because the story was being told from his perspective. He took the audience on a quest through the vast grounds of the island, from trekking in the wilderness to lurking through the halls of the fortified ward C.  The scenery and extensive details to the set strengthen the film, especially in coordination with the perfectly articulated script. Another aspect of the film that added mystery were Daniels’ memory flashes. They were artfully placed and assisted in the unfolding of the twisted plot.
As for the acting performances, DiCaprio was amazing! His portrayal of the tormented US Marshal Daniels was phenomenal. He developed a bond of trust through acts of genuine sincerity for justice and morality. This was a crucial part of film. The other notable performance was Sir Ben Kingsley as Dr. Crawley. He created a man with such smooth, suave charisma he was almost untrustworthy, however he had enough compassion and care for his patients the viewers want to believe and trust him.
This film was definitely created for a viewer that appreciates the see-saw of emotions as well as the opportunity to generated a load of conspiracy theories on how the plot will pan out. It will most assuredly keep you guessing and questioning while on the edge of your seat holding your breath! It is Scorsese, so there is a bit of vulgar language and some graphic scenes. Overall, it is a MUST watch film!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine’s Day - All we really want is loves confusing joy.

I was very skeptical of this film, all the stars, all the hype, I just didn’t have much faith in good ol’ Garry Marshall (director). However, I was pleasantly surprised, Marshall definitely delivered. I didn’t love absolutely every storyline, but the film had a very nice flow and spoke truth about our desperation and desire for love in all walks of life. I also appreciated the connectivity of all the characters, how every storyline was connected in some way.
The film followed the life of couples and singles during the day devoted to love. The stories consisted of young love, new love, old love, imagined love, and all the kinds of love in between. I’m just going to touch on a few of the storylines, as to not spoil all the little twist and turns the movie takes.
  • The story of Edgar (Hector Elizondo) and Estelle (Shirley MacLaine) was one of how love can withstand not only the test of time, but the test of forgiveness. True love is loving someone in spite of themselves, loving them completely no matter their previous mistakes. The scene at the Hollywood graveyard was perfection.
  • On the flip side, the story of Jason (Topher Grace) and Liz (Anne Hathaway) was the predictable cheese-fest. Hathaway was charming and charismatic in her portrayal of Liz, but the idea of acceptance to moral differences is not love to me, it’s the recipe for disaster. I’m not saying you should judge people for their choices, however, you have a right to have standards and morals in your choice of romantic interest.
  • The young love story with Grace (Emma Roberts) and Alex (Carter Jenkins) was also an interesting one. I was not a fan of the openness of sexual activity of high school students, but thankful that this film encouraged waiting for emotional readiness. Emma Roberts brought a unique freshness to her scenes as Grace, she had a quiet force that made you remember your “first love” and all the emotions that went with it.
  • Finally, who hasn’t been in the same shoes as Kara (Jessica Biel)? The single person on the one day that everyone else seems to be coupled. The desire to fall apart and turn to sugar induced happiness in the form of circus peanuts and chocolates. Biel was amazing as the “hot mess” Kara, showing the pure, irrational emotions that Feb. 14th can involuntarily bring up in a single woman. I loved her!

Another surprise was Ashton Kutcher! He stole the show as Reed Bennett the overly romantic florist. He was the sweet, sincere guy that you love like a brother and just want the best for in all situations, especially love. Reed’s interactions with Edison (Bryce Robinson), the young boy who must get flowers to his Valentine, was precious, building more on his genuine character. George Lopez was a great comic relief as Alfonzo. He was full of funny one-liners, as well as tidbits of romantic wisdom. Other shout outs to the start-studded cast include Julia Roberts with her effortless beauty as an Army captain on leave to see her Valentine and Jennifer Gardner as a sweet school teacher that finds love right under her nose. Also, Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift were hilarious together. Swift portrayed Felicia the typical high school sweetheart that was uncontrollably in love, she was perfection.
Garry Marshall did an excellent job weaving all of the stories together and developing a film that connected all these relationships to one another, as well as bringing out the true meaning of love. I also appreciated the Marshall cameo! If you are in the mood for a funny film that speaks to true human interaction and emotions, this is the film for you!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crazy Heart - The harder the life, the sweeter the song.

This film was a story of a man that was lost and needed someone to help him find his way back home to his music. The music is what really stood out in this movie. It was phenomenal! I bought the soundtrack the same day I saw the movie, and haven’t stopped listening to it yet. Scott Cooper (director) used a compilation of country music (original and vintage tunes) and the huge, southwestern sky to tell Thomas Cobb’s story of the weary singer/songwriter Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges).  
The storyline follows Blake as he is on the end of a second rate tour of venues that consist of bowling alleys and piano bars. He traveled through the gloriously beautiful Southwestern US in his ’78 Suburban. The openness of the road and the vastness of the sky seemed to represent the possibilities and opportunities Bad was hoping for in his career and his life. On this tour he meets budding journalist Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal). As Blake falls for her and her adorable son Buddy (Jack Nation) the audience sees how truly, heartbreakingly pathetic he has become, the shell of a once creatively gifted musician. The words of the theme song, “whiskey has been a thorn in your side”, clearly showed the hold that alcohol had on him and how it affected every aspect of his life. Through some bad choices and the consequences that followed, Bad hits rock bottom and is forced to find his way back to life, on that journey he finds the music in him again.
Scott Cooper stated that he needed “a man who’s one part Waylon Jennings, one part Merle Haggard, and one part Kris Kristopherson”. And that man IS Jeff Bridges! He portrayed Bad Blake as the down and out protagonist that, even in his drunken, disheveled, beer-gut glory, you can’t help but want him to overcome it all. With a gruff, but pure voice similar to the late Chris LeDoux, Bridges sung the music with such heartfelt emotions you’ll believe he had lived the life of Blake. As for the secondary characters, Duvall was as charming as ever. Colin Farrell was surprisingly believable and musical as Blake’s protégé Tommy Sweet, who had surpassed Blake in fame. Finally, Blake’s love interest, Jean, gracefully portrayed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, was a woman that had been wounded by love before and was hesitant to be wooed by Blake. She brought such a believable intensity to the emotional scenes in the film, fighting the feelings between mother and lover. Her acting was extremely powerful and the connection between her and Bridges was excellent.
If you are a fan of great country music and the tales of woe that help to craft the sweetest songs you’ll enjoy Crazy Heart… especially the soundtrack! 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Young Victoria - You'll enjoy this. She has a real flair for description.

So I’m not one to love the love stories, however this one I really enjoyed. This might be because it was based on truth and actual events. The Young Victoria was a beautiful film that definitely met my expectations. I was taken aback by the graceful, vibrant wardrobe, which brought to the film the essence of the coming Victorian age. Jean-Marc Vallee (director) created scenes that showed the grandeur of the palaces and the beauty of the countryside. All the actors (and there were a lot) worked together seamlessly to enhance the retelling of the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria’s reign. But at the base of the film there is a story of love. A love that was resilient and true, even in the face of strife.
The story showed us the complex relationships of monarchy with Victoria in the middle being pulled every which way except the way she’d prefer. Coincidently, the mood of the movie reminded me of Elizabeth, but Victoria (Emily Blunt) had more of a romantic air to her character. When conflict came she was strong as well as portraying a softness and a vulnerability, which made her seem much more real. Also, the secondary characters brought a depth to the film that made it believable and realistic. One of my favorite characters was the Duchess of Sutherland (Rachel Stirling) she had such a quiet, almost translucent countenance, which fit her character and played well into the storyline of the film. I also loved King William who was played by Jim Broadbent with an exuberant flair that was fitting for a king. However, be warned, if you don’t pay attention, it would be easy to get lost in all the dukes and duchesses.
From the beginning of the film Emily Blunt commanded the performance of Victoria with a regal air that was even evident in her articulation of her words. Blunt’s Victoria displayed emotions that gave her an accessibility to the audience. She was fearful, temperamental, and even lonely at times, but throughout it all she relied on herself (and Albert) and remained strong. Now, if you know your history, you are not surprised that Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) is the suitor she chose to be her husband. Friend brought a pure and lovable quality to Albert, which makes it easy for him to weave his way into the hearts of the audience. You will love him from the start. The two have a wonderful chemistry together.
This film is a recollection of the beginning of the longest reigning monarchy to date, but foremost it was a love story. Showing that even though Victoria was queen, ruler of all England, she was also a woman that wanted a man to help her enjoy the game of life.