Remembering James Horner Blogathon: The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

As always, hitting the brink of the deadline, here is my entry for the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central. Last year, I took a look at Once Upon a Forest for this blogathon and it was a great one to revisit. You can check out the review here. This year, I decided to check out another family fantasy film adapted from a children’s book series that I haven’t read called The Spiderwick Chronicles. I’m a huge fan of Freddie Highmore as a child star, even now in Bates Motel. I think he’s fantastic and for a while, I did take the time to catch up a lot of his movies a few years back and this was one of them. I’m excited to have a reason to revisit it and hope that the magic is still as charming as I remember.

Let’s check it out!

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

spiderwick chronicles

Director: Mark Waters

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Sarah Bolger, Andrew McCarthy, David Strathairn, Seth Rogen, Martin Short

Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures. – IMDB

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fun little fantasy adventure children’s movie featuring a double dose of Freddie Highmore as both Jared and Simon Grace who along with their sister, Mallory (played by Sarah Bolger) are taken to a home that their mother inherited from their great aunt while she goes through a separation. Jared takes this the hardest and after a fight realized that there is something in the walls. As he chases it down, he finds a secret room accessible by a dumbwaiter and there he finds a book that warns him to not open it. Being a child, of course, he does. Whether it was an act of rebellion or thoughtlessness or curiosity, this opens up a realm of fairies and other more dangerous creatures that have been seeking this field guide of the magical creatures to use it as a way to control the world. This one dangerous individual is a giant ogre, Mulgarath (voiced by Nick Nolte). Some of the gentler creatures who create quite the comedic relief is Hogsqueal who looks like a hog and is obsessed with birds (voiced by Seth Rogen) and the protector of the book, Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short). Its fun adventure with some pretty cool CGI effects and an all around entertaining story. While the start might show some over acting in Freddie Highmore, he soon settles quickly as they put away the family and sibling rivalry and jump fairly quickly into the meat of the fantasy world and its just a quick ride to the end.

Spiderwick Chronicles

As this is a blogathon for James Horner, its important to discuss the score. James Horner makes some of the best orchestral scores that help build the atmosphere. Here he carries mystery and suspense when the world is first discovered, then takes us on a musical journey that aids as the adventure picks up where these siblings bond together and truly find their courage as they plot their protection for their home. The score compliments and accentuates the adventure particularly. Adding onto a well-executed film to begin with, this makes it even more engaging to watch. Its hard to ignore the seamless score that James Horner puts together for Spiderwick Chronicles.

Sarah Bolger is a familiar face now. While I have yet to check out Into the Badlands, I’ve seen her as Princes Aurora in Once Upon a Time and especially in Emilie, a psychological thriller released last year that was very well put together. I can’t remember if I had actually written a review but its a great movie that truly showcases her acting skills and the potential she has. Her sister role as Mallory brings a sense of balance, not because she’s a girl but also because she’s very tough as she wield her fencing sword in all her fights. Its an impressive character.

Spiderwick Chronicles

In terms of the double Freddie Highmore, Jared and Simon have relatively different personalities and it gives them a more unique character and lets us see the difference other than how they dress. Freddie Highmore wasn’t great in the Jared role when he starts but it might just have to do with his difficult child act and once it was dropped, it was really fun to watch, even though Jared is more of the central character here.

 

In terms of voice actors, we have Nick Nolte as the baddie. For a children’s movie, it worked really well. I was pretty invested into the movie and the villain even if he didn’t really show up that much and there was one part where he was human and the transformation was pretty cool. Other than that, Thimbletack (Martin Short) and Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen) are really fun to watch in a silly way. Their creatures themselves are rather creative and in a somewhat adorable way, they are pretty appealing. I have to say that Hogsqueal could have had more screen time although as a non-Seth Rogen fan, I actually thought this was a great performance but it had to do with this silly character that added a lot of entertainment value.

Spiderwick Chronicles

Overall, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fun and fast-paced fantasy adventure movie. It has great performances all around and a good balance of comedy and adventure, making it incredibly entertaining and engaging to watch. The CGI is done very well and not to mention, a well-executed story that is accentuated by a great score.

Have you seen The Spiderwick Chronicles? 

Addicted to Screwball Blogathon: Addicted to Love (1997)

Today is the anniversary of Addicted to Love and in honor of that, Paul at Pfeiffer Philms and Meg Movies has put together this Addicted to Screwball blogathon event. You read more about it here or by clicking on the banner above.

Now, before I start, I do want to be completely honest that I really have a lot of classic movies to catch up on and seeing as the rise of screwball comedy also lies in a lot of these iconic titles that i haven’t seen, I am almost completely unfamiliar with this subgenre. However, Paul did give me some suggestions and I ended up choosing to write about Addicted to Love with Meg Ryan.

Lets check it out!

Addicted to Love (1997)

addicted to love

Director: Griffin Dune

Cast: Meg Ryan, Matthew Broderick, Kelly Preston, Tcheky Karyo, Maureen Stapleton

Maggie’s and Sam’s former partners are in love; she wants revenge and he wants his lost love back, so they work together to break up the happy couple. – IMDB

If screwball comedy is what Addicted to Love is, count me in for more. Addicted to Love is such a great film. It is a ton of fun to watch with a lot of great characters. I love Meg Ryan and this movie is exactly why. She is so versatile in her acting capabilities. In Addicted to Love, there is a completely different side to her that we don’t see in some of the other romantic comedies. Let’s face it, maybe I don’t know how to talk about this in the whole screwball comedy spectrum but I’m watching this because there’s Meg Ryan.

Addicted to Love

Here’s a good time to switch over to talk about the characters and performances on Addicted to Love. Our leading lady here is Meg Ryan who delivers a great character, Maggie who is the opposite that needs to accomplish this sabotage plan. On the exterior, Maggie is calm and calculated with the plan. She is determined to achieve her revenge on this man that used her and broke her heart. A lot of who she is is already shown to us by how she makes her entrance into the movie as she breaks in and appears in her motorcycle get up and starts getting straight to work. Deep down, there is a softer side and as the story goes on, she has these layers that we see. Now that I am done fangirling over Meg, Matthew Broderick also delivers quite the performance. I always have a hard time pinpointing where I have seen him before in movies but his role here as Sam is a lot of fun. Sam is the opposite to Maggie in many ways. He really is calm but also a scientist so he believes in charts and predicting when certain signs will mean a breakup. He believes it will end naturally until he realizes that everything he believed in doesn’t apply in love. Sam’s character breaks out of this shell and becomes more daring as he turns into the guy who starts off lacking discretion and letting his feelings get in the way of the plan but turns into the guy who hatches the ultimate plan.

Addicted to Love

Addicted to Love is charming because of these two leading roles however, the charm extends to the outrageous scenes that are set up here. While Kelly Preston plays the not very special Linda, playing opposite her is the odd French chef who seeks perfection, Anton. Anton does catch most of the heat in the situation as they make him suffer mostly and creating the most unbelievable situations for him to explain his way out and create suspicion. Anton himself gets more screen time and much more focus in the last third of the movie when things start spiralling apart from the revenge/stalker plot of the exes team-up. The dynamic was turned around and we actually get to learn more about this character of Anton. The goal is not to care about him but rather to guide Maggie and Sam to realize what they have/feel for each other.

Overall, Addicted to Love is a really fun romantic comedy in the veins of a revenge of the exes storyline. While many things are still foreseeable, the charming cast particularly Meg Ryan’s Maggie shines as she takes on a fun and tough role opposite Matthew Broderick as Sam, an astronomer who breaks out of his own shell. There is a good blend of outrageously fun scenes and a lot of humor.

Here’s Jack Blogathon: Terms of Endearment (1983)

Today is Jack Nicholson’s 80th birthday. In celebration for that, Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews is hosting the Here’s Jack Blogathon celebrating his work. Jack Nicholson is one of those actors that has been around ever since I was little, and way before. I can’t remember exactly when was the first move I saw Jack Nicholson but definitely one of the first that I remember vaguely was his role in Terms of Endearment even if I realized in this rewatch that I misunderstood a ton and was really too young back then. There were some scenes that feel familiar and it is a much delayed rewatch.

Let’s check it out!

Terms of Endearment (1983)

Terms of Endearment

Director: James L. Brooks

Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, Danny DeVito, John Lithgow, Lisa Hart Carroll, Huckleberry Fox, Troy Bishop

Follows hard-to-please Aurora looking for love and her daughter’s family problems. – IMDB

Terms of Endearment is a comedy-drama centered around Aurora, a single mother and her daughter, Emma who don’t exactly have a great relationship on the surface but deep down, they have a strong connection. From a young age, Emma had left her home against her mother’s will to get married to an English professor, Flap. As they live separately and keep contact, we see their lives as they both grow and change. Aurora, with the leaving of her daughter, learns to embrace being alone while also accepting and opening up herself to another relationship with her next door neighbor, Garrett. On the other hand, Emma grows into being a stay at home wife and then mother living in a less than perfect life economically as her husband moves them from city to city pursuing his career. It truly brings out the reality of life sometimes handing out both good and bad without any prior notice and having the ability to deal with it. The star of this movie is both in the script that carries out these events in Aurora and Emma’s lives and also the great performances from the entire cast which portray both the joy and devastation of the situations thrown at them.

Terms of Endearment

Terms of Endearment shines in their performances and more specifically the way we see the characters develop. Not only do Aurora, played by Shirley MacLaine and Emma, played by Debra Winger have depth to their characters and make us connect or simply believe in their story and love their mother and daughter relationship despite them have their differences in opinions. Their supporting characters also carry quite some depth. Perhaps the acting experience helps but playing opposite of Shirley MacLaine is the older gentlemen: an honorable astronaut but also a man who lacks commitment, Garrett who moves next door to Aurora and is played by Jack Nicholson. Garrett is not exactly a complex character but there is some depth as we grow to see him shift his views from the playboy that he starts off as who goes after young girls and tries to impress them to accepting to go on a date with the older Aurora and yet still be mesmerized by how she teaches him some things about life. We can see that he likes the simplicity of their relationship which is more physical than outwardly emotional and in their own bubble and he has a harder time when he starts to feel that he needs to be someone that she can rely on and feels that he will let her down. However, we do know that there’s something a little more to him than that. Sometimes, people aren’t exactly who we expect them to be: a lesson that constantly is reminded to us over and over again, and perhaps its these surprises that makes us want to keep watching this drama as they tug on our heartstrings over and over again.

Not to mention that these relationships are all quirky in their own way. These moments are the comedic bits that break up the dramatic parts and they are very well-timed and suitable to cut through the tension or change the pace or direction of the story. Perhaps this movie fits really well with the Here’s Jack Blogathon because what I remembered the most of Terms of Endearment from when I was little watching this next to my dad was Jack Nicholson’s role and as I watch it again, those are the parts that really make feel unsettled just like it should for Aurora. Jack Nicholson tends to remind me of many roles where he is a tad eccentric and its part of the fun of watching him because he fits into those roles so well. This is no exception for playing Garrett because he does the most unexpected things and sometimes also shares some deeper thoughts than we’d expect. He definitely was one of my favorite characters here. His scenes with Shirley MacLaine are possibly the most entertaining in the film in such an odd and uneasy way.

Terms of Endearment

Looking on the side of Emma and Debra Winger’s portrayal of it, who does a great job at really making us see her character a whole lot from the ups and downs. On top of that, her supporting role is her husband Flap played by Jeff Daniels. I’m the first to stand up for liking Jeff Daniels even in his not to big role in Speed, but this one he does a fantastic job, perhaps its the fact that his characters has a decent arc and that there’s something that contrasts about his character as well, there’s a hidden something there that opens up what this story is telling. Their relationship are some of the good moments as their relationship grows as their family gets bigger with the kids. The kids are pretty cool as well. They don’t have a huge part but there’s something written for them and how they accept who their parents are especially with their oldest played by Troy Bishop in the role of Tommy. However, they aren’t the focal point in this relationship but really how Flap and Emma’s marriage has changed as they also change over the years together.

Overall, Terms of Endearment is a movie with great performances by the cast and a fantastic script that leads us down the road of these two ladies as they grow with the things that happen to them separately and in different phases of their life. Its really nice to see a movie that has a great direction and execution of highlighting the characters and every one gets the same care including the supporting roles as well. Also a great pick for myself as I rewatch this and realize that this might be one of my most memorable roles of Jack Nicholson if not one of my first roles that I saw him in, not to mention that its one of those memories of movie watching with my dad and in one of the final scenes, it actually made me remember a moment with my dad that made that moment tug on my heartstrings even more.

A huge thanks to Gill for thinking this up! It was a ton of fun (and tears) to rewatch Terms of Endearment!
It also makes me want to rewatch some of his other movies and catch up with the ones I’ve missed (which are a lot)!

I’m at the brink of the date that Gill gave me to release this post (in my time zone), so here it goes! Hope you enjoyed! 🙂

What are your thoughts on Terms of Endearment? What Jack Nicholson movies stand out for you?

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon Wrap-up: Wild Wild West (1999) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

We have arrived, ladies and gents! We are at the final day of the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon and both my fantastically awesome co-host Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews and I will be sharing our final wrap-up posts on each other’s sites. First to share is Drew with his review of 1999’s Wild Wild West. Will Smith, Kenneth Brannagh, humor and wild west…

Take it away, Drew!

Synopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up.  Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety.  Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy.  Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial “I’m the bad guy” sign.  Loveless’ invention to bring the “US government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula.  Everything about this movie screams “Saturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older.  Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like.  Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together.  This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today.  I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too.  The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance.  Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role.  It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD 🙂 It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that.  Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves.  I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General “Bloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

Remember to head over to Drew’s later today to see my wrap-up post!
Hint: Its also a triple feature (just like my kick-off)!

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Movie Year: The 90’s by From the Depths of DVD Hell

Ultimate 90's Blogathon

Welcome all to the next entry! We’re in for a complete 1990’s decade visit with our next participant and my awesome Game Warp co-host, Elwood Jones who also runs In the Depths of DVD Hell and runs the podcast MBDS Showcase. Elwood is a man of many projects. He also co-hosts another podcast called TV Good Sleep Bad and recently starting hosting the Lamb Tracks which is currently doing commentary on the Jurassic Park franchise. All incredibly fun and awesome podcasts and site that you need to check out! Hopefully I’ve linked them all so you won’t miss out!

Now let’s pass it on to him!

My Movie Year: The 90’s

What better excuse to look at my favourite movies of the decade, if only to help highlight some of the great and frequently overlooked films which came out during this era, which would also see with 1999 one of the most exciting years of film making in years, as I looked at previously.

1990

Essential Film: La Femme Nikita

Le Femme Nikita

Luc Besson’s  tale of teenage junkie Nikita (Anne Parillaud) who after killing a cop during a bungled pharmacy robbery, finds herself convicted of murder and sentenced to a life in prison, only to soon find herself recruited by a shadowy government agent known as the Centre to be trained as an assassin under the watchful eye of her handler Bob (Tcheky Karyo).

Besson here brings to what would be the usual action / adventure yarn with fist fights and explosions and instead gives us something quite special as while there is certainly an element of action here, what he also gives us is an actual insight into the psychology of this character as she is slowly broken down and rebuilt into the perfect assassin by the Company, with scenes of her being taught to apply lipstick by Amande (Jeanne Moreau) being just as gripping as any of the action scenes which include a pulse pounding restaurant escape.

Although it was remade for an American audience as “Assassin” with Bridget Fonda, this is the definitive version

Further Viewing: King of New York, Darkman

1991

Essential Film: Delicatessen

delicatessen

One of the first films by the highly original French directing duo of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet this surreal Post-apocalyptic black comedy about the residents of an apartment block, owned by the butcher Clapet (Jean-Caude Dreyfus) above whose shop the residents live and who has taken to killing the handymen he employs to keep the residents supplied in meat, which is bad news really for Ex clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) who has just been employed as the new handyman, unaware of what happened to his predecessors.

A strange film to say the least, but not so out there that it leaves the audience wondering what the hell is going on, as it constantly maintains a playful tone as it switches between genres, to give the sort of original film that only Caro and Jeunet are capable of doing, as this is once again very much in their fairytales for grown ups style.

Further Viewing: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Rikki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

1992

Essential Film: Hard Boiled

hard boiled

One of if not the best of John Woo’s movies and if you ever needed an example of why he is seen as the king of action movies, this would be a great start, as we are barely minutes into the film before he throws us head first into the first of the films many jaw dropping action sequences, as Insp Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat) unleashes his own dual pistol welding brand of justice.

Featuring a cast of Hong Kong greats which includes Tony Leung and Anthony Wong, John Woo here sets a benchmark for Heroic Gunplay movies, while featuring a hospital shootout, which clocks in at over thirty minutes without reputation. This is one infectious mix of gunplay, explosions and jazz!

Further Viewing: Braindead, Man Bites Dog, Porco Rosso

1993

Essential Film: Cronos

cronos

The debut film by Guillermo del Toro, here sees him reworking the vampire mythos, with this tale of an mechanical scarab-shaped device which grants the wearer the gift of eternal life aswell as a thirst for blood. This in many ways marking the start of things to come, while establishing del Toro as a the visionary director he is recognised as today, while for one reason of another this film has outside of genre fans been left largely unseen.

Here he shows a clear love for the genre, while as with the films which followed it also showed that he was not afriad to break the rules and breathe new life into a much over worked horror sub-genre with this truly unique film which is as visually stunning as it as it times horrifying.

Further Viewing: Army of Darkness, Falling Down, Iron Monkey, Ninja Scroll, True Romance

1994

Essential Film: The Crow

The Crow

It would be a sad case of history repeating itself that Brandon Lee’s breakout film would sadly be his last, as he died during filming and much like his father Bruce Lee, who also never got to enjoy the success of his own breakout film “Enter The Dragon”. The first of two films to be directed by Alex Proyas on this list, with this certainly the better known of the two no doubt thanks to the cult following it has built up since it’s release, aswell as the controversy of Lee’s death during the last eight days of filming.

This classic tale of revenge  based on the graphic novel by James O’Barr, about rock musician Eric Draven (Lee) rising from the grave to avenge his own murder aswell as that of his fiancée via the mystical powers of the crow, which now makes him immune from physical harm. The film is drenched in gothic styling while also containing many nods in its style to both “Blade Runner” and Tim Burtons “Batman”. Needless to say this film looks stunning and would make for a design test run for the lesser seen “Dark City. Lee meanwhile embodies the character of Draven, while equally showing himself to be just as capable as both a dramatic actor as he is as an actor star, while this film just leaves us to wonder what could have been,

Further Viewing: Fist of Legend, Hoop Dreams, The Hudsucker Proxy, Wing Chun

1995

Essential Film: Empire Records

Empire records

Back when this film was released it considered to be pretty cool job to work in a record shop, though I’m not sure that this still stands with nearly every record store having long since closed down and kids today more keen to work for I dunno Amazon or something, but still this film still has a lot of charm, especially for those of us who belonged to the MTV generation, which essentially this film is the embodiment of.

Following the employees of a Empire Records over the course of one truly exceptional day, when one of the employees Lucas (Rory Cochrane) discovers that the store is to be turned into a franchise store called music town, leading the employees to band together to save the store.

Staring many future stars including Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler and Anthony LaPaglia as the long suffering store owner and father figure Joe, this coming of age comedy never seems to get the attention it really deserves, especially when it combines teenage angst with shameless AC/DC worship and even a pot brownie trip which sees Mark (Ethan Embry) rocking out with GWAR before being eaten by their giant worm thing, which honestly for that one scene alone makes it a must see.

Also Noteworthy: The Basketball Diaries, The City of Lost Children, The DoomGeneration , La Haine, Ghost In The Shell, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Living In Oblivion. Mortal Kombat, Welcome To The Dollhouse

1996

Essential Film: Joe’s Apartment

Joe's Apartment

When picking this year’s selection, I went back and forth so much between this one and “From Dusk Till Dawn”, both of which could be considered essential, but eventually it would be this film which won out on the grounds of “Dusk Till Dawn” already being pretty well known and secondly because this is a film about a man who lives with talking cockroaches and who wouldn’t want to see that movie?

An expansion on the original 1992 short film, while also inspired by “Twilight of the Cockroaches” and the 1987 short “Those Damn Roaches” this tale of penniless Joe (Jerry O’Connell), who having moved to New York soon finds himself sharing his apartment with around 20 to 30 thousand roommates, in the form of a bunch of all singing and dancing cockroaches, who having recognised Joe as being one of their own, soon set out to lend him a helping hand.

Using a mixture of stop motion animation and the slightly cheaper effect of just making parts of the apartment rattle, this is a random film to say the least and while it might not work in places, when the roaches are in screen, it usually guarantees fun times, with the standout moment being their attempts to help Joe on a date, which unsurprisingly ends in chaos. A strange curiosity from the MTV generation and a reminder of the kind of projects that MTV used to be involved with before they changed their focus to the likes of “The Hills” and “Jersey Shore”.

Further Viewing: From Dusk Till Dawn, Trees Lounge, Swingers

1997

Essential Film: Princess Mononoke

princess mononoke

One of my all time favourite Studio Ghibli movies, this epic tale of industry versus nature as Ashitaka finds himself caught in the battle lines drawn by Lady Eboshi of Iron Town, who is destroying the forest merely for her people’s own good and the guardians of the forest.

Visually stunning with highly intelligent scripting, this is another perfect example of the genius of Hayao Miyazaki, while also being commisioned by Disney who clearly did not know what they were getting with this film, which not only has burst of violence, bloodshed and gore but also is far from thier usual fluffy plotting and styling, as Miyazaki combines fantasy and mythology in his gripping and fast paced tale.

Further Viewing: Breakdown, Boogie Nights, Cube, Chasing Amy, Funny Games, The Game, Junk Mail, Life Is Beautiful, Mimic, Nowhere, Orgazmo, Rainy Dog, Starship Troopers

1998

Essential Film: Dark City

Dark City

The second Alex Proyas on this list and sadly the most overlooked, as this Kafka esq tale opens with John (Refus Sewell) waking up naked in a hotel bathtub, his memories erased and a mutilated prostitute on the bed. Soon John finds himself framed for a string of brutal and bizarre murders and on the run from not only the police, but also the strange trench coat clad men known only as “The Strangers” as he tries to piece together his missing memories.

Sharing the same gothic styling as his previous film “The Crow” this film only built upon those designs as here Proyas gives us a city of perminant midnight,with definite shades of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”while skillfully combining elements of sci-fi and noir to create a potent mix, while drip feeding the audience infomation as to the truth about Dark City.

Further Viewing: American History X, BASEketball, The Big Lebowski, Ringu, Run Lola Run, Rushmore

1999

Essential Film: Cruel Intentions

cruel intentions

An MTV style reworking of the classic novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, which has over the years has been adapted no less than thirteen times, with certainly the most well known being the 1988 version released as “Dangerous Liaisons” while this version would be by far the most original as the story is relocated to modern day New York, as step siblings Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) play games of seduction, with their latest target being the virginal Annette (Reese Witherspoon) with the challenge being set by Kathryn that Sebastian cannot bed her before the start of the school year, while Kathryn sets about also corrupting the naïve Cecile (Selma Blair) as part of a plan of revenge against her ex boyfriend who left her for Cecile.

While it may have been released in the same year as “American Pie” this film proved to be a much smarter drama and with a sharper sense of humour, but none the less sex crazed which came as something of a surprise to Geller’s fans who were more used to her playing Buffy on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” so for her to be reeling off such lines as “In English? I’ll fuck your brains out” all of course greeted with whoops of joy from most of the male audience, much like the much talked about experimental kissing scene between Geller and Blair, all from a film bizarrely marketed in some places as a chick flick, when it contains plenty to appeal to most audiences.

The cast at the time were largely B-list or unknowns, yet all embody their various characters, while for some the film marking a rare high point in their careers, still even years after it’s initial shocking dialogue has since been beaten in terms of filth, it still remains a solid drama and a nice twist on a classic novel.

Further Viewing: eXistenz, Dogma

Thanks to Elwood for an awesome 1990’s look at the decade!
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews for tomorrow’s entry! 🙂

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Anastasia (1997) by Starry Traveler’s Road

Ultimate 90s Blogathon banner

Next up is not only a blogger but also a childhood friend of mine, Phoebe from Starry Traveler’s Road with her review of Anastasia! This movie is one of my faves also. However, if you haven’t been to her blog, she posts pretty casually but she has posts on being a mom of a newborn, otome reviews and recently, some movie reviews called Movies with BunBun segment. For those who don’t know, we’re also starting up a new collab segment that will be here soon. We’re wrapping up some preparation work and it’ll be a food segment. Remember to head over and check out her blog after you’re done here.

Take it away, Phoebe!

Anastasia

Movies with Bun Bun: Anastasia (1997)

Hello everyone! Big thank yous to Tranquil Dreams and Drew for hosting the Ultimate 90s Blogathon! The Ultimate 80s Blogathon was so much fun that I decided to give movie reviews another try!

Looking back, I never quite understood why I have always had a keen interest in studying royal history since I was young. Unlike some people, I never dreamt to be a princess though it is a fact that I have always wanted to be a historian. The Russian royal family was one of the three families that I studied as a hobby. While powerful rulers like Catherine the Great fascinated me, the whole mystery surrounding Tsar Nicolas II’s family during the Russian Revolution mystified me, especially when the news revealed two bodies were missing in an excavation all the way back in 1991. (For those who do not know, the whole family and their servants’ bodies are all accounted for in 2009.)

First thing that came to my mind was: who is this mysterious Grand Duchess Anastasia? The more that I read about her, the more I found that she was quite interesting. When this animated movie came out, I wondered how Anastasia would be portrayed and how her ‘story’ would unfold if she managed to escape from captivity. Anyway, enough rambling and on with the review.

The last surviving child of the Russian Royal Family joins two con men to reunite with her grandmother, the Dowager Empress, while the undead Rasputin seeks her death. – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118617/

There was a lot of things that I loved about this movie as I felt back then that Disney’s animation started to go downhill since Beauty and the Beast. I was particularly fond of Anastasia’s graphics and storyline. The characters are very well drawn and developed though I always wished Pooka the dog would appear more often. The dialogues and bantering between characters, especially Anastasia and Dimitri, were very entertaining. As a historian who understands this is a fictional movie, I cannot say that I imagined that Anastasia would end up in Paris, the City of Love, out of all the places in the world to reunite with her grandmother; but hey, there must be some mushy romance thrown somewhere in the story! The locations are so well illustrated that I really want to see them for myself, especially the Catherine Palace! Music was amazing to the point that I owned the soundtrack and often played Once Upon a December, Journey to the Past, Learn to Do It and At the Beginning on repeat. (At the Beginning was chosen as one of the songs played at my wedding.)

Fast forward a few years and boom! My daughter, bun bun, appeared. I am still trying to figure out bun bun’s opinion on this movie as it took us around 5 times before we managed to finish the movie. Unlike An American Tail from the last Blogathon, she was more interested in running around, pressing buttons on my keyboard, climbing on furniture and testing my patience. The only things that caught her attention was Anastasia’s dog, Pooka, and the faster songs like A Rumor in St. Petersburg. I thought the soothing and haunting melodies like Once Upon a December would appeal to her as I often sang them to her; but no, she danced to Rasputin’s In the Dark of the Night! It is obvious that our taste in music differs and she is ready to party as if she is 18 even though she is only a toddler, but we have one thing in common: we both love Pooka!

Anyway, I asked myself what I should do when I reintroduce this movie to an older bun bun. Should I let her see this movie only as an animated movie or should I try to explain the real person/history behind the fictional movie? What do you think?

Thanks to Phoebe for a wonderful write-up on Anastasia! 
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews tomorrow for the next review in the blogathon!

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Sleepless in Seattle (1993) by Life of this City Girl

ultimate 90's blogathon

We are wrapping week 2 of Ultimate 90’s Blogathon with an entry by Natasha from Life of this City Girl. She’s here with a review of Sleepless in Seattle, a great follow-up with another Meg Ryan movie from last year’s When Harry Met Sally. If you haven’t been to Life of this City Girl, she does book, movies and TV series reviews. Remember to head over to give her some love after you’re done here!

Movie Review: Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Sleepless in Seattle

Hey everyone! Natasha here from Life of This City Girl. I’m so excited today to share with you a review I did for two of my favorite bloggers’ 90’s marathon. Thanks Kim and Drew for letting me take part! (and also making me watch this again)

I chose Sleepless in Seattle because 1) it meets the criteria and 2) I’ve really always been meaning to watch this film again. I’m not even going to pretend that I’m one of those girls who don’t love a good romantic comedy – I love them and I’m not afraid to admit it. The older ones are undeniably better than the newer ones, both in dialogue and acting, so it is always a real pleasure getting to them.

Sleepless in Seattle is really dialogue heavy. I like a film where the characters talk and there is sense to the chatter so for me to end up being frustrated with the amount of conversation going on, it must be quite intense. Some of the comedic timing seemed off and misplaced, and the parts I’m sure was created as jokes weren’t funny at all. It could have been the whole me-being-born-in-the-wrong-decade thing, and I simply don’t get the way they made jokes back then.

I also feel like I have to mention the amount of stereotypes the film bludgeoned into its’ watchers that I was none too pleased with. It was a given that these females were desperately looking for a husband – not someone to share a life with, just a title to change your name and status and follow the neat path the world set out for you. It is also downright insulting to all the wonderful single fathers out there that there is this constant insinuation that if you are a man, you need a woman with you to properly raise a kid. We all know it is not true! The director used a sledgehammer laced with zero subtlety informing us that women cry for romantic movies and men like action movies. I retched. Metaphorically, but I retched.

Apart from that, I found the film quite fun. Sleepless in Seattle is innocent and sweet. No kissy time even. The kid is adorable and I generally prefer movies without children. Rosie O’Donnell is one of those amazing women who emits sarcasm with perfectly pleasant facial expressions. It is a great attribute and gave me some good laughs during the film.

Sleepless in Seattle is not my favorite nineties film by far, but I can see why it is considered a classic. I also always have a good laugh about the fashion back then. I’m glad to report that everyone had better hair in the nineties than they did in the eighties, because that was bad, and although the clothes weren’t completely yet where we needed them to be, everyone was looking so much better. I am still really glad I didn’t have to wear all those bulky suits they forced women to wear when we started entering the workplace in earnest.
Sleepless in Seattle
The ending was naturally very cute and I enjoyed it, but sheesh, I wish we lived in a world where you’d be alive after meeting a random stranger in New York and immediately take his hand and go frolicking into the sunset. If he also looked like young Tom Hanks, I’d be so on board!

To sum this up I enjoyed this film more than just a bit. I wouldn’t rate it as first on a 90’s list or as a romantic comedy, but it is fun and sweet.

Thanks again guys!

Thanks to Natasha for a great review on Sleepless in Seattle! 🙂
Be sure to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews on Monday for the next entry!