Three Quick Reviews: Vanity Fair, The Upside of Anger, Gnomeo & Juliet

You know whats great about these quick reviews? Its when you have these movies that can be explained in just simple terms how you feel and you just have to write a paragraph instead of trying to analyze way too much. Anyways, it would be not feasible to write full reviews for everything unless I have everything backlogged and then, I’d just forgot I watched it.

Enough of ramblings, another three quick reviews for stuff I watched outside of recommendations 🙂


vanity fair poster

Director: Mira Nair

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Romola Garai, James Purefoy, Tony Maudsley, Rhys Ifans, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Vanity Fair is adapted from the novel (which I haven’t read) about Rebecca Sharp (Reese Witherspoon), a girl who is orphaned at a young age and grows up poor and once she leaves the home for girls as governess, she tries to ascend the social ladder.  We follow her through different stages in her life as society tries to pull her back but she always finds a way to climb back up in her own way.

I’m just going short here because this movie was a bit over 2 hours long and I have never watched a movie in 4 parts and I watched this over 3 days (at least).  It just dragged on and on.  If it wasn’t for a rather charming James Purefoy for a bit of the movie and hating that he got married to a very annoying Rebecca Sharp and feeling bad for him, I’d have shut off the movie. Still, I did keep on because I kept hoping it would get better.  Till now, I don’t really know if I’m supposed to feel good or bad for Rebecca Sharp… I guess thats why, I downloaded the novel to my tablet and I’ll read it to know what the actual story really was 😉 Oh, and the girl from Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (review HERE) was in it too!

The Upside of Anger (2005)

the upside of anger poster

Director: Mike Binder

Cast: Kevin Costner, Joan Allen, Keri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood, Erika Christensen, Alicia Witt

The Upside of Anger is about Terry Ann (Joan Allen) whose husband unexpectedly disappears and she is left with her four daughters: Andy (Erika Christensen), Emily (Keri Russell), Hadley (Alicia Witt) and Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood). As much as she should be taking care of her teenage girls, they end up taking care of her instead, as she picks up her pieces and eventually engages into a relationship with an once baseball star and now radio DJ, Denny (Kevin Costner). At the same time, the daughters each have to manage their own lives.

I chose The Upside of Anger because of Kevin Costner and my lack of exposure to his roles.  Other than being slightly lengthy at parts, I felt that The Upside of Anger is definitely one that should be seen by more people.  I don’t know, maybe a lot of people know about it? Do you? Its the first time I’ve heard of it at least and it took me by surprise in a very good way.  As with the title, there are a lot of conflicts and crazy going on but somehow it gets the story flowing and we get a good view on the relationship of Terry  Ann and each of her daughters, different point of views and how she changes and eventually sees things a bit different, a lot was slowly through an outsider’s perspective who was let inside which was Kevin Costner’s character Denny.  The movie starts and ends with the narration of her youngest daughter, nickname Popeye and she recaps the essence very well with this quote:

Anger and resentment can stop you in your tracks. That’s what I know now. It needs nothing to burn but the air and the life that it swallows and smothers. It’s real, though – the fury, even when it isn’t. It can change you… turn you… mold you and shape you into something you’re not. The only upside to anger, then… is the person you become. Hopefully someone that wakes up one day and realizes they’re not afraid to take the journey, someone that knows that the truth is, at best, a partially told story. That anger, like growth, comes in spurts and fits, and in its wake, leaves a new chance at acceptance, and the promise of calm.- The Upside of Anger


Director: Kelly Asbury

Cast: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Ashley Jensen, Michael Caine, Matt Lucas, Jim Cummings, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Ozzy Osbourne, Stephen Merchant

I’m sure I don’t need a synopsis for this classic Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet but in a children’s version with garden gnomes.  Forbidden love, family feud, garden gnomes, red versus blue, etc.  You know the story already. Just remember Gnomeo & Juliet is aimed to children and it doesn’t get that bad.  At least I don’t remember it being too hitting adult territory.  With that said, if you sit through this with a fully alert adult brain, I promise you will find a lot of flaws in the story design and the premise itself. I mean, just for starters, how in the world do the owners not know where they left their garden gnomes and not question when they are shifted or don’t look the same?

gnomeo and juliet 1

BUT,  if you can overlook those things and go to being a simple mind, they do have some pretty fun moments and I loved the voices.  I recognized the main voices, especially Michael Caine.  Who doesn’t recognize his because its so awesome. I have to admit that I paused when I saw Jason Statham (WHAT?!?!). That just made this totally out of the world.  I really love the voice work. It made the characters very likeable despite its very predictable and possibly overused storyline.  The characters were very cute and there were some nice moments.  And well, some pretty nostalgic ones too.  I may not have had garden gnomes when I was younger because it wasn’t my dad’s thing but we had those plastic flamingos.  Coincidentally, the plastic flamingo was one of my favorite characters.

Gnomeo & Juliet is an average animation. It aims to please kids more than the parents.  The upside is that it has a talented cast that gives life to each of these characters to make them fun and vibrant.

OVERALL..Out of these three, I’d really say that The Upside of Anger is the best one.  It has a great cast with Joan Allen, Kevin Costner and my personal favorite, Keri Russell (who I almost wrote Felicity).

What has me curious now is: Have you heard of The Upside of Anger before? What is your favorite version of Romeo and Juliet? Have you read Vanity Fair before and is it similar to this movie?

Just a little intermission while I decide which movies from the recommendations list I want to watch! 🙂 Happy Friday!!

Valentine’s Marathon: Message in a Bottle (1999)

The first movie adapted from Nicholas Sparks is Message in a Bottle. Let me just confess that when I was in high school, I loved Nicholas Sparks novels.  I’m not sure if I still have that love now because I just don’t read romance as much anymore and well, I had lent my copy of Message in  a Bottle to a friend who never gave it back to me. Either way, I’ve owned this movie for about 5 years now (I think) and tried to start watching it about 4 times and every time, I can’t get past the first 30 minutes and fall asleep.  Last night, I made myself some tea and sat upright in my chair and watched this, lets check it out!

message in a bottle posterDirector: Luis Mandoki

Cast: Robin Wright, Kevin Costner, Paul Newman, John Savage, Illeana Douglas, Robbie Coltrane

Divorced mom and  researcher for Chicago Tribune, Theresa (Robin Wright) takes a vacation.  During a run along the beach, she finds a bottle with a message inside addressed to Catherine, signed by G.  Touched by the letter, she brings it back to her office and her boss (Robbie Coltrane) publishes it in the newspaper which causes a lot of response with other letters coming in.  After some research, she traces down a Garret Blake and convinces her boss to go get his story.  After meeting Garret (Kevin Costner), she couldn’t bring herself to tell him about the letters and the two end up falling in love.  Despite their feelings, Garret still doesn’t seem to know how to let go of his past with Catherine, while Theresa has to go back to her reality with her son.

I personally think that Nicholas Sparks is a genius, a really messed up romantic writer above all things but he knows how to capture his demographic well using very similar tragic love stories done in a certain formula that almost always ends in a depressing way, but people still come back for more. Believe me, I know. I went through a phase which ended up with me owning six of his novels on my bookshelf right now and another 3 that I’ve read but don’t own. Nothing quite impacted me like Message In a Bottle and A Walk to Remember though.  So, its safe to say that I did like the source material from what this movie was based on. Now, did it match to my expectations? Thats really the question, right?

message in a bottle opening

To that question, I’d have to say half and half.  I liked the movie (now that I finally stayed awake to watch it) but there were certain parts I just couldn’t buy into.  The story is fine.  Its is.  I can’t hate on it at all.  Message in a Bottle is a really well-written love story.  Its about letting go, making choices between your past and your future because you only get to choose one.  Its about pushing through your fears and taking risks.  And its about loss and tragedy and learning to see what is most precious. As generic as it all seems, its what works for love stories.  Its signature for Nicholas Sparks to add this sweet but tragic ending. Okay, I’m rambling again….What else did work was the scenery.  I think it was shot in Maine, but I’m not exactly sure but it was by lots of water and it was beautiful.  Simply magnificent scenery.  Thats a romantic setting.  And they had beautiful background music to match the scenes.  It gave the movie a nice touch 🙂

message in a bottle garret theresa

I never skip talking about the characters.  I haven’t seen Robin Wright do a lot of movies. Well, obviously, I’ve seen Princess Bride. She is a beauty to watch and a pretty awesome actress.  I think romance works for her a lot too.  Her has Theresa pulled right into the role and I could feel her happiness and that she was in love  and when she felt pain, I somehow felt it a bit too.  However, I can’t get past that Kevin Costner isn’t really the guy for this role.  I mean, he’s a charming man but he was just in pain through the whole role and it seemed like even when he was happy, I wasn’t fully sold that Garret was in love with Theresa.  The only part I felt that way was their kisses.  That affects the whole dynamic of the movie for me.

message in a bottle jacket

THE best part of the movie was Paul Newman in the supporting role as Garret’s father, Dodge.  That man can act.  He was all sorts of awesome.  He brought in some humor and in the last part when he was having an argument (kind of) with Garret, that really touched me.  Actually all the scenes between Dodge and Theresa or Dodge with Garret or Dodge and other characters were really strong.

There really is nothing wrong with the movie but I really think I should have watched this when I was younger because then I wouldn’t ask the initial question of, “If I were to run along the beach, would I go picking up a bottle sticking in the sand?” I’m a curious person but I don’t go around picking up empty bottles.  Maybe I’d give it a second though because it would be amazing to actually find a message in a bottle.

What I’m saying is that, Message in a Bottle isn’t a bad romance.  The source material does give it a stronger presence.  If you need any reason to watch this, its to watch the gorgeous Robin Wright act and to see the awesomeness of Paul Newman.  Its a touching movie and the final scene is pretty good, its really just the beginning that kind of stretches a bit slower and can get boring.  It can feel lengthy since its over 2 hours long.  Still, if you like romances and Nicholas Sparks, its a decent one 🙂

Have you seen Message in a Bottle? Or maybe you read the novel? What do you think of Robin Wright and/or Kevin Costner?