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!!

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004)

Last August, I kicked off my  Recommendations month with Dirty Dancing.  I seriously regretted not ever seeing that one earlier.  It was my first viewing and it turned out to be so much fun.  You can check out my review HERE! This weekend, I decided to watch it while I was baking.  I love Patrick Swayze a lot even though he did most of his epic acting when I was really young.  Still, he’s a charming man and him as Johnny Castle makes me swoon.  So, i figured that I’d sit down to give Dirty Dancing: Havana Night a shot also.  My boyfriend kept telling me he heard it was really bad, but still, why not, right?

dirty dancing havana nights posterDirector: Guy Ferland

Cast: Diego Luna, Romola Garai, Sela Ward, John Slattery, Jonathan Jackson, January Jones

In 1950s, Katie (Romola Garai) moves with her parents (Sela Ward and John Slattery) and younger sister to Cuba as her father has been expatriated there for Ford. In the hotel where her and her family stays, she meets by chance a young teenage waiter, Javier (Diego Luna).  Later, on her way back from schoo, she sees him dancing among a group and starts talking to him.  After he escorts her home for her safety and gets seen, Javier ends up losing his job.  Afterwards, Katie learns that there is a dance contest that could win a lot of money and invites Javier to be her partner and win the contest so that he could take care of his family.  As they start to find their rhythm and style for the dance, they start to fall in love.

dirty dancing havana dance

I kept thinking Havana Nights was supposed to be a sequel but it isn’t because its set before Dirty Dancing was.  Then, I mean, it must be a remake but set in a different location and it wasn’t really that either and then well, its not even a prequel because they have an older Patrick Swayze in it (since it was made in 2004) and Dirty Dancing was in 1989 (if I’m not mistaken).  Either way, I don’t know what it is and even if its necessary.  Lets just say that, as I was getting pictures and stuff for this post, I realized that deep down I liked it more than I actually thought I did.  Its nothing phenomenal like Dirty Dancing but its not all bad.

ddhn dance

One good part of it was the Cuban music and the dancing.  I really liked those sequences a lot.  It was fun and sexy for the most part.  That was when the characters were elegant and cute and had a lot of chemistry. On the other hand with that said, it also means that I thought the story was choppy.  It was like, wait, huh? What happened? Now they’re together? When did that happen? It could be just being not being too involved in the first bit and then when they started the dancing, I started feeling more drawn to watch it.  Granted, they do have a lot of really cheesy parts and that comes to my second point.

dirty dancing hn dance

I’ve never seen Diego Luna before in anything but I have to hand it to you. He’s not handsome or attractive but he has a nice charm going on. I thought he was a much better actor than his partner played by Romola Garai.  It probably has to do with the fact that he’s the one that familiar with the culture they are exhibiting here, kind of.  I mean, at the very least, he has a Spanish accent (or what sounds like one).  And he has the dance style and what not that works for it. Romola Garai wasn’t as good.  She’s a pretty good dancer but her acting didn’t appeal to me as much.  It also didn’t help that their love story was a bit all over the place but like I said, the dancing and their chemistry together doing their sequences made it a lot better.

dirt dancing havana patrick swayze

Okay, I mentioned my third point already up there and that there is a small role for Patrick Swayze.  He’s not the young and charming Patrick Swayze that played Johnny Castle but hey, he can still bust a move and he’s still charismatic as ever. Seeing him in this, even for the little bits here and there made me a whole lot more interested 🙂

Overall, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is probably not a necessary non-remake/sequel/prequel but its an average movie.  It provides some well-choreographed dance sequences and some energetic Cuban music.  The young love really grows through their practice sequences.  The downfall is the choppy story and honestly, the ending kind of sucked.  No guarantees on this one its not one I’d exactly recommend but it provides decent entertainment when you have nothing else to watch and want some nice happy music 🙂

Have you seen Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights? Any thoughts? What do you think this is (or maybe you know) a remake or a prequel? Or maybe its just an excuse to drag in more audience?