Twister

Film Title

Twister

Director

Jan de Bont

Starring

  • Bill Paxton as Bill Harding
  • Helen Hunt as Jo Harding
  • Jami Gertz as Melissa Reeves
  • Cary Elwes as Dr. Jonas Miller
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dusty

A tense, special effects laden disaster flick, Twister is big on the thrills that never let up and make it an extremely entertaining wild and windy flick. Simple in plot and characterizations it may be, but no one is going to watch this film for outstanding characters so just surrender to the white knuckle ride.

Bill Harding is a former storm chaser and weather researcher who has decided to settle down as he plans to marry his girlfriend Melissa and has recently become a television weather man. Twister Movie PosterThe problem is Bill’s estranged wife Jo(herself a meteorologist and fellow storm chaser) hasn’t signed the divorce papers yet after they separated some time before. Travelling with Melissa, he seeks out Jo, who is with a group of scientists in Oklahoma. The exceedingly driven Jo has managed to perfect a series of devices by the name of DOROTHY, which Bill had worked on when they were together. The devices function by releasing thousands of sensors into a tornado and getting important information( the catch being that you have to be very close to a tornado to enable it). With this knowledge they could glean from the device, they may be able to help create a more advanced storm warning system, resulting in less damage if people are informed much earlier. Yet his timing is just as a series of very destructive tornadoes are headed their way which Jo plans to tackle so that she can put the creation to good use. Soon, Bill’s wild desire to be a storm chaser again returns and he joins Jo on her mission to execute DOROTHY, much to the opposition of Melissa. Twister MovieThe group also has to contend with and race against Dr. Jonas Miller, a slimy guy who ripped off their ideas and has created a similar device, though he’s had all the corporate sponsors and funding and is only in it for the money. Yet with each tornado becoming more destructive than the last, just how far are Jo and Bill willing to venture in the name of both science and adventure?

Jan de Bont is an exceptional director of action and his skill set can be viewed in various exciting ways during Twister. Utilizing swirling cameras and a lightning pace, de Bont never stops for breath once the tornadoes getting going. We are quite literally thrust into the terrifying but exhilarating path of the destructive tornadoes and what a blast it is. Twister TorandoThrough the use of special effects that still hold up remarkably well, the spectacle of each intense twister is marvellously executed. Standout scenes abound, especially the big finale tornado that finds Jo and Bill ducking for cover in a barn as it is ripped from around them until there’s nothing left. As I previously stated, character development and seriousness is not the order of the day here. Yet this doesn’t do detriment to Twister’s impact as it never sets up to be character driven or literate, instead opting for an extravaganza of action and danger. Sound design and effects are equally as excellent when it comes to simulating the intensity of Mother Nature and the destructive forces she can conjure up on an unsuspecting people. By far the biggest stars of this film are the tornadoes themselves, as they make for very memorable visions of destruction and terror. A rousing musical score from Mark Mancina mixed in with rock songs from Van Halen is very effective and furthers the feeling of action and tension that the team encounters along the dangerous journey.

While the characters are somewhat thinly drawn, the cast is mostly impressive. Bill Paxton and Helen HuntPlaying the estranged couple and fellow storm chasers, Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt are very good; bringing out more character than was probably written on the page. Both get across the collective desires and obsession to put their device into use and how these aspirations are what leads them both into the harmful path of near death in the cross-hairs of oncoming storms. A weak spot in the generally good acting is Jami Gertz as Bill’s terrified and annoying fiancée. She is only required in the film to berate and shriek as loud as she can and the sole purpose of her is so that Bill will visit Jo. Cary Elwes does the slime ball shtick very well as the villainous opposition who wants to use the storms as a way to make money. The rest of the science team have roles that generally all blend together, which lets the excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman stand out as the hyperactive Dusty, who lives for the thrill like no other.

So while character development is clearly on the back burner, Twister is all about the danger and destruction and in both aspects it succeeds with sensational results. Don’t look for any logic here, just sit back, fetch some popcorn and enjoy this roller coaster of a film.

Which Celebrity Has the Best Ass?

Tom Hiddleston AssI saw today that Tom Hiddleston was bestowed with the ‘rear of the year’ award after showing his peach on TV(which you can see in the image above, I did try to get the best image I could). And it got me thinking about what other people think about certain bottoms belonging to celebrities. So I ask you all, which celebrity in your eyes has the best bottom? Do you agree with the choice of Hiddleston? Whoever the peachy person is, be sure to let me know.

Mystic Pizza

Film Title

Mystic Pizza

Director

Donald Petrie

Starring

  • Annabeth Gish as Kat Arujo
  • Julia Roberts as Daisy Arujo
  • Lili Taylor as Jojo Barbosa
  • Vincent D’Onofrio as Bill Montijo
  • William R. Moses as Tim Travers
  • Adam Storke as Charlie Gordon Windsor, Jr.
  • Conchata Ferrell as Leona

An enchanting slice of coming of age drama, Mystic Pizza is delightfully directed and acted, crafting an entertaining and quite moving story of three girls growing up and learning about the unpredictability of life.

In the seaside town of Mystic, Connecticut that has a largely Portuguese-American population, three working-class young ladies are fresh out of high school. Mystic Pizza CastThese girls are sisters Kat and Daisy Arujo and best friend Jojo Barbosa. All three of them work as waitresses at the eponymous pizza parlor that is run by Leona, who watches over the girls with a sagacious eye. Kat is the studious one, who has been accepted to Yale but is saving the money up to pay for it. She is seen by many as the sensible girl of the three. To help pay for university, the bright Kat(whose main passion is astrology) takes another job babysitting for Tim Travers and his young daughter. Annabeth Gish Mystic PizzaSoon enough, Kat falls hard for her employer as they bond over subjects and each other’s company, despite knowing that he has a wife and he is significantly older. Kat’s sister Daisy is the complete opposite; brassy, loose and wild. As much as the sisters are close, there is rivalry between them as Kat is held in high regard by her mother for her drive, while the feisty Daisy is chided for her lack of direction and immoral behaviour. Daisy catches the attentions of preppy Charlie Gordon Windsor, Jr, a recent law school dropout who is something of the black sheep in his affluent family.  Yet Daisy begins to wonder whether Charlie is really into their union or is just trying to rebel against his family by dating her. Completing the troika is Jojo, who is the wise-cracking kooky one. She was supposed to marry rugged and big-hearted fisherman Bill at the beginning of the film but couldn’t go through with it. She’s still seeing Bill, though he now doesn’t want to have sex until the two are married. This poses a problem for Jojo as she wants adventure, sex and to live life before settling down. Over the course of the film, the three girls will learn about life, love and friendship as each contemplates the future.

Donald Petrie directs with a real flavour for the material, bestowing Mystic Pizza with amusing anecdotes and sensitively observed lessons in love and growth. He knows when to use humour and when to imbue the film with poignancy as each of the three girls navigates changes and feelings that affect them deeply. Daisy Kat and JojoIt’s the keen insight into their journeys that makes Mystic Pizza a heartening experience as we grow to like these three ladies just on the cusp of womanhood. We relate to them and share their hopes, dreams and fears of what could lie ahead, both for their lives and their hearts. It helps that the script defines these characters as individuals and brings out all their idiosyncrasies in delightfully warm fashion, making them very well-defined. Sure some of it gets a bit mawkish on occasion, but Mystic Pizza is so heartwarming and arresting that this can be seen as a really minor flaw in what is a very well made and excellent story. A lilting score, infused with a Portuguese tint to establish the atmosphere of the town is beautifully rendered.

Annabeth Gish is engaging and subtle as Kat, a girl with a clear set of goals but not immune to the longings of the heart which she comes to realise. Gish imbues the part with a straight arrow intelligence and slight naivety as her character unexpectedly develops feelings for her much older employer. Julia Roberts Mystic PizzaAs the feisty and sassy Daisy, who wants to do anything to get out of Mystic and finds her love life changing and being challenged, Julia Roberts showcases star charisma, sensitivity and big personality which would all help her to become of the biggest stars on the planet in the ensuing years after the release of this film. Lili Taylor rounds out the female circle of leads with an eccentric performance as the free-spirited and slightly oddball Jojo, who is caught between settling down on experimenting with life before it. A real feeling of camaraderie can be seen in the work of the three main actresses and this chemistry is what makes the film work so well as we believe their bonds of friendship that they share deeply with one another. And while it’s the ladies that dominate the film, the men do well too, albeit in less interesting roles. Vincent D’Onofrio stars as the amusingly good-hearted gentle giant who wants to marry Jojo because he is so in love with her and continues to pursue her. William R. Moses plays the object of Kat’s affections good enough while Adam Storke portrays the blue-blooded guy attracted to Daisy, but constantly at the behest of his family who he tries to impress. In a sharp supporting turn, Conchata Ferrell is motherly and firm as the owner of the pizza place, who guards her secret recipe tightly, much to the girl’s annoyance as they attempt various ways to get her to spill.

Well played by the cast and observed with emotional clarity, Mystic Pizza is a feel-good movie that touches the heart, yet never forgets to shed light on the often difficult lessons we all must learn as we grow up and must make important decisions.

Happy Birthday Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer lopezIt’s probably no surprise to anyone who regularly reads my blog that I’m doing this post. After all I have reviewed many movies starring Jennifer Lopez and spoke about how gorgeous she is. So it seemed right to do a post wishing her a happy birthday. She was one of the first crushes I ever had and that continues to this day. Jennifer Lopez turns 47 today and is going as strong as ever with both her music and movie career. Happy Birthday Jennifer Lopez.

No Strings Attached

Film Title

No Strings Attached

Director

Ivan Reitman

Starring

  • Natalie Portman as Emma Kurtzman
  • Ashton Kutcher as Adam Franklin
  • Kevin Kline as Alvin Franklin
  • Greta Gerwig as Patrice
  • Jake Johnson as Eli
  • Ludacris as Wallace
  • Lake Bell as Lucy

A somewhat spicy romantic comedy, No Strings Attached is a film that surprised me as I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It’s thoroughly predictable, but a bit of added naughtiness than most films of the genre and good chemistry from the leads marks it as an entertaining and raunchy comedy.

Emma Kurtzman and Adam Franklin have known each other since they met at summer camp as teenagers and struck up something of a friendship. No Strings Attached PosterOver the following years, they encounter each other a few times but each is busy. Emma becomes a busy doctor and Adam a production assistant for a TV show. They finally run into each other again under amusing circumstances when Adam gets very drunk(after discovering his seedy dad has been bedding his ex-girlfriend) and passes out in Emma’s apartment. After helping him get himself together, Emma sees that there is a spark between them and the two have sex. Although they felt a spark, Emma is reluctant to pursue any relationship as she is not good at getting close to others, her work keeps her almost always busy and she has a fear of becoming deeply involved with someone else. Emma then comes up with an idea that could work out for the both of them; they will have a purely sexual relationship that doesn’t have the intrusion of emotions. No Strings AttachedThey can each see other people without feeling jealous or expecting anything deeper from the pact. It starts out well enough, with the promise of lusty encounters with no guilt thrilling. But inevitably, both Emma and Adam begin to develop romantic inclinations towards each other, which causes all manner of confusion as it goes against their initial agreement to not have emotional intimacy.

Ivan Reitman contributes unfussy and observant direction that takes a funny examination of love and sex and doesn’t feel the need to pander to a  cloying demographic by sugar-coating any of the naughtiness that is featured. Ashton Kutcher and Natalie PortmanA winning script is an excellent inclusion to No Strings Attached as it delves into sex and romance with a frankness that is different to most romantic comedies that are overly cute and saccharine. Some of it doesn’t escape the predictable formula of the genre and it can try to be a bit overly lewd, but for the majority it stays on the right side of ribald. I must say that there were so many parts of the film that had me laughing out loud due to the awkwardness and ensuing complications of Emma and Adam realising that there is more to their union than just sex. All manner of hilarity presents itself in No Strings Attached as their relationship deepens unexpectedly, culminating in quite a few rib-tickling sequences.

Natalie Portman further cements her versatility as an actress by showing off some excellent comic timing. She plays Emma as brittle, self-assured yet with a guarded quality that shows quite a lot of depth as the character must confront love for possibly the first time. Natalie Portman No Strings AttachedThe depth, humour and honesty Portman brings adds a refreshing dimension to the film as she isn’t just the typical girl who is usually found in a romantic comedy. Ashton Kutcher has the part of Adam, and he has the necessary goofiness and decency to play the part and make the character likable. The two stars have very believable chemistry that retains a slightly awkward but delightfully endearing heart to it and leads to all sorts of naughty mischief and unexpected consequences. An amusing array of supporting characters are played well by the rest of the cast. Kevin Kline had me howling laughing as the irresponsible dad, trying to be young again by working out and doing drugs so he can be a cool dude. A sassy Greta Gerwig is good as Emma’s roommate who can see that the arrangement between the two principal characters will not work out well. Ludacris and Jake JohnsonSide-splitting humour is provided by Jake Johnson and Ludacris as Adam’s mates, whose advice on love and sex are both ribald and hysterical. Lake Bell is quite funny as a co-worker of Adam’s who obviously likes him, but is prone to incessant chatter that over analyzes things too much. The part is funny, though slightly grating in the scheme of things.

You’ll probably the guess the outcome of the film long before it ends and some of the vulgarity can be a bit overused, yet No Strings Attached presents an amusing look at the complexities of trying to separate sexual relations from those of the heart. Honestly, this movie genuinely did a number on me and exceeded my expectations I had going into it.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Film Title

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Director

Vincente Minnelli

Starring

  • Barbra Streisand as Daisy Gamble/ Lady Melinda Tentrees
  • Yves Montand as Dr. Marc Chabot
  • Larry Blyden as Warren
  • Jack Nicholson as Tad

An unusual and visually opulent musical/ romantic fantasy, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is an oddity, but a visually entrancing one that has a dream like effect and Barbra Streisand to boot.

Daisy Gamble is a scatterbrained, kooky New Yorker who seems to possess strange gifts. For example, she can tell when a phone is about to ring and can cause flowers to grow wildly. Though because she is more than a bit absent-minded, she puts these powers down to nothing and doesn’t give them much thought. Daisy and MarcWhile Daisy is slightly zany, she has a priggish fiancée named Warren who always wants to make an impression and chides Daisy for some of her behaviour, particularly her chain-smoking. He suggests she find someone to help curb her habit before an important party they must attend. One day she wanders into a lecture on hypnosis by Dr. Marc Chabot and is herself briefly put under it. Chabot grows curious about Daisy and is interested when she comes to him to help with her habit. He organizes to see Daisy but what he finds while she in under hypnosis is more than he bargained for. Daisy regresses back to what appears to be a past life of hers; Lady Melinda Tentrees, a coquette in 18th Century England who used her charms to climb the ladder and was later put on trial for her supposed misdeeds.Yves Montand On a Clear Day At first, Marc thinks that these talks of a past life are fabricated, but soon begins to come around to the idea. Marc doesn’t tell her about what she has said and due to his skill with hypnosis makes sure she doesn’t know about her talks of this past life. Could Daisy genuinely be a reincarnation of Melinda? And what about the complicated feelings that both Marc and Daisy develop? These emotions are given added strangeness by the fact that has been bewitched by Melinda and Daisy becoming attracted to.

Vincente Minnelli exudes his customary and exceptional meticulousness in the director’s chair, particularly when it comes to the dreamlike fantasy aspects of this movie. He’s a director whose work comes alive with colourful plushness from every angle. Minnelli excels best in the regression sequences, accentuating colour with expressive camerawork and eye-catching movements. It’s impossible not to watch open-mouthed at the decorative splendour, embodied through luscious lighting and  beautiful costume design. Lady Melinda Barbra StreisandOne special costume deserves considerable mention; a lovely bejeweled gown with a matching headdress that is captured in splendid beauty by the cameras and direction. And the film is given a boost by the fact that Minnelli having had experience in musicals before, is a natural when it comes to the music numbers, which are done with pleasing panache. The standouts are the title song played over psychedelic visuals, the alluring ‘Love With all the Trimmings’ sung by Streisand in her marvellous voice and ‘Come Back to Me’ which Marc sings when he finds his worlds merging with Daisy’s and her past lives. On a Clear Day You Can See Forever has its fair share of flaws though. Some of the techniques used seriously date the film and become jarring as it progresses. The film could have been could a bit more coherent and sharper as the second half gets very bogged down with explanations, too much finery and needless scenes that fail to give a grasp to the blooming romances. Also, the sub plot of Marc’s talks with Daisy getting public notice and provoking controversy is a pretty needless avenue to go down. Despite these flaws, On a Clear Day has enough unusualness and style to appreciate it and forgive the sometimes wayward editing and choppy pacing that show the film’s age .

Barbra Streisand showcases her talents for both singing and acting here, and boy does she know how to put a show on. In this film, she really displays her gifts for entertaining with a set of performances that are funny, charming and kooky.Barbra Streisand On a Clear Day You Can See Forever And the fact that Streisand plays two distinctly different characters( a free-spirited and strangely dressed young woman and an elegant, beguiling flirt who rose through English society) so well, is a big sign of her undeniable talents as a performer and actress. Streisand is one of On a Clear Day’s biggest attributes and she is hard to forget. Yves Montand has the necessary bewilderment and curiosity for his role as he finds his views on reincarnation altered drastically. Yet Larry Blyden is introduced to late as Daisy’s pushy fiancée to really make a mark on the story. Movie buffs should look out for a young Jack Nicholson as Daisy’s laid-back step brother. It’s a small role, but any Jack Nicholson is better than none.

Flaws aside regarding the pacing and slow second half, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever has plenty of flourishes from director Vincente Minnelli and delightful energy from the indomitable Barbra Streisand to make it a strange but intoxicating musical fantasy.

Valentine’s Day

Film Title

Valentine’s Day

Director

Garry Marshall

Starring

  • Jessica Alba as Morley Clarkson
  • Kathy Bates as Susan Moralez
  • Jessica Biel as Kara Monahan
  • Bradley Cooper as Holden Wilson
  • Eric Dane as Sean Jackson
  • Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Harrison Copeland
  • Hector Elizondo as Edgar Paddington
  • Jamie Foxx as Kelvin Moore
  • Jennifer Garner as Julia Fitzpatrick
  • Topher Grace as Jason Morris
  • Anne Hathaway as Liz Curran
  • Carter Jenkins as Alex
  • Ashton Kutcher as Reed Bennett
  • Queen Latifah as Paula Thomas
  • Taylor Lautner as Willy Harrington
  • George Lopez as Alphonso Rodriguez
  • Shirley MacLaine as Estelle Paddington
  • Emma Roberts as Grace Smart
  • Julia Roberts as Capt. Kate Hazeltine
  • Bryce Robinson as Edison
  • Taylor Swift as Felicia

I was saddened yesterday to read of Garry Marshall’s death. He was a prolific director, producer and writer, who had a long and interesting career. One area he really succeeded in was directing romantic comedies and that is why I am going to review the all-star Valentine’s Day. I was planning to review this film anyway, but I will dedicate it to Garry Marshall now due to his passing. Anyway, back to the review.

Over the course of Valentine’s Day, the love lives of many residents is explored. Varying from newfound attraction to older couples, blinded love and pining, love seems to be everywhere in this set of interlocking stories. Valentine's Day Movie PosterGood-hearted florist Reed Bennett proposes to his pretty girlfriend Morley, who accepts. The day seems to be going amazing for him, yet he soon sees that Morley is having doubts about marriage. His friends Alphonso and schoolteacher Julia stay quiet but aren’t surprised when Morley calls it off as they saw that the couple wasn’t ideally suited. Julia is having a relationship with the dashing Dr. Harrison Copeland, yet he is stringing her along because he is already married which Julia is unaware of. Reed discovers this and wants to help Julia, making him acknowledge that he has harboured feelings for his good friend for a while. Then we have Julia’s other friend publicist Kara, who despises the romantic day due to an unlucky history in love. Yet this could be changed by the equally cynical sports reporter Kelvin Moore, who has been coerced into doing a special on the importance of the day. Older couple Estelle and Edgar Paddington have been married for a long time, but something from the past is bothering Estelle as they contemplate renewing their vows. Julia Roberts and Bradley CooperKate Hazeltine, an army captain shares a flight with affable Holden and the two become friendly as she tells him that she is returning for one day to see someone special. And there are many more stories that are too many to document because this review would become extremely long-winded otherwise.

Garry Marshall brings his expertise to this sweet and fluffy film. This kind of movie was his bread and butter and his considerable love for the genre is very much apparent. I can’t really fault his direction here as it is well done, though other parts of the film aren’t as assured as Marshall’s direction. Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer GarnerEach of these stories links to the next one in some strange way or another, some turning out not like you’d expect. Like with any movie containing an ensemble cast and multiple tales, certain stories are going to rise above others in terms of enjoyment. The best way to describe Valentine’s Day is as a big box of ribbon wrapped chocolates that is full to the brim with sweetness and delight, yet you remember some of the flavours more than others. The Taylor Swift/Taylor Lautner story could have been cut as it contributes nothing whatsoever to the story and the little boy trying to impress his sweetheart feels a bit too similar to one of the links in Love Actually. Then we have a nice story with Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper talking on a flight back to Los Angeles that isn’t as clichéd as one would originally think. Anyone going into Valentine’s Day thinking it’s going to be something new will be mistaken because the formula of the film is familiar. Yet this isn’t to do the film down, it’s just how many romantic comedies have a story that is generic and been done before? It’s a genre that thrives on stories you’ve seen before and Valentine’s Day is no different in that respect. It’s a surprisingly sweet and funny experience actually and not as bad as many people have made the film out to be. I will admit I can be a sucker for romantic comedies sometimes so my opinion could be biased, but I enjoyed this film, even if the film is guilty of being over busy.

And following on about the film being busy, you have to say that the cast is one attractive bunch of stars. Be prepared readers, it may take some time talking about his massive cast. Ashton Kutcher is probably the person seen the most in Valentine’s Day and he has a real exuberance that shines through in an endearing way. A natural and sweet performance from Jennifer Garner is a nicely cast part, with plenty of humour and heart. Jessica Biel and Jamie FoxxJessica Biel is particularly funny as a woman who holds a I hate Valentine’s Party, but secretly wants some romance in her life that has been elusive so far. Alongside Biel in the humour department there is an amusing Jamie Foxx. Old pros Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo bring warmth and experience to their roles as an older couple having to deal with feelings they weren’t sure of. Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace have good chemistry as a new couple with a hitch, she moonlights as a phone sex operator to pay off bills. Leading to much confusion, the two stars have fun and spark off each other well as they navigate the challenges of love.

Julia Roberts, who is already adept at romantic comedy, is luminous along with Bradley Cooper, in an amiable and funny vignette. Eric Dane and George Lopez fare pretty well with the material they are given. Carter Jenkins Valentine's DayEmma Roberts and Carter Jenkins make their tale funny and a little relatable as they play two students planning to have sex for the first time. Trouble is, it doesn’t go to plan leading to an amusing scene of Jenkins preparing to serenade his beloved wearing nothing but a guitar and being caught by her mother. Kathy Bates is unfortunately reduced to nothing but a cameo which is annoying considering how good Bates is as an actress. The same goes for Queen Latifah who is wasted and not given any opportunity to shine. On the negative side of casting we have Jessica Alba, who despite her beauty, is more than a little bland in her delivery. Young Bruce Robinson is endearing enough as the enamoured young boy wanting to impress a girl he has a crush on. The problem is the story is pretty much a non-starter that never comes to life. Patrick Dempsey plays a love rat with some smoothness that starts to vanish once he’s found out. Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner are pretty poor as a love struck young couple and their story feels like it could have been left on the cutting room floor.

It’s not the best romantic comedy but it’s far from the worst, and Valentine’s Day displays the flair and entertainment value that Garry Marshall had for this sort of thing that will be missed within the genre. Rest in Peace Garry Marshall, may your great spirit live on through your wonderful work.