I love my blog and reviewing movies, coupled with talking to all of you fabulous people. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my approach to it. My main thought was that I need to change it. My usual approach is that I plan the movies I will review and then act on them. But I’ve found that I’ve been putting way too much pressure on myself in this regard. I have now decided that I will watch movies and then decide whether or not to write about them. I believe this will be most beneficial for me and take the edge off. I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself, but I’m taking it off now to become more relaxed with what I do. To reiterate, I love blogging and reviewing movies( I can’t picture life without it), but I’ll be using this approach to make me feel better. Going with the flow is that way to go. So don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine with this new method. What do you think of my new approach?
I was kindly asked by the wonderful Gill to take part in the Jack Nicholson blogathon. This is to celebrate the great man’s work as he turned 80 yesterday. I’ve always liked Nicholson’s work in a variety of films so it was nice of her to ask me to join in and sing his praises. If you want to be entertained, Nicholson is your man. Anyway back to my review.
Something’s Gotta Give
- Jack Nicholson as Harry Sanborn
- Diane Keaton as Erica Barry
- Keanu Reeves as Dr Julian Mercer
- Amanda Peet as Marin Barry
- Frances McDormand as Zoe
A sprightly romantic comedy about unexpected attraction in middle age, Something’s Gotta Give is an amusing showcase for both Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Sure it has its contrivances, but there’s something very amiable and surprisingly touching to this film that makes it stand out from the endless pack of romantic comedies we are assailed with.
Harry Sanborn is a successful man in his 60’s, he owns a music company and his main passion in life is easy relationships with women who are much younger. The old dog has a rule of not dating a woman over 30, which keeps his status as a perennial playboy steady. His latest conquest is the pretty Marin, who invites him to her mother’s beach house in the Hamptons, thinking that her mother Erica is busy somewhere else. To her surprise, Erica, who is a successful divorced playwright, returns with her sister Zoe and is shocked to find her daughter and Harry are something of an item. Zoe talks her round and Erica reluctantly lets Harry stay, despite her immediate dislike for him. The evening gets eventful when Harry has a heart attack when preparing for sex and is subsequently hospitalized. Informed by his doctor that he can’t travel far and must recover nearby, he ends up recuperating in Erica’s house, much to her annoyance. Harry finds Erica to be overly uptight and prickly, while Erica thinks of Harry as just a rude and uncouth womanizer. Yet being forced to take care of Harry has its impressions on Erica, whether she likes it or not. The two start out at complete odds over their ideas of the other, yet quickly these differences start to wilt and an attraction begins to form. Both of them don’t quite know how to react to this unexpected creation, though it definitely makes both take stock of things and possibly open up to welcoming love. Yet as Harry recovers, his stay at Erica’s is cut short as his health improves. As the two have now grown to love the other unexpectedly, it’s up to Harry to decide whether he can truly change or return to his usual life of being a playboy. Add to this equation, Harry’s young doctor Julian taking a romantic interest in Erica, much too her surprise and things are about to get interesting.
Nancy Meyers provides breezy direction and writing, that still retains substance through how well-crafted the characters are. Meyers supplies a good helping of unpredictable moments to Something’s Gotta Give, that pay off and make it a funny watch. There’s something quite rejuvenating at seeing two people in the middle of their lives find romance, there are too few movies that deal with attraction among mature adults. Now it must be said that the movie does over stay its welcome due to the length of it and how it does dabble in levels of seen it all before. Generally though, Something’s Gotta Give gains major points from the casting, humorous yet moving writing and the tone of the piece. There is a level of genuine heart to things, as Erica’s seemingly comfortable existence is challenged by someone she never though she’d like. Observing the changes the attraction has for them both provides Something’s Gotta Give with a surprising emotional core, coloured with side-splitting comedy( such as Harry walking in on a naked Erica, ensuring much awkward encounters). I appreciate when a comedy has depth to it, as too many comedies forget that you sometimes need drama for the laughs to work.
Jack Nicholson is a devilish yet revealing presence as the ageing playboy, realising that life may be catching up with his lifestyle. I enjoyed how Nicholson sort of sends up the public’s persona of himself( the grinning Lothario who always looks like he’s up to something naughty), yet colours it with a surprising amount of vulnerability too. It’s an unexpected turn from him that has all his wolfish tics and adds a healthy dose of open humanity to the mix. He truly makes the part his own and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Diane Keaton gorgeously plays off Nicholson as the self-sufficient playwright, discovering that romance could still be on the cards for her despite her assertion that she’s passed it. A sophistication, humour and convincing clarity can all be seen in Keaton’s work, that makes you enjoy being in her company as her professional attitude makes way for touching revelation. Any romantic comedy largely succeeds or fails on the chemistry between the leads; Something’s Gotta Give joyfully fits into the former. You just get this natural and glowing way that Nicholson and Keaton interact, that really brings out the heart of both people who overcome differences to find that they might be right for each other. Then you have Keanu Reeves as the dashing doctor that could only ever appear in a romantic comedy. Reeves seems to realise this and plays the part amusingly as a sort of spoof of the dishy man in uniform that couldn’t possibly exist in real life. Amanda Peet provides sparkling energy, albeit in an underused capacity along with a wise-cracking but too little seen Frances McDormand.
So while it runs too long and isn’t above being slightly formulaic, Something’s Gotta Give has enough sharp writing and cracking performances, particularly Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, to make it a delight.
The Devil Wears Prada
- Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly
- Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs
- Emily Blunt as Emily Charlton
- Stanley Tucci as Nigel
- Adrian Grenier as Nate
- Simon Baker as Christian Thompson
An amusing comedy drama about a young woman’s journey in the world of fashion under the boss from hell, The Devil Wears Prada gets laughs and some surprising dramatic weight. As formulaic as some of it is, it is still a very funny satire on the fashion industry, benefiting from a talented cast.
Andy Sachs is a fresh-faced college graduate who wants to be a journalist and is just out of university. An opportunity comes knocking in a strange way, after not having much luck in finding work. She is in turn recommended a job working at Runway, a New York fashion magazine headed by the notorious and commanding editor in chief Miranda Priestly. She is to be the junior assistant to her, which is a job so many people would give their lives for. Although she has no interest in fashion or the whole scene that she views as shallow, she gets the job unexpectedly. Yet Andy is totally unprepared for what she’ll have to deal with while being assistant to the very high-powered Miranda. What she finds is that Miranda is no walk in the park, but an extremely demanding and at times vicious boss. Having to complete the various, seemingly impossible tasks that Miranda sets her proves to be a severe challenge to someone as wide-eyed as Andy. Andy doesn’t fit in with anyone particularly, not least the snippy senior assistant Emily. Yet with the help of art director Nigel( which includes a glamorous makeover) and adopting of a different attitude towards the industry, Andy starts to succeed and surprisingly get ahead at work. She believes that lasting a year working under the dominating Miranda will be good for references and open doors to her dream. Yet as Andy gets further sucked into the world that she initially disdained, she is forced to confront the fact that her integrity is slipping and that she is rapidly changing into something she never thought she would. Her love life with chef boyfriend Nate begins to sour and she begins to alienate herself from her closest friends, as a result of being at Miranda’s beck and call. But is survival working for Miranda worth sacrificing all for?
David Frankel has a stylish approach to the material, imbued with the right amount of humour and character. I wouldn’t say his direction in The Devil Wears Prada is anything awe-inspiring, but it gets the job done efficiently and with care. Interest does lag within a few scenes that go on for too long( and the main men in Andy’s life don’t particularly give much to the plot of the film). The catty one liners and frequently hilarious events make up for that however, getting your interest as we glimpse a behind the scenes look at a glamorous yet dog eat dog world. Seriously some of the dialogue is priceless in how it skewers the fashion industry and culture, while allowing the relatable but difficult journey for Andy that threatens to overtake her, to feature added depth to the largely funny flick. The look at how easily one can lose themselves in something and feel they have no choice but to oblige is rendered well; owing to the way the script gives measured nuance and surprising insight. Sometimes the film only scratches the surface of what wants to get to in the odd slip, but the satirical edge and stylish glitz are more than sufficient at keeping things in a way that feels fresh for us to enjoy. And like any movie dealing with clothing and image, The Devil Wears Prada is a super stylish and glossy film. From montages to bright colours, it has magazine ready finish from the get go. And while some will say it is just a chick flick, The Devil Wears Prada can equally be enjoyed by men. It’s an all round fun time to be had here in a high glamour world that’s as funny as it is stinging. I mean the while boss from hell plot is a definitely amusing one that I’m sure many people can recall similar situations in their own lives, with less outrageousness I’m sure but you know what I mean. A fashionable soundtrack briskly keeps the film on its course with some great songs to groove to.
Meryl Streep completely steals the show as the demanding and commanding Miranda. Possessing a glacial demeanor and a certain regal poise, she creates a character who may be a tyrannical, but is still quite unexpectedly human despite her frostiness. Miranda both inspires fear and awe within the film and the audience, with Meryl Streep steering her away from just being a wicked caricature. What we get instead of a one-dimensional part is one that is frequently ruthless yet not above revealing a hidden vulnerability, in a nuanced way that Streep effortlessly portrays. Miranda doesn’t need to raise her voice to make a point; a simple purse of the lips, look up and down or a cutting, deadpan remark is enough to reduce anyone to a pile of quivering nerves. A scary, fascinating, darkly funny and fabulous character is brought to life with measured shading and conviction by the always excellent Meryl Streep. Anne Hathaway delightfully portrays the inexperience and uncertainty of Andy, tempered with an intelligence and feeling of doubt over what she can achieve. Hathaway has an inborn sensitivity and vulnerability that I’ve noticed in many of her performances, that is used excellently to make Andy a conflicted yet relatable heroine the audience wants to help. I mean how can you not have sympathy for this girl, going through the motions and figuring out just what she wants to do? Her sheer awkwardness and coltish appearance is rendered nicely by Hathaway, who refuses to make the character a brainless girl. Emily Blunt gets a whole of laughs in her role of minion to Miranda, whose neurotic and desperation to please provide hysterical desperation and scintillating, bitchy sassiness. Splendid and side-splitting support comes from Stanley Tucci as the confidante, who instructs Andy in how best to approach her job and how Miranda is not above rewarding loyalty, in her own roundabout way of course. Tucci though is the only guy in the film who is actually given something good to do. Adrian Grenier and Simon Baker are left stumbling and with little in the way of material to work with.
So for all the contrivances in the film and how it can seem predictable, The Devil Wears Prada boasts a high entertaining factor, finding humour and pathos from a cast headed by an imperious Meryl Streep and how the whole fashion world is a place of survival. A biting yet somehow sweet engaging and humorous film is what The Devil Wears Prada emerges is, which brings out big enjoyable laughs for the viewer.
John Patrick Shanley
- Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Flynn
- Amy Adams as Sister James
- Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller
John Patrick Shanley directs this adaptation of his own play which powerfully and ambiguously questions the nature of truth, certainty and religion. Doubt really dives into the conundrum and mystery of suspicion, bolstered by one exceptional cast doing fine work with deep material.
In 1964 , austere school principal and nun Sister Aloysius Beauvier runs a Catholic school in The Bronx, where she watches each and every move to keep others in line. She is a woman who strikes fear into the hearts of everyone and believes in discipline where her students are involved. Her ideas are of an old-fashioned mindset, which puts her at odds with popular priest Father Flynn. He is a seemingly kindly man who the children like and whose ideas are progressive in bringing the Church forward. Sister Aloysius has a deep dislike of him and after hearing a sermon that he delivers on the feelings of doubt, she asks young and naive Sister James to keep an eye on him. Shortly after this, Sister James reluctantly reveals that Donald Miller, the school’s first black student, returned from seeing Father Flynn in the rectory, crying and with the smell of alcohol on his breath. This convinces Sister Aloysius that there is something sinister about Father Flynn and she is certain that he has sexually abused the boy. Father Flynn denies any wrongdoing and tells her to leave it alone. But Sister Aloysius is not backing down and takes it upon herself, despite a lack of proof, to bring down Father for what she believes he has done. So begins a battle of wills between the relentless Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn , where the truth is the thing that lies at the complex centre of events but is hidden and speculated with unexpected results.
John Patrick Shanley successfully transports his play from the stage to screen with a subtle building in uneasiness and moral questioning. There is a high level of tense atmosphere at work in Doubt, generated through the way that the dialogue takes on multiple meanings and the tight surroundings that enclose the characters. canted angles and close-ups further enhance the engulfing intensity of the piece. The dark tones of the cinematography, supplied by the great , cement us in the dark and complex time and setting, rarely venturing further than the school for a feeling of deep claustrophobia. The limited setting hints at the movies origins as a play, yet help keep that very aura of intimate drama. Some of Doubt gets stagey from time to time, yet this niggle is quickly rectified by the provocative drama and time for rumination that it ultimately achieves. The amount of tension that fills the frames if the movie took me by surprise in a good way. I really was finding myself questioning who was right and wrong, plus whether personal vendettas and emotions were clouding the judgement of characters. There are those who watch Doubt and find its ambiguity distracting, but for most of us, this added level of intrigue gets you to really deliberate what you make of the combustible situation playing out. What people need to consider is that Doubt is as much a mystery about guilt, possible abuse of power and morality, as it is a drama. A quiet yet well suited score knows exactly when to appear and when to let scenes play out devoid of interference.
Meryl Streep heads the cast with another sterling performance. Burying herself in the self-righteous and stern head nun who is the chief accuser, Streep exudes a no-nonsense attitude( spoken in a harsh and convincing Bronx accent), tempered by a dry wit and occasional time for revelation. Yet the biggest accomplishment of her acting is in the balance of Sister Aloysius, in various subtle and expressive ways that hint at her being something different underneath her austere appearance . She is a fearsome person to say the least who may just be doing this to get rid of Father Flynn , but on the other hand, she seems to want to protect her student from what she believes is inappropriate and disturbing contact. There is a real complexity to this woman that Meryl Streep understands; Aloysius may believe that certainty is on her side, but she may in fact be feeling the strains of time pushing her further away from authority and clear judgement. Playing off her and facing off against her in very intense scenes is the excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman. He manages to make Father Flynn both amiable and somewhat questionable, lending a big dose of ambiguity to everything. With force and skill, Hoffman represents the accused as a man trying to bring the church up to date, and sparring with the pointed finger of Sister Aloysius for something he may or not have done. His scenes with Streep are filled with power and rising suspicion, culminating in an arresting coin which both stars really let loose. Amy Adams beautifully and with considerable nuance plays the sympathetic and good-hearted novice Sister James, who is essentially the audiences guide to being caught between two ends of the spectrum. A sweetness is present in the work that never becomes cloying because of how well Adams imbues the part with a questioning and conflicted heart. Stuck in the middle of both Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius, Sister James is forced to contend with both sets of possibilities, a challenge that Amy Adams more than rises to with a sensitive piece of acting. Rounding out the cast is the brief but superbly played performance from the wonderful Viola Davis. She stars as the mother of the boy who may have been abused and her screen time is mainly confined to one specific scene. But what a powerful and indelible scene it is! Filled with a sadness, conviction and acting in a way that may seem different from what you’d expect from a mother being informed of potentially horrifying treatment of her son, Viola Davis dramatically provides the catalyst of the story, that enables us to see things in a very different way. This is a performance that proves that you don’t need hours on screen to be memorable. The four main actors were all Oscar nominated for their work, and it isn’t any surprise why because of how convincingly they bring to life this thorny drama.
A thought-provoking and building triumph of unbearable tension and questions, Doubt succeeds at getting the audience to really consider the validity of supposedly benevolent actions and just how damaging things can become when there is lack of proof but plenty of speculation. It’s a testament to the acting and directing that Doubt never feels too stagey, instead mounted with a mystery and probing yet subtle approach. What we get is a powerful and intense film that leaves you really contemplating events long after the curtain has been drawn.
Today, my blog turns five years old. I am still in a bit of shock about that fact, never would I have ever dreamed that my blog could last this long. It’s been five amazing years spent in the company of all of you wonderful and good-hearted bloggers who really keep me going. I can’t imagine my life without interacting with you guys whose generosity and love has been essential to me. Thanks to all of you delightful people for bringing out a more confident side of me, with your collective kindness and endless array of support. I’m so happy to have reached this milestone in my blogging career and hope to continue for as long as I can.
Dressed to Kill
Brian De Palma
- Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller
- Michael Caine as Dr. Robert Elliott
- Nancy Allen as Liz Blake
- Keith Gordon as Peter Miller
- Dennis Franz as Detective Marino
A mystery thriller with a lacing of dark humour, Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill is a relentless excursion into sinister mood and sleight of hand tricks that are for the most part strikingly done. The plot gets a bit overwrought, but the various surprises and mood is what this movie is all about.
Kate Miller is a dissatisfied and sexually starved housewife in New York, who can’t escape her feeling of loneliness. Although she has her young and bright son Peter, her marriage is largely devoid of much passion or excitement. She attends therapy with a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Robert Elliott, where she unloads her problems to him. Although she flirts with him, he rebuffs her because of professional ethics and wanting to keep a distance. Later, the bored Kate visits a museum, where she is pursued and herself pursues a mysterious man, culminating in a sexual encounter. After this, Kate plans to leave but shockingly discovers that her conquest appears to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Reeling, she runs out of his apartment and heads for the elevator, contemplating what to do. Kate’s troubles get a lot more deadly as she is slashed to death in an elevator by a mysterious blonde woman, whose appearance is obscured by dark glasses. Just after the horrific murder, streetwise hooker Liz stumbles upon Kate and briefly catches a glimpse of the killer. Liz is then suspected of the killing, the main detective on the case not believing that there was someone else in the elevator. Desperate to prove her innocence and scared for her safety, Liz teams up with Kate’s smart son Peter(who is already investigating by himself through his collection of devices he has made) to uncover the identity of the killer, before Liz ends up the next victim of her slaying. Meanwhile Dr Elliott keeps getting threatening phone messages from a patient of his, who may very well be the killer and someone who enjoys taunting him. Things turn out pretty unexpected for everyone involved.
It’s an overblown film to be sure, but that is why it attracts in the ways that De Palma uses that melodrama. To be honest, I don’t think he is going for a really subtle approach. And given his signature style, he’s not just going to tone it down, he’s going to go to places that shock and surprise with his liberal use of theatricality along the way. What we are left with is a film that is more concerned with mood and atmosphere than plot, that still bears that feeling of tension, mixed with archness that De Palma does so well. The perverse yet riveting atmosphere is apparent in the dreamy, surreal soft focus of two pivotal scenes pulls you in, while obviously paying a debt to Hitchcock’s iconic Psycho. But the most sterling example of craftsmanship is the museum scene. In it Kate catches the eye of a stranger and the two engage in a stalking game that plays out spectacularly and seductively. The roles of cat and mouse switch between the lonely Kate and the stranger, ultimately making us part of the voyeuristic tapestry at work . Without barely a line of dialogue, De Palma pulls out every trick in the book; finding an array of expressive angles and movements to put us in the moment and tell a story simply through visual impact. It’s a scene where everything comes together as an example of pure cinema that should be celebrated. I think to appreciate Dressed to Kill it is best to watch it a few times to take in how well crafted it all is. You genuinely notice little bits that seemed trivial at first, yet have a massive bearing on the creeping proceedings, something which Brian De Palma chooses to have fun with. So for all the head-scratching moments that don’t make sense, the hints and symbolism of Dressed to Kill gleefully toy with our ideas of what we think we know. This frequently is the case of us being devilishly lead astray and made to believe one thing( when in fact it’s something quite different) and that’s where quite a lot of the watchability of Dressed to Kill lies. The macabre humour seeping through Dressed to Kill also adds to this; finding irony in pretty dark and perilous situations before turning up the chills for effect. Granted, some instances feel a bit much, the level of dark comedy is a welcome and quite unexpected quality put into often sardonic effect here. Dressed to Kill is a little bit over praised at least in my book, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that it’s still a pretty nifty and swift thriller of panache that still made an impact on me. A gloriously grand and frequently alluring score plays into the dark and sexually prominent tones of the film right off the bat.
Angie Dickinson is very effective( especially given the fact that most of her performance has no dialogue). Through the little nuances of her face, we witness her boredom and sadness with her marriage, as well as how she craves sexual excitement. A beautiful woman with an aura of class and sexiness, Angie Dickinson plays the ill-fated woman exceptionally. Michael Caine is rightfully detached and urbane as the psychiatrist who seems relatively calm, but who may in fact be something else. With sublime subtlety, Caine brings a level of class and maybe a touch of enigma, without going overboard which is a credit to his abilities as an actor. Nancy Allen is pretty good as the quick talking Liz, who is sucked into the most twisted case and must prove her own innocence. The part is pretty much a standard hooker with a heart of gold trope, but Allen plays it well and makes her a likable girl sticking to her wits. The unlikely hero role of Kate’s investigating son Peter is filled out splendidly by Keith Gordon, whose gawky appearance and unwavering collection of detective moves make him a relatable down-to-Earth teenager looking for answers in his mother’s death. In a flashy supporting role, Dennis Franz provides a lot of the sardonic humour as a tough-talking and hard-boiled detective, with a seasoned attitude to match. He’s not in the movie a lot, but when he is, Franz is a delight as the salty and uncouth man investigating the baffling murder.
Silly as parts of it get, Dressed to Kill stands out for its visual impact and De Palma verve on display. Logic is not exactly present, but the fun of Dressed to Kill lies in its often shocking and macabre content that ratchets up suspense and sprinkles it with a knowing, ironic wink. At tad overrated in my book, but still a highly effective and surprising thriller displaying the skill of Brian De Palma.
Today I put the spotlight on the always watchable and convincing Julianne Moore. If you ever want someone to really get into a complex character and express deep emotion, Moore is your woman. Such moving and frequently revealing performances have made Julianne Moore an actress I can never tire of watching. She never seems to go for the easy option, instead delving into characters that are multi-faceted and show off her considerable abilities in daring ways. So which of her many roles is your favourite?
This second entry to my new series is on the talented and pretty amazing Hugh Jackman. Adept at action and spreading his dramatic muscles, Jackman has become one of the most likeable stars out there. And as a person, he seems to be quite down to Earth and self-effacing. In an age where fame can go to the mind of many, it’s refreshing to see someone famous who still can be fun and not full of themselves. For me, I like seeing Hugh Jackman on screen because he actually looks like he’s having fun. So which performance from this great guy is your personal favourite?
This is going to be part of a new series in which I select an actor or actress and ask which performance do you think is their best. And what better place to start than with Meryl Streep? Undoubtedly one of the best actresses there is, Streep has enjoyed a simply stellar career thanks to her deep versatility and commitment to her craft. I can’t say I’ve ever seen her give a bad performance in the movies I’ve seen of her’s. I still have many movies of hers to watch, but the vast majority of things she’s been in have made her one of my favourite actresses because of her talent and depth. Just the way she can so embody a character and switch genres is nothing short of spectacular, you know when Meryl Streep is in a film she’ll deliver. So which of her many, wonderful performances is the one that really lingers in your mind.