Monthly Archives: July 2010

Trailer: Easy A

My husband convinced me to watch this trailer a week or so ago. He said “It’s a modern, high-school take on The Scarlet Letter!” I groaned and rolled my eyes, but watched it anyway. And actually? I think it just might work. Every now and then somebody manages to do a “modern retelling” just right. The best example, one of my absolute favorites, is Amy Heckerling’s Clueless. In case you weren’t aware, it is, in fact, an updated version of Jane Austen’s Emma, and it really hits all the right notes, both in terms of Austen’s novel and in terms of putting her situations into a modern, and hilarious context.

Here’s the trailer:

So what do you think? Will Easy A be another Clueless? I’m staying tuned…

All for one, and one for all

I was in high school when I learned not to get excited about film adaptations of classic (or any kind, really) literary works. Francis Ford Coppola was releasing “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” and it was supposedly going to be oh-so-faithful to the book.  So, all excited, I read the book. It’s now one of my favorites, but the movie … no. It was a mess, and really, not tremendously faithful at all. I tend to call it “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula” for all that Bram Stoker really had to do with it.

My point is that I don’t expect a whole lot when it comes to films made out of books. And sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised, but for the most part, I don’t feel that adapting literature is something Hollywood does particularly well. They’re too busy injecting their own vision, or something, to really get the feel right. In some cases, supposedly they don’t even read the book they’re adapting! And another thing…

What’s with the constant, never-ending flow of remakes? Seriously, people? There have simply got to be tons of new and interesting concepts floating around out there without the need to remake stuff – especially if the original is pretty much perfect (see: My Fair Lady, but that’s a rant for another time).

And so, if we combine these two concepts; literary adaptations and remakes, what do we get? We get a rant. Ready? Here we go.

The object of today’s ire is this. Oh boy. Where to begin?

  1. The usual remake argument. Do we really need another Three Musketeers movie? There have been half a dozen over the years, including the 1993 Disney version, which I am forced to admit I love, despite its anachronistic humor. I just don’t get why we need to keep making the same stories over and over again. Sure, they’re great stories … but there are more out there. Aren’t there?
  2. Paul W.S. Anderson.  I will admit that I have not seen any of Mr. Anderson’s oeuvre, because I don’t really do video game/zombie flicks. Oh wait, correction: I have, in fact, seen two Anderson-directed films: Event Horizon (creepy space horror) and Mortal Kombat (video game, no zombies). Neither of these were great movies, and nothing on this man’s resume leads me to believe he would make a good “period” film. Which leads me to point the third…
  3. Period vs. modernized vs. combination? Argh. If I don’t really want to see another Three Musketeers movie, what I really, REALLY don’t want to see is one that is somehow taken out of its appropriate place and time. Now, I don’t necessarily think that is the case here (it’s all too historically significant) but isn’t the biggest reason directors like to rehash things their own, unique “vision”? So what is Mr. Anderson’s vision for Porthos, Athos, and Aramis? God help me, if they’re fighting zombies…
  4. Casting (ish). My complaints here are sort of minor, in that I don’t take issue with any one person cast. The reason for that, however, is that for the most part, I haven’t heard of about half of them, and the other half are not exactly big names. Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice, Robin Hood) in a period flick? Fine. Orlando Bloom? If you must. Christoph Waltz as Richelieu? Interesting, slightly amusing, but acceptable, if he’s as good as people say he is. Mads Mikkelsen as Rochefort is also intriguing, although I don’t envy anyone forced to follow up the divine Michael Wincott (from the ’93 film). And Milla Jovovich I don’t even feel the need to mention. But the rest of them are a bunch of no-names. I am all for new blood, and I am not a fan of casting someone A-List but ill-suited just to put butts in the seats. But with something like this, which somebody doubtless assumes will be a blockbuster, you need actors that people are going to want to come see. And this list isn’t it.

Ultimately, I just don’t see WHY. I accept that this could turn out to be a good film. I’m no Hollywood insider or producer, so what do I know? I am, however, a moderately discerning movie-goer, and based on the information I have currently, I don’t have a good sense about this one. The more recent titles that spring to mind in comparison to this are The Count of Monte Christo (2002, utterly dreadful), and The Musketeer (2001, also horrible, I’ve heard).  The Count of Monte Christo garnered a shocking (to me) 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but only made $54 mil at the box office, while The Musketeer had a 10% rating and only made $26 mil. Both period pieces, more or less adaptations, with no really big names in the cast. Hmm. I think I rest my case.

Newsflash too interesting too ignore!

This is a movie blog, and I am not going to branch out, really, by talking about television. I admit that this is largely because I barely watch any TV, Castle notwithstanding (Fillion!). In particular, I don’t watch Glee, although my husband does. HOWEVER.

I just stumbled upon this bit of news, which it just too cool. Bardem to guest-star on Glee. Whoa, dude. There’s an episode I will watch. I will suck up gawd-awful Broadway-style singing for Mr. Bardem, yes, indeed.

Alright. You may now return to your regularly-scheduled programs.

Review: Proof (1991)

Number 25 on the list of Russell Crowe movies I have now seen is this small Australian offering from 1991, starring Hugo Weaving and Mr. Crowe, with Genevieve Picot as Celia. It had pretty good word of mouth, so I was looking forward to it, and I was not disppointed.

Proof is the story of Martin (Weaving), a blind man who is obsessed with taking photographs of the world around him as proof that it all exists, even if he can’t see it. He is an extremely bitter and suspicious individual with an almost complete inability to trust anyone. This includes his housekeeper, Celia (Picot), who fancies herself in love with him. Martin knows of her affections, and torments her, so their relationship is extremely antagonistic. Celia likes to move things around in Martin’s flat so that he bumps into furniture. Enter Andy (Crowe), a good-tempered young short-order cook. Andy and Martin strike up an unlikely friendship, and Martin eventually learns to trust someone. He has Andy briefly describe the scenes of his photographs so that he can label and identify them. Celia, jealous of Martin and Andy’s relationship, and having been rebuffed one too many times, seduces Andy in a bid to take ultimate revenge on Martin. In the end, Martin comes to terms with his difficulties with other people, and maybe learns to open himself up a little more.

This really was a fascinating film. It’s described in many places as ” dramedy” or “dark comedy,” but I didn’t really notice a lot of comedy, dark or otherwise. I found it to be just a poignant little story, excellently performed. Weaving is truly a revelation here. Even on a purely physical basis, you know he’s not really blind, but you’re totally convinced anyway. Martin’s spite and mistrust of everything and everyone are truly biting, and his few moments of happiness and softness are more striking as a result. Crowe’s Andy is sort of a lovable bloke; the kind of character that, in other hands, would be purely one-dimensional. With Crowe, however, we get a young man, not truly gifted in any particular way, who nevertheless understands and feels deeply the trust that has been placed in him by Martin. I’ll just mention one scene, toward the end of the film, where Andy realizes that he’s been had (in more ways than one) by Celia. The clue is a visual one, and as he looks around, you can truly watch the realization dawn on his face. He is handed a cup of tea, and the look in his eyes, combined with the physical anger radiating from him, as he struggles to simply put down the cup of tea as opposed to throwing it against the wall, was astonishing to me. There’s nothing happening but Crowe in the middle of the shot, and you get a world of emotions from a motion as simple as setting something down on the table. Tremendous. This is an early film for Crowe, one of his first starring roles, and his talent is blazingly clear in this one scene alone.

It’s hard to offer up any cons in particular about this film. It’s just one of those little pieces that has a reasonably simple story to tell, and it does its job very well. The central theme of trust is an interesting one, with each of the characters stuck, to a degree, in their own sense of what the concept means. Celia, despite being “in love” with Martin, is deliberately cruel to him, and doesn’t really understand what he needs from another person. Andy, despite having the greatest understanding, is also just a flawed person, prone to making his own mistakes. And Martin himself is so wrapped up in his belief of betrayal that he fails to realize that every day is about trust for him. He spends the entire film testing those closest to them, almost hoping they will fail. Meanwhile, he doesn’t realize that he could not function without his trust in people he thinks nothing of, like the waiter in a restaurant or his veterinarian. In the end, he does reach this realization, and we are left with the sense that he will move more easily through his world in the future.

I’d definitely recommend this one for anyone who likes small, character-driven films. It’s not particularly artsy – as with the few Australian films I’ve seen, it’s very simply staged and filmed, but it’s just a good piece of work, with good performances, a good script, and a good story to tell. Fans of Crowe will definitely love his performance, and receive the added bonus of Weaving’s excellent portrayal as well.