Monthly Archives: November 2010

Review: Pat and Mike (1952)

Let’s talk about chemistry, shall we? You know, like in a movie, when certain actors just seem to have that connection. It’s a concept not limited to, but most often discussed in terms of, romantic comedies … whether or not we believe the main couple as a couple. Do they seem like they’re really in love with each other? Or are they completely wooden together, with all the spark of a wet mop? I would put forward as some more recent good examples (admittedly these are rom-coms I love) Julia Roberts and Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride) and Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer).

For every good combination, there’s a bad one, of course. And for all of those bad ones, I have the remedy. They should sit down and watch Pat and Mike. Or Desk Set, for that matter, or Adam’s Rib. They should embark, in other words, upon a detailed study of the dazzling chemistry of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. “Ah, but,” I hear you say, “that’s cheating. Hepburn and Tracy were lovers in real life.” To which my reply is quite simple: Gigli. And any number of other movies in which the main characters were actually involved but still fizzled onscreen. It’s not a given, people. I would argue that it’s maybe even harder to actually convey real, complex feelings onto the screen. But this is a review, so I’ll get back on track.

Pat and Mike is a cute little story, directed by George Cukor, about a phys ed. teacher, Pat (Hepburn) who decides to go semi-pro in golf in order to prove to herself and her chauvinistic fiance (William Ching) that she can do it. She’s a really strong athlete, but her problem is that she goes to pieces whenever said fiance shows up, because she senses that he doesn’t actually believe in her. He just wants to her marry him, stay at home, and let him take care of everything else. The man doesn’t realize he’s engaged to Kate Hepburn, clearly. Enter Mike Conovan (Tracy), a promoter of questionable ethics, who thinks that he can make “bushels of money” by representing Pat. She, being an honest and upstanding citizen, rebuffs his offer at first, but then decides to accept in a further attempt to gain independence. Amid training and dominating both the golfing and the tennis world (she’s a total bad-ass), Pat and Mike both learn something about themselves, and each other. And of course, fall in love.

There’s nothing particularly complicated about the story happening here. What’s cool about it, though, is what it is saying about equality of the sexes. There are discussions about Pat’s tendency to wear slacks on the golf course, her own focus to “show herself” what she can do, and an utterly hilarious scene in which Pat beats up two would-be attackers in order to save Mike. Mike’s mantra as a manager is that everything be “five-oh, five-oh” between himself and his athletes, but Pat really teaches him the true meaning of that sentiment. They are, naturally, a perfect match. In the end, it is she who “proposes” to him! They’re not big statements, but I appreciate that they’re there.

Hepburn is, as always, spot-on. She was really a very gifted athlete, and so this movie was designed to showcase that ability. All other athletes in the film were real golfers and tennis stars of the day. William Ching is appropriately smarmy as the fiance, and Aldo Ray is hilarious as Mike’s other star, a dumb-as-rocks heavyweight boxing champ. And then there’s Tracy, who fascinates me with his ability to be at once slightly thuggish and utterly charismatic. He does it with the barest hint of a smile or a slight wink, or a gesture … he’s so completely charming. And, as previously mentioned, the chemistry between the two stars is nothing short of inspirational. Their every glance speaks volumes, whether it’s adoration, confusion, irritation, or pride. We should all be so lucky as to have the real kind of chemistry with someone as these two manage to portray onscreen.

It’s interesting to me that in this movie, it being 1952, I suppose, there is very little physical interaction between the two. And they don’t need it. If the movie were made today, we would need the scene where the two stars inevitably fall into each others arms (and probably even bed) to really get the point across. In this case, Hepburn lets us know how she feels about Tracy just by looking at him, and he shows us by gently tucking in his sleeping golf pro. It’s what takes a simple story, a reasonably funny (but not blazingly so) script, and an unsurprising plot, and turns those elements into something special.

Seriously, rom-commers of today, take notes. I don’t know how they do it, but somebody needs to figure it out. And for everyone else? Watch, and enjoy. Nothing special, just two of the greatest American movie stars to date, some golf, some tennis … an enjoyable way to spend 90 or so minutes.

Monday morning news of note

So, for those of you who don’t follow entertainment news, here’s the big noise these days. Daniel Day-Lewis will be playing our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, in a Steven Spielberg biopic slated to begin production sometime next year. The screenplay will supposedly be somewhat based upon the book Team of Rivals, adapted by Tony Kushner.

So … yeah. Can we skip all the preliminaries and just go ahead and hand the guy another Oscar? I’m not exactly being flippant – I do think that DDL is a tremendous actor, and I think he’s an excellent choice to play Honest Abe, and that this is clearly the kind of project for which he pops out of his shell every couple of years. (Unlike Sherlock Holmes, sigh.) Plus, people love Lincoln. I predict this film will be a huge winner across the board, if/when it happens. Apparently there’s been noise about a Spielberg Lincoln project for a long time? But if they’ve actually got someone of DDL’s caliber on board, they’d best run with it.

So, DDL as Lincoln. Squee. Will this pave the way for any other presidential biopics? Who’s your favorite president? And who would you like to see play him in a movie? I’ll have to think about it and get back to you …

Edit: Ah! I think I’ve got it. My favorite president has always been (since the second grade) Thomas Jefferson. And, inspired by reading a review of The King’s Speech, I nominate Colin Firth! He totally looks close enough, and I think he can pull off power with intellect. Once again, casting brilliance.

Review: De-Lovely (2004)


You know, I put De-Lovely on my Netflix queue a really long time ago, mostly because it sounded interesting, was about Cole Porter, and starred Kevin Kline, who is generally awesome. For some strange reason, it never occurred to me that it would be a musical. But why on earth wouldn’t it be? Did I mention it was about Cole Porter? Sometimes my brain, she don’t work so good. Anyway! Movie! Yes!

De-Lovely is the story of Cole Porter’s relationship with his wife, Linda (Ashley Judd). They were married for 35 years, until Linda’s death in 1954. Theirs was, in some ways, a marriage of convenience, designed to provide a cover for Cole’s homosexuality and to give “social status” to Linda. Despite this, theirs is a singular kind of love story. In the movie, anyway.

Said movie is structured most interestingly: at the end of his life, Porter (played by Kline, in case you missed that) is looking back, and his reminiscences take the form of a musical, directed by a slightly shadowy individual (Jonathan Pryce) who is presumably some aspect of Porter himself. The story of Cole and Linda plays out for Porter just as it does for us, moving fairly seamlessly from the empty theatre in which Porter watches his musical to the on-location scenes that make up the movie for the viewer. It’s all there: how they met and married, Linda’s abusive ex-husband crashing the wedding, Porter’s various dalliances with young dancers and actors, his rise to fame and subsequent move to Hollywood, and later, the horseback riding incident that would ultimately leave him with only one leg, and Linda’s eventual surrender to emphysema and Porter’s depression at the end of his life.

It’s a beautiful movie, with performances to match. Kevin Kline, normally somewhat over the top, is truly impressive here. It’s a fairly dramatic movie, but he plays it with such subtlety. The point of the whole thing is for Cole to realize that he truly did love his wife, and that she was in fact the cornerstone of his life. Ashley Judd is also excellent as Linda, bringing strength and sparkle to a woman who seems to have been a bit of a saint, encouraging and championing her talented husband, and turning a (largely) blind eye to parts of his life that excluded her. The movie really is just about the two of them, with all of the other characters fading in and out as the years go by.

The musical performances are, of course, excellent, and pretty interesting … for the most part, they feature a variety of known singers: Robbie Williams, Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette (!), Diana Krall, and Natalie Cole, among others. Once I caught on to what was happening, I waited excitedly to see who else would show up, and when Jonathan Pryce himself finally got a chance to belt a bit in the last “scene,” it was a fitting closing number indeed.

Visually speaking? Stunning. I think it’s impossible for anyone to make a movie about the upper class in the 20s and 30s and not have it just be gorgeous, with the fabulous clothes and the colors and everything. The hair and makeup department on this film truly outdid themselves, although I will say that I didn’t think Ashley Judd ever managed to look old, so much as like someone who’d been made up to look old. I guess she’s just that (de-)lovely. Hee.

Overall, I have somewhat mixed feelings about the movie. It’s a little slow, to be honest, and the initial set-up of the “musical” was a little confusing and hard to get into at first. Ultimately, the story itself is very compelling, and I will admit to bawling a bit in some scenes, but … it was perhaps a little too understated as a whole. I think that because Porter’s emotional ambivalence was a key point, it made it difficult to really identify or sympathize with him, Still, when the stars of a film are Kevin Kline and the music of Cole Porter, I guess it would be hard to go terribly wrong. In the mood for something retro? Love Mr. Kline? Give it a shot.

Trailer: Cowboys & Aliens

Alright, so I don’t know much about this. I think it’s based on a comic/graphic novel? The title is pretty self-explanatory, I guess, but I’ll throw you some more incentive in case you’re feeling skeptical. Are you ready?
Daniel Craig. Harrison Ford. (I could stop right there, right? RIGHT??) Paul Dano. Clancy Brown. SAM. ROCKWELL. And for the guys, Olivia Wilde. Oh, and the director? Jon Favreau. Yeah.

Still not convinced? Check it.

Dude. DUDE. I am so there. I’m only the tiniest bit sad that RDJ was originally going to play the lead. This is the awesome sauce that the Green Lantern trailer wishes it were.
I was just saying to my husband last night that we needed a trailer for this, and for Coriolanus, and for Hanna. So … Hollywood? About that??

Weekend viewing

We are starting to get into baby-prep overdrive, and movies are falling by the wayside. Still, we have our two Netflix options at home (De-Lovely and Brazil, random, right?) so there’s the off chance that something will get watched this weekend.

Opening yesterday in theaters was Morning Glory (Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton) which I actually kind of want to see, but probably won’t until it’s on the Flix. I guess I need to save up my theater-going experiences for now, and next week is the potentially massive one-two of HP: DH pt. I and The Next Three Days, which is Russell Crowe’s newest release.

I am still somewhat on the fence about that one, mostly due to an extremely lackluster trailer and my general fears of disliking my beloved Mr. Crowe’s offerings. I’m waiting on reviews, and even then it is unlikely that I will make it to the theater twice in one weekend at this point. However, in order to do my part for Rusty, I would like to point your attention over to FlixChatter. Ruth was fortunate enough to obtain screening tickets to see TNTD, and she (and I) would like you all to know that you shouldn’t judge it based on the trailers. Please, go check out her review! And while you’re there, encourage her to watch Master & Commander this weekend. *wink*

So? Any viewing plans for you this weekend? Hope you enjoy!

Happy birthday (Saturday), Number Three

Have you ever noticed how, sometimes, someone or something you’ve encountered didn’t really interest you at all under one circumstance, but then suddenly becomes fascinating under another? As has been previously mentioned, I am a fan of the Tomb Raider movies, and I saw both of them when they were released. It’s always been funny to me that in both cases, the pseudo-love interest barely registered as a blip on my radar initially, but then became a big deal for me later on. I’m speaking, of course, about Daniel Craig and Gerard Butler. Craig, as we all know, became a bonafide star and sex symbol with the release of Casino Royale (and how!). Mr. Butler hit it (really) big with 300 and his Spartan abs of awesomeness. For this movie buff, however, the beginnings of Gerard Butler fandom were not delayed quite so long, or reserved for quite such a well-received, “cult favorite” offering.

I first noticed Mr. Butler in Timeline. Now, please understand: Timeline is not what you’d call a good movie. It’s based on a Michael Crichton book of the same name, which is actually pretty decent, but the movie is just … well, it’s a pretty standard B-movie, would be fun to watch on the USA network, sort of action-y with a twist, movie. A group of friends were gathering at one individual’s apartment, and we decided to watch a movie. Said individual happened to have Timeline on DVD, and somehow, it got voted upon. I remember voting for it because I’d been curious after reading the novel, but I had no ideas that it would be any good, really, or that it would have anything to interest me past that evening. Silly, silly me.

Timeline concerns a group of archeological students who gets mixed up in the machinations of a group of scientists who have, essentially, invented time travel. They get stuck back in 14th century France and have to battle various enemies, all while trying to find their way back “home.” The three students upon whom the film focuses are played by Paul Walker, Frances O’Conner, and Gerard Butler. Now, in the book, Mr. Butler’s character, Andre Marek, was my favorite. He’s an archaeologist, but also a bit of a re-enactor, so he takes to the 14th century as if he was born there. So basically, we’re talking a smart, rugged guy who knows how to handle a sword. Samantha 101: Brains + scruff + sword = WIN (see: my love of Russell Crowe). Thus, despite the actor’s name not being very familiar to me, I guess I was pretty curious about who they had playing Marek. And behold, an utterly charming, scruffy guy with a Scottish accent (not appropriate for the role, but oh well) who could, indeed, swing a sword quite well. I was, in very short order, hooked. Seriously, glued to the television. My friends who were there that night remember very little about the movie beyond the fact that it was “the beginning of [my] Gerard Butler fixation.” Yes, that’s a direct quote.

And thus it began. Gerry’s been my solid #3 ever since. He briefly flirted with #2, but that was before RDJ came on the scene. I am forced to admit that most of Mr. Butler’s charm for me comes from his person (he’s hot, yo), and from his (perceived) personality. He’s really funny in interviews, you guys. Also, did you know that he has a law degree? He is no dummy, even if you wouldn’t really know it from some of his more recent movie choices. Also? He won a medal for saving some kid from drowning. Say it with me: Awww. But let’s get back to those film-related choices, shall we?

Post-Timeline, Gerry’s engaged in an interesting mix of large/small movies. The large ones have made lots of money, in some cases, but were not usually critical successes, whereas the smaller films prove that he is actually a talented actor. Seriously, trade Phantom of the Opera for Dear Frankie, and 300 for Shattered (which I haven’t seen, but supposedly he’s very good in it.). And then, there are the rom-coms. P.S. I Love You was actually quite charming, but I have so far refused to see either The Ugly Truth or The Bounty Hunter. Nim’s Island was cute. He made a couple of action-y things … Gamer and Law Abiding Citizen; from what I’ve heard, skip those and see Rocknrolla instead. That might be, in my opinion, the last really good movie he’s made. I’m not counting How to Train Your Dragon (because it’s animated), but I think it’s maybe the biggest commercial success he’s been involved in. So yeah, the choices upon “making it” have been varied and mostly questionable. I have to admit that I’ve lost a little bit of interest lately, mostly because Butler has been seemingly about tabloid fodder and bad rom-coms with annoying female co-stars in the past couple of years.

However, there is always hope. His next few projects would at least seem to indicate that he’s moving in a more “actorly” direction: he’s finished Fiennes’ production of Coriolanus (where the devil is the trailer for this? I am dying) and (if IMDb is to be believed) Machine Gun Preacher, which is the true “story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been forced to become soldiers.” Can we say Oscar bait, maybe? And finally, he’s long been attached to a biopic about Scots poet Robert Burns, which is now (again, according to IMDb) actually in production! I’ve always been excited about the prospect of that one.

So, I say, don’t count Gerry out just yet. Yes, he’s a hunk who has his own rabid fanbase of middle-aged women. Yes, as far as most of the movie-going public is concerned he’s in bad thrillers and even worse rom-coms, he’s a bit of a manwhore, and he’s got a terrible American accent. But, for those of us in the know, he’s also a talented and sensitive actor, who’s maybe just having a little bit of fun, and perhaps the teensiest rip at the institution of Hollywood. And so, cheers to you, Gerry. Have a happy birthday on Saturday. And after you’re doing celebrating, go make a good movie. No, really. A good one.

Bonus: Because I love this, and it’s horribly adorable, here’s Gerry being interviewed by Craig Ferguson. It’s an old clip (note the Butler as Bond rumor), but they are utterly hilarious and just clearly having a great time. Enjoy!

Trailer: Jane Eyre

Despite the fact that Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, I have not seen a film adaptation of it. There are, in fact, several, and next year, another one will be added to the list. This one has been in the works for some time, and, if memory serves, went through a number of permutations before all was settled. The finished project will star Mia Wasikowska (Burton’s Alice) and Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, not yet widely famous, but gaining traction), with Judi Dench in a supporting role to lend some proper cred.

Now, the casting of the leads was something that left me quite skeptical, as both Wasikowska and Fassbender are, ordinarily, really quite pretty; and as “romantic” as Jane Eyre is, it’s kind of a big point that neither Jane nor Rochester is particularly anything to look at. However! Behold a trailer. Sorry, can’t figure out how to embed. Anyway. Behold me, excited. This looks good. The leads have been appropriately unprettified, the mood is dark, and, well, it just looks excellent. There’s hope yet. This will, barring terrible reviews, find my butt in a seat. And you?