Monthly Archives: March 2015

Cinderella

Movie:  Cinderella

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Some well known stories, especially fairy tales, seem to be re-made so many times that one might think it futile to produce another version.  But bottom line up front, this Cinderella is a treat and worth seeing.

We’re not really sure of the date, but safe to say it is back in the days of horse and carriages that this story takes place.  A young fanciful girl named Ella (Lily James) loses her mother, and becomes very attached to her doting father (Ben Chaplin).  Father and daughter have a wonderful relationship when he is not away on his business trips.  But the father grows lonely for a wife, and now Ella has a Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and two step sisters: Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShea).  Shortly after the wedding Ella’s father goes on a fateful business voyage and is lost at sea.  Ella is devastated, and takes solace in doing chores at the large country house she now shares with three other women.  But slowly, almost imperceptibly, Ella is squeezed out of her bedroom and banished to the attic, and becomes a servant for the Stepmother and daughters.  Scorned and ridiculed, Ella is transformed into Cinderella.

Ella still has her white horse, and rides into the countryside to escape her tormentors at home and feel free.  In a forest setting she comes upon a stag and watches the beautiful animal, only to be joined by a handsome young fellow dressed for the hunt.  He introduces himself as Kit (Richard Madden), and Ella and the young man are immediately infatuated with each other.  The spell is broken when two more riders appear, and Ella gallops off, leaving “Kit” (the Prince) longing to find this young woman that has captured his heart.

The ailing King (Derek Jacobi) has arranged for a ball to be held so a suitable royal bride can be found.  The Prince prevails upon his father to open the invitation to all eligible young maidens in the kingdom, which creates a feeding frenzy among these females.  And no one is more ruthless and calculating in her planning to ensnare the Prince than the Stepmother, and her clueless two daughters.

The story is familiar to us all, but the fun part of this film is how Cinderella gets to the ball, and how she and the Prince spend their time together.  Of course there is a Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), and her magical feats are the highlight of the show.  As well as the magic coming “undone” at the stroke of midnight.  Cate Blanchett gives a wonderful performance as a Stepmother that is so unremittingly black-hearted that it is uncomfortable to watch her.  Lily James is sweet and beautiful and makes a perfect Ella.  The movie is fun and romantic and a visually stunning treat for the audience.

Huh?  What the….:  I have no idea how the Prince could avoid stepping on Cinderella’s ball gown during their dance….

How come the only magic that doesn’t disappear at midnight are the two glass slippers?

Dialogue Nuggets:  Narrator – “She, too, had know grief.  But she wore it wonderfully well.”

Stepmother – “How long has your family lived here, 200 years?  And in all that time you never thought to decorate?”

Ella to Kit – “Just because it’s what’s done doesn’t mean it should be done!”

Stepmother to Cinderella – “I will not have anyone associate my daughters with you.  You are nothing but a servant girl!”

Cinderella to Coachman – “I’m frightened.  I’m not a princess!”  Coachman – “And I’m a lizard, not a coachman.  Enjoy it while it lasts!”

Best Credit After Film:  “Lizard doubles”.

 

 

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The Duchess Of Malfi

Movie:  The Duchess Of Malfi

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   The Duchess Of Malfi is actually a play written by John Webster back in 1612.  This review covers a BBC film of a live production in 2014 performed at the Sam Wanamaker Theater in London, an intimate theater that seat only 340 on wooden benches that embrace the small stage on three sides, and is lit primarily by candles during the performance.  The production closely mimics how patrons would have seen the play back in the 17th century, and the audience members are frequently seen in close-up as they follow the performance.  This was a one day theater event that should be taken advantage of by people who would prefer intelligent entertainment over the usual movie fare.

The Duchess of Malfi (Gemma Arterton) is a widow who has been forbidden to remarry by her twin brother Ferdinand (David Dawson), the Duke of Malfi.  The Duke is intent on imposing his will on everyone, especially his sister, and he is frankly a little too enamored with the Duchess.  The Duchess is a willful individual as well, and falls in love with a lower class steward named Antonio (Alex Waldman).  The Duchess proposes to Antonio, and they are secretly wed with the Duke being none the wiser, even as the Duchess has three children with her secret husband.

There are other players with secrets that abound, such as the Cardinal (James Gatnon), who is also a brother to the Duke.  The cardinal takes some vows rather loosely, such as poverty and chastity.  He also is a corrupt man, constantly scheming to acquire power and money, and uses Bosola (Sean Gilder) as his tool to do his evil bidding.

There is malice in the palace, and corruption abounds with plots ensnaring multiple players as the plot progresses.  The body count is high, and to steal a title from another film, there will be blood.

Viewers may be put off by the antiquated language of the play, which is set in the early 16th century.  But after a while one gets enough of the gist of their dialogue to suss out what is happening.  All in all a very satisfying theater experience.

Actress To Watch:  Gemma Arterton really shows her acting ability in this role, displaying a range of emotions including real tears on cue.  She has come a long way since her starring role as a princess in Prince Of Persia:  Sands Of Time, and as a Bond Girl in Quantum Of Solace.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Duchess – “The misery of us who are born great.  We are forced to woo because others do not dare woo us.”

“Love, mixed with fear, is the sweetest.”

Antonio – “I will sleep here tonight.”  Duchess – “Alas, what pleasure can two people find in sleep.”

Duke – “Enjoy thy lust, and a wretched life, you vile woman!”

“Curses shall be their first language.”

Duchess – “I account this world as a tedious theater.  I am full of daggers.”

Duke – “Thou has done much ill well.”

“Black deeds must be cured by death!”

“Doctors are like kings; they brook no contradictions.”

Cardinal – “Because I knew you could not keep my secret I bound you to it with death.”

 

Unfinished Business

Movie:  Unfinished Business

Rating:  2 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) is a hard charging salesman for Dynamic Progressive Systems.  He’s looking to sock away money so his son can go to a private school, but his younger female boss Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller) is taking a hard line with her employees, and insists Dan must take a 5% salary cut to help the company stay in the black.  Dan cries “foul”, and proceeds to vent all his pent up frustrations which culminate in his resignation, and a battle cry that he will start his own company and do things the right way.

Dan soon realizes he may have been hasty in his departure, as the only employees that join his venture are Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike Pancake (Dave Franco).  Timothy is a 67 year old man who just wants to hang on long enough to make a score so he can afford to divorce his evil wife.  Mike is a young twenty-something fellow who is very introverted, inexperienced in business and life in general, and frankly seems a bit low in the old IQ number.  An odd trio to be sure, they comprise the fledgling company named Apex Select.  They are a niche company that finds solutions to dispose of scarf, which is the waste filings of metal or stone left over from a machining process.

After a year of frustration, Apex Select is on the verge of closing a major deal.  But before the final handshake can happen, Dan Trunkman runs into his nemesis Chuck Portnoy and discovers his done deal is on the verge of going off the rails.  What follows are the trials and tribulations of Dan and his two partners as they travel to Germany to find out if they have the “right stuff” to close a major business deal.

This film is a real mixed bag.  At times it takes itself seriously as Dan Trunkman struggles to find his worth as a businessman and father, juggling a career on the road with hurried phone calls to deal with family crises.  Then the scale tips way over to the side of comedic farcery, such as when old horn dog McWinters orders up a sex maid at one of his business hotel stays.  I don’t even want to get into the gay sex club in Germany.  Nein!  Bottom line for this film is that it was too uneven, and the sight and physical humor just not that funny.  It didn’t help that hottie Sienna Miller was a caricature of an evil boss.  And who the heck gave her the name “Chuck”?

Huh?  What the….:  Where is the continuity person?  Tom Wilkerson’s character says he is 67, the screen segue tells us it’s a year later, and Tom is still…67.

One of the characters runs a 5 hour marathon in his business shoes.  Sorry, but he’d be crippled if he actually tried that.

Are there really clubs in Germany where beautiful naked women have pillow fights with guys?  Seriously, I want to know!

Dialogue Nuggets:  Chuck – “I’m an asshole because I have to make decisions to keep the company strong.”

Timothy – “I’m just 67.  I’m not the crypt-keeper!”

“I’m wondering if we’re the fluffer company on this deal.”

Dan – “Sometimes in life you have to take inventory.  This is one of those days.”

Product Placement:  A lot of money is spent by companies to get their product prominently displayed in a movie.  It was obvious that Pepsi Cola paid big bucks to the producers of this film.

 

The DUFF

 

Movie:  The DUFF

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   When the heck did everyone start talking in acronyms?  It happened way before the current Twitter frenzy.  I blame the government and their alphabet soups.  But that’s just my opinion, as Dennis Miller used to rant; I could be wrong.

A DUFF is a Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and Bianca (Mae Whitman) has just had an epiphany:  she’s the DUFF among her circle of friends that include Jess (Skylar Samuels) and Casey (Bianca Santos).  And being in high school with peer pressures and social anxieties cranked to the max, being known as a DUFF is not a happy thought.  What’s a girl to do?

Change the image, that’s what!  After all, image is everything, right?  So Bianca enlists the advice and social expertise of football captain and all around hunk Wesley (Robbie Amell) to improve her status on the high school ladder of winners and losers.  It could work, as long as Wesley’s insanely jealous ex-girlfriend Madison (Bella Thorne) doesn’t do anything conniving and vicious….

In addition to walking the daily tightrope of high school interactions, Bianca has been tasked by her teacher Mr. Arthur (Ken Jeong) to write a school newspaper article regarding the Homecoming Experience.  Then there’s the home life, coping with single Mom Dottie and her constant advice on how to be a believer and achiever.  Hoo boy.

This is a pretty decent film for a high school comedy/drama movie.  Mae Whitman handles the cyber bullying issues with a light touch, and carries the heavy lifting in the lead role with skill for her young age.  High school can be a snake pit, but we all have to get through it.  This movie shows that all of us DUFFs don’t have to be victims or have a bad time of it.

Actors To Watch:  Ken Jeong steals every scene he is in.  For folks who only know him from the Hangover movies, Jeong can really play any role that he’s given.  He is one of the best character actors around.   As for Bella Thorne, the drop dead gorgeous leader of the “In Crowd”, she really needs to break out of that mold (check out Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) so we can see if she can really act.

Huh?  What The….:  How come if Wesley is suspended from the football team he still gets to practice with them?

Dialogue Nuggets:   “There is no Bianca, Tess and Casey without Bianca!”

“How old is that porn you’ve been watching?”

“High school matters!  There will always be winners like me, and losers like you.”

“Even my car is a DUFF!”

“If anybody sees this, I will rip off your nut sack.  Rip it!”

Mr. Arthur assisting computer user:  “Hit that long thing at the bottom – it’s called a space bar….”