MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015) movie review

image004UNCLE is not your typical Guy Ritchie piece. More Snatch than Sherlock, this tribute film could play like a two hour inside joke if you’ve never seen the hit 60’s show.Man.UNCLE.11man_from_uncle_196608Ritchie, known for his laid back, well-planned, tea-taking, collaborative directing form on set, offers that sensibility to audiences. The stress is gone, but the pace plays.D3S_1223.DNGNo kiss and tell. No swearing. The sex and extreme violence is simply alluded to as something naughty going on in the next room. It’s the classic fluttering curtain. The audience takes tea and never has to worry, thanks to the family friendly rating. I’m grateful. Though a scene of almost nudity, a few holocaust photos, and constant action may not dissuade a family film night, the sheer duration might. It’s two, long but fun, very full one-note hours. So, action lovers will most likely approve.M4LnM97The soundtrack is a character, jumping into scenes like a welcome hero framing the chase, follow, rumble, and escape into a split-screen, real-time visual medley. Lovely.

Like the music, the characters are as adorably written as they are played. Henry Cavill somehow successfully sets aside the super suit and cape long enough to model Armani. Armie Hammer also drops his former bumbling physical comedy for some slick action moves. No longer the Lone Ranger, he’s a formidable opponent turned partner. the-man-from-u-n-c-l-eAlicia Vikander, is the appropriate third wheel on this trained tricycle. Baby-faced but believable, her chemistry with the team works.
Even the delightful Hugh Grant drops in for more than a cameo rounding out the settings with his own confident kind of welcoming familial grace, a needed and timely element.sM6KRdy

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FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015) movie review

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There are no crowds in this story. The whole tale takes place far from the so-called “madding” or potentially crazy-making city crowds. The English countryside does hold a special magic. On a recent visit, I discovered the whipping wind and birdsong of those enchanted rolling hills.Far-From-The-Madding-Crowd-3

The title comes from a poem called “Elegy in a Country Churchyard,” by Thomas Gray. It’s a very somber but beautiful dirge of a poem. This film does seem to mirror parts of that poem.

The main character Bathsheba, played by camera-loving Carey Mulligan, is potentially written to parallel her biblical namesake as she seeks freedom and independence while unintentionally wooing and winning the hearts of all of the men in her acquaintance. Each of whom, though masterfully acted by Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, and Michael Sheen, are rather stark archetypes written with singular life motivations: to win her affections. The first man is all goodness, loyalty, kindness, and perseverance: the Christlike shepherd. The next is all bad: immoral, cruel, impatient, imprudent, evil: the gambling soldier (the Wickham). The third is the obsessive, quiet, brooding, and disappointed wealthy older neighbor.7a7b5547d24f-500x600Far-from-the-Madding-Crowd-Movie-Still-175
Perhaps much of classic literature, like this story by Thomas Hardy, is almost like the Greek dramatic tragedies of old. In drama, there were two faces: happy / sad, good / bad. Audiences today seem require more depth of character. They want the “bad guy” to show heart and to be reachable because they know deep down that we all have “bad guy” tendencies within. We need to know that we are redeemable, no matter how bad. And they want the “good guy” to have internal and external conflicts because they want to be able to relate. It’s not enough for us to watch the stories. We want to live them.
Perhaps the current prevailing culture trend that craves reality has influenced story in this way. Characters today are rarely one sided. Audiences demand an arc: a beginning, middle, end. Even a comic-based hero flick will allow characterization to evolve over the course of the film. Guy fears water. Guy finally dips a toe in. Guy gets pushed into the deep end. Guy meets swimming soul mate. Guy claims water isn’t so bad after all. …Evolution of character.  Sadly, “Madding Crowd” offers only immersion, good guy or bad, sadly a single mask for each character.

An even more sorrowful story is that the feminist turn in this film also proves less than a win for either side of that pendulum. Bathsheba is offered two pianos and protection but refuses, being a strong-minded and capable independent woman. Then she falls for the unbridled one who offers youthful thrill and sexual awakening. Always chaste and being chased until she caves for the bad boy. Grease lightning on repeat.
This film haunts somehow, though. Each beautiful character, though simple, is simultaneously stunning and in no way superficial.
Perhaps this story is like an impressionist’s canvas. Up close, it’s simple, harsh, childlike brush strokes. Then, step back and weep at its complexity.far-from-the-madding-crowd-mulligan

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Filed under Chick Flick/ Rom Com, Drama, Historical Drama

ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) movie review

Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday (1953) starring Gregory Peck

This is it. If I have to choose a favorite film. I think this is it. Top 5 at least.

Audrey’s first starring role as the illustrious Princess Ann proved her perfect for the post in posture, eloquence, and manners. She was born to play a princess. Annex-Hepburn-Audrey-Roman-Holiday_01-230x300In this story, her life takes a drastic turn the night her daunting schedule full of royal duties becomes too much for her and she decides to run away.  Her rescuer is the soak-em-for-a-buck fast-talking journalist Gregory Peck. He knows who she is and decides to take advantage of the opportunity for an inside scoop. Their adventure around the city of Rome tours the best of all sites: the Trevi Fountain, gelato on the Spanish Steps,220px-Audrey_Hepburn_and_Gregory_Peck_on_Vespa_in_Roman_Holiday_trailer scootering past the Coliseum and Vatican City, a walk through the forum, a ride past the wall of memories, a boat dance in the evening, and best of all a trip to the “Mouth of Truth.” Watch for Audrey’s real reaction to Peck’s joke there.
220px-Audrey_Hepburn_and_Gregory_Peck_at_the_Mouth_of_Truth_Roman_Holiday_trailerI’ve been to Rome, and other than the newer scooters and larger crowds it is all the same. Go. Visit Rome with Joe and Anna, the one they call Smitty. Get to know the City with their good pal Irving the photographer. 220px-Gregory_Peck,_Audrey_Hepburn_and_Eddie_Albert_in_Roman_Holiday_trailerIt is well worth the few hours away and the lessons you’ll learn about love and duty will always haunt you.

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BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961) movie review

breakfast-at-tiffanys-237x300Audrey had a way with people. She wooed them. She still does. For instance, audiences everywhere still believe this a sweet film with tender moments. It’s not. It’s odd and torturous, full of shocking secrets, prostitution, escort services, fear of rape, mob connections, and a man-eater gold-digger culture to rival most shows today. It’s also inappropriately racist considering Mickey Rooney’s character.audrey-as-holly-in-sleep-mask_with-cat-on-backSet in the well-sauced sixties, nightlife loving New York model shows a Sunday afternoon side, singing on the fire escapes and befriends a young and beautiful escort George Peppard.tumblr_mq71b4a2iH1r5yygpo1_500Henry Mancini wrote the famous song “Moon River” for this film. Studios weren’t going to let Audrey sing it because of her whispey vocals, but Mancini stood up and said if she didn’t sing it they wouldn’t get to use it.
Yet, there is something about their day of firsts, her voice in his head inspiring him to write, her mysterious backstory, the day trips to SingSing and the public library.
In Funny Face, Audrey tours Paris and transforms from bookish to bombshell.Breakfast-at-Tiffanys_Audrey-Hepburn_black-hat-bandRoman Holiday sweeps is up into Gregory Peck’s arms for a guided tour of Rome taking Hepburn from Princess to tourist in a day.
And Breakfast at Tiffany’s travels NYC in a Pretty Woman story for the ages demanding the exclusivity of love despite all insecurities.
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Perhaps there is a moral to this classic tale.

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Filed under Classic, Drama, Historical Drama

CHARADE (1963) movie review

audrey-hepburn-charade-1963Audrey month continues with Stanley Donen’s film Charade. It may look like a Hitchcock film, but it isn’t. Though suspenseful (and way too scary for children), it keeps the conversation light and romantic. And don’t miss the perfect score by Henry Mancini. Charade-Movie-Audrey-Hepburn-Pictures-5-HD-Wallpapers-500x271

Charade-Movie-Quotes-04-202x300Watch it for the sensational screen love between Audrey and Cary Grant. Their lines are shockingly modern, more “New Girl” than silver screen. Audrey’s delivery slices comedic, and Cary Grant is equally quick and savvy. Despite their age gap (which made Cary Grant almost refuse the role), they use playful banter for excellent on-screen allure.
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FUNNY FACE (1957) movie review

Funny-FaceIt opens as the first Devil Wears Prada as scene-stealer Kay Thompson entices the world to “Think Pink.”
These filmmakers were way ahead of their time in creating art films. A visual collage in each scene, and this a backdrop for Givenchy’s designs including the classic “Audrey look” debuting in this film.

From New York’s quaint village bookstores to the picturesque streets and sights of Paris, each scene sets the stage for this film to show off the visual allure of the fashion industry while simultaneously preaching a unique feminism that attempts to promote brains before beauty.Funny-Face-audrey-hepburn-maginifying-glass-close-up

While that non-traditional perspective for that era surfaced, Audrey played the girl with the “funny face” which made her eternally iconic.

Under the flattering pink glow of Parisian city lights, a romance with fashion and more so with the city itself flourishes.

It’s entertaining and lovely, classic and pure. Where the music fails to fit, Audrey’s class fulfills. Don’t miss this dip into Paris in the 50’s and catch all of its sights with the goddess of fashion. Audrey at the Eiffel Tower. Audrey fishing on the Seine. Audrey at the Louvre in that gorgeous red gown.tumblr_lplb5hEhRH1qir469o1_500“I don’t want to stop I like it. Take the picture. Take the picture!”

What Audrey and her famous dancing counterpart lack in romantic chemistry they somehow make up for in breathy swooning endearing moments which turn out rather “swonderful” in the end.

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MR. HOLMES (2015) movie review

1425493080204Sir Ian McKellen, versatile and vibrant, spins a good yarn. He becomes his characters, or perhaps they become him. No longer the man behind the Magneto mask or the old grey beard of Gandalf, McKellen is an aged Sherlock Holmes.
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In search of a medicinal cure for the aging mind, he has one crime left to solve, and it isn’t the one he’s pursuing. He retires to the seaside along the white cliffs of Dover and finds there a small boy wonder, a fan of Holmes, who may be the key to opening Sherlock’s memory banks and subsequently, his heart.
rs_560x415-150304172941-1024.ian-mckellen-holmesCharming and enchanting. Heartwarming and thought-provoking. It’s a mystery to solve inside the resolve of lovely dear and true friendships.

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