Category Archives: Chick Flick/ Rom Com

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015) movie review

Far_from_the_Madding_Crowd_poster
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

THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (2015) movie review


pg-28-oldie-filmsGo back for seconds if you enjoyed the first. This addition picks up the same story a few months later and offers more depth, color,  humor, and sweetness.

A few more likable characters also grace the screen, but old favorites stay favorites.unnamed-29 The traditions of Indian wedding celebrations set the timing and pace for events in the film. You will want to discover this India: the joy of music and dancing, the encouragement of friends and feasts, the companionship in conversation, and the honor of heritage in this most vividly adorned culture.Packed-matinees-a-scene-f-007

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THE AGE OF ADALINE (2015) movie review

You may live forever but you’ve never really lived.”adaline 1

The Age of Adaline, aptly titled, takes an age to get through as narrated details couple with worrisome looks down long hallways and  winsomely whispered lines. It feels like a feature-length Chanel ad. Tall blonde in beaded gown or period attire eludes the handsome stranger and potential danger.ada 5

Potential danger never really materializes. And handsome stranger becomes boyfriend. Forgive me if I feel the need for a deeper plot line than…will she reveal the truth that she is stuck being beautiful for life? Waa waa waaaaaa.

Narration ala Book Thief or 500 days of Summer sets us up for action, leads us to believe that something will happen to her, but it doesn’t. She cuts her hand in a flashback… That’s something, I guess. Sadly, the presence of narration does not make up for the absence of characterization. Neither does a brilliant performance by Harrison Ford make up for the pulse-less lackluster dream-voiced Blake Lively. I don’t know who she studied for her character development, but almost all of the elderly women I’ve met, yes often thoughtful and demure, still get more interesting with age, more unique, less apologetic for their quirks. This character was more like Kristen Stewart’s Bella on Prozac. With the illusive “THEM” on her tail, she relocates and redefines every decade with a new hairstyle and name. This minimal transformation does the trick for threat level minimum.ada 8

For a girl who “can’t deal with change,” she doesn’t seem to mind being constantly on the move. She has some Groundhog Day moments when we realize that she’s used her time learning languages and escape techniques. She can read braille and kill at Trivial Pursuit. Aye, the rub. Game theory on point: her life is a trivial pursuit until she can learn to love and truly live. It’s essentially another “About Time” without the quirk and great accents.ada 7

The plot puzzle never quite takes shape. The most emotion they squeezed from actors and audience alike came in small whimpers from both when she finds out she has to put her dog down. The rule of thumb with a less-than-likable hero: give him or her a pet that they can be nice to. (See Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat).

The one stroke of genius by the filmmakers was in casting veritable newly Anthony Ingruber as the young Harrison Ford’s character. His vocals and facial expressions were so spot on that I heard a girl near me in the theater ask if he was actually Harrison Ford in CG. B22_RVqCQAAEP3h.jpg-large

Hoorah for sentimental journeys…if they lead us somewhere. Anywhere. But this was pointless. Beautiful but blank. Adeline and her love interest have this in common. They know nothing about each other, just the simple sexual impulse and likability of a first date. Hard to root for that love to last, especially for as long as she has. She also had far more chemistry with the contractor who relayed a message for her on the telephone and with Harrison Ford for that matter. the-age-of-adaline-harrison-ford-600x399

So many wonder what they would do with an eternity, with immortality. With her Holy Grail, she chooses to switch librarian jobs around the city for three lifetimes, an age. Spare yourself her exhaustive self-searching. There must be something new on Netflix. But if you must go, watch for Harrison Ford’s toast at the party. His performance was at least worth the price of the ticket.

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Filed under Chick Flick/ Rom Com, Drama, Skip It

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (2014) movie review

Magic-in-the-Moonlight-Emma-StoneGreetings from beyond the grave… Knock once for yes and twice for no.

Would you call this film one of Woody Allen’s best?

One knock.

magic-in-the-moonlight-colin-firth-emma-stone-600x399We do write ourselves into characters, writing what we know, but don’t you think that the delightful, big-eyed Emma Stone is too many decades the junior to our flawed likable hero Colin Firth?

Two knocks.

True, Allen would have no trouble with the age-old question, so it could be good to note Allen’s perspective walking into this film. I believe that Allen’s accolades, well deserved, should not be withheld in lieu of his life choices. That’s taking personal vendettas too far. He is a brilliant filmmaker and writer. No question. He still pushes boundaries making viewers think. I have great respect for that skill as he puts it to use.

On a similar note, Allen girls rarely resemble Bond girls. Allen’s women are bold, conversational, talented, complex, sometimes quixotic but still intelligent, sexy, and confident.  Allen paints women that women don’t mind watching and can relate to. Emma Stone is no exception. She is exceptional. Wouldn’t you agree?

One knock.

DSCF0410.RAFThis film waxes Gatsby, doesn’t it?

One knock.

Lush 20’s sets, costumes, and lighting: perfect from every feathered hat to draping beaded gown. It’s silver screen smudged hues on golden twilight backdrops transport these modern actors into a golden age of Hollywood. You expect Cary Grant to attend the party and Grace Kelly to step into the scene for a quick visit at any point.

magic_article_story_largeMagic in the Moonlight is a talkie, but the lack of action is rarely felt.  Audience members are allowed somehow to feel equal with the characters on-screen.  Tricked and sung to, questioned and valued.  The actors saunter from one room to another, adjusting bow ties pondering the weather and waxing philosophical. Allen unabashedly tackles common taboo topics like religion and politics. Perhaps like Scorcese whose seeming quest is to find himself redeemable, Allen’s obvious discussion on-screen mirrors this by asking  questions of the afterlife. This film questions the existence of God, mankind’s purpose on the planet, the truth in daily living, and the romance of magic.

Is he perhaps squeezing the brain to make room for the heart?

Three knocks.

Wait – what does that mean? Don’t you know? Okay, spirit from beyond, one final question:

Do you think that since Woody Allen’s last two films took place in France in the 20’s, that we can dare hope for  a trilogy of sorts?

One knock.

Wonderful! Thank you so much, kind spirit, for the interview from beyond. Until next time…

 

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Filed under Chick Flick/ Rom Com, Classic, Comedy, Comfort Film, DramCom, Family friendly

ABOUT TIME (2013) movie review

ImageA conceptual Time Traveler’s Wife,  more Groundhog Day in its repetition, About Time is not the next Notting Hill.

It is a lightweight film about living without regrets. It has perhaps the sweetest voice-over opener I’ve seen with true moments of originality and grace, but the script and story, though not complete “rubbish,” was perhaps a bit “dodgy.” Like a run-on sentence without commas, too many scenes felt too drawn out and annoyingly slow, like a director’s cut.

Sex and the occasionally purposed “F-word” earned it the “R” rating. Both unnecessary and both stealing from what could have made this a keeper of a chick-flick.Image

Rachel McAdams herein only ever plays the sweet dimensionless rather every-woman role with very little personality. Passenger seated in this and many a film, she does allow her leading men to shine in the spotlight. She and Domhnall Gleeson have tangible chemistry.

Fans of Gleeson will no doubt flock. He is known best for his role in the Harry Potter series, but I loved him best for his sweet insecurity in Anna Karenina (2013), his sass in Never Let Me Go (2010), and his quirk in True Grit (2010).  In About Time, he is, as my British friends would say, “so lovely.” Truly, his face alone tells his story.

This film preaches carpe diem, seizing moments of life in the face of grief and powerlessness. We all rush about our days, forgetting to stop and take tea by the seaside, as his family does. Some sprites have the gift of making the mundane special. Even those who could go back and have “do-overs” find that it’s not about fixing the details, but in savoring them.

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THE VOW (2012) movie review

Only an original or neatnik knock-off Nicholas Sparks could tempt us into the theaters wooing us like a candyman into the heart of chick flick central. Does it end well? No. Is it well acted? Not really. Does Channing Tatum take his shirt off? Yes. Yes he does.

So we drive shamelessly to theaters to tempt and tantalize and torment ourselves with lies that one completely selfless, artistic, immutable, soft-spoken, generous, heterosexual, charming, chivalrous, chiseled, constant, all-loving, perfect man exists for each of us off-screen.

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NEW YEAR’S EVE (2011) movie review

 Gary Marshall whips up his classic… gimmick film.

You saw Valentine’s Day. These two films are sisters…identical twin sisters. Most likely you’ll see New Year’s Eve. You can’t help it. It’s like a car accident – you have to look.

Sisters, Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters.


Devotion. The director is ever-devoted to his family. All of the Marshalls ever gather on-screen for lousy one-liners with scented candle solidarity.

Never had to have a chaperone, no sir, I’m here to keep my eye on her.

Every Runaway Bride and Princess Diaries extra shows up on some set or another.

Marshall has friends. If Gary Marshall made films like a sub sandwich, they’d be loaded with lettuce – a 20’s word for cash. Every star center stages, sometimes for short moments, but despite duration, there truly are “more celebrities than rehab…” (Admittedly a favorite line.)

Caring, sharing, every little thing that we are wearing.

Forced, familiar, unscripted dialogue. Sad. So sad. Zac Efron in his worst character to date, with a sweet but too-awkward storyline.When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome, she wore the dress and I stayed home…

Ashton Kutcher, charm-smothered and swooning goes from grinch to groupie. Heigel hate-loves Bon Jovi. Sarah Jessica Parker needs then meets a date, and Hilary Swank sweats it out only to give it up. Josh Duhamel pines then finds love lost, while Halle Berry listens then blows kisses. Only Robert Deniro performs flawlessly, even from a prone position.

Lord, help the mister who comes between me and my sister… and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man.

Everyone loves someone, and everyone banks all guts and glory on the ball drop to incite romance. 

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