OK, so this is about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of — Star Wars fans worldwide are uniting on a project to re-make the original film (A New Hope), 15 seconds at a time. Fans can claim individual 15 second moments of the film, recreate them in whatever for they desire (re-enactments, animation, etc.), and then the whole thing will ultimately be strung together. Wild. Click here for all the details on Star Wars Uncut, or just watch this bizarre trailer below!
After watching Julie & Julia with my wife Steph recently (you can read my review of the film here) I was interested in learning more about Julie Powell, so I tracked down her Julie/Julia Project blog and her current blog (since she ended the Julie/Julia Project blog in 2003, with only one additional post in 2004 after Julia Childs’ death). Both blogs were fun to read through after having seen the film.
Not a week goes by, it seems, that I don’t read about Ridley Scott being attached to yet another movie-in-development. I’m not the only one who’s noticed, it seems. Check out this helpful guide: Know Your Ridley Scott Projects That Will Probably Never Happen.
I am an enormous Beatles fanatic. Thus it is really painful for me that I have not yet had an opportunity to sample the newly remastered versions of all of the Beatles albums that were released last month. Scorekeeper from AICN’s detailed run-down of each Beatles album, and how the new versions match up against the original CD releases from 1987, has only further whetted my appetite.
CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) has been running a ridiculously entertaining series of posts entitled “Bad For Us, Worse For Them.” What is it about? Let me quote from their intro: This is a list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy, brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a mark. The whole list is fantastic, but I was particularly pleased to see that Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan merited inclusion.
The fourth film that we showed at this year’s EZ Viewing movie-marathon was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and we wrapped up the evening with Lola Rennt (Run, Lola, Run).
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – We screened Star Trek II two years ago at EZ Viewing II (the year I highlighted my favorite movie sequels) and Star Trek III last year, so how could I not complete the mid-series trilogy by including Star Trek IV in this year’s EZ Viewing??
Following Kirk and crew’s mutiny and theft of the Enterprise in Star Trek III in their attempt to find and revive Spock, the opening of Star Trek IV finds Kirk and Co. still stranded on Vulcan, preparing to face the consequences of their actions. The Enterprise has been destroyed, and they don’t know if they have careers in Starfleet to return to. Spock is alive, but struggling to fully piece together his memories and personality. But the gang is spurred into action when a mysterious alien probe threatens all life on Earth, seeking a species of whales that has long-since been extinct.
Star Trek IV was, until this year’s new film by J.J. Abrams, the most financially successful of all the Star Trek movies. And it was by far the most popular outside of hard-core Trek fandom. If you’ve seen only one Star Trek film, this is probably the one you’ve seen. There are a number of reasons for that, I think. This is a much more accessible film than most of the other Star Trek movies. Much of the story takes place on Earth (in what was the present day when the film was released back in 1986). There’s a pretty simple (but still compelling) hook to the story – go back in time to find humpback whales – that I think is easier for general audiences to grasp than a lot of sci-fi elements of aliens, politics, etc.
The environmental message, I think, also enabled this film to be successful with a broader-than-usual audience. Many of the episodes of the original series dealt with difficult issues (such as racism, class struggles, involvement in foreign countries, etc.) – sometimes subtly, sometimes not. But the allegorical nature of classic Trek was sort of abandoned by the film series (not entirely mistakenly, in my opinion) in favor of more exciting action/adventure. Star Trek IV, though, gets back to those sorts of ideas, and that added a depth to this particular endeavor (bet you thought I was gonna say enterprise) that captured people’s attention.
Finally, Star Trek IV is by far the lightest, in tone, of all the Trek films, and I think people found … [continued]
The third film we screened at EZ Viewing IV was A Mighty Wind.
A Mighty Wind is another fine film that I have a distinct memory of seeing for the first time (when I caught a sneak peek here in Boston) – although I have seen it many, many times subsequently!!
Businessman Jonathan Steinbloom (Bob Balaban, so great as wimpy NBC executive Russell Dalrymple in Seinfeld) decides to put together a memorial concert for his father featuring as many of his dad’s favorite folk musicians as possible. As he sets out to recruit the “talent,” what follows is a delightfully bizarre and wonderfully entertaining tour through the universe of folk music and the many, um, let’s say “quirky” folks who inhabit it. The world of folk music isn’t something that was necessarily crying out for parody – but that might be part of what makes A Mighty Wind so memorable.
The “mockumentary” format has become a bit overused in recent years, but there does not exist a greater master of the format than director/writer/actor Christopher Guest, and in my mind A Mighty Wind is the pinnacle of his work. (Let the debates begin!!) Much has been written about the improvisational manner in which Guest and his actors find the characters and the shape of their films – the result is a film that is filled to the brim with indelible comedic performances. And what an ensemble of actors Mr. Guest has assembled: Harry Shearer (the voice of Ned Flanders, Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, Rev. Lovejoy, Dr. Hibbert, Rainier Wolfcastle, and so many more on The Simpsons) , Michael McKean (spreader of a vicious rumor about Larry David on last season’s finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm), Eugene Levy (American Pie), Catherine O’Hara (SCTV), Jane Lynch (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models, Talladega Nights), Parker Posey (Superman Returns), Fred IWillard (Anchorman, Wall-E), Ed Begley Jr. (The Pineapple Express, hairless Stan Sitwell on Arrested Development), Jennifer Coolidge (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me), Larry Miller (a familiar face from so many comedies, but I’ll always think of him as the overly forward doorman on Seinfeld), John Michael Higgins (Walk Hard, deadpan attorney Wayne Jarvis on Arrested Development), Paul Dooley (spymaster Enabran Tain on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and so many more.
There are so many pleasures to be found in this film. The fanatical happiness of the New Main Street Singers. The reunion of Spinal Tap (Shearer, McKean, & Guest), albeit now in the form of a group performing an entirely different … [continued]
The first two films shown at EZ Viewing IV (my annual movie marathon) were: Star Wars: A New Hope — The Adywan Fan-Edit and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.
What is the Adywan Fan-Edit of Star Wars? It is, bar none, the very best version of the first Star Wars film (I refuse to refer to it as Episode IV) that I have ever seen. FAR better than the DVD version released by Lucasfilm in 2004, and far better than ANY of the other versions that have been released on DVD/VHS/or any other home-media format. I wrote a lengthy piece about this fan-edit last year — click here for all the details of this amazing fan-edit.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels – Director Guy Ritchie has had a hand in some sub-par films recently (although his latest project, Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr., looks promising), but we shouldn’t let that cloud the greatness of his debut feature.
Four friends Eddie (Nick Moran), Soap (Dexter Fletcher), Tom (Jason Flemyng, seen most recently in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and Bacon (Jason Statham, who these days is a big action star in films like The Transporter) find themselves deeply in debt to East End gang-boss Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty) after losing a fixed card game. Rather than lose any fingers to his menacing enforcer (Vinnie Jones), they concoct a scheme to steal the money from another group of thieves who are themselves planning to rob a small drug-dealing operation. Things don’t go well, of course, and events quickly spiral completely out of control.
I still remember the first time I saw this film. I was blown away (and still am, to this day) by the deftness with which Ritchie juggled an enormously complex plot filled with scores of bizarre characters whose stories would weave in and out of one another. Most of all, I was dazzled by the wonderful, rat-a-tat dialogue which was so funny and so distinct. The word-play comes fast and furious, and the cockney slang that all the characters breathlessly spew out gives the film a flavor all its own.
In his review from 1999, Roger Ebert described this film as “Tarantino crossed with the Marx Brothers.” That’s a wonderful description, and pretty accurately assesses the way the film combines a noir-ish crime-caper plot with a madcap sense of humor and whimsy. This film is a riot.
This past weekend my wife Steph and I hosted our fourth annual EZ Viewing movie marathon! (Click here for more info on last year’s EZ Viewing III.)
This year’s selection was:
Star Wars: A New Hope — The Adywan Fan-Edit
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
A Mighty Wind
Star Trek IV
Lola Rennt (Run, Lola, Run)
A fun mix, huh? So, why did we settle on those particular movies?
Check back every day this week to find out more about my love for each of those five films! (Click here for my thoughts on Adywan’s Fan-Edit of Star Wars and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.)… [continued]
My faith in the continuing DS9 saga is restored!
Last week I week I wrote about my disappointment with how the spectacular DS9 novel series has sort-of petered out over the past few years, but after reading the other DS9 novel published this year, Una McCormack’s spectacular The Never-Ending Sacrifice, I am again reminded about just how amazing this series can be.
The Never-Ending Sacrifice is a sequel, of sorts, to the intriguing second-season DS9 episode “Cardassians.” In that episode, an elderly Bajoran man arrives on the station with his adoptive son, Rugal, a Cardassian child who was left behind when the Cardassian occupation of Bajor ended. Allegations emerge that the Bajorans are raising Rugal to hate his own kind, and when his actual father arrives on the station, relieved that the son he believed dead still lives, the Cardassian government demands that Commander Sisko turn the boy over to them. It’s a complex episode that fleshes out a lot of the show’s back-story — including a look at what went on during the Cardassian occupation and the reasons for their withdrawal (indeed, this was the episode that revealed that the Cardassians’ name for the station was Terok Nor), as well as a lot more about the deceitful web of Cardassian politics (including more information than we’d learned at that time about Garak and Dukat) and how life on Bajor was proceeding after the Cardassian withdrawal. Despite all those great qualities, though, I was always troubled by the ending of the episode. After all that build-up, Sisko’s decision is revealed in the closing moments in a simplistic commander’s log (it’s as if the writers just ran out of time and realized that they had to end the episode), and I couldn’t believe that Sisko actually decided to take the boy from his adoptive parents, with whom Rugal had expressed a clear desire to stay.
It was an episode that demanded a follow-up, but none ever came during the seven-year run of the show. Luckily, Una McCormack has stepped in to fill that void. The Never-Ending Sacrifice follows the life of Rugal from the moment he was taken by his Cardassian father-by-blood, Kotan Pa’Dar, back to Cardassia Prime, all the way through the tumultuous events of the series and through the post-finale series of novels as well. Ms. McCormack has masterfully woven together the intimate story of Rugal’s young life with the epic tale of the rise and fall of Cardassia.
Both aspects of the story are extraordinarily compelling. Rugal is an interesting protagonist. Following the events of the episode “Cardassians,” I expected him to be depicted as an angry, hateful young man because of his forced separation … [continued]
Last week I wrote about some of the great comics I’ve read lately. That list was just scratching the surface! Here’s some more fantastic stuff that I’ve been enjoying recently:
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and BPRD: 1947 – The Hellboy saga continues in these two new wonderful mini-series. In Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, things are coming to a head for the big red guy. Cut off from his old friends and comrades in the BPRD, and hunted by the newly-resurrected Queen of Blood, things are looking grim for our hero! Last month’s issue (#6) was jam-packed with astonishing revelations about Hellboy’s origin that I never saw coming, but that I thought worked absolutely PERFECTLY. Meanwhile, BPRD: 1947 takes us through a rollicking tale of the second year of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense as Professor Bruttenholm struggles against vampires and a lot of other weirdness. The Hellboy universe has really richened and deepened over these last few years, and I am really excited to see where things go from here.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man — The relaunch of Brian Michael Bendis’ take on Spider-Man (three issues have been published as of this writing) continues just where the previous 133 issues (plus a handful of annuals and other specials) left off. Young Peter Parker must juggle his, um, interesting love-life with a boring job at a fast-food joint (since he lost his job at the Daily Bugle following the devastation of NYC in the truly awful Ultimatum miniseries) with, oh yeah, his crime-fighting escapades as Spider-Man! Mr. Bendis is well-known for his witty, true-to-teenaged-life dialogue, but I think his real strength is the depth of characterization he brings to Peter Parker and all the rest of the extraordinarily numerous cast of this comic. Mary-Jane, Flash Thompson, Aunt May, “Kong,” Kitty Pryde from the X-Men, Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four (and it is almost embarrassing how much more interesting Kitty and Johnny are here than in their “home” comics) and many more characters are all brought to amazingly real life in these pages. I’ve been following Bendis’ run on “Ultimate” Spider-Man and I’ll be with the series until he leaves. Spider-Man has never been done better (in my comic-reading life-time, at least!). My only small complaint: I’m not quite taken with the overly stylized work of new series artist David Lafuente. Let’s see if it grows on me any more after a few more issues…
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower — I fell way behind on this series of mini-series, adapting and expanding upon the back story of Stephen King’s seven-book The Dark Tower opus, but I was finally able to catch up last month. Breathtakingly gorgeous art by … [continued]
I’ve been reading about Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s deservedly beloved children’s book Where The Wild Things Are for a long time — years, now — and I am so thrilled to be able to report that the finished film which has finally been unveiled for the world to see is every bit as wonderful as I could have hoped.
Quite a lot has been written about this film’s torturous path to the big screen. A few weeks ago I posted a link to this lengthy piece from the New York Times that charted the almost decade-long journey of Mr. Jonze to bring this film to life. I remember reading the post from CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under development) that the Times article refers to in its opening paragraph. Click here to read that article, from February 20, 2008, in which Devin Farici broke the story that executives at Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures were seriously considering abandoning Mr. Jonze’s version and entirely reshooting the film.
Thank the movie gods that that moment of crisis for the film came and went, and Mr. Jonze was able to bring his vision to completion.
The result is a delightfully unique, idiosyncratic film, truly unlike any other childrens book adaptation I have ever seen.
The film is enormously epic, a visual feast, but it is also astonishingly intimate. Right from the very beginning (with the wonderfully messed-with opening titles which lead into Max’s wild rumpus with his dog), Mr. Jonze puts the viewers right in the face, and the mind, of young Max. Max (played by Max Records) is clearly a very imaginative, creative little boy. He also seems to be extraordinary lonely and, like any nine-year-old who doesn’t yet know how to express all of the feelings roiling around inside of him, he is prone to terrible outbursts.
This early, pre-Wild Things section of the film is an intriguing — and very, very clever — elaboration upon Mr. Sendak’s original book. In Tim Burton’s film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he added a flashback that fleshed out Willy Wonka’s backstory (a sad childhood with his terrible father) that I felt was ridiculous and completely out of place. But these early scenes with Max, in which we get to know him and understand his situation and why he feels the way he does, are wonderful and, I would argue, totally critical to the film’s success. We need to understand who Max is, and why he is ultimately driven to run away from his family and escape (for a time) into fantasy.
What makes this early section of the film work, is Mr. Jonze (and co-screenwriter Dave Eggers)’s care to … [continued]
Deep Space Nine remains, by an order of magnitude, my favorite of the Star Trek series. Not surprisingly, then, it was the terrific DS9 relaunch of novels set after the series finale (which I wrote about in depth here) that rekindled my interest in (and love for) Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels.
But after the publication of David Mack’s phenomenal novel Warpath in April, 2006, the DS9 relaunch series hit something of a snag. Warpath ended on a brutal cliffhanger, bur for whatever reason the next installment in the series, Fearful Symmetry, wasn’t scheduled to be published until a year later. Unfortunately, it was actually over TWO years until that next novel was finally published (written by Olivia Woods, a different author than the one originally announced) in July, 2008. Fearful Symmetry wound up being one of the shortest DS9 novels published (in the relaunch series, at least), and then we all had to wait still another year for the next novel: The Soul Key, also written by Olivia Woods, released this past August.
Such a long a wait put a lot of pressure on The Soul Key. Things were exacerbated even more (in my mind, at least), when, a few months ago, Pocket Books released their schedule of novels for 2010. Only one DS9 novel was included, and according to the description it will be set several years after the events of the entire DS9 relaunch series of novels, so that it can be a part of next year’s “Typhon Pact” Next Gen crossover story. That sounds like a cool novel, but one that will be much more about the post-Destiny Next Gen stories as opposed to all of the DS9-centric stories of the DS9 relaunch. So it might be another two years at least before more actual DS9 proper novels are published. All of that means that Ms. Woods’ two novels (Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key) could conceivably be the only new DS9 relaunch stories published for FIVE years.
That means that The Soul Key would have to be really magnificent to live up to all of the expectation placed upon it. Sadly, it is not.
Although not as short as Fearful Symmetry, The Soul Key is still a fairly short novel — and it feels even shorter than it actually is. That might be because, while there is a lot of PLOT covered in this novel (we do, at last, get some resolution to several of the story-lines that have been running through the past several DS9 novels, which means the last several YEARS of my life), there doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a … [continued]
I’ve written a few pieces, recently, about some of the great comic books that I’ve been reading lately. (Click here for my thoughts on 100 Bullets, and here for my reviews of three recent graphic novels adapted from the short stories of Alan Moore.) What else have I been reading lately that has tickled my fancy? I’m glad you asked!
Filthy Rich, by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos — After finishing 100 Bullets, I was eager to check out some more work by Brian Azzarello. Luckily, this original graphic novel had just been published, so I snapped it up. Richard “Junk” Junkin used to be a football star. Now he sells cars. Not very well. When Junk’s boss asks him to work as the bodyguard for his spoiled, party-going daughter, Junk find himself swept up in the world of the young and the rich that he is at once envious of and disdainful of. Not surprisingly, things don’t go well. Mr. Santos’s black-and-white artwork has a bit of a cartoony, Bruce Tim bent which one might think incongruous with a gritty crime story, but I quickly found myself loving his detailed, quirky illustrations. There are a lot of characters in this story, but under Mr. Santos’ sure hand I never found myself confused as to who-was-who. This is a great, street-level gritty story (an Azzarello specialty), and if you’re looking for a break from comic book super-heroics, this is worth a shot.
Frankenstein’s Womb, by Warren Ellis and Marek Oleksicki — As noted above, last week I wrote about three Alan Moore graphic novels published by Avatar Press. But that’s not all that Avatar has to offer. Last month I had the pleasure of reading this recent graphic novel (or “graphic novella,” as it is labelled on its cover) written by the enormously talented Warren Ellis. The year is 1816. Mary Wollestonecraft Goodwin, her husband-to-be Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her stepsister Claire Clairmont are traveling across Europe. In Germany, they come across a strange and deserted castle. Castle Frankenstein. This wonderfully weird and quite haunting tale of where Mary Shelley REALLY got the idea for her famous novel is one of my favorite things I’ve read this year. Mr. Ellis’ clever (and quite grim!) script is perfectly supplemented by Mr. Oleksicki’s incredibly detailed, evocative black-and-white linework. Absolutely wonderful.
Incognito, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips — Taking a break from their stellar crime series Criminal, Brubaker and Phillips bring us the story (told in six issues) of former super-hero Zack Overkill. After his twin brother (and fellow super-villain) was killed, Zack served as a secret witness against the head of his criminal organization, … [continued]
Last week I had the pleasure of taking in a double-feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, re-done in beautiful 3-D. What a glorious time in a movie theatre!
It seems that 3-D is really starting to be embraced by the studios. There have been a number of big 3-D releases in the past year, with a LOT more on the horizon. (Personally I’m looking forward to James Cameron’s Avatar and, further in the future, Steven Spielberg & Peter Jackson’s collaboration on Tintin.) I’ve skipped most of the recent 3-D films since they really didn’t interest me. I did see Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf (from 2007), and while the 3-D was cool, it still made my head hurt at times, and the film itself (minus the excitement of the 3-D effects) was entirely forgettable. After that I stayed away from 3-D films until I saw Pixar’s Up this summer (read my review here), which was magnificent. The film itself was wonderful, and the gorgeous visuals were only enhanced by the beautiful, immersive 3-D.
Pixar’s big release for summer 2010 will be the long-awaited Toy Story 3, which will be presented in 3-D. To build some anticipation for the film, Disney and Pixar have re-done the first two Toy Story films in 3-D, and released them to theatres for a limited 2-week engagement this month.
Even without the 3-D, it was an enormous pleasure to re-watch those two films. I really liked the first Toy Story, and I was bowled over by Toy Story 2 when it came out — I thought it was endlessly clever, quite effectively emotional, and also totally hysterical. The Toy Story “Toy Box set” (containing both films plus a third disc filled with special features) was one of the very first DVDs I ever bought, and I watched Toy Story 2 several times those first few years.
So while I know Toy Story 2 really well, it had been quite a while since I had last seen the first Toy Story. I was really pleasantly surprised by how well it holds up. There are moments when it is clear how far Pixar’s animation has progressed (the fur on Sid’s dog, for instance, is pretty much just a solid shape, as opposed to the dynamic fur effects we’d see later on with Sulley and the Abominable Snowman a few years later in Monsters, Inc.), but over-all the animation holds up wonderfully. The characters move naturally and — more importantly — really feel ALIVE as opposed to being just nicely-rendered CGI constructs. This is helped by the genius voice-casting. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are absolutely perfect in the roles, and their … [continued]
It’s become a bit of a tradition that, each summer at Camp Ramah in New England, we kick off our Staff Week at the beginning of each summer with a silly video that introduces our first program (which usually involves some sort of elaborate competition between the counselors of each division). We’ve taken to doing parodies of movies or TV shows. This year was our most elaborate video yet — a parody of Lost that was created by Ethan Linden, Davey Rosen and myself.
There are a few Ramah “in-jokes” to be found within (such as a reference to Yehuda Gubani and camp’s new eruv), but I still think y’all might get a kick out of this:
I’m particularly proud that we were able to get Lost’s signature eyeball shot in there!!
At the end of our Staff Week program, we showed this 45-second epilogue. This is for the true Lost fans out there!
Heh heh heh. Pretty proud of that joke. Have a great weekend, everyone!… [continued]
Last month I waxed poetic a bit about the groundbreaking comic book work of writer Alan Moore, and I reviewed a recent interview/retrospective of his career, The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore: Indispensible Edition, by George Khoury, published by TwoMorrows Publishing.
I commented, at the end of my review, how the highest compliment that I could pay that project was that it made me want to drop everything and go re-read all of Mr. Moore’s great comics! Well, I didn’t quite have the time to do that, but I did have the pleasure recently of checking out three relatively new works by Mr. Moore, published by Avatar Press.
Over the last several years, the fine folks at Avatar have been republishing some hard-to-find early works by Alan Moore (such as A Small Killing, which I really need to get my hands on). Even more interestingly, they have also published several original comic book versions of some of Mr. Moore’s short stories. Anthony Johnston is credited as having done the adaptations (at least, all the ones that I have read so far), and they are quite marvelous.
I was a bit worried, at first, when I read that these new graphic novels (which I’ll call graphic novels, even though in his interview in The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore, Mr. Moore was somewhat critical of that term) were merely adapted from Mr. Moore’s works, as opposed to having been 100% scripted by him. But Mr. Johnston (along with all of the artists involved) has done a fantastic job of bringing Moore’s stories to the comic book page in a pure form. The collected edition of Hypothetical Lizard (about which I’ll write more in a moment) contains Mr. Moore’s complete novella at the back. After reading the comic, I had a great deal of fun reading the prose story while constantly flipping back through the comic to compare and contrast Mr. Johnston’s adaptation with Mr. Moore’s original piece. The adaptation was PHENOMENALLY faithful. This isn’t some Hollywood project where the names and basic premise are the same and everything else is different. No, almost every scene and line of dialogue from Mr. Moore’s story was preserved — everything had just been shaped into comic book form.
OK, here are some more specifics on what I read:
Hypothetical Lizard — This was the longest of the three works that I read. (It was originally published in four issues.) This incredibly fantastical tale is set entirely within the confines of the House Without Clocks, within which dwell a variety of unique men and women, all of whom are prostitutes. In the first chapter we are introduced to a young … [continued]
Here’s how not to get me excited about a film: start it off by trailers for Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself, Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster flick 2012, Rob Marshall’s latest musical Nine, and about five other movies that you could not pay me enough to go see. Ugh.
Luckily, our feature presentation of Julie and Julia turned out to be rather more entertaining than those dreadful trailers.
Julie and Julia is adapted from “My Life in France,” Julia Child’s posthumously published autobiography, and “Julie & Julia,” New Yorker Julie Powell’s book about her attempt to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s famous cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days. The film intercuts the stories of the two women as they each find themselves through cooking.
We first meet Julia Child (Meryl Streep) living in Paris in the 1940′s. She is married to Paul (Stanley Tucci), an American diplomat, and trying to decide just what she “should dooooo” with her time. Make hats? Play bridge? Her love of French food prompts her to take a cooking class, which she quickly masters. Gradually she comes upon the idea (working with two fellow chefs) to create a cookbook of French recipes designed for Americans, and the movie charts her multi-year struggle to write, and then find a publisher for, this lengthy tome.
We first meet Julie Powell (Amy Adams) living in Queens in 2002 and working a terrible cubicle job (which seems to involve dealing with insurance claims from the families of 9/11 victims). Looking for some sort of direction, she seizes upon the idea of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook and blogging about the results (her Julie/Julia blog project).
Both lead actresses in this film are quite magnificent. Meryl Streep absolutely nails Julia Child, starting with that distinct voice and including the way she carries herself — her Julia dominates every room that she’s in. I’m not quite certain how much this “with malice towards none” depiction of Julia squares with the genuine article (and indeed, it’s hard to square this version with the Julia who later in life was dismissive of Julie Powell’s blog, a moment seen in the film only from Julie’s perspective), but Mrs. Streep certainly captures how I have always imagined Julia based on watching her on TV. As for Amy Adams, she is, as always, a delight, whether conveying Julie’s quiet desperation, early in the film, sitting at a table with her far-more successful college chums, or her great delight all the times we see her getting one of Julie’s recipes just right.
I’ve read a lot of critics (including A.O. Scott of the … [continued]
I know some people who can’t stand to see a movie a second time — they think “been there, done that, I’d rather see something new.” I certainly don’t have anything against seeing something new, but I’m also someone who loves seeing movies for a second time — and, if it’s a good movie, seeing it many more times after that! (I’m the same way with books, comic books, etc. — I love re-reading stories that I enjoyed multiple times.)
I find that my feelings upon watching a film for a second time often vary wildly from the experience of seeing it originally. I can absorb the film without all the baggage of hype, my anticipation, etc. I can also more accurately judge the movie for what it is, rather than what I had hoped it would be or was expecting it would be.
During September I had a chance to take a second look at three films that I really enjoyed during last year’s Oscar rush of films (in late December 2008). Did my feelings about them change, for better or for worse, upon a second viewing? Read on!
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — read my original review here. Benjamin Button was one of my very favorite movies from last year (it ranked as no. 6 on my list of my favorite films from 2008) and, if anything, I was even more in awe of it the second time around. The film is magnificent. It is one of those special collaborations where every single element works just perfectly, from the gorgeous sets and costumes, to the jaw-dropping visual effects (that create fully-realized environments from France to Russia to a tug-boat in the middle of the Pacific, not to mention the completely convincing creation and de-aging of Benjamin Button himself that is as wonderful a combination of makeup, prosthetics, and incredible CGI as I have ever seen), to the wonderful performances by Brad Pitt (who proves in every film he’s in why he is so deserving of his movie-star fame), Cate Blanchett, and a wonderful array of other talented actors. Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) knows how to incorporate cutting-edge visual effects into a film without ever letting those effects overpower the film, and he knows how to tell a deeply emotional tale without ever veering into schmaltz. As I said: magnificent. (I also had the fun of watching this film on Blu-Ray, and let me say that my jaw was on the floor at the clarity of the images, the colors, everything. As the enclosed booklet notes, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was created in the digital realm without ever … [continued]