Aug 20, 2012

Australia, 2008

Australia, 2008
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Shea Adams

Stage: Home TV selection. I am surprised. In a positive way

Australia in short: In northern Australia at the beginning of World War II, an English aristocrat inherits a cattle station the size of Maryland. When English cattle barons plot to take her land, she reluctantly joins forces with a rough-hewn stock-man to drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the country's most unforgiving land, only to still face the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by the Japanese forces that had attacked Pearl Harbor only months earlier. 

Preps: I have seen this wonderful piece a while ago. I am so positively surprised that TV finally gets something decent on the run.

Reality: This is one of Luhrmann's masterpieces in terms of scenes, photos, picturesque feeling the viewer must have. So a definite must see if you are fond of nature and its wonders. The director did his best to show the lovely sight of Australia, and at the same time didn't forget to warn about its disadvantages. Aborigines, lack of water, weird customs, people, etc.
So how does a lady fit into this environment? To my perception, they couldn't have chosen more white or more lady-like character like Kidman. She's a complete misfit for these surroundings, yet in the development of the movie, she handles a lot of stuff that you wouldn't dream she could. A good guidance through the movie and good adaptivity of this woman. I admire Kidman for making strong drama where it's necessary and to drive the character in the depths that noone expected.
I would claim that most of the scenes are driven precisely, however not concisely. In other words, the movie could have been much shorter and some unnecessary stuff could have been taken out.
I really enjoyed the triumph after the gang drives the bulls on the ship. The little Nollah - the missionary boy, bedazzles me completely. His role as the narrator is really well equipped with original aborigin english. His yearning for a family and someone that loves him touches me deeply.
On the other hand, the love story between Kidman and Jackman is somehow lacking energy. the complete movie is set to the time where I doubt things could have been driven this way. At that time women unfortunately didn't have a  "vote" right, which means, I doubt that a woman could have pulled off such deeds as this woman does. So in this sense I would prefer for this movie to be more realistic. In the story, I mean.
Plus, there could have been some scenes that weren't so obvious taken in a studio. These things can be more discrete.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching a land I don't know much about and dream about travelling there, in that time and space. In some sense the red thin line in this one is finding your cause and fight for it. And like in a miracle, all the universal forces will join to help you. A bit ironic. Or naive. But still, I bought it for these three hours.

My personal rating: 7,0 (a really good solid piece, showing you the best and the worst of Australia at once. Photography is superb, scenography as well. Kidman shows her best manners and her well adaptivity).

Australia on IMDB

Aug 19, 2012

Carnage, 2011

Carnage, 2011
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly

Stage: Home theatre. Substitute for the movie under stars at Ljubljana Castle. And got a fairly good quality.

Carnage in short: In Brooklyn Bridge Park, eleven year old Zachary Cowan strikes his eleven year old classmate Ethan Longstreet across the face with a stick after an argument. Among the more serious of Ethan's injuries is a permanently missing tooth and the possibility of a second tooth also being lost. Their respective parents learn of the altercation through Ethan's parents questioning him about his injuries. The Longstreet parents invite the Cowan parents to their Brooklyn apartment to deal with the incident in a civilized manner. They are: Penelope Longstreet, whose idea it was to invite the Cowans, she whose priorities in life include human rights and justice; Michael Longstreet, who tries to be as accommodating as possible to retain civility in any situation; Nancy Cowan, a nervous and emotionally stressed woman; and Alan Cowan, who is married more to his work as evidenced by the attachment he has to his cell phone and taking work calls at the most inopportune times..

Preps: I need to see this. It's Polanski. And I heard it's brilliant. I am not in the mood to make it up to the castle for this one. Fortunately, I can get it in one hour and almost start watching at the same moment :)

Reality: The beginning is somehow calm. The two families, trying to come to an agreement. I could never expect such an explosion of emotions is coming. Polanski took the scenery very serious, placed it very statically - this means we never get to leave the room these four people are locked in.
This is the hardest thing to do. Make a static scene interesting. Yet Polanski succeeds. I am out of breath from the first moment on.
The calm aristocratic family (and the other one, similar to the first one), start of civilized and friendly. In a way you would start a business conversation. However, with the conversation proceeding, they turn into wild things, animals for sure. I cannot believe the way the couples are behaving first towards complete strangers, then towards each other. The way women take sides against men is simply excellent and leaves me with a fresh breath of pure irony. Plus, the men and their habits that reveal. The four persons show themselves in the worst possible way. Completely without any limit, prejudicial, filled with depression they didn't express prior to this unique opportunity. The room is the place, where vomit literally breaks loose, fighting for your own existence and if they first wanted to make an impression (in a fashion of Keeping up Appearances and "lady of the house speaking", Hyacinth) on each other, later this is no longer important.
The worrying part is the fact that at the end, noone remembers why they gathered in the first place. The dispute they had is no longer relevant, only the blame and anger they nurture against each other. A drama that turns into a horror, leaves me breathless and with a deep respect for Polanski. Worth every minute.

My personal rating: 9,0 (excellent. Plus, 80 minutes, that seem like five).

Carnage on IMDB

Up Close & Personal, 1996

Up Close & Personal, 1996
Director: Jon Avnet
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Stochard Channing

Stage: Home TV selection

Up close in short: This is a telling of the Jessica Savitch story, the newswoman who, in the 1970's, became the "First Woman Anchor". Sally/Tally is taken under the wing of Warren in a Miami newsroom and becomes a news star on TV. Despite her love for Warren, she takes the big chance and moves on to Philadelphia, where he follows to rescue her faltering career at the cost of his own - as she rises he falls.

Preps: I have seen this many times. I love this piece. Worth seeing it again.

Reality: This piece revolves around journalism and love. Love for career and love for someone with regards to which one is more important. Journalism is somewhat similar to low level jobs, at least when you are starting with your career. Which means you need to take shitty reports, weather forecasts, do whatever it is possible just to be able to get the break. Not many people get the break because there is just so many of them and so little opportunities. Once you get in the saddle, you need to hold on to it. Which means that once a person grabs a seat for instance in the main news, they will not let it go.
Now, Tally shows a story about how to get to the top. At first, because of attraction (how convenient, I would prefer the story about how one rocks to the top because of the talent). In this case, the talent is shown later in the piece. Just making it obvious that career isn't something where women and men are treated equally, especially in journalism. Whose d.. you need to suck to get to the top anyway? Now, the strength of this particular woman is floating through the screen. Also the energy between the two main actors. I love the way Redford brings out the best of women in the pieces where he acts. He has this sexy stamina that will make me watch it all over again. Also, I love Pfeiffer. I cheer for the romantic ending. Plus, it fills me with the feeling that Tally won her career because she deserved it. But what a price to pay on the way to the top. And how many times you stumble.

My personal rating: 8,0 (a good, solid piece on making your dreams come true. And a wish as great as the world. For love and for the job you have).

Up Close on IMDB

Home for the holidays, 1995

Home for the holidays, 1995
Director: Jodie Foster
Cast: Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Robert Downey Jr

Stage: Tv selection, late Sunday night

Home in short: After losing her job, making out with her soon to be ex-boss, and finding out that her daughter plans to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, Claudia Larson has to face spending the holiday with her family. She wonders if she can survive their crazy antics. 

Preps: I am crazy about Holly Hunter, just love her act. This is a good drama, I know this. Plus, I would need some ironic smile :)

Reality: Well, to be honest, this amuses me like for instance Bridget Jones. It's also a comedy, mixed with drama. Nothing to laugh about the situation the woman is in, but the way she is forced to eat her past fears and get together again with people she fled from - it's quite extraordinary and very funny. In a way the family is something noone would want - at least not in this weird way they are represented in this piece.
And in some opinion, this could be forcing yourself to cope with your inner stress/depression/something you never wanted to see again, once you moved out. And now she's here, forced to tell she didn't make it, doesn't bring home her grown up daughter, plus, she's not connected with any member of her weird family.
I am amazed with Hunter's act and love to see the flow of the story. It brings out the respect for tradition and family to me, plus, it reminds me of the good and as well bad things that come with a huge family. It definitely brings the desire to me, to have a large family turkey dinner, and at the same moment, I am reluctant to this, seeing how it can turn out (in a bad way).

As said, family arguments at their best. Bridget Jones meets drama. And we can see again the raindeer pullover, which is the very last excellent thing I needed to see in this evening :)
Good tradition and ways to skip it. Ways to embrace it. Reasons pro and reasons against. Stories that only grow in large families. Secrets that aren't really secrets. Robert Downey Jr, so young and not so convincing as I know him now. Solid, good piece.

My personal rating: 7,0 (excellent, when in a good mood, it will also inspire you to go and fetch your partner/relatives and kiss him/her/them :)

 Home for the holidays on IMDB

The Princess Diaries, 2001

The Princess Diaries, 2001
Director: Gary Marshall
Cast: Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo

Stage: Home TV selection, late Sunday night

The princess diaries in short: Mia Thermopolis is the average teenager - sweet, a little geeky and pretty much invisible to everyone with the exception of her mother, best friend Lilly and Lilly's older brother Michael. Making it through high school without throwing up is a challenge in itself for Mia, so it doesn't come as welcome news when her estranged grandmother shows up out of the blue and calmly informs her that she is in fact the heir to the throne of a European country called Genovia. Suddenly Mia's life is thrown into complete overload. She's being taught about scarves, waves and pears in order to become a perfect princess, she gets a makeover and a tough looking yet sweet bodyguard/limo driver called Joe. Things get out of hand when the media gets a hold of the story and suddenly Mia is thrust into the spotlight in both the newspapers and in school. On top of all that Mia has a choice to make...

Preps: I have seen this piece several times, but never completely. I don't have anything smarter to do. 

Reality: Miss Piggy goes to the ball. This is a cross junction between The Ugly Betty and Cinderella. How would you like to wake up one day and find out you are a princess of a country (that doesn't even exist)? And that you need to become something like Eliza Doolitle in My fair lady? (least that one was brilliant). The idea is taken from there, just put in the modern world with some american prejudice.

Julie Andrews might have been a great lady in The sound of music, but she certainly acts like an elephant in a glass store (to be more metaphoric than I wanted to be) in this piece. There is nothing real or glorious about the idea the screenplayer had, putting a "queen" in the american high school and turning a nice teenager into a princess.
There are some funny scenes, not to be so dramatic. The script does have funny dialogues and the process of turning is as amusing as for instance Sandra Bullock in her turnover (watch Miss Congeniality to see where I am going with this comment). There are things you can imagine could happen if this could be true and things you are curious how they will go after the young lady is introduced. The drive is similar to that one in My fair lady, or similar movies like Miss Congeniality. However, it is an average or even below average piece. You need to turn off your brains and accept some things to make it bearable. You needn't expect too much of it. Just average Sunday fun.

My personal rating: 4,0 (if you really don't have anything to do. Hathaway and Andrews are much better in other pieces where they acted).

Princess on IMDB

A lot like Love, 2005

A lot like Love, 2005
Director: Nigel Cole
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Taryn Manning

Stage: TV selection, while taking care of my friend's cat

A lot like love in short: On a flight from Los Angeles to New York, Oliver and Emily make a connection, only to decide that they are poorly suited to be together. Over the next seven years, however, they are reunited time and time again, they go from being acquaintances to close friends to ... lovers?

Preps: I am babysitting my friend's cats and don't have anything to do but watch the selection on TV. I see this charming piece with Kutcher. Let's see it. 

Reality: Kutcher is really strong in romantic comedies. However, they all look alike to my opinion. Only the women change and the scenery. Obviously, also the scenario a bit. I do have the feeling that he will be in the comedies for a long time, due to his cuteness and young image he has - which is the basis or reason that most of the women fall for this genre with Kutcher in the main role.

This piece in perticular is interesting because the different time these two people are meeting each other. Entering different stages in life with different expectations, never being able to connect truly. It appears that it never is the right moment, the right timing, the right placement. The director smoothly jumps from one moment in time to another. It is really yearning you feel and aim that the characters will unite at the end. The good part is that you are asking yourself whether this will happen at some moment in time and when it will happen. The bad part about comedies in general normally is the story, because it's predictable. This one is going so smoothly and taking turns as you go along that you aren't really convinced what will happen. So applause for director, as normally I wouldn't expect something like this.

The act is pretty average. The dialogues are witty and Kutcher is cute in every way. The director could have acknowledged also his smarts and take an extra step with this. Or is this the screenwriter and literature basis for the movie? Can't say, because sometimes directors take extra caution in making things more than average. In this sense, this one isn't something really remarkable, but pleasant to the eyes. A good selection on a lonely evening.

My personal rating: 6,0 (pleasant. comedy above average, funny and amusing).

A lot like love on IMDB