Sunday, December 10, 2017

What's Next On My List? Billy Elliot

Well, I don't have to tell you why this movie is awesome, actually, I think this might be one of the most useless reviews I will ever write :D but I wanted to include it because to me it is a Christmas movie... And as to why you'll see in a minute:

A young boy from a miner family discovers that he has talent for ballet and wishes to pursue it. However, his father and his brother are caught up in the fight against the low wages they receive as miners and do not think of Billy's future as a priority. When Billy's father Jackie realizes that he has a potential to be much more than he ever could have been he steps up for him.

First of all, my sister showed me this movie in December, I am certain that we already had the decorations up in the apartment, which just added to the feeling. Second, there is a Christmas scene in it, which might be the saddest scene in movie history, but it is followed by snow and it is around Christmas that his father realizes how much his son is worth. The musical version of the movie, which has added to the popularity of it, has given a much larger role to the holiday season. In it the whole town has a Christmas party at the community center and Jackie has a song as well as the ensemble, and it is one of my favorite Christmas songs actually. The musical was written by Elton John, and the song is "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher". Third, and final reason, is that most of my favorite Christmas movies are not really centered around the holiday season, it is simply a part of the story and the fact that it is not the center of attention makes it that much more important. The holidays are always cause for debate in the family and not everyone is a fan... but it is still part of everyone's year. The fact is that there is enough to get me invested, to see different sides, to see different families and to learn about different stories. In this movie winter is not a long period but it stands out in my opinion. I love the scene where Jackie realizes his son's potential and I love it when Billy and his best friend build a snowman. For him Christmas without his mom is especially hard but they still manage to pull through.

Watch it? I don't know why I'm asking, I'm sure you have already seen it. And if you need convincing then do watch the musical as well! It was one of the best directed shows I have seen on stage in 26 years and I say that having seen over at least thirty. Good music, good actors and a great story.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Billy - Jamie Bell
Mrs. Wilkinson - Julie Walters
Grandma Jean Heywood
Tony Jamie Draven
Jackie Gary Lewis
Michael - Stuart Wells

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What's Next On My List? Balto

As December has rolled in I am thinking about writing about movies that make me feel Christmassy, although they are not considered as such by others. Now, a lot to cover here, but first I wanted to talk about a favorite of mine from my childhood.

An outcast, Balto, lives on the outskirts of the town on Nome, Alaska, where most dogs look down on him for being half-wolf. For this reason he is not allowed near humans either, but that does not stop him. He has feelings for a husky girl, Jenna, and when her owner Rosy falls sick with the other children in town he is determined to help.

This is of course a romanticized version the story that inspired this movie. Balto was a Siberian husky and sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease. The serum was transported by many, not just the team led by Balto, and actually many were offended that he was the only one receiving attention. When the other dogs were awarded for their part in the adventure Balto was not invited. (You can read up on it here!) His story is the basis for many other children's stories, out of which this cartoon might be the most famous as it has two more sequels.
Now, the snow and the setting and the story... all of is makes it Christmassy to me. The fact that there is a miracle in it just makes it that much more seasonal! Snow in general just makes it feel like Christmas to me, it might be just my thing, but I am sure others find it so too. I adored this cartoon as a child, an outcast who becomes a hero... when you grow up feeling that you might not fit in then you are sure to fall in love with this adorable half-breed. My favorite is his best friend, Boris, a Russian goose who has some of the best one-liners out there. Their friendship is very moving. Yes, I have cried several times whilst watching it. On top of that there are two polar bears that can't swim but love hugs and cuddles and I relate to them on an emotional level!

Watch it? I do recommend it whole-heartedly. It teaches a lot of good lessons and it is a good reason to look up real life heroes. It is a wild and very adult adventure but with no real losses or tragedies (compared to a Disney movie, for example). It also has an outstanding soundtrack!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Balto - Kevin Bacon
Steele - Jim Cummings
Jenna - Bridget Fonda
Boris - Bob Hoskins
Luk and Muk - Phil Collins

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why Should You Enjoy Scooby-Doo In Spite of Public Opinion

Of course nobody liked it, I am yet to find someone who will enjoy a movie made of a childhood favorite, but here is the thing... I hated the cartoon and I looooved the movies! You can sue me if you want, but I'll tell you in a minute why you should love them too!

Funnily enough the first movie starts with our team deciding that they have had it with the way everybody is forced into a stereotypical role. They part ways and are brought together after some time by someone who seeks revenge. But when they are together again everybody is finally the opposite of the annoying characters they used to be! The lesson here was to learn that they worked better when they are together, but each made an effort to become a better person than they used to be. If that is not a good moral lesson I dunno what is! In the second movie on the other hand you have the ultimate lesson: the real monsters are people. This is something that the cartoon strongly focused on and I'm not gonna lie, I laughed hysterically at multiple jokes in the second movie. I could go into detail regarding the plot, but I don't see the point of it, because that is not what makes these movies good for me.

Here is my question. Besides the movie deciding to say straight out what you already thought: Shaggy is a stoner, and Scrappy Doo is an annoying little shit, Fred and Velma have a thing for each other, what exactly is your problem? I mean honestly I enjoyed the fact that they managed to surprise me 100% with a twist in the end (in both movies!). And that is what every single episode of the cartoon used to do. I did not mind the changes because I loved that Daphne kicked ass, she is not just a pretty girl. I loved that Fred was no longer the exceptionally fantastic guy that everybody falls for, he is simple, just like his friends. I also adored the fact that Velma is not smart because she wears glasses, but because she actually learns. If you want to tell me that the cartoon was not based on stereotypical notions than you are f*cking lying to yourself! Nostalgia goggles much? I have another question: You have seen all the other adaptation, starting from The Flintstones to comics like Marmaduke, not to mention the abomination that was Jem and The Holograms, which all ultimately took something and decided to teach us NOTHING. Now... if you compare it with that, is Scooby-Doo that bad? Be honest. You can argue with me that the acting wasn't to your liking, or that you thought the twist was dumb but... I mean come on. Open youtube, watch an episode of the old cartoon and tell me what is different.
Here is the thing, I accept it if somebody did not like a movie per se, as in there are hundreds of reasons why you might not enjoy something. My problem is that these movies were aware of where they came from and they wanted to make a satire. It worked! The cartoon was stupid and the movie is aware of it. Second, you can't have anymore female characters whose sole purpose is to stand by the two sides of the best looking male character... you just can't. And if you don't understand that story-wise they needed to have, what's the word, a PERSONALITY, then I don't know what to tell you.
Third, you will never have a version of this story where Shaggy is a likable character, because he is the stereotypical 'anti-guy'. No wonder Fred is portrayed as invincible. You might relate to Shaggy if you too were not the quarterback at your high school's football team, but besides that can you defend in any way a man who finds comfort in the arms of a giant dog? (Yes, I said it!). And yet I did not hate him in the movie. He is by far the most adorable character in the first one, as he is happy to have his friends and family back. He has the purest soul of all of them and that makes him a far more advanced character than the cartoon ever was. I especially liked the idea that he knows his place. Yes, he is a person who scares easily, but he knows his place within the group: he is not the hero, just the sidekick. And Velma in the end asks for his help and he becomes a key element in solving the problem. If you preferred him as a passive member of an active team, screaming with terrible one-liners, again, the problem is with you, not the movie.

Okay, so far I have insulted everyone and their favorite cartoon in multiple lines, and I need to say, sorry if I hurt your feelings. But... but I dare you to tell me that you did not laugh at least once. I dare you to tell me that you did not listen to the soundtrack of these movies afterwards. I dare you to tell me that you did not fall in love with Sarah Michelle Gellar and/or Linda Cardellini (I know I did!). Tell me that you did not hate Scrappy-Doo when you were a kid. Tell me you didn't like that the villain was female in the second movie. Tell me they did not surprise you and you did not feel like kicking ass after your favorite characters did. Tell me you wouldn't want to dance with Scooby-Doo!

I am not saying that these are the best movies ever made, but the hate they get is beyond my understanding. I have seen far worse movies with no moral lesson, no story arc, no real idea behind it. I honestly feel that somebody who loved the original decided to elevate it and in my humble opinion they did a good job!

"Goodbye suckers! ... [while falling] Help me suckers!"

Watch them again? Please do. Do it for guilty pleasure, do it because your thoughts have been so obscured by the fact that everyone around you told you to hate these movies. Re-watch it also because you watched it waiting for your childhood to be re-lived, but this is a satire. Watch it as such and don't let your memories overwrite the experience.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _

Shaggy - Matthew Lillard
Scooby-Doo (voice) - Neil Fanning

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What's Next On My List? Grosse Pointe Blank

Focusing super hard not to be destroyed mentally by all the bad news and sexual harassment accusations coming from Hollywood nowadays, I decided to review an old favorite of mine. Hope you will enjoy the entry!

Martin is an assassin for hire, he is quite talented and does OK in his job, but he is given an impossible decision: go home for his high school reunion or not? The little town he left behind, and the love of his life Debi, are still there, unaffected by time or anything out in the world, while he has changed quite a lot. While at home he realizes that he does not want to be in the business anymore, but quitting is not as easy as it sounds...

Now, this is of course dark humor, but I think it is one of the best examples. Martin is troubled much more by the ghost of his former self than he is by killing. His biggest regret is leaving the love of his life behind and when life gives him a second chance with her, he makes sure to take it. The two best characters in the movie are his assistant Marcella (played by his sister Joan Cusack, and let me add here that I simply adore that they are always in each others' films!) and his psychiatrist Dr. Oatman. The former always helps him keep his humanity, not to get dragged down into the dark world that surrounds them. So much so that she is the one who pushes him to go home for the reunion. The latter on the other hand has to listen to his terrible stories and the work he does and he tries to help him but he always falls short. However, you gotta admire the doctor's tenacity in trying to help someone who is somewhat beyond redemption...
Well, I also need to mention that whilst this movie tries to be a romantic comedy, it has some awesome action scenes. In it the main character has to kill someone sent after him and he does that during the reunion, in the end having to fight off his former boss in his ex-girlfriend's house. A lot of blood is involved in this process and he ends up telling the girl about his insecurities and why he left her, as they are trying to run for their lives. The set up of the movie is quite unique, in my opinion, as instead of a boring romantic comedy it added a very unusual setting for it and it simply works. You care about them, you laugh at them, you understand the struggle and it completely puts a high school reunion into a different perspective!

Watch it? Most definitely. In my humble opinion this is John Cusack at his best! I adore this movie and try to rewatch it as often as I can. It has a marvelous cast with very good jokes and entertaining action scenes.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _

Martin Q. BlankJohn Cusack
Debi NewberryMinnie Driver
Dr. OatmanAlan Arkin
Grocer Dan Aykroyd
Marcella - Joan Cusack
Paul SperickiJeremy Piven
Mr. Bart Newberry - Mitchell Ryan

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What's Next On My List? The Handmaid's Tale

Oh, I have been putting of this review for a while now for various reasons. First, I would deem my relationship with Margaret Atwood 'complicated', despite the fact that I have grown to love her as a person. As far as her works are concerned, I am still not sure if I like them due to the stockholm syndrome that I am sure I have developed over the years, or because simply I do. By this I mean that she has written a lot of things that I enjoyed right off the bat, and some that I needed warming up to. But she is very much present in my life still, I have recently read a thesis that was written on The Blind Assassin, my best friend is currently writing to me under the nickname of MaddAddam on facebook, and we had to re-read The Handmaid's Tale for my sci-fi class. I have spent all summer reading short stories from her, many of which I have already written about in my blog post "Margaret Atwood and I". The main reason I have been putting of this review is that I have a few commentaries about the show that are not really positive... altogether I wish I hadn't read the book before seeing it.

The story of one of the handmaids of Gilead, who was known by the name of Offred, belonging to a couple without children, where she ensued a relationship with one of the drivers of her Commander. The story moves back and forth between Offred, formerly June's past and present. How she lost her husband and daughter and how the people of her country slowly allowed for a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship to rise.

First, the good. This is an incredibly high quality TV series and I am happy that it got made because these are things that we HAVE to talk about today. Just look at how women are treated right NOW in the United States! This isn't a far away future, this is a problem that has to be addressed immediately. And if this show wasn't of such high quality, ignorance would still be the preferred option. But because of it you have handmaids now all over the world protesting for their rights as simple human beings and I gotta admit, when comparing history and looking at the impact popular culture has... it is simply astonishing. The novel itself is wonderful, and people are reading it again, which I could not be happier about. The fact that people are acting as if they JUST discovered that Margaret Atwood can write is somewhat hilarious, but besides the point when it comes to my review.
Now the bad... oh boy. Yes, this show deserved every award it got, from script to acting, to the music and the pacing, directing, cinematography, writing... really, everything. I was, however, still left disappointed by one thing, but a thing that to me was crucial. The Commander and his wife were too young... The book emphasizes something simple about their relationship: they have drifted apart. The Commander himself is a complete loser, no more than a pawn already, he is easily deceived by Offred and the one you do fear is his wife. Now, I was indeed scared of the wife, but by god, there was absolutely no reason for the Commander to be so attracted to Offred in the series! They even added in a sex scene with the wife, proving that one, he is the problem in the bedroom... two, that they are very much easily rekindled into their old ways. The book lets you in on the life of an old couple basically giving up, zero intimacy and a bored husband with a wife still seeking society's approval. Here... the fact that they made them more evil only took away from the hatred I felt for the dictatorship. I was disgusted by him, and I hated her, and in the long run I forgot that they are all just pieces in something much worse. And because of that reason I was quite thrown off.
Overall, is that a huge problem? Not for the simple viewer (by that I mean those who did not read the book), as I have asked around. It is for me because there is a special scene in the book where this defeated old man admits that they only wanted to make the world a better place. And in that moment, for a second there Atwood makes you think and you cannot help but stop hating the enemy. This is something a parent would say, "I was only trying to do the right thing", and yes, they do, but mistakes are made. We sometimes might not see the outcome of our actions. Not to mention that for Offred to pretend was much easier with a sillier inattentive older man, than in the show and some scenes because of it fell short for me. Does that make it bad? No. It is a great adaptation. They decided to answer a few questions the book left open, and I didn't mind. I liked the casting, the way you can tell they opened the book when writing the script, and made use of a great source material. I have absolutely no idea what the second season will be about, but it not being based on the book anymore, I am sure I will be more open to it. I am also curious and waiting to return to this terrible world, just to see the women in it win!

Watch it? Definitely. This is simply a good series. I personally wish I hadn't read the book first, and I rarely do that. I always watch the adaptations first and then read the books, that way imagining the actors already, and I checked the cast first here too, but... no. I'm sorry. That is my mistake ultimately. But as far as adaptations are concerned, this is among the best five out there so trust me, I am not trying to be critical! But you check it out too and let me know what you think!

Until the next item on my list!

PS: Of course read the book too! What are you waiting for?!
_ _ _ _ _ _

June Osborne/Offred - Elisabeth Moss
Serena Joy Waterford - Yvonne Strahovski
Fred Waterford - Joseph Fiennes
Nick Blaine - Max Minghella
Rita - Amanda Brugel
Janine - Madeline Brewer
Luke Bankole - O-T Fagbenle
Aunt Lydia - Ann Dowd
Moira - Samira Wiley
Ofglen - Alexis Bledel