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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

GREENLIGHT Reviews #164: Becoming Jane (with "Pride & Prejudice" and "Educating Rita")

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Ann and Les enjoyed the quiet thoughtfulness of Becoming Jane (2007) but they thought it could have used a little more spice. They also thoroughly enjoyed the masterful performances of the almost all British cast such as James McAvoy and Maggie Smith playing these thoroughly British characters created by the masterful Jane Austen. That raises the question, then, why the producers felt the need to use the relatively inexperienced American Anne Hathaway in the lead role. She doesn’t ruin the sweet little film but she doesn’t add much to it either.

For their GREENLIGHT Rentals, Les recommends a really good Jane Austen film made quite recently called Pride & Prejudice (2005.) Much to his surprise, this film features Keira Knightley in the lead and she’s a wonderful Elizabeth Bennett to the smooth moves of Matthew Mcfadyen as Mr. Darcy. These two are balanced by Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn as the thoroughly entertaining, if for opposite reasons, Mr. & Mrs. Bennett. Ann recommends a slightly more modern take on a Jane Austen theme (though it’s not based on a Jane Austen novel and it was made over 20 years ago) with Michael Caine playing a stuffy English professor charged with helping the uneducated hairdresser played byJulie Walters raise her intellectual prowess in Lewis Gilbert’s Educating Rita (1983.)
RUNNING TIME: 14:59

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GREENLIGHT Reviews #163: Stardust (with "Princess Bride" and "Shopgirl")

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Ann and Les were split on the magic of Stardust (2007.) Les was charmed by the performance of Claire Danes who plays a fallen star, literally. Ann thinks the ethereal type role is just not suited to her and neither is the mean irony of the wicked witch played by Michelle Pfeiffer. They were both captivated by a new English actor Charlie Cox who practically steals the show. Another big problem with the film for Ann was the running joke based on Robert DeNiro’s character. She thought it was an obvious and cheap shot that went on way too long. Les thought it was funny. For their GREENLIGHT Rentals, Les recommends another magical movie that was truly funny and enduring called Princess Bride (1987.) This movie was a delight from fairy-tale start to fairy-tale finish with a whole lot of fairy-tale shenanigans in between. Robin Wright Penn plays the title character who has to keep a straight face while all sorts of goofballs chase her and her love Cary Elwes . Perhaps the most entertaining of these enemies is Inigo Montoya, played by Mandy Patinkin, you know, the one who’s father was killed. The list of great actors in this film is quite long and much credit for bringing them all together in this light, magical, and delightful comedy must go to writer William Goldman and director Rob Reiner. Ann recommends Ms. Danes in a film she thinks was singularly suited to her by writer and co-star Steve Martin. She plays a naïve shopgirl who is romanced by an older and elegant and rich man, Robert Porter, but doesn’t know it’s not for real. Confusion really sets in when she meets Porter’s opposite in a nice but not-so-together young man played by Jason Schwarzman. It’s a study in one aspect of human nature that can never really be overstudied or understood called, appropriately enough, Shopgirl (2005.)
RUNNING TIME: 14:58

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

GREENLIGHT Reviews #162: The Bourne Ultimatum (with "Five Graves to Cairo" and "Cries and Whispers")

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Ann and Les say that of all the action movies released this year, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) is the best yet. It’s filled with picturesque escapes and chases all over the world. Matt Damon plays it very intensely and they were equally captivated and intrigued by his character – which is really saying something since he barely had anything to say. Ann thinks the real stars of the film are the director Paul Greengrass , the cinematographer Oliver Wood , and the editor Christopher Rouse . They put this film together beautifully and at a breathtaking though still manageable pace. And the performance of David Straithaim is right on too. For their GREENLIGHT Rentals, Les recommends another spy film though decidedly one more obscure called Five Graves to Cairo (1978.) It stars everybody’s favorite Franchot Tone (that is, if you’ve ever heard of him.) This is Billy Wilder movie also featured Ann Baxter and Eric von Stroheim and it tells an intriguing and complicated tale of an English soldier surviving in a small North African city after Rommel decimated his army. He unwittingly ends up playing the role of a German spy and he might be turned in by Ann Baxter’s character who thinks she can help her imprisoned brother by doing so. Ann goes for another kind of intrigue when she recommends an Ingmar Bergman film about the inner lives of anguished women, played by two of his favorites Liv Ullman and Ingrid Thullin, called Cries and Whispers (1954.)
RUNNING TIME: 14:57

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GREENLIGHT Reviews #161: The Ten (with "Going My Way" and "Six Degrees of Separation")

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Ann and Les had faith the The Ten (2007) would be a movie worth seeing but, alas, it was not. To them it was yet another imbecilic film made by immature filmmakers. Even when they managed to stumble upon a funny concept about the Ten Commandments, they manage to beat it mercilessly to death. Almost nothing can be said to recommend the performances of Jessica Alba or Adam Brody and simply nothing other than money can be said for why actors the caliber of Oliver Platt and Liev Schreiber would even do such a movie. And perhaps this movie kindly puts the final ten nails in the coffin of Winona Ryder’s career.

For their GREENLIGHT Rentals, Les recommends a thoroughly enchanting movie about two religious men called Going My Way (1944.) This film features Bing Crosby as a hip-modern priest (of the 1940’s mind you) taking over the parish of a traditional priest played by the absolutely charming Barry Fitzgerald. Les, a non-Catholic, assures you that you don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy this one – especially the scenes with Crosby and The Robert Mitchell Boy Choir. Where, oh where, did the disciples of director Leo McCarey go? Ann recommends a thoroughly modern movie about people who think they’re thoroughly modern. The cast is lead by Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland who play a couple who are thoroughly taken with a strange young man, played by a young Will Smith, who introduces himself to them by declaring he is a friend of their children’s and the son of Sidney Poitier. Much interesting thought and theory follow in Six Degrees of Separation (1993.)
RUNNING TIME: 14:57

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

GREENLIGHT Reviews #158: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (with "Green Card" and "In & Out")

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Ann and Les had a lively discussion about I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007.) Ann is simply through with Adam Sandler. This is yet another movie that showcases his lack of talent. Les agrees but doesn’t come down as hard on the movie because he really enjoyed the performance of Kevin James and because he thought the last ten minutes of the film made up for the first 110. Ann, as you might imagine, doesn’t agree and furthermore she thinks that any self-respecting gay person should be outraged by this film. Meanwhile, both think the continued appearances in these films of former stars likeDan Akroyd and Richard Chamberlain is downright sad and bordering on pathetic.

For their GREENLIGHT Rentals, Les recommends a little but delightful film about an arranged marriage of sorts called Green Card (1990.) Andie MacDowell plays a New York artist who needs a husband to move into a couples only apartment and Gerard Depardieu plays a Frenchman (surprise!) whose visa is running out and needs an American wife to stay. Also watch for the always interesting Bebe Neuwirth. Ann recommends a film that sticks with the theme of the featured film but does so in a much more sensitive and entertaining manner. Here Kevin Kline plays a Midwestern schoolteacher engaged to another schoolteacher, played by Joan Cusack, who is dramatically “outed” by a former student, played by Matt Dillon. The film then focuses on how Kline’s character deals with this event and manages to be funny about it while not insulting. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mr. Kline gets some help with his feelings from Tom Selleck in In & Out (1997.)
RUNNING TIME: 14:57

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

GREENLIGHT Reviews #157: Hairspray (with "Grease" and "seven Brides for Seven Brothers")

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Ann and Les were pleasantly surprised by the delightful musical Hairspray (2007.) As yet another remake of a remake, they were skeptical but the performances of Nikki Blonsky , Christopher Walken, and Michelle Pfeiffer won them over quite quickly. They weren’t as crazy about John Travolta’s peformance but it didn’t ruin the picture. All in all it was fun. For their GREENLIGHT Rentals, Les recommends a film that featured a wonderful performance by Mr. Travolta in an equally fun film called Grease (1978.) It’s up there with one of the best high school movies ever. And Olivia Newton John is up there as one of the best high school girls ever. Also pay attention to the names of all the “adults” in the movie – it’s a veritable who’s who of grand old Hollywood including Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon, and Joan Blondell . Ann goes back a bit further for another musical that charms you through and through. It featured the wonderful talents of Howard Keel and Jane Powell as they sang and danced their way to marital bliss for them and their six brothers in director Stanley Donen’s extravaganza called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954.)
RUNNING TIME: 14:57

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