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The Hours (2002)

Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more. It’s contrast.

— Virginia Woolf

The adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s book, The Hours garnered nine Oscar nominations in 2002 and it was won for Nicole Kidman as Best Actress for playing Virginia Woolf I haven’t seen this movie in years. I turned to it when it was on cable and watched it. I didn’t much care for it, because it was so dreary and depressing that I wanted to kill myself after watching it.  I shouldn’t have been as harsh as I been, but it is not an enjoyable film to sit through.

Three seemingly separate stories from three different twenty-four hour periods that are woven together in this movie. It tells the day in 1923 of English writer, Virginia Woolf (Kidman) who is inspired to write the manuscript for her début novel, Mrs. Dalloway. It tells the story about a woman named Clarissa who is hosting a party, but she feels constrained by society’s rules that she is unhappy.

Virginia is subjected to live in countryside because of her history of mental illness and her attempts to kill herself. This worries Virginia’s husband, Leonard (Stephen Dillane) to no end that he has to change his life for her. When a visit from her sister, Vanessa (Miranda Richardson) shows her what she should do to her heroine in the end of her novel.

A depressed pregnant housewife in 1951 Los Angles reads Mrs. Dalloway, Sarah Brown (Julianne Moore) as her only mission is bake a cake for her husband, Dan (John C. Reilly) for his birthday. She feels that she living someone else’s life and not her own. She tries to hide it from her son, Richie (Jack Rovello) who wants to help his mommy out with the cake. The only break in her mundane day was when her neighbor, Kitty (Toni Collette) comes by the hospital to her some upsetting news. Sarah’s only escape is the book as a key to a better life.

Lastly, in 2001 is a modern of “Mrs. Dalloway”, Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) who is helping plan the party of her longtime friend who is stricken with full-blown AIDS, Richard (Ed Harris) who is receiving the Carruther’s prize for his poetry. Clarissa is running around trying to make Richard comfortable when he is slowing losing his mind as his body deteriorates. Clarissa’s girlfriend, Sally (Alison Janney) tried to lend a hand for the preparation, but Clarissa wants to do everything herself. Trying to please Richard could drive a wedge between Sally, Clarissa’s daughter, Julia (Claire Danes) or Richard’s ex-boyfriend, Louis (Jeff Daniels).

As I said before, this movie is dark and dreary about living an authentic life when you are given the role that you have to play. I understand that the movie tried to have that “ah-ha moment”, but I feel like it wasn’t earned in that respect. Almost everybody dwells on death, depression, mental illness, heartbreak, regret that when they have a change of heart seems cheap.

Seeing this movie again, I understand that it was Oscar baity when the serious drama, having a real person in the movie, setting it in different time periods. The characters were not that interesting to me. They seemed flat. The dialogue that they were saying was beautiful, but it felt out of place for me.

I cannot understand why Nicole Kidman won the Oscar for this. I cannot be because of the fake nose, matronly clothes and floppy hats. I cannot be just that scene in the train station alone. It has to be all encompassing. I think Julianne got shafted because they seemed like similar roles. They are polar opposites. Cathy wanted to be a part of the American dream, while Sarah wants to escape it. Meryl was doing her thing. She was solid in the movie. I didn’t like Clarissa.

Judgment: The movie is like looking at a beautiful. Think about it.

Rating: ***

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Wes Anderson’s foray into animation culminated with the Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the classic book by Roald Dahl. I was hesitant watching this movie from the trailer for it. I was iffy on the animation. This movie came out around Thanksgiving. By Christmas, it was out of theaters. I found the movie at the cheap theater right near me.

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a seasoned thief when it comes to swiping squabs, but in one particular caper, his wife (Meryl Streep) accompanies him to steal chickens for dinner. They are snared in a fox trap and Mrs. Fox announces that she’s pregnant. She wants him to promise if they make it out alive that he would have another profession.

Two years later, he does get out of the profession. He settles down, has a safe job as a columnist He tries to provide a normal life for his oddball son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman). Mr. Fox feels poor that he is living in a hole. He wants to live above ground in the fresh air. Fox’s real estate attorney, Badger (Bill Murray) advices Mr. Fox not to move the family to the new tree, because they cannot afford the tree on his salary.

Ignoring Badger’s advice Mr. Fox moves the family to the glorious tree that overlooks a trio of compounds out in the distance. A family cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) visits the family after his father has fallen ill with double pneumonia. The lanky fox that does yoga and has a certain lilt to his voice threaten Ash.

When Kristofferson settles in, Mr. Fox is getting that itch to pull off one last job. He enlists the help of his possum super, Kiley (Wally Wolodarsky) to be his associate as they try to implement “Mr. Fox’s Master Plan”.

His three phase plans goes as follows: Phase one: infiltrate Boggis’ (Robin Hurlstone) Chicken House, drug the beagles guarding the property with blueberries laced with sleeping powder, make out with the chicken bounty. Phase two: Bunce’s (Hugo Guinness) Refrigerated Smokehouse, repeat process of phase one.

After their heist, the Fox’s pantry is filled with meat. Mrs. Fox is becoming more suspicious about her husband’s nightly duties. When phrase three in put in place: gaining access to Bean’s Secret Cider Cellar. Kristofferson come along to act as that small Asian guy in Ocean’s Eleven. (The parallels between those movies were not lost on me). There is snag in Fox’s Master Plan when the trio meet a Rat (Willem Dafoe) that has watched West Side Story one too many times, guarding the of bottles. They get into a fight and are almost caught be Bean (Michael Gambon) himself getting into his infinite stash of alcoholic cider.

As the trio outsmarted Rat and get away, the three owners have an emergency meeting about Mr. Fox robbing their stocks. They want to kill him. When they fail to do so, they decided to dig them out. Fearing for their lives, the animals decided to dig deeper into the ground. The farmers want to kill the Fox by any means necessary. This threatens the other inhabitants of the land to band together for one common goal to stop the farmers before they destroy all of their homes.

In my opinion, the crude 70s stop motion capture threw me off a little bit. These lanky stick figure miniatures were distracting. The beginning of the movie got off to a rocky start where the characters were overtly quirky to be quirky. When the whole community bands together, that is when the movie was getting real good and I forgot everything about the weird brisk walking, pooling tears in the eyes for a moment. I had a good time with this movie.

Judgment: This movie might not work for kids, but is perfect for adults.

Rating: ****

Julie and Julia (2009)

I’m Julia Child. Bon appetit!

— Julia Child

I had no inclination of watching Julie & Julia, because I thought that it would be just another chick flick. Now, that Meryl Streep is getting lots of awards attention for her portyal of Julie Child, I had to watch the film to see it. I also heard when you watch the film, it would make you hungry. I had a meal before I watched this. I envied the characters having the chance to try those wonderful dishes.

Based on the novel of the name by Julie Powell and “My Life in France” by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, writer/director Nora Ephron interweaves of two women seeming to live parallel lives at two different times.

Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is struggling novelist that is working for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation answering insurance calls after 9/11. She feels like she hasn’t finished anything in her life. Her friends are becoming more successful than she is, and it makes her feel left out in the cold. After a scathing article about her turning thirty is pressed, she wanted to accomplish something in her life. By suggestion of her husband, Eric (Chris Messina), Julie starts a blog, “The Julie/Julia Project” to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year.

Flashing back to when Julia Child (Streep) arrives in 1949 France where her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci) was transferred to the local embassy. While Paul is at work, Julie tries to find something to do. She has the idea to have a French cookbook in English, which didn’t exist at the time. To do that she had to enlist in cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, but the headmistress, Madame Brassart (Joan Juliet Buck) tries to discourage her for advancing in the school. Her infectious energy makes her the star of the class.

As the movie goes on story highlight coincides in their lives, Powell has doubts that anyone is reading her blog when she receives ingredients from her fans. She is becoming more popular that people want to interview her. Child has an opportunity to author a cookbook with acquaintances, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (Linda Emond, Helen Carey).

I heard about the liberties that Ephron with Powell who was having severe martial problems that lead towards her divorce. I enjoyed myself with the movie. Streep was good as Julia Child. Her portion of the movie was better than Powell’s. The sequence with Julia’s sister Dorothy McWilliams (Jane Lynch) visiting them did not have any bearing on the movie to me. I thought the ending dragged on too much that it got syrupy for my tastes.

I was struck about the blog. I want to read it. Does Julie have another one in the works?

Judgment: This movie is a slice of life. Make sure that you have eaten before watching it.

Rating: ****

Music of the Heart (1999)


I want you all to take a second and just… breathe. Deep breaths. Now listen to me. I want you all to play from your heart. Forget about the audience, watch me, you’ll do just fine. Just play from here.

— Roberta Guaspari

Saturday evening when I was looking after my little brother, he had the channel changed to Movieplex and Music of the Heart was playing. I haven’t seen this movie in a couple of years and so we saw it as we were eating our pizza for dinner.

I was surprised to find out that Wes Craven directed this movie. I am glad that he took a different genre of movie. I have to say that if I saw this movie in its original theaterical release, then I would have been more enraptured by it.

The movie is about Roberta Guaspari (Meryl Streep), a substitute teacher that teaches violin to underprivileged Harlem students after she is abandoned by her husband, Brian Turner (Aidan Quinn).

Devastated, she slowly rebuilds her life with the help of her mother, Assunta (Cloris Leachman). The violin program grows over the next ten years. Over a thousand students have taken her program.

Until one day, she is abruptly fired, because the school district jettisoned the arts programs. Roberta vows to fight back.

In the helping hands of the principal; Janet Williams (Angela Bassett), fellow teacher, Isabel Vasquez (Gloria Estefan) and budding photogapher, Dorothea von Haeften (Jane Leeves), they organize a concert to help save the violin program for another year.

I like the movie, but it’s a typical “fantastic musical teacher trimpuhs at the end” film like Mr. Holland’s Opus. They are good, but formulaic.

Judgment: If you are looking for a nice inspirational movie, this is up your alley.

Rating: ***

Mamma Mia! (2008)

It’s my last night of freedom… which is what some might see it, but for me it’s the last night before the greatest adventure of my life.

— Sky

I was bored yesterday and I wanted to see a dumb movie. I heard that people hated Mamma Mia! I had a morbid curiosity to see if it was as atrocious as everyone thinks. The movie is not schlock, but it’s not Moulin Rouge! quality either. I’m sorry, Hugh Jackman, but the musical is not all the way back.

First, I heard about the Broadway production on the 2002 Tony Awards. It was nominated for Best Musical and all that. It seemed like a fun ride. It had the music of ABBA, which is always nice.

I heard that they were turning this into a film with Meryl Streep in the lead as Donna, I was scared. Yes, she did sing in Postcards from the Edge and A Prairie Home Companion, but this was a much beloved musical for last couple of years.

The plot is pretty thin. It centers around a weekend in the Greek Islands in the late 1980s. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is getting married to Sky (Dominic Cooper). She wants to have her father give her away at her wedding. The problem is that she doesn’t know who her father is. She reads her mother, Donna’s diary and finds out that she has three possible fathers: Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgård), Sam Carmichael (Pierce Bronsan) and Harry Bright (Colin Firth). Hilarity ensues.

The movie was okay. The scenery was gorgeous. The editing was horrible. Some of the performances had me scratching my head.

Everybody is talking about how Pierce Bronsan’s singing would kill his career. I don’t think that. At the beginning, he sounded like Lurch trying to carrying a tune. In the uptempo selections, he was not good, but the slower ballads were better for his voice.

Judgment: If you want to see a slow moving train wreck, then this movie is for you.

Rating: **

Doubt (2008)

Adapting his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Doubt, John Patrick Shanley directs this thought provoking film with great actors, masterful dialogue and leaving you thinking the actions onscreen.

The setting takes place in 1964 Bronx Catholic school, St. Nicholas. A young, impressionable young nun, Sister James (Amy Adams) witnesses what she thinks is misconduct on the part of the progressively-minded, Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and an Black altar boy, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster).

Sister James confesses what she thinks she saw to the hardcore disciplinarian principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep). Armed with this new information, Sister Aloysius launches a campaign to oust Father Flynn out of the Parrish.

The movie consists of basically four major scenes: the confession, the confrontation of Father Flynn, the heart-to-heart between Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis), and the final showdown between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius.

I will highlight one person that floored me, twice. Viola Davis who plays Mrs. Miller. Her scene was transcendent that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, what she said, and her complacency. She blew everyone away. She deserves an Oscar for this role.

The author wants to figure out, did Father Flynn have inappropriate relations with Donald Miller or not? With my eagle eyes, I looked for clues, facial expressions, voice inflections, involuntary behavior. I know with certainly that Father Flynn did it.

I also believe that he at least molested three of the kids. Look at the kids faces, their behavior. You will know.

These are the questions that I asked myself, Why did Father Flynn stuff Donald’s undershirt into his locker? In the hallway, when Father Flynn ignored Donald, Donald felt wounded? When the boys gathered together, why did Donald look longingly at the Father? Why did Jimmy (Lloyd Clay Brown) have that hurt look on his face? Why did Father Flynn single out William London (Mike Roukis) about his dirty fingernails? Why did he resign? Why did he want to ignore the question or change the subject?

The only criticism I have about this film is including the kids in the movie. It swayed my decision one way without a doubt in my mind. Some people are saying that they should have Donald’s perspective. It would be a waste of time. Donald would lie to defend Father Flynn or have an outrgeous explansion that the adults would not believe him.

This was a good film that blows a good majority of the Oscar-baity movies out of the water.

My rating: ****1/2 stars.

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