Tag Archives: movies

I guess you could sort of say I’m prepping for ‘Hannibal’ . . .

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I haven’t watched any of “Hannibal” yet, not having the ability to satisfactorily live stream and not being willing to pay for DVDs (after all, they don’t have Richard in them). 😉

 

I do intend to read the  book “Red Dragon,” if I can just get to the library one day or locate an inexpensive copy. Having seen the film “Manhunter,” I am already  familiar with the story.  But I am indulging in a little blood and nuttiness tonight. It’s less fattening than Blue Bell ice cream, anyway.

 

Currently, I’m re-watching the 2000 film “American Psycho” on Sundance TV.  IMHO, Christian Bale is brilliant in the role of handsome Harvard grad, Patrick Bateman, an investment banker on Wall Street in the 1980s . Patrick is obsessed with looking good, going to the right restaurants, the hottest clubs, living in the best part of town, having the most attractive business card. He’s greedy and vain, pretentious and self-absorbed, the complete narcissist. And those are his good qualities.

 

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He’s also a sadistic serial killer, lusting after blood even more than Valentino suits and high-rise apartments with great views.  He doesn’t merely want to take his victims’ lives; he takes bites right out of their bodies (hmmm,  what is this reminding me of?). Ultimately, we are not certain if all or any of his horrendous crimes have actually taken place or happen solely inside one man’s sick and twisted psyche.

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AP is a searing indictment of a decade during which many of the “haves” believed greed was good and nothing succeeded like excess (why have one prostitute when you can afford two, and have sex in front of a big mirror so you can admire your buff physique and sexual prowess while you are at it?).

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american_psycho-131The Huey Lewis scene always cracks me up.

It’s a satire, it’s a horror film and often it’s–hilarious. In a rather dark way, of course.  I haven’t read the 1991 Brett Easton Ellis book on which the film is based; from what I have read online, the movie does a great job of hinting at some of Bateman’s more horrific acts without actually displaying them all on screen. Sometimes, less IS more.  I always found the alien in the film franchise of the same name to be far more frightening when we only caught fleeting glimpses of the creature.

AP almost received an NC-17 rating, but it seems this wasn’t due to violence or blood and gore, rather to that graphic three-way scene with the prostitutes. It was trimmed enough to make the MPA satisfied with giving the film an “R” rating.  Of all the characters in the film, those girls and Bateman’s sweet secretary are the only ones I feel any sort of sympathy for.

There’s some smarts on display here–it’s definitely not your bog-standard slasher flick, as it could have so easily been.  Mary Harron does an excellent job in the director’s chair, and there are several good performances, but ultimately, it’s Bales’ movie .

 

There’s this promotional image below I remember seeing in Entertainment Weekly when the film came out .  I know, I know, the man’s got (fake) blood on his face, and I shouldn’t find it alluring–yet, I do (I’m sure that the fact I find Christian Bale attractive doesn’t hurt).  What if it was Mr. A’s tongue on display . . .

Oh, my, how might Francis Dolarhyde affect me? Guess I will find out this summer when he arrives on the scene.

 

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Just some silliness that I needed.

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In the vein of Richard in film remakes, I had some fun at Face in a Hole and put him into a few roles. Some of these are quite ridiculous but hopefully they will also help you smile, too. I just needed a bit of silliness tonight.

Shades of Ricky Deeming! Well, he does rock the black leather.

Shades of Ricky Deeming! Well, he does rock the black leather.

Who needs John Wayne? It's Richard in the wild, wild west.

Who needs John Wayne? It’s Richard in the wild, wild west.

Well, we've all wanted to see those snake hips of his in action, haven't we?? ;)

Well, we’ve all wanted to see those snake hips of his in action, haven’t we?? 😉

Is it just me, or does he look a bit like Hugh Jackman channeling Mike Myers here?

Is it just me, or does he look a bit like Hugh Jackman channeling Mike Myers here?

I told you I needed some silliness, didn't I?

I told you I needed some silliness, didn’t I?

The original movie was a dud, I've heard, but I am sure RA could convince us he IS the love guru.

The original movie was a dud, I’ve heard, but I am sure RA could convince us he IS the love guru.

Possible Movie RemAkes: Swashing Some Buckles!

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OK, I freely admit it: I’d love to see Richard in period clothing again. He wears it so well. When I listen to radio dramas such as Clarissa and the Heyer audiobooks, it is so easy for me to imagine RA in frock coats and perfectly tied cravats, riding boots and snug-fitting breeches. Call me shallow; it is, indeed, a pleasant diversion.

But not only do I want to see him in such period costumes, I want to see him in action in such period costume, playing intrepid heroes.  I want to see our athletic, dashing Richard Armitage swashing some buckles, wooing lovely ladies, wielding flintlocks and rapiers with the balletic grace he brings to the role of Thorin.

The Original Hero with a Secret Identity

Before Bruce Wayne/ Batman and Don Diego de la Vega/El Zorro, there was Sir Percy Blakeney, the foppish, foolish British aristocrat who, with the help of a trusted band of fellow aristocrats, secretly helps save souls from Madame Guillotine during the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, the character created by Baroness Orczy in a series of historical adventure-romances first published in 1905, is a master of disguise and escape, a formidable swordsman, quick on his feet and very clever and cunning.

By contrast, Blakeney is a dull-witted, vain, fashion-obsessed creature who takes little interest in world affairs. His beautiful wife, a French actress, Marguerite St. Just,  is unaware of her husband’s secret identity. Circumstances lead him to mistrust her; she, in turn, feels estranged from her cold, dull English husband.

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Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour in a 1982 television adaptation of Orczy’s work.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982 film)

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The story is filled with intrigue, blackmail, lust, revenge, romance, adventure and derring-do all set during a very exciting period in history. I could see Richard having great fun with the dual role, really making us believe in the dull-witted dandy Sir Percy as much as the daring, dashing hero, the Pimpernel. And there’s a sword fight!

Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon as Sir Percy and Marguerite in the 1934 Hollywood version of TSP, considered the definitive adaptation by some fans.

Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon as Sir Percy and Marguerite in the 1934 Hollywood version of TSP, considered the definitive adaptation by some fans.

A physician turned pirate

In 1922, Rafael Sabatini penned a novel entitled Captain Blood, its 17th century hero a quick-witted Irishman who had served as soldier and sailor before settling down to work as a physician in Somerset. After aiding those injured in the Monmouth Rebellion, Blood is arrested, falsely accused of treason and transported to the Caribbean island of Barbados (Jamaica in the 1935 film) to be sold off as a slave.

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The cover of the original edition of Sabatini’s Captain Blood.

Movie poster for the 1935 film version of Sabatini's novel.

Movie poster for the 1935 film version of Sabatini’s novel.

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Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) toe-to-toe with the cruel Caribbean plantation owner (Lionel Atwill).

A wicked plantation owner who purchases him soon discovers Blood’s doctoring skills and he is hired out as a physician, successfully treating the governor for gout. A relationship develops between Blood and the plantation owner’s lovely niece, Arabella, played in the 1935 film by Olivia DeHavilland.  Neither development makes Blood’s owner a happy man.

When Spanish forces attack Jamaica, Blood and other convict-slaves manage to escape. Blood goes on to capture a Spanish ship and become one of the best pirate-buccaneers of the Caribbean. He also encounters Arabella on a merchant ship and duels with a French pirate to win her.  His gentlemanly instincts prevent Blood from having his way with his “prize,” however . . .

Richard would, of course, make an incredibly dashing, charismatic pirate and would be able to out-act Errol, who was appearing in his first high-profile role. This would also be a great excuse for RA to either grow out his hair or get extensions. Because he rocks the long locks . . . and the pirate shirts . .  and those thigh-high boots.

Captain Blood (Errol Flynn) lounging with a couple of friends.

Captain Blood (Errol Flynn) lounging with fellow pirate Basil Rathbone and a friend.

FYI: The character of Peter Blood is actually based on three real-life individuals, Henry Morgan, Thomas Blood, and Henry Pitman, a doctor who was actually caught up in the rebellion, arrested and sold into slavery in Barbados, where he was captured by pirates (although unlike his fictional counterpart, he didn’t join them in their exploits).

These are just a couple of classic film roles in the historical adventure/romance genre I wouldn’t mind seeing Richard perform. A girl can dream, can’t she? 😉

Richard Armitage: That Old-Fashioned Star Allure

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I am a huge fan of movies in general, but there is a special place in my heart for the films from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.  The studio system was in place with actors and actresses under contract, and they were expected to appear in public looking like, well, STARS–well-dressed, well-coiffed, stylish and sophisticated.

Of course, “regular” people tended to dress more formally back then, anyway–I am old enough that I remember my mother going shopping in a dress, heels and a hat and gloves. You don’t see that much anymore, do you?

Sometimes I think we’ve swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. I used to be appalled when I would attend local high school graduations for the paper when I saw how a few of the people were dressed.

 

It’s one thing if you have to come directly from work in your uniform; it’s another if you show up in a faded T-shirt with mustard stains and baggy shorts.  They looked even worse alongside the attendees who did bother to dress up in their finest for a significant occasion in their loved ones’ lives . . . I am not one to stand on ceremony, but a little decorum never hurt.

But I digress (lack of sleep will do that).

Back to the subject at hand, old movies, and a man who has that old-time movie star charisma, Mr. Armitage. The way he carries himself, the way he interacts with fans and media, is a lesson in civilized behavior laced with humor. This gracious, charming, blindingly handsome gentleman, immaculately turned out,  seems to exist on a higher plane than other mere mortals; he looks every inch the star that one might have once gushed over in the pages of Photoplay Magazine.  Back when stars really were dreamy to behold . . .

Let’s face it, dearest Rich, you are a movie star now. And with the assistance of your new stylist and your own innate allure, you LOOK it, baby.

“I had to pick myself up off the floor”: New interview with RA

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“With 13 dwarfs in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, audiences are expected by the film trilogy’s end to easily distinguish and recognise each one. 

    But if there’s one dwarf that will be easy to spot from the moment he appears on screen it will be Thorin Oakenshield, played by British actor Richard Armitage.

One reason is that Thorin is the leader and, going on a glimpse I got of the band of dwarfs on set during filming earlier this year, a heroic risk-taker. I couldn’t help but think that Thorin could be to The Hobbit what Aragorn – played by Viggo Mortensen – was in The Lord of the Rings . . .

Portrait of a charismatic handsome prince–young Thorin.

An older, more world-weary Thorin.

Armitage first heard about The Hobbit after Sir Peter Jackson contacted the actor’s agent. Jackson asked if Armitage could read for the part of Thorin. “I thought, first of all, I’m six foot two [1.8 metres] and Thorin’s an old guy. Maybe they want me to read it for a general audition.

“But then when I read what they’d done with the audition speech I realised that they were looking for something quite different. They needed someone who could play a warrior, who could play a young Thorin and old Thorin and also to bring the idea of somebody who could return to his full potential to become a king. That’s when I sat down with Peter and we talked through the journey and the arc of the character – and then they offered it to me. I had to pick myself up off the floor.”

~~excerpts from Tom Cardy’s interview with Richard Armitage in The Dominion Post  (NZ) 11/23/2012

Here’s the link to the rest of this interview: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/culture/7985809/Richard-Armitage-the-warrior-dwarf

Thanks to Heirs of Durin for the heads-up on the new interview. As always, Armitage brings thoughtful, intelligent and good-humored responses to the reporter’s questions.

He also discusses being on pins and needles during the months when he had the role, but the project had not yet been fully green-lighted. RA had to juggle projects, as he was determined that no one else would play the role.

And now, frankly, can any of us imagine anyone else playing the role? Just as Viggo became Aragorn, so Richard IS Thorin.

To all the naysayers, it does appear that Richard, a man in mid-life who is also strong, athletic, fit and accustomed to action-oriented roles as well as detailed characterizations; a skilled actor known for his chameleon-like qualities, is the perfect choice to play Thorin. Sir Peter obviously had faith in him.

Richard mentions the Powhiri ceremony kick-starting the production being an “amazing moment” after those stressful months of being on that knife edge, and I recall how overwhelmed he seemed to be in those opening moments: the flare of his nostrils, eyes shining with emotions, the smile on his face. And then the way he did us all proud with his little speech as representative of the movie’s cast and crew.

You also discover the importance of Thorin’s boots. I knew a broadcast journalist who taped pieces from the waist up. So you couldn’t see that she wasn’t wearing her customary high heels. “For some reason I can’t talk if I’ve got my heels on, so I do those reports barefooted,” she told me with a laugh.  Apparently Richard couldn’t play Thorin without his boots–even if the shot was from waist up! Just shows how importance costuming is to the characterization.

A GIF of RA doing a bit of boot bumping at Dwarf Camp (click on to play).  Richard said he had never traveled so far from home and felt more at home in New Zealand, it all seemed so familiar to him. Funny, that’s the way I felt about London!

Oh, things like this article only make me more ridiculously excited about the film. Just a few more weeks . . .

EW’s latest article on The Hobbit: Fans & Facts

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In this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, the fall movie preview offers a page devoted to The Hobbit.  I don’t have a scanner here right now so I can’t scan it in, but I can hit the high points for you. While there are no quotes from Richard (yes, the first thing I looked for, I confess) it’s an interesting read and focuses on the fact everything (outside of Bilbo and the dwarves, of course) connected with these films is HUGE.

The shooting schedule, the technology and the expectations of the movie fans anticipating seeing them (and, of course, the budget) are all on a scale “that’s hard to comprehend.”

Martin is quoted as saying that some days filming TH felt less like a film set and more like NASA.  Jackson admitted to feeling a bit daunted at times even before the two films were set to become a trilogy.

“We know we’re making a series of films that people really want to see,” said Sir Ian in the article. “But it’s a big responsibility because you don’t want to let them down.”

Philippa Boyens, however, doesn’t seem worried, saying, “There is no one way to tell these stories—there are multiple ways. People have said, ‘Aren’t you worried about what the fans are going to think?’ And I go, ‘Well, we ARE fans!”

And that fact is one that I personally find reassuring—that Philippa, Fran and Sir Peter are all huge Tolkien fans who are going to do their best to give us three excellent films.

Here are some fun factoids on The Hobbit by the numbers:

450 miles of yak hair used for wigs and beards on the first two films alone (I suspect there are some chilly yaks roaming around the Himilayas)

100 lbs. is the weight of the coat worn by Graham MacTavish as Dwalin (wonder how much Thorin’s coat weighs!)

44 individual hobbit holes created in Hobbiton

More than 2,000 prosthetic pieces—ears, noses, foreheads, hands, etc.—created for the 13 dwarves

6 sets of prosthetic hands created for each dwarf

7’1” is the height of Sir Ian’s scale double for Gandalf, Paul “Tall Paul” Randall (Wow, RA would look short compared to him. Which I guess is the point.;) )

Small Screen Armitage on the Big Screen

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Like many of you, I am tickled pink at the thought of seeing Richard on the big screen again this Christmas and in 3D–and lots more than the 10 minutes or so we got of Heinz before he bit the dust (uh, Mr. Armitage? Could you try to do a few more roles where you do actually survive the final credits? Pretty please? Thanks).

So, this led me to think:  if you could choose just one scene from one of RA’s past projects for television to see on the big screen, what would that scene be?   Porter consoling Katie? The Vicar and Harry’s marriage? Lucas’s scene in the washroom? Guy doing–just about anything? Or, perhaps, the train station scene with Margaret and John?  Do tell!

 

“Nothing But Trailers” & the Joys of Thorin

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I have been watching Richard as Thorin regularly on my HD flat screen TV. Oh, he’s glorious! And if you have AXS on your cable or satellite, you, too, could be listening to those dulcet tones sing the Misty Mountain song and study those expressive eyes as he speaks to Gandalf about the dangers of the mission.

AXS (formally known as HD Net) has a program called Nothing But Trailers.  And it is, well, nothing but trailers of upcoming movies. And right now, right in the middle of the half-hour program, is the trailer for The Hobbit.

I discovered it by happy accident one day (serendipity?) while flicking through the channels, and kept my eye out from then on. It dawned on me the other day that I could record said trailer on my DVR.  Eureka!!

Bored with the volleyball on the Olympics (not my fav sport to watch)? I click on Thorin. Stormy weather knocks out satellite signal? Doesn’t affect the DVR recordings. Click on Thorin!  Much better than watching on my computer. Flare up from IBS? Worried about Puddie? Cheers me up to know I can click on Thorin. And in a few months, I will see him in glorious 3D on the big ol’ whoppin’ movie screen . . . and hear him in “stereophonic sound.”

Great minds . . . and a charming ghost

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There are times when I wonder if we are all somehow on the same cosmic wavelength. Today, I re-watched a wonderful old movie.  A few hours later, Mezz posted a comment referring to a wonderful old movie. Yep, it was the same film, 1947’s classic romantic fantasy, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, starring Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney.  I swear, we don’t collude on these matters.

Cover of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir"

Cover of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Gene Tierney as young widow Lucy Muir and Rex Harrison as the roguish ghost of a sea captain in the film classic.

Set in the early 1900s, the film, based on a book by English author R.A. Dick (a pseudonym for Josephine Leslie) , tells the story of a spirited young widow and mother, Lucy Muir, who moves into a house called Gull Cottage situated on the British coast. The house has a spirit of its own, the sometimes irascible ghost of an able seaman, Captain Gregg, the former owner of the house. Neither he nor she will be scared away. Captain Gregg and Lucy eventually form a friendship and alliance, engaging in some amusing repartee along the way.   He even helps her write a potboiler of a seafaring memoir called Blood and Swash, which allows her to keep her house when her financial affairs take a turn for the worse.

Complications arise when Lucy encounters the suave Miles Fairley, the unlikely author of a popular series of children’s stories, better known as Uncle Neddie.  Fairley is played by George Sanders, so he is naturally charming, urbane and very likely not to be trusted.

When the captain realizes she has fallen in love with Fairley, he chooses to exit Lucy’s life, leading her to believe it’s all been just a lovely dream.  The two will eventually reunite as two souls destined to be together.

It’s a lovely, romantic, touching, amusing fantasy and well worth seeking out.  The film also has a beautiful score by Bernard Herrmann, which the composer considered his best.  Also of note is the fact little Anna Muir, Lucy’s daughter, is played by a young Natalie Wood.

Growing up in the 1960s I was a fan of the television version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, starring Edward Mulhare as the captain and Hope Lange as Mrs. Muir.  The story was transplanted to a contemporary setting in the U.S. as a situation comedy from 1968-1970.

Edward Mulhare and Hope Lange as the television versions of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Captain Gregg says goodbye to a sleeping Lucy.

Given the charisma of the roguish sea captain and how good a certain gent looks sporting a beard, is there little wonder some of us imagine Mr. A in a remake?

Aye, aye, Captain!

Comic-Con: A hot dwarf, hit shows and everything in geekdom

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Former America’s Next Top Model Adrianne Curry as Leelo from The Fifth Element poses with a friendly neighborhood storm trooper. The Fifth Element is a sci-fi movie that Mr. and Mrs. Ladywriter really enjoy.

So, I have been looking over the schedule for Comic-Con (with Sunday’s due to be announced tomorrow). Naturally,  I was paying close attention to just when a certain studio’s time block was set for Saturday. And here’s what I found on the official Comic-Con International website:

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Comic-Con (Photo credit: Scott Beale

2:30-5:00 Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary  Pictures Preview Their Upcoming Lineups—

Legendary Pictures: Pacific RimFrom acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro comes Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ epic sci-fi action adventure Pacific Rim. When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes — a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) — who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse. Pacific Rim also stars Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, and Charlie Day.
Warner Bros. Pictures: Man Of Steel
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey-From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Jackson returns to Middle-earth in an adventure that begins 60 years before the events depicted in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The first of two films adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s enduringly popular masterpiece, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who-along with the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a band of 13 Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage)-is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. The film’s ensemble cast includes Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lily, and Andy Serkis as Gollum.

What I love here is the fact that after Martin as titular hero and Sir Ian as Gandalf, there he is, Richard Armitage as Thorin,  leading that band of dwarves.  In the newspaper biz, we’d say he got topfold billing. Yeah, I am grinning to myself.  Our man has hit the big time, I do believe.

It’s not mentioned here, but for those who don’t know, TH panelists for Comic-Con are slated to be Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage *squee*, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis (Gollum and, as we know from the videoblogs, a second unit director on TH) and co-screenwriter Phillipa Boyens.  No 13 dwarfs, thank goodness. Not that I don’t love James and Aidan and all the rest, but Richard IS Top Dwarf, after all. He should be there representin’ for all the rest.

Now, Comic-Con  seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. And they do not empty out the halls and rooms after each presentation/panel.  And while there is a space reserved for media, I am not sure if that includes ALL media or just the big publications and networks. And how many of them will be camping out and claming spots they choose not to relinquish?

So it is very possible I will have to make a concerted effort to get into Hall H in the morning and hang out there until 2:30 p.m.  Yeah, it holds 6,500 people–only about a thousand less people than the population of our little hometown–but we are looking at an event that is expected to draw 165,000 people. And in case you haven’t noticed, this whole Hobbit thing is a great big deal with a lot of fans of Tolkien eager to learn more.

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The_Hobbit_ An_Unexpected_Journey (Photo credit: Film_Poster)

But my gosh, there is so much to see and do at Comic-Con beyond our beloved Richard. There are panels for attendees to give practical advice on screenwriting for television and film and writing and illustrating graphic novels and comics, panels that focus on popular television shows of the past and those which preview upcoming productions. Hugely popular productions such as True Blood, Dexter (my favorite serial killer with a code!) and Game of Thrones will be represented.  You can try out the Zombie Obstacle Course, attend a virtual drive-in theatre and discover “the naked truth about Tarzan and Jane.”

And what would such an event be without the likes of my all-time favorite ham actor, Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner and the king of low-budget sci-fi/horror movies, Roger Corman, the man who kick-started the careers of such stars as Jack Nicholson? There are seminars on staging combat, making resin casts and silicone molds, the popularity of steampunk, “trailer parks” for upcoming films and so on, and so on . . . not to mention all those colorful, creative, and sometimes scanty costumes many attendees wear. I am certain I will be completely worn out by the time I fly home Monday, but I doubt I will be bored. Even standing in line could be entertaining. I do enjoy people watching.

 

Right now, it looks like I may be hanging out with Quentin Tarantino and the cast of his upcoming film Django UnchainedTheir panel is scheduled for 11:3o in Hall H, where The Hobbit presentation will take place that afternoon. Hey, I like Tarantino, and I am thanking my lucky stars it isn’t Twilight (sorry, all you Twi-hards).

 

It is going to be an experience, that’s for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginners: a small film with a big heart–and a dog

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Melanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor in a scene from “Beginners.”

Beginners, an indie film from 2011, won me over tonight. I’d heard good things about it, and I knew it starred Ewan McGregor, one of my absolute favorite actors. The actress who played my favorite character in Inglourious BasterdsMelanie Laurent,  is featured as his love interest.

But while there is love and humor and relationships, this is no rom-com. It’s 2003, and Oliver, a 38-year-old graphic artist, finds himself dealing with two very difficult bits of news from his father.  First, Oliver discovers his 75-year-old father Hal (Christopher Plummer) is gay and ready to come out of the closet. “I don’t just want to be theoretically gay. I want to do something about it,” Hal earnestly tells his son. After more than 40 years of marriage and living a lie with Oliver’s late mother ( who knew he was gay but said she could “fix” him), he doesn’t want to hide any longer.

Cristopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor star as father and son facing some hard realities as they search for love and friendship.

And so Hal gets involved with various gay pride groups, makes lots of new friends and even gets the sort of tender romantic relationship with a younger man ( that handsome gent Goran Visnjic, sporting an unfortunate John Porter Security Man Shag) he’s hoped to find. He’s suddenly discovered his joie de vivre. Oliver–who never saw real love between his parents, only a polite cordiality–looks on with interest.

Poor Oliver is an uptight guy–he’s sad, he’s lonely and he yearns for a lasting, loving relationship, something that has eluded him.  You don’t have to be told this; you can see in McGregor’s expressive eyes.

I said two difficult bits of news. Just when Hal is enjoying his new freedom of expression, he is diagnosed with lung cancer.

The movie is narrated by McGregor and features flashbacks to the childhood that helped mold into the adult he’s become. We follow Oliver’s relationship with his terminally ill father (his love for his dad is so touching), and later, his blossoming romance with a lovely French actress, who is as emotionally skittish as Oliver. There are a lot of serious moments, and at one point I was boo-hooing (keep the tissues handy).

But  there are lighter moments as well, and it’s never melodramatic; these seem like real people in real houses and offices, not actors emoting on some Hollywood soundstage.

It’s not for everyone; it moves at a leisurely pace and there isn’t a lot of action.  But as one reviewer said, it has an innate sweetness. Beginners offers plenty of humanity with a literate script ( based on the real-life story of the writer-director’s relationship with his late father) and wonderful performances by all involved.  Not to mention the cutest Jack Russell Terrier who “speaks” in subtitles to add a bit of lightness here and there (and it works. I fell in love with Arthur). Ultimately, it is a life-affirming film.

I have to say this is the kind of small indie gem I would love to see Richard appear in from time to time, in between big budget productions and any stage work he might pursue. I think he would find such a project a satisfying and rewarding one and we would enjoy seeing him engage with good actors and a good script in an intimate setting.

Arthur, the adorable Jack Russell who provides delightful comedy relief and a real “awwww” factor to the film.

OT: The Price is–wrong? My problems with an Austen poor relation

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We’ve been discussing some of the pros and cons of various adaptations of period dramas in comments on other posts, so I thought I would bring up another Austen novel. Mansfield Park has been adapted several times for television and film, but it seems to be a difficult task, judging from some of the results.

Nicholas Farrell and Sylvestra Le Touzel as Edmund and Fanny in the 1983 mini-series version of Mansfield Park. This is reportedly an adaptation faithful to the original novel.

To summarize: Fanny is one of a large brood of children, more than her parents can afford to keep, and so she is sent at age 10 to live with her wealthy relatives, the Bertrams.  She grows up to be a very timid and demure young woman. Her spoiled female cousins never let her forget that, as the “poor relation,” she is their social inferior.

Only her cousin Edmund shows her kindness, which develops into a romantic attachment for Fanny (upon which she is too shy to act).   Edmund, who plans to enter the ministry, is a steady, sensible soul, unlike his drunken wastrel of an elder brother. He and Fanny are clearly the two most virtuous characters in the story, and that virtue will be tested.

The charming but shallow and materialistic Crawfords come into the Bertram family’s universe and turn it upside down, leading to several romantic entanglements. Will Fanny lose Edmund to the worldly Mary Crawford? Will she herself fall under the spell of Mary’s dashing brother, Henry?  Will virtue triumph over vice?

Alessandro Nivola as Henry and Frances O’Conner as Fanny in the 1999 film version of Mansfield Park, which took some noticeable departures from the source material.

I have to confess, Mansfield Park as a novel is a problem for me largely because Fanny Price is a problem for me as a heroine.  She’s so shy and demure and virtuous, she’s downright dull. I have no objection to virtue, mind you; but a bit of spark and spirit, a noticeable sense of humor, the sorts of qualities we see in Austen heroines like Elizabeth Bennett and Emma, would have gone a long way.  Fanny on the page comes across to me as–blaah.  So good she’s boring.

In the 1999 film version written and directed by Patricia Rozema, Frances O’Connor brings us an intelligent and forthright Fanny who keeps a journal in which she makes clear-eyed and witty observations of the world around her. I like O’Connor as an actress and I like her Fanny; but is she really Jane Austen’s Fanny?

The whole production takes considerable liberalities, including the addition of social commentary concerning slavery in Antigua, where the Bertrams have holdings. It hints that Mary Crawford may be attracted to women as well as men. We see Maria Bertram in flagrante delicto with another character rather than simply hearing she’s run off with him.

Purists often detest this version, but I confess I find it very watchable and enjoyable as a period comedy/drama. I’m just not sure it’s Jane Austen, if you know what I mean.

The other Mansfield Park adaptation I have seen is the 2007 ITV version starring Billie Piper as Fanny. Oh, dear.

Billie Piper, a great companion for Doctor Who, but a strange casting choice for the role of timid little Fanny Price.

Piper was charming as the companion to the first two Doctors in the rebooted Doctor Who.  But she was truly miscast as Fanny Price. First of all, the look was all wrong. The nearly black eyebrows with the loose bottle blonde hair tumbling about her shoulders and the dresses more suitable for a serving wench than the demure poor relation made her look like she’d walked in off the set of one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Piper’s Fanny was more of a boisterous tomboy, giggling and cavorting about. I think she even played footsy at one point with Edmund, who came off as cute but a bit wet.

And once more there were departures from the source material, all of which I do not recall as I watched this only once and then tried to put it out of my mind. I had reservations about the last Persuasion, but found it considerably better than this.

The 1983 mini-series with Nicholas Farrell and Sylvestra Le Touzel is one I haven’t seen but I hope to do so one day. It appears to have the highest overall rating of the three productions, adhering the most faithfully to Austen’s novel. Would I find Le Touzel’s Fanny more palatable than Piper and more faithful to the original than O’Connor–and also interesting?

Have you read the novel and/or seen the film adaptations? I would love to hear your thoughts.  (images courtesy of IMDB)

He’s just too good for this

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Fans of the 50 Shades trilogy are now speculating over who should play Christian in the upcoming film version. Some have even brought up Mr. A’s name. He’s at least 10 years too old to play the role (Christian is 27, I believe) and whilst I think Richard would make a fabulously sexy and spooky vampire, I have no desire to see him play a stalker and twisted serial sadist with a “Red Room of Pain.” 

As a character, Christian’s emotions are so all over the map, he makes John Bateman look really well adjusted. If the character of Paul Andrews disturbed you, he is a complete innocent compared with the “f**ked up” Christian, who enjoys beating a long series of young women who remind him of his dead crackwhore mom. It’s consensual, but that doesn’t make it healthy.

 Fantasy is one thing; fantasy grounded in reality is another.  Let them cast the “beautiful unknowns” that the author is hoping for, for the film; Richard has much bigger and better things ahead for him. 

I’d be happy to see him in some steamy scenes onscreen–we all know he can smoulder and scorch with the best of them– but I’d rather such scenes didn’t involve belts, whips, canes, handcuffs and spreader bars coupled with an overwhelming desire to cause pain.

I’m no snob, really I’m not; but I think Richard Armitage is just too classy, too talented and too good for this. He’s expressed a desire to make a film “all about love.” And this ain’t it.

Movies & Magic (and Mr. Armitage) Part One

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Yesterday I watched a couple of films—Cinema Paradiso and Sullivan’s Travels—separated by language, nation and a few decades, and yet there’s a message in each that complements the other.

CP, the well-deserved Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language film in 1989, is the story of “Toto,” a young Sicilian boy who loses his father in WW II and is taken under the wing of the local movie theater projectionist, Alfredo.  Toto grows up, falls in love, deals with loss and becomes a well-known film director who returns for Alfredo’s funeral to the little town he had left behind so long before.

It’s one of those films filled with humor and pathos and a strong heartbeat, and if it doesn’t move you, perhaps you’d better make sure you have one—a heart, that is.

Long before Toto falls in love with the beautiful blue-eyed Elena, he has a love affair with films, with the magic of those flickering images on the screen of the local cinema. The films give wing to his imagination.

They have the power to transport him to a different place, a different time, far away from the little Sicilian town where he lives. Movies provide both laughter and tears. They celebrate life.

 

Sullivan’s Travels, a Preston Sturges comedy-drama from 1941, finds movie director John Sullivan (Joel MaCrea) determined to move away from the escapist films that have been his bread and butter and make a serious, important film about the “common man,” based on a serious, important book, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (now you know where the Coen brothers got the title for their film).

The trouble is, he’s more or less lost touch with the “common man” during his time in the land of palm trees, swimming pools and movie stars. And so Sullivan sets out as a hobo on his travels to reconnect with the regular Joes and Jills of this world—and he gets far more than he bargained for.

Cover of "Sullivan's Travels: The Criteri...

Cover via Amazon

Cropped screenshot of Veronica Lake and Joel M...

Cropped screenshot of Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea from Sullivan’s Travels. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a rural black church, watching cartoons projected onto a bed sheet, listening to the raucous laughter of its congregation and the local prisoners they allow to share their movie-going experience, Sullivan has a sort of epiphany.

Laughter and escapism shouldn’t be discounted. Sometimes, it is all some people have.

Movies were never better attended than in the years of the
Great Depression. The box office receipts for films in those days  were phenomenal.  Sure, we have mega-million dollars in box office returns these days, but take into account inflation, and the fact those films often cost tons of money to make, not to mention the average cost of tickets these days. Most Americans during the Depression era were going to the local picture show several times a week—not a month or a year.

Tickets may have cost only a few cents, but that was when a few cents could buy a meal or a gallon of gas. A movie ticket was a minor luxury, like a new lipstick or a pack of smokes.

A trip to the movies made you feel better, made you forget your own troubles. You got caught up in the stories, the characters, their adventures. You cheered and booed and hissed and cried and came back for more.

Mr. Armitage does that for us, too. Transports us to different times and places. We get caught up in his characters and their stories.  And we keep coming back for more . . .

(end of Part 1)

A man who, like a good movie, is made of magic.