Monday, December 31

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Last review of 2012: Break off a piece of Lembas, The Film Fatales are off on an epic adventure: The Hobbit

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. 2012. 169 minutes. Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage. Directed by Peter Jackson.

A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug. [imdb]

Nicole: OK, Cassidy, so I know you don’t go in for this sorta thing. You’re not a big geek like me. I’ve been waiting for years for this to come to the big screen – and it did not disappoint. Waiting another year for the 2nd part, now that smarts. 

elizabeth: Would you please go outside and stare at the big round ball in the sky for ten minutes? I don’t see the appeal of men looking like they haven’t bathe since the days of the Black Plague.  And I think Smaug was my boss at my last two jobs.

Nicole: That's quite possible, but I digress... Let’s first talk casting. I cannot think of another actor that could have played hobbit Bilbo Baggins better. Martin Freeman is inspired – he fits seamlessly into the cast. It’s perfectly believable that he’s the younger Baggins (whom we see played by Ian Holm in this film, as well as the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy). He handled the role with finesse, humor, and acuity. Cannot wait to see him continue the journey. Ian McKellen is back as Gandalf the Grey, a role he’s played so many years now it fits him like a glove. And, Richard Armitage as heir-apparent dwarf Thorin Oakenshield is the right amount of moody, betrayed, and fierce warrior. And, let’s not forget Andy Serkis as Gollum – perfecting creepy on a whole new level. The cast is HUGE and I could go on for days, but I’ll leave it there. 

elizabeth: Did you say something?

Nicole: Ignoring you. Now, on to the script. If I had to argue about anything, it would be that I felt they concentrated on some scenes too long, whilst others got little attention. That could be because I’m a whore for elves and really was looking forward to more time spent in Rivendell. I did want to see more of Bilbo’s impression and interaction…but I’ll take what I can get. 

elizabeth: “A whore for elves” – is that on your resume?

Nicole: In fact, yes, it is. Still ignoring you. Special effects – I guess I can say little since I saw this film in SD. (I learned my lesson from Avatar. I cannot handle a nearly 3-hour movie in 3D. Vomiting is a very likely possibility.) What I did notice from the SD version (and Jackson’s choice to shoot the movie at 48 frames per second) was that some things didn’t transition well and looked a tad fake. But it’s scenes like the warring Mountain Giants that make you quickly forget anything that might be off about the film’s production. I was fully clenched the entire time. TMI? If you’re a Tolkien fan, a Jackson fan or just a geeky nerd – invest in seeing this movie and making the commitment to see it through to conclusion in 2015. ‘Cause the journey is well-worth the effort.

elizabeth: You mean I have to wait till 2015 to call you a whore for elves again? Seems so unfair.

Nicole: I think you'll manage. 


Wednesday, December 19

The Film Fatales Best Holiday Movie Picks

The Film Fatales are decking the Halls with some of our favorite holiday movies. Egg nog, anyone?

elizabeth: Each year cable stations around the country drag out some of our favorite holiday movies. Nicole, it is a real shame that these movies are not shown any other time of the year. My people handle the holidays a little differently.  Every July 4th, you could hear Christmas songs coming out of my parents’ house. After a while the neighbors got used to it and just joined in singing along with us. We weren’t allowed to date their sons for fear that this tradition could be passed on to their grandchildren. God forbid.

Nicole: That actually explains a lot. Don’t let the department stores hear you say this…they’ll push up Christmas sooner than they already do now.

Elizabeth’s Picks

"Scrooge": A Christmas Carol. 1951. Starring Alastair Sims as the best Scrooge there ever was in all of London and the world. 

An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by ghosts on Christmas Eve. (imbd)

There is only version of this movie that does justice to one of the masters of Victorian literature. Dickens’ novel is about a man in need of a little redemption on a snowy Christmas Eve in London. The B&W film makes the poverty and bitter cold of London even drearier and Sim’s brilliant performance as Ebenezer Scrooge is not to be matched by the likes of The Muppets, The Smurfs (this borders on being sacrilegious), Jim Carrey or Vanessa Williams’ take in A Diva’s Christmas Carol (2000). I will give Reginald Owens, who took on the role in the 1938 version, a little shout out. I am doing this for my mother who was outvoted every year when it came to who was the best Scrooge in my house. She was so wrong.

But this is a beautiful movie and the life lessons in it are many. We learn that even the bitterest man can be saved when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future come a knocking. This is a movie for our time.  Maybe at this time of the year we need to reflect on what is really important in our lives – the love of friends and family or the coolest tablet ever made?  Can you imagine Scrooge with an iPad in the pocket of his frock coat? Or no prisons? Or no workhouses?

The Nightmare Before Christmas.  1993. Directed by Tim Burton.

Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn't quite understand the concept. (imbd)

The first time I saw this movie I wanted to spend a week inside Tim Burton’s brain. This movie is all about the unleashing of one’s imagination and the end result is Jack Skellington, Sally, Dr. Finklestein, Ooogie Boogie, Santa and the rest of this fabulous cast of characters. And kids of any age will love this. In fact when this came out in video, I got it as a Christmas present from a friend’s kid.  They knew a big kid when they saw one. 

A Christmas Story.  1983. Starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin.

Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940s. (imbd)

I remember when this movie came out. I had no desire to see a kiddie movie. But my friend Sharon kept on all of us until we made our way to the theatre. We all fell in love with the trials and tribulations of a nerdy kid trying to get what he really wants for Christmas. Man, we could all relate to that. I think the enormous charm of this movie is the love of family in a simpler time and a foul-mouthed father who gave the movie its edge.  In fact when Gavin McGavin passed in 2006, I felt a little sad. I never did get to ask him what he was saying when he buried that leg lamp in the backyard.

Nicole’s Picks

Holiday Inn. 1942. Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Majorie Reynolds.  

At an inn which is only open on holidays, a crooner and a hoofer vie for the affections of a beautiful up-and-coming performer. [imdb]

God, I’m such a sucker for a ‘40s Fred Astaire musical, and despite how much I love the pairing of Fred & Ginger – this remains my all-time favorite Fred Astaire movie. It’s probably in part because my mom made watching it a tradition in our house – a tradition I love to this day. Bing Crosby plays a hard-on-his-luck songwriter who leaves the big city for rural Connecticut where he opens a country inn complete with musical entertainment – but only on all of the major holidays of the year. Fred is his conniving friend looking to steal his thunder and go Hollywood. Nothing’s sacred – not even Bing’s gal. Every musical number is a delight. Part slapstick comedy, part heartwarming love story – it’s pure perfection. Especially the scene when Bing sings “White Christmas.” Tip: Opt to watch it b&w, not the colorized version.  

It’s a Wonderful Life. 1946. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed.

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed. [imdb]

Come on – does it get much better than Jimmy Stewart running down Main Street in Bedford Falls—a new lease on life after having glimpsed a possible world in which he’d never been born?  A tale of how one man’s life has so much impact on the world and community around him. Frank Capra’s wonderful direction and Jimmy Stewart’s tender, yet feverish portrayal of George Bailey combined to turn this film into the classic it is today. I’m glad it’s played ad nauseum on TV every holiday season. It’s not only entertaining, but it’s message is universal and everlasting. No man is a failure who has friends… Indeed.

Elf. 2006. Starring Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan.

After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity. [imdb]

Silly, silly, silly – but terribly fun…and so quotable. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and Will Ferrell might annoy some people, but I gotta say he is just so loveable in this movie. Playing the na├»ve “elf” Buddy, Will gets away with a lot of crass, immature humor (every bit of which is hilarious). And as far as modern holiday movies go, this one’s pretty original in concept. If the doctor’s office scene doesn’t make you laugh—check your pulse. No doubt, the season’s going to be hectic, dramatic and stressful for a lot of people – so do yourself a favor, unwind a little by renting Elf and have a laugh. 

So, now it's your turn: 
What are your favorite holiday movies?
Tell us in the comments section of this post. 

Monday, December 3

Silver Linings Playbook

The Film Fatales tell you whether Silver Linings Playbook has a winning team (or goes for the gold).

2012. 211 minutes. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver, and Chris Tucker. Directed by David O. Russell.

After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own. [imdb]

elizabeth: Mental illness sucks. Whether you are born with the ailment imprinted on your tiny soul or whether society beats you down so much that you lose your grip on reality, it sucks. And Hollywood sometimes does not do justice in allowing the audience to see just how someone in the throes of a mental illness really behaves if only to make the audience more compassionate toward people with an illness that you can’t readily see.

Bradley Cooper does a stellar job in bringing Pat Solitano’s demons to life. You feel his pain, you want him to win and when he slips, you want to comfort him. But Pat doesn’t need our help. Cooper takes a man beaten down by mental illness and brings out his humanity, survival instincts and humor and without giving the ending away, he puts in a performance that is worthy of an Oscar nomination. Thank God he did this while waiting to take on The Hangover Three. Hey, Bradley, act in more movies like this and I will make a beeline to the theatre.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Tiffany, the young wounded widow, is heartbreaking, but it was worth the price of the movie ticket to watch an actress who can get into the soul of her character and become someone else. Major kudos to this young actress. Hollywood keeps dragging poor Lindsay Lohan back into the public’s eye. I think Lindsay needs to go away and get healthy, really healthy. Jennifer can handle the leading roles coming up just fine, thank you.

Nicole: God, I hate it when we agree. But I digress. When Hollywood deals with mental illness, the characters sometimes come off as caricatures. When bi-polar disorder and (what I presume to be) hypomania manifest, they tend to be in very particular ways that are different to each person affected. Sure, there are commonalities, but it’s not a cookie-cutter experience. I guess for some actors it’s easier to play a stereotype than the truth. It was interesting to watch Cooper and Lawrence showcase a truer interpretation of mental infirmity. Just two people who come together as they each come back to life after terrible setbacks.

I’m really impressed with Lawrence. I think she’s definitely got a long career in front of her. Even if it’s hard not to have chemistry with Cooper, ‘cause – well, let’s face it, he’s handsome, talented and for God’s sake, the man is fluent in French. So, I can’t imagine making the sparks ignite was too hard a task.

elizabeth: My only one complaint about this movie is that it is a tad too long. And if you hate football like I do, it can get a little painful. While I love DeNiro’s performance as a dad with his own set of problems (and with no fashion sense. Paging Tim Gunn), I was getting anxious for them to move on. I do get the part about the playbook (and so will you when you see it), but football cannot hold a candle to the family drama that is Silver Linings Playbook. And it was refreshing to see a movie that makes my own family appear to be “borderline normal.”

Nicole: I agree…again. This has to stop. As much as I love DeNiro, I felt like his character was predictable. I found myself wondering why he took this part. It could have been played by anyone, really. It certainly wasn’t a stand-out role. There were some different choices I might have made script-wise – the length being number 1. They certainly could have come to the same resolution by shaving off 30 minutes.

elizabeth: Okay, I have two more complaints. I could not remember the title and I hope it doesn’t hurt the movie. Another terrific movie was The Shawshack Redemption and that title hurt the movie when it came out. Good thing people found that movie later on. So write the title down, put it in a safe place and go see Silver Linings Playbook. My last compliant and then I promise to go away: I would like Bob DeNiro to know that a brown shirt and grey pants will never ever go together. Not in my shallow little world.

Nicole: This isn’t Project Runway, Cassidy. And you’re not Heidi Klum. Auf Weidersehen.  

The Film Fatales giving Silver Linings Playbook