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Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

I hate it when I am looking forward to a movie and it doesn’t live up to what I had hoped it would be.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has been advertised for months. I was super excited to see Jude Law as a younger Dumbledore. Johnny Depp appearing as Grindelwald seems inspired.

crimes of grindelwald.jpgI knew that we would see Grindelwald’s beginnings as a leader of wanting only wizards to rule the world. I knew that there would be new and old characters developing the story further.

I didn’t expect the darkness but I should have because the timing of Grindelwald’s reign of terror coincides with WWII. And his message of a master race is eerily similar to Hitler’s messages from the early 1930s.

The movie starts with Grindelwald’s escape from New York, a scene in which enemies and partners are discarded like wet towels that are no longer needed. Soon enough we are finding out about his true intentions and desires. We see him slowly trying and winning more followers.

Meanwhile, Newt Scamander has continued to take care of his menagerie of creatures. Because of the events in New York City a few months back, he is no longer allowed to travel across international lines. But the ministry is willing to allow him to travel again if Newt is willing to ‘take care’ of the Credence problem.

Crimes of Grindelwald fullcastThere are other problems. When Queenie and Jacob show up in London, Newt knows immediately that Queenie has put Jacob, an American Muggle, under a spell. They want to marry but Jacob won’t until the law allows them to be married.

Soon enough all three find their way to Paris to find Tina, Quennie’s sister. Not to mention the situation with Dumbledore.

The animation of this movie is incredible. Magical creatures abound and seamlessly works on the screen. I feel as if we are in the London and Paris of the 1920s moving towards the 1930s with more fitted clothing but Marcel waves still abounding.

The problem is there are almost too many back stories that we need to make sense of everything. Some of our characters do not act in a way that seems true to the characters we have known. While Jude Law is good as Dumbledore and Eddie Redmayne continues to shine as Newt, there is something missing. The wonder of magic is simply not present enough despite Jacob’s efforts.

That compounds the fact that this movie is too dark in the story line, in the story telling, and in the characterization of Grindelwald. This is not a movie for children, as much as I wish it to be. It is better for teens and adults who might feel a kinship with Credence in his hunt for his real family.

The first movie had many magical elements and was fun. This second installment has moved to a darker place quite quickly and I feel the rest of the movies in this series will not go back to a lighter feeling. But how can it when we are talking about a holocaust?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

She’s a Spy?

I have to admit, I enjoy a good spy movie.

There is something about the cloak and dagger stuff that is exciting because I will never live it. Honestly, I was never meant to carry out any of those missions. I can’t lie my way out of a paper bag, there is no way I could bluff through an entire night.

Perhaps that is why I enjoyed the latest Melissa McCarthy flick “Spy” that came out on DVD recently.

McCarty, quite frankly, looks like one of us. As the CIA analyst who works from the basement control room in Langely, she acts like one of us wimpy types which makes her appealing to me. I feel as if I know her. She is that smart funny friend who is just a bit gun-shy and thinks of the great retort a few days later. McCarthy is great in the basement watching a screen to control the action but she knows she could not be a field agent.

Spy

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That is until she decides to go out in the field when her field-agent partner is compromised. Suddenly the shy woman who cannot fire the gardener is dressing up in Italian fashions and chasing potential enemies. And she has help in the form of rogue agent Jason Stratham and fellow basement dweller Miranda Hart. Then there is Aldo. I could explain Aldo by that would take too long.

All of this is so that she can track and report on the actions of Rose Byrne who happens to be the daughter of a recently deceased arms dealer.

I realize it is getting convoluted but really that may be one of the reasons to watch this movie. It is wonderfully ridiculous. And it is not afraid to go into the R rating territory. I won’t lie and say there is no swearing in this movie. There is plenty along with a healthy use of hand gestures and a few gruesome dead bodies. Too many movies play it safe and stay in the PG-13 zone for the maximum amount of possible audience members. That’s good for families although at times it makes for weaker movies, especially in the horror genre.

Then there are times when adults want something more spicy, filled with words they might hear all of the time at work when things go wrong. I appreciated the earthiness of this movie. And I really appreciated Stratham for playing against his usual type of always being in control. He screws up and somehow it works out. His character is a mess and I love him for that. Jude Law, normally incredible, seems a bit tamped down. Maybe like his character, he didn’t think he had to work that hard.

Sprectre Daniel Craig In any case, it is McCarthy’s film and she holds up her end. My husband thought it was too over-the-top, he didn’t think it was all that good of a movie. Perhaps he has a point but I know that this was something fun to watch after a long day at work and the kids were safely in bed. Besides the real spy movie, Spectre, is out on DVD. If I want a more serious take of the spy profession, I can watch that.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

On The Hunt

With Christmas over, the hunt for perfect gifts is over as well.

As I have been hunting around for presents, I have taken on a near ‘buyer beware’ attitude. The other  week when I was in the stores I thought I had found the perfect present for my mother.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

It was a “Sherlock Holmes” set on DVD with four movies, episodes from an old TV show, and a featurette. Right on the box was a picture of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. These two men were and will always be what I think of first when I hear “Holmes and Watson.”

On a closer look, I read the titles and realized that Nigel Bruce was in only one of the movies. The Hound of the Baskervilles in the set which meant these were all of the lesser movies. That was very disappointing. So I put the box back on the shelf and moved on. If I am to give my mother a box set of Sherlock Holmes movies, Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone have to be together.

Thanks to the Guy Ritchie movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the British detecting duo, interest in Sherlock Holmes has been renewed. Ritchie’s version of the detective is less clean, less proper than Rathbone’s version. Then again, Rathbone was a Shakespearian actor and carried that Victorian gravitas with him.

I like the Downey Jr. version of Sherlock, it makes him more approachable and understandable in some respects. I see a man who has many interests, many abilities but with a touch of the lack of social niceties. He knows enough how to be in society but only because he remembers what happens when it does not work out well.

There is a new edition of Holmes on TV in the CBS show Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as the detecting pair. The premise is that Sherlock has recently left rehab and Watson is a former doctor who is his ‘sober companion.’  The British citizen has a beautiful but messy grey stone and consults on cases with the New York City police. His contact there is played by Aiden Quinn.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

Sherlock is rude, brusque, incredibly smart and highly annoying. Watson is constantly frustrated at his behavior, amazed at his deduction abilities, and constantly thwarted in her efforts to help Sherlock on his path to sobriety. But they work well together as partners when it comes to solving crimes. The writing is crisp and fast moving without giving a person whiplash. There is not a box set of this series – yet. I tend to watch it on my computer since I never get to watch it when it is actually broadcasted on Thursday nights.

The other night, the husband and I went out to see a different British detective in the movies. We finally got out to see Skyfall starring Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench. The opening sequence of this movie is worth the price of admission. The story focuses more on M and her career at MI6 but Bond is right there in nearly scene trying to figure out who is trying to destroy M.

This movie still has those fantastical chase scenes and an incredible villain in Javier Bardem. But the realistic point are the meetings and hearings that M is forced to attend to give testimony regarding her agency and if it is necessary any more. I was thrilled with all aspects of this movie and heartily recommend it to action movie fans. In my mind, Craig may be the best Bond after Sean Connery.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

What Did You Like Best?

I keep reading stories about the last year in movies and how it was lackluster. But I find critics say that every year. As a former critic, I know how easy it is to get jaded.

Every year there are bad sequels and bad re-makes and bad old-TV series-made-into-movies. What? You thought The A-Team and Hot Tub Time Machine were going to be good movies?

While some movies were disappointing, there were a few that I really loved.

Toy Story 3

What a great ending to a great series. Pixar, the makers of Toy Story, always seemed to get that toys are very real to kids. Each toy has its own personality, its own quirk and that is why we love various toys. But more importantly they never doubted the capabilities of their audience to understand that those qualities may be different from what we perceive.

Andy gazing at his old toys, Picture from IMDb.com

 

There are so many elements, so many details that goes into this last movie. It is a coming-of-age movie, an ending but also action-adventure with a heist element. We mourn who is gone and celebrate with who is left. We cry with relief and sadness and happiness. It may be one of the best movies of the entire year.

Burlesque

Christina Aquilera wants to be so much more than a fine singer, she wants to be an actress as well. This is a first good step in that direction. Starring with the ultimate singer-turned-actress in Cher, Aquilera is a small town girl from Iowa who wants something more from her life. A one-way ticket to L.A. is the first step. A waitressing  job at the best burlesque house is the next.

Cher and Christina Aquilera in Burlesque, Picture from IMDb.com

 

That is where she meets Cher who mentors her along in the way of make-up and performing. And when Aquilera lets loose on the pipes, all bets are off to discovering how successful she will be. Forget reality while watching this movie because you know some of what will happen. Stay for Cher’s solo, Kristen Bell’s anger and Stanley Tucci’s every scene.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1

I know that everything in the book did not make it into the movie. I was looking forward to some things that did not make it. But this movie did what it had to do. It gave us the fill towards the end. It lead us from school life to real life for Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Daniel, Rupert and Emma in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," Picture from IMDb.com.

 

We are now set up for the final movie, the final episode. We are ready for the huge battle we know must come. And if it all goes the way I hope, David Yates will be praised forever as one of the best directors of one of the best movie series ever.

Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr. has seen a renaissance that has been remarkable for the roles he is getting and what he is doing with them. In this movie, Downey had to contend with the specter of Basil Rathbone and made his own mark. I wondered if he was giving Sherlock a bit of an Asperberger’s twist with his incredible focus on a single subject and lack of social niceties.

Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. in "Sherlock Holmes," Picture from IMDb.com

 

Jude Law also has some hurdles to cross as he makes Dr. Watson different from the Nigel Bruce charactization. We follow the story of a woman from Holmes’ past whom needs Holmes to do some investigating. Plus, the two men are dealing with an estrangement as Watson finds a woman he wants to marry. I was entranced and loved how Guy Richie envisioned the story.

There are so many other movies I need to see. I am looking forward to Rabbit Hole, Country Strong and True Grit, among others.

 What movies did you love in the past year?

Austenland -My Dream Cast.

Today I want to talk about some casting ideas I have for Austenland, should it make its way to Hollywood. Again, I have heard nothing, I know nothing. But as I read this book I start seeing various people in various roles and I just have to write it down.

Lets start with Jane HayesElizabeth Banks from Definetely, Maybe off of IMDb.com. It should be someone approachable who can be a little obsessive. I have seen Elizabeth Banks in so many movies doing different roles and is always a standout. Movies such as W, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Seabiscuit.

Plus she can carry a movie. This is a strong woman who needs to fall on a good rom-com.

Jude Law in All The King's Men on IMDb.comI keep wondering about Mr. Nobley. I know Shannon Hale based the character on Colin Firth (sigh) but in my mind I saw the intense and incredibly handsome Jude Law. He could make a woman feel as if he believed she was the most beautiful thing in the world everyday.Lisa Ann Walters from IMDb.com

There must be a Miss Charming and I cannot think of anyone better than the loud but incredibly sweet Lisa Ann Walters. Loved her in The Parent Trap and Shall We Dance. Somehow, I know she will make it worthwhile to give up the car and the trip to Florence.

Uma Thurman from My Super Ex-Girlfriend from IMDb.comBut what about Amelia? Who can play that perfect Regency woman and still allow us to like her? What about Uma Thurman. She is beautiful and likable. We want to hate her but you can’t because you feel sorry for her or realize she is just as nice as you expected. See what I mean? Perfect for the role!

Joe Anderson, picture from IMDb.comMartin was harder for me to figure out. I wanted someone solid, someone English, young but not too young. Joe Anderson was in Becoming Jane but I really liked him in All Across the Universe. He would make  a wonderful earthy double-crossing gardener.

Sophie Thompson in Nicholas Nickelby from IMDb.comOne of the harder characters is the Aunt. She is on duty constantly. She has to satisfy her guests and her employer, making sure the dinner procession is always correct. Sophie Thompson (second from the left in this photo) who is a wonderful character actress in England might be better remembered as Miss Bates in Emma or Lydia in Four Weddings and a Funeral. But I love her whenever I see her.

Dame  Judie Dench in Casino Royale from IMDb.comWhen it comes to tough women, is there anyone better than Judi Dench? Let’s face it, Mrs Wattlesbrook is a tough broad. She puts fear into her staff and guests, willing to embarrass the least financially able guest in front of the others. Well, if Judi is not available there is always Helen Mirren.

I know I have missed a few characters. Maybe you have some better suggestions. Let’s hear them because I want to know where others stand on this. Can you think of something better to do (besides sex) on a rainy day?