My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Talk about a spellbinding performance from Michelle Williams, playing the iconic and unforgettable, Marilyn Monroe, during one of her career moments as a film star. I must say I was skeptical with the movie on its own at first, starting from the appearance of Marilyn, every inch of her face had to be precisely imitated, and from facial expressions, vocals, to her behavior. To portray such legendary figures in the movies, the actor has the most excruciating task of nailing a believable imitation, otherwise the story falls flat. Although My Week with Marilyn was not a film entirely about Ms. Monroe, but rather, a narrative of young Englishman Colin Clark who worked behind the scenes during the film production and eventually became the victim of Monroe’s lascivious ways. Kenneth Branagh’s striking performance as Sir Laurence Olivier was the highlight of the film. His burgeoning frustration with Marilyn Monroe during shooting of “The Prince and the Showgirl” brought out the imperfections of what it is to act. The tensity between the two characters revealed Marilyn’s not so glamorous side, and as the viewer, made conclusions that Marilyn Monroe was indeed an over-hyped diva with looks to kill for and talent to stray from. You be the judge…
Two for the Road (1967)
Ahhh love. To be in love. What comes after? Well presumably marriage if everything goes right in the long run. However the episode of unconditional love can be quite the adventure, especially for the Wallaces. Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney star in Two for the Road, playing a couple that seem to be going “splitsville” in the beginning but fall victim to precious memories that remind them of how their love was initiated. What is interesting about the plot is that it takes the ideas of a romance film and meshes it with the bittersweet reality that sometimes things don’t always work out. The characters, primarily focused on Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, seem to be well-grounded people. Their opposite personalities are the only contrast to this analytical love story, Joanna Wallace; a happy-go-lucky gal who can be a bit too unsure of herself at times, and Mark Wallace, a self-indulged workaholic who is often blatantly stubborn. Two for the Road is a more contemporary equivalent of Romeo and Juliet, fate had brought them together, fate could tear them apart. The theme of pinpointing the ups and downs of a relationship, or respectively, a marriage, is the principle voice of this romance flick. For the Wallaces, they ultimately learn that it really does take “two to tango”.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
One word. Outrageous. Wet Hot American Summer is one of those flicks. Yeah those. Appearances like comedienne Amy Poehler, acting chameleon Bradley Cooper, Michael Ian Black, Paul Rudd, and the SNL all-star Molly Shannon, are what make this cult-classic into the ideal camping nightmare. Set in the 1980s, it’s a whirlwind of amusements and gags for both kid campers and their councilors on the supposed last day of summer camp. Overtly sexual for “shits and giggles”, smart-mouthed, and a manifest of unusual quirky characters give Wet Hot American Summer its glory. Not to mention the uncalled for spontaneity! It’s part cheesy soap opera, part American Pie. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to see Molly Shannon’s character get engaged to a ten year old? While the kids are scrambling to enjoy what is left of their summer camp adventure, the councilors are busy trying to make their last day just as eventful. At one point, a quick trip to the city turns from reading books at a library to becoming full-on heroin addicts in withdrawal. Did anyone see that coming?! Nope. Wet Hot American Summer is all about the characters. Nothing goes shy in this film, you’ll forget what “normal” is!
3 Idiots (2009)
It’s kooky, it’s fun, it’s colorful. It’s Bollywood. 3 Idiots is a fantastic tale about the strength of friendship even when everyone starts new chapters in their lives. Like most Bollywood films, the duration is quite long and stories that stretch can seem quite redundant and fall victim to wandering aimlessly. 3 Idiots surprisingly isn’t that. This movie is packed with emotional sensibility both high and low, and don’t forget the music! With such energetic spirit that embodies Indian culture and musical identity, the songs are almost unforgettable. You’ll find yourself humming the beat even after you watch the movie. The plot is quite strong for a film that dons a comedic genre, something rare these days. Two friends, Raju and Farhan reunite to find their missing friend, Rancho, after ten years of graduating from engineering school. While his whereabouts remain a mystery, Raju and Farhan meet up unexpectedly with their old enemy, Chatur, mostly known under the nickname ‘Silencer’, who claims to know where Rancho lives. Such a story expresses some unique cast of characters you’ll be sure to adore!
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Before you think it’s the version of Angelina Jolie in blonde dreads, think again. Or old school. Behind the swanky 70s porno music is a look inside the method of car stealing at its grooviest. There is something about the way plot lines are handled back in day, when immediately you are hit with the conflict without any back story or build-up in the beginning. One has to remember Gone in 60 Seconds is another automobile cult-classic loved by true gear heads like myself that centers around eye candy muscle cars, edge of the seat chase scenes, and the orgasmic sound of a roaring V12 more so than the story. Packed with energy much like its modern day counter-part, Gone in 60 Seconds does not miss out on cool characters, unique camera angles, and a perspective of a stereotypical 1970s culture. There is so much organization with the characters, their highly-defined crime of auto theft led by smart mouth, Maindrian Pace (director/writer H.B Halicki) who goes under the alias, Vicinski, when working as an insurance investigator. The team’s double-life of playing the good guys and the bad guys goes awry when a pursuit to steal 48 cars for a drug lord hinders the attention of the police. The camera pays plenty respect to the beautiful yellow ‘73 Ford Mustang that becomes the favored ride for Pace during his grand escape.
Strangers on a Train (1951)
“Tell me, have you ever wanted to murder someone?”
Nothing like a Hitchcock film to get your dose of genius cinematography and a well-rounded horror plot. The idea is simple, two strangers meet on a train and participate in small conversation as an act of courtesy. But then you have the other who is a bit more persuasive and eccentric, putting together a formula for destructive sabotage just from briefly familiarizing himself with the other guest. As a warning for the entire cast of characters, don’t let the boyish charms and easy-going manner of Robert Walker who plays Bruno, fool you! Bruno manages to manipulate his fellow passenger, Guy, into a brutal exchange of getting rid of his ex-wife for him while Guy would pursue the murder of Bruno’s father. Do the plans fall through or elevate? With a whole serving of twists and turns between characters, relationships, and storyline, Strangers on a Train becomes far too successful in engaging the audience to a moment-building mystery. Starting from the introduction to other key scenes, Hitchcock delivers superb cinematographic implements to set the mood for this classic crime thriller and define aspects crucial to the plot, a given for film noir. A tactic most directors share, Hitchcock makes a rather brief, if not for a second, guest appearance within the film as a subtle eye-opener for a scene. Strangers on a Train is indeed a precedent to all of modern-day crime thrillers, regardless of how heavily-relied they are on action and visual effects. A true Hitchcock crime-thriller film reminds us all that suspense must be carried out in ways that engage the viewer to those “edge of the seat” moments even with a limited budget, in order to truly be effective for its genre.
Everything Must Go (2010)
With the collaboration of Dan Rush and my favorite literary genius, Raymond Carver, comes Everything Must Go. This dramedy stars Will Farrell in a role like no other. What happens when everything in your life you’ve worked hard for and built up in the past decade all comes crumbling down in a single day? Tainted by an endless long battle with alcoholism, Nick Halsey (Farrell) loses his job and comes home only to find out that his wife had abandoned him including his personal belongings, which were thrown all over the front lawn. The alluring appeal of a sunny Arizona neighborhood contrasts the pitfall of Nick’s life, as he is immediately left to attend to his belongings with no plan of action or tangible shelter. Will Farrell does an outstanding job playing a character all too conflicted with himself and is confounded by his relationships with others around him. The film does tend to have lighthearted moments that make you smile, however, Everything Must Go still embodies in essence Carver’s favorite theme of hopeless drunks finding their way back into society through self-analytical experiences. Carver, who dealt with his own issue of alcoholism, stresses within the story that the people you meet around you ultimately have an effect in your decisions and can either bring out the best in you, or the worst.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Director Woody Allen’s latest work tells the story of a writer in great need of inspiration in Midnight in Paris. To elaborate, Owen Wilson plays Gil, a tired screenplay writer who wants to ditch the film scene and go for the isolated world of novel writing. He uses the romantic and mysterious backdrop of Paris as his ideal refuge for brainstorming whilst on a business trip with his fiance, Inez, played by Rachel McAdams. Little does Gil know that his love for Paris turns into a first-hand experience with some of the most iconic figures in the literary world. The best and should I say, most controversial minds, find themselves on screen as mentors to the rather inexperienced and naive Gil. Imagine meeting party hosts F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald for a night and then stumbling upon (unfortunately) young Ernest Hemingway before the main course is even served. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Along with brief special appearances of history’s other brilliant writers and artists such as Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, and Picasso to name a few, each bring something to the table to set Gil in the right direction of writing his novel. Woody Allen cleverly delivers more than what you would expect from the appearances of these famous figures, as they not only help Gil with his progress but also open his eyes to the more unforgiving reality around him regarding his future.
Domicile Conjugal (1970)
[Bed & Board -French]
Domicile Conjugal is Truffaut’s most delicate work portraying the mishaps of early marriage between lovers, Christine and Antoine. They are quintessentially their opposites, Christine is a conservative, down-to-earth, talented musician while Antoine, an energetic free-spirit who admires his skill with attending to flowers. They are awfully young in both appearance and chemistry. Antoine, however, seems to be the light in Christine’s world certainly by moments when she reveals her perkier side in response to the silly acts of her husband. Our hero Antoine is the main focus in Domicile Conjugal. He is the embodiment of youth and the carefree qualities that entail, amongst the variety of characters Truffaut surrounds the little couple with. As events begin to unfold, Antoine must learn to deal with them however consequential, and as apparent, without Christine who is off tutoring children with the violin. Antoine’s carefree attitude slowly begins to constrict and fall pressure to the problems around him, producing a theme of unprecedented maturity arising. Domicile Conjugal shows us the unbalanced shifts that come with life and how freedom is often times replaced by responsibilities.
Our Idiot Brother (2011)
Take the west coast hipster/hippie theme to the east side of the river, and you got Our Idiot Brother. Paul Rudd plays Ned, a happy-go-lucky dude with a dog named Willie Nelson. The cast in this movie was quite unexpected…well sort of. Zooey Deschanel and Rashida Jones return for another movie with a “quirky” annotation, meanwhile Elizabeth Banks steps out of her Porno days with Seth Rogen (Zack and Miri Make a Porno), for a chance to mingle on screen with fellow buddy, Rudd. Aside from the recognizable cast, the story is treated with a dose of sugar and spice. There are moments when you want to slap your forehead at the naive acts of Ned, and other times when you want to pat him on the back. Ned is treated as the odd egg in the basket when it comes to his sisters, Miranda (Banks), Natalie (Deschanel), and Liz (Emily Mortimer) throughout the movie. However, what appears to be his wrong-doings during each of the sisters’ scenarios, is actually morally right in the eyes of the viewers. Ned’s guilt comes as a surprise—well not so much, from his affiliation with Marijuana. But certainly in retrospect to the lives of his siblings, Ned seems to be the middle man who ultimately lead the sisters to their full reality and away from the previous nonsense they all have engorged themselves in.