Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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"The Fifth Horseman is Fear" was released in 1964 in B&W, and though it was supposed to be a movie about the oppression under Nazi rule in Czechoslovakia during WW II, it was more of an indictment against the oppressive Communist regime of the period.
The movie centers around Dr Braun [Miroslav Hajek],an old Jewish doctor who has been forbidden to practice medicine in Prague under Nazi rule. Instead, he works as a clerk, tasked with the cataloguing confiscated Jewish property such as furniture etc. He lives in an apartment building where he shuns human contact out of fear of being denounced, and his only solace is his violin. The other inhabitants of the building also exhibit symptoms of extreme oppression - a discontented housewife occupies herself with mindless retail therapy, and old woman veers on the edge of madness, fearing the seizure of her pets, and many others who all seem to be exhibiting similar symptoms of paranoia.
Things get even stranger when Dr Braun finds himself having to care for a wounded partisan, concealing him in his own apartment complex as he tries his level best to procure morphine for the wounded man, roaming about the city, experiencing surrealistic events.
As mentioned earlier, this movie may seem like the portrayal of people's fears under the Nazis in Prague, but it is in fact more of an allegory about the suppression of freedom under the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Some of the anachronisms noted in this movie attest to this.
On the whole, this is an excellent movie and I was glad that it was made available on DVD. But, there is an important scene that has been deleted on this DVD - that of the SS brothel scene. The good doctor wanders around the brothel, encountering strange people, all the while searching for the elusive morphine. The scene has lots of nudity portrayed, but I still wonder why this was censored on the DVD, given that TCM showed the movie in its unexpurgated version? I do hope future releases of this Czech masterpiece will have the film in its entirety. As for special features, there is an onscreen intro by Andrew Horton, a cinenotes collectible booklet, and a scene selection feature.
I read and reviewed Sarah's Key three years ago, a book I consider one of my favorite reads. The novel dealt with two time frames, the past during the Holocaust in 1942 France, and the present. The past centers around a 10 year old Jewish girl Sarah Strazynski who is forced to go to the Velodrome d'Hiver with her mother and father, innocently leaving behind her 4 year old brother Michel locked in a secret cupboard with the assurance that she would return to let him out when it was safe. The present revolves around writer Julia, a transplanted American married to a Frenchman, who becomes consumed by the Vel d'Hiv incident, where thousands of Jewish families were rounded up and forcibly kept in the Velodrome d'Hiver before being deported to various camps, with many sent to death camps such as Auschwitz.
In the movie, Julia Tezac is a journalist who becomes obsessed with the story of the deported Jews, especially after she makes the discovery that her husband's family's apartment formerly belonged to a Jewish family by the name of Strazynski, and the tragic story of Sarah slowly unfolds. There is a little variation regarding the story in the present, as in the movie, Julia's strained relationship with her husband is caused by her refusal to terminate her pregnancy (the couple also has an older teen daughter).
Kristin Scott-Thomas who also happens to be one of my favorite actors (check out her memorable performance in I've Loved You So Long, does an amazing job in her role as the relentless journalist in pursuit of the truth. Just as author de Rosnay portrays in the novel, Scott-Thomas deftly handles her role as a writer who realizes that the pursuit of truth can not only bring about pain and disrupt people's lives, but also provide catharsis and hope for the future.
Sarah's Key is a sad story, portraying how one life can be so dramatically altered due to tragic circumstances. It is a story of the Holocaust, yet also a very human drama that conveys all the burden of memory and emotional baggage that follows one through life, and how this in turn affects others through relationships and by association. I wept when I read the book, and I cried as I watched this movie to its conclusion, and was happy that this was one of those rare occasions when the movie did the book justice.
Having read and loved Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle), I was looking forward to watching the movie adaptation. I missed the theatrical run, and so waited patiently for it come out on DVD. Unfortunately, this is a terrible adaptation of a heartbreakingly beautiful work, taking too many artistic liberties, and butchering the story in such a manner as to render it incomprehensible to those who read and loved the book. If you watch this movie without having read the book, then it might appeal on some level, but to those who savored the detailed descriptions of traditions in 19th century China, and the close bond between the two central characters, i.e. Snow Flower and Lily, this movie seems such an aberration and I truly felt let down.
The movie takes a different approach than the novel in that it has two parallel story lines - one set in the present featuring two young women who are kindred spirits, but whose friendship is eventually strained by conflicting ideas regarding relationships, lifestyle, etc. On the same day that she receives news that she has a job opportunity in New York, Nina (Li BingBing) receives news that her estranged best friend, Sophia (Gianna Jun) has been in an accident and is in hospital. As Nina goes through Sophia's things at the hospital, she comes across a manuscript, parts of a story of two women in 19th century China, whose friendship mirror Nina and Sophia's own close bond.
The trouble is that this parallel storyline does not work - by dividing the story up into two disparate timelines, not much time is spent in developing the central characters. The most affected here is the story in the present - viewers are given brief glimpses of Nina and Sophia bonding over music etc. but their friendship is meant to be an unbreakable bond and this is not credibly portrayed. The story of the two laotongs or "old sames" (sort of like sisters of the heart) set in 19th century China is much more credibly portrayed, ironically played by the same actresses playing the parts of Nina and Sophia in the present.
Lily and Snow Flower are the laotongs, coming from two very different social classes. The poorer of the two, Lily, has her feet bound to perfection under the supervision of a zealous mother. The scenes of foot binding are rather uncomfortable to watch, but they are nowhere near as gruesome as the graphic descriptions provided by Ms. See in her novel. Lily's perfect lotus bud feet eventually garner her a very advantageous marriage, but poor Snow Flower ends up being married off to a butcher despite her rich beginnings.
In the novel, readers are given a deep insight into the secret language of women, i.e. nushu which provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of women in 19th century China (historically nushu was the language used by the women of the Yao ethnic minority). Reading between the lines, readers get the idea that it is Snow Flower who has a more interesting sex life than Lily, but in the movie, viewers get a brief glimpse of this, not through nushu, but of Lily playing peeping tom. It just completely put me off - such short cuts when it was completely unnecessary, not to mention detracting from the very essence of the novel.
Then there's the disaster in the form of Aussie actor Hugh Jackman (it begs the question, why did he stoop to such a role in the first place?). Any actor could have played his role, but I guess the filmmakers thought they could get the movie more exposure with a star presence? Jackman plays Sophia's on-off lover and his most 'memorable' scene here is him serenading Sophia at a party and indulging in some serious liplocking. Sigh...need I continue?
Final verdict - fans of the novel should steer away from this disaster of an adaptation, and those who haven't read the book will probably not miss much, though I'd recommend the book over the movie anytime.
This Vietnamese film is a remarkable piece of film-making. A delight for the senses, there is very little dialogue in this movie and aptly so given that the movements, sounds, facial expressions, etc. are the dominant features of the film. The story's central character is Mui, a ten-year-old girl who has moved to Saigon to work as a house maid. Mui is treated well by the mistress of the house, a woman who is still grieving the loss of her young daughter seven years ago. The fact that Mui is the age her daughter would have been had she lived makes the mistress look kindly upon Mui.
Mui soon learns her way about the household (father, mother, and two sons) under the guidance of an older maid who is also the cook. She learns that the master and mistress are not close to each other, and that the master has occasionally run off with the wife's savings to fool around with other women.
The movie's charms lie mainly in Mui's portrayal of interest in her surroundings - watching an ant heave a piece of burnt bread; hearing birds sing; frogs croaking, etc. Viewers also get to see Mui's emotional growth from a naÃ¯ve young child into a beautiful young woman, who eventually leaves her old household to find her livelihood in another household, where a relationship develops between Mui and her new master. This is a leisurely-paced movie that allows viewers to luxuriate in every little detail, sights, and sounds without being bombarded by non-stop dialogue or too many characters. A true cinematic gem.
Romantic comedies are really not my cup of tea, yet I do watch them occasionally. Hubby rented No Strings Attached last night, and we settled down for what I assumed would be another boring romcom with a thin plot. Well, it turns out that No Strings Attached is actually a fun and charming movie with moments of true poignancy. I think the magic formula for this movie's success is the great chemistry shared between the two leads, i.e. Natalie Portman as medical resident Emma, and Ashton Kutcher as Adam. Emma balks at having a real relationship describing her reaction as one akin to having a peanut allergy. Adam has a troubled relationship with his immature (but successful) father, Alvin (played by Kevin Kline). When Adam finds out Alvin has been living with his ex-girlfriend (and sleeping with her), Adam flips, gets drunk and ends up in Emma's apartment, one which she shares with a bunch of other residents.
Emma and Adam actually went to the same college, so there's some back story to their meeting, but then they have sex, and though Emma warns Adam that she is not into relationships, he charms his way into her life, though he reluctantly agrees to her "let's just keep it sexual" proposition. The pair try this out for some time, but it becomes quite obvious to the viewer that both are not quite being honest with each other as they begin to develop feelings for each other, except Emma refuses to face the facts.
The movie is quite predictable, and there really is no new ground being explored here. It reminded me of an episode of Sex and the City where the concept of f**k buddies was explored. Despite these flaws, the acting is credibly done. Natalie Portman continues to amaze me as she takes on diverse roles that allow her to blossom as a wonderful actor. She tackles the demands of her role very well - a balance of charm, playfulness, and vulnerability, with a touch of sharpness. Kutcher's role is not as challenging - he basically wears his heart on his sleeve most of the movie, but the extraordinary chemistry he shares with Portman make their sex scenes sizzle on screen, and the viewer is able to believe that these two are genuinely into each other. Final verdict - recommended!
I have watched dozens of Holocaust-themed dramas over the years and am quite surprised that I've missed this superior quality production starring Vanessa Redgrave. Set during the Holocaust, Redgrave portrays sophisticated French cabaret singer Fania Fenelon who finds herself on a train to notorious Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her talent for singing and playing the piano attracts the attention of the Nazis and she gets selected to play with the female Jewish orchestra at the camp, headed by Alma Rose (played superbly by Jane Alexander). The story focuses not so much on the horrors at the camp, but on the emotional and psychological toll on the inmates at the camp. Fania tries to maintain her dignity as a human being, despite witnessing the depravity around her. A young woman who latches onto Fania goes through a horrible transformation - from a sweet young woman to a needy leech to a wanton woman who would do anything (sleep with Jews, Poles, and Nazis) in order to stay alive. Fania is horrified by this transformation, but tries her best to advise her young friend, to no avail.
Then there's Alma, the strict conductor who demands excellence from her starving musicians. Fania and Alma frequently clash over their approach to the Nazis - Fania feels they should not work so hard to please the Nazis, but Alma feels that pleasing the Nazis is essential in order to stay alive. I like how this drama explores not just the difficulties experienced by the female Jewish inmates, but also other themes. The animosity between the Poles and Jews is well-explored, and we come to understand that some of this animosity is due more to a lack of understanding of the other's culture. The Nazis, even the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele (played by Max Wright, though rather unconvincingly I felt - somehow his portrayal failed in conveying the cold and calculated demeanor associated with Mengele), the doctor of death is portrayed as having some human feelings - when one of the women dies tragically, Mengele expresses his grief through a funeral unheard of for a Jew during those dark times. Not only does the deceased Jew get a coffin, but also Nazi honors (not that this makes any sense, but it is to show the respect and grief Mengele felt for a Jew). Even the notorious female warden Maria Mandel (Shirley Knight) is shown as harboring some compassion. Nothing is black and white here and the movie strikes a chord with the viewer because of this credible and balanced portrayal. The horror of the camp is not shown through the brutalization and extermination of the innocent, but through the emotional and psychological transformation that each character experiences. This is definitely a classic in the genre of Holocaust movies and is a must-watch for anyone interested in the period. The story is based on Fania Fenelon's true life experiences during the Holocaust which is available as a memoir:
Playing for Time
My husband and I watched this last night and were very impressed and inspired by Temple Grandin who is the focus of this film. Having been diagnosed with autism in 1950 as a young child, Temple only began to speak (after lots of therapy) at the age of four. Temple was blessed with a supportive family and mentors in the form of teachers, therapists, etc. although she faced her share of prejudice and bullying, especially in middle and high school. Claire Danes portrays Temple with such insight and credibility that she is truly deserving of the Emmy award she won for this role.
Temple Grandin's autism may have impaired her social skills somewhat, but what a brilliant mind! She invented the 'hug machine' for autistics who needed to be calmed when they were overstimulated, and she also developed ground-breaking methods for handling livestock, emphasizing humane handling. Today, Temple Grandin is a Professor at Colorado State University, and also a celebrated autism advocate.
The movie, which is a semi-biographical account of Temple's early life and work in the field of livestock handling, manages to hit all the right notes. It is not sensational nor overly melodramatic and credibly portrays the struggles Temple faces on a daily basis as an autistic person. Things ordinary people take for granted, such as passing through an automatic sliding glass door, is portrayed as an almost insurmountable hurdle for Temple, who sees it as a guillotine! I loved the door metaphor which is used throughout the movie - each time Temple faces a challenge, she sees it as a door to be passed through to attain her objective! This is a must-see movie that will enable viewers to gain a deeper understanding of autism and its challenges.
"Winter's Bone" is a compelling and emotional viewing experience. Set in the rural Ozarks in southwestern Missouri, the story centers around 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence in an amazing performance)who struggles to keep her family afloat in desperate circumstances. Ree's father Jessup is on the run from the law, having skipped bond, and has left Ree to care for her mentally ill mother as well as a younger brother and sister who are too young to fend for themselves. This is the least of Ree's problems however. The family home has been placed as collateral for Jessup's bond and if he does not turn up for the court appearance, Ree will lose everything.
Driven to desperation, Ree decides to risk her own safety and track her father down (she calls it "hunting" in the movie). This proves to be a great challenge, and most of the movie actually focuses on Ree's attempts to get her neighbors and kin to reveal her father's whereabouts. This includes a taciturn uncle with a cruel streak, Teardrop (John Hawkes in a haunting performance). The fact that Ree's father was a "cooker" who cooked meth, and that this appears to be an important means of making money for the community which is portrayed in this film, makes things even more dangerous. There appears to be some sort of code of silence surrounding Jessup's whereabouts and fate, and the harder Ree pushes, the more walls she comes up against. The impenetrable veil of silence attests to the strong bonds within the community even when one of their own may lose everything.
The movie is a harsh coming-of-age tale as the main character Ree plods through life with stoic determination, refusing to yield even when the situation appears hopeless. Jennifer Lawrence portrays her role with a high level of credibility, with her haunted eyes, and grim appearance. This is a difficult movie to sit through - there is hardly any light-hearted moments, even the scenes of Ree's younger siblings playing around some hay bales is portrayed in grayish and bleak hues. The effect of meth on some of the inhabitants in this region is shown through the gaunt appearances and the undertones of tension and barely suppressed anger/violence.
The cinematography is achingly beautiful, so at odds with the grim portrayal of life in these parts. The music is amazing, and perfectly captures the spirit of a paradoxical community - one which sticks close together yet can also turn on each other. "Winter's Bones" is a beautifully-filmed, and credibly acted drama that illuminates one young girl's journey towards closure and hope.
I can't believe I never heard of this movie until it popped up as a recommended title on a movie rental site I subscribe to. This is a beautifully-made period/ historical drama which is set in the 4th century A.D. in Alexandria. The central character in this story is Hypatia (played by Rachel Weisz) a renowned female scholar who taught philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics. Though Hypatia is beautiful and desirable to males (having many male admirers), she is quite oblivious to this effect she has on men, preferring to immerse herself in scholarly pursuits.
Some of her male admirers are Davus (Max Minghella), who happens to be her slave; there's the Christian student, Synesius (Rupert Evans); and finally, the openly admiring Orestes (Oscar Isaac) who declares his love for Hypatia during a public gathering - her reaction to this? By offering him a 'token' in the form of a rag smeared with her menstrual blood, a blatant and obvious message of rejection. There are more serious things explored in this drama than romantic pursuits. Alexandria is in the midst of a serious conflict between the pagan aristocracy to which Hypatia and her father belong, and the rising Christian militant movement called the Parabolani. The Jews are sort of caught in the middle, and the divisions between the upper and lower classes, as well as slaves, further exacerbates the situation.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the library at Alexandria is now a holding pen for animals - a man named Cyril is the Patriarch of Alexandria, i.e. the leader of the Church; Orestes has converted to Christianity and is the Imperial Prefect of Alexandria, he is also dependent on Hypatia for her advice and appears to have set aside her rejection of him in the past; Synesius has risen to the position of Bishop; and Davus has joined the Parabolani. Hypatia continues to teach, though in a much diminished capacity - she also continues to fervently study the planets and their movement. Little does she realize the very real threat posed to her by the increasingly militant Christians who perceive her as a threat both because of her paganism and the influence she wields over the Prefect Orestes who is frequently at odds with Cyril.
I'm not sure as to how much of this movie is period authentic, but I was impressed by the quality of the sets, and the direction. The acting was also above average - Rachel Weisz was incredible in her role as the strong-willed scholar who was way ahead of her time in terms of being a respected female scholar, and in the way she thought not only about astronomy but also about faith ( in one insightful dialogue between Hypatia and Synesius, she says, "You do not question your beliefs, but I must.").
Is this movie anti-Christian? I do not believe so - I think it portrays the events (based on whatever sources are still available) as they occurred during that period. Both the militant Christians, the black-robed Parabolani, and the Jews are depicted as being in conflict with each other -acts of stoning abound in this movie (must have been the favorite method of retaliation at the time?). More interestingly, I looked at this movie as depicting the conflict between religion and science, an age-old conflict that persists to this day. How much do we take on faith, and how much of science can truly explain all there is to be explained? Hypatia's theories about the movement of the planets was considered blasphemous, against Church teachings, yet time proved her theories had merit. I prefer to think of this movie as a thought-provoking drama that makes one ponder about the relationship between man, faith, and science.
A perfect blend of history and folklore, this is a high quality production that is well-deserving of the Oscar nomination it received this year (I checked the movie out after viewing it, wondering why it never got wide publicity).
The story begins in the Abbey of Kells, circa 9th century. The Abbot is intent on building a strong wall that would protect the abbey from marauding Vikings. He is strict with his nephew Brendan and is disappointed when the boy seems more interested in more scholarly pursuits. Brendan gets apprenticed to a master illuminator, Aidan of Iona, who along with his feline companion, Pangur Ban, comes to the Abbey after the Vikings destroy his abbey. Aidan is working on the Book of Kells, but since his own eyesight is failing him and his hands are not as steady as they were, he calls on Brendan to help him. Young Brendan is more than eager, finding himself entranced by the beauty of the artwork, and this passion causes him to defy his own uncle's strict orders not to venture out of the abbey. Brendan goes into the nearby woods looking for plants to make into ink. Here, Brendan meets and befriends Aisling, who turns out to be a sort of forest sprite. The rest of the story revolves around Brendan's exploits in order to complete The Book of Kells.
The animation is pure magic, it was like seeing the pages of an illuminated manuscript come to life (ok, maybe an extremely well-illustrated graphic novel, but you get my meaning). Each frame is so beautiful, that both my kindergartener and I were completely entranced. Celtic symbolism and mythology permeate the story. It's really wonderful, and will infuse children and adults with a sense of magic and wonder!
Having read The Good German of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe, I was eager to watch this dramatization of John Rabe's role in saving hundreds of thousands of Chinese during the massacre of Nanjing by the Japanese Imperial army in 1937. Ulrich Tukur is credible as the German businessman who opts to stay and protect the Chinese civilians by setting up a Safety Zone. This safety zone protected around 200,000 Chinese civilians (historical accounts differ as to the actual number) from almost certain death during the six-week period that the Japanese troops terrorized the city and its inhabitants. This historical event has come to be known as the Nanjing Massacre (or Nanking Massacre), and is also called the Rape of Nanking because of the thousands of women and children who were brutally assaulted by Japanese soldiers during this period.
The movie itself has excerpts of Rabe's diaries as the "narrator" of events as they unfold. Ulrich Tukur plays John Rabe and delivers a compelling and credible performance. I liked that the movie does not overly romanticize Rabe. He is portrayed as a loyal citizen of Nazi Germany, and one who initially has hopes that his Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, will step in and put a stop to Japanese atrocities in Nanjing (Japan being Germany's ally during WW II). He is disturbed when a fellow German, Dr. Georg Rosen (Daniel Bruhl) salutes "Heil Shitler" and reprimands him for being unpatriotic. Of course, Rosen has good reason for his act, explaining how Hitler's anti-Semitic policies have affected his family. It paints a rather naive picture of Rabe, who having spent about 27 years in China, has not realized (or perhaps, fails to see?) the danger posed by the Nazis.
Anyway, the story is not about the Nazis, but about Japanese atrocities in Nanjing, and how Rabe and a few foreigners try to save the Chinese civilians by setting up a Safety Zone. There is plenty of violence, and some archival footage woven into the narrative which is quite disturbing in its depiction of brutality and victims' suffering (but not nearly as disturbing as reading true accounts of the time, and seeing the actual historical photographs). This movie also suffers from melodramatic moments, as when a young Chinese girl tries to escape wearing a Japanese soldier's uniform, and miraculously flees to safety. Such stories may have happened, but the way it is dramatized in the movie seems a tad over the top.
Despite its flaws, I felt this movie was well-acted not just by Tukur (another WW II drama with Tukur is Amen a compelling drama about the Holocaust), but also the supporting cast, including Anne Consigny as Valerie Dupres, the lady who ran a Girls' College in Nanjing and fought to keep her girls safe from the Japanese soldiers. There's also the American doctor (played by Steve Buscemi) who is initially cynical about Rabe's intentions, but later comes to appreciate the man (also watch out for a wonderful duet by Rabe and the doctor, singing a song about Hitler's balls!). This is a compelling, well-acted historical drama, and merits watching for those who are interested in the subject.
For those who are interested in a documentary about the Nanjing Massacre, I'd recommend:
Books on the subject:
The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II
Terror in Minnie Vautrin's Nanjing: Diaries and Correspondence, 1937-38
âOndineâ is a romantic Irish drama which stars Colin Farrell as fisherman Syracuse (or Circus as he is known by acquaintances). Syracuse is a recovering alcoholic who goes to confession and unloads his burdens to the resident priest; he is also a divorced father with a young child, Annie (Alison Barry) who is a very sick child.
Syracuseâ(TM)s life changes in an unexpected manner when he finds an unconscious young woman in his fishing nets one day. The beautiful young lady is very evasive about her true identity, and is adamant that she does not want to be taken to the hospital or be seen by anyone, so Syracuse takes her to his home. He calls her Ondine (played by Polish actress Alicja Bachleda), and Syracuseâ(TM)s daughter Annie is convinced that Ondine is a selkie (a seal that can shed its skin to become human). Syracuse himself begins to believe that Ondine might be an otherworldly person when her beautiful singing nets him bountiful amounts of fish on each fishing trip. But is Ondine truly a magical creature from another world, or is she harboring some dark secret that prevents her from revealing her true identity? This forms the core of the story.
The romance that develops between Syracuse and Ondine is credibly woven into the story, and is a gentle, unfolding romance. This is a movie that moves at a leisurely pace, yet does impede the momentum of the plot. It is a gentle, ethereal story of two people â" a lonely, ridiculed man fighting his own inner demons, and a lost young woman searching for a place to call home. It is also a story of an amazing young girl who retains a fierce spirit and positive outlook on life despite her physical limitations.
Watching this mesmerizing Irish drama with its entrancing plot, gorgeous cinematography, and haunting soundtrack reminded me of another movie also centered on the selkie mythology, the Hallmark drama The Seventh Stream starring Saffron Burrows. Oh, and I also loved the Irish animated feature The Secret of Kells, which features Celtic mythology. Final verdict â" engaging romantic drama with elements of suspense.
Sayuri Yoshinaga delivers a credible and heartrending performance as a mother who struggles to keep her family afloat in this Japanese period drama set during WW II. Melodramatic yes, but also compelling and engaging.
"The Velveteen Rabbit", Margery William's 1922 story, is a classic in the annals of children's literature. I loved it as a child, and continue to adore it as a grown woman, and have since shared it with my own preschooler. Thus, when I saw this new release, I could not wait to watch it with my daughter.
Young Toby [Matthew Harbour] is sent to stay with his strict grandmother Ellen [Una Kay] when his serious father, John goes off on business to New York. Feeling abandoned and lonely, Toby explores the house and comes across the "Magic Room", which is filled with his father's old toys, including a rabbit stuffed toy. As Toby's imagination is given free rein, Rabbit comes 'alive' in a lively world of animation, and Toby together with rabbit and the other toys in the magic room run free and play in a lively dream world. The animals, i.e. Horse [Tom Skerritt], Swan [Ellen Burstyn], and Rabbit [Chandler Wakefiled] all dream of becoming real animals, and as we all know from "The Velveteen Rabbit", that can only be achieved by true love. Grandma Ellen and Toby soon bond, but his father John is still distant, and it takes a near tragedy to set things right.
A mixture of animated sequences and live-action, this movie appealed to my family. Though the original story has been adapted here, I felt that the adaptation doesn't stray too far from the original message of love overcoming all obstacles.Purists may not appreciate this adaptation, but those seeking family-friendly entertainment will love it.
âDavid and Laylaâ is a romantic drama that explores the love between two people from very different cultural backgrounds. David Fine (David Moscow) is a Jewish guy and host of a show âSex and Happinessâ who spends his workdays interviewing people on the streets of Brooklyn. He is engaged to a domineering, Type- A personality, Abby (Callie Thorne), also a Jew. Things are moving along, not altogether satisfactorily (especially in his love life), when David sees a beautiful, exotic young woman walk down the street one day. The lady in question is Layla (Shiva Rose), a Kurdish refugee from Iraq who is living with her affluent relatives whilst she tries to figure out a way to get a green card â her visa expires in 30 days, and she faces deportation.
David finds himself falling hard for Layla, and the story centers on their courtship and the problems that inevitably arise in a cross-cultural romance, especially considering that David is a Jew whilst Layla is a Muslim. Needless to say, both families are not too thrilled at the coupleâs romance â Davidâs mother, Judith (Polly Fine) is a typical Jewish mother who is horrified at the prospect of getting a shiksa daughter-in-law, especially a Muslim! Peter Van Wagner turns in a fine performance as Mel, Davidâs laidback and empathetic father.
The two leads share a credible on-screen chemistry that makes the viewer buy into the love at first sight premise (well for David at least). Shiva Rose (ex-wife of actor Dylan McDermott) is compelling and sexy as the lovely Layla who harbors within her a poetic and sensitive soul, who loves to dance and resorts to lying to her relatives (telling them she attends nursing school) whilst moonlighting as a traditional dancer in a local establishment. Unfortunately, so much is crammed into the storytelling, that not enough time is spent focusing on what draws Layla to David and vice versa, in terms of genuine feelings and depth of emotion. The story is packed with too many characters, and though the supporting cast does a good job, I felt this was a classic example of âtoo many cooks spoiling the brothâ.
The cultural differences are explored using humor â the scene where Layla attends Passover dinner at Davidâs house, bringing inappropriate hostess gifts is one among many scenes peppered throughout the movie. But, once again, this felt a bit derivative to me â if Layla truly loved David, then why did she not make the effort to find out what would make an appropriate Passover gift? Also, it felt to me like David was the one willing to make the most accommodations in the relationship.
Ultimately, I thought the movie was a fun exploration of an inter-religious romance, but it does approach the story in an almost trivial manner â there is no real, genuine, in-depth exploration of the complexities inherent within such relationships. I should know, being in a cross-cultural marriage myself. Final verdict â a fun movie with generally good acting, and should make good entertainment for those who like rom-coms.
The romantic comedy genre often suffers from trite plots and insipid dialogue, not to mention exaggerated acting. "It's Complicated" may not be the most original romantic comedy in terms of plot, but what elevates it above an average romantic comedy is the excellent casting. Veteran actress Meryl Streep plays successful bakery owner Jane who has been divorced from her ex, Jake (played by Alec Baldwin) for the past 10 years. The divorce was initially quite acrimonious, as Jake left Jane for a younger woman and their three children, all grown up, have gotten used to the idea of their parents being divorced, to the extent that the family gets along quite well in the present.
Jake is under pressure from his young wife to start a family, and reluctantly goes to a fertility clinic. Meanwhile, Jane is planning an addition to her house, and the project is overseen by architect Adam (played by Steve Martin). When the family gets together for the youngest son's graduation from college, Jake and Jane end up having an affair and this triggers all sorts of confused feelings in Jane - why is she doing this? Is she not over Jake, is it revenge, or is she just lonely? Meryl Streep plays her character credibly to the extent that the viewer can truly empathize with her predicament. She lends Jane an air of vulnerability, whilst also imbuing her with strength and courage when she needs to make the right decision. This is especially significant when Adam begins to develop feelings for Jane and a close bond forms between them, though Jake is also obviously still in love with Jane. What is a woman to do?
Alec Baldwin plays his role as the emotionally immature Jake with panache, and the credible chemistry with Meryl Streep makes their scenes together truly a pleasure to watch, and entertaining to say the least. I felt that Steve Martin did not share this strong chemistry with Streep, and his role appeared overshadowed by the two leads. A stand-out performance worth mentioning here is the role of Harley (the soon to be son-in-law) played by John Krasinski. His comic timing is perfect and subtly played, especially in the scenes where he discovers to his horror, that his divorced soon-to-be father-in-law and mother-in-law are having an affair. Poor Harley is then left with the unenviable task of pretending he does not know anything whilst trying to keep the situation under control. Truly complicated, yet entertaining and fun!