> Chapter1-Take1: May 2015

The Face of an Angel: It's Slacker Sunday Video time

I have no opinion on whether Amanda Knox did or didn't do the really dastardly deed; it's a rabbit hole I choose not to go down. That being said the whole tawdry and tragic affair should make for some compelling movie viewing, especially as the story unravels from the perspective of a couple of people following the case closely; an investigative journalist and a documentary film maker. I'm sort of surprised this one isn't a made-for-TV drama but the Face of an Angel is hitting the multiplex here in the states on June 19th with Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Bruhl in the lead roles. 

Beckinsale has made quite a career out of the Underworld franchise; I loved her in Pearl Harbor and Serendipity and would like more of that please. Bruhl was fabulous and held his own as Niki Lauda in Rush—not easy to hold your own when Chris Hemsworth is your co-star—and has a slew of exciting projects coming up including Adam Jones with Bradley Cooper (it's about opening a restaurant) and the next Captain America. Actually I'm not really excited about that one, but you might be.

The film also stars Cara Delevingne, an actress and model who we'll be seeing a lot more of in the coming months. For some reason my son knows exactly who she is, and that has nothing to do with the fact that she's Margo Spiegelman in Paper Towns and will be in the upcoming Pan, and Tulip Fever. Something about Victoria's Secret? 

The movie, a fictionalized portrait, is inspired by true events and based on the book Angel Face: Sex, Murder and the Inside Story of Amanda Knox by Barbie Lazda Nadeau. 

Here's today's Slacker Sunday video—videos actually, as I've got two for you—the just released US trailer for The Face of an Angel and the older UK version. You'll notice the UK version features Delevinge much more heavily. 

The pretty young thing isn't just another underwear model—okay, strike that, that was dismissive. As a beautiful young woman she'll have to work harder for people to see if there's any depth beneath the surface; poor, pretty people have such a tough go of it, don't they? The British Independent Film Festival awarded the London-born and bred actress their Most Promising Newcomer award for her performance here. She comes from quite the upper crusty family with her grandmother serving as lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. So says Wikipedia anyhow. 

The film opened in the UK at the end of March, so tell us, UK friends, how was it? Talk to me!

And here are the trailers... 

Tom Cruise IS Jack Reacher : My 'better late than never' take on the movie

Here's my better-late-than-never quick take on the Jack Reacher movie. Brilliant. I don't care how short Tom Cruise is. I don't care if he looks like Jack Reacher or doesn't. I don't care how weird Tom Cruise's Scientology connection is. And clearly it's weird. Tom Cruise knows how to deliver two hours of movie thrills and chills, cut with comedic relief, spliced with a little sexual tension. If you like the Mission Impossible franchise, if you liked Edge of Tomorrow (I LOVED IT) it's impossible for you not to like this movie too. I was a doubter before the movie was released way back in 2012, but we watched it last night on Netflix and I'm a doubter no more. You can also catch it on Amazon, Google Play and VUDU.

I'll be honest, I haven't read a single Jack Reacher book but my husband has read them all and he approves. "He doesn't look a thing like Reacher but apart from that? Fantastic!"

In Child's novels, Reacher is supposed to be an ex-military, bigger than big, burly drifter. No one has every accused Tom Cruise of being either but he's lethal, and he's deadly. If looks could kill, Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher could. I feel terrible that I took so much glee in watching Cruise rip the bad guys to shreds. Breaking knuckles, stomping on heads, gouging out eyes. It's all in a days' work. Because he's a drifter, doesn't give a damn and has nothing left to lose.

Based on Child's One Shot, the movie opens with the viewer tracking a killer undertake a mass shooting. We see it being done, in cold blood, with precision and calculation. And we see who does it. There's a mountain of evidence and David Oweloyo, the officer in charge of the investigation makes an arrest. Rosamund Pike is the lawyer defending the mass killer, a killer whose last words before he slips into a coma are "Get Jack Reacher".  She does, and just like the audience, is barely immune to Tom Cruise's charms, er, I mean Jack Reacher's charms. The two team up to get to the truth.

That's it, that's the set up. The fantastic cast includes Richard Jenkins as the DA—and Pike's father—known for offering criminals a chance to confess or go to prison. He has an incredibly, suspiciously high rate of success. Robert Duvall is gold in a small but pivotal part as a gun range owner. Jai Courtney is criminally good at playing a very bad boy. 

So twenty Jack Reacher books, eh? I may have to start reading them. Especially since my husband already owns them all on his Nook. I can't wait for Tom Cruise to make 'em all into movies. How about you? Talk to me.

Saturday Matinee: Elizabeth Taylor in "Last Time I Saw Paris" Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's Babylon Revisited

Do you have to be a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald to be jazzed that Stewart O'Tan's West of Sunset, the novelization of Scott's last sad years in Hollywood, is getting the screen treatment? Probably. Otherwise why would you care about the tragic and alcoholic fall from grace of one of America's greatest writers? A writer who lived from story to story, paycheck to paycheck, and who never experienced the success he craved—and deserved—as a novelist. But I am a fan, and I am jazzed to say the least. I've been meaning to read the book and, now I'll be more or lesser compelled to. I'm jazzed too that the adaptation will be in the capable hands of James Ponsoldt, director of Smashed and The Spectacular Now. Both feature alcoholic protagonists and he's proven he's got a deft hand in the way he handles their liquor. Mulling over who should play the Fitzgeraldesque hero, today seems like a good time to turn to F. Scott for our Saturday Matinee. 

The Last Time I Saw Paris, the 1954 film starring Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor is loosely based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story Babylon Revisited. The story and the movie both open with Charlie/Van Johnson wandering into a bar in Paris and looking back over his life, and what happened the last time he saw Paris. Charlie is married to Helen played by Elizabeth Taylor at the height of her beauty. She's a fun-loving living-large type while Charlie is a serious minded reporter striving to write The Great American Novel. They have a child, a little girl, which has little effect on their lives and Charlie, unable to carve out a successful career as a novelist, starts to drink a good deal. Needless to say, things don't go so well. Autobiographical, much? Fitzgerald died in 1940, long before this movie was made but he would probably have been thrilled beyond words that major movie stars like Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor were starring in an adaptation of his story. Absolutely thrilled.

The cast includes Walter Pidgeon as Taylor's one-time wealthy father and Donna Reed as Marion—the girl Charlie dumps in favor of her sister, the drop dead gorgeous, Helen. Eva Gabor as Lorraine and Roger Moore as Paul, play rivals for the couple's affections. 

Elizabeth Taylor was just twenty two, had been acting for a dozen years and made almost two dozen films before starring in this technicolor beauty. Take a gander at the vintage 50's trailer and if you like what you see, forget your Saturday to-do list of errands, pull down the shades, turn on the tv, and watch The Last Time I Saw Paris on Amazon, Google Play or Vudu this afternoon. That's what I'll be doing.

Can't get enough of France? Check out this weekly meme.

Joe Wright getting onboard The Lifeboat with Anne Hathaway?

I can't seem to get away from Joe Wright lately. Anne Hathaway who has the screen rights to Charlotte Rogan's 2012 debut novel The Lifeboat is getting serious about getting this movie made and is looking at Joe Wright to direct. Yesterday we took a look back at Carey Mulligan's feature film debut, Pride and Prejudice which Wright directed. He also helmed Anna Karenina (in giving you my take, I cleverly called it Anna Klostraphobia) and the upcoming Pan hitting your local theater in October.

Anne Hathaway in The Intern costarring Robert DeNiro

Cast Away screenwriter William Broyles Jr., is writing the script for The Lifeboat based on Rogan's book; I'm assuming Hathaway would play Grace. It sounds like a very juicy project!
Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.
In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying Grace and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize has exceeded capacity. For any to live, some must die.
As the castaways battle the elements and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?
THE LIFEBOAT is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.
Intriguing plot which should spark lots of lifeboat ethics conversations! Who stays, who goes, how do you decide, and who makes the decision? And in that regard, maybe strikes a similar chord to Alfred Hitchcock's The Lifeboat made in 1944, although in that film, the Nazi who torpedoed the sunken ship ends up in the lifeboat with the survivors.

Either way, it sounds tantalizing. What do you think? Have you read the book? Is Anne, admittedly not twenty two, still right for the part? 

Happy 29th Birthday Carey Mulligan. You've come a long way baby!

It's hard to believe it's only been ten years since Carey Mulligan made her screen debut in Pride and Prejudice. No, not the 1995 BBC series with dishy Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. The 2005 feature film directed by Joe Wright starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. Fresh out of drama school, the 19 year old Carey played Kitty Bennet and while the birthday girl didn't even make it into the NY Times review back then, she's certainly received her share of ink since then, including plenty of love for this year's Far from the Madding Crowd.

Since it is Carey's birthday, for today's Throwback Thursday movie, let's take a trip back to that 2005 iteration of Pride & Prejudice, her very first movie role. How happy she looks in the image above just to be part of the ensemble  In addition to Keira Knightley the cast included Rosamund Pike as the eldest sister Jane, along with Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn as her parents. Jena Malone was a standout as young Lydia. Mr. Darcy was played by Matthew Mcfadyen who Wright liked enough to cast in his 2012 version of Anna Karenina as Oblonsky. Keira Knightley was of course Anna. But back to P&P. The film received a slew of nominations and awards including Best Actress nominations for Keira Knightley from both the Academy and the Golden Globes. 

Also nominated for the gorgeous period costumes, the acclaimed British designer, Jacqueline Durran (Vera Drake, Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy, Atonement). While she didn't win for Pride and Prejudice, Durran went on to work with Joe Wright on Anna Karenina for which she won both the Oscar and the Bafta as well as the highest honors from the Costume Design Guild. A true artist, Durran was nominated this year for Mr. Turner. More notables, the score by the gifted Dario Marianelli and the script by Deborah Moggach, author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the upcoming Tulip Fever. Pride and Prejudice is available to stream on  Amazon Instant. Scroll down for the trailer. Happy Birthday Carey! I know 29 isn't easy, but it's a damn sight easier than 62.
That's right Carey—You say it's your birthday? It's my birthday too, yeah!

Go Far from the Madding Crowd with Thoroughly Modern Carey: My take on the movie

What to say about Far from the Madding Crowd; the feminista film starring one of my favorite British actresses Carey Mulligan? Or since it is a film with a feminist flavor should I go with female actor? Or, to be fully evolved, do I pretend there's no difference between the sexes and just call Carey Mulligan an actor? It's very confusing especially for an old girl like me, growing up as a boomer, straddling the era when most women stayed home to raise a family, and the period when a newly liberated bra burning brand of women donned pant suits, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. I marched for the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 70's and appreciated the sloganistic power of A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. 

And yet still needed a man. Dammit. 

That basic push/pull is at the heart of the lush and romantic Far From the Madding Crowd the Thomas Vinterberg film based on Thomas Hardy's classic novel. When Gabriel Oak asks Bathsheba to marry him, so early in the film that the credits have barely finished rolling, and we're still absorbing just how gorgeous and dripping with deep blues, and soft purples and 50 shades of green the landscape is, it feels discordant and out of the blue to our modern ears. They barely know each other! But in Hardy's day (1874) men and women, the average ones anyway, were fairly direct about their need for each other. While the best marriages were much more, at heart, marriage was a business proposition. Woman needs shelter, and if she's lucky, some pretty dresses, and as Bathsheba's suitors promise, perhaps a piano to play. Man needs cook, cleaner, wife to bear and raise his heirs. If they're both lucky: friendship, respect, comfort. And if they're really lucky, in the words of Emily Dickinson—
Wild nights Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury. 

When Bathsheba refuses Oak, telling him she'll never marry—I'd need a man to tame me and you never could—she is really going against the norms of her times. She's a woman of little means who actually needs what he can provide. She's also voicing our hearts' desire. Oh! Would that I could never be tamed! Would that I could stay a solitary spirit and ride over these grassy meadows on my own, going where I want to go, doing what I want to do, without having to follow the usual path, the prescribed route. Riding free. 

There's a scene straight out of the book when Bathsheba, gorgeously donned in a chestnut leather riding jacket—thank you very much costume designer Janet Patterson—goes riding horseback through the woods along the hillsides. As she approaches a thicket where the tree boughs hang too low for her to pass under sitting upright, she looks around to make sure no one is in sight, and lays back on her horse so she can pass underneath, the green canopy floating above. The unladylike position, almost sexual as she grips the horse with her thighs, and lies back with complete abandon, affords a delicious sensation and is emblematic of not just Bathsheba's desire, but her elemental need, to go her own way. When she inherits her uncle's farm and fortune (my wealthy uncle donated all $650,000 to a children's hospital) she actually has the luxury of doing that. And yet, like most of us, she also finds she has a need to pair up, for a partner to yin to her yang.

The independent Ms. Everdene has three suitors: Gabriel Oak, as strong and steadfast as his name implies, played by a smoldering blue-eyed Matthias Schoenaerts. Bathsheba may be stubbornly immune to his charms but he had me at hello. 

Then there's the nice guy next door, the well to do, Mr. Boldwood (lots of wood here in these male character's name while I'm pretty sure Mr. Hardy wasn't familiar with the concept of a woody) portrayed by nice guy Michael Sheen. Surely it's not a spoiler to remind you where nice guys finish? 

And lastly, Frank Troy, the soldier with the sword, the bad boy of the trio. Have you watched the NY Times Anatomy of a Scene where Bathsheba and Frank meet up in the woods? I posted it a few weeks ago here. Tom Sturridge plays Frank, and I'll be frank, I find him a whole lot more resistible than Bathsheba does. Swoon-worthy? Not to me. He reminded me, with both his mustache and his fake 'You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen' of this guy I went out on one date with in my youth. On our one and only date he sang me a song he supposedly wrote for me. I've always been immune to that kind of B.S. — I was pretty sure it was a song he kept in his pocket, swapping out one girl's name for another, just to 'get into their pants' as we used to say. (Do they still?) Not surprisingly, Mr. Troy's charms were lost on me. His behavior, and the behavior he elicits in Bathsheba, in complete opposition to everything she stands for, is toxic. I felt like a mother watching her daughter dating some messed up, two-faced, two-timing son of a gun, praying it wouldn't last, that she'd come out of her sexual delirium and come to her senses. 

Does she or doesn't she? If you've read the book, you know. If you haven't, who am I to spoil it for you.

If you're in the mood to let yourself be carried away, catch Far from the Madding Crowd while it's still in theaters. The costumes by Patterson are sumptuous, the hillsides and cliffs of Dorset, the moody blue color palette, the exquisite camera work of Charlotte Bruus Christensen deserving of the big screen treatment. And the performances of, and chemistry between Matthias Schoenaerts and Carey Mulligan will sweep you right off your feet. 

More Madding Crowd: Watch Carey Sing to her Suitors

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: The Women in Billy's Life Kristen Stewart, Deirdre Lovejoy, Makenzie Leigh and Laura Lundy Wheale

 Kristen Stewart (Billy's sister, Kathryn), Deirdre Lovejoy (Billy's mom) and Joe Alwyn (Billy) PHOTO via @itsoktobeyouorg

I loved Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk so much I'm just going to keep right on blogging about it until the movie is released in November 2016. Whaaaat? That's like a gazillion months in the future. We might not even be here by then! Why so long? Probably because genius award-winning filmmaker Ang Lee is not only shooting Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk in 3D —remember how stunning his Life of Pi was in 3D— he's also shooting in hyper, uber, very very fast, like speed of light fast (okay, that's an exaggeration) but it's an insane 125 frames per second fast. It's unprecedented fast. Lee says it's to immerse the viewer in the war experience, all that unremitting action barreling at you. In order to give you a frame of reference, Peter Jackson shot The Hobbit in 48 frames per second, the fastest ever. That kind of techno wizardry takes quite awhile, not only to shoot but to put together.

It's clear Ang Lee isn't going to flinch when it comes to the dark underbelly of this particular story. It's an anti-war movie so Lee will want to show the actual horrible war behind the surface celebration, the heroism that cost lives, the battles, the bullets, the explosions that made the boys from Bravo the heroes George Bush sent on a "I'm here to pump you up" Victory Tour. I don't know how that will translate to the quieter moments in the film like the day Billy goes home to see his family, or his relationship with Faison, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. The whole thing makes me incredibly nervous but I have to remind myself Ang Lee's a genius. 

So ... since we've already met the Boys from Bravo, let's take a look at the women in Billy's life; his mother and sisters, and of course Faison, the cheerleader who sends him to the moon.

Kathryn, Billy's Middle Sister

Kristen Stewart plays Kathryn, Billy's middle sister. She's the reason Billy is in the military at all. Here's how we meet her in the book...
"So Billy told them about Kathryn, his middle sister and the star of the family, an extremely beautiful girl and gentle and smart who won a partial scholarship to TCU."

But she gets in a horrible car accident, and almost dies. And her fiancĂ© dumps her.
"Fractured pelvis, fractured leg, ruptured spleen, collapsed lung, and massive internal bleeding, then the complicated lacework on her face and back, 170 stitches below the neck, 63 above. You're gonna be fine, the plastic surgeon tells her the day after. It may take a couple of years but we'll get you there, I do this all the time. But Pussy boy can't handle it. Three weeks after the wreck he drives to Stovall and breaks off the engagement, whereupon the gentle Kathryn thumps the engagement ring in his face, thumps it as you'd thump a spider or slug you found crawling on your hand."
And Billy, my kind of hero, goes on the attack and does some stuff he shouldn't do to 'Pussy boy's' car. He's arrested but instead of going to jail, he's given the choice of signing up for the military. 

Kathryn is also the most outspoken critic of the war in the entire novel. She feels guilty that that he's going through this because of her. In the novel she spends much of her time and energy texting Billy trying to convince him how he's being used as a pawn and that there's a way out. A way that he can stay home rather than return to the war.

Clouds of Sil Maria created a lot of new Kristen Stewart fans; I'm one of them and I think she'll be great in the part. Hopefully she'll get more face-time that she does in the book. She deserves it.

Faison, A Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader 

Faison is the other female that has a major impact on Billy. She's the beautiful young Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader in a sea of beautiful Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders that Billy feels an instaneous connection to. She's being played by Makenzie Leigh (The Slap).

My son asked if the actress playing Faison was pretty. I told him she'd better be and showed him this picture. When he pulled his jaw up off the floor, I reminded him she was the babysitter in The Slap, the young girl having the affair with the much older man played by Peter Sarsgaard. (Sarsgaard is so good at the slimy guy parts, isn't he?) As for Leigh, she has a sensual beauty that reminds me of Alicia Vikander. That's what the part of Faison calls for, a girl so hot yet seemingly innocent that Billy can't resist. 

Here's how Billy first sees her in the novel—
"Billy's attention swings back to the cheerleaders and he does an experiment, walking his gaze down the row of women to his right. As he catches each cheerleader's eye she breaks into pyrotechnic smiles—it's like flipping on a row of klieg lights, bam bam bam bam. But somewhere down the line his gaze stops, backtracks of its own accord to a petite, fair-skinned girl with a teased-out corona of strawberry-blond hair, soft bolts of which drape the rising tide of her chest. She smiles again, then silently laughs and crinkles her eyes at him. he knows it's her job, but still; his stomach does a drop-kick sort of bounce. A nice girl doing her part to support the troops. 
 p. 124
"Billy allows himself to pretend that, yes, she really digs him, that they'll meet, exchange digits, go out on a date, go out on more dates, have sex/fall in love, marry, procreate, raise excellent children, and have incredible sex for the rest of their lives and why the hell not, dammit, humans have been doing it since ethe dawn of time so why can't Billy have his turn? He has looked away and when he looks back they both smile and silently chuckle over this little thing they have, whatever it is." p. 125

Denise, Billy's Mom

Lovejoy with Mariska Hargitay filming SVU

Billy's mom, Denise, is played by Hollywood veteran Deirdre Lovejoy who a lot of you know from The Wire. She's one of those actors who works all the time and who you see in this cop show and that cop show, in Orange is the New Black, in Girls, but you might not recognize if you saw her on the street. She's the kind of actor I'd want to be. All that fame sounds great until you realize exactly how much of a prison stardom really is. You think I'm joking; I'm not. I'd hate it. So would most of you.

Here's how Ben Fountain writes her in his novel—
"For dinner Denise served up a spectacular chicken tetrazini feed. She'd had her hair done. She'd put on makeup. She wanted everything perfect, which Ray deftly sandbagged baby cranking up the volume for Bill O'Reilly and chain-smoking through dinner." p.78
"Denise waited on her husband's every need, though she was never quick about it, Billy noticed she seemed quite fine with him harrumphing a second and third time, and when she did get around to fetching, pouring, cutting, she performed with a multitask air of distractedness, like she was watering plants while talking on the phone. She was sneaky. She had those passive-agrssive wiles. Her hair was an indeterminate washed-out chemical color, and most the emotional muscle tone was gone from her face, though she was still capable of sad, skewed smiles from time to time, forcing the cheer like Christmas lights in the poorest part of town. She strove mightily to keep the conversation upbeat, but family troubles kept leaking in around the edges." p.78

Patty, Billy's Oldest Sister 

Billy's other sister, Patty, is being played by Laura Lundy Wheale, a newcomer to film and television but who received training at the Lee Strasberg Academy here in Los Angeles. If the part runs true to the book, it's small but interesting. Here's a bit from the novel—
"Patty snuffled a laugh around the cigarette she was lighting. Former hell-raiser, high school dropout, teenage bride; in her mid-twenties now she seemed to have slowed down to start thinking about it all."  p.82
 and when Billy asks her about husband, she sounds tired out already. Her mother in training. Billy notices ...
"She just smiled and looked away. In Billy's memory she was always so lithe and bold; now she was packing saddlebags on her hips and thighs, spare tubes on her upper arms. With the extra weight had come an almost palpable air of apology."  p.82 
 Ugh! As a woman, that just punches me in the gut. Poor Patty. Those are the key women in Billy Lynn's life; I'm always to surprise when male writers turn out to be such good reporters of female behavior. Ben Fountain doesn't disappoint. 

Now, have you met the Boys of Bravo yet?

Maybe Men Really Are from Mars: First Images of Matt Damon in The Martian

Director Ridley Scott calls it Robinson Crusoe in Space which is a whole lot more illuminating than its real title, The Martian based on Andy Weir's sci-fi novel of the same name. It's not about a Martian at all, it's about an astronaut who gets stranded on the red planet and has to figure out a way to get back home. While the movie doesn't come out until this year's big Thanksgiving Day holiday, a slew of images were released over the Memorial Day weekend. In the holiday mood to peruse? 
The shots are mostly of star Matt Damon as Mark Watney sitting in what looks like sand and wandering around in his astronaut suit in a Death Valley like desert; the movie was shot in Jordan so that makes sense. We've also been given a look at cast-mates Jessica Chastain (yes, they were both in Interstellar) Kristin Wiig (is she suppressing a crackup?) Kate Mara and a couple actors I'm not that familiar with. 
I think the actor in the black shirt giving the back of Jessica Chastain's head the evil eye is Sebastian Stan who you might know from the Captain America films. The bald actor is Askel Hennie. I bet a lot of you recognize the Norwegian actor from The Head-hunters based on the book by Jo Nesbo. Remember when The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fueled a wave of nordic crime books and movies a couple of years back? Nesbo was front and center in that craze. 
Here ya go ...

The cast of The Martian includes some heavyweights like Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels and Michael Pena along with some rising stars like Mackenzie Davis (Halt & Catch Fire), and Donald Glover (Community).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...