Archive for Minnie Driver

Good Will Hunting

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Twenty-year-old Will Hunting (Matt Damon) of South Boston is a self-taught, genius-level intellect, though he works as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spends his free time drinking with his friends, Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Billy (Cole Hauser) and Morgan (Casey Affleck). When Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) posts a difficult mathematics problem as a challenge for his graduate students, Will solves the problem anonymously, stunning both the graduate students and Lambeau himself. As a challenge to the unknown genius, Lambeau posts an even more difficult problem. Lambeau chances upon Will solving the problem but Will flees the scene. That night at a bar, Will meets Skylar (Minnie Driver), a British student about to graduate from Harvard, who plans on attending medical school at Stanford and gives Will her phone number before leaving.

The next day, Will and his friends fight a gang at the basketball court. Police arrive and arrest Will. Lambeau visits his court appearance, and notices Will’s intellect in defending himself. He arranges for him to forgo jail time if he agrees to study mathematics under Lambeau’s supervision and participate in therapy sessions. Will tentatively agrees, but treats his first few therapists with contempt and mockery. His refusal to open up is met with staunch defiance by the various therapists, who each refuse to deal with Will further. In desperation, Lambeau calls on Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), his estranged and much more grounded college roommate, who now teaches psychology at Bunker Hill Community College. Unlike other therapists, Sean actually challenges Will’s defense mechanisms, and after a few unproductive sessions, Will begins to open up.

Will is particularly struck by Sean’s story of how he met his wife by giving up his ticket to the historic game six of the 1975 World Series, after falling in love at first sight. Sean neither regrets his decision, nor does he regret the final years of his marriage, after which his wife died of cancer. This encourages Will to build a relationship with Skylar, though he lies to her about his past and is reluctant to introduce her to his friends or show her his rundown neighborhood. Will also challenges Sean to take an objective look at his own life, since Sean cannot move on from his wife’s death.

Lambeau sets up a number of job interviews for Will, but Will scorns them by sending Chuckie as his “chief negotiator”, and by turning down a position at the National Security Agency with a scathing critique of the agency’s moral position. Skylar asks Will to move to California with her, but he refuses and tells her he is an orphan, and that his foster father physically abused him. Will breaks up with Skylar, and later storms out on Lambeau, dismissing the mathematical research he has been doing. Sean points out that Will is so adept at anticipating future failure in his interpersonal relationships that he deliberately sabotages them in order to avoid emotional pain. When Will refuses to give an honest reply about what he wants to do with his life, Sean shows him the door. Will tells Chuckie he wants to be a laborer for the rest of his life. Chuckie responds that it would be an insult to his friends for Will to waste his potential and that his fondest wish is that Will should leave to pursue something greater.

Will walks in on a heated argument between Sean and Lambeau over his potential. Sean and Will share and find out that they were both victims of child abuse. Sean helps Will to see that he is a victim of his own inner demons and to accept that it is not his fault. Sean comforts Will as he cries over twenty years of trauma. Will decides to accept one of the job offers arranged by Lambeau. Having helped Will overcome his problems, Sean reconciles with Lambeau and decides to take a sabbatical to travel the world. When Will’s friends present him with a rebuilt Chevrolet Nova for his twenty-first birthday, he decides to pass on his job offers and drive to California to reunite with Skylar. Sometime later, Chuckie goes to Will’s house to pick him up, only to find that he is not there, much to his happiness. Sean comes out of his house and finds a letter from Will in his mailbox, which, much to his pleasure, tells him that Will is going to see Skylar. During the ending credits, Will’s car is seen driving on the highway to California

REVIEW:

The other day, I was watching Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back for the gazillionth time and came across the scene with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are shooting Good Will Hunting 2. Obviously, this was just a parody in the film, but it hit me…I have never seen the source material. So, this afternoon, I am going to sit down and watch Good Will Hunting. Let’s hope I don’t fall asleep on the couch while doing so.

What is this about?

When professors at MIT discover that an aimless young janitor working at the university is also a mathematical genius, a therapist helps the young man confront the demons that are holding him back.

What did I like?

Thrill of the Hunt(ing). For the first few years of their careers, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were seemingly joined at the hip when seen in public, partially because of the success of this film. Damon’s performance knocks it out of the park and it is no wonder that he has gone on to do so many other things. He brings to the screen intensity, drive, emotion, and a variety of other adjectives that you wouldn’t expect from a guy who, at this time, wasn’t anything more than a supporting player.

Have some class. There is a real emphasis on the class division as Damon and company come from the other side of the tracks, but most of the film takes place at M.I.T. and one of the bars they frequent is occupied with students from Harvard, not exactly the cheapest of schools. This division makes for some interesting conversations about the have and have nots…much like one can have today.

Beard. I used to joke that whenever Robin Williams would grow out his beard, we are in for some serious drama. Case in point, Birdcage (no beard), The Fischer King (beard), and August Rush (weird soul patch thingy). Sometimes this isn’t the case, though…see What Dreams May Come. Still, while Williams was known primarily as a comedic actor, it should not be ignored that he has some great dramatic chops, as well. This is one of those rare times where he gets as serious as one can be. A jokey Williams would not have fit within the scope of this film, but drama Robin, works perfectly as Damon’s therapist and confidant.

What didn’t I like?

Drive. Minnie Driver plays a very fine love interest. As an innocent, wealthy British undergrad finishing up at Harvard and getting ready to head to Stanford for her graduate studies, she is given some decent motivation for her character. My problem with her is that she isn’t given enough time for us, the audience, to become attached to her. I say this because there is obviously a connection between her and Damon, but because we don’t get much time with her as a person, it doesn’t mean much when that comes to an end. It is just an event that happens, akin to Damon’s anonymous solving of the math problems.

Hidden genius. How is it that someone with the genius of Matt Damon’s character made it through school, even if he dropped out, without being discovered? It seems to me that someone would have picked up on this. There is no reason for him to be a janitor living in a shack on the southside of Boston with his intellect. The only reason for him to not have been found out is that he may not be a strong test taker, but even then, it would still show somewhat, right?

Predictable. Don’t you just hate films that you can pretty much guess what is going to happen? Well, this is one of those, I’m afraid. Everything that happens to our main characters is telegraphed a mile away leaving the audience with everything but a surprise come film’s end. A little suspense would have been nice, at least in my opinion.

Final verdict on Good Will Hunting? For all the hype and accolades this picture receives, I thought it lived up to it. My expectation was to fall asleep in the first 30 min or so, but instead I couldn’t turn away, save for some down moments here and there. I’m sure you will have the same experience, so I very highly recommend it. Check it out!

5 out of 5 stars

Advertisements

Big Night

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film, presumably set in a small town on the New Jersey Shore in the 1950s, tells the story of two Italian immigrant brothers from Abruzzo who own and operate a restaurant called “Paradise.” One brother, Primo (Tony Shalhoub), is a brilliant, perfectionist chef who chafes under their few customers’ expectations of “Americanized” Italian food. Their uncle’s offer for them to return to Rome to help with his restaurant is becoming more and more appealing to Primo. The other brother, Secondo (Tucci), is the restaurant’s manager, who is enamored of the possibilities presented by their new endeavor and life in America. Despite Secondo’s efforts and Primo’s magnificent food, their restaurant is failing.

Secondo’s elusive success as a businessman makes him unable to commit to his girlfriend Phyllis (Minnie Driver), and he has recently been sleeping with Gabriella (Isabella Rossellini), the wife of a competitor. Her husband’s self-named restaurant, Pascal’s (Ian Holm), has enjoyed great success despite (or perhaps due to) the mediocre, uninspired food served there. Desperate to keep Paradise afloat, Secondo asks Pascal for a loan. Pascal demurs, repeating a past offer to have the brothers come work for him. This Secondo in turn refuses; he and his brother want their own restaurant. In an apparent display of generosity, Pascal instead insists that he will persuade Louis Prima to dine at Paradise when he comes to town, assuming the celebrity jazz singer’s patronage will revitalize the brothers’ business. Primo and Secondo plunge themselves into preparations for this “big night”, spending their last savings on the food and inviting dozens of people (including a newspaper reporter) to join them in a magnificent feast centered around a timpano (a form of timballo, a complicated baked pasta dish). Primo pours his heart into each dish, lavishing care and great expertise on the cooking.

As they wait for Prima and his entourage to arrive, the crowd indulges in the exquisite food and partakes in a fabulous celebration. Hours pass, however, and it becomes apparent that the famous singer is not coming. Phyllis catches Secondo and Gabriella kissing and runs away to the beach. At Gabriella’s insistence, Pascal admits that he never even called Louis Prima, thus ending the party.

Secondo follows Phyllis to the beach where they have a final quarrel. Primo and Secondo have a fiery, heartwrenching argument, chafing at their mutual differences. In the wee hours of the morning, Pascal admits to Secondo that he set the brothers up for failure; not as revenge for Secondo’s affair with Gabriella but because then the brothers would have no choice but to either return to Italy or work for Pascal. Secondo denies him, saying they will never work for him. The film closes with an uninterrupted, nearly wordless long take: as dawn breaks, Secondo silently cooks an omelette. When it is done, he divides it among three plates, giving one to Cristiano (Marc Anthony), their waiter, and eating one himself. Primo hesitantly enters: Secondo hands him the last plate. They eat without speaking, but lay their arms across one another’s shoulders as they do so.

REVIEW:

Other than films that portray marching band in a positive light, I have to say that cooking/restaurant themed films are right up there with topics that Hollywood seems to ignore, or use just a punch line, with a few exceptions, such as Julie & Julia, for instance. Big Night is one of these films. What is notable about this picture is that it was made before we were bombarded with cooking shows, celebrity chefs, etc.

What is this about?

Despite its superb cuisine, an Italian restaurant run by immigrant brothers verges on bankruptcy. But the siblings risk it all to save their bistro when they get the chance to cook up a feast for bandleader Louis Prima.

What did I like?

Food. The foodie in the house called this “food porn” because of the succulent cuisine that was being prepared. Now that I’ve had a few moments to digest it, that does make sense. If you’re the kind of person that is really into food, especially Italian, this is going to either make you really happy or act as a giant tease!

Work with what you have. Most low-budget independent films, especially older ones, look like they were made in someone’s basement and yet, somehow, this manages to pull off being the kind of flick that doesn’t look cheap. In fact, other than the fact that 99% of it takes place in the restaurant, nothing set-wise would have you thinking this is an low-budget film. The filmmakers really took advantage of what they had to work with.

What didn’t I like?

Kitchen Nightmare. Through no fault of its own, while watching this film, I felt as if I were watching an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. There is nothing nightmarish about the restaurant, mind you, but the way is looks put me in the mindset of those places he goes to on the show. Rustic, for lack of a better term, east coast Italian family restaurant. I half expected Ramsay to show up, I kid you not!

Louis. I realize that at the time this was made, Louis Prima had been passed on for some time, but they could have hired someone to play him, or use clips from his performances. I can guarantee that about 90% or more of the audience have no clue who Prima is, but they make him out to be as big a name as Frank Sinatra.

Big Night was aptly named because everything hinges on the big night of food for Louis Prima. This is one of those films you put on when you just have a desire to check out something different from explosions, over-emotional women and their dating woes, talking animals, etc. If I had to say whether this is worth a watch or not, I have to go with yes. This is a really well-made film that will have you wanting to go out for Italian, or at least make a omlette, by the time it is done. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Ella Enchanted

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the kingdom of Frell, baby Ella (Anne Hathaway) is given the “gift of obedience” by her fairy godmother, Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox). This turns out to be more of a curse, making Ella do anything she is told to do, no matter how terrible or physically impossible. Some years later, Ella’s mother dies after instructing Ella to tell no one of the curse, not even her father. Eventually Ella’s father (Patrick Bergin), in need of money, remarries a wealthy socialite. His greedy new wife, Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley), and her two spoiled daughters Hattie and Olive (Jennifer Higham) treat Ella poorly. They eventually realize Ella’s obedience to commands, and begin making her life miserable.

Ella stumbles upon Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), the handsome heir to the throne, as he’s being pursued by his “fan club” of young women. He finds her lack of deference to him refreshing and after their encounter, sends an invitation to the Coronation Ball to her home, where it is intercepted by her stepmother and stepsisters. Hattie and Olive, who are part of Prince Charmont’s fan club, are overcome with jealousy. Along with their mother, they force Ella to insult and cut ties with her best friend Areida (Parminder Nagra). Ella cannot bear to live under the obedience spell and Hattie’s jealousy a moment longer, so she resolves to find Lucinda, the only one who can remove the spell. Mandy (Minnie Driver), the household fairy and the only other person who knows of the curse, tries to help by lending Ella a magical book that can show people in their current surroundings. The book holds Mandy’s boyfriend Benny (Jimi Mistry), who she had accidentally transformed in an errant spell. During her journey, Ella encounters an elf named Slannen (Aidan McArdle), who wants to be a lawyer instead of an entertainer as the kingdom’s laws now require. Slannen joins Ella on her quest, but they are captured by a group of ogres, who prepare to cook and eat them. They are rescued by Prince Charmont. He then accompanies her to a wedding in the land of giants, where Ella hopes to find Lucinda. Throughout the journey, Ella opens Charmont’s eyes to the cruelty of his uncle’s new laws oppressing elves and giants. Char suggests that Ella should come with him to his palace to visit the Hall of Records and track down Lucinda faster.

At the palace, Charmont’s uncle, Sir Edgar (Cary Elwes), has Ella’s “gift” called to his attention by his talking snake, Heston, voiced by (Steve Coogan), who has been spying on the prince. When Edgar offers Hattie Char’s hand in marriage, Ella’s stepsisters explain that she does everything she is told. Edgar knows that Prince Charmont intends to propose marriage to Ella, and he orders her to stab him to death and not to tell anyone of the plan. Sir Edgar also reveals that he murdered Prince Charmont’s father. To prevent the murder of Char, Ella asks Slannen to tie her to a tree outside the city and to find the giants so they can help. Lucinda now appears before Ella, who asks her to undo the “gift” of obedience. Offended by the request, Lucinda refuses, saying that if Ella no longer wants the spell, she must remove it herself. She unties Ella from the tree and gives her a fancy dress and tells her to attend the ball. When Ella gets to the ball, Charmont almost immediately takes her to the Hall of Mirrors and asks her to marry him. Ella is about to stab him with the dagger Edgar provided, when she realizes how to free herself from the curse: looking into a mirror, she orders herself to no longer be obedient. Charmont sees the dagger drop from her hand and realizes she tried to kill him. Edgar is watching the entire scene behind a two-way mirror, and before Ella can explain, Edgar orders the guards to lock her up and have her executed in a few days.

Meanwhile, Slannen gets the giants, and the ogres come to sneak into the castle to rescue Ella and find out that Sir Edgar is poisoning the crown that Char will receive during the ceremony. Just before Charmont puts it on, Ella and her allies interrupt. Edgar and Heston call for the knights and Red Guards, and a battle ensues. Ella explains everything to Charmont while fighting alongside him. When Sir Edgar’s forces lose the battle, Heston tries to bite Char, but is stopped by Ella. Caught trying to killing the prince, Edgar admits to killing the King to the assembled crowd. Then, carried away by his own rhetoric, he puts it dramatically on his own head, and promptly collapses from the poison, although he survives.

Char and Ella kiss; her stepsisters arrive and order her to stop kissing, and she is delighted to refuse. Ella then walks up to Hattie and takes her mother’s necklace back from her (Hattie had forced Ella to give it to her near the beginning of the movie). Char once again asks Ella to marry him, and she agrees. The movie ends with their wedding and a musical number (Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart).

REVIEW:

There are so many twists, turns, and mutations on the tale of Cinderella out there today that it is hard to remember some of the better ones. Ella Enchanted is one of these versions that has fallen by the wayside, partly because Anne Hathaway’s career skyrocketed shortly after this, if I’m not mistaken.

What is this about?

Burdened at birth with the “gift” of obedience by a flighty fairy godmother, Ella searches for a way to lift the curse that prevents her from pursuing her dreams — and her true love, Prince Charmont.

What did I like?

Role model. I was talking to someone about this film the other day and the topic of role models came up. In this day and age when the females that little girls see the most are anything but good role models (contrary to their belief), it is a nice break from the norm to get a strong Cinderella-type character. Personally, I prefer the original, but I’m a purist. That being said, Ella of Frel is a good example for young girls.

Cast. In my opinion, this is one of the more attractive casts that I’ve seen in quite some time. With the exception of the step sisters, who are complete dogs no matter what incarnation they’re in and the ogres, there isn’t one person that isn’t at least marginally attractive, in my opinion. For goodness sakes, Heidi Klum appears as one of the giants! Now, what does this mean for the film, since we can almost all be sure that people in this era didn’t look like they just walked out of a Hollywood salon? Well, the film does seem to be a bit of a satire on the fairy tale, so I’m sure the cast’s looks have something to do with that, as well.

Pop culture. Many people seem to be torn on the modern touches here and there, such as the songs, a wooden escalator, a university, complete with protests, fan clubs, etc. Hey, it worked in A Knight’s Tale, and before that, on The Flintstones, so why can’t it work here in a film that isn’t trying to take itself too seriously? I don’t see what the big deal is. Personally, I think we could have done with a touch more here and there, but not too much, lest we meander into territory defecated upon by the last couple of Shrek films.

What didn’t I like?

Smart. Ella is a smart, independent young woman, so it seems to be that by time she’s this age, she would have figured out a way around the curse or maybe even learned a few spells from Mandy, who I’m not really sure why she’s still there at this time. I just don’t get why she had to go on a trek across the countryside to find Lucinda, other than to fill out the film.

Spotlight. You might not realize it, but there are other characters in this film besides Ella, the Prince, Sir Edgar, and Slannen. Two of the biggest injustices are Mandy, played by Minnie Driver who really could be a throwaway character, if you think about it and Ella’s best friend, Areida. I would have loved to have seen more of these two, especially Areida, but instead, we get to see Vivica A. Fox in all her stereotypical, sassy black female glory. I am not a fan of her, let me tell you! Don’t even get me started on how the focus was only on one of the step sisters. Yes, that’s how it is in every incarnation, but this poor girl may as well have not even been there!

Deviation. I just learned that this is based on a book. One of these days, I may have to go check that out. In the meantime, I can’t really comment on how far from the source material but I do know that it doesn’t really resemble the book. As a I said earlier, I’m a purist, but I understand that certain allowances must be made. However, changing the whole story is something that I just can’t deal with.

Ella Enchanted is the first film where I believe we actually were able to see that Anne Hathaway had some real acting chops to go with those model looks of hers. If you’re in the mood for a nice family film that will keep you and your kids entertained, then I highly recommend this one. No, it isn’t perfect, but it sure is fun to watch!

4 out of 5 stars

Tarzan

Posted in Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the 19th Century, an English couple and their infant son escape a burning ship, ending up on land near uncharted rainforests off the coast of Africa. The couple craft themselves a treehouse from their ship’s wreckage, but are subsequently killed by Sabor, a rogue leopardess. Kala (Glenn Close), a gorilla whose own son was killed and eaten by the vicious leopardess, hears the cries of the orphaned infant, and finds him in the ruined treehouse where the parents’ dead bodies lie in a dark corner. Kala takes an instant liking to the baby. Kala is attacked by Sabor, who wants to kill and eat the baby, but Kala manages to get her tangled in the ropes holding the derelict rowboat, and she and the baby escape.

The kindly Kala takes the baby back to the gorilla troop to raise as her own, despite her mate Kerchak’s (Lance Henriksen) disapproval. Kala raises the human child, naming him Tarzan (Alex D. Linz as a young boy, Tony Goldwyn as a young adult). Though he befriends other gorillas in the troop and other animals, including the young female gorilla Terk (Rosie O’Donnell) and the paranoid male elephant Tantor (Wayne Knight), Tarzan finds himself unable to keep up with them, and takes great efforts to improve himself. As a young man, Tarzan is able to kill Sabor with his crude spear and protect the troop, earning Kerchak’s reluctant respect.

The gorilla troop’s peaceful life is interrupted by the arrival of a team of human explorers from England, consisting of Professor Porter (Nigel Hawthorne), his daughter Jane (Minnie Driver) and their hunter-guide Clayton (Brian Blessed). Jane is accidentally separated from the group and chased by a pack of baboons. Tarzan saves her from the baboons, and recognizes that she is the same as he is, a human. Jane leads Tarzan back to the explorers’ camp, where both Porter and Clayton take great interest in him—the former in terms of scientific progress while the latter hoping to have Tarzan lead him to the gorillas so that he can capture them and return with them to England. Despite Kerchak’s warnings to be wary of the humans, Tarzan continues to return to the camp and be taught by Porter, Clayton, and Jane to speak English and learn of the human world, and he and Jane begin to fall in love. However, they are having a hard time convincing Tarzan to lead him to the gorillas, due to Tarzan’s fear for their safety from the threat of Kerchak.

When the explorers’ boat returns to pick them up, Clayton persuades Tarzan that if he shows the group the gorillas, then Jane will stay with him. Tarzan agrees and leads the party to the gorilla troop’s home, while Terk and Tantor lure Kerchak away to avoid having him attack the humans. Porter and Jane are excited to meet and mingle with the gorillas, but Kerchak returns and threatens to kill them after witnessing Clayton threatening some gorillas with his rifle. Kerchak heads directly towards Clayton but Tarzan is forced to hold Kerchak at bay while the humans escape, and then leaves the troop himself, alienated by his actions. Kala reluctantly takes Tarzan back to the treehouse where she found him as a baby, and shows him his true past.

Encouraged by Kala to follow his heart, Tarzan decides to leave with Jane, Clayton, and Professor Porter after saying a tearful goodbye to his adopted mother. When they return to the ship, they are all ambushed by pirates and it is then revealed that Clayton desires to capture and sell the gorillas in England for a fine price. Tarzan and the others are then locked up in the hull of the ship, but are rescued by Terk and Tantor and race back to the gorilla home.

Clayton and his men arrive back in the jungle and capture the gorillas. Making their way back to the gorillas’ home, Tarzan recruits some miscellaneous animal friends (baboons, rhinos etc.), and together they fight and/or scare away the rest of Clayton’s men, imprisoning them in the very same cages they planned to imprison the gorillas in. As the rest of the gorillas (including Kala) are freed by Jane, Professor Porter, Terk and Tantor, Kerchak and Tarzan together battle Clayton. Kerchak is fatally shot while Clayton chases Tarzan into the vine-covered trees, where Tarzan gets the drop on him, destroying Clayton’s gun. Clayton pulls out a machete, in his haste to kill Tarzan, ignoring his warning about the vine wrapped around his neck. Once Clayton cuts the vine holding him up, he and Tarzan fall, but while Tarzan lands safely, Clayton is killed when the vine snaps his neck, leaving him hanged. Tarzan goes to Kerchak’s side and asks Kerchak for his forgiveness, but Kerchak instead asks for Tarzan’s for never accepting him as one of the herd and names him the new leader of the pack and calls Tarzan his son for the first time ever as he dies.

The next day, as Porter and Jane prepare to leave on a row boat, Tarzan reveals that he now plans to stay with the gorilla troop to continue his position as their new leader. As the ship leaves shore, Porter encourages his daughter to stay with the man she loves, and Jane jumps overboard to return to shore; Porter shortly follows her, telling the non-money-grubbing captain to tell the British that the crew never found them, “After all, people get lost in the jungle every day.”

REVIEW:

I’m a bit saddened to write this review because it was just brought to my attention that Tarzan was the end of the Disney Renaissance. I suppose that there are worse films that could have ended one of the best eras in Disney history, one that began with The Little Mermaid.

It may be hard to believe, but Tarzan has only been on the big screen a few times, and this is the only one time that he’s been animated.

The plot of the film is Tarzan getting orphaned by the death of his parents, who are killed by the leopard, Sabor. Kala, who had recently lost her child the same way, hears him and goes to save him. In the process she adopts him, much to the dismay of Kerchak.

As the film progresses, Tarzan struggles to gain the respect of Kerchak, who seems to be the only one that doesn’t seem to be able to get past his outward appearance.

Eventually, humans come to the jungle to study the gorillas. Well, two of them come to study, the hunter, Clayton, wants to sell them to the zoo.

After some interesting montages that show Tarzan learning how to walk and talk like human, we finally get to the climax which culminates in a battle between Tarzan and Clayton and ends rather darkly.

For those of you like me that don’t really care for all this computer animated junk that they keep shoving down our throats these days, this is the film to blame, because it is the one that really mixed the two mediums effectively and not make it look like two separate things.

Speaking on the graphics, watching Tarzan surf through the trees is a real treat. I seem to remember hearing that they used Tony Hawk as inspiration for that. Wise choice animators!

This is not a musical, but there is music in the background that is some of the best in Disney film. Phil Collins really outdid himself, if you ask me.

Apparently, in true Disney fashion, they took some liberties with the source material to make this more family friendly. Having not read the original book, I can’t really comment on this, one way or the other.

In the end, Tarzan delivers a great story, awesome music, breathtaking graphics, and yet it is underrated. Of course, in the realm of Disney films, that isn’t saying much. There are many, many great films. While this doesn’t stack up to something like say Pinocchio, it is more than worth many, many viewings.

5 out of 5 stars

The Phantom of the Opera

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2008 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Derived from the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which was based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, the film begins in a grainy black and white, as the effects of the Paris Opera House are being sold off at auction. Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, now an old wheelchair-bound man purchases a coveted music box. During the auction, Raoul spots a familiar figure. Meg Giry, whom he met as a young man. But he is distracted by the next piece for auction, Lot 666; a chandelier in pieces which has been restored and newly electrically wired. As the auctioneers display the restored chandelier, the opening crescendo of music wipes away the years of decay from the opera house, and the audience is transported back in time to 1870, the beginning of the story, when the opera was in its prime.

A disfigured musical genius, the “Phantom”, (played by Gerard Butler) lives within the deepest recess of the opera house. Tormented by his scarred face, the Phantom lives in the watery labyrinths beneath the Opera Populaire in Paris. After nearly ten years of quiet obsession with the delicate, ethereal voice of Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum), and the beautiful young soprano herself, he plots to place his protégé at center stage.

Christine is torn between her love for Raoul (Patrick Wilson), a childhood sweetheart who has returned into her life, and her dark, undeniable attraction to and pity for the Phantom. Jealous and possessive, the Phantom plots to make Christine his, resorting to stalking her wherever she goes as well as killing several people. A tense swordfight later ensues in the cemetery, where Raoul eventually disarms him and almost decides to kill him before Christine pleads for him not to, “not like this”. His rage seemingly augmented, the Phantom angrily states, “Now, let it be war on upon you both”. During the night’s play he steals Christine away and avoids the trap to be captured by Raoul and the managers. After a series of tense, chaotic sequences, the Phantom imprisons Raoul, who attempts to save Christine, and threatens to strangle him to death if Christine does not choose the Phantom.

Struck by the desperation of his actions as well as a revelation of how dark his past must be, Christine kisses him and displays her deep affection – showing that she loves both Raoul and the Phantom, but in different ways – something which he has never received from anyone. Her kindness and the love in her eyes so deeply touches the Phantom that, ashamed of what he’s done, he allows Christine and Raoul to leave. Just before she departs with Raoul on the boat, Christine approaches the Phantom, who helplessly tells her that he loves her, and gives him the diamond ring from her finger. After using a candlestick to smash every mirror in his underground lair, he disappears behind a velvet curtain into an empty glass mirror portal, before the police arrive. Upon entering, Meg Giry (Jennifer Ellison), the ballet mistress’s daughter, finds only the phantom’s white mask.

Later, the grainy black and white picture dominates as the elderly Raoul rides to a cemetery where we find out that Christine has since died. He lays the toy monkey at her grave site, and notices that on the left of the tombstone lies a red rose (a trademark of the Phantom) with the engagement ring attached to it.

REVIEW:

Where to begin with this? I could sit here and bash the bejesus out of it for making a less that stellar attempt at bringing a classic musical to the screen. Or I could talk about how beautifully filmed it ended up being.

I’m not crazy about Gerard Butler as the phantom. His singing voice at times to me sounds as if he’s straining and out of tune. Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson put on excellent performances. Miranda Richardson and Minnie Driver round out pretty good cast.

The scenery is breathtaking and kind of takes the show, especially in the theater.

I’ve always been of the impression that the past should be in black and white and the present (or the more modern time) is in color. The way this is filmed, though, that is backwards. Not sure if that’s bad, but it was just weird considering what is considered the “norm”.

The musical numbers may be a bit long for the screen especially the final number, but now that I think about it finales tend to be long drawn out numbers.

As far as attempts at bringing this musical to the screen go, it could have been a lot worse. At the same time, it could have been better.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars