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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Amy Adams for Janis Joplin

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Entries in Adaptations (106)

Sunday
Sep142014

TIFF: Miss Julie or, Acting: The Movie! 

The 2014 edition of TIFF ends tonight and so will Nathaniel's review coverage with Still Alice. Wrap-ups and Oscar updates coming shortly thereafter. Now Liv Ullman's Miss Julie... 

"Kiss my shoe!" Colin Farrell reenacts critical reaction to Chastain's debut film year

This review contains 126 year-old spoilers if you’re not familiar with August Strindbergh’s one act play, which has been adapted to film frequently. The play is about the bored, lonely, and loveless daughter of a Baron, Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) who enjoys toying with the servants, especially with John her father's valet (Colin Farrell). She flirts shamelessly even in front of his fiancé the cook (Samantha Morton) ordering him to perform sometimes demeaning and not very valet-like duties, like kissing her shoe or bringing her flowers. The story takes place in a single night in which the valet and the lady of the house will consummate their extremely uncomfortable and scandalous attraction with incredibly disastrous results... especially for Miss Julie. If 19th century Swedish country estates had been unionized John surely would have told her what wasn't in his job description. 'Not that. Not that. Definitely not that. You're playing with fire, Miss Julie!'

We understand Miss Julie's maddening hypocrisies straightaway as, when the story begins, she's already ordered the cook to feed her dog "Diana" an abortive dinner since the naughty girl has had sex with the gate keeper's mongrel dog. Foreshadowing 101 anyone? Diana is played by an adorable pug so we'll ignore, for Jess's dignity, that the play indicates that the dog ought to resemble Miss Julie! The pug laps down the meal hungrily and then proceeds to whimper through the entire first scene. This too proves foreshadowing, as yours truly began to do the same. If only Samantha Morton could have scooped me up, as she mercifully does with the confused pup, to carry me out of the screening room! 

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Monday
Sep082014

TIFF: The Last Five Years

Nathaniel's adventures in Toronto. Day 3

The first thing you see in The Last Five Years is a white brownstone. It looks almost like a ghost in the middle of a New York City block. As the notes begin to play, the camera drifts upwards to peer into windows and search for its movie star within them. No, that's not her.  Not her either. Ah, there she is. Anna Kendrick sings the entirety of "Still Hurting", moping around a dark apartment, crying. The camera moves around her (in strange patterns) and her voice is just beautiful. And then I realize I've forgotten to breathe and am gripping my armrest.

I have a strange relationship to modern movie musicals. We're about 14 years into the movie musical's modern resurgence after two decades of a major drought but it's still hit and miss as to quality and success (not necessarily related). I always desperately want them to be great since there are so few. The fact is, though it's grossly unfair, each of them bears far more responsibility in keeping an entire genre alive than any action, horror, drama, epic or comedy out there. I have trouble relaxing watching them because of all this pressure and only when the film is gobsmackingly great or confident (like a Moulin Rouge!) do the "ohmygodpleasedontkillthemusical" nerves subside and just let me thrill to what's in front of me. 

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Friday
Sep052014

Review: The Two Faces of January

Michael Cusumano here to review the latest stylistic throwback based on the writing of Patricia Highsmith.

When people gripe “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” films like Hossein Amini’s The Two Faces of January are the kind of movie they mean. It’s adapted from the work of an acclaimed novelist whose books were the source of such beloved films as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train. It features big stars in sumptuous foreign locales. It is made with a careful attention to detail. It doesn’t dumb things down or clutter the plot up with needless action. It is fair to say I was primed to love this movie, yet it never quite jolts to life. At some point my investment in the story passed from suspense to impatience. It never went so far as indifference, but I was pretty far from the edge of my seat. Rather, I was leaned back in my chair, head in my hand, thinking what a classy job everyone involved was doing and admiring the sumptuous visuals and thinking how this was going to end up being one of those reviews that used the word “sumptuous” a lot.

The key problem is that foreign intrigue of the Hitchcock variety requires storytelling that stays a few steps ahead of the audience, and it's easy to keep leaping ahead of January’s characters. Far too much time is spent with characters sitting in cafés, smoking, drinking, and eyeing each other suspiciously, when they should be trying to have sex with or murder one another, preferably both. [More...]

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Wednesday
Sep032014

Back to School. Tips from "Matilda"

Hello all, Margaret here celebrating another day of "back to school" week. I'm sure there are plenty mourning the end of their summer, but I know I can't be the only one who feels a thrill of excitement every time September rolls around. Even if you're past your school years, doesn't the arrival of autumn get you itching to pick up some clean blank notebooks and a fresh set of pencils? Perhaps that attitude is why Matilda (both of the 1996 Danny DeVito film and the classic Roald Dahl novel on which it's based) has always been a personal hero.

Matilda Wormwood was a girl genius, and even though she had execrable crooks for parents and was subject to outrageous familial neglect, she didn't let that get her down. In or out of school, there is a lot we can learn from Matilda.

Keep yourself sharp. Left to her own devices from a tender age, Matilda didn't take that as an excuse to let her mind idle. She charged on down to the local library, and had read every book in the place by her sixth birthday.

Negotiate creatively. When her parents denied her requests to enroll in school because they'd rather have her at home to sign for UPS packages, Matilda was undeterred. She mixed in a little bleach in with their hair tonic and engaged in a little telekinetic TV exploding, and she was in kindergarten in no time.

Don't be afraid to be smart So what if her class was only on the two times tables? If you can multiply 13 by 379 in your head, sing out!

Develop a signature look. When Matilda decided somewhere around age four that the hair ribbon worked for her, she stuck with it.

Stay away from school principals who favor military jackets and knee shorts. This one should speak for itself.

Keep these tips in mind and you should be able to navigate back-to-school season (or the post-Labor Day work week) with style.

Now, who else out there was a school-loving Matilda type? Reveal yourselves!

Tuesday
Aug262014

Lukewarm Off Presses: "Chef" Again, Lord Attenborough, Joan Allen, and Movie-to-TV Series

Four interesting tidbits coming atcha that we neglected to discuss for multiple reasons. If you hadn't yet heard them, they'll feel like brand new news to you.

In what is clearly understood to be an awards-traction move, Jon Favreau's sleeper hit Chef will be coming back to theaters this Friday in wide release. I'm not sure it has the critical oomph to win any nominations and it didn't have the box office size to make that a non-issue (a la gargantuan hits like My Big Fat Greek Wedding) but could it sleeper hit its way into, say, The Screenplay race? I'm realizing I neglected to consider it at all there which is an obvious mistake. I had a really good time watching it with friends though; it's an easy sit and safe for diverse groups of viewers. My favorite visual was ScarJo eating a bowl of pasta but my least favorite visual was being asked to believe that vivid ScarJo and sexy Sofia Vergara would be a good sexual match for mopey Jon Favreau. These men and their self-serving onscreen fantasies!

Vanity Fair remembers Lord Richard Attenborough (1923-2014), actor turned Oscar winning director. I apologize profusely they we didn't honor him with an RIP here. This week was rough offblog. I'll remember him best as the director of Gandhi (1982) a very good biopic (as I remember it) that was unfortunately tarnished by being crazy over-rewarded by the biopic-obsessed Academy and had the misfortune to win in a strong year too what with Tootsie and E.T. and Victor/Victoria and Blade Runner all knocking about the cinemas and arguably moving on towards 'timeless classic' status. (Gandhi even took Costume Design)  Reportedly Shadowlands (1993), a biopic of C.S. Lewis with Anthony Hopkins & Debra Winger (Oscar-nominated) was his favorite of his own films. I liked that one too at the time. Notice how I'm ignoring the elephant in the room (A Chorus Line)

TV has a long history of attempting series versions of hit movies. Sometimes they're wildly popular (see M*A*S*H), occassionally they develop rabid fanbases but don't quite become big hits (Bates Motel, Hannibal currently) but most of the time they're quickly forgotten (Working Girl, anyone?) and cancelled. As you have probably heard Steven Spielberg is producing a series based on Minority Report even though there's been a show stealing that stop future crime premise for some time now (Person of Interest) and how you gonna function without Samantha Morton's pre-cog eeriness? Martin Scorsese is developing a Shutter Island TV Show for HBO which sounds like a strange idea in an ongoing format unless they go anthology with it and tell different crazy people stories as they come to grips or lose their grip of reality altogether OR they make it about the doctors and play-actors creating these worlds for the crazy prisoners, you know? And there's also a series coming based on that campy 90s hit Devil's Advocate which originally starred Keanu & Charlize as young marrieds and Al Pacino as The Devil. I have to tell you that all three of these sound like T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E ideas to me. Agree or disagree?

...and a tardy Yes No Maybe So extra

We don't do every trailer but I'd feel remiss if we continued to ignore the fact that Joan Allen, who disappeared so completely and who we've missed terribly, has a new movie coming out. The Stephen King adaptation A Good Marriage. Spoilers direct from the trailer in this Yes No Maybe So...

Yes - Joan Allen in a leading role again. It's been since, what, Upside of Anger (2005) for which she should've easily copped the Oscar (and she wasn't even nominated -oh the humanity). And the premise will certainly give her emotional scenery to chomp on. 
No - So the trailer basically tells you what's going to happen: she finds out her husband is a serial killer and then she tries to rescue one of the intended victims and things get scary. So if we're looking for good scares and suspense we won't get that here since we know what will happen.
Maybe So - Stephen King adaptations have been instant classics (Carrie) and absolute garbage and every gradation inbetween so who knows. I'm not familiar with director Peter Askin's work (Company Man, Certainty, Trumbo) beyond the filmed version of John Leguizamo's stage show Spic-o-Rama. Anyone?

Monday
Aug182014

Coming Soon? More from the Author of "Gone Girl"

On a trip to Los Angeles last year I met longtime reader Margaret de Larios who, as it turns out, turned our own Anne Marie of "A Year With Kate" fame on to the blog originally. Margaret wanted to sound off on a topic I was very intrigued by so here she is to talk about the mysteriously silent upcoming movie "Dark Places". Say hello! - Editor


In just under two months, Gone Girl will likely be taking cineplexes by storm. The movie's marketing team is not of a mind to let us forget it, slowly rolling out new posters and trailers as well as sending David Fincher out to stoke internet buzz by playing coy about a possible new ending.

But what about the other Gillian Flynn movie, Dark Places?

Because there is another Gillian Flynn movie. And a TV series in development. And a project with HBO. And an original screenplay. And two new impending novels. Gillian Flynn is about to be everywhere and I, for one, plan to welcome our new thriller overlord.  Her work is creepy and uncomfortable and gripping in the best way. It also, significantly, happens to feature a wealth of meaty, nasty female roles. This could portend some long-needed mitigation of the True Detective Problem (or the Hannibal problem or the Breaking Bad problem or the-- well, you get the gist) and be a boon to lovers of actressing everywhere... as long as we finally get to see them produced.

Gone Girl is in the bag and Flynn's every development deal makes news, so whither Dark Places with Charlize Theron? [More...]

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Friday
Aug152014

Review: The Giver

Hey, folks. Michael Cusumano here fresh from having Jeff Bridges impart the wonders of humanity directly into my brain.

It’s an amusing irony that Phillip Noyce’s film of Lois Lowry’s beloved middle-school staple The Giver feels like an afterthought following the recent glut of Young Adult adaptations. It was Lowry’s vision of dystopia which helped launch the army of teenage Chosen Ones currently clogging multiplexes nationwide. Now, not only is The Giver late to the party, but the richly imagined worlds of Lowry’s literary descendants have left her story feeling undercooked. I can’t imagine teenage audiences who have spent the past few years steeped in the sprawling, detailed insanity of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books will be rapt with attention watching Jeff Bridges shambling around his library, triggering the occasional lame stock footage montage meant to portray humanity in all its myriad wonders.

Noyce’s film version might have had a fighting shot if it had tapped into the elemental power of the story’s spare allegory, but alas, even with a plotline of this simplicity, The Giver can’t make the pieces fit. The logic begins to fall apart right from the opening narration. We are told that this is a society where all the highs and lows of humanity have been wiped away and people live in a serene state of medicated blankness. Everyone strolls around grinning like they lost a fight with a body snatcher. We meet our hero Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, a monument to blandness) on the day of the great Ceremony where he and his two equally personality-free friends are to receive their lifetime job assignments. Yet no sooner does the narration tell us that this world is free from competition and envy than we hear the trio chatting about how they hope they get a great job, crossing their fingers that they don’t get put on the janitorial staff. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t this indicate that they are A) competitive and B) envious.

Get used to this confusion...

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