Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015)

“For a special agent, you're not having a very special day, are you?”

            One of my favorite genres of movies and stories is the spy genre. My love for spy stories started thirteen years ago when I first watched the TV show Alias. Sydney Bristow was this incredibly smart woman who got out of tight situations in a pinch and figured things out in a snap. Ever since I got into the world of Alias and Sydney Bristow I have loved the spy genre. I love all the sneaking around and how the agents are always ten times smarter and ten steps ahead of everyone else. What bogles my mind is that a lot of spy stories come from true life stories especially from around the time of the Cold War era. The Russians and Americans were spying on each other like crazy. It was the biggest pissing match in international history. All of this espionage helped to spark the creation great movies and TV shows such as James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So many still find that 1960s era of spy shows and movies interesting. Last year director Guy Ritchie made the classic TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E into a fast paced, action packed movie set in the 1960s.
            Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is an American thief turned CIA agent. His assignment is to extract a woman named Gabby Teller from East Germany. Her father is supposed to have been a former Nazi sympathizer and scientist who is now working for the US government. He was close to getting her out of Germany without incident until he realized that he had a bug planted on him when he crossed the border. The car Napoleon and Gabby are driving in is followed by Russian spy Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). Illya almost gets them but Napoleon outsmarts him.

            Napoleon and Illya are forced by their governments to work together to bring down Alexander and Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) who are Nazi sympathizers and are looking to use Gabby’s father to create a new nuclear weapon. Of course Illya and Napoleon do not always see eye to eye with each other on this assignment since Napoleon is slick and charming and Illya is very severe and by the books. And of course they wind up getting along well that by the end if the movie they cannot kill each other as they were assigned to do.
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            The cast was excellent. Henry Cavill was beyond perfect as a former art thief forcefully turned CIA agent. Whenever I think of a male spy I think of him dressed perfectly and he is handsome and smooth and charming, exactly what Cavill was. Armie Hammer… whenever that man opens his mouth I melt! His voice is so deep it sounds so fake and I love it! But besides his voice he was pretty good as a spy. Hammer was excellent in all the big stunt scenes. Elizabeth Debicki I really liked. I am a fan of hers from The Great Gatsby (she was the only aspect of that movie I liked) and I was very excited to see her in something else. She was the perfect female antagonist she had that look and also charm and seductiveness.

            The Man From U.N.C.L.E was very good. I really liked how Ritchie, who also wrote the screenplay, did not take the story out of the 1960s. I appreciate so much that he did not modernize the characters and the stories. I feel like the charm of the characters, especially Napoleon, would have been lost. I also really liked the cinematography of the movie they were great reds and blues and golds. The Man From U.N.C.L.E is definitely worth seeing especially if you are like me and enjoy the spy genre. 
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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Silent Sundays: Carmen aka Gypsy Blood (1918)

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           The story of Carmen has been done over and over again in the history of film. Without looking through my posts I believe I have seen several versions of Carmen. I decided to watch this silent version of the story because I have never seen Pola Negri in a film before.
            This version of Carmen begins with a group of Spanish gypsies around a camp fire. One if the gypsies tells the story of a woman named Carmen who used men to get whatever she wanted.
            Don Jose is a sergeant in Sevilla, Spain.  He has a loving fiancé named Dolores and a mother he takes care of. When he goes into the city he comes into contact with the local seductress Carmen. Jose arrests Carmen after she was involved with a fight at a bar. Alone in her jail cell, Carmen convinces Jose to help her escape. He goes along with her plan and he is soon demoted in rank.
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            Jose eventually hits rock bottom. He is no longer with Dolores and he joins Carmen and group of smugglers. Jose even kills for Carmen at one point.
            Carmen leaves Jose for a famous bull fighter. When Jose learns that Carmen no longer loves him he kills her by stabbing her.
            Around the camp fire the gypsy telling the story concludes that some believe that Carmen did not die because she made a deal with the devil.

            Carmen: Gypsy Blood was alright. It was well worth watching it to say I have finally seen Pola Negri in a film. She was not bad; her acting was pretty good especially for a silent film. Ernst Lubitsch directed it and I like his direction no matter what the film. His direction actually kept my interest. Carmen: Gypsy Blood is worth watching at least once if you like silent films.
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Friday, December 25, 2015

Mixed Nuts (1994)

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“A fruitcake?”
“Remarkably like the one I gave you last year.”

            Mixed Nuts takes place on Christmas Eve at a crisis hotline. The crisis hotline is run by a guy named Philip (Steve Martin) who just wants to help people. Christmas is a bit of a busy time for the hotline because people are lonely. The call center is based out of an apartment building and the landlord gives him an eviction notice since Philip has not paid the rent in three months. Philip does not tell his co-workers Catherine (Rita Wilson) and Mrs. Munchnik (Madeline Kahn) about the eviction.
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            Philip’s day gets weirder and weirder as it goes on. The hotline gets really crazy calls, Mrs. Munchnik gets stuck in the elevator, Catherine’s friend Gracie (Juliette Lewis) is in a fight with her baby-daddy Felix (Anthony LaPaglia) who has been running around in a Santa suit all day, and a whole bunch of other crazy things happen.
            Mixed Nuts is really, really silly. I bought it years ago and kept it because Madeline Kahn is in it and I adore her way too much to get rid of it. She was hilarious with her straight but silly humor. I nearly died when her character was stuck in the elevator and she yells out to Catherine and Philip, “Hey dickheads”. The story I found to be so-so I was not too thrilled with it. Mixed Nuts us worth watching at least especially if you like Madeline Kahn. 
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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Vacation (1989)

“I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery.”

            I think it is funny how a lot of Christmas movies portray families that are weird and not fun. I am sure there are a lot of people out there who have family members that the rest of the family jokes about or when they hear the one family member they roll their eyes and dread the coming day. I feel very fortunate to have never been in that kind of situation. I actually do not mind seeing my family or being around my family for the holidays (although, I will admit, my grandparents can be a bit too much to take after a while). Every Christmas when I watch the hilarious movie Christmas Vacation I thank God that my family is not as insane as the Griswolds.
            Clark Giswold (Chevy Chase) wants to have the perfect Christmas with his family. He drags them out to the middle of the woods in the snow to find the perfect tree. When he gets the tree into the house it is gigantic and breaks windows. For the outside of the house Clark breaks out the biggest ball of lights known to man which when unraveled covers the entire house.
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            For the holidays both Clark’s family and his wife Ellen’s family come to stay. The house is chaotic from day one with all the family over and Clark trying to decorate. When Clark finally gets the lights on the house to work he gets a surprise he really was not happy to receive. Ellen’s weird cousin Eddie has pulled up in an RV with his family unannounced.
            Clark’s perfect family Christmas hilariously falls apart in so many ways even before Eddie’s arrival.
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            There are so many fantastic scenes and jokes in Christmas Vacation that I cannot even begin to write down because you have to see it to understand and fully appreciate.
            Christmas Vacation is one of those movies I have seen so many times that I know it by heart and still laugh my ass off to the point I am crying. It has become such a classic in my house and I am sure it is an all-around classic movie in the film world. It is complete genius. There are so many relatable aspects of the characters and stories. If you have yet to see Christmas Vacation you are insane and need to go watch it immediately.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Polar Express (2004)

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“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.”

            I remember the day I asked my mom if Santa Clause was real. I was in third grade. I remember I cried and when Christmas came around it became pretty cool to see all the gifts set up and what my parents’ and grandparents’ process was with the gifts. Even though I did not believe Santa was real I did and still believe in the spirit of Santa. I like the story of Santa Clause and I like to see little kids get all excited for Santa, it is adorable. If I hear a kid under the age of eight does not believe in Santa or that their parents are cruel and ruined their childhood by telling them Santa is not real. I even feel bad when the kids start to doubt there is a Santa. It hurts to see some innocence is gone in little kids who do not believe in or have doubt about Santa.
            For the past eleven years I have gone without seeing The Polar Express. My family is obsessed with The Polar Express as a story and as an actual model train (my dad has a pretty awesome train display at Christmas time. He has the model of the Polar Express and several cars for it). Every Christmas they watch The Polar Express at least four times. In all the times my family has watched the movie I never sat down to watch it. This Christmas I decided to finally watch The Polar Express and I loved it.
            A little boy on does not know if he believes in Santa anymore. He does not really believe in adventure anymore either. On Christmas night he hears a sound from outside. When he goes to investigate he sees a train pull up in front of his house. The train is the magical Polar Express traveling to the North Pole to see Santa before he leaves to deliver presents.
            On the Pole Express the boy comes into unimaginable adventures such as the train falling onto a frozen body of water and not falling in, the train getting out of control and almost crashing, and walking across the roof of the trains with a homeless man.
            Once they reach the North Pole the boy and another boy and a girl happen to by accident get into Santa’s workshop. All the elves are gone out of the workshop and the remnants of their hard work is evident. At the end of their journey through the workshop the three children come into the town square where everyone is waiting for Santa. A few of the elves come out with strands of bells for the reindeers to wear on their nights’ journey. The entire crowd goes crazy when the bells come out including the girl. She keeps asking the boy if he can hear the bells. Since the boy has his doubts about Santa and does not really believe in him the boy cannot hear the bells.
            Santa comes out to his sleigh. Every year Santa picks one of the children who have traveled on the Polar Express to be the first child to receive the first gift of Christmas. Santa chooses the boy. When Santa asks the boy he wants he whispers a bell. The boy can now hear the bell because he has seen the real Santa.
            Back home on the Polar Express the boy realizes he has lost his bell due to a hole in his robe pocket. Fortunately, he wakes up the next morning to find the bell under his tree. Him and his younger sister can hear the bell but their parents cannot because they do not believe in Santa.

            I loved The Polar Express. I felt so bad for the boy that he was not sure if Santa was real but I was so happy that he did believe and still believed even when he was older.  I think it was a movie I needed to see. For the past few years I had either been in school or in a job I totally hate or both and I was miserable. I actually felt depressed around Christmas time. I forgot that Christmas was supposed to be fun and warm and about feeling like a little kid in a way. I felt so much better after watching The Polar Express. I feel more in the Christmas spirit and mood. And I definitely believe in the spirit of Santa a lot more!