Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Knight's Tale (2001)

“My pride is the only thing that they can't take from me.”

            The first and last time I watched A Knight’s Tale I was in my Honors English class sophomore year of high school… which for me was eight years ago. I remember I liked it because at the time we were reading King Arthur and the Canterbury Tales. I loved reading about King Arthur the stories are so fascinating (well that and I was and still am a HUGE Anglophile haha). The one thing I remembered the most about the movie was the first time the audience is introduced to Chaucer he is naked! And that the movie was about jousting.
            William (Heath Ledger) was not born a nobleman but he pretends to be so he can joust. His pretending all started when his lord died from his wounds from jousting. He and his friends Roland and Wat needed money desperately and the only way they got money was through their lord when he won a tournament. William wins the tournament and they get their money.
            The three men decide to pass William off as a nobleman named Ulrich von Lichtenstein. On their way to the next tournament they meet a man walking naked down a road. He is the author Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany). Among his other talents he can create seals of nobility.
            At the next tournament William sees the beautiful Lady Jocelyn. He thinks she is the greatest creature he has ever laid eyes on and she is very taken with how he fights. Throughout the different tournaments they get to know each other and of course fall in love.
            And what would a love story be without another man getting in the way? A count named Adhemar is also in love with Jocelyn and he does not like seeing her so in love with William. Of course he finds out William is not Ulrich von Lichtenstein but a poor thatcher’s son from England.
            I enjoyed watching A Knight’s Tale just as much I remember enjoying it the first time eight years ago (god that seems like yesterday. Now I am applying to graduate school! Where did the time go?). Heath Ledger was fabulous he was such a good actor. I have to admit I put this movie on again after so many years because at the moment I have a gigantic girl crush on Berenice Bejo. Once I read she was in this movie I had to watch it so I could hear her speak English in one of her roles. She was not in the film very much she played Jocelyn’s maid Christiana but the scenes she was in I just gushed over how adorable she is. Rest of the cast is perfect they were all fantastic characters excellently performed.
            A Knight’s Tale is one of those movies I have good memories attached to. I did have a bit of a rough time in Honors English that year but the stories/novels I read were all very good and memorable (some I never want to hear the titles of again and others I still love to read. Damn Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby!!!!). A Knight’s Tale is a very entertaining movie to watch the story is fun and the characters are all well written and played. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

One For the Money (2012)

I am not sure what to say about One For the Money. It did not suck but it was not the greatest. I cannot be bothered with chick flicks they are so cheesy and predictable. One for the Money is cheesy and predictable but it was fun the romance was not in your face and annoying. Yes there was some romance but it really did not come on until the end when forgiveness is asked for. There were a lot of clichés I was waiting for but they did not come which left me happy.
            Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) is not in a very good financial situation. When she gets to her mother’s house she lets them know that she is completely broke because she lost her job six months previously and that her car is about to get taken away. Now needing a job to save her apartment and pay her bills Stephanie’s mother tells her about her cousin’s bale bonds business. At first Stephanie is hesitant (not about the job but with her cousin) but with the want of money heavier than her dislike of her cousin.
            Her cousin gives her the job even though she has no experience chasing criminals or even holding and firing a gun. Stephanie sees that one of the wanted men is a guy named Joe Morelli who she used to know and he blew her off. She wants to go after him so bad to get revenge and the huge bounty for him is not so bad either.
            With some help Stephanie finds Morelli and eventually takes him in but of course along the way their old feelings for each other rekindle.
            There is a murder mystery but there is no tension to it. We know the guy has to be cleared in the end in order for the ending to be happy.
            The one aspect of the film that I really liked was that Stephanie did not become this like über bounty hunter she was just this clumsy normal tough Jersey girl trying to get revenge on an old boyfriend. I was expecting the character to become a Sydney Bristow or a Mallory Kane but she stayed an untrained bounty hunter with a big heart.
            Katherine Heigl is such a good actress which is the reason I will sit through any movie she makes. No one can do a good north Jersey/New York accent unless you come from those states (I always wish people could hear my family talk I am from Jersey. My dad’s family is from Jersey City and their accents are always fun to listen to haha) so no one did a good job with the accents they all sounded like they were from Boston. Debbie Reynolds plays Stephanie’s grandmother and is wonderfully hysterical she had all the funniest scenes.
            One For the Money is a typical chick flick romcom but it is not as romantic and mushy and stupid as the others. I do not mind that I spent money to see it in theaters but for others I would say wait for the DVD. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ball of Fire (1941)

“You’re the one I’m just plain wacky about”

            Ball of Fire is probably one of the most adorable films I have ever seen.  All the adorableness comes from Gary Cooper and a group of older gentleman actors. Now I am sure you must be thinking “Gary Cooper adorable?” Usually he is the quiet, stoic, handsome man in his films but let me tell you he is so cute and so sweet you will feel just like Barbara Stanwyck in the film and fall completely in love with him.
            For the past nine years Bertram Potts (Cooper) has lived a very strict academic life. He and seven other professors have been working on an encyclopedia. Each professor has a specialty with Potts’s being grammar. They all go to bed at nine and are taken care of by a maid/live in nurse who does all the house work. One day the garbage man comes in looking for answers to a quiz game he can get some money from. The garbage man speaks modern slang which none of the academicians understands. Potts feels like he should known this slang if he is an expert in grammar so he decides to go out and write down as much slang as he can.
            One of the places Potts visits is a nightclub. Singing at the club that night is Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanwyck). He wants to speak to her about the slang she used in the song but she tells him no, she really has no interest in him but he gives her his card anyway. Sugarpuss has a big issue at that moment: her boyfriend Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews) is wanted in connection of a murder and they want to question her. Two of Joe’s goons are sent to get her out of town. She looks down at the card and decides the best place where no one will look for her is at the professors’ home.
            When Potts arrives home the other professors are waiting for him. He tells them he is confused about all the slang he has picked up he cannot understand how odd words stand for a correct term. In the middle of the conversation the doorbell rings. Potts answers it and Sugarpuss is standing in the doorway. She tells him that she does want to be a part of his research. He says she is too early but the other professors are more than willing to give up their rooms for her.
            The men love having Sugarpuss around. She teaches them dancing and keeps them on their toes. The only person who does not like her is the maid she says that Sugarpuss is a wicked girl and she will not stand for her anymore. Potts is sent to get rid of her but since she is wanted she cannot leave so she tells him that she is madly in love with him and kisses him! Needless to say Potts lets her stay.
            Joe sends two men over to Sugarpuss. He sends along a ring as part of a proposal so that Sugarpuss will not have to testify against him. Unfortunately on the same day Potts proposes to her as well. Sugarpuss feels terrible because she knows that she cannot marry him. Joe calls her saying that he is her “daddy.” Thinking that Joe is really her father Potts talks to him. Joe gets him to ride down to New Jersey where he is hiding out so Sugarpuss can get out of New York.
            While on the way to Jersey Sugarpuss really sees how much Potts loves her and refuses to marry Joe.
            There is an obstacle than we all know that Cooper and Stanwyck get together in the end.
            I do not even know where to begin on describing how cute Gary Cooper was. He was adorable but also incredibly sexy at the same time! The character was so sweet and innocent which made the film so much fun to watch. His best scene is at the end when he goes to fight to Joe for Sugarpuss. He fights like one of those boxers with their one fist far away from them and bouncing back and forth. I was cracking up. Barbara Stanwyck is her usual wise cracking tough girl self. Even though Stanwyck played a tough girl all the time it never got old with her because she was so good and so convincing… maybe it is her real New York accent that makes her tough girl work so well over and over. Sugarpuss is one of Howard Hawks’s most beautiful fast talking tough girls, without Stanwyck as the character Sugarpuss would have seemed annoying and cheap. Stanwyck was wonderful playing comedic roles she was nominated for an Academy Award for this film which just proves how talented she was. Dana Andrews was great as the bad guy. I am so used to seeing him as the good guy but he was totally believable as a gangster he had the perfect look and attitude.
            The seven other professors were so sweet. They were modeled on the Seven Dwarfs, they all had their little quirks being too smart for their own good but completely innocent. All the professors were in love with Sugarpuss they looked at her as if they were little boys in love but also as a daughter.
            Ball of Fire was written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder with the story written by Wilder. The pair’s fast paced dialogue combined with Howard Hawks’s fast paced direction is perfection. Gregg Toland the famous cinematographer of Citizen Kane did the cinematography for this film. There were some scenes where I thought the cinematography was familiar with the deep focus and once I realized it was Toland’s work I knew why the few scenes were familiar.
            Edith Head designed Barbara Stanwyck’s costumes. I liked all of her costumes in this film. The one costume I like was when Sugarpuss tells Potts that she loves him so he would let her stay in the house. It is very 1940s with the limited material and belt along with a chain at the belt as an accent.
            Even though I think Ball of Fire is one of the most adorable films I have ever seen I had a bit of a hard time sitting through it. It took three sittings for me to finish it. At times all the cuteness and sweetness and all the 1940s slang (especially that) gets way too much. This is not too many people will enjoy unless they are fans of 1930s-early 1940s Screwball Comedy. Besides some slow moments and the slang I enjoyed Ball of Fire

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Road to Singapore (1931)

"She found love." 
"For only one night? She ceased to be human"

This version of The Road to Singapore is a pre-code from 1931 and stars William Powell before his detective roles. The film is super rare to the point where I was unable to find to a poster anywhere for it and IMDB only has three fan reviews. Last month TCM had William Powell as their star of the month which is how I was able to see it.
            Philippa Crosby (Doris Kenyan) is a nurse traveling to meet her husband Dr. George March (Louis Calhern) on an island in the south Pacific. On the ship she sees a dashing and charming man named Hugh Dawltry (William Powell).
            When Philippa gets on the ship she has no idea where she is going. Hugh decides to “rescue” her and seem like he wants to bring her to where she is supposed to go. He bribes the other carriage runners to leave so his is the only one left leaving her with no choice but to go with him. At first Philippa is none too happy but she accepts. Hugh does not take her to her place where her husband and a few friends are waiting for her but back to his place. He tries to seduce her and for a while she likes it until she realizes that he lied to her to get her to his place.
            From the beginning of the film when the town hers that Hugh is coming back we see that no one really likes him. They say he is a cad who takes other men’s wives away. Unfortunately for George his younger sister Rene (Marian Marsh) likes him and invites him to a party. Philippa does not see why everyone thinks Hugh is so bad since he is a gentleman with her. They dance and he dances he elegantly, when she dances with George he is a disaster.
            One night Hugh and Philippa are standing outside where they can see and hear the natives pounding away on drums to their goddess of love. That night in their own homes they stare out their windows towards each other with intense stares of want and lust. From that night on they begin to see each other when George is not around. At first George thinks Rene is the one that Hugh has been seeing so he takes her away on a business trip.
            While George and Rene are away Hugh and Philippa spend the night together. She plans to leave George and follow Hugh on to Singapore. George and Rene come home early. She finds Hugh’s letter to Philippa but unfortunately it falls into her brother’s hands. He goes to shoot Hugh. Philippa tells him that she does not want to be just a plain wife like he was going to make her and that she wants a divorce and she will be leaving with Hugh on the morning boat.
            I was dying with Louis Calhern his character was so annoying. I guess that was the point though we wanted Philippa to end up with Hugh. For some reason he reminded me of Vincent Price in Laura… not so much as a character but in looks. Don’t ask too many questions about this.
            Eh, so not that exciting. The film is based off a play of the same name so there is limited sets and movement. The story sounds like a god awful melodrama but trust me with William Powell in the lead he keeps it from being bad. First of all the man was the perfect dashing, charming gentleman. If I knew a man like that I am sure I would be putty in his hands so you cannot blame Philippa and Rene for falling for Hugh.  You can totally believe that women would fall for his charms and that men would hate him.
            The best part of the whole film is when they show Philippa and Hugh looking at each other across the field in their houses. The camera starts on Philippa than it pans across the field and zooms in on Hugh. It worked so well because the drums were beating fast and the intense sexy stares both Kenyan and Powell had on their faces were incredible.
            Another part I really liked was when Rene surprised Hugh at his house. She was waiting for him and once he came home she tried her hardest to turn him on and tease him. The part I liked was when she put her hand on Hugh’s belt. Of course you do not see the action fully but you can just see her wrist. Really sexy, one of the best moments I have seen in a pre-code.
            The Road to Singapore was a good film.  It is definitely not one of the best but it does not suffer too bad because William Powell is awesome as always and the rest of the cast was very good. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927)

“And a prince after all is only a human being”

            Ever since I became a fan of Norma Shearer’s her silent film The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg is mentioned when people talk about her greatest films (along with The Divorcee, A Free Soul, and The Women). Every review of the film I have read raves about how beautiful it is and how great Shearer was along with Ramon Novarro. I was finally able to see the film when TCM aired it a few weeks ago and from start to finish I adored it.
            Crowned Prince Karl Heinrich (Novarro) was sent to live with his uncle King Karl of Karlsberg at a young age. Since that time he has been isolated from the town’s people or anyone his own age and has lived a very sheltered life. After he graduates from prep school he is allowed to go to college at Heidelberg along with his tutor Dr. Friedrich Juttner (Jean Hersholt).
            Karl Heinrich is immediately taken with the town. Student and Tutor stay at a normal inn among the common people. Upon arriving the inn keeper’s pretty niece Kathi (Shearer) recites a speech but forgets it because she is so taken with the prince. Karl Heinrich is also taken with Kathi.
            That night Karl Heinrich sees that the courtyard is full of fellow students and longing to be a part of something and meet people his own age he goes down. The other students immediately take him and they have a wonderful night of fun and drinking and bonding. Kathi is the barmaid that all the students enjoy seeing. They carry her on their shoulders and are very sweet to her. Karl Heinrich before he came down was shocked to see her chug a glass of beer! After everyone has gone Kathi and Karl Heinrich are left alone. He climbs over a wall where she is on the other side and he chases her and kisses her. In a field they profess their love for each other.
            A few days later a letter comes for Karl Heinrich from his uncle that he has chosen a princess for him to marry. Dr. Juttner reads the letter first and hides it from the prince since he knows the young man is so much in love with Kathi. Not much long after the letter arrives news comes that the king is very ill and that Karl Heinrich must return. He and Kathi know that they will most likely never see each other again even though they promise they will. Karl Heinrich’s face is one of torment between family tradition and love. They also promise not long after that they will never forget each other they will always have a strong for the other.
            The ending is sad. Neither Kathi nor Karl Heinrich die but it is just sad.
            Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer were just all around perfection. They brought their sweet and innocent characters to life beautifully to the point where you would think they were really a couple in love. Novarro was adorable and so handsome as the naïve to the world prince. The look on his face when the students treat him as if he had been their best friend for years is so touching. He beautifully portrays his torment over a lost love that will leave you feeling his pain. Shearer is just lovely. I may love her in her pre-codes where she is a bad ass chick looking for a man to sleep with but I adored her to pieces this was such a welcome change from her other films.
            Jean Hersholt was very good as Dr. Juttner. He was the only one who really saw that Karl Heinrich was a young man in a castle prison. I loved how he let loose and had some fun when they were in Heidelberg. He makes the ending sad as well. The young actor Philipe de Lacy who plays the young Karl Heinrich was excellent. He was a very good looking boy. I had to chuckle a little bit because he was wearing guy liner and in one scene where he cries the liner runs.
From the moment the film began I was mesmerized by how gorgeous and touching it was. One aspect of the story that I really liked was how three times Ernst Lubitsch had people say how great it must be to be the prince/king since had a lot of toys when he was younger, he was handsome and could get any girl when he was a teenager, and how great it must be to be a king at the end. This was genius because Karl Heinrich’s life was not great he was sheltered until he was a teenager and he was not free be with the girl he really loved. The story could have been an overused fairytale love story but Lubitsch turned the story into a realistic drama.
            The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg is an absolutely beautiful and touching silent film. This is definitely one of Norma Shearer’s, Ramon Novarro’s, and Ernst Lubitsch’s best films. It is a film that moves you in so many ways from the touching story, the sweet characters and their love and heartache, to the direction and even the acting.  Hopefully one day The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg will be available on DVD so more people to see and enjoy. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Man-Proof (1938)

“I was going to take you away from Elizabeth but all I did was tuck you away in a four poster bed for the rest of your lives.”

            Man-Proof is a film that goes all over the place. It starts off as a bit of a comedy then it goes into a melodrama soap opera and ends a bit happy and silly. This sounds like a film I have seen before but those types of films fell flat Man-Proof actually works even if it runs like a rollercoaster.
            Mimi Swift (Myrna Loy) has been waiting to hear back from Alan (Walter Pidgeon) who has been away on vacation. As she waits she drives her mother Meg and friend Jimmy (Franchot Tone) nuts. A letter arrives for Mimi from Alan telling her that he and a woman named Elizabeth (Rosalind Russell) have gotten married. To top off the humiliation they ask Mimi to be a bridesmaid in their wedding.
            At the wedding Jimmy and Meg are on pins and needles waiting for Mimi to do or say something foolish. They look up at her during the wedding, she has the most miserable, nasty look on her face. After the ceremony she tells Alan that she does not wish him a happy marriage which people think she is kidding but she really is not. All anyone can really talk about is Mimi she even hears them talk about her but she does not care whatsoever. She gets drunk and tries to handle herself as well as possible. Elizabeth knows Mimi is unhappy and even feels bad.
            That night Meg calls Jimmy telling him that Mimi did not come home after the wedding. He finds Mimi at a bar getting even drunker. The next morning she wakes up with a roaring hangover. Meg tells her daughter that she needs to get over Alan and the only way to do so is to get a job and do something with herself that will get her mind off of him. Mimi gets her own apartment and a job as an illustrator at the same paper Jimmy works for.
            For a while her new life works and she does not think about Alan until she sees that he and Elizabeth are coming home from their honeymoon and holding a party for the bridal party. No one expected Mimi to show up to the party so when she does everyone is surprised. As the party progresses Mimi and Alan walk outside to talk. Elizabeth follows a little later and the three of them talk about how they can all be friends. As with Mimi getting a new job and a new place to live the plan works for a while. One night Alan takes her a fight after Elizabeth stays home sick. Their night does not end until early the next morning.
            Mimi realizes she is still in love with Alan and even calls Elizabeth telling her so.
            This unfortunately is not a pre-code where Mimi could happily and without guilt or having to be punished take Alan away from Elizabeth. That to me is fine because I could not see what she saw in Alan.
            Like several of her films I have seen Myrna Loy really does save the day. With the film being such a rollercoaster she was the only static. Many reviewers wrote that this was not one of Loy’s better roles. They most likely say that because they only know her as Nora Charles or “the perfect wife”. I liked her in this role I like how she was the bad girl trying to break up a marriage. Her drunk scene was fabulous she was hysterical. I would have liked to have seen Nora Charles be this drunk haha. The best was when Mimi woke up with a hang over the next day you can just tell she was suffering… I wonder how many times if any Loy woke up with a hangover to be that good and convincing haha. Besides a few hideous hats I loved her clothes in this film. There was this one top that looked like a man’s tuxedo but short sleeved with the cuffs rolled and even included a bowtie. She looked adorable.
            The rest of the cast was really nothing to write home about. Walter Pidgeon never does anything for me. He was one of those characters I could not understand why the lead female character cannot get over. Now if it had been Franchot Tone playing Alan I could believe Mimi could not get over him. Tone I believe I have seen in a film before but for the life of me cannot remember the film, all I know is that Joan Crawford was in it and I think Gary Cooper was as well (correct me if I am wrong I do not mind). I liked him he was good as a wisecracker I liked him as Meg’s friend and that he was concerned about Mimi but he kind of just let things happen with her and was there in the end when she needed him. Tone and Loy had a cute scene together when they are driving somewhere and they pick up a man. They tell a wild amusing story about how they have kids but they are not married. Rosalind Russell was wasted she had very little scenes. It felt like we were not made to really like her because she was the woman who took Alan away from Mimi but at the same time it is as if we are made to feel bad for her. Elizabeth and Alan are hard to understand they just seem very blah and uninspired.
            Man-Proof, although the tone is all over the place, is not a bad film at all. Believe me when I say this film is not as bad as several reviewers on IMDB have made it out to be. Sure it has its faults and is a bit weak for an MGM film but not every studio could always crank out great films. I think what it comes down to you really have to be a Myrna Loy fan to appreciate her in Man-Proof you have to have seen her outside her “perfect wife”/Nora Charles roles because this is the type of characters she played before Nora. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Haywire (2012)

As soon as I saw the trailer for Haywire I had to see it. It reminded me of the pilot episode of Alias which is one of the best pilots of a TV show that has ever aired. Besides that point I saw a girl kicking the crap out of a guy, I am such a sucker for a tough chick.
            Former US Marine Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is on the run. She is hiding out in a small town diner when she sees a car pull up and someone she knows walks out. Mallory is in no way happy about it but there is nothing she can do. The guy’s name is Aaron (Channing Tatum) who was her former partner. They get to talking when he says the wrong thing and they get into a fight. Other guys in the diner think that Aaron is abusing her until he knocks them over then they see Mallory get on top of Aaron and breaks his arm.
            Mallory walks out with a kid named Scott taking him and his car for a ride. In the car she tells Scott what is going on and why (you may think this is stupid only if you do not think that she is telling him all this in case anything happens to her). Much of the story form this point is told through flashbacks: Mallory is a gun for hire so to speak. She works with a government contractor who if there is a need to do away with someone or to get someone back, they are hired. Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), her boss and former lover, tells Mallory that there is a special assignment where they are to retrieve a hostage from Barcelona and bring him back to the States. The plan is pretty solid, they only have three and a half to four minutes to pull the whole thing off.
            Unfortunately their time is not accurate and they are seen but they do get their target out of Barcelona. After that Kenneth sets Mallory up on another part of the same mission but this time she is sent to Dublin to meet up with a man named Paul (Michael Fassbender). From the moment Mallory meets Paul her guard is up: she puts a track on his phone and checks over his things when they get to their hotel room. That night they attend a party where her suspicions about Paul come to light.
            After some heavy fighting Mallory is now running for her life. She is able to get out of Dublin and somehow winds up traveling through the middle nowhere ending up at the diner.
            Now in the present Mallory needs all the help she can get to clear her name of something she did not do and to punish the people who are pursuing her.
            I cannot give away too much because 1) it is a tad confusing and 2) why spoil a good movie?
            I enjoyed Haywire very much. There are no pop out moments, no huge explosions or big shootouts it is just a good revenge movie. One aspect of the film I really liked was how there was not a lot of music. If you have ever seen Alias or any spy/thriller movie every time there is a fight there is usually some kind of fast paced music playing in the background. There was none of that here I loved that we just got to hear the fighting and focus on that. Gina Carano for not being a professional or trained actress was not bad at all. My only real complaint about the film is that I would have liked to have seen more fight scenes. The whole film is kind of hyped that Carano is an MMA fighter and there are not as many fight scenes as expected. Other than that the movie was great. The rest of the cast was really good especially Ewan McGregor as the bad guy. I have to warn you though the ending may not be satisfying but I liked it, it was different.
            Haywire is an awesome movie from start to finish. Mallory is just the kind of perfect tough girl I love to see. I would suggest seeing it with someone else so you can talk over the plot.