Sunday, December 28, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Man Who Laughs (1928)

“What a lucky clown- you don’t have to rub off your laugh.”

            A lord named Clancharlie has been arrested by King James II. The royal jester is no good and in on many evil plots. He wakes the King in the night to tell him that Clancharlie has been brought in. The doomed lord is told that his young son has been given over to a group of gypsies called Comprachicos who perform evil surgeries. The poor boy was given a permanent smile. The lord is sent into a device called the Iron Lady and killed. Meanwhile, his son is left behind by the gypsies who are forced to leave England. It is cold and snowy. The boy, Gwynplaine, walks away from the water’s edge. Gwynplaine sees a woman with a baby. Unfortunately the woman has died but her baby is alive. He takes the baby and finds a house. The old man Ursu lets the boy and the baby inside. Ursu sees the baby is blind. Gwynplaine took off his scarf he was hiding his face with and Ursu keeps telling him not to laugh at the blind baby.
            Years later Ursu has taken Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt) and the girl Dea (Mary Philbin) with him as part of a traveling group of performers. Gwynplaine is known as The Man Who Laughs and is the most popular part of the show.
            Even though the King died years prior, the jester is still part of the court. He causes trouble by creating scandals. His newly created scandal concerns the duchess Josiana and a duke. The jester also brings to attention that Josiana’s money is running out and she will only gain money if she were to marry Lord Clancharlie’s heir.
            Josiana goes to the fair to see The Man Who Laughs since the whole of London is talking about him. Everyone finds Gwynplaine funny. They do not know that he a tortured soul. Dea, since she cannot see his face, is the only one who truly loves Gywnplaine. What Josiana sees of The Man Who Laughs she likes and wants him to come to her that night. He is brought to Josiana’s home and as soon as he is brought to her she immediately tries to seduce him. At the same moment Josiana receives a letter stating that Gwynplaine has been found to be the lost heir and that she has to marry him to keep her money.
            After his meeting with Josiana, Gwynplain feels terrible for what had happened. He goes to Dea and for the first time lets her touch his face. Dea at first scowls at what she feels and then tells him “God closed my eyes so I could see only the real Gwynplaine” and he loves her all the more for that.
            The Duke who was supposed to be marrying Josiana comes to the fair to arrest Gwynplaine. He is taken to a prison that is notorious for people going in and never coming out. Ursu tells everyone not to tell Dea that Gwyplaine has been arrested and has the people pretend that Gwynplaine is going on stage. Gwynplaine is fortunately not brought to jail. Since he is a lord he has to be made to look like one and brought to the House of Lords and presented to the Queen. Gwynplaine is immediately laughed at by the other lords. A man had brought Dea to the House of Lords to hear the people laugh at the man she loves. She cannot take their cruelty and collapses and taken away. Gwynplaine saw what happened. He has enough, he does not want to marry Josiana, he does not want to be forced to marry someone not even by the Queen. He runs away out of the House of Lords and to the docks where he has learned that Ursu and the fair are to leave England from after being banished. The lords and other people chase after Gwynplaine for what he has done.
            Gwynplaine manages to get to the boat with the fair and Dea. As soon as Dea sees Gwynplaine she is revived and better.

            I was not crazy about The Man Who Laughs. I found it to be a bit too long. The plot was boring. I feel like with most stories that deal with fairs or circuses and weird looking people are all the same. Lon Chaney’s films, to me, are mostly like that. I suggest watching The Man Who Laughs only if you are a fan of Conrad Veidt or Mary Philbin. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Into the Woods (2014)

“I wish, more than anything...”

            I am a big fan of the show Once Upon a Time. I like how all the fairy tale stories and characters are brought together. Magic, in the show, is used for both good and evil. The good and the bad characters struggle with their ability to use magic. As one character has said over and over again throughout the series “Magic always comes with a price.” I have no doubt that the concept for Once Upon a Time came from the Broadway musical Into the Woods. The musical has been made into a movie. In this story characters from different stories come together to learn that magic, either good or bad, comes with a price and they all pay in one way or another.
            The story revolves mainly around a baker and his wife, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Cinderella. The Baker and his wife have been married for a few years and have no children. The Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt) desperately wants a child. The Baker cannot stand to see his wife so upset but he has some trepidation about being a father since his walked out on him. The Witch (Meryl Streep) from next door comes barging in. She tells the couple the reason they cannot have any children is because she put a curse on the Baker’s father. The father came into the Witch’s garden years before and stole from her. The Witch’s mother had told her to never pick the magic beans. The father had taken the magic beans and the Witch turned to her ugly self. Because of this theft, the Witch made sure anyone in that house would never be able to have children. But, she tells the couple, the curse can be broken. They need to find a red cape, hair the yellow color of corn, a cow as white as milk, and gold colored shoes. The Baker has to go into the woods to find what he needs. His wife wants to go but he tells her to stay behind. Before he leaves they find the magic beans in the pocket of his jacket that had once belonged to his father.

            Little Red Riding Hood had stopped in the Baker’s shop on her way to her grandmother’s in the woods. She helps herself to some cookies and bread and is on her way. In the woods a wolf (Johnny Depp) tries to tempt her to come with him. He wants to eat her. As much as Red would like to go with him to pick flowers and do other things she cannot stray from the path to her grandmother’s. Of course you know the wolf makes it to the grandmother’s eats the grandmother. In this version the wolf does eat both the grandmother and the girl but they are saved by the Baker.
            Jack and his mother are very poor. Their cow Milky White has not given them any milk. His mother (Tracy Ullman) makes him go through the woods to the next town to sell the cow. He comes across the Baker and his wife who refused to be left alone. The Baker’s Wife talks Jack into giving them the cow in exchange for some beans. Of course the beans are magic and the next day there is a large beanstalk next to his house. He climbs up and steals three large gold coins from the giants. He finds the Baker in the woods to buy back his cow but the cow dies.
            Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) lives with her step-mother and two step-sisters. There is a festival at the palace that she desperately wants to go to. The cruel step-mother and sisters make her clean up in the hopes of possibly going and then cruelly tell her no. Cinderella decides to go to her mother’s grace under a large tree in the woods. She tells her mother she wants to go to the festival. The mother comes to her daughter and grants the wish. Cinderella is dressed in a beautiful gold dress with matching gold shoes. She dances the night away with the prince (Chris Pine). Then she takes flight like she is frightened into the woods. She gets nervous and runs away all three nights of the festival. The prince, each night, runs after the beautiful girl. Each time she runs away Cinderella crosses paths with the Baker’s Wife who desperately wants her shoes.
            Everyone gets their wishes eventually but there comes a price even for the Witch.
            The cast was fantastic. Meryl Streep is just incredible in whatever she does. She is Meryl Streep she can do anything! She actually looked gorgeous in all blue when the Witch got her beautiful looks back. Anna Kendrick was brilliant. Her Cinderella was perfect. Emily Blunt I just adore the more I watch her in movies. Her singing voice was fantastic I had no idea she could sing. She was perfect in her role because she can go from doing drama to comedy flawlessly. Johnny Depp is not in the movie very long but he was the only one who could have played the Wolf it was almost as though it was made for him to do. James Cordon as the Baker was adorable. He and Emily Blunt were paired wonderfully they worked so well. Tracy Ullman is not in the movie too long either and she was brilliant in her few scenes. Chris Pine… I have issues with him in general so I was not thrilled with his character. He did a song with another prince called “Agony” and let me tell you it was pure agony to sit through.
            Into the Woods is a type of movie that drives me crazy. It started off well and then the last like half hour just went in a totally different direction and it blew the whole thing. If you see the movie you will know exactly the scene I am talking about. Ugh, the last half hour drove me nuts! It was literally a WTF moment. So many things happened so suddenly and out of nowhere that, to me, just messed up the whole movie. I think Once Upon a Time takes this type of queue from the movie. So many times has the show done something good for one of their characters (especially the Evil Queen who I adore. They always screw with her) and then messed everything they had built for the one character, brought them down and changed them out of the blue.
            Besides the poor ending Into the Woods was not terrible. I did not even know that it was a musical so that surprised me a bit when it started. The songs were good, the acting was perfection, the sets and costumes were gorgeous, and the direction was really good. Into the Woods is worth seeing at least once because of the cast. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

“I am going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.”

            I live in a house full of boys. I have three younger brothers who mercilessly love to torture and pick on me. My one brother is such a nice boy, last year he turned twenty I told him that I felt worse I was turning twenty-six and then he proceeded to say that he would kill himself. Yeah, nice brother, I know. At least you do not have to live with him!
            Anyway, that brother and our youngest brother are obsessed with superhero movies. Both of them have had a deep rooted love for superhero movies since they were small. I am very familiar with the worlds of Batman and Superman and all the Marvel heroes. I have not sat through many of those movies which I feel ashamed to admit. Give me a damn break I have a lot of movies I want to watch and the superhero ones are not high on my list! I did today just watch a superhero movie I have wanted to see since it came out in theaters and I never got a chance to (this should be the story of my life with newer movies, I swear). I am very happy and proud to announce that I sat through Guardians of the Galaxy.
            Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) watched his mother die from an illness when he was boy. His mother was all he had in the world. The night she died Peter ran outside furious and sad over his mother dying. He ran outside, fell onto the grass and just cried. All of a sudden a space craft shines its light on Peter and they beam him up.
            Twenty-six years later, Peter has been taken in by a ruthless guy who goes around “recovering” things for people to collect money. Peter is sent to recover an orb. With his headphones on his ears and a Walkman playing a mix tape his mother made for him, Peter dances his way into a crumbling building and into the room where the orb is kept under security. His job could not have been completely easy. As soon as Peter has the orb in his hand a few men barge in and demand the orb from him. Peter fights his way out and barely makes it out of the planet he is on.
            The team that came for Peter had been  sent by an evil Kree named Ronan (Lee Pace). Since the job was not done he sends his assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to kill Peter and take the orb.
            Peter goes rogue from the people he works for and takes the orb to the planet Xandar to sell it. The guy who rescued him is pissed so he puts a bounty out on Peter. When Peter takes the orb to be sold at a shop the owner becomes nervous and orders him out. After he comes out into the open again a highly enhanced raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his tree friend/bodyguard Groot start coming after Peter. Rocket is a bounty hunter and is determined to get the money for capturing Peter. As this fight is happening, Gamora comes in. Now Peter is fighting two fights. All four manage to get themselves thrown in prison.
            In prison, Gamora is not a very well liked person. She is connected to Ronan and his family who have killed hundreds of people mercilessly. Gamora explains to Peter that she is no longer loyal to Ronan she hates him and wants to take the orb to someone who can give them a ton of money. Rocket devises a break out from prison. They all go to the man Gamora wants to sell the orb to. The man shows them that the orb is extremely powerful and in the wrong hands can wipe out galaxies.
            Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and a guy named Drax the Destroyer team up to stop Ronan from using the orb for evil.
            Alright, so my explanation sucks, I know. But you should want to see this movie because it looks awesome not because of my poor summary.
            The cast, the direction, and the dialogue were perfect. The reason for the perfection is because of James Gunn. Gunn has a crazy sense of humor which comes out in his screenplay and direction. He makes all the characters have heart and fantastic personalities. Rocket was my favorite because he was so snarky and pissed and Bradley Cooper knows how to create great attitude with his characters. If Rocket had been a human I could imagine Cooper acting him out. Chris Pratt deserves all the praise in the world for making an amazing Peter Quill/Star-Lord. No one could have been better. As hot as he got no other actor could have looked a little goofy and pulled off some of the lines believably like Pratt did. Lee Pace as a bad guy was stunning. I love and adore him. I have to give a big mention to Karen Gillan who played Nebula. Nebula was not a very nice character. I am used to Gillan from Dr. Who and Selfie where she is sweet and adorable. As Nebula she was an evil bad ass and she nailed it. Fun fact: Gillan actually shaved her head for the role. The dialogue was hysterical. It was entertaining and really kept you paying attention so you do not miss anything the characters say.

            Guardians of the Galaxy was amazing. I had such a great time watching it. I am seriously considering buying myself a copy and I never do that with superhero movies. It is entertaining and the action and comedy do not let up for a moment.
 Guardians of the Galaxy - James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Affair (1949)

            Hope you are all having (or had) a wonderful Christmas Eve with your families. For the past few Christmases it has just me, my parents, my three brothers, and my grandparents instead of several extended family members. I come from a pretty big Italian family but unfortunately several of them have moved far away and my ninety-seven year old great-grandmother does not like to travel anymore so no more big Christmas get togethers. I have to say though the smaller crowd has been very nice. Christmas has been more laid back and fun. We play board games and watch movies. The movies are usually not Christmas movies though. My brothers are obsessed with superhero movies and my grandparents like action movies.
            Instead of sitting through a non-Christmas, I have taken it upon myself to watch one. I have chosen to watch Holiday Affair from 1949.
            Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) is a salesman in a department store. He has been given the task of selling a toy train set during the holidays. A large group of children have gathered around the display to hear him talk about the latest model train. A young woman named Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) breaks through the crowd of children demanding to be waited on. She is in a hurry and pressures Steve to write up that she will be buying the train. She has the exact amount of money the train costs including tax. After she buys the train, Connie calls the company she works for. She is a comparison shopper and tells the person on the other end she will bring the train to the office the following day.
            At the end of her hectic day of shopping for other people, Connie returns to her apartment where son Timmy is waiting for her. Connie placed the wrapped box with the train on her bed. Timmy being a curious little boy, takes a peek inside the box when his mother is out of the room. He becomes very excited believing his mother has bought the train for him.
            That night Connie’s boyfriend Carl comes over. He wants to marry her but she feels like she still needs time. Timmy’s father died in the War and she is still not completely over him. Connie tells Carl that when she is ready she will ask him to marry her.
            No longer needing the train, Connie goes back to the department store to return it. Steve tells her he knew she was a comparison shopper and he could get her in a lot of trouble for what she did. He becomes sarcastic with her and asks her what her story is thinking she has made up a fake one. When Steve realizes Connie is telling the truth about her son and her dead husband, he feels bad and lets her return the train. Connie then goes downstairs to buy a pair of men’s undergarments. Steve comes down at that moment and pretends to be her husband. When she asks why he is not upstairs working, he responds that he has gotten fired because of her. To make up for what has happened Connie agrees to take him to lunch where he likes to go. Where Steve likes to eat for lunch is a few vendors near the Central Park Zoo. They have a nice lunch and walk around the park. Steve asks Connie how she has gotten him to talk so much.
After their lunch and walk Steve helps Connie carry some packages from another department store where she has to buy things for her job. The crowd becomes too much and they get separated. He manages to find out where Connie lives and brings her packages over. Carl is also there and the atmosphere becomes a little tense between the two men. Things also become a little awkward when Timmy gets an attitude about Carl being there. He knows Carl wants to marry his mother and he does not like that because he likes the way their lives are at the moments. And also because he was not getting the train set he wanted. Timmy gets sent to his room after he yells at Carl. Carl gets mad at Connie for yelling at him for the way he spoke to Timmy. Steve goes into Timmy’s room to talk to him and make him feel better. When their talk is through, Steve goes to Connie in the kitchen, kisses her, and leaves.
            The next morning is Christmas. Timmy runs into Connie’s room all exited. She goes into the living room to find the toy train Timmy was upset over. She knows the train is from Steve. She is upset with him for spending the money on it. Connie goes to his hotel that morning and finds Steve has checked out. She figures out he has gone to their place at the zoo. Before heading to the zoo she had stopped home to get a tie she had planned on giving to Carl to give to Steve. When she sees him, Connie asks Steve why he is leaving. He tells her he is saving to get on the cheapest train to California so he can go into the boat making business like he has always wanted to do.
            Connie goes home to Timmy and her in-laws. Carl comes over and just in time. A detective comes to the house saying she needs to come down to police headquarters. Steve has been wrongfully arrested over an incident that occurred at that the Park that morning. The police believe he beat someone up and tied him up with a tie and stole a gift of salt and pepper shakers. That morning in the Park Steve had given a man his old tie when Connie had given him his new one. A few moments after that, a little girl came over to him and gave him the box with the shakers in it. Connie tells the police chief the whole truth and Steve is let go. Timmy was there as well and invites Steve to come over for dinner since he does not know anyone else in the city. Dinner goes well until Steve is asked to give a speech. At the end of his speech he asks Connie to marry him.
            Timmy is sad about Steve leaving the night before. He feels bad that Steve spent money he does not have on the train set. He takes it upon himself to go to the department store to return it. At first Timmy has no luck until he hears two women discussing how someone wanted to return something and they went to see the owner of the store who took the item back. Timmy goes up to the owner’s office with the train and tells the owner the whole story. Connie and Carl had been worried sick over Timmy all day. She looks out the window and sees Timmy has gotten a ride home with the store owner. He tells them that he got the money back to give to Steve. Connie and Carl drive over to where Steve is now living. Carl knows she does not really love him. He knows she loves Steve and tells her so. He waits for her while she goes in to give the money to Steve just in case. Steve lets her know that he loves her but he is not going to ask her to marry him again. He tells her that she is still hung up on her husband and cannot move forward. This makes her a bit angry and she leaves.
            On New Year’s Eve, Connie gets a telegram from Steve that he is leaving for California. Connie is going out for the night with two of her friends. Timmy mentions that when he is older and leaves the house she will be all alone. She thinks of Steve.
            Connie, along with Timmy, manages to make it onto the same train Steve is on.
            The story of Holiday Affair was not very Christmas-y. It is one of those films that is just centered around the holiday. I liked it, I thought it was cute. Janet Leigh was actually really good. I am not a fan of her acting in the few other films I have seen her in but in this film she was adorable and her acting was not bad at all. Robert Mitchum it was weird not seeing him as this really tough guy like he is in most of his film, or at least the ones I have seen him in. He and Leigh, surprisingly, made a good pair. Holiday Affair is a decent film worth seeing at least once. At least I got to sit through something that deals with Christmas! Right now I think everyone in my family is downstairs watching James Bond!
            Have a very Merry Christmas. I hope you all get at least one gift you wanted be it a toy, money, food, or getting to spend time with your family. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Silent Sundays: Pride of the Clan (1917)

“On the slender shoulders of the grief-stricken girl, fall the burdens of the sorrowing clan.”

            Mary Pickford plays a young Scottish girl named Margaret MacTavish in the film Pride of the Clan. Margaret is the only daughter of a Scottish Chieftain. Their clan lives in a small coastal village. Her father is set to return from a fishing trip during the latter part of the day. An alarm is sounded for a boat in distress. Rescuers are summoned to help. Not long after a hammer is struck against the bell signaling the Chieftain is in trouble on the seas. The boat is lost. Margaret is now Chieftain of the village since she is the last of the MacTavish line. Even though she is grieving she has to be there for her people.
            Margaret has a friend named Jamie Campbell. They have been sweet on each other for a long time. He asks her to marry him. She pictures her life with him sailing around the world on his boat.
            The rest of the story after this I lost track of. I know, I am terrible but blame the ADHD. My attention totally wandered until the last, like, twenty minutes. Here is the rest:
            Some time later in the story, Jamie is given the opportunity to go to London to attend school. Margaret is excited for Jamie and for the fact that she will be going with him. Jamie and his mother go for a walk while Margaret and the man giving Jamie the opportunity to go to school are alone. The man tells Margaret she needs to let Jamie go. She would never make it in the world of London. He tells her is she loves Jamie she has to let him go and makes her write a letter instead of saying anything in person. Jamie gets the letter but he runs to her to beg her to love him.
            Margaret is upset. She decides to leave her clan for a difference place. She launches her boat. Not too far out to sea, the boat begins to take on water. She tries yelling to shore but no one can hear her. She braces herself as water comes rushing in. A chest of Margaret’s washes ashore. A villager sleeping on the beach is woken up by a goat. He sees the chest and recognizes it. He gets and sounds the alarm.
            Jamie sees Margaret’s boat is in distress. He goes out to her and saves her.

            Pride of the Clan was alright. The story obviously did not hold my attention very well. I basically watched it because it was one of Mary Pickford’s films that had been made in Fort Lee, NJ. I completed my internship at the Fort Lee Museum over the summer. The museum has all kinds of artifacts and photographs of the early film industry in New Jersey (also visit the Fort Lee Film Commission’s website). Mary Pickford was adorable. Pride of the Clan, like most of Pickford’s film, are worth watching.