Shag: mystic pizza slash dirty dancing but less exciting

 

The story is of 4 wealthy southern girls in the early 1960s in their summer before college. Well two of them are going but the other two are not. They are prim proper Luanne (Page Hannah) a senator’s daughter and blonde, sexy Melania (Bridget Fonda). They are also Pudge real name Caroline (Annabeth Gish) a formerly plump, slightly nerdy but cute girl who suffers from low self- esteem. Finally beautiful Carson (Phoebe Cates) who is having doubts about her engagement to tobacconist’s son Harley. They go to Myrtle Beach to celebrate Carson’s last summer of freedom before her marriage. They also go there because they want to have fun, meet boys and dance the shag. The dance shag is actually rather unexciting even though it is supposedly a major part of the film. However the dance competition is quite entertaining to watch.

Shag (1989)

They soon meet some boys in the form of a 1 dimensional bad boy Buzz (Robert Ruzzler) and his nerdy looking friend Chip( Scott Coffey). Chip and Pudge soon form a connection and she persuades him to dance the shag with her and they decide to enter the shag contest together. There is also a mutual attraction growing between them. However it is stilled by his awkward declaration that he wants to write to her when at college in friendly and not romantic terms. This makes her reject him and she also refuses to do the shag contest with him even though they are clearly crazy about one another. Meanwhile Melania enters a local beauty pageant trying to impress the celeb Jimmy Valentine so she can get to Hollywood. This angers local mean girls Suette and Nadine who try to thwart her attempts. She does not win the contest but decides to impress his agent instead. Will she be able to do this? Meanwhile Carson and Buzz have a growing a mutual attraction which forms into a romance. However things get really awkward when Harley turns up and becomes close to Luanne. What will Carson and Luanne do? Will Chip and Pudge get back together for the dance contest and realise their mutual feelings?

The film is cute and is clearly influenced by Dirty Dancing although the characters are much less fleshed out in this film and the dancing is much less sexy or well- choreographed. Even though the 4 women are stereotyped I liked them. In particular Carson and Pudge as I felt I could identify with them most and they had real and sympathetic issues you could sympathise with. I also really liked Luanne who was very funny with her prim proper act and nerdy peculiar glasses. Also with her fussy bun which make her look years older than she actually is. It is interesting to see how she realised her old fashioned southern values are outdated and that it is ok to not to behave like a lady. Melania was also quite entertaining but I hated the beauty contest as it was so cringey and embarrassing although Melania’s speech was quite well performed. The men were however less well rounded with Buzz being a sort of bad boy but being rather flat in personality. Chip was also rather flat but I quite liked his romance with Pudge and I wanted things to work out for them.

The plot was quite good as I liked the theme of them wanting to dance and flirt with men in their last summer before college. It was clearly quite nostalgic in looking back to 60s and lost youth. There was however a serious side with the values of free love and sexual liberation being included in the story.

The other bit I liked was the clash of old fashioned traditional southern values with more liberal modern northern values. This is with the premise being the girls are going to supposedly visit Fort Sumter well this is the lie they tell their parents. Also there is the recurring theme of behaving like a southern lady and gentlemen with the younger ones trying to throw this off. However still being pulled back by their southern roots to behave in this way. This comes across well with Carson being reluctant to have sex before marriage and Luanne thinking having wild parties and wearing bikinis is outrageous. However both women realise having sex, flirting with boys and having a good time are fun and are good things to do.

The music in this film was great actually for me the best part of the movie. The script was quite well written although a little silly at times but it captured the mood of the period well. Also the lines were quite funny at times and also captured the southern image quite well too. I particularly like the ones where Pudge joked about her mother although her quotes were not that memorable. The accents were also quite well done and not too cringey.

The costumes are also well done. They captured the different personalities of the characters very well and they each fit the different characters’ personalities perfectly. For example from Pudge’s school girlish outfits to Luanne’s hilarious glasses and pearl necklaces.

Overall I would give this film 3.5 stars as it was cute and captured the mood of the period well. It was a little contrived and full of stereotypes but is entreating to watch.

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3 Colours White

In this film the polish protagonist Karol Karol’s(Zbigniew Zamachowski) French wife Dominique(Julie Delpy) divorces him because he could not consummate their marriage. Soon after this he loses his business and all his money through a series of mishaps. He soon becomes a beggar but is rescued by a fellow pole called Mikolaj who helps him get back to Poland. However this involves going in his suitcase which Mikolaj is meant to pick up when he reaches Poland. Unfortunately the suitcase gets stolen and Karol after a bad encounter with the robbers manages to get to his hometown. Soon he ends up working with his brother as a hairdresser again.

 

White Poster.jpg
3 Colours White Poster

However he become bored with his work and soon gets another job as a bodyguard for a supposedly innocent looking cash exchange company. He soon discovers that it is not as innocent as it looks and hears his bosses trying to do illegal land dealings. He outwits them and ends up selling the land that he gained from this to them. Meanwhile he meets up with Mikolaj again who had offered him a job of killing a man who wanted to kill himself but could not bring himself to do it. This turns out to be Mikolaj himself. Karol shoots him with a blank and manages to persuade him to not to end his life. After this he and Mikolaj go into a partnership in an undefined dodgy business together and become wealthy. Karol however is restless and wants win his ex-wife back but later decides to ruin her life instead. He does this through a complex scheme involving faking his own death and having her imprisoned for his supposed death but is this enough for him ? Will he be happy with what he has done and will she ever respect him?

This film is intriguing and apparently is meant to represent equality in contrast with the first film blue representing freedom and the third red fraternity. I would say that however these 2 other themes are present in this one. Equality is clear in this film with Karol trying become his wife’s equal. Fraternity is interestingly also there with Karol finding brotherhood with Mikolaj. Finally freedom is there with his wife divorcing him and wanting to be rid of him. You also get the impression that Karol finds his new illegal role liberating.

Now what I also liked about this film is the theme of the colour white as with the first film blue and what it means. It seems to have multiple meanings such as the snow and statue Karol takes around with him. The theme with the snow seemed for me to show the deadness and coldness of his country but also perhaps what Karol himself feels. White also has a recurring flashback to Karol’s wedding with Dominique’s wedding dress. White is meant to symbolise purity and innocence but I think this was meant to be deeply ironic here as Dominique is far with pure and innocent. White finally represents new beginnings and this could show Karol’s transformation from the pitiful figure at the beginning to the ruthless criminal at the end.

The acting in this film was very good in particular Zamachowski as Karol who you at first pity with the scenes of him in court not understanding French. Also being a huge contrast to his confident glamorous wife. His transformation into the ruthless criminal businessman he becomes was excellent. However like Juliette Binoche who also makes a brief cameo in this film he cried at the end. I think in his case it is suggested he perhaps regretted what he had done and that there was still some of his old self in his new self. Or perhaps he had realised he could never win Dominique back and had finally accepted this. In Blue it showed Binoche’s character finally acknowledging her grief for her husband and child or perhaps finally being at one with herself. Or accepting like Karol her past and present. Delpy was very good as difficult Dominique. Difficult and bonkers characters are a recurring theme with Delpy’s roles in other films I have seen her in. Therefore it was no surprise that she played a difficult character in this movie.

I would overall give this film 4 stars as I loved the meaning of it but did not fully understand it.

 

How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days: clichéd, unoriginal but kind of fun if you don’t think

Take Sex and City but remove the substance from it and also focus on a man as one of the main characters, then you have… How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days.

Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
Andy, Ben and the Dog

Andy(Kate Hudson) is a bored columnist for a women’s mag called Composure which I think is meant to be based on Cosmopolitan. She writes How to Articles on things such as fashion and men but she would rather write serious articles about things such as politics. However her boss Lana played by (Bebe Neuwirth) insists she carry on with the How To theme. She does however come to an agreement with her that if she writes a how to article on losing a guy in ten days then she can write about anything she wants.

Bebe Neuwirth as Lana and Kathryn Hahn as Michelle
Bebe Neuwirth and Kathryn Hahn

Meanwhile Ben (Matthew McConaughey) is bored with his work as an advertising executive. He wants to be involved in an advertisement on diamonds but is not allowed to by his boss (Robert Klein). His boss along with some rival colleagues say he can work on the advertisement if he makes a woman fall in love with him in ten days. His two rival colleagues both called Judy I am not joking here pick out Andy as his target as they saw her earlier at a meeting with Composure. Andy also on meeting him decides that he will be her lose a guy target.

This then results in her embarrassing efforts to get him to dump her. Such as being clingy and needy. Ok I get that she is meant to be extreme but some of this was too extreme. She decorates the toilet in his flat with a pink fluffy cover and buys a little ratty dog for them to share. The worst is that she insists on calling his penis Princess Sophia. Somehow he stays with her despite her gruesome behaviour. However I will not spoil the end although it is very predictable and you only need to guess it.

The only good point of this film was Hudson and McConaughey. They had chemistry, actually very good chemistry a key ingredient for rom coms. They were both also likeable and had good screen presences despite her dire behaviour. What they needed was a funnier and cleverer script to do justice to their on screen chemistry.

Now onto the other actors. Bebe Neuwirth as Lana was awful. Now most people will recognise her for her role Dr Lilith Sternin in Frasier and Cheers for which she won 2 Emmy Awards.  Or more recently her role in Madam Secretary. In Frasier and Cheers she is very funny. For me Lilith is one of the funniest female TV characters of all time. Here however Neuwirth is embarrassing. I expected better from her but I guess it paid well.  However she has generally done quite well for herself as an actress. For example she has also won a Tony Award for her performances in Sweet Charity and Chicago. Therefore perhaps here I will give her the slip.  The other actors were nonetheless not even worth mentioning in the film. Andy and Ben both have a gaggle of tedious mates who were boring and unoriginal. Their friends also had no personalities and did not feel real at all.

Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
Andy in extreme mode

Anyway back to the plot. This film was so full of clichés. A woman bored of writing tedious articles or wanting to be a writer oh no we have not heard that one before. Let’s see Never Been Kissed and the awful Letters to Juliet. A man making a woman fall for him but not meant to feel anything for her falls in love with her instead. Oh no let’s see 10 Things I Hate About You. Actually they both used each other in How To Lose, generally it is just the man in the films I have seen with this trope.

Also it was clearly influenced by Sex and the City but without the humour and seriousness of the TV Series. Let’s see a columnist who writes about men and lives in New York, oh I bet Andy is partly based off Carrie Bradshaw. It is also no coincidence that McConaughey was in one episode, where he proposes that he turn Carrie’s column into a film. I do not like this scene in the TV Series it is so cringe worthy. 

Overall I would give this film 2.5 stars which may sounds generous from what I have said about it but the two leads were good together and had great chemistry. This film is also mildly entertaining if you suspend judgement and do not use your brain at all.

 

 

Much Ado About Nothing: funny, smart and clever but serious

From the man behind Buffy and Angel comes a very different thing: Shakespeare! You may recognise some of the stars of this film if you are familiar with these above shows. Particularly Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof or Mr Alyson Hannigan who both played important parts in Angel. However onto the story.


It opens in the house of the wealthy Leonato (Gregg Clark) who is the Governor of Messina. Leonato lives there with his demure daughter Hero(Jillian Morgese) and his free spirited, lively niece Beatrice(Amy Acker). Some guests come to stay in the form of the prince Don Pedro(Reed Diamond) and his two friends who are as different as chalk and cheese. They are witty, spirited Benedict(Alexis Denisof) and hypocritical weak Count Claudio( Fran Kranz). Benedict is at a war of wits with Beatrice who it is revealed he had a messy past sexual relationship with. Meanwhile Claudio becomes besotted with Hero and they soon become engaged. Claudio, Hero and their friends decide to trick Beatrice and Benedict into believing that they love one another. They do this by having Beatrice and Benedict overhearing the others supposed feelings for the other. This works very successfully and even more so when Beatrice and Benedict develop real feelings for one another. However Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother Don John(Sean Maher) is determined to ruin everyone’s happiness. He tricks Claudio into believing Hero is unfaithful to him. Claudio therefore insults an innocent Hero on their wedding day and refuses to marry her. This leaves Beatrice furious and Benedict defends Hero by challenging Claudio to a duel. Can the wrongs be righted so the two couples can get together?

 
The acting in this production was very good particularly from the two leads but Denisof was by far the best. Acker was charming as Beatrice who was both feisty and spirited but vulnerable in her feelings for Benedict. She could be comedic one minute then deeply serious, however I think she was somewhat lacking in goofiness which this production certainly had in it. Denisof was perfect for the role of Benedict and had good chemistry with Acker which is essential for this story. Funny that these two have played on screen love interests to one another before in Angel. Well they were two parts of a love square but I will not get into that. Anyway I liked how much like Acker he could be silly one minute then deadly serious the next. Unlike Acker he captured the slight goofy side of this production very well particularly in the scenes where he overhears Pedro and Claudio. The other actors were also quite good. For me the other stand out in this film was Nathan Fillion as the prison guard Dogberry who made a fuss about being called an ass. He seemed just as concerned about this as performing his job. Fran Kranz was also good as Claudio capturing the unlikableness about his character well.

Sean Maher in Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
The modernisation of this production worked mostly very well. I thought the modernising of Benedict and Beatrice into having been lovers worked well. It gave us a reason for why they argued all the time. I know she implies that they liked each before in the play so I guess Whedon was playing on this. However I did not like the lack of the modernisation of the obsession with Hero being a virgin. I know this is what the play says but it does not seem right in the modern times. Hero would definitely not be a virgin before marriage nowadays. I would have also liked a little more indication that it was the modern times as I actually thought it was first set in the 90’s until I saw the smart phone at the end of the film. The Black and White Film however worked well adding to the old and new feel of the film.

 
The costumes in this production were quite good although I think they could have been some distinguishing features to show the differences between the different characters’ personalities better. For example Benedict could have worn a lighter or darker coloured suit compared to Claudio and Pedro to show his different personality to them. However I know this was a low budget production so they perhaps could not have afforded to show these differences.

 
Overall I would give this production 4 stars as it captures the spirit of Shakespeare in the modern times very well.

Toni Erdmann: funny and moving but also makes you think.

Have you ever been to a nude birthday party before? Watch Toni Erdmann.

Toni Erdmann is about an ageing man called Winfried who loves making practical jokes but is also lonely. He has a distant relationship with his career obsessed daughter Ines but loves her deeply. She also loves him but finds him embarrassing. On a visit to her he discovers that all she does is work. Therefore worried for her sanity he dresses up in a black wig as a character called Toni Erdmann. He then pays her visits and is very embarrassing but his goal is to make her loosen up. This has a gradual effect as she begins to do slightly bonkers things such as having a nude birthday party. Plus a gross sex scene with a colleague involving petits fours. She also begins to show more emotion and more open affection for her father. This is demonstrated by a long hug she shares with him in a park. However ultimately she does not change very much and still remains focused on her career.

toni erdmann poster

Film poster of Toni Erdmann or the hug scene

Sandra Hüller gave an excellent performance as the uptight Ines who only lives for her work. It is her only interest as she gives up her private life to entertain a client’s wife by taking her shopping. This is not unrealistic as some people do go to desperate measures to excel in their career. Ines was both sympathetic and annoying but mainly really sad. Even though she loosens up a bit in the film with the nude birthday party scene, it is said that she will fly off to Singapore for the next 2 years at the film’s end. This is a work related trip. This is why I particularly like non Hollywood films because they are often more realistic and do not always have happy endings with perfect romances. Ines has a brief fling with a colleague in the petits fours scene which actually comes to nothing. I think he may have wanted more but they had no other sexual encounters. Also her friends seem to be working all the time and the only people other than her father that come to her birthday are colleagues. Peter Simonischek gave a bonkers but humane and compassionate performance as Winfried. He, like his daughter was also lonely as he is divorced and his only companion is his dog who dies in the film. He again in his way was realistic as people do end up alone and have to manage. He does by finding lightness in life. That seemed to be his message to his daughter and also to do other things than just work.
The screenplay was well written but also bonkers, with Winfried saying I have hired a substitute daughter being one of the most memorable quotes. This highlighted how embarrassing he is but also how distant his and Ines’s relationship was. It also clearly sets up the main theme of the film. Some aspects of the film were  odd and also ridiculous such as the nude birthday party. It was an odd way to lighten up life and got sillier and sillier but it was so bizarre. I did not expect it to happen so that made it even funnier. It was also pleasing to see equal nudity in the film from both men and women and not just mainly nude women like in Game of Thrones.
Overall I would give this film 4.5 stars as it makes you think but is also funny but poignant at the same time.

Interesting links for Toni Erdmann:

imbd page link:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4048272/

 

 

Young Romance in Italy: Room with a View

Do people remember Helena Bonham-Carter before she played eccentric roles e.g Bellatrix Lestrange. Then you have her in Room with a View.
Set in 1910 naive, but free spirited Lucy Honeychurch (Bonham-Carter) and her stuffy, old fashioned cousin Charlotte (Maggie Smith) who hides regret about the past go on holiday to Florence. In Florence they meet a range of people. From the naughty lady novelist Eleanor Lavish(Judi Dench) to the pleasant but frustrated Mr Beebe(Simon Callow) who cannot be openly gay. However the people that have the most effect on both women are an unconventional father and son. They are the left wing, lower class yet pleasant Mr Emerson(Denholm Elliott) and his handsome, brooding son George(Julian Sands). Charlotte highly disapproves of the two men but through a series of encounters which leads to a kiss in meadow an attraction between Lucy and George starts to grow which on his side becomes love. This results in a disapproving Charlotte sweeping Lucy away to Rome.
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Lucy and Cecil: duty
Back in England Lucy gets engaged to the stuffy, pompous, and very camp Cecil Vyse(Daniel Day Lewis) . Lucy’s mother(Rosemary Leach) and her younger brother Freddy(Rupert Graves) find him incredibly annoying and even he annoys her at times. Lucy at the same time encounters George again and she begins to fall for him. Lucy now has choice: marry for love or for duty.
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Lucy and George: love
The acting in this film is good with Bonham Carter capturing the naivety but also rebelliousness of a young woman constrained by silly societal rules. You feel her frustration at the obsession with chaperoning her. It is also amusing to see Bonham Carter in roles that are a contrast to her Tim Burton influenced later ones. Maggie Smith is excellent as Charlotte who is both stuffy and old-fashioned but also lonely and unhappy because of her past. The ending for me with Charlotte is so sad as while Lucy and George are happy she is sitting in bed alone. You also know that she will be alone for the rest of her life. Julian Sands is good as George who is silent and hard to read but then suddenly acts quite weirdly. Elliot is good as Mr Emerson whose behaviour although eccentric actually seems quite sensible to the modern eye. Daniel Day Lewis gives a wonderful performance as the pompous, very camp Cecil and his fussiness makes me wonder why Lucy puts up with him for so long. He also reminds of David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane from Frasier who like Cecil is also fussy and pompous. Both are also implied to be gay but not so much implied Hyde Pierce’s case. Rosemary Leach and Rupert Graves are nice as Lucy affectionate mother and her silly but pleasant young brother. Simon Callow is excellent as the outsider/ insider figure of Mr Beebe who one pities because he is just as constrained by society’s rules as Lucy is but unlike her cannot rebel.
The script is well written and I think the choice of music of Kiri te Kanawa singing O mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi is very appropriate to the Florence setting. Also it is suitable because the story is like the opera’s of people wanting to be together but being separated by class.
Overall I would give this film 4 stars as it is well acted but the story is a little simple.

Here a few links for my article:

Kiri te Kanawa singing O Mio Babbino Caro at the 2010 Last Night of the Proms:

Here is a clip of David Hyde Pierce as Niles: