Maggie Gyllenhaal Weekend – Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Director: Mike Newell

Writer: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal (Screenplay)

Starring: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden

Plot: A free-thinking art professor teaches conservative 1950s Wellesley girls to question their traditional social roles.


Tagline – They had everything. She showed them more.

Runtime: 1 Hour 57 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Brilliant

Story: Mona Lisa Smile starts when Katherine Ann Watson (Roberts) takes a teaching role at the prestigious Wellesley College, one with the social traditions taught to girls studying they’re from the upper-class families. Katherine learns that her class with includes Betty Warren (Dunst), Joan Brandwyn (Stiles), Giselle Levy (Gyllenhaal) and Connie Baker (Goodwin) know the whole textbook on the first day.

Katherine must learn to keep her head down, while trying to teach the young women about being thinking instead of following the traditions they have been raised to believe are the only way to go. With Katherine showing them a new look at life the pressure starts getting thrown back at her by the parent’s of the students, with some wanting to accept it, while others are happy to stay in the line they believe is right.

Thoughts on Mona Lisa Smile

Characters – Katherine Ann Watson is an arts history teacher that is known for her free-thinking ways that doesn’t follow the traditional ways of the school, she does want to teach the women they don’t have to just get married and become housewives, she must remain in a position which will see the higher ups in the school question her beliefs and methods. Katherine will help develop these young women to understand they can be more in life. Betty Warren is the daughter of the head of the school, she is engaged and ready to finish school and become a housewife, everything she has been taught is right for her, she isn’t afraid to report anyone going against the traditions and questions her own friends for trying to be different. Joan Brandwyn is one of the students who also believes she is meant to just get married, she did want to study law and Katherine pushes her to follow her dream an apply for law school, this puts Joan in a position of not knowing what she should do next. Giselle Levy has been having an affair with one of the professor, she pushes the other girls into trying to break the rules more which is the way she feels like she fits in.

PerformancesJulia Roberts is wonderful in this leading role, being the truly free-thinking which does seem to reflect her own acting career at times. Kirsten Dunst is great too showing that in the early 2000s, she was nearly untouchable in her acting. Julia Stiles is great to breaking away from the romantic comedies she had been doing. Maggie Gyllenhaal shows that she was going to go onto bigger projects with her wonderful supporting performance and Ginnifer Goodwin is wonderful in this film too.

StoryThe story here follow a free-thinking professor that takes a job in a prestigious women’s school where she wants to help the young women start to think for themselves instead of following the traditions set up for them to follow, her thinking does upset the normal in the beliefs, as she just wants to make a difference to these women’s lives. When you look back at the story and time it is set, it does show us just how frustrating the mentality was. You could compare this to ‘Dead Poets Society’ with a teaching trying to show students life can be different to what they have been raised to believe. The story does show us enough of a previous problem in life and does show how people would have changed if they were given a glimpse into the life they could have.

SettingsThe film is set around the school in which Katherine teaches, it shows how the rules are going to be difficult to follow or understand and how people will constantly be looking down on people trying to change thing.


Scene of the Movie – The flowers of goodbye.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Certain characters are too generic.

Final Thoughts This is a wonderful look at how somebody wanted to help make a change to the normal which should never have been the normal, we have five excellent leading lady performances too.

Overall: Wonderful look at change.

Rating

ABC Film Challenge – U – Upside Down (2012)

Director: Juan Solanas

Writer: Juan Solanas (Screenplay) Juan Solanas, Santiago Amigorena, Pierre Magny (Adaptation)

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, Blu Mankuma, Nicholas Rose, James Kidnie

 

Plot: Adam and Eden fell in love as teens despite the fact that they live on twinned worlds with gravities that pull in opposite directions. Ten years after a forced separation, Adam sets out on a dangerous quest to reconnect with his love.


Tagline –  Two worlds. One future.

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Too Ambitious

 

Story: Upside Down starts as we learn about the two different worlds, with their own gravity, but within communication distance. Adam (Sturgess) is from one world while Eden (Dunst) is from the other, the two fell in love, but they can’t be together for any length of time because of the different pulls on their gravities.

When their secret relationship is found out about, Adam believes that Eden died, 10-years later he learns she is still alive and goes to find a way to meet her again through a business that connects the two worlds.

 

Thoughts on Upside Down

 

Characters – Adam is from one world, raised an orphan after his parents were killed in an accident, he is fascinated by the other world which leads him to Eden, when he believes he loses her forever he starts to focus on other projects. When he learns that she is still alive he risks his life to try and find a way to meet her again and go to the world that he is not only forbidden from, but could kill him if he stays too long. Eden is the girl from the other world she has become injured losing her memory but rising up through the company, can he memory return in time to feel the feelings she once had.

PerformancesJim Sturgess is solid in the leading role, he plays the ambitious side to his character well, but he isn’t the most convincing on the romantic side of things. Kirsten Dunst does well enough as she can always be turned to for romantic based movies, this is no different. Timothy Spall gets good laughs in the supporting role.

StoryThe story here looks into forbidden love, we get a grander scale for this because the two lovers come from different worlds and can’t be together because of science. We have a lot of explaining as to why the two can’t be together which at times ends up being too much to follow because the science involved just seems like it goes on for about 10 minutes. The idea of two people wanting to be with the one they love is good part of the story though.

Fantasy/Romance/Sci-FiThe fantasy side of this film is taking us to the world where two worlds can’t be together while only being a breath apart, this leads into the romantic side of the film as our two loves must find a way to be together. The sci-fi side of the film comes on strong too because we then need to see how the worlds are different.

SettingsThe settings show us the difference in the two worlds, one for the rich, one for the poor, each has its own colour tone and area of pure beauty.

Special EffectsThe effects are weak here, we can see the fact we are watching actors perform on front of a green screen for most of the movie, which only disappoints.


Scene of the Movie –
Falling, it always looks good.

That Moment That Annoyed Me the green screen lets down.

Final ThoughtsThis is a basic love story which tries to become very ambitious when it comes to where it wants to take the story.

 

Overall: Simple Love story, complicated world.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Romance – E – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Director: Michel Gondry

Writer: Charlie Kaufman (Screenplay) Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth (Story)

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson

 

Plot: When their relationship turns sour, a young couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories.


Tagline – Replace my memory.

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Dark Look at Relationships

 

Story: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind starts as we follow two strangers Joel (Carrey) and Clementine (Winslet) who meet on a train, fall in love, but darkness soon falls over Joel’s life when for some reason Clementine doesn’t remember him and dates someone else.

Clementine has had Joel erased from her memory, Joel is never meant to know this, but when he learns about this, Dr Mierzwiak (Wilkinson) performs the same procedure for Joel and with the technicians Stan (Ruffalo), Patrick (Wood) and Mary (Dunst) help Joel through the destruction of the memories.

 

Thoughts on External Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

 

Characters – Joel is the man that fell in love with Clementine, but sees his life fall to pieces when she goes through a procedure to erase him. Joel broken up about this follows through with his own procedure and now his mind is living through the nightmare of losing his memories and trying to save them. Clementine is the woman Joel falls in love with, after they break up she has him erased and we see how they had their ups and downs through their time together. Dr Mierzwiak is the man behind the technology and his work makes it possible for memories erased. Patrick is one of the technicians working on Joel, he has done an unethical thing when performing the procedure before. Stan is the main man working on Joel, he sees it as an easy job, but this case because more difficult than he could imagine and his reckless behaviour with Mary the receptionist causes more problems than they needed too.

PerformancesJim Carrey is great in his leading role, we get to see a new level because he shows that his serious ability is taking over now, Kate Winslet works here because she gets to be the quirky girlfriend while also feeling like an everyday real woman. We have an excellent supporting cast that all give great performances too.

StoryThe story here plays into the idea that sometimes relationships don’t go the way you would plan them too, but in this world you can erase the person you have fallen out of love with. This is a smart idea, because how often have people fallen in and out of love with the heartache of the break up holding people back, this answers this with a solution people could turn too. Only watching it from Joel’s point of view is good and bad, because he is the one that must witness the idea of being left, ignored by the person he once loved.

Romance/Sci-FiThe romance side of the film shows us just how relationships can play out, they always start amazing but soon they turn into the normality that can put people off where things are going which leads to what happens. The sci-fi elements are smartly used as we see just how the technology used can create everything that happens.

SettingsThe settings try to keep us in everyday life and memories, which help Joel find the moments he needs to erase.

Special EffectsThe effects are effortless because you barely notice moments as the world falls apart in the memories of Joel.


Scene of the Movie –
Escaping the world collapsing.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The technicians are too reckless for me.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of films people are always hyping over, I have struggle to watch this before, but made it through this time and did enjoy for the most part as it looks at how relationships are not always as planned.

 

Overall: Smart romance movie.

Rating

 

 

 

Franchise Weekend – Spiderman 3 (2007)

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent (Screenplay) Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (Comic Book)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Toper Grace, Bryce Dallas Holland

 

Plot: A strange black entity from another world bonds with Peter Parker and causes inner turmoil as he contends with new villains, temptations, and revenge.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Good Ending to Trilogy

 

Story: Spider-Man 3 starts as Peter Parker (Maguire) now living with Mary Jane (Dunst) with the whole city loving the Spider-Man which leaves Peter on top of the world, but Mary Jane is struggling to fit in after a string of poor reviews on her performing. Meanwhile Flint Marko (Church) the man that killed Uncle Ben has escaped prison as he looks to make amends for his errors finds himself in the middle of an experiment that turns him into the sandman.

Peter has plenty of life questions to find answers in for through the film because he wants to ask Mary Jane to marry him, faces competition from Eddie Brock (Grace) trying to take his job at the newspaper and Harry (Franco) trying to get his revenge loses his memory leading to the friendship to become fresh.

What Peter doesn’t know is there is a creature from space known as Venom starts attaching itself to Peter, giving Spiderman a darker side the Peter must learn how to fight off to remain the hero the city knows and loves, once this is done Eddie becomes Venom figure.

 

Thoughts on Spider-Man 3

 

Characters – Peter is in the happiest part of his life, he is with Mary Jane, Spiderman is loved by the city and Harry has forgotten the vengeance he holds towards Peter. When Peter starts seeing his life come tumbling down around him once he gets infected by Venom he will face is toughest battle yet. Mary Jane has finally made it to the big stage but is being critically panned and without Peter’s support goes back to Harry, this is starting to become a one-dimensional character. Harry has been waiting for his chance to take out Peter but after it fails forgets his hate towards him until his memories return. Eddie Brock is a new rival photographer that wants to put Peter out of business but soon we learn the truth about him. Flint Marko is the man that really killed Uncle Ben and once he escapes from prison looks to make amends for his failures to his daughter but with new powers that make Peter need to fight him off. Gwen Stacy is a new love interest that could bring an end to Mary Jane and Peter.

PerformancesTobey Maguire doesn’t give as strong of a performance after the first two films but when you look at the reactions to everything Peter goes through you can see it in how he is acting. Kirsten Dunst does continue to slide in quality too but that is because the character continues to be written weakly.  James Franco does get to show a bigger range but also doesn’t get enough time for his character development to show his full talent. Thomas Haden Church does a good job here showing the pain his character feels through the film. Topher Grace does feel out of place at times in this film, he starts strong but slowly fades by the end.

StoryThe Peter Parker story arc is once again the most interesting part of the film as we see how he must face his own flaws to stop the problems in his life, he must learn the ups and downs of his actions.  The new enemies tests Spiderman to the next level as Sandman gives him a moral compass he needs to face while Venom shows who he could have become if he takes the wrong path but the battles are standard for the genre.

Action/AdventureThe action set pieces are bigger but are also fewer in number which makes them feel rewarding when we see the showdown.

SettingsWe do thankfully stay in New York for the setting which helps us show how the city has gotten used to the idea of Spiderman being there now.

Special EffectsThe effects were the most ambitious of the franchise, the Sandman was always going to be CGI and it does look weak now. When things are practical they work otherwise the weakness are clear.

Scene of the Movie – Sandman creation.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I wasn’t a fan of the CGI

Final ThoughtsThis is the most panned of the Spiderman films but I feel it is a fitting ending to the trilogy, yes, it is weaker but the truth is, that it is being ambitious with the villains Peter must take on and reflects the problems he would face if someone he loved knew the truth.

 

Overall: Good ending to the trilogy.

Rating

 

 

Franchise Weekend – Spiderman 2 (2004)

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon, Alvin Sargent (Screenplay) Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (Comic Book)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons

 

Plot: Peter Parker is beset with troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Great Fun

 

Story: Spider-Man 2 starts with the beautiful opening credits that recap what happened in the first film, before we follow Peter Parker (Maguire) in his new roles as a pizza delivery boy. Peter is still struggling to be on time for the important moments of his life including college, times for being there for Mary Jane (Dunst) and Harry (Franco) who is still holding the grudge against Spiderman.

Harry now running Oscorp where he has Dr Otto Octavius (Molina) working on fusion energy technology but when an accident happens Otto becomes Doc Ock, who has 4 extra arms that control him as they take over the city.

 

Thoughts on Spider-Man 2

 

Characters – Peter Parker still finds himself running late to his important matters but he still finds time to fight crime even though Spiderman has become hated by his best friend. He must deal with his life crashing down around him now, his best friend hates his loyalty to Spiderman, Mary Jane has moved on and his powers are draining. He must overcome the difficult moments in life to defeat his latest enemy. Mary Jane has moved on from Peter and Harry but deep down she does still love Peter. Dr Otto Octavius does believe he can help change the world for the better but when he loses his love and becomes controlled by Doc Ock he wreaks havoc on the city.

PerformanceTobey Maguire once again brings us a performance worthy of leading any movie showing us in the early 2000’s he was one of the best in the industry. Kirsten Dunst is good enough but once again falls into the damsel in distress role taking away the talent we know she has. Alfred Molina is great as the villain here, he is filled with the emotionless actions but also feeling like he is smarter than everyone else in the film. James Franco is good but we are continuing to build his character up.

StoryThe story has two main parts, the first is looking at Peter Parker trying to balance his normal life or education, love and friendship with being Spiderman, giving himself the decision on whether to give up the Spiderman side of his life to be a better man or not. We also have a villain on the loose that wants to continue his experiments which could destroy the whole city. The conflict is strong through the story as having a superhero question his part in the battle which gives s edge of your seat viewing.

Action/AdventureThee action is toned down in places when you look at the number of sequences but the reality is they are much bigger sequences throughout the film that have increased peril for Spiderman to fight.

SettingsWe stay in New York which was always key to making this film the enjoyable experience we know it was going to be.

Special EffectsSeemingly remaining with practical effects with editing around them, this film does seem to feel like we are in a real-world city with real superheroes battling.

Scene of the Movie – Train sequence

That Moment That Annoyed Me I feel we need to start making Mary Jane stronger.

Final ThoughtsThis is a great continuation of the Spiderman evolution that was needed to keep things feeling fresh in the genre.

 

Overall: Enjoyable continuing Spiderman films

Rating