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

Maggie Gyllenhaal Weekend – Secretary (2002)

Director: Steven Shainberg

Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson (Screenplay) Mary Gaitskill (Story)

Starring: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies, Lesley Ann Warren, Stephen McHattie, Patrick Bauchau

 

Plot: A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.


Tagline – Assume the position.

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Strangely Intriguing

 

Story: Secretary starts as young woman Lee Holloway (Gyllenhaal) gets released from mental home after her self-harming went too far, released to attend her sister’s wedding, she returns to her self-harming techniques, not in a suicidal way though. Wanting to be part of the world Lee gets her first job as a secretary for lawyer Mr Grey (Spader).

Working for Mr Grey gives Lee a new lease for life, she stops self-harming, while letting Mr Grey giving her the punishment she desires.

 

Thoughts on Secretary

 

Characters – Lee Holloway is a troubled young woman, she has been self-harming for years now, it has put her in a mental home for a time too, now she is ready to enter the world to have a normal job. She gets obsessed with BDSM which her boss punishes her with, the one thing that stops her self-harming. Mr Grey is the lawyer that Lee starts to work with, he demands the best from his secretary and doesn’t mind giving her punishment to make her better, he hides from problem clients and seems to live a lonely life. Peter is the potential new boyfriend for Lee that tries to have a normal relationship, while she is on her own voyage of self-discovery.

PerformancesMaggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic in the leading role, she is by far the star of this movie and showed us all the abilities she had in the acting field. James Spader is great too, he has always been able to walk into these types of roles well.

StoryThe story here follows one woman that wants to find comfort in the world, where the only comfort she has had before has come from her own self-harming, she has problems which will be getting fixed as she enters the real world. this shows how mental illness can create a way for voids to be used to help create moments of peace in lives. This does give us the important discussion to be made, which is fine because people need help to understand the problems people can be fighting with.

Comedy/RomanceCertain moments do have a comical tone to them, while the romance of the film is mostly about how Lee became obsessed with Mr Grey.

SettingsThe film is set in a big American city which shows how the people in each life can have their own personal interests which can come off stranger from the outside.


Scene of the Movie –
The cheque.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The Lee and Peter relationship is strange.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good movie that tackles mental illness that people are living with everyday, we have a brilliant performance from Gyllenhaal that put her name firmly on the map.

 

Overall: One to be watching.

Rating

 

 

Franchise Weekend – Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010)

Director: Susanna White

Writer: Emma Thompson (Screenplay) Christianna Brand (Characters)

Starring: Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Oscar Steer, Asa Butterfield, Lil Woods, Maggie Smith

 

Plot: Nanny McPhee arrives to help a harried young mother who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away at war, though she uses her magic to teach the woman’s children and their two spoiled cousins five new lessons.


Tagline – The magic’s back, warts and all.

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: More Serious Sequel

 

Story: Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang starts as we meet mother Isabel (Gyllenhaal) who is trying to run the family home and raise her three children, while her husband is away at war, adding to her pressure is her brother-in-law Phil (Ifans) that is looking to get money and two cousins added to the family that are used to the luxury life.

When Isabel starts struggling, she gets the call from Nanny McPhee (Thompson) who offers to help put the children back in line with her magic. The children must learn to work together to help the farm stay in the right hands.

 

Thoughts on Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

 

Characters – Nanny McPhee is the magical nanny that comes to family’s when they are in need of support, she has come to this family in their time of need to help teach them how to be together in one of the most difficult times in their lives, the war, she brings her rules like before as she looks to bring the best out in the people. Isabel is the mother of the three that is trying to run and farm and work, her husband is at war, with the uncertainty of whether he will be returning. She doesn’t want help, but must accept it to keep the pressures of her life away from her children. Phil is the brother-in-law to Isabel, he has created his own gambling debts and wants the farm to clear the debts, he will do anything to get what he needs. Mrs Docherty is the boss of Isabel and family friend, she isn’t quite all there which makes her character come off funnier than she should. The children do come from different worlds which does see them clash in the time of conflict.

PerformancesEmma Thompson does continue to enjoy playing this role which she handles with ease. Maggie Gyllenhaal gets to play the role well through the film, which shows us just how difficult a position her character is in. Rhys Ifans does everything you would imagine in the comedy role in the film, while Maggie Smith also adds plenty of comedy through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a mother that takes over the family farm with her husband away at war, with money running low and the stress of life getting to her, that gets help from Nanny McPhee. The story here easily becomes a much more serious one because we are dealing with children that are being separated from their parents during war, where they don’t know if their family will be together once the war is over. This story does have a very different tone to the first one, one that does feel real, even though it does seem slightly stranger for Nanny McPhee to be here, this time around. The story here is more entertaining than the original which is always a good thing.

Comedy/FantasyThe comedy in the film does hit better than the first film, most of it comes from the arguments which feel funnier, the fantasy in the film does work too, which ends up blending with the comedy involved.

SettingsThe film is mostly set within one farm which does show us just how much trouble the family will be facing in their time of need.

Special EffectsThe effects here are the biggest step back sadly because we can see the CGI moments looking completely out of place.


Scene of the Movie –
Connection.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The CGI.

Final ThoughtsThis is a great sequel that does have a strong story to cover up the weaker CGI being used in the film.

 

Overall: Wonderful sequel.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Biopic – W – World Trade Center (2006)

Director: Oliver Stone

Writer: Andrew Berloff (Screenplay) John McLoughlin, Donna LcLoughlin, William Jimeno, Allison Jimeno (True Story)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, Jay Hernandez, Jon Bernthal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon

 

Plot: Two Port Authority police officers become trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Center.


Tagline – A True Story Of Courage And Survival

Runtime: 2 Hour 9 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Powerful Drama

 

Story: World Trade Center starts like every other day for police officers John McLoughlin (Cage) who sets the assignments for his department which include Will Jimeno (Pena) and Dominick Pezzulo (Hernandez). Today is going to change their lives, today is September 11th the day the World Trade Centers Twin Twos get hit by the planes, while being part of the rescue team the crew find themselves trapped.

When the dust settles Will and John are the only ones still alive with their loved ones Donna McLoughlin (Bello) and Allison Jimeno (Gyllenhaal) waiting to hear if they were in the towers when they went down. The two must support each other in hope that they would get rescued as New York and America comes together to rescue their own.

 

Thoughts on World Trade Center

 

Characters – All the characters in this film are based on real people, we have real victims from 9/11 being portrayed. John McLoughlin is the experience police officer that leads his men into the Twin Towers in a rescue attempt, he is a father of four which is one of his greatest motivations to survive once he becomes trapped in the rubble. Will Jimeno is the fellow officer that becomes trapped with John, he is a parent too with a second on the way, he is injured but uses the company of John to stay awake. We do have the wives and loved ones and fellow officers that helped in the rescues to being portrayed here showing the heroes involved on those days.

PerformancesNicolas Cage shows in this role that he still was a brilliant performer along with Michael Pena stepped to a leading role. We have fantastic performances from the whole cast if we are being honest.

StoryThe events of this day shocked the world like no other events, the stories of the survivors being found was a race for hope for anyone who might have had someone in the towers. We do focus on just two officers that became trapped as they fought to survive while waiting for rescue. Watching how the rescuers worked to save people trapped, the family waiting helplessly for news on their families, add this together and you get a powerful drama that showed the heroics during that tragic event.

History/ThrillerThe events of this movie are one of the most if not the most famous terrorist attack in modern history, seeing how the two officers just had to rely on hope to survive shows us just how the country was bought together to find a people which does make this edge of your seat waiting to see if they make it or not.

SettingsJohn and Will are trapped for the most part of this movie, it shows how hopeless the situation looked for the men, outside we see the aftermath of the attack.

Special EffectsThe effects used in the movie are fantastic to show the horror of the moment the towers came crashing down on the people inside to the surviving in the rumble and re-creation of the devastation.


Scene of the Movie –
For the visual the collapse is shocking to watch.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It is still hard to watch because of the shock of the event.

Final ThoughtsThis is a powerful drama that shows how the city came together during the time of need.

 

Overall: This is a must watch but it is hard to re-live those moments.

Rating

 

 

Monster House (2006)

Director: Gil Kenan

Writer: Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab, Pamela Pettler (Screenplay) Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab (Story)

Starring: (Voice Talens) Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Spencer Locke, Mitchel Musso, Catherine O’Hara

 

Plot: Three teens discover that their neighbor’s house is really a living, breathing, scary monster.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Great but Dark Family Film

 

Story: Monster House starts as we meet DJ a boy who lives opposite the neighbourhood crazy old man Nebbercracker who terrorizes anyone who comes into his yard. When his parents go away for the weekend, DJ and his best friend Chowder find themselves trying to retrieve a lost ball only for Nebbercracker to have a heart attack.

With Nebbercracker away from the house DJ, Chowder and local girl Jenny start seeing the house coming to life but with no adult believing them, the three start to investigate. The three find themselves inside the house learning the truth about the house and the monster that is inside it.

 

Thoughts on Monster House

 

Characters DJ and Chowder are you typical best friends that are reaching the age where they need to look to grow up, DJ is ready to take that step while Chowder isn’t, the two work well as a team. Jenny plays into the idea that a girl can come between best friends and is the brains of the trio. Nebbercracker represents the neighbourhood crazy that once you get to know has a good reason for being like they are. The adults are always looking down on the children which is fine as for the story the children need to learn to grow up. The characters here, while not special all help tell the story well.

StoryThe story that plays into children’s imaginations to a new level, we all know children can create stories of the crazy person in their town and this takes that story and runs with it. It shows that the stories could be real but also have a reason for the stories that you should learn about a person’s past. There is also a story about children reaching the age to grow up which is greatly told for the kids.

Comedy/Family/FantasyWe have plenty of laughs from how the children see the adults, the family side works because we can see the whole family can enjoy with the fantasy side of the story coming from the idea that a house can come to life.

SettingsThe film is set all within a small town with it coming off as all in one day within one street as kids can come and play. This works for the house’s reputation within the neighbourhood.

Animation The animation is very impressive having it’s own style compared to other animated films around the same time.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good family film that can be enjoyed by all, it does have moments of darkness but comes off original which is very important.

 

Overall: Good film to be enjoyed by all.

Rating