Hugh Grant

Review – Florence Foster Jenkins

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Review – Florence Foster Jenkins

By guest columnist my_year_in_movies.

Admittedly, I’d decided to hate this movie well before I saw it. The concept alone was enough to make we want to peel my eyeballs. It looked twee, it looked ridiculous and when I heard Streep had received yet another oscar nomination I assumed it was because she’d just turned up and that’s generally enough.

I forced myself to watch it because I try to see all best actor/actress/picture/director Oscar nominees before the awards. And you know what? I actually really enjoyed it.

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Movie Issues: Romance or Bromance

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Movie Issues: Romance or Bromance

It’s that time of the year again where we as a society must stop, look, and judge the single people around us. It must be Valentine’s Day! Either you’re single and have to be bothered by friends, family, and the media telling you how you won’t be happy unless you find “that special someone”, or you already have “that special someone” and friends, family, and the media tell you no matter how much you do, it’s never enough. We here at Movie Issues are taking a stand and saying ENOUGH!

Whether you’re in a relationship or single, don’t conform to what “The Man” wants you to do! Do what you want to do: Go to dinner, see a movie, buy all the candy, or don’t! It’s your day! So carpe diem my friend, or as the Goths say “carpe noctem”, make this day/night what you want it to be. And with that, we have some ideas for your movie watching needs. Whether you’re with someone or not, these ten movie suggestions are sure to make your night/weekend good no matter what or who you do.

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Music & Lyrics

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I’ll tell you up front – my (very chick movie oriented female) companion was disappointed by this film. She thought it was uneven, with too many valleys between our agreed-upon high points. I was so pleased by the high points (and again, there were many) that I was able to glide on their breezy charm over nearly all the valleys my companion felt she had to trudge through. That clear enough? That said, no matter who your tastes would match, when this movie gets a moment right, it nails it. It’s now you tolerate/notice the rest that will affect your experience.

Hugh Grant plays a former pop megastar of the 1980’s, now relegated to solo gigs of his band’s glory days work, embarrassing himself by sexily soloing at theme parks, state fairs, and – gasp – my 20th high school reunion. The requisite meet-cute comes in the form of substitute plant caretaker Drew Barrymore, emulating the Cameron Diaz school of purposeful unself-conscious daffiness and charm. She’s adorable, he’s adorable, and eventually they are thrown into the high stakes and low likelihood position of penning a new tune for Cora, an uberstar mélange of every pop diva ever. All the casting is perfect; Grant is playing up the charm he exhibited in Love Actually and a comfortable awareness of his actual age and who his demographic is. Barrymore is the fragile arrested development girl we all like to remember her as.

Pre-Barrymore, Grant’s world is operating in a kind of resigned hasbeenhood, brightened only by the lustful lipsynching of mid-late-30’s hausfraus at his gigs. Barrymore has a vaguely contrived Horrible Secret ™ that she wears on her sleeve like a yellow star of David, involving woefully under-ultilized Campbell Scott.

Much could have been done differently with regards to giving us a reason for Barrymore to resist the Cora gig, but I was willing to ignore it, since I was interested more in this couple’s future than their past. The movies gives them the chance to re-awaken artistically and romantically, and I was deeply invested in that, rather than why they were blocked. The dialogue is sparkly and fun, even when it has to dance around logic to make itself happen.

Kristen Johnston (you remember her blowsy Amazonian charm on 3rd Rock From The Sun) injects fire into every frame she’s in. At one point we had just a reaction shot of her while a lead was saying a whole important line, and it was all that was needed. She is hilarious and great and vital.

Cora was a great hybrid of Britney, Christina, Madonna, Shakira, and the business minded pop business. First timer Haley Bennett plays her as a bland buudha-licious cipher, more colorless than powdered milk and dripping with manufactured personality, but Bennett gives her more dimensions than the character deserves. She really worked the musician aspect of her role, and her purposeful vanilla demeanor was great.

Maybe this movie will disappoint you – or not. But it gets huge points from me for capturing and lampooning the pop music zeritgeist of the 80’s and today with love and flair. And damn it, the songs were great too (thanks, Adam Schlensinger).

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 2/14/07
Time in minutes 104
Director Marc Lawrence
Studio Warner Brothers

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Bridget Jones' Diary

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Lest my frequent readers fret, in the uncharacteristic delay between opening weekend of this film and the review, please know it was not hesitation as to my thoughts on the film! I saw BJD twice opening weekend and again just this past weekend, and I am certain it will wend its way into my DVD collection ere long. So yeah, I liked it. My constant readers know that I am not a Renee Zellweger fan, but I am a fan of the book, and so I eagerly anticipated the release regardless of my hesitations about the star. I was delighted with the result. I also hope that Colin Firth will finally get a proper following here in the States beyond all of us geeks who watch and rewatch the A&E/BBC Pride and Prejudice (now available on DVD). Thank goodness the screenplay was partially written by the book’s author Helen Fielding, because the ruination potential for such a book, with such a following, is quite high. Few are the ladies I know who have not read it and loved it. Did I mention I saw it twice opening weekend?

Never mind all the attendant press about how Miss Z (my height) bulked up to *my* weight (with considerably more prominent breasts I might add) in order to play the part – I still admire her work in this film. She’s very brave, by Hollywood standards, which means all of us who are not 5’5″ and 80 lbs. as Hollywood seems to expect are also equally brave, just for living our daily lives! Bonus points for the gals watching. Renee’s portrayal of Bridget, with all Bridget’s insecurities, faux pas, bad habits, and sad, solo comforts was humiliatingly real. She was pathetic, she was sturdy of spine, she was utterly comprehensible, and, bless her Katy, TX, heart, her accent was just fine. So if you’ve not seen it because of her, get over *that* right away.

Enough about her. She’s the star, she’s getting all the press anyway. We love her friends: not enough of them. We love her parents; lovely casting for all of the above. Excellent choices were made on when to keep the book’s content and when to utterly digress from it. Fans will be delighted by the “new” scenes, because of course they too are utterly plausible in the world of the story. My character expectations for Natasha and Sit Up Britain’s Richard were elevated too high by the spectacular book on tape, narrated by Tracie Bennett (and how funny is THAT – the Bennetts were the main family in P & P), but what twaddle to complain of in the face of such a triumph of book-to-movie. Perhaps more diary would have been fun, but I didn’t feel the film lacked for missing the “Telling self to stop obsessing v. foolish. Will do no more of same.” tone of the book. The dialogue (no doubt largely thanks to Fielding) is true, the awkwardness and tension is palpable, and Renee has duly portrayed that new literary icon of us all.

Real Bridget fans have of course been gushing hysterically to confused fellow movie audiences about the delicious irony of casting Colin Firth as Mark Darcy. Never mind that BJD is a thinly veiled update of Pride & Prejudice (much as Clueless updated Emma), and how delectable it is that Firth played Mr. Darcy in the aforementioned miniseries of the same book – it is also super-delicious that the very characters of the book would watch the miniseries on video obsessively, crooning over Firth as Darcy. It’s the best serendipitous (by design) casting since – since (multiple brains and search engines probe for an answer) – since ever! Mmmm Darcy.

I love Hugh Grant. I can’t help it. Even his detractors concede that his casting as Bridget’s charming, disarming boss Daniel Cleaver is perfect. The first shot of Grant, on the elevator, says it all. Grant non-fans should also allow that this role is utterly different than that which he had in Notting Hill, proving that he is indeed versatile. Grant fans will enjoy his chest. And even guys have enjoyed this film. Sadly, like Working Title’s last Grant foray, Notting Hill, the score is amusing, but the soundtrack is equally obvious and tiresome, taking all the fun out of running out and buying it. Go see it, as if you didn’t already.

MPAA Rating R- language, sexuality
Release date 4/13/01
Time in minutes 94
Director Sharon Maguire
Studio Miramax/Universal

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Notting Hill

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Shame on me, I have now seen this movie twice without having reviewed it, but I can tell you one thing: romantic movies are altogether different depending on who you see them with. Normally I do not like to reveal much about my companions, but this is worthy of note in my enjoyment of the movie. The first time I saw Notting Hill, I saw it with (I am not lying) my ex boyfriend and his more recent ex-girlfriend and another girl he went out with once. So imagine the ladies, by and large swooning over Hugh, grumbling softly to themselves that our one male companion couldn’t have been as floppily charming and sincere or whatever (sorry, man) as our celluloid swain. Now picture the guy, surrounded by women who, for the record, he is around all the time anyway, taking frantic notes to himself in case Julia Roberts happens to call Apple to license a whole lot of the MacOS. And a distinct shortage of Raisinets were present as well.

The second time I saw this movie was with one of my bestest friends in the whole world, a married female who I was visiting. Hugh does not as much for her as me, but she claims she could understand his charm in this movie (which is all I ask for – she’s got a man with a yummy accent). It was a million times squishier for me. I must get a date to take me so I can see how the other half lives.

I’ll come right out and say it, I think Hugh Grant is the dishiest, and while Julia Roberts I can take or leave, she is best when she is luminous and dewy. The premise can be appreciated by anyone in the whole world: common man falls in with super goddess. It’s been done a million times, but seldom so nicely, I think. Who doesn’t want to be the deity revered without even having to do anything? Who doesn’t want to be the mortal noticed and loved by the deity? Who doesn’t want to see past some public persona into the real person of someone who is an icon? (Are you listening, John Cusack?) Who doesn’t want someone to take the trouble to see past one’s public persona and be seen for who they really are? Who doesn’t want to meet that person (assuming you haven’t) who is your perfect match and somehow overcome all obstacles to be together and be happily happily ever after? And, frankly, given the number of guests Jerry Springer and his ilk have every week, who apparently doesn’t want to be famous, no matter for what reason?

Given all that, what would not be appealing to *someone* in this movie? Merely the sociology of famous meeting unfamous and how would that work is interesting. On top of that, our stars have some nice chemistry, some really good acting moments (who doesn’t wish Julia would replace Andie in Four Weddings and a Funeral – same director), and a really cool passage of time sequence as well. Watch the extras when Hugh goes walking dejectedly through Notting Hill.

Like all bittersweet British comedies (Peter’s Friends, Four Weddings, etc.), our hero has a wonderful tight net of supportive friends who are also interestingly painted and well developed. Dang, but those people sure know how to build a character. Notable (and perhaps a tad over the top) is Grant’s flatmate Spike, who frankly is appalling but at least his grotesqueness serves a purpose.

First viewing, I thought there were some editing problems, but apparently we had a terrible print because the second viewing went much more smoothly. I have to say, however, that the soundtrack (not the score, it’s actually quite hold-your-breath nice) is the cheesiest, nastiest clumping of only vaguely appropriate songs since…well, something that kid from Rushmore would have produced. Ugh! Perfectly lovely moments killed by a smarmy soundtrack – and it’s not even like embarrassing overuse of pop hits, which would be execrable but understandable from a marketing perspective. Ick.

Overall, an interesting tale told well, and go see it with someone you love. Sorry, ex-ie boy. It’s just not the same.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/28/99
Time in minutes 123
Director Roger Michell
Studio Universal Pictures

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Nine Months

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Warning: At this point in my life I am *not* interested in having kids so please don’t flip out if you think I am a deviant for thinking this. This is humor writing as well as a review.

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