Movie of the Week 72
Sightseers 2012 comedy-romance, crime
This film is very much a team effort: the two stars, Alice Lowe (Tina) and Steve Oram (Chris), also co-wrote the script, based on two characters they developed while working in Stand-up comedy clubs. The highlight, and 90% of the film, is when Chris and Tina, his new girlfriend, embark on an extended caravanning (trailer camping per Americans) holiday. The road-trip gives Tina the chance to liberate herself, just like Chris, who dreams of becoming a full-time writer. Chris tells Tina that she is his muse and the trip is intended to spark his creative writing efforts. At first they have a budding, rather awkward and “normal” romance that soon warms up into a honeymoon-type trip. They are shagging like newlyweds before reaching the first campground. So off they go to visit a tram museum, the Keswick pencil factory, historical relics and campgrounds. It is a very British journey. The script is deadpan yet very witty: both Tina and Chris get some funny one-liners.
The traveling couple has an unlucky knack for encountering an annoying, rude person almost every place they visit. Who hasn’t met some obnoxious lout on vacation? Sure we’d love to punch him in the nose with brass knuckles, but we don’t. It’s ok to think it, but Chris is not the type to let it go. He gets angry and commits a string of homicides everywhere they go. Is it funny? Yes. Did I laugh? Yes. By the time Tina gets in on the killing, I was roaring. Oh, I almost forgot – the movie has a cute dog along for the trip. So how does the trip end? Sorry mate, No spoilers. Find it and watch it, and remember it’s only a movie; not a lesson in morals.
The film is beautifully shot. The Director, Ben Wheatley, takes full advantage of the breathtaking backdrop of the vibrant green, rolling hills of Yorkshire and the Lake District. A weird British film like this one is destined to become a cult classic.
Movie of the Week 71
Hollywoodland 2006 drama mystery
I am easily drawn to movies that are set in the 1950’s because I remember those early days of my childhood very clearly. Back in the 50’s, Clark Kent was a household name, and everyone knew the Superman intro by heart, “Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Superman”. I never knew that the original Superman actor, George Reeves, committed suicide (according to official reports by LAPD), until I came across this movie. The protagonist in the movie is a struggling private detective, Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) who investigates the death of Reeves as a “whodunit” at the urging of Reeves’ mother, who rejects suicide as cause of death of her son. Simo is smart enough to know he is soon in way over his head with the investigation. He plugs along trying to build a homicide case.
Pros - This is a beautifully produced film with some Oscar worthy performances, particularly from the lead actors; Diane Lane, and Ben Affleck. Affleck's resemblance to Reeves in some scenes is astonishing - particularly as Clark Kent! Affleck even had Reeves' vocal rhythm. Ben certainly does his best dramatic acting since his glory days in 1997, and this performance probably saved him from “winning” Razzie’s worst actor of 2000’s decade (Eddie Murphy “won” with his unbelievable string of turkeys.) As Toni Mannix, Diane Lane is mesmerizing, sexy, strong, and possessive of George, first as a gorgeous vamp and then as the flinty and scorned older woman. Ten years George's senior, Toni understands that she's not getting any younger and quips to George, "I have another seven good years, then my ass drops like a duffel bag."
Bob Hoskins is great as the menacing, tough guy Eddie Mannix, an MGM studio executive. Best Eddie scene – the awkward double date with Eddie and his Japanese mail order mistress, and his wife, Toni, on a date with Reeves. They are at a fancy restaurant where Toni pops a request for Eddie to buy a small Hollywood bungalow. Eddie knows that she wants to set up her new Hollywood pretty boy in the new house. Eddie shrugs and says, “Ok, real estate is always a good investment.” When Reeves tries to engage the Japanese girl in conversation, Eddie screams at Reeves, “Don’t talk to her. She doesn’t speak English!” LOL for true love.
Like the dinner date scene, the best scenes in the film are told in flashback of George Reeve’s life in Hollywood. The scenes filming "The Adventures of Superman" are fantastic, and I for one wanted to see more. "Hollywoodland" captures the reality of making a television show back then and evokes the atmosphere of Hollywood in the '50s beautifully.
Cons - Unfortunately the film is flawed; there was too much diversion into Louis Simo’s personal problems that have little to nothing to do with investigating the George Reeves suicide-or-murder mystery. Simo’s troubles were all very commonplace and boring. Who cares, anyway?
I recently rewatched this forgotten movie with my finger poised on the fast-forward button. I skimmed thru scenes with Simo’s ex-wife and kid. I never missed a single item as related to storyline and plot, and made Reeves/Affleck more the center of the story, so I got a better understanding of Reeves’s character and enjoyed my “self-edited” version much better than the original (poorly edited) studio version.
Movie of the Week 70
Enough Said 2013 romance, comedy
James Gandolfini, in one of his last film roles, co-stars with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in this low budget, indie film written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. This is by far Holofcener’s best work to date. The supporting cast is solid with Catherine Keener (a usual player in Holofcener's movies), Toni Collette and Ben Falcone. I was hooked when I saw the photo on the DVD jacket – Tony Soprano dating goofy Elaine from Seinfeld. I had to give it a try, so I popped the library rental into the player and watched with my wife, who is a big rom-com fan.
This is one of Gandolfini's best and most likable movie performances and Louis-Dreyfus has never been better. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a divorced, massage therapist who is not looking forward to her daughter going away to college. Eva meets a lot people in her business and gets invited to a party where she meets Albert (Gandolfini). Albert is a divorced father who is also soon to be an empty nester. Eva and Albert hit it off and begin dating. Later Eva becomes friends with Marianne, who happens to be Albert’s ex-wife. Marianne has no idea that Eva is dating Albert, and she is a motor mouth with plenty of negative stories about Albert. Sometimes it is really a small world, so the second part of the movie is about Eva’s dilemma of keeping her mouth shut and dealing with too much information on Albert.
The film is amusing but not in a screwball, or slapstick way. It has a lot to say about second chance relationships, as well as family dynamics. Eva and Albert's characters drive the drama but it's the subtleties of the interactions between the two that makes it tangible & real and makes the whole film work. Albert lacks a polished veneer, but his honesty is refreshing and ultimately Eva sees him as a very caring and charming man. It's Louis-Dreyfus that really surprised me though. On 'Seinfeld' she was cast, like so many of the characters of that show, as a whiny, selfish, neurotic NYC Jew. I liked her better playing a normal, mature adult and considerate mother, and she helped make the movie true to life. Enough said.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2023. All rights reserved.