Monday, August 31, 2009

Network

On the 12 Angry Men post, I said Sidney Lumet has directed numerous thrilling movies with Network being one of them. Network, among his other works, definitely stands out.

Newsanchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is being fired from TV station UBS from failing ratings. He announced on his show that on one of his upcoming shows he will shoot himself in the head, which results in high ratings and him getting fired early. His friend at the station Max Schumacher (William Holden) rehires Beale for an appropriate farewell and to apologize for his rant, but all Beale does is give a bigger rant. Producer Diane Christensen (Faye Dunaway) finds Beale's rants amusing since they bring in high ratings and convinces her boss Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) to put Beale back on the air.

Peter Finch, by far, has given the world probably the most eccentric performances of the 20th century. Hey, if you don't believe me just watch his "mad as hell" speech (which you can watch here). Dunaway was also good in the movie and by that time she was overdue for an Oscar. Good thing she won for this. Holden was also good and also earned his Oscar nomination. The one performance that got an Oscar that suprised me was Beatrice Straight's role of Max's wife Louise. She only onscreen for about six minutes and the scene where she denounces him for having an affair with Diane very much explains her Oscar. And Paddy Chayefsky's outrageous screenplay also earned that Oscar.

My Rating: *****

So many books and movies, so little time.

*sigh* It's that time of year again: back to school. I will be a junior at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School on September 9, 2009.

I planned at the beginning of the summer to catch up on my movie-watching and reading, which I did, but I feel like I haven't done enough. I saw 32 movies (17 in June, 10 in July, 5 in August) and read only 8 books. It's definitely a sign that says I need to read more and watch movies less. But there are so many hours in a day, I can't cram that much into one day.

Has this happened to you before? Trying to cram so much into one vacation?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

MOVIES YOU NEED TO SEE

You see this all the time on the Internet. One page that caught my eye was one on The Film Stage (link here). A fair amount of the choices are rather obvious (Citizen Kane, Casablanca, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc.), with chances are you've seen them already. Which brings up the question, What movies would you recommend?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Road to Perdition

There have been a lot of great gangster movies throughout Hollywood. You have The Godfather and its sequel, Goodfellas, The Public Enemy and countless others. Another one to add is Road to Perdition. Based on the Max Allan Collins graphic novel, this movie gets up in the ranks of every classic gangster film.

Michael Sullivan, Sr. (Tom Hanks) works as a hit man for John Rooney (Paul Newman), a Irish-American crime boss in Depression-era Illinois. Sullivan sees Rooney as a father figure, which makes Rooney's own son Connor (Daniel Craig) envious. Sullivan and Connor are sent to a disgruntled employee. Sullivan's son Michael, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) accidently witnesses Connor's impulsive killing of the employee. Sullivan tells Michael not to tell anyone about what he witnessed, but Connor plans to kill Sullivan's family. He kills Sullivan's wife Annie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and younger son Peter (Liam Aiken), thinking he murdered the young Michael, but Michael and Sullivan had fled to Chicago upon seeing the murder scene.

This is the second movie from director Sam Mendes. And boy, it's that good. Tom Hanks was great in the lead. I pretty much forgot about his previous roles as I watched the movie. This was Paul Newman's final on-screen role (though not his last role) and he was also brilliant. The one actor that made me raise an eyebrow was Daniel Craig. Having seen Casino Royale before Road to Perdition, I was surprised that he had no accent whatsoever in this. Jude Law, who plays photographer/assassin Harlen Maguire, was just downright cruel from the first time he appears.

My Rating: *****

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Field of Dreams

"If you build it, he will come."

That line has been said over and over (usually misquoted, by the way) ever since the realease of Field of Dreams back in 1989. Some people considered it one of the greatest sport movies of all time. I'm one of those people.

Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a farmer from Iowa who hears a voice which he interprets as a message to build a baseball field in his cornfield. Everyone thinks he's crazy for doing such a thing, but Ray builds the field anyway. When the field's completed, the ghosts of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) and the other seven banned Chicago White Sox players appear. Ray continues to hear voices which leads him to "kidnap" controversial author/activist Terence Mann (James Earl Jones).

From what I heard, some people tend to watch it with their fathers (usually sons). If you don't cry at the ending of the movie you have a heart of stone.

My Rating: *****

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Misery

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of horror novels or movies, mainly because sometimes they don't scare me enough. Having said that, I've read Rosemary's Baby, Carrie, The Shining and Misery while I've watched Jaws, Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Anyway, back to the Misery review.

Paul Sheldon is an author that's best known for his Victoria-era romance novels about the lead Misery Chastain. Having finished the manuscript for his new novel Fast Cars, he decides to drive to Los Angeles (after polishing off a bottle of champange), unaware that he's going to be driving in the biggest snowstrom of the year. As a result, he loses control of the car and crashes. He's rescued by Annie Wilkes, a woman who claims that she's his "number one fan". She takes care of Paul in her house rather than taking him to a hospital, since she used to be a nurse. Annie comes across Paul's manuscript and hates it after she reads it. She later forces Paul to burn it. After reading the newest Misery novel, Annie is put into a fit of rage after finding out that Misery's dead at the end of the book. She leaves Paul bedridden and alone in the house for 51 hours, nearly killing Paul. When she returns, she orders him to write a new Misery book just for her with a typewriter with the most-used keys falling out. She leaves him again to buy paper for him, but this time he's in a wheelchair so he can move around the house. He comes across a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings associated with Annie's dark past, making Paul realize he's in more trouble than he thought.

One of the most infamous scenes, in my opinion, from the book is the hobbling scene. It seems interesting because for the movie the producers made the scene tamer than what's in the book (probably to not get a notorious NC-17 rating). In the book, Annie cuts off Paul's left foot; in the movie, Annie breaks Paul's ankles with a sledgehammer.

Misery isn't Stephen King's greatest work, but it gets up there with The Shining.

My Rating: ****

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

In honor of the sudden passing of director John Hughes (RIP), I've decided to review one of his best-known works: Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Matthew Broderick plays the title character of Ferris Bueller, a teenager who decides to skip school one day by faking a disease. The only people that don't believe him are his sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) and his school's principal Mr. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones). Ferris convinces his friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) for a day on the town in Chicago. He also convinces Cameron to use Cameron's dad's Ferrari. Mr. Rooney goes on a wild goose chase to find Ferris to prove that Ferris is faking his disease.

This movie is definitely one movie that everyone should see sometime in their lifetime. If you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out on the rest of the world.
My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have one of the most successful collaborations in Hollywood. They've worked together on six movies (soon to be seven with the March release of Alice in Wonderland), all of which garnering critical acclaim for both. Their most recent movie Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is, by far, both their best work together and the bloodiest movie I've ever seen.

Depp plays the title character of Sweeney Todd, a barber who returns to London after fifteen years of exile for a crime he didn't commit. The person who sentenced him was the corrupt Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) and now Sweeney swears revenge on Turpin. Sweeney returns to find a meat pie shop open where the owner Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) explains to Sweeney that his wife Lucy is dead and his daughter Johanna is in the hands of Turpin. Sweeney opens a barbershop above her store, and soon goes on a murderous rampage.

When I finished watching the movie, I was surprised that Burton could do something that's darker than all of his other dark films combined. Depp, on the other hand, was BRILLIANT. He really showed that he can sing, as well as Carter. But, I'll admit, I spent a portion of the movie with my hands over my eyes.

My Rating: ****

12 Angry Men

Usually, when a director makes their debut, the movie either comes and goes in a blink of an eye or it leaves a lasting impression on those who see it. Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men definitely falls into the latter.

The movie opens in a courtroom where, after hearing the closing statements, the jury listening to the judge telling them their decision for the fate of a teenage boy accused of murdering his father must be unanimous. It then cuts to the jury room, where some of the jurors say they want to make the verdict quick so they can watch the baseball game. However, they don't get a quick verdict because one reluctant juror (played brilliantly by Henry Fonda) says that the boy is innocent. Slowly but surely, he explains how some of the factors heard in court are inaccurate. Despite this, Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb) still thinks that the boy's guilty.

The movie generates a feeling of claustrophobia from the camera angles, which is a powerful part of the movie. The acting is also powerful, particularly from Fonda. Though, I'm still amazed that this is Sidney Lumet's directorial debut. He has made other powerful movies such as The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon and Network, but 12 Angry Men is the best of the bunch.

My Rating: *****

Hello!

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Anna, and I'm 15 (16 in September). I live in upstate New York. I have a younger brother who'll be starting high school at Albany Academy next month and an older sister who'll be starting college at Vassar next month as well.

As you can tell by the title of the blog, I am a fan of movies and books. Currently, my favorite movies are The Dark Knight, WALL-E, The Godfather (parts I and II), The 400 Blows, among others. My favorite books are The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink and The Shining by Stephen King.

In this blog, I will be reviewing films I've seen and books I've read, and see if they're worth recommending.