Thursday, October 6, 2016

Stardust (2007)

Number Rolled: 91
Movie Name/Year: Stardust (2007)
Tagline: Love is magic.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Length: 127 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production Companies: Paramount Pictures, Marv Films, Vaughn Productions, Di Bonaventura, Ingenious Film Partners, Truenorth Productions
Producer: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Dreyer, Chantal Feghali, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Marks, Peter Morton, Tarquin Pack, Kris Thykier, Matthew Vaughn, David Womark
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Neil Gaiman
Actors: Ian McKellen, Bimbo Hart, Alastair MacIntosh, David Kelly, Ben Barnes, Kate Magowan, Melanie Hill, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Henry Cavill, Nathaniel Parker, Peter O’Toole, Mark Strong, Jason Flemyng, Mark Heap, Struan Rodger, Rupert Everett, David Walliams, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adam Buxton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Sarah Alexander, Joanna Scanlan, Mark Williams, Olivia Grant, Robert De Niro, Ricky Gervais

Blurb from Netflix: To win his true love’s heart, wide-eyed Tristan Thorn journeys to a forbidden realm to retrieve a fallen star that has taken human form.

Selina’s Point of View:
I had more fun watching this film than I have any other film in a long time. Oh, I’ve loved a lot of films recently. Punk’s Dead (2016), ARQ (2016), The Hallow (2015), The Hunters (2013)... are all films I’ve seen in the last couple of months that were great and that stuck with me.

Stardust was a great movie, but it surpassed that description.

It was more entertaining and fun than most of the movies that come to mind. This was a film that I could sit down and watch a hundred times and never get bored of.

There is no part of Stardust that I can find any fault in. The caliber of the cast was so incredible that it’s a little intimidating. Acting giants such as Sir Ian McKellan (Vicious, Mr. Holmes, X-Men), Robert De Niro (Heist, The Intern, Silver Linings Playbook) and Michelle Pfeiffer (The Family, White Oleander, Grease 2) hooked up with familiar names like Ricky Gervais (The Office, Derek, Escape from Planet Earth), Claire Daines (Homeland, Me and Orson Welles, Igby Goes Down), Henry Cavill (The Tudors, Whatever Works, Immortals), and Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, High-Rise, American Sniper).

And then there was Charlie Cox (The Theory of Everything, Boardwalk Empire, Glorious 39).

Charlie Cox is very quickly becoming a favorite of mine. His acting skills are second to none. Sure, we’ve all seen him in Daredevil (2015 -)and we’re looking forward to seeing him in The Defenders (2017 -), but shows like that and movies like this can be cut and paste and altered. That sometimes dampens the true effect of an actor.

A cousin of mine works behind the scenes on live shows in Manhattan. Occasionally, he has access to tickets that he offers to the people he cares about. He’s been very careful to let us know that he will only ever get us tickets to the shows that are absolutely worth seeing. A few months ago, he invited me, my husband, and my best friend to go see one of those shows: Incognito (2016).

He failed to mention that one of the four actors in this “small show” was none other than Charlie Cox.

I saw Cox perform live that day. No cuts. No pastes. No altering.

It was a small theater that had me regretting not wearing my knee brace because I kept accidentally kicking the chair in front of me. There were only four actors in the entire play and one set with only a few chairs as props. Each actor played several different characters for the same storyline.

I was enthralled by the story, which was made more in depth by the sheer simplicity of it all.

As much as I enjoyed the total package of Incognito, it was Charlie Cox that stood out to me the most.

His performance that day will stick in my memory for the rest of my life. I can say that with complete confidence.

When I see movies like Stardust, or shows like Daredevil now… I’m just reminded of the true depth of this man’s talent. To this day, I have yet to be disappointed by anything he’s done.

IMDB shows that his visible career started fourteen years ago. He’s getting to be bigger now, more people have heard of him… but give it a little more time and he’s going to be a household name. He’s going to be on the level of those acting giants I mentioned earlier. He’s going to be the kind of actor that a director wants starring in their film because his name alone will sell tickets. And if that doesn’t happen, then this world is even more ignorant than I think it is.

Now that I’ve gone off on my fangirl rant, I’ll get back to Stardust.

Why is this film not held on the same level as The Princess Bride (1987)? Why are people not quoting it and referencing it constantly? I wish I could answer those questions. This film should have become a classic and I don’t understand why I hadn’t heard of it until we rolled it for this blog.

Is there a cult following somewhere that I can join? I’m 100% for that.

Cat’s Point of View:
I actually said “Yessssssssssssss!” when this turned up as our next movie. I’ve been wanting to watch this since it first hit theaters. Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Marvel Knights: Eternals, Lucifer) is such a masterful storyteller. I get excited whenever his work makes it to a live-action adaptation.

Then there’s the cast. I mean come on! Sir Ian McKellen’s (Flushed Away, The Golden Compass, The Dresser) part might be small but his voice narrating just sets up the expectation of a grand tale. This story certainly delivers on that.

Robert De Niro (Machete, The Family, Hands of Stone) added some amazing moments both in levity and the unexpectedly profound. Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray, Personal Effects, New Year's Eve) was flawless in the wicked ways of her character Lamia. British comedian Ricky Gervais (Night at the Museum, Ghost Town, Cemetery Junction) even had a small but hilariously important role.

Claire Danes (Evening, Temple Grandin, As Cool As I Am), whom stole my heart in My So Called Life (1994-1995), her angsty 90s TV drama, quite literally, as well as figuratively, shined as brightly as her character. I loved the dynamic between her character Yvaine and Tristan. Seriously – there were so many recognizable actors in this that I can’t even begin to touch on them all here or I’d be yammering on at you forever.

I do find it a bit ironic that this movie has Henry Cavill (Goodbye Mr. Chips, Tristan + Isolde, The Cold Light of Day) facing off with Charlie Cox (Stone of Destiny, There Be Dragons, Hello Carter). Considering when the film was made, was this a bit of cosmic foreshadowing of the Marvel and DC cinematic rivalry? The iconic caped hero of blue and red and the blind man in red leather - of course, that has nothing to do with this movie specifically; but I think my inner geek was squeeing through the whole film.

The wit that Gaiman infuses into his work is unmistakable throughout. The movie is both wonderful fantasy and adventure and also holds an undercurrent of a message that just might seep into the audience through the osmosis of experiencing it.

Mark this on a calendar. I might never say it again. I am actually glad that Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys, Tideland, The Zero Theorem) didn’t end up at the helm of this project. He was offered the job, but turned it down because he’d just finished a fairytale-based movie. While I absolutely adore my Python boys – the movie might’ve turned out a lot different.  

It’s likely purist fans of the original story might have bits to poke at that have been changed somehow – but I was enjoying the movie so much I didn’t even care. It’s a rare thing for a movie to give me goosebumps. This one did just that.

I would eagerly recommend this movie and will likely watch it on more than one future occasion.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 76%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 86%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 0/5 (WTF Netflix? Really? 0? That’s a first… and also super wrong.)
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score5/5

P.S. Minor sound addition after the credits – not a scene, just a sound addition.

P.S.2. Based on a book of the same name by Neil Gaiman.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 3, 2016

The World Made Straight (2015)

Number Rolled: 35
Movie Name/Year: The World Made Straight (2015)
Tagline: For blood. For money. For a way out.
Genre: Drama
Length: 119 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Bifrost Pictures, Dreambridge Films, Myriad Pictures
Producer: Robert Ogden Barnum, David Betsill, David Burris, Brad Coolidge, Melissa Coolidge, Kirk D’Amico, Matt Garretson, Blair Hahn, Victor Ho, Eric Hollenbeck, Todd J. Labarowski, Katie Mustard, Warren Ostergard, Brian Quattrini, Bill Wagenseller, Daniel Wagner, Michael Wrenn
Director: David Burris
Writer: Shane Danielsen, Ron Rash
Actors: Noah Wyle, Jeremy Irvine, Minka Kelly, Adelaide Clemens, Steve Earle, Haley Joel Osment, Marcus Hester, Colin Dennard, Alex Van, Robin Mullins, Frances Burnett, Robert Haulbrook, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Ryan Taylor Harris

Blurb from Netflix: A young man in Appalachia finds himself caught between vengeful pot farmers, a violent legacy from the Civil War and his own unpredictable future.

Selina’s Point of View:
There is simply nothing more boring to me than a straight drama film. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what The World Made Straight was.

The worst part about this film being boring is that looking away from the screen, or letting your mind wander, for even a minute means having to rewind in order to figure out what the fuck you missed. After a moment of wandering mind syndrome, nothing makes sense anymore. You HAVE to concentrate on every word or you’ll get lost. I started over once and had to rewind twice.

I don’t mind a smart film. Sometimes, a movie that makes me think is exactly what I’m looking for. Those films can be inspirational, educational, and incredibly surprising. However, when a film is both boring and the kind that makes me think, I stop caring real quick.

I want to clarify that the problem was not the story itself.

The World Made Straight is based on a book. I’m willing to bet that book is an incredible read (despite the credit given to Hemmingway in one scene that made me roll my eyes because I HATE his style of writing).

The story was amazing in general. I may very well pick up the book. I suspect it will explain some things that the movie failed to really clarify as well as offer a much more entertaining version of the plot. Plus, it won’t suffer from death scenes starring actors that don’t play a believable death.

Despite some big issues I had with the acting quality bringing down the entertainment value of the film, the main three actors were not at fault. Noah Wyle (The Librarians, Falling Skies, ER), Jeremy Irvine (Now is Good, Life Bites, Great Expectations), and Minka Kelly (Papa Hemingway in Cuba, Almost Human, The Roommate) were all incredibly believable and might have even pulled the film out of the abyss for me if they weren’t surrounded by performances as convincing as Santa Claus in a tutu wearing Easter bunny ears and lighting a menorah.

I’d give the film a lower score, but I truly believe the story is going to stick with me for a long time.

Cat’s Point of View:
Netflix called this movie understated.  I’d have to agree.

There are some places where the battles of the past linger on in the present. It’s not just Hatfields and McCoys that have enmity that runs deep. Though, they’re likely the first to come to mind when you think of a feud in Appalachia. This isn’t a tale of mass-scale feuding. The concept is an undercurrent that threads through the film and gives it a bit of a sense of weight behind the personal dramas taking place.

This visualization of a novel is a layered redemption tale. It’s a bit on the cerebral side, though, coming in just short of being a history class.

Of course, before there was McDreamy on the television hospital drama scene; Noah Wyle (Snake & Mongoose, W., Queen of the Lot) made his mark as the hot doctor back in the day. He hasn’t lost a bit of that charm. I appreciated the subtle irony involved with his character – both in that connection and in the story.

I was most impressed with Jeremy Irvine (The Railway Man, A Night in Old Mexico, Stonewall). His performance was visceral as his character navigated the changes in his life.

There really weren’t any cast members that didn’t fully inhabit their roles believably. Minka Kelly’s (The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights, Lee Daniels' The Butler) character was an unexpected element that helped catalyst moments of the story. Steve Earle (Leaves of Grass, Treme, Dixieland) was extremely creepy beyond his character’s visage – not just because of his demeanor but in his intelligence.

This film was definitely at a slower pace than a lot of what we’ve watched lately. There’s a lot of water imagery here, as well. Rivers cut their way through the landscape over the ages, and this movie makes broad strokes of emotion over its course – but not fast or flashy. There wasn’t any white-water rafting going on here – literally or figuratively.

I think that the story needed to be paced as if it were a bit of a southern drawl; but at the same time it might have been too slow. It was hard for me to keep my interest in some places. If there had been a slightly better balance with that, I would have been able to give it a higher rating.

Anyone whom enjoys a drama where history meets the present without being an actual period piece might enjoy this movie. Fans of Lifetime Channel level drama intensity would probably also like this movie. I can’t say that I’d watch it again, though.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 63%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 46%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 3.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score2.5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 3.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score3/5

P.S. Based on a book with the same name, written by Ron Rash.

Movie Trailer: