Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

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I first watched this film with my best friend on a rainy day in Cambridge, in 2009.  We both thoroughly enjoyed the film and it also left us extremely keen to visit Barcelona, hence a trip is on the cards for next year!

Vicky Cristina Barcelona has an ensemble cast that I love; Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall.  The film follows two best friends (Vickie and Cristina) on holiday in Barcelona.  They are both very different personalities.

Vicky and Cristina

Vicky (Hall) is reserved, cautious and clever.  Vicky is studying for her Masters in Catalan Studies.  She is engaged to the nice, but slightly dull and ‘safe’ Doug.  Cristina (Johansson) is a creative, free spirit who is single.  She goes from one bad relationship to another and doesn’t know what to do with her life, so she decides to tag along with Vicky to Barcelona.

Juan Antonio with Cristina

Whilst staying at Vicky’s godparents, the girls explore Barcelona and meet seductive artist, Juan Antonio (Bardem).  They both like him and vice versa, but the reserved Vicky keeps this to herself and Cristina embarks on a relationship with Juan Antonio.  Throw into the mix the beautiful, but unstable, Maria Elena (Cruz) who turns up….Juan Antonio’s ex-wife who still loves him.

The real leading lady, after Penelope’s brilliant Oscar-winning turn as Maria Elena, is Barcelona itself.  Arty, creative, passionate and bewitching, much like Juan Antonio beckoning Vickie into something new and wonderful, with an element of risk.  Originally, Woody Allen wrote a screenplay that was based in San Francisco, I really cannot imagine this film anywhere else except Barcelona.

Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz)

Vicky: “No. Look, I’m not free. I’m committed. You know what my theory is? And when I drink, I get brutally frank. I think that you’re still hurting from the failure of your marriage to Maria Elena, and you’re trying to lose yourself in empty sex.”

Why do I love this film?  Vicky represents the cautious, ‘do what’s right’ side, play it safe side of myself.  Part of me is similar to Cristina, creative and still not sure what to do with my life.  I like the realness that Woody Allen brings to the relationships between these characters and whilst realistic, this film is still nonetheless charming and romantic..

 

Images: IMDb

 

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Growing up with Star Wars

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I’ve mentioned before that when I was at first school, most of my friends wanted to be Sandy in Grease, but I wanted to be Princess Leia.  I even got my Mum to put my hair in Leia-type hairdo’s, involving plaits mostly.  The boys let me play as none of them wanted to be Leia.  They were too busy arguing over who was Han and who was Luke…..and Chewie and the droids.

Iconic scene from Star Wars: Luke on Tatooine

Any child born, or growing up, in the 70’s would literally have to have been from another planet if they had not at least seen, what is, the most famous movie saga in the world.  That instantly recognisable operatic movie score from John Williams.  The closest anything else has come to Star Wars is Harry Potter, but that is for another post.

Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon

When George Lucas wrote Star Wars, he was writing a space adventure for children to enjoy.  He never envisaged it would reach such stratospheric levels of fandom, love and devotion. He says he was inspired by westerns, the old-fashioned good vs. evil and that good always wins in the end.

The Empire Strikes Back: Luke and Yoda

I remember my brothers collecting the Star Wars spaceships and figures.  I was bought My Little Pony and Barbie, which utterly bored me.  I was forever playing with Lego and Star Wars toys when I wasn’t riding my bike, or climbing trees.  I was a little tomboy.  Hence my admiration for Princess Leia.  I loved the scene in Return of the Jedi when she leaps on a speeder bike in pursuit of a biker scout, for example.  She didn’t wait for the boys to deal with the dilemma/problem.

That ending. Gulp….

I was 8 when I saw the Empire Strikes Back (the same year I saw ET) and I remember crying when Han got frozen, confusion at that paternity revelation and the ending.  It couldn’t end like that, could it?  As an adult, Empire is my favourite of the trilogy.  It is the operatic, dark, second act.  However, back to my childhood, I was relieved when good won out in Jedi and loved the cute ewoks, but my brothers found them annoying.  However, the boys got Leia in a gold bikini so they shouldn’t complain.

Return of the Jedi

My teens, which I hated, came and went.  In my early 20’s the trilogy was rereleased at cinemas ahead of the new prequel, The Phantom Menace.  I had never seen the films at the cinema as I was only 2 when Star Wars came out.  I dragged one of my best friends along and after seeing Star Wars, she really looked forward to the next two films.  Seeing certain scenes such as the X-Wing attack on the Death Star, Hoth, Cloud City and the speeder bike chase on Endor was amazing.  To a child, this would be pure cinematic magic.

Wicket. Cute.

So, in 1999, the day tickets went on sale for The Phantom Menace, I got up early and booked tickets for myself and two best friends for the first showing.  On the day, queues were going round the block and people were offering three or four times the price for a ticket, but nobody was selling.  There was an air of hushed excitement when we all filed in, which I’ve never experienced before in a cinema………it was all for nothing.  It just didn’t have the charm, or magic.  The best thing Star Wars-related that year was Simon Pegg’s episode of Spaced called ‘Chaos’.  Simon Pegg is another huge fan of the trilogy.

Mace Windu. Bad-Ass Jedi. Purple Lightsaber.

I dutifully watched Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, hoping things would improve, the latter film being the best of the prequels.  I feel sorry for Jake Lloyd who copped all the flak.  He was just a kid.  Lucas should have cast an older Anakin and Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman (forgiven because of Black Swan) were wooden and awful.  Then there was the awful Jar-Jar Binks….. There were a few good scenes and glimpses of what could have been, in all three movies.  Ewan McGregor hit his stride as Obi Wan in Clones and Revenge.  Darth Maul was the best thing in Phantom.  Mace Windu was the best thing about the whole trilogy.  Too cool for Jedi school.

Episode VII Cast Meeting

Anyway, onwards and upwards.  My 5 year old is now Star Wars obsessed.  Star Wars is his world.  Luke Skywalker is awesome and my son wants to be a Jedi when he grows up, alongside acting, directing and winning the Tour de France. Of course.  He will be 7 when Episode VII is released in December 2015.  I cannot wait to take him to the cinema, along with my husband, my brothers and nephews.  This is a film with huge expectations, build-up and excitement, much like Christmas.  I have every faith in JJ Abrams being the man for the job.  I think the force is strong in this one.

Images: IMDb

The 90’s: The Shawshank Redemption

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The Shawshank Redemption regularly tops favourite and greatest film movie polls.  The film was only released in 1994, but it feels like it’s been around forever.  It didn’t perform well initially, although it only opened as a limited release.  When it was rereleased in 1995 because the film was nominated for seven Oscars (which, the film should have won IMO) the film performed much better at the box office.  Like many other brilliant films though (The Bourne Identity being a good example), The Shawshank Redemption came into it’s own when it was released on vhs, fast becoming a much loved movie.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

A story by Stephen King, adapted into a screenplay and directed by Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption is a modern classic.  Set in 1947, it tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is imprisoned in the notorious Shawshank Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover.  Andy maintains he is innocent, much to the bemusement of other inmates. The story is about this, but mainly about the improbable friendship that develops between Andy and Red, a ‘lifer’, played delightfully by Morgan Freeman.  Shawshank also focuses on the rather grim side of prison life and how Andy copes with it.

There are so many memorable moments in this movie, like when gentle prison librarian, Brooks, gets parole, but on returning to the outside world, he cannot cope with it.  Memorable moments in films are not always happy.  We need to remember that prisoners are human beings too.

Brooks

Then there is the quote below from my favourite scene in the movie, where Andy plays the Marriage of Figaro through the PA so the whole prison hears it.

Red: [narrating] I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

Red and the other inmates

Why do fans (including myself) love this film so much?  Shawshank makes you feel sad, happy, angry, uplifted…..so many emotions throughout.  It’s an old-fashioned story about finding hope in a hopeless place.  The cast are fabulous and, for those who have seen it, you’ll know what I mean when I say, what an ending! To describe the ending in any way for anybody who has not watched Shawshank, would ruin it.  You need to watch this film with an open mind and enjoy it……

Andy: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Andy and Red

Trivia:

Of all the brilliant work he has done, this is Morgan Freeman’s favourite film

Rob Reiner wanted to direct, with Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise as Red and Andy.  Thankfully Frank Darabont decided he would direct.  I don’t feel the movie would have been the same without Tim and Morgan in those roles.  You believe this friendship is real and that is the heart of this film.

Images: IMDb

My Movie Heroines

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There is always talk that there is a lack of role models/heroines/strong women in movies for young girls and women to look up to.  I disagree.  I made this list pretty quickly.  Male heroes are more ‘trumped up’ and we hear more about them, but it doesn’t make the heroines that exist less valid.  My list is compiled of my personal movie heroines, it is not complete and there are more I could add, but my post would be too long if I did.  I have made my list starting from the bottom.  I hope you enjoy reading and let me know in the comments section who your favourite movie heroine is and why!

18.  Roberta Waterbury – The Railway Children

Roberta (third from left) – The Railway Children

Selfless.  Risks her own life to stop a train from crashing.  Thinks quickly and calmly in an emergency.  Smart girl.

17.  Iris Henderson – The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Iris (2nd from left) – The Lady Vanishes

Persistent.  Can’t be fobbed off.  Whilst everybody tries to brush Iris off as a delusional and hysterical girl, she perseveres in finding the missing Miss Froy, with, or without help.  The recent tv version made Iris look like a hysterical girl.  Not impressed.

16.  Lola – Run Lola Run

Lola – Run Lola Run

Calm in a crisis.  Brave.  Quick on her feet.  Funky hair.  Lola is literally running to save her man’s life.  Refreshing for the girl to be the one saving the guy.

15.  Tiffany – Silver Linings Playbook

Tiffany – Silver Linings Playbook

Straight-talking.  Smart.  Funny.  Doesn’t put up with anyone being rude to her.  She knows a wounded soul when she sees one….because she is one too.  She saves Pat from himself and helps him find true love, not the fake love he thought he needed.

14.  Jo March – Little Women

Jo March – Little Women

Clever. Bookish.  Stubborn.  Free-spirited.  Ambitious.  She does not want to be shackled by what is seen as proper and right for a young woman in the time she lives in.  She wants to do her own thing and pursue her dream.

13.  Clarice Starling – The Silence of the Lambs

Clarice Starling – Silence of the Lambs

Intelligent.  Calm.  Doesn’t scare easily.  In a ‘man’s job’.  It wasn’t that long ago when there weren’t many women in the FBI.  Dealt with Hannibal Lector when others couldn’t.

12.  Mattie Ross – True Grit

Mattie Ross – True Grit

Brave young girl.  Living in an unforgiving time, which was not kind to children or women.  Seeks justice for her family and will not give up until she gets it.

11.  Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Protective.  Kind.  Athletic.  Smart.  Takes her little sister’s place in the games to protect her.  Very handy with a bow and arrow.

10.  Sarah Connor – Terminator 2

Sarah Connor – Terminator 2

Athletic.  Tough.  Calm.  Trains until she could join the marines because she’s so tough.  All to protect her son and try and save mankind in the future.

9.  Black Widow – Avengers Assemble

Black Widow – Avengers

Kick-Ass.  Unflappable.  Daredevil.  Can hold her own in the Avengers/SHIELD environment.  Not impressed by all the testosterone flying around.

8.  The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo – Kill Bill

The Bride – Kill Bill

Strong.  Kick-Ass.  Intelligent.  Persistent.  She will not stop until she has taken vengeance against Bill and his assassins who murdered her unborn child and left her for dead, on her wedding day.  Besides, she makes a yellow tracksuit look cool.

7.  Hit Girl – Kick Ass

Hit Girl – Kick Ass

Small.  Mouthy (erm, one word springs to mind). Kick-Ass. Brave.  Vigilante.  Hit Girl proves that size certainly does not matter and holds her own against so called tough guys/villains.

6.  Ellen Ripley – Aliens

Ellen Ripley – Aliens

Protective.  Maternal.  Brave.  Strong.  Intelligent.  I mean, come on, have you seen the films?  Look what Ripley was up against. One cool lady.

5.  Mystique – X-Men series

Mystique – X-Men

Blue.  Kick-Ass.  Strong.  Loyal.  Knows what she wants.  No pushover.  I love that Mystique (after First Class) is comfortable in her own skin.  She doesn’t see why she should have to conform to a certain look and feels she should be accepted for who she is.  I love that.  Very relevant to young girls who think there is only one acceptable body shape, thanks to the media.

4.  Eowyn – Lord of the Rings

Eowyn – Lord of the Rings

Still waters……  Does not sit on the sidelines.  Brave.  Eowyn is a brilliant swordswoman.  She wants the chance to fight for her land and people, just as the men do.  Disguises as a man and manages to enter the battlefield.  Kills the Witch-King.

The Witch-King: “No man may kill me!”

Eowyn: “I am no man!”

3.  Violette Szabo – Carve her name with Pride

Violet Szabo – Carve Her Name with Pride

Intelligent.  Brave.  Calm.  Fluent in French.  Worked as a special ops agent for the British during the second world war. During her second mission, she got captured, was tortured and interrogated before being executed.  Amazing lady and this was a true story.

2.  Hermione Granger – Harry Potter series

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter

Studious.  Bookish.  Intelligent.  Extremely Polite.  Caring.  Amazing witch.  Most loyal friend ever.  For young girls, Hermione is a brilliant character to look up to.  She knows her education and studying are important, she does what is right and she stands by her friends.

“Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery and — oh Harry — be careful!”

1.  Princess Leia – Star Wars saga

Princess Leia – Star Wars

Regal.  Witty.  Clever.  Handy with a blaster and speeder bike. Calm.  Han Solo-snaring.  There weren’t many heroines in films when I was little that would have made this list.  There were too many princesses of the Disney type, or screaming bimbos.  Princess Leia is the first one that made an impression on me.  I like the way she spoke and handled herself.

Leia:  “Somebody has to save our skins……into the garbage chute fly-boy!”

 

Images: IMDb

Movies, Memories and Childhood: Part III, Teen Years

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Teens.  Mean girls.  High school.  Eugh.  These films are not necessarily favourites, but they are great films from my teen years.  Looking back, in my last couple of years at school, I looked a little bit like Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice…..black hat, plum-coloured hair, black leggings, tartan mini skirt, black tunic, dark purple lipstick, black eyeliner……

Heathers (1988)

Heathers

Deliciously, darkly funny.  Heathers stars Winona Ryder and Christian Slater at their best.  A tale of two outcasts, JD and Veronica.  Veronica is desperate to fit in with the popular girls, who are actually bullies and secretly despised, but she hooks up with JD who has another plan for the girls, all three girls are called Heather.  This is Mean Girls Goes Dark, except this came out before Mean Girls so I think the latter may have been inspired by Heathers.  A film for anyone that hated high school.

Veronica (to one of the Heathers):  If everyone jumped off a cliff would you?

Heather: Probably.

 

The Lost Boys (1987)

The Lost Boys

Two brothers, Sam and Michael (Corey Haim and Jason Patric), are uprooted to Santa Carla by their newly divorced mother (played by Diane Weiss) to go and live with their grandfather.  One night at the fairground, they come across a group of outsiders with a fondness for motorcycles…..and blood.  Led by David (Kiefer Sutherland), the group turn Michael into one of them.  Corey Feldman plays one of the vampire-hunting Frog brothers.  Both the Corey’s are 80’s brilliant in this film.  I never got the fuss over Jason Patric.  Julia Roberts, I mean you!  Why would you run off with Jason Patric when your fiance was Kiefer?  If you like being frightened with some laughs thrown in too, you will like this film.  Think ‘Scream’ for the 80’s. Great soundtrack as well.

Trivia: The Lost Boys is a reference to the companions of Peter Pan who remained young.

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Cocky, clever, funny and popular kid, Ferris, decides to skip school with his girlfriend and best friend…..in a ferrari, in Chicago.  Meanwhile, Ed Rooney (the headmaster) and Ferris’s sister (played brilliantly by Jennifer Grey) are trying to catch him out.  I love this film.  I was nearly eleven when this film came out so I didn’t watch it until my teens.  This is, in my opinion, John Hughes best movie.  That and Planes, Trains & Automobiles.  Great as Matthew Broderick is as Ferris, my favourite character is Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) who, funny as he is, is quite obviously unhappy.

Grace (school secretary): Oh he’s very popular Ed.  The sportos, motorheads, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him.  They think he’s a righteous dude.

 

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Returns

I love Tim Burton’s movies, although I really don’t like the first Batman film.  I think The Joker was too…jokey and then there was Vicki Vale screaming a lot.  To me, it felt like Burton was being restrained and not being true to himself.  However, Batman Returns screams Tim Burton.  It is wonderfully demented and I love it!  Gotham City never looked more gothic.  Michelle Pfeiffer steals the film as Selena Kyle/Catwoman.

Trivia: During one scene, Michelle Pfeiffer had to put a live bird in her mouth.

 

What is your favourite movie from your teens?

Images: IMDb

My Favourite Movie Soundtracks

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The soundtrack to a movie is hugely important.  It gives a movie impact by stirring the relevant emotion in the viewer.  Think of John Barry’s music for Out of Africa for example.  Here is a list of some of my favourite soundtracks, some well known, others not.

 

The Talented Mr Ripley – Various artists

Beautiful, brilliant and haunting…..just like the film, this music will get inside your head.  I love that Matt Damon and Jude Law perform on the soundtrack.  My favourite piece is a classical music piece, Italia, by Gabriel Yared. It reminds me of how I feel when I arrive in Italy on holiday.

 

The Virgin Suicides – Various Artists

Again, beautiful soundtrack.  Everything about Sophia Coppola’s films are in the little details and the soundtrack is perfect, making one think of lazy, hot summers and first love.  I adore Playground Love by Air.

 

Tron Legacy – Daft Punk

I have always liked Daft Punk so I thought it was pretty cool that Disney gave them free rein on the soundtrack.  Daft Punk have created an amazing score that could not be more perfect for this film.  Various pieces have been used for adverts, unsurprisingly.  We always listen to the whole album when driving over the San Gottard pass to get to Italy every year.  My favourite track? Two, Outlands and Disc Wars, but if you love electro then you’ll love the whole album.

 

Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet – Various Artists

The music for these two fantastic films, is key. It is quite unusual for the music to be centre stage in what are not quite musicals in the traditional sense, or Romeo & Juliet is not at least.  I love the variety of rock and pop.  My favourite tracks are I’m Kissing You by Des’ree and Diamond Dogs by Beck.

 

Hitch – Various Artists

Just like the film itself, the soundtrack is totally feel-good, I  mean, this film has Heavy D & the Boyz for goodness sake!  My favourite track is 1 Thing by Amerie.  This movie and soundtrack reminds me of a great year in my life.

 

Despicable Me (1 & 2) – Pharrell & Various Artists

What can I say?  I have two little boys who adore these films and I admit, I enjoy the soundtrack with them too.  My 5 year old knows the despicable me ‘rap’.  Best track?  Happy.  End of.  Pharrell is indeed a clever guy.

 

The Bodyguard – Whitney Houston

Now, more than ever, this soundtrack is more heartbreaking because of poor Whitney.  She was at the top of her game here and surprised everyone with how good an actress she was to boot.  I love, I Have Nothing.

 

Lord of the Rings – Howard Shore

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Sweeping and epic, like the trilogy, the Lord of the Rings soundtrack is a triumph.  Instantly recognisable, like other hugely successful film saga soundtracks, this is already a classic.  All of it is as brilliant as the three films themselves.

 

The Empire Strikes Back – John Williams

Speaking of epic sagas, John Williams score for Empire is just that.  The best track on the soundtrack is undoubtedly Finale.  Best soundtrack of the trilogy for the best film of the trilogy.  I’m not including episodes 1-3.

 

The Lost Boys – Various Artists

One of my favourite movies from my teens, this is one awesome soundtrack.  Really, no competition, best track is People are Strange by Echo & the Bunnymen.

 

Last, but not least….

When Harry Met Sally – Harry Connick Jr

I love this film.  Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal and writer, Nora Ephron (RiP), are at the top of their game.  So was Harry Connick Jr when he made this soundtrack.  Perfect songs for a movie about a couple of friends in New York trying to find true love.  My favourite track? Gotta be, It Had to be You.

 

There are so many more, too many to mention, but anything by John Williams, the fab techno soundtrack to Run, Lola, Run, Quentin Tarantino’s movies always have good music (Kill Bill a prime example), I love Danny Elfman’s quirky sound (he scores Tim Burton’s movies), Michael Ghiacchino’s score for Star Trek: Into Darkness, Alan Silvestri’s score for Avengers Assemble, the Bond movie soundtracks…..

 

images: IMDb

 

 

Movies, Memories and Childhood: Part II – Spielberg

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I was lucky growing up.  Born in the mid-70’s, all the best children and family films were enjoyed by my generation.  These films have become part of pop culture and are still much loved today.

For me, one name is synonymous with my childhood: Spielberg.  My generation grew up with Steven Spielberg’s movies.  Without sounding too much like Dawson Leary, Spielberg’s films have a magic that other directors don’t have.  I think the closest directors in creating Spielbergian magic these days would be JJ Abrams and M Night Shymalan, the latter with Signs in particular.

ET and Elliot in the famous bike scene

Certain scenes in his movies really stand out for me; in Jaws, the mother of the little boy (killed by the shark) walks up to Brody and slaps him, Brody seeing the shark…..the opening scene of Raiders and Indy shooting the assassin in the market…..in ET it’s the scene with the bicycles and the goodbye….in Empire of the Sun it’s the scene with Jim and his Mother in the crowd…..there are too many moments to name, but I remember them all.

Empire of the Sun

Some are dismissive of his work for this very reason, but how can you dismiss a director who made Empire of the Sun, War Horse, Lincoln and Schindler’s List?  Every Spielberg film has at least one truly beautiful moment.  The light, the music (by the amazing John Williams), the emotion…..Spielberg is like a magician, turning scenes into iconic cinematic moments.

The Goonies

Spielberg has also written and/or been executive producer of other childhood favourites such as, The Goonies, Gremlins and Back to the Future.  One talented guy.

More recently Steven Spielberg directed the wonderful ‘The Adventures of Tintin’.  My 5 year old loved it.  It is so good that after 10 minutes, you forget it’s animated.

Jaws

I always feel Steven Spielberg underrates himself as a director in interviews.  Being humble is a very good quality, but if I ever had the chance to tell him, I would tell him how beautiful and inspiring his films have been and how he is still inspiring the next generation of children (my son).  I hope he keeps on making wonderful films.

“I interpret my dreams one way and make a movie out of them and people see my movies and make them part of their dreams” Steven Spielberg

images: IMDb