Showing posts with label Picnic in Provence (Book Review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Picnic in Provence (Book Review). Show all posts

Friday, June 19, 2015

"Jurassic World" in 3-D and The Week in Reviews

[It's Swedish Week (with a bit of horror thrown in)! I review the new 3-D movie "Jurassic World" and DVDs "Miss Julie (a classic Swedish play) and the Swedish punk film "We Are the Best!"  The Book of the Week is "Picnic in Provence."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the 1960 Italian horror film "Black Sunday"]

Jurassic World

It's 22 years after what happened at Jurassic Park and now we have Isla Nublar, an island in Costa Rica, home to Jurassic World, a dinosaur park with even bigger and better dinosaurs.  What could possibly go wrong?

You would think the amusement park industry would have learned from what happened at Jurassic Park, but nooooo.  Here we go again.

"Jurassic World" continues John Hammond's dream of bringing dinosaurs back to life.  The park is a wonderland with a petting zoo of young, cute dinosaurs, a safari like cruise in a pod among the bigger dinosaurs and a Sea World-like demonstration with a dinosaur that jumps out of the water like a killer whale.

Owner of the park, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) is not a bad guy, but he wants to make money with this park. It's always about the money, isn't it? With visitor rates declining, he needs to come up with a bigger and better attraction every few years to quench people's desires for bigger and better so his lab, run by Dr. Henry Wu, has engineered a "monster," the "Indominus Rex," that will not only scare the pants off the kids, but the parents too.  It has been genetically engineered using traits from other dinosaurs and other species, and of course, it all backfires when Rexy escapes and wreaks havoc on the park.

"Jurassic World" grossed almost $209 million over the weekend, smashing all U.S. records for the highest week-end grosses ever.  It is indeed a summer blockbuster.

What makes a successful summer blockbuster?

Well, we need a handsome buff hero, a plucky heroine who doesn't like our hero - at first (sexual tension), cute kids in jeopardy, an overly dramatic musical score, an evil scientist, a clueless bad guy out for his own gain whose agenda screws things up even more, some humor and oh, yeah, scary monsters.

And this film has it all.

Chris Pratt is, Owen, our hero, who is working on training raptors to take commands.  He's all buffed up since he starred in another blockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy," but if you remember he played kind of a schleppy guy in TV's "Parks and Recreation." Now he's an action hero. Who knew?  I am happy for his success because I am a huge Chris Pratt fan.  He exudes warmth, charisma, and has a great sense of humor about himself.

Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard's little girl) is our plucky heroine, Claire, an officious official of Jurassic World, who goes from an uptight park manager to a badass once the dinosaurs get loose.  She is supposed to be taking care of her nephews, the cute kids Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), but she is too busy running the park so they end up getting themselves in some sticky situations. You know me.  I usually don't like kids in movies, especially the overly precocious ones, but these brothers are cute without being cutesy and they get to say some funny lines. BD Wong is back as our Mad Scientist and Vincent D'Onofrio is our clueless villain who has this idea that the raptors Owen has trained would do well as boots on the ground in the military. And now that Rexy is running rampant, he thinks it's a good idea to send them out to fight Rexy to prove his point.

Expertly directed by Colin Treverrow, whose only other directorial film credit is the indie film "Safety Not Guaranteed," the film brings us into the 21st century with all of the technical stuff that we have come to expect of blockbuster action films. But the film pays homage to the first film ("Jurassic Park") as Steven Spielberg's hand is definitely in this one too as one of the executive producers, and there is also a fun but gruesome "Jaws" moment.

The dinosaurs are awesome and terrifying, part puppeteering, part CGI, and they provide action and some scary moments.  The script (Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Treverrow, and Derek Connolly) uses a similar ploy that was used in the recent "Godzilla."  Slowly tease the audience with little peeks at parts of the monster and then scare us with the big reveal as we see what our hero has to deal with in all its badass glory.

The movie is tense and scary, especially in 3-D, but it's also splashed with humor and is just plain fun.

But the moral of this story?  Don't mess with Mother Nature!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is what a summer blockbuster should be.  Don't miss it and be sure to see it in 3-D.


You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)

Miss Julie (2014)

Jessica Chastain stars in this film version of the August Strindberg play.

Adapted and directed by Liv Ullman, who was famously Ingmar Bergman's protégé and lover and it shows in this film.  It's all very Bergmanesque: long shots of faces, beautiful cinematography and slow, slow, slow.

The film begins with a lonely little girl in a big house on a big estate longing for her mother.

Fast forward to a grown up Julie.  It's Midsummer's Eve in Ireland in 1890.  Julie is still lonely, but now she is also bored. She also has servants, John (Colin Farrell) and Kathleen (Samantha Morton, who looks like she finally got her teeth fixed).  And what do you do when you are lonely and bored?  Why you torment your servants and get one of them to seduce you.

There are only the three characters in the play and it takes place over the course of one evening, examining social hierarchy and the struggles between the classes, one of Strindberg's favorite themes.  It's also a struggle between the sexes as Miss Julie and John's bantering turns to sexual tension and hostility and Kathleen, John's supposed girlfriend, is betrayed.

Since this is based on a Swedish play which took place in Sweden, not sure why the locale was changed to Ireland.  But I guess we would have a hard time believing Colin Farrell was Swedish. 

Some critics had this on their Best of...lists for 2014, but this is not for everyone. Though the acting is fine, some classic works do not translate well to the screen.  This is one of them.  The static scenes in the kitchen and the long speeches evoke claustrophobia, not just as a filmic device but for the audience as well.

Miss Julie is a bit of a nutter.  At one point Colin says to Julie, "You are strange."  Uh, you think so?  I know so.

SPOILER ALERT: (but you probably shouldn't be watching this film anyway if you weren't familiar with the play because then you will REALLY be disappointed) Only way to escape your class and your loneliness is to kill yourself?

Rosy the Reviewer says...slow, slow, slow and talky, talky, talky.  Did I say it was slow and talky?

Three young misfit girls in 1980's Sweden form a punk band.

Two 13-year-old Swedish girls in Stockholm, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) in 1982 are dealing with their parents' misadventures while at the same time dealing with their own adolescence.  The parents don't seem to know what their kids are doing or where they are. The girls write rebellious songs and because punk is the ultimate rebellion against adults, they decide to form a punk band despite the fact that they don't know how to play any instruments and despite the fact that everyone else says "Punk is dead."

They are alienated from their families (who isn't at the age of 13)? Bobo's single mother is focused on looking for love and Klara's family is eccentric to say the least.

They don't really fit in at school either. The other kids make fun of them for their punk haircuts and the way they dress.  Boys sneer at them. The first song they write is called "Hate the sport" because they don't like gym class.  They eventually befriend a lonely young Christian, conservative girl, Hedvig (Liv Lemoyne), who can play the guitar and starts to give Bobo and Klara some musical instruction.

Lukas Moodysson has created an intimate and comic coming-of-age tale about teenage angst and feminism from a graphic novel by his wife, Coco. What sets this film apart from the usual "coming of age" tales is the charm of the three young stars, their characters' determination to be true to themselves and Moodysson's ability to capture what it's like to be thirteen.

Rolling Stone said, "One of the single best movies about punk."

Rosy the Reviewer says...I don't know about that but it was a sweet, touching film about female bonding.
(In Swedish with English subtitles)

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

259 to go!
Black Sunday (1960)

A vengeful witch returns from the grave two centuries after her death to make good on her curse.

In the 17th century, Asa and her lover are accused of witchcraft by her brother and a "mask of satan" is nailed to each of their faces (it's a very unpleasant mask with nails inside. Ew).  But before they nail on the mask, Asa curses her brother and his family and generations to come.  As she is being burned at a stake, it starts to rain so they bury her as is, which I guess opens the door for her return.  Not sure.

Fast forward to the 19th century.  Two men, one a doctor, are riding through a scary forest in a coach when the coach breaks down.  While the driver attempts to fix the coach, the two men wander into a crypt.  They come across Asa's casket and for some crazy reason, the doctor takes off Asa's mask. It reveals her face still intact though her eyes are hollowed out holes. The doctor pricks himself on something and some blood trickles down onto Asa's corpse.  Well, that's all she needed to get herself out of that casket to do her evil deeds.

While all of this is going on, back at the castle there is a young girl who looks just like Asa (it actually is the same actress who plays Asa) and Asa plans to take over her body.

Moral of this story?  Don't mess with bitches, I mean witches, unless you want a whole lotta trouble for centuries to come.
Why it's a Must See: "Filmed in Italy as La maschera del demonio, this was prepared for English-language release as The Mask of Satan but would end up being released in...America as Black Sunday the United Kingdom as Revenge of the Vampire...It opens with a marvelously grotesque execution as spiked demon masks are hammered onto the skulls of witches....Beside the lavish monochrome images, the eerie music, and the touches of blood-spurting goo, The Mask of Satan is also your best chance to savor the unique screen presence of [Barbara] Steele, the most strangely sexual actress to ever star in horror film...the huge-eyed Steele had found few roles suited to her startling looks in the British cinema and had to venture abroad...[and]...soon became the reigning queen of 1960's Italian horror films...Under any of its titles, this is the greatest gothic horror movie ever made in Italy."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

If this is the greatest gothic horror film ever made in Italy, not sure what that is saying about Italian movie-making.  The eye-popping overacting is too much and the English dubbing is terrible.  All of the horror conventions for period horror films are at play here:  slowly closing doors, fog, women fainting from shock, townspeople with pitchforks and heaving bosoms.

But I have always had a fondness for 1960's horror films.  I saw all of the Christopher Lee and Vincent Price films and a particular favorite was "Circus of Horrors."  I never quite got over that one. Without CGI and other special effects, those early horror films were verrrrry scarrrrry.

And despite much of the hoakum, this one definitely has its moments.

Barbara Steele, in the dual role of Asa and Katia, looks like a poor man's Sophia Loren so I can see why she made it in Italy.  However, it's the eyes that made her a great horror heroine (or witch).

Rosy the Reviewer's creepy and has some "ew" moments, but by today's standards, it's very campy so think a midnight movie after a few tokes, er, drinks.
(In Italian with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes  by Elizabeth Bard
Since her "Lunch in Paris," Bard continues her love affair with France.

Ever since Frances Mayes wowed us with her Tuscan adventures (with recipes) in 1996, there have been waves of books written about restoring a house in France or Italy, living on a farm or finding love there -- all with recipes.

This is the sequel to Bard's "Lunch in Paris," which was far more satisfying than this installment.  Here we still have recipes, but this one is more about starting life in a French village, being pregnant, getting one's first book published and starting an ice cream business. And Bard is a terrible food snob.  If you are not starting life in a French village, if you are not pregnant, publishing your first book, or starting an ice cream business and you don't like food snobs, not a lot to relate to here, whereas the first book was all about finding love in an unlikely place.  We can all relate to that.

About the food snob thing:  it could be something Bard picked up in France.  She talks about growing up in the 1970's and 80's and eating Kraft mac and cheese and other, what she calls, "fake food."  I get that, but what I don't get is her annoying habit of putting down her American roots and its attendant eating habits. 

However, I did enjoy her chapter on "The Quiet Diet."  In France, no one talks about what they will or won't eat.  If they eat too much the day before, they eat less the next day.  Voila!  It's nobody's business.  You just take care of it quietly.  And the reason the French are not overweight?  What we call dieting - small portions, no snacking, lots of veggies, fruit for dessert - the French call eating.

Rosy the Reviewer says...for this kind of book - fish out of water in a European rural setting - I liked "Castoff: True Adventures and Ordeals of an American Family on a French Farm" by Jan Murra and Carol Drinkwater's "Olive series" better, with or without recipes.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

Rosy the Reviewer Does Italy Pt. 4:  What I Learned


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