The Princess Bride – not a kissing movie

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Nat thought – the best ironic fairy tale you’ll ever see.

If I had my way, a top ten would include an inordinate number of films, but each one would still have the importance it deserves from being in a person’s top ten. Unless you’re one of the four people in the world who insist they don’t like films, I’d reckon most people watch one or two a week. Multiply that by a few decades and I’m sure you can see that ten is just not enough for a top ten.

So when I say 1987’s The Princess Bride is in my top ten all-time best films, just know that even though I could easily say that for about a hundred films, you’re not to think any less of that accolade, OK?

I knew nothing about The Princess Bride when I went to see it in the cinema, other than it starred Robin Wright, and I was currently entranced by her character Kellie Capwell in the silly 90’s soap Santa Barbara – yeah, ummm, let’s pretend I didn’t just say that.

Now perhaps unfairly, and because she plays a character called Princess Buttercup, my expectations were not that high. I thought – it’s her first film, she’s a slightly (cough) attractive blonde playing a princess for god’s sake. It’ll just be a piece of fluff. It’s not like Kellie Capwell will actually attach herself to something with any substance for her first film, right?

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That’s her, being all priincessy and peasasnty at the same time.

How very ignorant of my teenage self. Not to mention sexist. And blondeist. Then again, this role hardly stretches her acting ability, and certainly doesn’t allude to the talent you can see later in films like Forest Gump, The Crossing Guard and White Oleander. But she was 21 and known only for a soap, so landing her first film role in a movie that went on to become a cult favourite is not bad work for a newbie. 

The Princess Bride begins with a young, sick boy who is home from school for the day and being looked after by his grandfather (Peter Falk/Columbo) , who brings along a book to entertain him.

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Initially unimpressed (see above), and worried it will be a “kissing book”, the boy and the audience quickly figure out this is not your usual fairy tale. No, this is a fairy-tale parody. Continue reading

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The Company You Keep – by the looks of this, he means old people

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Nat thought – the phenomenal cast of ageing actors try their best to rescue a so-so film from blandness. They almost succeed.

I wish Shia LaBeouf wasn’t in this film. I usually steer clear of anything he’s in, because trying to understand him mumbling turns me into a geriatric who’s forgotten to turn their hearing aid on. “What did he say?” “What’s that?” “Huh?” Someone really needs to teach him to open his mouth a little more when he speaks. But at least he was a bit more sedated here and barred from his usual “No no no no no!” method of acting.

But moving along… I watched this for Robert Redford. He’s one of those few people where you can be fairly certain a film won’t be utter crap if he’s in it. These days he only acts every few years, but when he does we get films like Lions for Lambs, Up Close and Personal, the underated An Unfinished Life, Spy Game, A River Runs Through It… The Horse Whisperer, if you like that sort of thing. Adding to the appeal was the fact that good old Bob directed this one as well.

I don’t know what it is about Robert Redford, but somewhere back in the 90’s he seemed to age overnight and his face suddenly looked like it had been soaking in the bath for about a year and a half.

This is him in the late 80’s in Legal Eagles (one of his few duds by the way).

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Then this is him in ’92 in Sneakers

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Somebody hand the man some Nivea.

But weirdly, he has stayed looking like this ever since. It’s like time forwarded him to the wrinkles of an 80 year old when he was in his 50’s and then froze. He doesn’t seem to have gotten any older in 20 years, save for some grey hair. Or maybe producing and directing most of your films just means you’re looked after by the lighting and cinematography guys. That friendship though doesn’t seem to have dividends when it comes to someone pointing out that your running style needs a little work. Seriously Robert – what’s with the hands? Although, at 76, I should be applauding you for being able to run at all. Continue reading

Movie 43 – not even ‘so bad it’s good’

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Nat thought – horrifyingly, incomprehensibly bad.

I’m not a very charitable person normally, but if there’s one good I can do for mankind before I die, it will be to save you the agony, expense and lost life hours watching this colossal piece of shit. I’m not even going to put any pictures on this post, lest you be blinded by star power and tempted to ignore me.

I had heard it was bad, so I wasn’t going to bother, but I was curious as to how bad. And if that bad, how the hell did producer/director Peter Farrelly get the cast to sign on? I mean look at the cast list for god’s sake. There’s so many, I’ll just list them in order of (my) most talented – Kate Winslet, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Seth McFarlane, Stephen Merchant, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Liev Shrieber, Terence Howard, Gerard Butler, Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Josh Duhamel, Emma Stone, Anna Farris, Kate Bosworth, Kieren Culkin, Justin Long, Kristen Bell, Chloe Moretz and… Richard Gere.

As far as Oscar/Golden Globe winners and nominees go, that has to be the greatest cast list of all time. So what’s the story? Were they bribed? Blackmailed? On drugs? All of the above?

No. Apparently it was the old “if he/she does it, then I’ll do it” trick. You know, get one big star on board and it’s an A-list snowball from there. Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman were the first to sign on (four years ago), so I suppose we should really ask what the hell those two were thinking? Everyone also worked for scale (about $600 US a day) and profit points, which means pay day only comes if the movie makes a killing at the box office. Maybe Hugh and Kate thought gross-out humour was making a come back and they’d clean up. Maybe they wanted to impress their kids. Maybe they just weren’t thinking at all. At the beginning of March it had grossed just over $8 million in the US. So with a reported budget of $6 million, they might just see a couple of bucks come their way after all. Hardly enough compensation though to cover the embarrassment they must be feeling, I would have thought. Continue reading

The Breakfast Club – makes you want a Saturday detention

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Nat thought – hands down the best American high school film ever.

I had dinner with a somewhat younger friend a couple of weeks ago and somehow it came up that not only had she never seen 1984’s The Breakfast Club, but she’d never heard of the master of teen angst himself, John Hughes. What the what??!! I picked myself up off the floor, assured the waiter I was fine, and began to wonder –  was this finally undeniable proof that I’m an old fart?

Well, hang on. She’s only ten years younger than me, which means her teens were in the 90’s, not the noughties or whatever they’re calling this decade. So it can’t be our not-so-huge-after-all age gap. I do remember her once saying she spent quite a bit of her youth in Siberia (like, the actual Siberia) so maybe Siberian youth were filling their teen years with pursuits more akin to survival, like shoveling snow and sowing fields, rather than the frivolous entertainments of American cinema. Or maybe John Hughes was just not that high on the Russian Communist Party’s ‘must watch’ list. No matter. Allow me to resolve this lapse in Soviet education. Viktorinska – this is for you.

The Breakfast Club is a masterclass in how to write an American high school movie. It is simply the best American teen movie ever. That’s it. Done. Finished. They should have made it law that there was never to be another high school movie made following this one. You may at this stage be protesting “but what about Clueless, Heathers, Say Anything, Mean Girls, Superbad, Dazed and Confused etc etc” – we could quite easily go on all day couldn’t we? What about them indeed. OK, some of them are great movies, but all of them owe a debt to John Hughes (hell, even Bart Simpson owes The Breakfast Club, but I’ll see if you’re paying attention and can spot that one yourself).

Any teen film with the outsiders as the heroes, the meany cool-kid-clique being meanies, the parents as oppressors who just don’t understand them, the geeks triumphing in the end… John Hughes did it best. And The Breakfast Club is where it all began. Continue reading

Mental – As Australian as Cheezels on Your Fingertips

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Nat thought – It’s Mary Poppins meets Silver Linings Playbook meets every Australian film of the 90’s 

I suffered such a severe case of nostalgia whilst watching Mental, it made me miss my home for the first time in a couple of years. And if you watch this film, that admission is likely to make you think perhaps I’m a bit mental as well.

I’ve been away from Australia for 5 years. As far as their film/TV industry goes, I’m totally out of the loop. So when I stumble across an Australian film, it is indeed a stumble. As far as I knew there was only one Australian film in 2012. Well, two – but Kath and Kimderella still hasn’t made it over here, and judging from the trailer I doubt it ever will. Maybe you heard of The Sapphires too, about an all Aboriginal girl group who toured Vietnam?? It did pretty well in London. You can tell because there were posters in The Tube. Big time!

There’s a curious fact about Australian movies, well the ‘big’ ones, the ones that get a release overseas (and that doesn’t just mean NZ). Despite the fact that there are so many Aussies in Hollywood these days, most big, home-made Aussie movies still seem to be made up of various combinations of the same ten people. The star is usually one who’s made it big in the States, plus a supporting cast of the usual suspects. Mental has Toni Collette to fill the ‘made it big’ quota,  Anthony La Paglia (well he’s made it on a telly show in the US but I’m not counting that), Deborah Mailman, Kerry Fox (sounding an awful lot like she could have been in Kath and Kimderella), Caroline Goodall and Rebecca Gibney… or her very overweight twin sister. The only person missing is Bill Hunter, but since he died in 2011, that explains his absence I guess. Oh and there’s also Liev Shrieber, doing an excellent Aussie accent, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from someone married to Naomi Watts would we?

Now. Rebecca Gibney. Fark. What happened? She’s huge. This is the Rebecca Gibney I last saw in Oz. Well not in person, on the tube. The telly I mean, not the London Tube. Well actually, probably not the telly, probably the trash mags. Anyway…

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And this is her in Mental.

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And this…

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Crikey Rebecca. Put down the bloody fork already!

I couldn’t believe it. So I Googled. Apparently she actually put on 15kg in 8 weeks for the role and was about one cream and jam donut away from full blown diabetes by the time the film finished. Why would you do that to yourself? Maybe she saw Jacki Weaver suddenly getting a Hollywood career after Animal Kingdom and thought she’d like a slice of that… umm… pie too.  Continue reading

Lore – just when you thought there were no new Nazi stories to tell

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lore 6Nat thought – Lore is phwaor (as in the movie, not the girl)

I don’t know if it was the long wait between good films or if maybe it had something to do with the three wines I drank while watching it, but throughout Lore I found myself repeating “wow, this is really good”. It’s a bit sad that there’s so few films that impress me I’m compelled to declare it out loud when one finally does, but there you have it.

I want to describe Lore in terms as lush as the film-making, but I’m afraid I’ll sound like some wanky film reviewer. I want to say that it’s moving and haunting and beautifully shot and all the acting is brilliant, that it’s a refreshingly new look at the holocaust from an angle we’ve never seen before (well I certainly haven’t), a subject we’ve seen so many times on celluloid that we might be tempted to skip the film if we hadn’t been told otherwise. But I’m not sure using the words refreshing and holocaust in the same sentence is a good idea either.

So instead let’s talk about who made it. As the credits began to roll I noticed Lore had funding from not only Germany, but Film Australia and Scotland. What a strange bunch. Then I saw that the director was Cate Shortland, an Australian known – in Oz anyway –  for her 2004 debut Somersault, a film which catapulted the careers of Sam Worthington and Abby Cornish to Hollywood. If those names mean nothing to you, have yourself a look at Seven Psychopaths or that little indie film from a few years ago called Avatar.

So what’s an Australian doing writing and directing a German language film about World War 2? I was intrigued, and the film hadn’t even begun yet. Well it turns out Shortland is Jewish Australian, her husband’s family are German Jews and when both he and a Scottish producer gave her the book containing the story Lore is based on, independently of each other, she began to think the universe was talking to her. Initially fully funded by the UK Film Council, all that money was lost with the financial crash. So they passed around a very big donation jar and it was Australia, Scotland and Germany who came to the rescue. Mystery solved. Continue reading

The Witches of Eastwick – in photos – mostly – because I’m lazy

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Nat Thought – proof yet again a stellar cast can turn good into great.

Sometimes there’s just nothing left on the television, internet, cinemas, Netflix, Love Film, Youtube to watch. So I was having me one of those nights and pulled out The Witches of Eastwick, an in depth discourse on the vilification of women in 17th century England.

Errr, kidding.

The Witches of Eastwick is the 1987 film about three bored, lonely, small-town-USA girlfriends who dream up their idea of the perfect man one stormy night. It’s not long before they learn that sometimes you should be careful what you wish for. When a mysterious stranger rolls into town and a series of unusual events begin to occur, the women soon realise that together they must stop what they never knew they began.

Did you, like me, end up reading that in deep voice-over man voice?

If it sounds all a bit dark and gloomy, don’t worry, it’s not. Well, there is a thunderstorm. And  a feather-storm (wait and see). Oh and a flood. But there’s plenty of light bits too. Like this…

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If the plot isn’t enough to reel you in, then perhaps the cast list will do the trick. Michelle Pfeiffer is Sukie, a single mother of 6 kids, Cher is Alex, the sexy sculptor, Susan Sarandon is Jane, the virginal high school music teacher and the legend that is Jack Nicholson is the aforementioned mysterious stranger.

Here they are trying to look all hocus pocus in a promo shot…

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Hmm, Cher doesn’t look very into it does she? Continue reading