Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Hamlet" (1996) Soundtrack Guest Review Up AND a Giveaway Reminder

I've got a review of Patrick Doyle's soundtrack for Hamlet (1996) up here at J and J Productions today.  And, as I mention in that post, I am giving away a copy of said soundtrack here on my book blog, as well as DVDs of two different productions of Hamlet and some Hamlet stickers.  So if you haven't done so already, do check out both my soundtrack review and my Hamlet giveaway!  The giveaway is world-wide and open through next Monday, January 4th.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Guest Post About "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992)

I've written a brief review of The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) for James the Movie Reviewer's blog, and you can read it here.  It's one of my favorite adaptations of Charles Dickens' influential story, the other being Patrick Stewart's 1999 adaptation.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"In the Heart of the Sea" (2015)

This movie was supposed to come out way back in like March, and I really wish it had.  Not only because I had to wait an extra 9 months for it, but because honestly, whose bright idea was it to have this open the weekend before Star Wars:  The Force Awakens?  What even?  People who only see a movie every now and then were going to go to SW:TFA.  People who like to see lots of movies but are very busy at Christmastime were going to go see SW:TFA.  People who only go to movies once in a blue moon but felt like going to see a movie this month were going to see SW:TFA.  Which means the only people who would make the effort to get to the theater to see In the Heart of the Sea would be people who truly wanted to see this particular movie.

People like me.  Because today I dodged around all my fellow Star Wars fans and plunked down my money to see this instead.  (Fear not!  I do intend to see Star Wars, but not until after Christmas.)  Because I have been eagerly anticipating this movie since last December, when I saw one trailer for it and said, "Tall Ships, Chris Hemsworth, Ron Howard, and Moby-Dick?  I AM SO THERE!"

And so there I was.  In a theater the second weekend of In the Heart of the Sea's run, just me and four other people.  I felt very sad for the movie and all those involved because it's really good!  And no one is caring!

People need to care!!!!!!

I'm sure SW:TFA is splendid.  I'm excited to see it.  But this movie is also splendid, and I wish more people were excited about it.  I'm pouting.

Anyway.  I have only seen this once, so my thoughts and understanding of the movie may change after I see it again when it comes to DVD, but from this first viewing, my impression is that this is a movie about the difference between determination and stubbornness.

The movie is framed as an account told to Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) by the last surviving member of a whaler named the Essex, one Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson in the framing, Tom Holland in the story).  Nickerson's experiences aboard the Essex have haunted him all his life, and his wife hopes that by finally confessing the tale, he will be able to live in peace.  Melville is hungry for the truth about a story he's heard for many years and wants to turn into a novel.

So the story begins.  Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is successful and well-respected whaler who had been promised captaincy of a ship for his next voyage.  But the owners of the whaling company instead make him first mate under George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), scion of a wealthy whaling family.  It's Pollard's first voyage, and he is bent on proving himself a better seaman and person than Chase by countermanding Chase's sensible orders and imperiling both ship and crew time and again.  The whole situation smacks of Mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty for a while.

Then they find some whales and have some whaling adventures, run out of whales, get desperate, and go sailing off into the Pacific in search of whales despite having been warned about a demonic white whale that haunts those waters like a vengeful ghost.  And then all sorts of bad things happen and people die and it's by turns exciting and scary and suspenseful.  Chase remains determined, and Pollard learns to change from stubborn to determined, and Chase learns that killing animals just because you can is a bad idea, and also there's a lot of ocean.

Throughout the story, we come back to Melville and Nickerson occasionally, seeing the way telling the truth is affecting the elderly seaman.  At first he's angry and antagonistic, then he's annoyed, then he's caught up in his tale, and finally he finds absolution for some of the things he and the others did to survive.  Really, the scenes between them were my favorites, and I can't believe I'm saying that because that's the part Chris Hemsworth and the tall ships aren't in!  But they were superb.  Whishaw's Melville had just the right blend of curiosity and writerly eagerness at first, changing into a sort of horrified fascination, and ending with a confidence that he had found what he needed.

But anyway.  Good movie.  I love the soundtrack and will probably end up buying it.  Oh!  And Joseph Mawle was in it too!  I love him as Captain Harville in the 2007 Persuasion, so it was awesome to see him aboard a ship, and he had a really nice character.

Also, Chris Hemsworth was wonderful.  Even more wonderful than I'd hoped.  Just so you know.

Is this movie family-friendly?  Um, not for youngsters cuz hello, it's really intense and has some scary stuff too.  Also some old-fashioned cursing sprinkled throughout, including taking God's name in vain.

Once I've seen it again in a few months, I think I will have some interesting thoughts on comparing it to director Ron Howard's other wonderful movie about men surviving an unexpectedly terrifying voyage, Apollo 13 (1995), but for now... if you like Tall Ships, Chris Hemsworth, Ron Howard, or Moby-Dick, please brave the Star Wars crowds and go see this.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Two Merry(?) Little Christmases: December Inkling Explorations Link-Up

This month's Inkling Explorations subject is "A Christmastide Movie Scene."  As soon as I read that, I knew I wanted to share a scene from The Monuments Men (2014).  You can watch the whole scene here on YouTube, but I'm going to describe it for you here for those who don't want to watch it without having seen the movie, or who have small children in the room (part of it involves some blood).

So The Monuments Men is about a bunch of Allies who try to recover all kinds of artwork that the Nazis have been stealing and hoarding, which is based on something that actually happened during WWII.  Throughout the first half of the film, Campbell (Bill Murray) and Savitz (Bob Balaban) have been very antagonistic toward each other.  Savitz thinks Campbell is an uncultured swine, and Campbell thinks Savitz is a pretentious snob.  But they have to share a tent in camp, and they keep getting sent out on assignments together even though everyone knows they dislike each other.

In this scene, Campbell and Savitz have gotten Christmas packages from their families.

Campbell's is full of snapshots and little homemade gifts.

Savitz has received tasty treats that he clearly has no intention of sharing.

Campbell also gets a record, a message his family has sent him that presumably holds Christmas greetings.  (I'm instantly reminded of one of my favorite Combat! episodes, "Just for the Record," which involves Sgt. Saunders [Vic Morrow] receiving a similar record and risking his life to hear it.)

Campbell makes a joke about having to confiscate a phonograph so he can hear it, sets the record aside, and leaves to take a shower.

And while he's in the shower, over the loudspeaker comes the voice of his daughter.  Campbell looks up in wonder as he hears his daughter and grandchildren wish him a merry Christmas.  He turns off the shower and just stands there, listening.

(By this point in the movie, I have tears running down my cheeks.  I'm actually crying right now as I type this up.)  He's got no idea how this miracle has come about.

But we, the audience, know.  Savitz has taken the record of this man he professes to dislike, commandeered the camp loudspeaker system, and is playing the record so that Campbell will get to hear these messages from home.

And then Campbell's daughter begins to sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

This scene has been intercutting with the interior of an aid station, where two other characters bring a wounded soldier they found by the road.

The song continues as a doctor examines the soldier, realizes he's dying, and orders morphine for him to ease his final moments.

Nobody here is having a merry Christmas.  And yet, Christmas goes on whether people are merry or not, doesn't it?  Because in the end, Christmas isn't about merriment.  It's about the pain of childbirth, the miraculous incarnation of God as a tiny child, and the wonder of an undeserved gift not for one person, but for all mankind.

Now, I said in my title that this is about TWO merry (or actually not-so-merry) Christmases.  Because the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" debuted in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), where big sister Esther (Judy Garland) sang it to her littlest sister Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) to try to cheer her up.  You see, their father has decreed that the family will be moving to New York City after Christmas, and the whole family is very sad and upset about this.  So although Esther is singing about light hearts, their troubles are definitely not out of sight.  She says that "through the years, we all will be together," but she's contemplating staying behind in St. Louis, so she knows that much of what she sings in this song might not come true.  It's also a very sad scene, and I'm going to share it here.

Meet Me in St. Louis is one of my daughters' favorite movies, and we watch it regularly.  (And yes, we nicknamed my littlest mouse "Tootie" after Margaret O'Brien's character).  If you haven't seen it, I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a family-friendly delight.  The Monuments Men is also one of my personal favorites, but it's not for younger viewers.  You can read my full review of it here.

Despite the melancholy of these two scenes I've shared here, both of these movies are actually very uplifting and end happily!  And despite the fact that I've chosen to share two Christmas scenes that make me cry, I actually love Christmas and am generally in a happy, bouncy mood from Thanksgiving on.  Honest!

Don't forget to visit Sharing the Journey to read other entries to this month's link-up!  Most of them probably don't involve a blogger crying while she types...

Monday, December 07, 2015

Celebrate 2016 with a Cinderella Party!

Today, Heidi has announced that she will be hosting a Cinderella blog party and blogathon beginning January 4!  Read her official announcement here, where you can grab spiffy blog buttons and sign up for the blogathon, etc.  I plan to review the 1914 silent film Cinderella that stars Mary Pickford, and I'm going to be hosting a giveaway too :-D  Very exciting, eh?