Reel Life

It’s almost the end of the year. Time flies! I’m still busy writing my novel, but every now and then I’d take a break to watch a movie just to get my creative juices flowing. So, I figured I’d give my take on these movies to help you choose which flick you want to view on a lazy weekend. Sounds good?

Here are the movies I’ve seen in the past two weeks or so, on DVD or otherwise.

One/ Love and Other Disasters, 2006, Romantic Comedy.

Written and directed by Alek Keshishian, this charming romantic comedy tells the story of a British-born American-raised intern at UK Vogue who spends her life helping her friends find love, while at the same time avoiding to deal with her own commitment issues. If you’re looking for a feel-good comedy to watch with your significant other on Date Night, I recommend looking for this movie in your favorite DVD store. It’s funny, fresh and honest – it deals with the normal, everyday issues of being single: love, career and friendship, without being pretentious and preachy. Brittany Murphy is adorable as Emily “Jacks” Jackson, the main character, but Catherine Tate, who plays her best friend Talullah Riggs-Wentworth definitely steals the scene with her outrageous behavior, and insanely funny “poems”. You will not be sorry in checking this one out.

Two/ Speak, 2004, Drama.

I don’t know if this is an indie movie or a made-for-TV, but in any case, don’t let it turn you off. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, and it tells the story of a high school freshman Melinda Sordino (played by a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart) who resorts to selective mutism after being raped by a senior in a party. The issues dealt in the movie are heavy, but a then 13-year-old Kristen Stewart did a really good job portraying the anguish and trauma that her character went through without coming off too teen-angsty. The supporting cast also did a great job; from Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds) who played her busy mother to Steve Zahn who played her teacher who helped her dealt with her rape through art. I recommend watching this movie if you have a teenage daughter, or if you just want to understand the troubles and perils of being a teenager in general.

Three/ Stardust, 2007, Fantasy.

I don’t know why it took me so long to watch this movie, maybe it’s because my non-Neil Gaiman reading friends told me the movie “sucked” when it came out that I kept putting off watching it in fear of disappointment. However, when I finally saw it – it actually did not disappoint. Maybe it’s because I understand that adapting a novel into a movie is hard enough, and the fact that it’s the fantastical world of Neil Gaiman’s imagination surely made it even harder. And other than that understanding, I thought they did a pretty good job of keeping the adaptation as close to the novel as possible, and they even managed to capture Mr. Gaiman’s wonderful sense of humor. Seeing Robert de Niro playing a gay pirate was a little surprising, but he’s Robert de Niro. He can play any role and he was hilarious as the cross-dressing Captain Shakespeare. All in all, it’s a fun movie to watch – especially on a weekend.

Four/ Veronika Decides To Die, 2009, Drama.

This movie is not scheduled to release in the US and UK until 2010, but it already premiered in the film festival circuits for a while and I got the chance to see it last Sunday night. It’s an adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s best-selling novel of the same name and it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jonathan Tucker to name a few. As far as adaptations go, this one sticks pretty close to the novel as well, though it changes the location from Ljubljana, Slovenia to New York City. It’s also not as detailed as the novel, but that’s to be expected. It however retains the intensity and message of the novel and both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jonathan Tucker gave stellar performances as Veronika and Edouard. One thing that I didn’t like about the movie was the fact that the relationship between the patients and the doctors seems disjointed and distant – they hardly interact in the entire movie, except for Mari (Melissa Leo) and Dr. Blake (David Thewlis). But all in all, it was a pretty good, albeit intense, watch. You do need to be in the right mood to see this movie though, so keep that in mind when you decide to see it in theaters when it opens.

Five/ Interview, 2007, Drama.

I’ve wanted to see this movie since it came out, but it was surprisingly hard to find it anywhere and I had to resort to watching it online in the end. As with many of Buscemi’s films, it’s one of those movies you have to be in the mood to watch, but I highly recommend you to give this one a try. It’s also an adaptation, not from a novel but a 2003 Dutch movie of the same name by director Theo Van Gogh, who was assassinated by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim after he produced the film Submission, which analyzed the treatment of women in Islam. Steve Buscemi directed and co-wrote the movie as a tribute to his friend Van Gogh. Both he and Sienna Miller were amazing in the film, and I have to give props to Sienna Miller, who lately have been more famous for her exploits in the tabloids than her body of work, who really showed her acting chops in this film. If you’re not convinced of Sienna’s talents, I suggest you give this movie a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Six/ The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, 2009, Drama.

I just realized that most of the movies I’ve seen lately are adaptations. Hmm, what is my subconscious trying to tell me? (Maybe that I should write more and watch less 🙂 ) Anyway, this delightful movie is also adapted from a novel by Rebecca Miller, who also wrote the screenplay and directed it. Talk about a triple threat! The movie chronicles the journey of Pippa Lee, played by Sean Penn’s ex Robin Wright, from the childhood she spent taking care of her pill-popping mother, to her own troubles with drugs until she found a “savior” in Herb Lee (Allan Arkin), a charismatic publisher thirty years her senior that she eventually married and settled down with. The movie goes back and forth between the present and the past, as Pippa examines her life and does a little soul searching as she struggles with her sleep disorder and a growing attraction with a younger man (Keanu Reeves). Robin Wright proved she’s a solid actress in this movie, and Maria Bello will probably get at least a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Pippa’s mother Suky. It’s already opened in limited release since Nov 27,  so I suggest you go check it out – it’s definitely worth watching. Look out for Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively as the younger Pippa Lee, a refreshing change from her usual sulky poor little rich girl role.

Seven/ Funny People, 2009, Comedy/Drama.

If you haven’t seen this one yet, be advised: This movie is a little misleading. From the title “Funny People”, to the stars (Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann and Jason Schwartzman, among others) to the writer/director (Judd Apatow), you might expect a raunchy, fun comedy like Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I’m not saying it’s not a good movie, I liked it – it’s just not your usual Apatow comedy fix. I will even go as far as saying that this movie is 70% drama and only 30% comedy. Sure, there are typical-Apatow movie laugh-out-loud moments, but the message of the film is a lot more serious than usual. It deals with fame, success, and what it takes to be happy. It’s actually really deep, and if you’re expecting raunchy, fun comedy, you’ll be disappointed. But if you want to see Adam Sandler tackling a complicated, troubled role like he did in Reign Over Me, then you won’t be sorry. This is definitely one movie to watch if you ever dream of achieving a larger-than-life fame and success. It will give you something to think about.

Eight/ The Cake Eaters, 2007, Drama.

This is another Kristen Stewart pre-Twilight indie movie and there’s a reason why she’s been acting since she was a child, she’s actually a really good actress. And in this movie that marked the directing debut of actress Mary Stuart Masterson, Kristen Stewart once again shines as Georgia, a 17-year-old small town girl who suffers from Friedriech’s Ataxia. I know that the description of the film is about how two families lives start to intertwine with the return of one son – but somehow, to me the movie is not really about that. As with most indie movies I watch, I have no idea why it’s called ‘The Cake Eaters’ (not once did they mention cake in the movie, though they do eat steak a lot), but if I have to guess – I think it comes from “having your cake and eating it”. Georgia may have a debilitating illness, but she doesn’t let it hinder her from falling in love and being with a man who truly cares for her. And the same goes for Beagle, the man she falls in love with – who to some may seem like a “white trash loser”, but is actually a gentle, kind and loving man who’s often misunderstood. This movie is not for everyone, but if you’re into slow-paced art flicks, there’s no harm in watching it.

Nine/ Coco Avant Chanel, 2009, Drama/Biography.

I’ve wanted to see this movie ever since I heard that they were going to make a Coco Chanel movie with Audrey Tautou in the lead role, so my expectations were pretty high and I’m happy to say, this movie doesn’t disappoint. If you’ve seen the Coco Chanel TV movie with Shirley McLaine… expect to be confused by the discrepancies in the story. But the writers of both versions are not to be blamed for this, apparently not much is known about Chanel’s early life and she was known to have made up a lot of tales to hide her dark past. Coco Avant Chanel (English: Coco Before Chanel) chronicles the journey of one Gabrielle Chanel before she became the Coco Chanel. From her dreams of becoming a star in Paris, to her affairs with Etienne Balsan, a French millionaire, and Arthur “Boy” Capel, an English businessman, this movie showed us the kind of woman Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was; someone who was tough as nails, driven, ambitious and headstrong. Audrey Tautou portrayed this legendary designer so well, and Alessandro Nivola was charming as Boy Capel. If you’re into fashion (or French films), I highly recommend this movie.

Ten/ The Ramen Girl, 2008, Comedy/Drama.

This is another one of Brittany Murphy’s criminally slept on charming little movie, and I don’t know why she loves playing an American expat so much, but she’s always so adorable I can’t really blame her. The Ramen Girl tells the story about Abby, an American girl who moved to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend, only to be dumped and left all alone in a city where she knows no one and hardly speaks the language. Broken-hearted and alone, she walks into a Ramen shop across her apartment in the rain and has a meltdown. After being comforted by the delicious ramen in the shop, she has the (slightly delusional) idea of training to be a ramen chef and practically forces the grumpy owner of the shop to teach her. The movie then follows Abby as she trains under the tyrannical chef and learns how to grow up and becomes the woman she always longs to be. Watch this movie if you’re looking for something light and charming to entertain you on a rainy day, but make sure you have a bowl of ramen ready, because I guarantee you’ll feel hungry after seeing the many bowls of delicious ramen on screen.

Eleven/ Paper Heart, 2009, Comedy.

Do you believe in love? Have you ever been in love? Well, musician/comedienne Charlyne Yi does not believe in love and has never been in love, so she embarks on a journey across the United States to make a documentary on love to get a better understanding of love. While she’s in the process of making the documentary, she gets a taste of love herself when she meets Michael Cera – and their journey together is captured in the documentary. And before you Google “Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi”, know this: it’s fiction. But not pure fiction. All the actors play themselves and the people being interviewed in the documentary are all real people with real stories – the only fiction part is Yi’s own love story with Cera. Director Nick Jasenovec called it “hybrid documentary” to blend the fiction and non-fiction content in the film. The plot itself is based on Yi’s original idea of a documentary and Nick Jasenovec suggested to be accentuated with a fictional storyline. The result: a quirky, cute and adorable comedy that you’ll fall in love with. And even though Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi are not really dating in real life (though they were rumored to be, which inspired the storyline), you’ll be wishing that they are a real couple at the end of the movie. This is one cute movie you can watch together with your significant other on date night, and it’ll leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

So there you go. Eleven movies you might want to check out in the near future. If you’ve seen any of them, tell me what you think!


Binky Bee

6 responses to “Reel Life

  1. I love the selection of movies you’ve picked – very nice. I think I will check some of them out. may I recommend a movie for you to venture out and see maybe? checkout The Road it’s a national bestseller pulitzer prize winner and it’s wrtten by: Cormac Mccarthy. my Mom had read the review in the paper and this past wkend along with my boyfriend and my Mom we went to see it. There are some senses that are a little bit disturbing but it’s a very well written movie and very well acted. it stars Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron and others.

    I didn’t read the book but considering the content of the movie, I’m sure the book is more indepth with certain things. if you do decide to check it out, let me know what you thought.

    I hope that this link below works, it’ll show you a trailer:

  2. Well done Binky. I can’t believe Sandler could star in a movie that was not 100% comedy…

  3. Binky, this list is awesome, I already started jotting down movies I want to see. And I’ve always wanted to read “Veronika Wants to Die” –I read a review on it years ago because the main character is from Slovenia (where I’ve visited a few times), which is an unusual place to set a novel since it’s such teeny country that nobody seems to know.

  4. Execellent choices. Shall I retwitt your list?

  5. I have HEARD great THINGS about stardust. Now i’ll go see it.

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