March 2013 Weekend Viewing: The New Hoult Movie

Self caught a matinee of “Jack the Giant Slayer” yesterday.

It was her first sight of Nicholas Hoult sans zombie make-up.

A whole row of high school girls sat in front of self, and at the big fight scenes, these girls tilted all the way forward in their seats and started bouncing up and down and hooting.

Some of the girls had thick glasses, none of them were what you’d consider “slender,” it was truly a strange sight.

At the other end of the row sat a silver-haired man and a teen-age boy, presumably his son.

And there were a few scattered islands of human beings in the rows behind.

Afterwards, as self exited the theater (Redwood City Century 20), she found herself walking behind two young men:  one had a shaved head, the other was all in black.  They were not together.  Self found herself deliberately slowing down so that she wouldn’t be in the “line of sight” of either of these two.

Anyhoo, back to Nicholas Hoult!

The boy has such a pretty face.  She completely missed him in “X-Men: First Class” (because at that time self was all Michael Fassbender).  She simply could not believe that of all the testosterone available to Jennifer Lawrence in the cast of that movie (Self has already mentioned the fabulous MF), Lawrence hooked up with Hoult.  In fact, she couldn’t even remember what he looked like as “Beast.”

Self started hearing buzz about “Warm Bodies” way back in the fall of 2012.  Then the previews started coming out, and she was slayed, absolutely slayed, especially by the scene where Hoult/Zombie tells Teresa Palmer/Julie/Live Human Being to “Act dead.  Okay?”  And she starts jerking her arms and he turns around and stammers:  “Too.  Much.”

“Warm Bodies” ended up being one of self’s favorite movies (thus far) in 2013.

Now then, self will turn her attention to “Jack the Giant Killer.”

This was a very entertaining movie!  Upon reflection, it is nice that Hoult was chosen to play Jack, instead of a more soulful sort like Eddie Redmayne, or a hulking sort like Chris or Liam Hemsworth.  Hoult has such vulnerability and sweetness.  OK, so he’s tall and thin and that, believe it or not, is the key to Jack’s character!  Because he is continuously having to stoop down to address the Princess!  Which makes him greatly endearing!

About the Princess, she looks way too old for him.  She looks like she stepped out of the set of Anna Karenina.  She looks great, however, in period attire.  Her first get-up, the green-and-gold gown with the low, scooped neck revealing bountiful whatever?  Fabulous!

Anyway, the plot line is very sweet, and self did thoroughly enjoy the CGI Giants.  There’s one two-headed gent, and then another with tall, tall hair (red), then another with a squashed looking face and wild hair (reminds self of the man she met dumpster-diving in the trash bin just to the left of the movie theater exit), then a baker who keeps picking his nose and then handling the flour (The scene where he flours Ewan McGregor, who’s wrapped up in a pancake, along with two squealing piggies is priceless, priceless!)  Anyhoo, the movie’s played for maximum comedy, and that’s why they got Hoult instead of Redmayne or Garfield or Aaron Johnson or whoever.  Because Hoult can play Prince Charming without losing the humor.  Armie Hammer has some of this quality, but it’s a little different because Armie Hammer is just too gorgeous, so he has to be comic in a broader way than Hoult needs to be.  That is, if he is to be taken seriously as a comic actor.

That’s enough of the digression, self!

Did self already talk about Ewan McGregor?  The man’s rendition of the Princess’s security detail is charming, absolutely charming!  Self would love to see him and Hoult pair up again.  Perhaps a less beautiful queen would work.  Perhaps someone like Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke.  Someone with a toughness.  Self could even see Rebecca Hall (who, BTW, is heartbreaking, simply heartbreaking as the confused and wounded seducer in Parade’s End, the one who belatedly realizes that she loves her husband, Christopher Tietjens, just at the moment when he falls in love with someone else)

Of the movies currently showing, self really does not want to see “Identity Thief” or “Safe Haven.”  She can, though, take Bruce Willis, so perhaps she will see “A Good Day to Die Hard.”  There are a few new movies, but self really cannot take “The Last Exorcism, Part II,” and she never succumbed to the lure of Frank Baum’s Oz, in all its cinematic permutations.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Beginners” : A Somber Ewan McGregor, and Mélanie Laurent

Mélanie Laurent was the French actress whose fiery revenge brought down the house (literally) in Quentin Tarantino’s hugely satisfying re-imagining of World War II, “Inglorious Basterds,” a few years ago (Why does 2009 already seem like a whole other era?).

“Beginners” is the first self has seen of Laurent since the Tarantino movie.  She is even more beautiful now than she was back then, but alas,  seems to be marching to a completely different tune from Ewan McGregor.  That is, she seems completely lost in her own private spaces.  She is adorable, but her entire character seems to be a projection of attitudes.  Good Lord, it’s exhausting keeping up with this woman’s entrancing little games, her fits, her swings of mood from playfulness to sadness.  Suppose this is what it means to be French?  Here’s what the smitten pair might be saying to each other if there were a “10 years from now” installment (Spare us!):

Melanie:   But I must go!

Ewan:  Where?

Melanie:  Anywhere!  Only to be free!  Because I am completely driven by my moods!  And living in the same house for 10 years is driving me crazy!

Ewan:  Oh, how adorable.  My little kitten, I adore you.

(Big smooch)

McGregor is very stoop-shouldered, in this movie.  His head seems rather large for the rest of him.

There is a lot of soliloquy, a lot of detachment, a lot of old photographs, a lot of bittersweet reminiscences.

The Jack Russell terrier is very smart.

That cute Yugoslavian actor, Goran Visnjic, who self adored in “The Deep,” with Tilda Swinton, has very oily-looking hair, in this movie.

Christopher Plummer, as McGregor’s gay dad, and the actress who plays Plummer’s passionate, frustrated wife (Self needs to look up her name, pronto!), are spectacular.  Self felt the sadness of their characters —  perpetually stuck, but dignified.  All their unrequited longing gets dumped on poor Ewan McGregor, who then develops some very serious relationship issues.

But, fortunately, Mélanie Laurent with her big, goo-goo eyes and her studiedly nonchalant laugh is there to save the day!

Self must say, of Mélanie:  She looks ravishing in red.  Also, when she is not having to look at McGregor, and has to project some interiority, she is very beautiful.

Son arrives tomorrow.  Self was in a mad frenzy of cleaning house, today.  That was why she saw fit to reward herself with a movie.  Unfortunately, about an hour in, self’s eyelids kept drooping.

But it was a good thing she went and saw “Beginners” today.  A member of the staff at the Aquarius announced that it would be replaced tomorrow, by “Tabloid.”  Oh, self has been wanting to see that!  She hopes it is trashy, like Joan Rivers’ mouth.  By the way, self just finished watching “A Piece of Work” (current Netflix rental) and it was spectacular.  Joan Rivers in all her potent bitchiness and vulgarity is more of a real, solid woman than Mélanie Laurent in “Beginners.”

In addition, today self added two more books to her reading list:  one by Dutch writer Harry Mulisch, The Assault, and our old friend Dostoyevsky’s masterful Crime and Punishment (which self first read over three decades ago).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Fourth Most Gorgeous Day So Far in 2010

Oh, it was a beautiful, beautiful day. Self spent most of the afternoon in the backyard: munching raisins, alternately reading and watering. The pages of her book(s) were sprinkled with white from the blossoms drifting down from the gnarly old cherry trees. A bee had discovered the one blooming white magnolia flower.

Niece G, who self has not seen in ages, is helping self with a story. She said her father flew in last weekend, and they watched “The Ghost Writer.” Niece is a Ewan McGregor fan. She said she liked Olivia Williams (who played Ruth Lang in the movie) a lot. So did self.

Son got accepted to the PhD program in Social Psychology at the Claremont Graduate School! He got a call from the department to say he was in, and a formal offer was coming. He’s already met with a professor. If you had told self, in the birthing room at Stanford Hospital, that this here little tyke would grow up to be a PhD candidate, she would have said, Get out of here.

Rahm Emmanuel is on the cover of last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Apparently, according to people who phone in tips for, Rahm in person is “hot” (Is it true he is Read the rest of this entry »

Ah, What a Difference a Year (Or a Day) Makes

A year ago, “Slumdog Millionaire” (a film self didn’t like) was crowned Best Picture at the Oscars, thereby causing self consternation and dismay. This year, however, self’s particular favorite, “The Hurt Locker,” won the Oscar for Best Picture, probably stunning a lot of movie critics (Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it for “Avatar,” just the day before the Oscars), and causing self to go Happy Happy Joy Joy, Happy Happy Joy Joy. And, self is sure, leaving quite a number of irate “Avatar”-lovers gnashing their teeth (including, no doubt, Jim Cameron: Self hates to imagine the scene at home, after the ceremony. Self felt exceedingly sorry for Suzy Amis, who loyally appeared with hubby but looked so frail and, quite frankly, out of it.)

And, not even a year ago, Ewan McGregor’s career seemed to sink to a new low with his appearance in what self considers one of the worst movies of 2009, “Angels and Demons.” (Self cannot quite call it the worst, because there was something called “The Box” and another one called “All About Steve” which might vie for “worst movie of 2009” honors) Dear blog readers know self’s penchant for drama, but take it from her: to call “Angels and Demons” execrable would be a kindness. This month, however, he is appearing in a very good movie, perhaps the best movie self has seen so far this year: “The Ghost Writer.” His performance is so good that self really wants to see the movie again (The movie also features sharp performances from Pierce Brosnan, Kim “Sex in the City” Cattrall, and Olivia “Last-Seen-in-Dollhouse” Williams, with Williams’ performance being the one self liked most, after Ewan’s)

Let’s see, what else? A little more than a year ago, the President rode into office on an unprecedented wave of popularity. Now, The Economist calls him “the man who fell to earth” (The Economist, 23 January 2010) and states: “To lose, on a 43-point swing, a Senate seat that has been in Democratic hands since 1953 takes some doing, even in the teeth of the worst recession since the 1930s . . . A succession of Democratic senators and representatives have decided to retire rather than face the voters in this year’s midterms.”

And now to what a difference a day makes: Yesterday was cold, blustery and rainy. Self cursed the heavens. Today, self opened her eyes at 7 am (After 3 1/2 hours sleep: the sound of the rain was just too disturbing and depressing) and — Hallelujah! — the sun was shining! Self could barely contain her excitement! She immediately rushed to the backyard and inspected all her new plants: the Chrysanthemum “Silver Princess,” the Lobelia “Laguna with Blue Eye,” the Salvia “Forest Fire,” the anemone “Jerusalem Red.” YAAAY! All were still upright! Even better: it appears naughty Gracie had not been able to circumvent the little defenses of brick and stone that self had painstakingly erected around each new planting.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Ewan McGregor: Not since “Moulin Rouge” etcetera etcetera

Not since self watched Ewan McGregor in “Moulin Rouge” has she ever liked a performance by this actor as much as she did the one she saw today, in “The Ghost Writer.” (Gaad, what a pill that sentence was to write.  Self had to go over it at least 10x.  Her brain cells must be slowly asphyxiating from lack of sleep)

Self wanted to see “The Crazies” or “Brooklyn’s Finest” but lately she’s come to realize that going along with hubby’s choices can lead to some very interesting experiences.

OMG, self would rate this movie four stars!  Even now, hours later, she can still recall with relish particular scenes, like the one where Olivia Williams, the British actress who plays Pierce Brosnan’s wife in the movie (Self remembers her best from Late Lamented “Dollhouse,” where she played the boss of Eliza Dushku) says to Ewan:  “Are you ill?” and he replies “No.  Aging.  This place is like Shangri-la in reverse.”  BWAH HA HA HA! (And now self realizes the above dialogue is not quite as funny on the page as it was in the movie. Kudos, therefore, to Ewan for his impeccable timing and delivery!)

Or how about the scene when Our Man Ewan hands over massive manuscript to some guy in a suit (At least several inches thick: That’s the other thing about this movie. While watching, self never once paused to question why the ghost writer would still be toting around a hard copy instead of carrying around a disk!  Or perhaps this explanation was given at some point, but went right over self’s head?  Well, a disk is just so prosaic compared to actual paper. Wouldn’t you agree, dear blog readers?). This is all very cloak-and-daggerish: they meet at a diner next to a ferry which is supposedly on the “U.S. mainland” but self found it curious that the movie never showed any specific signs indicating the place (After she saw who the director was, she knew why). As the suit starts to peruse the manuscript Ewan tells him, “You don’t have to read it all now.  It’s the perfect cure for insomnia.”

The other actors —  Pierce Brosnan (In a very droll performance!  His best work since “Matador”!), Kim Cattrall (sporting a passable British accent, and still with the vamp-ish look), the Lady-Who-Played-Eliza-Dushku’s-Boss-in-“Dollhouse”, and stalwart Tom Wilkinson  —  were equally excellent.

Self kept trying to figure out who the Director might be.  And it was a real shock at the end, when she saw that the film was directed by TA-DA!

Roman Polanski


So, since the guy is a fugitive from justice, and cannot set foot on U.S. soil unless he wants to be arrested, the scenes that were supposed to have been set in the U.S. must have been shot in Europe.

Oh, this was a moody, moody thriller.  Self loved it.  It’s one of her two favorite movies so far in 2010 (The other being, of course, Denzel’s “The Book of Eli.”).  Ewan, you are now officially forgiven for the horrible “Angels and Demons.”

Forget “Shutter Island”!  If dear blog readers want to see a movie that channels Hitchcock correctly, see “The Ghost Writer.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

About “Angels & Demons”

As self’s Dear Departed Dad used to say, If you can’t say anything good . . .

Tom Hanks plays a Harvard professor.  Which means he can do anything.  Still, self would just like to know where a Harvard professor gets off telling Roman carabinieri what to do.  And why a Harvard professor doesn’t know that when handling priceless archival documents, one should always wear gloves.  And why, anyway, would a Harvard professor be doing laps in a pool at 5 a.m.?  Not that she has anything against Harvard professors (some of them may even be hunks), or that she minds seeing Tom Hanks in swimming trunks (bod, or what she could see of it anyway, still OK), but the “swimming at 5 a.m. thing” was a little much, self feels, even if it was there just to establish that this professor, despite being a member of academia, is indeed a very very virile guy.  Which is absolutely essential to the veracity of the plot, considering the number of things Hanks’ character is required to do later.  But, self digresses.

An even bigger outrage is what the movie does to Ewan McGregor.  Ewan McGregor, perhaps one of the finest actors of his generation (here playing the hottest priest in cinematic history), is in this movie reduced to —  to —

AAARGGGGH!!!!  Self can’t say because then she’ll be giving the whole movie away!

(Ewan, self is so confused.  Did you accept this role just for the money?  And why did you still have that Scottish accent, even though your Dad was supposedly Irish and you told Tom Hanks you were adopted by a Cardinal at the age of 9 and had lived most of your life in Italy?  And, didn’t you see what the last movie did to Paul Bettany’s career?  Self hasn’t seen him in a movie since he was last seen playing a self-flagellating albino monk/assassin in the execrable The Da Vinci Code!)

Self can’t believe she sat for two hours in a theatre watching @##!!@@##

Afterwards, hubby declared it was very, very good.  Which shows you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it —

This was absolutely the worst movie self has seen this year, last year, or — or since she saw The Da Vinci Code.  There, she’s said it.  Sorry, Dear Departed Dad!

Counting yesterday’s Terminator:  Salvation, that makes two strike-outs in one weekend.  It’s enough to drive a person nuts.  Or, at least, back into the arms of J. J. Abrams and co. This week, Star Trek again, for sure.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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