Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finding Forrester (Movie Review)

This is the season to be with family and what better activity can you do than watch movies? Among the movies I watched with my family for the first time, I have decided to talk about on involving growing up and (my favorite) writing. This 2000 film stars the great Sean Connery and is called Finding Forrester! 


The Story
Basically, Jamal Wallace (played by Rob Brown) is an African American 16 year old who loves to write, but is growing up a basketball-oriented Harlem neighborhood. His life is changed when he is dared to break into a spooky apartment rumored to contain a murderer and he meets William Forrester (played by Sean Connery).

Name THAT Genre!
This is a really heart warming story. My cousins described this movie as a serious film, which is partly true. I would say it is a “Coming of Age” story mixed with a drama. Even having watched the film, I am not sure exactly what genre it is, but whatever it is was good.

Sir Sean Connery
I’ve said before that I love Sir Sean Connery (did you know he was a knight?). With his Scottish accent and quick wit, who would not love this great actor? This movie finds him playing a reclusive writer who wrote one novel and then was so disgusted with the literary critic world that didn’t write again. This role is just pure fun. In this movie, we got to see Connery as a more intellectual figure than the man of action we usually see from his previous roles. This movie also makes him a teacher, which would carry on into his next role as Alan Quatermain in “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. There are just some amusing scenes in this movie, such as one with Sean Connery calmly riding a bicycle with cheerful music in the back ground. It just made me laugh. This movie also has him using modern words. For example, it has Sir Sean Connery saying, “You’re the man, dog!” If that does not sell you on this movie, I don’t know what will.

Other Notable Cast Members
There are several enjoyable people on the cast who make this movie really great. Rob Brown, who played Jamal Wallace, was good. He had a nice sense of humor and portrayed his character with lots of spirit. If you are an X-men or True Blood fan, you might recognize Jamal’s love interest because she (Claire Spence) is played by Anna Paquin, who played the X-men character Rogue and True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse.

The Movie’s Message
This movie has a wonderful message of hope. As I write this review, there is less than two hours before New Years, when the year will change from 2011 to 2012. This is the time of looking to the future and hoping for the best. This movie takes the hopes of one young man and shows what he can accomplish if he learns to be exuberant. If we were watching “Dead Poet’s Society”, then I would say that Jamal needs to "carpe diem" (or seize the day) and with them help of William Forrester, he does seize the day. As a writer and a person who does not know what the future holds I love the message of this movie.

Conclusion
This is a wonderful movie. It has a nice message and a great cast. I especially liked the Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe references. I felt proud to know the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle they were referring to even before Jamal named him as young Stanford. I realize such things don’t mean much to some people, but it is cool to me. Any way, it’s a good movie and you should watch it. Well, that’s that. The last review of 2011. Boy, its been a swell year. Here’s to 2011 and the year we have yet to meet. I hope the Ponsonby Britt Report incites you to read or watch things you have never seen or heard of and I hope it also incites me to grow as a person and for me to watch some of the classics of literature and cinematography. Again, “Here’s looking at ya!”

Trailer/Quote

“The key to writing is to write not to think!”
--Sean Connery (as William Forrester in Finding Forrester 2000 ___)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Patriot Games (Movie Review)


 When a book is adapted into a movie, the adaption can go different ways. On one hand, adaptations can be loose (take for instance the newest Sherlock Holmes film series. It has similar characters, but there are several differences). On the other hand, adaptations can exactly the same. Two examples I can think of are Dan Brown’s book the Da Vinci Code and Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Most people hope the movie is exactly the same as the book, so they can enjoy the thrills and chills by revisiting their favorite piece of literature. Yesterday, I watched an adaption of a book I had reviewed previously on this blog by Tom Clancy. The movie title, just like the book title, is Patriot Games!
 

The Story
When I reviewed the book I wrote a summary and I think I’ll quote it now as it still remains the same in the movie:
Patriot Games was a thriller about a former marine turned history teacher who has worked the CIA unofficially a few times. On a trip to London, he stops an attack upon the Prince of Wales and his wife by Irish terrorists. When he finally recovers from his injuries from his heroics, he believes this is the end of the excitement, but it is only the beginning.

Harrison Ford
There are a few major names in action movies, but few in my opinion come close to the talent of the great Harrison Ford. Perhaps best known for his role as Indiana Jones in all but the newest film (which is not as good in my opinion), Mr. Ford has this air of confidence which he seems to bring to the roles I have seen him in. I was delighted when I heard Harrison Ford played Jack Ryan (the main character of the story) and I must say I was not disappointed with his portrayal.

Other Notable Cast
This is a wonderful cast. For example, a forceful figure in the movie, Admiral James Greer, is played none other than James Earl Jones (you know Darth Vader’s voice among other wonderful roles). Also Sean Bean plays the role of Sean Miller (aka the main bad guy). I must say Sean as Sean Miller is wonderful and he really fits the role (although I have never seen him another role I must say he was good in this one). I must also give a shout out to the possibly youngest of the cast: that of Thora Birch who played Sally Ryan pretty well (even if she did seem older in this movie than she was in the book…). One interesting thing I found out afterwards in looking at some sites is that although this is a heavy irish character population in this story, only three actors (Richard Harris, Patrick Bergin and Jonathan Ryan) were actually irish. Weird.

Differences with the Novel
Although this is a good movie, I would say the book is better. It just seemed to me that they took out some important parts of the novel. I mean, I love Harrison Ford’s portrayal of his character as well as the rest of the cast involved, but there was just some things plot wise that I really missed. For example, in the novel all characters are important and have some sort of depth to them so you care for them when they are in trouble. However, when a British agent is killed its like, “ok. That’s nice.” When you read that scene in the book you had (at least I had) gotten attached to the character so it is sad when he is killed. Of course, movies can not give everything that books give in the way of details nor do they have the time to spend focusing on every little thing.

While I under the movie did have time constraints, I think it wasn’t as good without the presence of Buckingham Palace. I know the hero of the novel is American and this isn’t about the royalty figures, but I did miss seeing them. I mean, the way Clancy made Jack a knight and the fact they actually got to sleep at the Buckingham Palace were both really amusing, so I missed some bits of the story.

Conclusion
If you have not read the novel, then you will really enjoy this movie. They have a wonderful cast and the scenery was pretty. There are some details missing from this movie which fans of the book might miss, but it would still be a good movie.

Trailer/Quote

Here’s hoping you never get mad at me,”
-- Samuel L. Jackson (as Lt. Cmdr. Robby Jackson in Patriot Games 1992 Paramount Pictures)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Arsenic and Old Lace (Movie Review)

 As my friends and family know, I am a highly dramatic person. In fact, I am taking a drama class at school. We’ve done several monologues, but more recently we were assigned to do scenes with two or three people. My group was assigned a very funny scene from a play by Joseph Kesselring, so I did some research and found a movie adaptation for that same play (actually I found it randomly). This 1944 movie, staring several wonderful actors including Cary Grant, is called Arsenic and Old Lace!
 

The Story
The basic story is this: there are two little old ladies (played here by Josephine Hull and Jean Adair, who also were in the play this is based on). Everyone considers them the “nicest most caring people you ever did see”, but, like the rest of the family, they are crazy. Unbeknownst to everyone, they have been killing lonely old men as a sort of charity. When their nephew Mortimer (played by Cary Grant) discovers one of their 12 dead bodies in (of all places) the window seat, his life becomes even more insane.

Cary Grant
At the very mention of this actor, a whole nation of women cry out and swoon…or something like that. Supposedly, Mr. Grant considered this not one of his better roles, but I really think this a perfect role for him. His expressions (both vocally and physically) make the movie even more enjoyable. I also like it, because his role as Mortimer was helpful to me as I tried playing him in the scene in drama.

 Photo Caption: Cary Grant realizes this is a good performance...that or the body in the window seat...

Other actors
There are so many great actors, so let’s see if I can address at least some of them.
  • Peter Lorre appears in this film as the creepy and skittish Doctor Einstein. Lorre was this Austrian actor who was perfect for this role. Maybe it’s his accent that makes him creepy, but whatever the case he’s just really humorous and he works well as a straight man for Raymond Massey.
  • Raymond Massey was this Canadian actor probably well known for this role and his role in the 1955 film East of Eden. I’m not as crazy about Massey (though he did a good job) because I know someone who would have done a better job in the role Massey got, but I’ll mention him later.
  • A personal favorite of mine is Edward Everett Horton. He was the narrator for the Rocky and Bullwinkle segment “Fractured Fairytales”. I really loved seeing him in this live action movie. He’s funny live action as well!
  • The last person I’m going to mention is John Alexander. He (along with Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) had been in the stage play. He plays Teddy Roosevelt Brewster, who believes himself to be THE Teddy Roosevelt.  His role is just hilarious. Whether he is digging the panama canal in the basement (where they would put the bodies of the men the aunts kill) or running up the stairs shouting “charge!”, he was hilarious.

 Photo caption (left to right): Peter Lorre, John Alexander, and Raymond Massey

Boris Karloff
With all respect to Raymond Massey, the real person I can see in the role of Mortimer’s brother, Jonathan, is Boris Karloff. Jonathan is tall and grim fellow who escaped from prison and who had killed 12 people (the same number as the aunts). Dr. Einstein had given him plastic surgery while being drunk (and after watching a particular horror film), so Jonathan has scars on his face which always reminds people of a certain actor or monster. The writers seemed to have agreed with me because they give the actors all these jokes about how Jonathan looks similar the Frankenstein Monster and the actor who played that role. These jokes might also be caused by the fact that Boris Karloff played the role of Johnathan in the play, but when the creators of this movie tried to get him they couldn’t get him as the movie distributor he had contracts with forbid it. I still think the jokes would be funnier if the Frankenstein Monster would be in this movie.



Photo Caption: the Frankenstein Monster 

Conclusion
This is a hilarious film and should not be missed. The whole cast is wonderful (I wish I could mention them all in this blog, but that would take forever). I think I’m going to add this to my favorite comedy movies list, that is if I ever create such a list.

Trailer/Quote


Aunt Martha! Men don’t get into window seats and die!
--Cary Grant (as Mortimer Brewster, Arsenic and Old Lace 1944 Warner Brothers)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Casino Royale (Book Review)

 James Bond is one of the most well known fictional spies. He has been portrayed by 8 actors (if you count Barry Nelson in a TV movie and the David Niven James Bond parody film “Casino Royale”). Whether you watch these movies (and TV show movie) or not, you know who 007 (Double-0 Seven) is, but where did he first appear? If you are mainly a cinematic-based person, you would think that his first appearance was the 1963 film “Dr. No”. But, NO! That is not his first appearance! In reality, his very first appearance was in the 1953 novel by Ian Fleming, which is called Casino Royale!

Writing style
Ian Fleming is a wonderful writer. His writing pieces have become part of pop culture, so I don’t really have to think to say he most definitely would be classified under the classic writer title. His style actually surprises me. I always thought the literary James Bond would have more vocal lines. Instead, the reason Fleming’s books have become classics (at least in my eyes) are their description. Mr. Fleming has this attention to detail which I really don’t see in the movies. I guess this attention to detail spurs from his time as a spy (not a James Bond sort of spy, but he did work in the spy agency world enough to catch on). In addition, there are much more thoughts and feeling which round out his characters that you also don’t normally see in action novels. To say the least I think you would miss out if you just watched the movies, because you don’t usually get to see all these feelings and thought s when you watch a movie. You can’t jump into James Bond’s head to see what he is thinking, fearing and feeling.

Plot
Basically, a Russian agent by the name of  Le Chiffre (which translates to be "the Number/cypher") needs to make up a lot of funds in a short amount of time, so he heads to the Casino in Royale. M (whose first appearance is also this book of course) sends his best agent/gambler for the job and of course that agent is James Bond. 007 is helped on his way by a fellow MI6 agent named Mathis, a CIA agent named Felix Leiter (who would appear in several other James Bond novels) and of course the beautiful Vesper Lynd.

A Different Bond
Upon reading this book I was surprised to find how different Bond is from what I have seen in the movies. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still the confident and tactically knowledgeable man you see in the movies, but he does have feelings. Fleming’s writing adds depth to Bond by allowing us to see behind the “razzle-dazzle” to see his feeling, worries and sometimes even his doubts. In this book, I see James Bond doing things I actually can’t see actors like Sean Connery doing. Sean Connery—just love saying his name—‘s Bond is always perfect and, while I love his rendition and his acting in general, I have to say that is not the Bond we see here. James Bond here is able to vomit after nearly getting killed by a bomb, and even more scandalous he is able to fall in love. This James Bond is vulnerable to say the least. He is not the perfect James Bond I have always pictured and I must say that is not a bad thing.

“This is not a romantic adventure story…”
Sort of continuing the whole “imperfect” Bond, the story itself is not what you would expect. I must admit I thought this story would be less important and maybe not as good as the other stories. Right off the bat Fleming has a story which could be set in real life. I mean, life isn’t perfect and this novel reflects that fact. The villain of this novel puts it best when he says, 
This is not a romantic adventure story in which the villain is finally routed the hero is given a medal and marries the girl. Unfortunately these things don’t happen in real life.
I didn’t realize how true this quote was until the end.

Views on Women
One thing I have always been annoyed about is Bond’s treatment of women. I don’t know what Fleming believed, but James Bond had this to say on this subject:
“Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.”
 He even adds later,
“These blithering women who thought they could do a man’s work. Why the hell couldn’t they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men’s work to the men.”
As a man of today’s generation, I am disgusted at Bond’s words toward women. They shouldn’t be forced to do things they don’t want to do. I know some wonder women who didn’t wear frocks who have done some wonderful things. Just think what the world would be like if Rosa Parks or Maya Angelou stuck to their gossip. Would we be where we are today without them to guide the way to a better way of life? I like Ian Fleming and James Bond, but things like these statements make me hesitate.

Conclusion
This is a good novel. The descriptions are wonderful and the story is thrilling even to very last page. In some ways, the movies (at least the ones I’ve seen) don’t give this author and character justice. I will say I’m not a fan of some details, but if you forgive those scenes this is good book! If you enjoy James Bond you might like this!

Quote / Picture of the Author
 “Mine’s Bond—James Bond.
--Ian Fleming (as 007, Casino Royale pg 052)

And so an icon is born.