REVIEW: THE CAT’S MEOW

CAST

Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Edward Hermann (The Aviator)
Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Cary Elwes (Saw)
Joanna Lumley (Ella Enchanted)
Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky)
Claudia Harrison (New Tricks)
James Laurenson (The Bourney Identity 88)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)

November 15, 1924: Among those boarding the luxury yacht Oneida in San Pedro, California are its owner, publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, and his mistress, silent film star Marion Davies; motion picture mogul Thomas H. Ince, whose birthday is the reason for the weekend cruise, and his mistress, starlet Margaret Livingston; international film star Charlie Chaplin; English writer Elinor Glyn; and Louella Parsons, a film critic for Hearst’s New York American.Several of those participating in the weekend’s festivities are at a crossroads in their lives and/or careers. Chaplin, still dealing with the critical and commercial failure of A Woman of Paris and rumors he has impregnated 16-year-old Lita Grey (who appeared in his film The Kid) is in the midst of preparing The Gold Rush. Davies longs to appear in a slapstick comedy rather than the somber costume dramas to which Hearst has kept her confined. Ince’s eponymous film studio is in dire financial straits, so he hopes to convince Hearst to take him on as a partner in Cosmopolitan Pictures. Parsons would like to relocate from the East Coast to more glamorous Hollywood. Hearst suspects Davies and Chaplin have engaged in an affair, a suspicion shared by Ince, who seeks proof he can present to Hearst in order to curry favor with him. In the wastepaper basket in Chaplin’s stateroom, Ince discovers a discarded love letter to Davies and pockets it with plans to produce it at an opportune moment. When he finally does, Hearst is enraged. His anger is fueled further when he finds a brooch he had given Davies in Chaplin’s cabin. Hearst concludes it was lost there during a romantic liaison, and he rifles Marion’s room for further evidence.Armed with a pistol, Hearst searches the yacht for Chaplin in the middle of the night. Ince, meanwhile, runs into Davies and the two sit and talk with Ince donning a hat Chaplin had worn. Davies explains to Ince her love for Hearst and her regret at an earlier affair with Chaplin. She states “I never loved him” just as Hearst arrives behind them. Thinking Davies is referring to him, and mistaking Ince for Chaplin, a jealous Hearst shoots Ince. The assault is witnessed by Parsons, who had heard noises and went to investigate.Hearst arranges to dock in San Diego and have a waiting ambulance take the dying Ince home. He phones the injured man’s wife and tells her Ince attempted suicide when Livingston tried to end their affair, assuring her the truth won’t reach the media. To the rest of his guests he announces Ince’s ulcer flared up and required immediate medical attention. Davies, of course, knows the truth, and confides in Chaplin. Also armed with that knowledge is Parsons, who assures Hearst his secret will be safe in exchange for a lifetime contract with the Hearst Corporation, thus laying the groundwork for her lengthy career as one of Hollywood’s most powerful gossip columnists. After seeing Ince off, Hearst confronts Davies and Chaplin. He is berated by Chaplin, who expects Davies to join him. Hearst, however, challenges Chaplin to guarantee Davies that he can promise her a happy life. When Chaplin fails to answer, Hearst informs Chaplin of the vow of silence he and the fellow guests have made to keep the weekend’s activities a secret. Chaplin despairs as he realizes the murder has strengthened Davies’ love for Hearst. The film concludes with the guests leaving Ince’s funeral, as Glyn relates what became of them: Livingston went on to star in a number of successful films and her film salary “inexplicably” went from $300 to $1000 a film. Davies starred in more of Hearst’s films before finally being allowed to feature in a comedy The Hollywood Revue of 1929, which was (as Chaplin predicted) a success. She stayed by Hearst’s side until his death in 1951. Chaplin married his teenage lover Lita Grey in Mexico and his film The Gold Rush was an overwhelming success. Parsons worked for Hearst for many years and subsequently became one of the most successful writers in the history of American journalism. Tom Ince was largely forgotten after the events of his death. Very few newspapers reported it, no police action was taken, and of all the people on board only one was ever questioned. It is concluded that in Hollywood, “the place just off the coast of the planet Earth,” no two accounts of the story are the same.The setup and the performers are excellent and the depiction of Hollywood in the late 1920s is well done and the murder and resulting cover-up are believable. While perhaps a bit too much of an “inside Hollywood legends” tale for the mainstream.. the film is well done and entertaining enough that I would definitely recommend it

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REVIEW: LEVITY

CAST

Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa)
Morgan Freeman (Batman Begins)
Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Holly Hunter (Batman V Superman)
Manuel Aranguiz (Lulu)
Dorian Harewood (Gothika)

Manual Jordan, a man who served nearly 23 years for killing a teenager during an attempted robbery, is released on parole in spite of his objections. After spending his time staring at a clipping of Abner Easley, the boy he killed, he returns to the city he used to live in to find redemption. He ends up living at a community house which is run by Miles Evans, a preacher. He offers Manual work so he can pay for the room, and Manual places Abner’s photo in his room to remind himself of his crime.While staying at the community house, he befriends Sofia Mellinger, a wild young woman with no adult figure in her life. Manual also encounters Adele Easley, the elder sister of Abner. She does not recognize Manual and in his pursuit for forgiveness, he forms a friendship with her, and their relationship begins to develop. Manual gets his chance for redemption when Adele’s rebellious teenage son becomes involved in violence. Manual tries to befriend him and steer him in the right direction, ever mindful of the past.Nicely shot in Montréal, Québec, Canada by Roger Deakins, Levity is an interesting and smartly scripted piece. It’s a given that it will not be for everyone, but it’s hoped that just like it did me, it will creep up on you and stay on your mind for a few days afterwards.

REVIEW: LITTLE WOMEN

CAST

Winona Ryder (Black Swan)
Gabriel Byrne (Stigmata)
Trini Alvarado (The Frighteners)
Kirsten Dunst (Bring It On)
Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet)
Christian Bale (Batman Begins)
Eric Stoltz (Caprica)
John Neville (Odyssey 5)
Mary Wickes (Sister Act)
Susan Sarandon (Tammy)
Matthew Walker (Highlander: The Seires)
Donal Logue (Gotham)

The film focuses on the March sisters: beautiful Meg (Trini Alvarado), tempestuous Jo (Winona Ryder), tender Beth (Claire Danes), and romantic Amy (Kirsten Dunst), who are growing up in Concord, Massachusetts during and after the American Civil War. With their father away fighting in the war, the girls struggle with major and minor problems under the guidance of their strong-willed mother, affectionately called Marmee (Susan Sarandon). As a means of escaping some of their problems, the sisters revel in performing in romantic plays written by Jo in their attic theater.Living next door to the family is wealthy Mr. Laurence (John Neville), whose grandson Theodore, nicknamed “Laurie” (Christian Bale), moves in with him and becomes a close friend of the March family, particularly Jo. Mr. Laurence becomes a mentor for Beth, whose exquisite piano-playing reminds him of his deceased daughter, and Meg falls in love with Laurie’s tutor John Brooke (Eric Stoltz). Mr. March is wounded in the war and Marmee is called away to nurse him. While Marmee is away, Beth contracts scarlet fever from a neighbor’s infant. Awaiting Marmee’s return, Meg and Jo send Amy away to live in safety with their Aunt March. Prior to Beth’s illness, Jo had been Aunt March’s companion for several years, and while she was unhappy with her position she tolerated it in the hope her aunt one day would take her to Europe. When Beth’s condition worsens, Marmee is summoned home and nurses her to recovery just in time for Christmas. Mr. Laurence gives his daughter’s piano to Beth, Meg accepts John Brooke’s proposal and Mr. March surprises his family by returning home from the war.Four years pass; Meg and John marry, and Beth’s health is deteriorating steadily. Laurie graduates from college, proposes to Jo and asks her to go to London with him, but realizing she thinks of him more as a big brother than a romantic prospect, she refuses his offer. Jo later deals with the added disappointment that Aunt March has decided to take Amy, who is now sixteen (and now played by Samantha Mathis), with her to Europe instead of her. Crushed, Jo departs for New York City to pursue her dream of writing and experiencing life. There she meets Friedrich Bhaer (Gabriel Byrne), a German professor who challenges and stimulates her intellectually, introduces her to opera and philosophy, and encourages her to write better stories than the lurid Victorian melodramas she has penned so far.In Europe, Amy is reunited with Laurie. She is disappointed to find he has become dissolute and irresponsible and scolds him for pursuing her merely to become part of the March family. In return, he bitterly rebukes her for courting one of his wealthy college friends in order to marry into money. He leaves Amy a letter asking her to wait for him while he works in London for his grandfather and makes himself worthy of her. Jo is summoned home to see Beth, who finally dies of the lingering effects of scarlet fever that have plagued her for the past four years. Grieving for her sister, Jo retreats to the comfort of the attic and begins to write her life story. Upon its completion, she sends it to Professor Bhaer. Meanwhile, Meg gives birth to twins Demi and Daisy. A letter from Amy informs the family Aunt March is too ill to travel, so Amy must remain in Europe with her. In London, Laurie receives a letter from Jo in which she informs him of Beth’s death and mentions Amy is in Vevey, unable to come home. Laurie immediately travels to be at Amy’s side. They finally return to the March home as husband and wife, much to Jo’s surprise and eventual delight.Aunt March dies and she leaves Jo her house, which she decides to convert into a school. Professor Bhaer arrives with the printed galley proofs of her manuscript but when he mistakenly believes Jo has married Laurie he departs to catch a train to the West, where he is to become a teacher. Jo runs after him and explains the misunderstanding. When she begs him not to leave, he proposes marriage and she happily accepts.It’s a small scale masterpiece that will leave you in tears. The film is honest and true in it’s portrayal of human emotion. It went from being an adaptation of the book to it’s own story and portrayal of people and their lives. It’s beautiful aesthetically and dramatically, and a real gem of a film.

 

REVIEW: FIFTEEN AND PREGNANT

CAST

Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Park Overall (Kindergarten Cop)
David Andrews (Fight Club)
Margot Demeter (Zero Effect)
Karen Trumbo (Hear No evil)
Julia Whelan  (Once and Again)
Katee Sackoff (Riddick)
Daniel Kountz (Youthful Daze)

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Based on a true story, 15 year old Tina Spangler discovers she is pregnant. Her choices are abortion, adoption, or a lonely, exhausting life as a single parent. Abandoned by her boyfriend, she turns to her mother. Tina discovers although it has torn her world apart, her pregnancy could re-unite her shattered family and help her find her true purpose in life. 175093-5968-clp-950Kirsten Dunst plays a teenager still in high school who gets pregnant by her loser boyfriend. She has a friend who was a teen mom and offers Kirsten’s character ‘real world’ advice. The movie ends after Kristin’s character gives birth and leaves many realities of being a single teen mom out of the movie. All in all, it’s a good story that focuses on the relationship between Kirsten’s character and the father of the child and how her family triumphs over adversity. The story is more of how her family, her friends, her relationship with her boyfriend are all affected by the pregnancy and her personal struggle with her feelings and the other characters regarding the pregnancy. worth seeing a young Katee Sackoff in the film too in a very small part.

REVIEW: ANASTASIA (1997)

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CAST

Meg Ryan (Amityville 3)
John Cusack (2012)
Christopher Lloyd (Piranha 3DD)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)
Bernadette Peters (The Jerk)
Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote)
Andrea Martin (Wag The Dog)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)

In 1916, Tsar Nicholas II hosts a ball at the Catherine Palace to celebrate the Romanov tricentennial. His mother, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, is visiting from Paris and gives a music box and a necklace inscribed with the words “Together in Paris” as parting gifts to her youngest granddaughter, 8-year-old Grand Duchess Anastasia. The ball is suddenly interrupted by the sorcerer Grigori Rasputin, the former royal advisor of the Romanovs until he was banished by Nicholas II for treason. Feeling betrayed and seeking revenge, Rasputin sold his soul in exchange for an unholy reliquary, which he uses to place a curse on the Romanov family, sparking the Russian Revolution. Only Marie and Anastasia are able to escape the ensuing siege of the palace, thanks to a young servant boy named Dimitri who shows them a secret passageway in Anastasia’s room. Rasputin confronts the two royals outside on a frozen river, only to fall through the ice and drown. The pair manage to reach a moving train, but only Marie climbs aboard while Anastasia falls, hitting her head on the platform and giving her amnesia.
Ten years later, Russia is under communist rule and Marie has publicly offered 10 million rubles for the safe return of her granddaughter. Dimitri and his friend/partner-in-crime Vladimir search for a look-alike to bring to Paris and pass off as Anastasia so they can collect the reward. Elsewhere, Anastasia, now 18 years of age and using the name “Anya”, leaves the rural orphanage where she grew up, still suffering from amnesia. Accompanied by a stray puppy she names “Pooka”, she decides to head to Saint Petersburg, inspired by the passage on the necklace she still has. She is unable to leave Russia due to not having an exit visa, but an old woman advises her to see Dimitri at the abandoned palace where he has made residence. There she encounters Dimitri and Vladimir, who are impressed by her resemblance to the “real” Anastasia and decide to take her with them to Paris.
Bartok, Rasputin’s albino bat minion, is nearby and notices his master’s dormant reliquary suddenly revived by Anastasia’s presence; it drags him to limbo, where Rasputin survives. Enraged to hear that Anastasia escaped the curse, Rasputin sends his demonic minions from the reliquary to kill her; despite two assassination attempts, the trio manage to (unwittingly) foil him, forcing Rasputin and Bartok to travel back to the surface.
Anastasia, Dimitri, and Vladimir eventually reach Paris and go to meet Marie, who has given up the search: having been nearly fooled numerous times by impostors. Despite this, Marie’s cousin, Sophie, quizzes Anastasia to confirm her identity. Though Anastasia offers every answer taught to her, Dimitri finally realizes she is the real Anastasia when she (without being taught to) vaguely recollects how he had saved her ten years prior. Sophie, also convinced of Anastasia’s identity, arranges a meeting with Marie at the Palais Garnier Opera house. There, Dimitri tries to establish an introduction but Marie refuses, having already heard of Dimitri’s initial scheme to con her. Anastasia overhears the conversation and angrily leaves, feeling used. Dimitri then kidnaps Marie and takes her to see Anastasia, showing her the music box he recovered during their escape. Anastasia finally meets Marie and regains her memories as they converse, convincing the empress of her identity. The two are joyfully reunited.
Marie offers Dimitri the reward money, but to her surprise, he refuses it and leaves for Russia. Marie realizes that Dimitri was the servant boy that saved their lives ten years ago and that he loves Anastasia. That night at Anastasia’s return celebration, Marie informs her of Dimitri’s gesture, leaving Anastasia torn between Marie and Dimitri. However, soon after Marie tells Anastasia that she can have both, Pooka suddenly runs off. Anastasia chases him to the Pont Alexandre III, where she is trapped and attacked by Rasputin. Dimitri returns to save her but is injured and knocked unconscious while Bartok abandons Rasputin. In the struggle, Anastasia manages to get hold of Rasputin’s reliquary and crushes it under her foot, destroying it and disintegrating Rasputin, who is also finally destroyed.

In the aftermath, Dimitri and Anastasia reconcile; they then elope, and Anastasia sends a farewell letter to Marie and Sophie, promising to return one day. The couple kisses on a riverboat and Bartok shares a kiss with a female bat before bidding the audience farewell.One of the last visually stunning traditional animated films with a beautifully developed story and loveable characters. Everything is wonderful– the sets, the animation, the dresses, the journey to France, Paris, the songs..

REVIEW: SMALL SOLDIERS

CAST

Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Gregory Smith (The Seeker)
Phil Hartman (The Simpsons)
Denis Leary (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Kevin Dunn (Transformers)
Ann Magnuson (Perfect Strangers)
Jay Mohr(Cherry Falls)
David Cross (Scary Movie 2)
Wendy Schaal (American Dad)
Alexandra Wilson (Diner)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Robert Picardo (Stargate SG.1)
Jackie Joseph (Police Academy 2)
Frank Langella (Masters of The Universe)
Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever)
George Kennedy (The Boston Strangler)
Ernest Borgnine (From Here To Eternity)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Harry Shearer (The Simpsons)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy)
Christina Ricci (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Cheri Oteri (Liar Liar)

Top defense contractor GloboTech Industries acquires the Heartland Toy Company and as part of the move, Globotech CEO Gil Mars (Denis Leary) tells Heartland toy designers Larry Benson (Jay Mohr) and Irwin Wayfair (David Cross) to develop actual live-action toys capable of “playing back”. Mars selects Larry’s action figures, the Commando Elite, for the project and Irwin’s educational toys, the Gorgonites, for their enemies, with the toyline expected to hit the market in three months. Faced with such a tight deadline, Benson forgoes safety testing, then uses Irwin’s password and chooses GloboTech’s overly powerful X1000 microprocessor to control the toys.Teenager Alan Abernathy (Gregory Smith) signs off for a shipment of the toys at his family’s toy store without his father’s consent. He and delivery driver Joe activate the leaders for each group – Archer (Frank Langella) for the Gorgonites and Chip Hazard (Tommy Lee Jones) for the Commando Elite. Alan’s neighbor and love interest, Christy Fimple (Kirsten Dunst), buys Chip as a birthday present for her brother Timmy. Alan returns home to discover Archer in his backpack; he realizes Archer is sentient, but in the meantime, the Commando Elite awaken and apparently destroy the Gorgonites in the toy store. Alan calls the company and files a complaint. Later, when Larry and Irwin listen to Alan’s voice mail, Irwin is terrified to discover the X1000 was designed for smart munitions guidance; a Globotech engineer reveals the AI circuit is designed to learn over time, but mass production was scrapped due to issues with EMP shielding.

Meanwhile, Chip and his squad pursue Alan to his home and attempt to kill him and Archer; unlike the Gorgonites, the Commando Elite do not understand they are just toys. Alan is attacked by Nick Nitro (Clint Walker), whom he mortally wounds. The next day, Alan and Archer find the rest of the Gorgonites in a dumpster at the shop. At home, Alan learns the primary goal of the Gorgonites is to seek their homeland Gorgon, which they mistakenly believe to be in Yosemite. The Commandos learn of Alan’s interest in Christy and decide to take her hostage, immobilizing the Fimple household to force Alan into surrendering the Gorgonites.Alan and Archer sneak into the Fimple house to save Christy, but runs into her Gwendy dolls, whom Chip has engineered as auxiliary troops. Archer cuts Christy loose from her bonds and together they destroy the Gwendys before escaping with the Commando Elite’s kit-bashed vehicles in hot pursuit, but they are all destroyed during the chase. The two return to his house, only to find her family and his parents waiting for them. Phil (Phil Hartman) refuses to listen to Alan and Christy about what happened. Irwin and Larry arrive and talk to Alan over his voicemail. At that moment, Chip – who survived the chase – attacks the house with a new force of Commando Elites, having hijacked Joe’s shipment and equipped with more improvised vehicles and weapons, and a battle breaks out between the Commandos and the humans inside, cutting off the house’s electricity supply.

Having been guided by Irwin’s advice to create an EMP blast, Alan heads out to force an overload of the power lines; Christy, Irwin and Larry head to the Fimples’ house to turn on all electronic items inside and wedge the power transformers open for a larger surge. The normally peaceful Gorgonites exit the house and fight back against the Commando Elite. Chip flies to the top of the powerline pole to stop Alan, where he briefly battles and defeats Archer, but finds himself thrust by Alan into the powerline, triggering the EMP blast which kills Chip along with all of the remaining Commando Elite. Mars arrives in his helicopter during the police and fire department cleanup the next day. He pays Joe, the Fimples, and the Abernathys for damages as well as buying their silence from the media, and orders Larry and Irwin to prepare the Commando Elite for sale to rebels in South America. Amongst the craziness of the aftermath, Alan and Christy part on highly amicable terms, and Alan later discovers that the Gorgonites have screened themselves from the EMP blast by hiding underneath the Fimples’ large satellite dish. Alan brings the Gorgonites to Yosemite National Park, where he sends them out in a large toy boat from his father’s store to find their island home of Gorgon.

I enjoyed this movie and despite it not being an all time classic I do recommend it as an entertaining family film

 

REVIEW: CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL

CAST

Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Jay Hernandez (Suicide Squad)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Rolando Molina (Bruce Almighty)
Lucinda Jenney (Rain Man)
Taryn Manning (8 Mile)

Nicole Oakley, the out-of-control daughter of congressman Tom Oakley, meets a working class Mexican-American straight-A student, Carlos Nuñez. Nicole’s mother committed suicide when she was very young, and feels unwanted by her father, who is now married to another woman and has another young daughter with his new wife. Carlos, on the other hand, is from a poor background and is working hard towards becoming a Navy pilot.

They fall in love, and Carlos spends so much time with her that he stops performing well in school. Carlos is applying to the U.S. Naval Academy and Nicole’s father suggests Carlos talk to him about gaining his Congressional sponsorship to the Academy. During their meeting, Nicole’s father tells Carlos that he needs to end his relationship with Nicole, or she will destroy his life. Carlos breaks up with her, which leads Nicole into depression and back into wild, drunken partying. One night, Carlos calls her and finds out she is getting drunk at a high school party. He saves Nicole from a boy trying to take advantage of her. Carlos drives her home, but they get stopped by the police. As a result of this incident, Nicole’s father and stepmother decide that she needs to go to a boarding school far away from home; Carlos rescues her and they run away together. While they are away, Nicole realizes she is getting in the way of Carlos’ dreams, so she decides to sober up. They go back home and she makes up with her father. Her father thanks Carlos for not listening to his advice to abandon Nicole. In the end credits, we see that Carlos has become a pilot with the Navy.

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Overall I believe this work to be an exceptional and very under-appreciated movie. Both Hernandez and Dunst are exceptional and the direction and storyline leave little to be desired.