Meryl Streep

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Year: 2004
Directed By: Jonathan Demme
Written By: Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris

RYAN’S REVIEW

I watched this movie when it first came out and thought it was great.  Having just watched it the day after seeing the original I feel much differently.  I didn’t know at the time that it was a remake and had I known I probably would have avoided it altogether. I am reminded of my feelings when Red Dawn was remade because when that film came out I specifically tried to talk people out of seeing it.  I think it is asinine to remake a film that was about a specific conflict that is over and rewrite it to adapt to a different time. Both Red Dawn and this film were originally made about The Cold War, and that conflict is long since gone. These movies do not translate to this time and I think it is an insult to the originals to make them again.

This film isn’t quite as bad as the remake for Red Dawn. I have not seen the remake for that one and won’t see it on principle but this remake isn’t as bad because there are some correlations between the times.  I think there is an obvious correlation between The Cold War and The War on Terror that we had in the decade following 9/11.  Both have to do with a “culture of fear” that is driven by the media and government for political purposes.  Still, while that can somewhat justify the remake it doesn’t excuse it. This movie flat out doesn’t compare to the original and having seen now what it was supposed to be I can see little to understand what I saw in it to begin with.

The only positive thing I have to say about this film is the casting of Meryl Streep.  I don’t actually think anything about her performance was exceptional but simply the fact that she was cast to play the part was a good idea.  She plays the same part played by Angela Lansbury in the original and Lansbury did such a great job that there were big shoes to fill.  Lansbury was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the original and I said in our review of that film that she was specifically great in the movie.  I don’t think Streep did quite as well but that doesn’t change the fact that choosing her was a good idea.  Streep is a very accomplished actress having been nominated for an Oscar a whopping 17 times and winning the award 3 times.  Casting her to follow in the footsteps of Angela Lansbury at least shows the effort to take this remake seriously and create something just as good as the original.  Although, I can’t stress enough how much of a failure that effort turned out to be despite casting her in the role.

You could argue that the same type of effort was made in casting Denzel Washington in the role originally played by Frank Sinatra, but I won’t.  I won’t argue with the fact that Denzel is far and away a better actor than Sinatra ever hoped to be but I am not a fan and didn’t much care for his portrayal in this film.  I liked this movie enough to buy it but that was before I knew how good the original was.  Having said that let me tell you that this movie is not worth your time and I encourage anyone interested to see the original instead.  It is far and away better than this movie in every way possible.

AMBER’S REVIEW

For me, this one was easier to follow. Maybe because it is set in modern day, but ultimately I think it may be the stellar cast. (Not to discredit the older version, which was filled with amazing names) I loved how well Meryl Streep did in this role. She is just so amazing. She can go sweet to creepy to cutthroat all in a day it seems. She is flawless. The ironic thing here for me too is that the movie was pretty much the same story, but set in different times, yet it worked so well. History can and does repeat itself and I think this is a nice fictional way to show that.

poster3

I totally like the 1963 version of this poster better. I think it is important to show Denzel’s face on this one, but I think it could have been a better direction to mimic or update the old one. I think that would have been really clever. I think they sort of do that on the DVD cover though, so I’ll give some credit where credit is due.

The typography is big and bold which most poster designers like to do these days even 10 years later. All I see though, with the stars out to the side is the Team America title on that poster. It even makes me giggle.TeamAmericaLogo

Ok, so it’s not really THAT close, but still not too, too far off. (Still giggling). In any case, a really good movie, mediocre poster. Nothing terrible, nothing amazing.

NEXT MOVIE: Man of Steel (2013)

Julie & Julia

Year: 2009
Directed By: Nora Ephron
Written By: Nora Ephron (screenplay) based on books by Julie Powell and Julia Childs

RYAN’S REVIEW

A couple of years ago I begrudgingly bent to Amber’s will and watched this movie with her.  To my surprise I didn’t hate it.  I’m not what you would call a “Nora Ephron fan” so this was a movie that I tried to avoid just on principle.  This isn’t the kind of movie I typically like but it’s not a bad movie.  Given that I write on my own blog and enjoy doing so I think that part of the story is easy to relate to.

Meryl Streep is a great actress and is typically good in everything she does.  I don’t see many of her movies but I have seen enough to marvel at her talent.  I know absolutely nothing about Juila Child and had honestly somehow never heard the name before we watched this movie. Amy Adams is also a great actress who has shown significant versatility throughout her career. Jane Lynch also has a small part in this movie and I think she is awesome. I am a big fan of Jane Lynch, she brings a lot to every character she plays.

I don’t have much more to say about this movie because it really isn’t my speed.  It’s a chick flick all the way but as far as those go I see this one as tolerable.  It’s an interesting enough story and given that it’s based on one that really happened I think that makes it more significant.  Having said that I think I will say this movie is worth your time.  If you are going to sit through something to please your wife you could do a lot worse.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I liked this movie. I thought it was a cute chick flick that didn’t involve some insane love story. It was about a path of a woman, finding her way to write. I thoroughly liked it.

julieandjulia

There are few problems with this poster. First, it’s extremely boring. Obviously it’s about two different story lines, but I think the poster took an incredibly direct approach to that by separating them so starkly. It’s pretty basic what was done here. Also, why is Julia Child at the top and Julie on the bottom, when the movie title reads the opposite. It seems to me that Julie would be on the top and Julia on the bottom.

I do like the typography, but only because I am a sucker for a pretty ampersand. The poster may not be the “bee’s knees” but the movie is worth a try.

NEXT MOVIE: Junior (1994)

Adaptation

Year: 2002
Directed By: Spike Jonze
Written By: Charlie Kaufman, Susan Orlean

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an interesting movie, interesting in a peculiar way.  In that peculiar way it may be one of the most interesting films I have ever seen.  The story is so unique, so different and original, being very well made doesn’t hurt either.  The way the story changes when Donald joins his brother writing his script is very clever.  Apparently this film has fooled many by its format because while it appears to be nonfictional at times it isn’t, just a really wild idea that works like magic.  Donald Kaufman does not exist, nevertheless he was still nominated for an Academy Award along with his brother Charlie. This is a movie that was so good that even a fictional character from the story got nominated for an oscar.  Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, and the “Kaufmans” were all nominated for this film but only Cooper won. I don’t know why Spike Jonze was shunned, but I don’t think his lack of a nomination really matters, he made a great film.  Nicolas Cage is fantastic in this movie.  He may make a lot of stupid movies, but for every other dumb movie he makes he makes one worth remembering.  Meryl Streep is a great actress and she makes an incredible transition throughout the film.  I have never really cared for Chris Cooper, but he is a great actor.  Of all the roles he has played this is the one I actually like.

At a glance this looks like a movie that you would never want to watch.  It’s about a guy writing a screenplay based on a book about flowers.  In hindsight I don’t really know what it was that got me to watch this movie for the first time.  It is a surprising movie, and whatever the reason I’m glad I did. It’s a smart and clever movie, I immediately fell in love with it and remember thinking Charlie Kaufman was a mad genius.  I credit Kaufman and not Jonze because while I like Jonze I will always associate him mainly with that damn Fatboy Slim video “Praise You.” That video was the annoying song of the month that MTV chose to wear out 1998, and I just thought those people dancing in the mall were so weird. I don’t know if I still consider Kaufman a genius but he was thinking at genius level when he wrote this screenplay, and I hope that sometime in the future he can again show us something this exciting.  This movie is more than worth your time and if you give it a chance you will see what I mean.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is one of my favorite films on the movie rack. I am a huge fan of weird and twisted movies that are way outside of the norm. I feel like I can relate to the people in this world that find themselves weird and insociable. On most occasions, I feel myself forcing through conversations with people just because I am am an awkward person. Charlie Kauffman in this film (who is played by the great Nicholas Cage, not taking into account his latest run-ins with the law) is a crazy, mad scientist screenplay writer and we get to hear his inner monologue the entirety of the film. Through this I feel like we understand the agony he feels over writing this screenplay. He even thinks to himself, “Why did I choose to write a movie about flowers?” He eventually learns that he must add in some character change, some drama.

Meryl Streep is another person that is fantastic in this movie. Recently, I have begun to really take an interest in her. I haven’t ever had anything against her per-say, but recently she has impressed me with her roles. In this one she is the character change. We see her in the beginning as this straight-laced New York writer and she spends her nights over wine with her friends poking fun at the redneck that cultivates flowers. She eventually becomes entangled in the story and search for the Ghost Orchid and through this she changes and becomes someone different.

If you can let your mind go while you watch this and let it take you on ride of the story you will love it. It isn’t for everyone, but it has my vote.

NEXT MOVIE: Airheads (1994)