Posts Tagged ‘Sally Hawkins’

Paddington: A Magical Delight—Movie

January 20, 2015

In a movie year full of altruistic apes, snarky raccoons and dragons that rise from the sea, “Paddington’s” bear brings it and then some. A magical delight from beginning to end, “Paddington” is for the child in all of us. Directed by Paul King and written by King and Hamish McColl, based on Michael Bond’s character, Paddington Bear, this is the tale of how Paddington came to be.

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The story begins in darkest Peru where Paddington’s aunt and uncle encounter the English explorer, Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie). Clyde is enchanted by the bears and teaches them to read, write and speak English. Before going back to England, he tells them that they will always be welcome in London and leaves his hat behind as a remembrance. Many years later, the nephew of the aunt and uncle (who will eventually be known as Paddington) leaves Peru under sad circumstances. A stowaway on a ship setting sail for London, the bear has nothing more than a suitcase full of marmalade and a marmalade sandwich tucked under his hat, just as the explorer had taught the bears to do…just in case. He arrives in rainy London, expecting someone…anyone to give him shelter and welcome him into their family. While no one in London seems surprised by a talking, well-mannered bear, the city is not as friendly as he expects. It isn’t until he meets the Brown family, who offer him temporary shelter, that his fortune changes for the better. Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) and young son, Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), take an immediate shine to him…Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and older daughter, Judy (Madeleine Harris), not so much. The family decides to call him Paddington, named for the station in which they found him, and so Paddington begins to settle in, hoping to find either the explorer or the explorer’s family to eventually “adopt” him. However, finding a permanent home for Paddington is not his only problem. Unbeknownst to the Brown family and Paddington, a villainous taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) has been made aware of Paddington and is out to find him and provide him with a different kind of permanency.

“Paddington” is so much fun on a variety of levels. The scenes in the Browns’ bathroom are absolutely hysterical, as the bear adjusts to a life with humans in a human house. His reactions and the family’s reaction to him are priceless. It all feels so very real. Even the scenes with the family in the kitchen seem quite genuine and are extremely funny.

“Paddington” boast a top-notch cast. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins are just wonderful as Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Bonneville is especially good and has some terrifically funny scenes. It’s hard to find someone who can express disgust and disdain as elegantly as this actor can. Julie Walters is great as the family housekeeper, Mrs. Bird, and her interaction with everyone else in the cast is fun to watch. Nicole Kidman makes for a great villain. She’s absolutely terrific in her single-minded meanness and such are her shoes that they get their own special credit (Nina Shoes, for those of you who might be interested). It’s rare that we see her do anything with a comic bent and she really shines in the part. Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon as the voices of Paddington’s aunt and uncle are spot on. Finally,there is Paddington, himself. Voiced by Ben Whishaw, he is sheer perfection. He makes Paddington so loveable without being treacly…he is that great.

“Paddington” is full of real pigeons and monkeys as noted by their respective wranglers in the film’s credits. You can tell me that Paddington is not real, but I refuse to believe it. Everything about him feels genuine. You just want to reach out and touch him…or hug him. I don’t want the magic spoiled by knowing how this was done. If this really is special effects, then it’s the most amazing work I’ve seen in a long time. All I know is that “Paddington” seemed very real to me and I just fell in love completely.

4 nuggets out of 4

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Godzilla: Godawful—Movie

May 22, 2014

Sometimes there are no words to describe how bad something is. That isn’t the case with “Godzilla.” Disappointing…boring…repetitive…dumb…those are just a few words that come to mind. How did this film screw things up so horribly?

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Directed by Gareth Edwards, with screenplay by Max Borenstein and story by Dave Callaham, “Godzilla” is a new take on earlier 1950s versions. In their own way, the original 1954 Japanese film and 1956 Japanese-America production,“Godzilla, King of the Monsters!” are classics and deservedly so. Such is not the case with the 2014 “Godzilla.”

The movie begins promisingly enough as scientists Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) land in the Philippines in 1999 to consult on irregularities happening in a mine. From the Philippines we move to Japan and the home of husband and wife scientists, Joe and Sandra Brody (Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche) and their young son, Ford. Joe and Sandra work for the same mining company, with Joe’s position more cerebral in nature. He spots something on a screen and then…The film jumps ahead 15 years and “something” is happening in Japan…. Serizawa and Graham are still in business and are now investigating what has happened there. This is when we get to hear the respected Watanabe say the immortal line, “We call him Godzilla.” Da da dum. We, the scientists and the various militia make our way to Hawaii (it doesn’t stand a chance), Las Vegas and San Francisco…trying to track the giant lizard and other entities and save the world.

I wasn’t expecting a work of art, but I was expecting to be entertained. The trailers seemed interesting and the cast…what a cast. “Godzilla” boasts a terrific cast of actors…not all of them household names, but all of them solid actors with many awards to their names (in addition to those mentioned the film includes Elizabeth Olsen,David Strathairn and Aaron Taylor-Johnson). What happened? I’m not sure that it would have mattered, but some actors don’t make it beyond the first half hour. The remaining actors have some absolutely horrific dialogue to orate. Perhaps this is the reason for these high quality actors…lesser actors would have required many more takes to say the lines without cracking up and would have cost the production more money in the end. In that regard Ken Watanabe must be singled out for trying to save “Godzilla” single-handedly.

Bad dialogue aside, there is something very odd about this “Godzilla.” It seems very old-school. Perhaps it’s the 50s horror-type music. Maybe it’s the over-use of the military in an old-fashioned manner. Or it could be that so much of the movie has a black and white feel to it. The music, militia and color are not necessarily bad. The bigger crime is that these elements are not used imaginatively.

I can’t imagine spending the extra money to see “Godzilla” in IMAX or 3-D. Instead the filmmakers should be paying us to see this mess. “Godzilla” and its fans deserved better.

½ nugget out of 4

Blue Jasmine: A Beautiful Flower in a Summer Full of Weeds—Movie

August 2, 2013

“Have you ever gotten high on nitrous oxide?”That may be one of the worse pickup lines in the history of pickup lines, but it’s just one of the gems from Woody Allen’s latest, “Blue Jasmine.”

I don’t know how it’s possible, but Woody Allen just gets better with age. “Blue Jasmine” is unlike anything he’s done before and it’s just plain wonderful. The film is like watching a master-class in acting, writing and directing—all in one sitting. Even the selection of the music is spot-on.bluejasmine-poster

“Blue Jasmine” is the bittersweet story of upscale, sophisticated Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), who moves from New York City to San Francisco to live with her lower middle-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and her two young sons.

Allen tells Jasmine’s back-story in bits and pieces. We learn that she was happily married…or so she thought…to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), living the good life of dinner parties, high society and excess. When that world crashes down around her, she has a nervous breakdown. Upon recovery, she makes her way to San Francisco to reinvent herself.

While Jasmine’s head is up in the clouds, Ginger is more practical. Jasmine is not content with who or what she is. Ginger, on the other hand, comes to realize that “good enough” can actually be great.

Allen has given actresses some of their most memorable roles, and with Jasmine he has done so again. Cate Blanchett delivers an absolutely mesmerizing performance. Her Jasmine is at times so delicate, that you really worry for her survival. Her character has a number of facets—self-confidence, eccentricity, fragility, creativity and even mental toughness. Blanchett plays them all to perfection.

Sally Hawkins, not as well-known to American audiences as Blanchett, matches her step for step in a less showy role. She’s completely believable as the hard-luck sister, looking for her prince. Her scenes with Andrew Dice Clay (Augie), Bobby Cannavale (Chili) and Louis C.K (Al)…husband, fiancé and suitor respectively…are brilliant. Each relationship is slightly different and extremely genuine. The actors are also very good, particularly Cannavale. His role is not especially likable, but his fine acting wins you over in the end.

Peter Sarsgaard (Dwight) has a small, but important part as Jasmine’s new-found love interest. We’re not sure if he’s too good to be true, and in a weird way, his relationship with Jasmine ends up mirroring that of Ginger and Al.

Alec Baldwin is impeccably cast as Jasmine’s husband, Hal. It would have been easy to make his character just one color, but Allen and Baldwin give him layers. We find out about his true nature early on in the film, but surprises are still in store.

The film’s conclusion is a bit jarring, but like everything else about “Blue Jasmine,” is utterly perfect. To be true to the character and the film, it couldn’t end any other way.

Woody Allen will always be identified with New York, but his most recent films have been done overseas and in this case, California. This shift seems to have given him a new lease on life and movies. It seemed that “Vicky Cristina Barcelona“and “Midnight in Paris” would be hard to beat, but with “Blue Jasmine” Allen has done something completely different and topped them both.

4 nuggets out of 4


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