Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 2011 Books and Movies

Elizabeth Gilbert

Marketed as a sequel to Eat Pray Love, this book must have disappointed the legions of fans of the novel and movie. In fact, it was a brilliant essay on the pros and cons of getting hitched, well researched and thought out. Essentially, Gilbert is trying to convince herself that getting married (a practice she'd sworn off after her first divorce: see Eat Pray Love) to satisfy immigration officials reconciled with her principles. The fact that it was the only way her partner Felipe could stay in the U.S. with her was certainly a pressing factor, but she came up with some pretty great arguments for marriage that fit in with my ideology as well. I love the fact that marriage, no matter how many institutions, religions or governments try to utilize it to their advantage, remains firmly in the hands of the two people who are willing to commit to one another. It's a good read for anyone contemplating marriage as well as anyone who is a fan of Gilbert's writing style. I really enjoyed that it was set partially in SE Asia, having just returned from that part of the world.

I Love You, Phillip Morris

I first heard about this film (even though it’s been out for a while) while absent mindedly watching a Biography Channel show on Jim Carrey. I’ve always appreciated his comedy skills, but really took notice of his unique approach to acting with movies such as The Trueman Show and Cable Guy. This film did not get wide release in North America due to the explicit gay content. I think if it had been released now, it may have stood a better chance. Still, it did do quite well in Europe, and is listed under the Avant Garde film selection on Air Canada international flights. Carrey plays a gay con man, who meets the above named while in prison. Ewan McGreggor plays Phillip, and it’s one of his best roles, right up there with Trainspotting. I can’t say enough good things about this film. It’s absolutely a must see.

Love and Other Drugs

This movie was far better than the trailers would make you believe. They actually really cheapened the viewers’ expectations, pushing the sight gags and sexual content. Set in the mid 90s during the pharmaceutical boom (and just before Pfifers’ introduction of it’s little blue miracle pill, Viagra it really paints a good picture of that era. It’s a little weird that movies about the past are actually happening in decades that I remember living through. The 80s don’t really count, unless it’s a kid’s movie. ☺ It’s actually about two commitment shy people who use casual sex to keep others out (for their own very different emotional hang ups) but end up falling for each other. It also deals with early onset Parkinson’s very effectively. I don’t know if it’s the high altitude or not, but I must admit, I cried at the end. ☺ Very well done, and both Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhall give great performances. Definitely worth watching.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

It’s funny to think that I watched three quarters of this movie on a KLM flight to Bali in early April, but due to a malfunction with the onboard entertainment on the way back, I couldn’t finish it until now. It wasn’t as good as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but then again, this is the same in book form. Lucy and Edmund just can’t carry a movie the way they do with Peter and Susan, and I thought Caspian was a little weak. The stand out was the boy who played Eustace. What a great transformational role, and he did it so well. The movie sets up nicely for the final installment that they will film, when Eustace goes back to Narnia. Though I don’t agree with some of the more allegorical rhetoric, especially when it’s in the middle of a children’s movie, it wasn’t too in your face, to the point where, if you hadn’t been raised in a Christian household, you wouldn’t get the references. Really amazing special effects, the CGI was especially seamless. I need to find out the location for the Narnia series, the cinematography was stunning. Not a must see, but a good movie. I’ll definitely check out the next one.

La princesse de Montpensier (The Princess of Montpensier)

This was a French film offered as a selection on Singapore Airlines. Set in the 16th century, it was an embellished historical drama about a young woman torn between her love and her duty, and the way her life is influenced by the men who love her. I’ve seen the exceptional actress who plays Marie before, she is luminescent. The backdrop of the Huguenot/Papal wars made for good bloody action scenes, and the costumes of the Queen Catherine di Medici’s court were gorgeous. I love nothing more than a well made historical drama, and being in French (with English subtitles) was just the icing on the cake. I like that I understand the French, but can also read the English for more meaning. I really enjoyed this, and would watch more from this director.

Barney’s Version

This was so so good. I wasn’t expecting it to be anything less, given that it stars Paul Giamatti and was a multiple festival pick and winner. I love that it’s based on a book written by Mordecai Richler and that there’s a dedication to him at the end. No spoilers, because it’s just that good, and to not let the storyline unfold naturally would do this film a disservice. The acting is just brilliant, not just from Giamatti but the other actors as well. The cinematography of Montreal is beautiful and even just the framing of the shots was excellent. I cried buckets, and I would have even if I wasn’t flying at a high altitude. Apparently that’s a factor with feeling weepy, which is why people cry more often at their movies while flying. I can’t recommend this enough. Go see it!