Film review: Doc Hollywood (1991)


As IMDB this week in honour of their 20th anniversary are celebrating the last two decades of cinema, I thought I would chip in and share an under-appreciated release from the 1990s.

Back to the future is probably always going to be Michael J Fox’s top movie, but this film is his best outside that franchise in my opinion. (Admittedly, I haven’t seen ALL his films)

Great tagline by the way on IMDB: He's a big city plastic surgeon...in a small town that doesn't take plastic.

My favourite part of this comedy/drama/romance/feel good movie is probably the opening credits, where Michael J Fox is riding along in his vintage porsche listening to the one and only by one-hit-wonder Chesney Hawkes:





The title "Doc Hollywood" and poster are actually very misleading, most of the film is set in a small country village in the south. The name Doc and the cool car are probably things they thought would appeal to the Back to the future fans. I read the love-interest Julie Warner was chosen, because she was slightly shorter than Michael J Fox. It would seem odd for her to be a head taller. I guess many women really are taller than him!

This summer time movie I rewatched recently and enjoyed again despite the clich├ęs. The characters had genuine charm and personality. It didn’t feel dated at all. It’s about that time in your 20s when you have to make certain choices about your future, which direction do I want to go in? What is important to me? Someone described it as a fish out of water tale. The people Dr. Benjamin Stone meets on his journey are very warm and friendly, and the town is a place where you feel like, I want to go and hang out with those characters. I want to give them a hug. The only thing I was opposed to was the final 10 seconds of dialogue, which I thought was unnecessary.

See this underrated film for the sweet-natured country-life atmosphere, where everyone knows everyone else. And it obviously helps if you like Michael J Fox. And is it just me, or does Bridget Fonda have an extremely cute and sexy smile? ( :
The nostalgic summer atmosphere reminded me of another film I like, Fried green tomatoes (1991), which I also recommend. Another warm-hearted summer film I recommend is Box of moonlight (1996)

I think rottentomatoes got the rating right for Doc Hollywood, IMDB didn’t. This is the sort of film with gem written all over it. Like someone said in a review: It's a vacation for the mind.

Any thoughts, readers?

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Songs for your iPod

Oh Mighty Engine - Neil Halstead

(I need to listen to the whole album, very promising acoustic song)



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Confirmation - Wild Nothing

(Thanks to Burning Reels for sharing this 2010 dream pop song on his blog. I love the whole album!)



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No shoes - The Roches

(I initially hated this folk song, but it kind of gets under your skin...)



Any thoughts on the music, readers?

Film review: Frankenstein (1931)


Based on the story by Mary Shelley, a lot has already been written about the Frankenstein movies. Known for its groundbreaking make-up, Boris Karloff as the monster is instantly recognizable around the world, but maybe not as scary now as it was on initial release. Certain quotes from the movie have become timeless like the doctor yelling “its alive, its alive!”The lighting and atmosphere was influenced by German expressionism films like Nosferatu (1922).

In the making of, it’s pointed out that the town people are almost villains at the end of the first movie, we sympathize with the outsider. The monster didn’t ask to be brought into the world. Because of his appearance, no matter where he went or what he did, people were frightened of him. He was more a victim than a perpetrator, who was innocent and didn’t understand the rules. Like an adolescent he was clumsy and awkward. Perhaps children and teens can especially identify, they can see the innocence, pathos and that the monster was very much a child like themselves.

Another interesting theme is about playing god, is it morally correct for doctor Frankenstein to do these experiments in the pursuit of science? Or are there certain boundaries we as humans should never cross? A little similar to the questions Blade runner (1982) poses, I think, which I previously recommended.

The scene in the mill was probably the inspiration for a scene in Tim Burton’s film Sleepy hollow (1999)

My favourite scene is from the arguably better sequel Bride of Frankenstein (1935), which now had a talking monster. I love the warm-hearted encounter between the monster and a lonely, blind hermit:



They made fun of this hermit scene in Mel Brook’s comedy Young Frankenstein (1974), a movie I feel is not as funny as I was led to believe. Some love him, but Mel Brook’s humor is not for me. I guess that's why there are 31 flavours at the ice cream shop!

Also, check out this week's recommendation of Gods and Monsters (1998), which is about James Whale, director of Frankenstein, and its sequel.

IMDB

Rotten tomatoes

Youtube

Any thoughts, readers?

Film review: Gods and Monsters (1998)


The title of the film “Gods and monsters” is a line from Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
This is a critically acclaimed biopic of the retired director of "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" James Whale.

The story of doctor Frankenstein’s and the monster’s struggle to be accepted may have resonated deeply with James Whale. He grew up a misunderstood artist in a family of factory workers. Also, Whale was a homosexual, which added to him being different.
James Whale is played by Ian McKellen, who was nominated for an Oscar for his leading performance. The film won an academy award for best screenplay adaptation.

I usually hate Brendan Fraser movies, I feel this is an adequate effort by him, but McKellen is a much better actor in my opinion. It probably helped playing this role that McKellen is already gay in real life. Clearly Brendan Fraser was picked because his head resembles the monster. The film plays around with the idea of the outsider. The monster/Brendan Fraser wanting a friend is similar to the monster's behaviour in the old Frankenstein movies of the 30s.

I am not gay, but Gods and Monsters still impressed me. A good character study of what it must be like to have those tendencies and how others might respond.

Also, it’s about what it might be like to be a celebrity of the past. You can compare the tone of Gods and Monsters to Ed Wood (1994), a movie I liked as well, which also portrayed a fading star of the past who befriends someone younger. I definitely felt Tim Burton could easily have directed this, but the job went to Bill Condon. The movie owes a lot to Ed wood, so if you like that one, or just enjoy Frankenstein movies, I recommend you give this film a go. It is very similar to Ed wood, but still very different.

I liked the slow pace of the movie, the story didn’t have any big action scenes. For the most part it’s interaction and dialogue between Fraser & McKellen. The flashback sequences are interesting as well. However, I did feel there were too many scenes sitting or standing around drinking, they could have mixed it up a bit more.

It definitely has Oscar written all over it, but that didn’t bother me, instead I was touched by the vulnerable characters.

To me, Gods and Monsters is about remembering the past, friendship, loneliness, the psychology behind Frankenstein. And about being a father figure to someone in need of a friend. Not just about being gay. The first 20 minutes or so almost play out as a comedy.

Definitely gives you the itch to rewatch James Whale’s two Frankenstein movies, which is probably the movies mission, to share the love and admiration for those classics.

Also, check out my recommendation of Frankenstein (1931)

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Any thought on this film, readers?

Songs for your iPod

Anywhere I lay my head - Scarlett Johansson

(OK, I admit it, I have a crush on Scarlett. Are there any 20something males who don’t?! Her looks aside, I was impressed with a couple of tracks I’m sharing here of her Tom Waits covers. To me her voice is unrecognizable, you wouldn't know it was her unless you were told. Some criticized her debut album for being too impersonal, but who cares. I enjoy covers of Tom Waits. This is a decent live recording)




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Falling down - Scarlett Johansson

(album version of song)





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Russia - Ramona Falls

(Indiearto, a music blog I visit sometimes, really likes this 2010 song and the imaginative video. To me, it starts a little slow, but I love the section from 1.55 and onwards. Maybe the louder you listen to this song, the more powerful it is?)

Film review: Roger Dodger (2002)


Love the energy in this independent film. To me this is a criminally overlooked low-budget masterpiece from 2002.

The main character, Roger, is nicknamed Roger Dodger. He’s a businessman, living in New York, is not particularly likeable, but has great verbal skills.
He is too afraid to look at his own problems and flaws, so is intent to study and comment on other people.
For example he acuses a woman of sleeping with her boss, but he is doing the exact same thing himself.
He attempts to predict the future of others, but is unable to predict his own. You get the feeling he is very cynical, doesn’t love himself, and is taking out his frustration with life on everybody else.

The film depicts a day in the life of Roger, his nephew sees him as a ladies man, and they go out on the town, so Roger can teach him a few tricks about seducing women.


You’ve heard of self-help books. Well, this is like a “not to do” behavioural guide. The film’s strength in my opinion is the very quotable script and also the acting.

Roger Dodger is highly recommended. I’ve seen it twice and I still feel I could watch it again, as I may have missed something. Both funny and insightful. The Roger character may relate in some way to the comic strip character Roger Dodger, although I don't know, I've never read that comic.

Here is the opening scene, which is similar to the opening of Reservoir dogs, starting off with a discussion in a restaurant.

To me at least, the similar Michael Douglas vechicle Solitary man (2010) was an inferior rip-off with a weaker script.

You need to see Roger Dodger, if you call yourself a fan of independent films. I usually only call a movie a favourite of mine, if it holds up on the 2nd viewing. This is certainly one of my favourite indies.

If you decide to watch this film, let me know in the comments what you think ( :

Trailer

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Songs for your iPod

Soul Meets Body - Death Cab For Cutie

(Thinking about what is my favourite song, can't decide, but this is near the top. The sound and lyrics in this tune never fail to get me in a good mood. Awesome track)



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Is that all there is – Peggy Lee

(To me the sound reminds me of a tom waits melodi or even Frank Sinatra. A classic, PJ Harvey actually did a recent cover version of this tune)



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She - Grand Avenue

(Love this song from the credits of movie Cashback (2006), which almost made it onto my A-Z of film recommendations. Great voice-over narration, but what made me only like this movie in patches were the many tonal shifts much like in "Leaves of grass". Another flaw is we don't hear enough about his previous girlfriend to relate to his feelings. But a number of people love this offbeat British film. Maybe I'm too critical. I think watching the trailer will help decide, if you will enjoy "Cashback" ( :



Any thoughts on the songs, readers ?

Film review: Notes on a scandal (2006)


For me a well-acted British film with a great script. Interesting and complex characters. I felt the characters stayed with me after I had seen it. Character's motives make you think. It didn't insult my intelligence like some Hollywood films have a tendency of doing.
The core of the story is the relationship between two teachers. The controversial film explores how far people will go in risking their career and reputation for friendship, love and sex. Dench's character being the narrator makes you never quite know who the other people really are, as they are observed through her voice-over narration. Is she an unreliable narrator?
Makes a change to see an older woman who is not so attractive in one of the leading roles.

The film questions who the villains and victims are and it seems like it’s blurred. I cared about them, they got under my skin almost like in a book, which is not surprising, as the film is based on a novel. I felt sorry for both main characters, despite both at times being unpleasant to each other. They are believable people, despite the extraordinary circumstances.

Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) wants to confide in someone and Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) is willing to listen, but misuses Sheba’s trust. A criticism of the film would be that Sheba’s motives are not really explained. But you could also see this as a strong point of the story, which lets the viewer interpret. The title of the American edition of the novel is actually a question: “What was she thinking: Notes on a scandal”.

Blanchett character wants to be a loving wife and parent, but she also has a dark side and wants to escape responsibility. In this way she is a confusing contradiction, maybe she suffers with egomania, an obsessive concern with fulfilling one’s own needs and desires regardless of the effect on other people. She doesn't think about other people's emotions. For example Barbara’s cat, which is ill. Sheba is selfishly intrigued by the teenagers interest in her, even though she seems unaware that he quite possibly could be bullshitting her.



You could also argue as some reviewers have that the story might have more bite, if Barbara was not revealed to be disturbed and obsessive at such an early point in the story. As Barbara doesn’t have a life outside of her job, she is drawn to Sheba. Having no husband means Barbara has a lot of spare time on her hands to speculate and over-analyze.
Is Barbara an accomplice to Sheba’s affair by not telling the family and authorities? Why is Barbara writing the diary, is she selfishly going to use the material to publish? I have my doubts, but the movie keeps you guessing, if her motives are more than friendship. Barbara shows that sometimes people who are tough on the outside, are vulnerable on the inside. The diary she is writing also reveals as much about the teller as the subject. Barbara is most sympathetic, when she is at her lowest point in my opinion, she is driven by loneliness, but is too intense to make lasting, meaningful friendships. Barbara is probably perceived by Sheba as a mother figure, but Barbara does not see it in this light. The film is a character study of a lonely middle-aged female teacher just as much as it's a study of Sheba’s troubles. The film is also about consequences of your actions.

As with other excellent films, I feel this is one that I could see again in the future. It makes me feel like reading the novel, so I can learn more about the characters. Interestingly, the character’s names have multiple meanings.

The novel is based on real life events. The story focuses on the rift between public perception and private truth. The characters also seem oddly unaware of their mistakes, totally selfish. Perhaps for this reason the characters are a little unlikable, but wouldn’t the film be boring if they were all smiling and happy?

The film's soundtrack is by Philip Glass, which is similar to his beautiful piano soundtrack from "The Hours".

The film almost challenges the viewer to understand each person's behaviour and relationships to the other characters, which is why my review is longer than usual. You want them to admit their choices were unsound. Is there such a thing as a mental age or a point where the age difference crosses the line? Do we have a right to judge their choices? Should age difference be frowned upon, because others selfishly feel uncomfortable?

Among the 10 best I saw last year. This to me is an original story, not a copy of other movies. I highly recommend this film, if you like interesting character studies. 8.3/10

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Songs for your iPod

Movie trailers are a great way to discover new bands. Here are 3 songs for your enjoyment.
Readers, can you remember any movie trailers, where you stumbled across songs you liked?

7/4 shoreline - Broken social scene

(Used in trailer for "Its kind of a funny story" 2010)





Libraries – Seabear

(This song was in trailer of Kisses (2008). Thanks to blogger Breathingmovies for bringing this music to my attention)



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This Modern Love - Bloc Party

(He was a Quiet Man (2007). I thought I would post trailer A in this case, as I also like the Keane song you hear at the end. If you like unconventional outsider movies, this is one I recommend. The movie is not for everyone, though)

Film review: A Patch of Blue (1965)

Probably the most warm-hearted and touching movie I have watched in 2010.

The story is simple, but what I fell in love with in this black and white film is the unique atmosphere, and also the chemistry between the two main characters is timeless. The atmosphere reminded me of "To Kill A Mockingbird”, which is a favourite book of mine. The music by Jerry Goldsmith is also beautiful and memorable.

The movie is about blindness and the difficulties this can cause for the blind person, their family and friends. If I was blind, this is how I would want to be treated by a stranger. I read actress Elizabeth Hartman during the shoot used special contact lenses that deprived her of her sight.

The film was one of the first to deal with a relationship between a black man and a white woman, this aspect of the movie was less interesting to me, and obviously was more groundbreaking and controversial in the 60s.



The movie was intentionally filmed in black and white, even though colour was available. The reason for this I am unsure of, if you know the answer, please let me know.

I don’t feel this passionate about older films that often. But I can see myself revisiting this several times in the future. I have a soft spot for films about blind characters, a couple of others I love are The Color of Paradise, & Scent of a woman.

A Patch of Blue is among the 10 best I’ve seen so far in 2010 for sure. The story may not be that complex, but the warmth of the characters makes this a must-see. 9/10

The only bad thing about this movie was that it had to end ( :

Readers, any thoughts?

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

YouTube

Favorite blind movies listmania amazon.com

Book review: The Magus / John Fowles (1966)


I saw a number of readers on the web named this the best novel they had ever read, so I thought I better try it.

Great story, a contemporary classic, which grabbed me right away. The first 50 pages is probably my favourite part of the book. In my opinion a book that can recapture your desire for reading. An excellent twentysomething novel full of colourful characters and surprises. A bestseller when it was initially released.

This is the most recent addition into my current top 10 novels, I read it over the summer, it’s a long read of over 600 pages. But then again so is Harry Potter.

Suitable for vacation time, the story is like taking a journey to a foreign country, most of the plot takes place on a remote Greek island, 8 hours south of Athens. Author Fowles has created a world I looked forward to immerse myself into and savour. I really felt like I had been to the island, even though it was obviously only in my mind I had travelled.

The book begins in the UK. Set in 1953, the richly described protagonist is 25-year-old English teacher Nicolas Urfe. He is emotionally detached, struggling to find his place in life both in terms of his work, and relationships. He is unsure if he wants to continue teaching. Without giving too much away, on his trip to a Greek island he befriends Maurice Conchis, a mysterious recluse, who is likewise vividly described. Conchis becomes a mentor figure and shapes Nicolas in a way he couldn’t have predicted.

A story about the opposite sex and the difficulties of growing into an adult. But also about secrets, psychological games, manipulation, seduction, trust, the difference between truth and illusion, and the dark side of human nature. Much like the main character Nicolas, the reader must try to interpret what is real and what is not, which is half the fun.

A quote from page 477:
“Wasn’t going to buy it. You weren’t really expected to. She gave me another quick smile. If you can imagine playing chess, but not to win...merely to see what moves the other person makes”
If you are unaware of the term, a magus is a sorcerer or magician. I never felt the novel was written 50 years ago, I felt it has aged remarkably well. John Fowles himself wrote the story based on personal experiences of teaching at a boarding school on a Greek island in 1952-53, which is probably why the novel felt so personal.

The 1968 movie version was poorly received and Fowles himself was unhappy with the result. Maybe one of those books which is un-filmable and consequently works better as a novel.

It probably inspired the movies Sleuth (1972) and The man with the golden gun (1974), which I really like, although The Magus is streets ahead of both in my mind in terms of plot twists. I will never forget The Magus. Unlike anything I have ever read before, a hypnotic read, very original. Knowledge of literary references and Greek mythology is helpful, but not essential.

It’s in "1001 books you must read before you die", and so it should be. Highly recommended. 9/10. The only reason I'm not giving it 10/10 is because the book could have been shorter with some better editing.

Readers, any thoughts?

Songs for your iPod

Offshore (Ambient Mix) - Chicane

(Remember Chicane? If I had to name a handful of songs that to me define the 90s, this would be one of them)



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Darkness, Darkness - Lisa Torban

(From the end credits of James Cameron's Titanic documentary "Ghosts of the Abyss")



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That Summer Feeling - Jonathan Richman

(Thought I better post this song before we reach autumn. Love this tune, but what was the youtube user thinking, when he made this truly awful video?!! )



Any thoughts on the songs, readers?

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