THE REEL DEAL : June 2014

Welcome to the inaugural post of my new column, The Reel Deal! (Wop wop, I know. Bear with the corniness, dear readers.) I know that my record of column retention hasn’t exactly been stellar, but I see it as part of the blogging process. Sometimes, a column idea may sound great and promising, but once the rubber meets the road it may not be as interesting as expected, or in many of my cases it’s simply not sustainable given my personal schedule. And so I drop it. But the important thing is that I’m learning from my mistakes and making better decisions for the future. The Reel Deal is where I’ll be sharing with you about upcoming movies that I’m looking forward to, or a recap on the movies that I’ve watched. You can expect to see new posts twice a month, on the first and third Thursday.

With that, let’s kick things off with this month’s new movies.

 The Fault In Our Stars

The trailer looks uber cheesy, but if the movie is anything like its literary original it’s going to be one heck of a smart, cheeky tear-jerker full of feels you probably didn’t know existed. For those not familiar with the YA blockbuster, The Fault In Our Stars is the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a snarky sixteen-year-old battling lung cancer, and her romance with the equally precocious Augustus Waters, himself a cancer survivor who is “on a roller coaster that only goes up.” I’ve deliberately steered clear of reviews, so I have no idea if the film is any good, but I’m pretty optimistic.

The Fault In Our Stars came out in theaters June 6.


How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon is one of my favorite films of all time. Which is saying something, as I’ve insisted that choosing favorite movies (or books) is like choosing a favorite child. That said, I’m not sure what to think in regards to its sequel, which came out last week. The trailer left me feeling torn. I’m excited to see the story continue, and curious as to how Berk has changed now that they’ve adopted dragons as their pets/steeds/beasts of burden. But I wasn’t expecting all the changes: how the characters are years older, how Hiccup’s mom is alive (??), how Hiccup himself is no longer the endearingly awkward underdog but the dime-a-dozen cool kid that leads the pack. Maybe I’m just being grumpy. It’s a sequel. Of course things are going to be different!

In any case, I’m still looking forward to the film.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 came out in theaters June 13.



So, the only reason why I know about this film is because of Chris Evans. Ha. But I’m glad I found out about it because it seems like a pretty interesting film. Based on a graphic novel by Jacques Lob, Snowpiercer is the story of the have versus the have-nots, and the rebellion that arises among the denizens aboard the titular train chugging its way across a decimated earth frozen over by an apocalyptic ice age. Granted, dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories have been flooding the box office these last few years, and yes I am getting bored with the repetition. But Snowpiercer looks promisingly different. It’s grittier than your average polished Hollywood blockbuster, and the film seems more interested in providing genuine social commentary as opposed to compensating a dull plot with explosions and flashy CGI. And I won’t lie, part of Snowpiercer‘s allure lies in its director, Bong Joon-ho. I haven’t seen any of his previous works, I’ll admit. But I’ve read up about him and his movies, and I like his approach to movie-making. He’s a big fan of social and political commentary, and never wants to repeat himself but rather tries to do something innovative with each new movie. Also, I admire how Bong wouldn’t back down when Snowpiercer‘s US distributor wanted to cut out 20 minutes of the film because they felt it was too long. “I’m not that kind of young, innocent film school student who is saying ‘Nobody can touch my movie!!’” Bong said in an interview, “I’m not like that, I can negotiate, but I really hope to protect and keep my vision.” And lucky for us, he did. Although according to Deadline, it’s at the expense of a limited release.

Snowpiercer comes out in theaters June 27.

Readers—What new movies are you looking forward to this month?

ON SCREEN : Before Midnight

/ official website /

I watched Before Midnight tonight, and absolutely loved it. No joke, I walked out of the theater with genuinely sore cheeks because I pretty much smiled and laughed my way through the entire movie*. I loved everything about the movie: the on-screen chemistry between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the beautiful landscape of Greece, the banter and laughter and the countless meandering conversations. But what left a lasting impression, more than anything else, was the movie’s portrayal of the realities of relationships. While I won’t go so far as to say that no movie prior to Midnight has ever portrayed romantic relationships in a realistic light—because I’m pretty sure I’d be wrong—it is the only movie that I can remember ever doing so, especially for long-term romantic relationships, and I love it for that. The frank treatment is incredibly refreshing. And I don’t know about you, but I’m so over chick flicks and fairytales that chalk up romance to be something idealistic and shallow and not at all like the complex, sometimes painful, and utterly human experience that it really is.

There’s this one line that Hawke’s character Jesse says towards the end of the film, and it’s still resonating with me. He says it to Delpy’s character Celine, with whom he’s just had this majorly heated argument, and whom he is trying with all his heart to reconcile with. I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but gist of it goes something like this: love—REAL love—is nothing like the stuff you find in fairytales. It’s a messy and confusing experience, peppered with mistakes and shared between two less-than-perfect people. But it’s real. And it’s no less genuine.


* Excepting the argument scenes, of course. And when Jesse and Celine are having some sexytimez. Which reminds me, I should also warn that this movie does contain mature content, including explicit nudity and a good amount of swearing. Please be mindful of this before you buy yourself a ticket.

Girls can drive too!

Charlize Theron, during driving school in preparation for her role as Stella Bridger.

Stella Bridger, revving up her new MINI Cooper in a getaway test run.

* * *

“I remember right from the beginning they added more driving school for me just purely because I was a girl, you know? And so, I made it pretty clear from the beginning that they should all know that I am as equal as they are.”
— Charlize Theron

” I might even say that maybe the best [driver] was Charlize Theron, but I’m not telling the guys that.”
— Donald De Line (producer)

* * *

I re-watched The Italian Job this weekend, and was really impressed by Charlize Theron. Not only was her acting spot on, she did a lot — if not all — of her own car stunts, which, if you’ve seen the movie, will know is pretty freaking amazing. Also, she really held her own in the midst of the all-male cast. In one of the behind-the-scene featurettes, the lead actors commented on their experiences during driving school, which they were required to take in preparation for shooting. Charlize spoke briefly on how she was initially given more schooling than her male co-stars because everyone just assumed that, as a girl, she would need more help with handling her car. Not only did she shoot that down and insisted on being treated the same as the guys, she turned out to be the best driver of them all. What a gal!

Just comes to show, girls can drive too! And more importantly, any sort of assumption-making—towards anyone—is just unnecessary, and nonsensical. 

Images from The Italian Job and The Italian Job “Driving School” featurette.


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P. S. I Love You was a surprisingly fun movie to watch. And quite frankly, just what I was in the mood for: something light, escapist, and not cheesy. I admit, I was very pessimistic about me liking the movie at first. (I got wind of a lot of negative reviews.) But when the screen faded out and the credits rolled, I felt remarkably pleased, even giddy.

My favorite part of the movie was the relationships between the romantic leads. Gerry and Holly were really sweet together. And Gerry was so good to Holly. His patience with her during their big argument scene was unbelievable. (Try being even-toned the next time your wife picks a heated fight with you over something trivial.) And does anything really need to be said about his having arranged the whole letter thing? Amazing. What gets me isn’t the showiness of it all. What gets me is the heart behind it. Gerry knew his wife so incredibly well. He knew she would have a very difficult time coping with his death. He knew she would need him to walk her through the grief. And so he went out of his way, while battling what must have been a lot of physical pain — I’ve never had one, but brain tumors don’t sound like fun — to plan and arrange everything, so that Holly could move on afterward in a healthy manner.

I also liked the romance between Holly and William, and the manner in which it was handled in light of Holly’s grief and Gerry’s death: how their attraction was so obvious and so mutual, yet William held back a bit when he saw how Holly was still unready to move on. (It would have been so weird — and a tad too unbelievable — if the two of them got together when they could have!) I’m miffed that they didn’t get much screen time together, but quite pleased by the scenes we did get of them interacting. Gosh, they were so cute together.

Some of the lines in the movie were hysterically funny, and quite clever. Others, insightful and humorous. Here are some of my favorites:

“We’re so arrogant, aren’t we? So afraid of age, we do everything we can to prevent it. We don’t realize what a privilege it is to grow old with someone. Someone who doesn’t drive you to commit murder or doesn’t humiliate you beyond repair.”
— Daniel Connelly

Denise Hennessey: [Denise is admiring Ted as he walks by] Ooohhh, he’s delicious isn’t he? I’d serve coffee on that a**.
John McCarthy: Do you have to be so vulgar about men? Like they’re pieces of meat?
Denise: I’m sorry, John. I forgot you’re sensitive about your flat a**.
John: You know, Denise, that’s why you’re not married. Women act like men. Then they complain men don’t want them.
Denise: Oh, is that why? ‘Cause I thought it was something different. I thought that it was ’cause I deserved the best and he’s out there. He’s just with all the wrong women. And let me be clear. After CENTURIES of men looking at my tits instead of my eyes and pinching my a** instead of shaking my hand, I now have the DIVINE right to stare at a man’s BACKSIDE with vulgar, cheap appreciation if I want to!
Sharon McCarthy: Well said!
Denise: Yeah, well, I thought so.

Gosh, I loved the bits between Holly and her girl friends at the pub.

Holly Kennedy: I left without saying anything. He must think I’m an idiot.
Denise: Well, you’re an American. They expect us to be idiots.

Sharon: [Convincing Holly to go talk to William] Plus you’re an American. You’ve got the foreign exotic stuff going for you.
Holly: Oh there is nothing exotic about being an American.
Sharon: Well he doesn’t know that!

Some of the technical / creative aspects of the movie didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t particularly like the camera work (ha, I sound like such a snob when I say that). Nor did I like the way the movie handled the flashback scenes. They just bled into the present day shots, which wasn’t terribly confusing, but caused the movie to feel jerky and a bit strange, as if there was no difference between what Holly was experiencing in the present day and what she was seeing through her memories. But I think what irked me most of all was Holly’s overall aesthetic. Her wardrobe looked too … random, as if the costume department had Hilary Swank throw on whatever was at hand. I didn’t see any sort of thematic unity with her costumes. In one scene, she’s wearing a loose, silky blouse of vibrant fuschia; the next, she’s donning a mint green top with a very Regency era vibe to it, complete with beaded embroidery; the next, she’s wearing a cream-colored turtleneck with a belted trench coat. Even if the idea was to make Holly look less made up, so to speak, and more “normal Jane,” by making her wardrobe look piecemeal, there should have been some unifying factor to it, like a color palette, or a specific style of clothes, just like anyone’s wardrobe. I don’t know if I can say that the lack of a theme totally threw off the feel of the movie, but I felt noticeably distracted by the seeming randomness of Holly’s costume choices. I think a more cohesive wardrobe would have attributed to the overall cohesiveness of the film.

P. S. I Love You was a fun movie to watch. And just what I needed that day. (Work has been pretty crazy these last couple of weeks.) I think I’m willing to buy the DVD, since I could see myself watching it again. And again. And maybe again. But for the time being, I think I’ll stick to hunting down a cheap copy of the book by Cecelia Ahern, which the movie is based off of. I’ve heard some pretty negative reviews of the book, calling it trite and akin to something from the realm of badly written fanfiction. But I’m keeping an open mind. Who knows, it may just surprise me.


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I’m excited to introduce a new addition to this blog: Film Friday! From now on, in addition to my, erm, irregular Book Notes posts, I will be posting every Friday about a film that I’ve either watched earlier that week, or am looking forward to watching. This new development may come off as “out of character” for this blog, since I started it as a book-only thing. But the move feels only natural, as I’ve loved movies almost as long and as earnestly as I’ve loved books and literature. And while I won’t deny that movies and books are very different creative mediums, I think they do the same thing in the end — they tell a story. And ultimately, I’m a lover of stories, not just books or movies. So with that said, I want to kick this off by introducing to you a movie that I’m really stoked about watching: Third Star.

Third Star is the story of four lifelong friends — James, Miles, Davy, and Bill. James, twenty-nine and terminally ill, invites his friends to join him on a camping trip to the beautiful Welsh coast. While enthusiastic, the young men are ill-prepared for the outdoors. What follows is a madcap sequence of events — including hilarious encounters with the locals, and minor setbacks — all the while intertwined with the tender poignancy of the four friends coming to grips with the imminent departure of one of their own.

Judging from the trailer, the movie seems to have everything that constitutes A Good Movie — heartfelt performances, talented actors, beautiful camera work, and an unpretentious script — which pleases me immensely. Oh, and let’s not forget Benedict Cumberbatch and JJ Feild, who are two of my favorite actors! Count on it, I will do all that I can to try to make it to a showing.

That said, I want to ask you, my dear readers — what are your thoughts towards this movie? Is it something you can see yourself watching? Will you be taking a road trip to watch it? (If you are, consider sharing your experience with the cast and crew! I know I will be!)

And since the movie has already come out in the UK, I want to ask you, my UK readers, if I have any — what are your thoughts toward the movie? Did it meet your expectations? Exceed? Fall short of?