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Friday, January 23, 2015

Hook (Released in 1991) - A fantasy film - Starring Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins

A 1991 fantasy movie directed by Steven Spielberg, Hook is based on the concept and idea of the beloved children’s book character - Peter Pan, growing up. A multi star cast movie with Robin Williams as a grown up Peter Pan (known as Peter Banning in the present day), Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, Maggie Smith as Granny Wendy, Bob Hoskins as Smee, Amber Scott and Charlie Korsmo as Peter Banning’s kids, and Caroline Goodall as Mrs Banning; Hook serves as a sequel to Peter and Wendy (1911).
The movie starts with Peter Pan all grown up, going by the name of Peter Banning. He is a successful corporate lawyer, with no recollection of his past as Peter Pan, and no memory of his life before the age of 12. He is shown to be more in touch with his cell phone than his children. Eventually the entire Banning family travels on a holiday to London to meet Granny Wendy, who is being honored for her work in setting up an orphanage. Granny Wendy remembers Peter’s past and opens up a plethora of adventure and magic in the viewers, when she asks Peter a simple question - “you really don’t remember who you are Peter?”
One night when Peter and his wife are out celebrating, Captain Hook abducts Peter’s children and takes them to Neverland. Peter comes home to find his children missing. Later that night, Tinker Bell confronts Peter and forces him to go back to Neverland with her to save his children. But, seeing a grown slightly out of shape Peter Pan, agitates Captain Hook who wants to kill Peter and his children. Finally, Smee reasons with Hook and deduces that spending a long time away from Neverland must have wiped away Peter’s memories. At the same time, Tinker Bell pleads with Hook to give Peter 3 days to prepare for a fight against Hook.

With 3 days granted to him, Peter and Tinker Bell go to the Lost Boys’ Home to prepare. None of the boys there believe him to be Peter Pan and go all out to try and humiliate him. Meanwhile Hook tries and turns Peter’s children against him, by feeding lies. While his daughter stays steadfast in her belief that her father will save them, Peter’s son Jack looks to Hook as a father figure. Through his journey back in Neverland, Peter discovers himself again, the time he had spent as a child in Neverland with Tinker Bell, the mistakes he has made in his adult life and the true value of family.
After 3 days he readies himself for a fight against Captain Hook, with the support of the orphans and Tinker Bell. He saves his children, defeats Hook and goes back to London to celebrate with his family. While the movie is a good concept, the promise of magic (considering it is a Steven Spielberg movie) leaves a lot to be desired. With the famous white light that sparks off outside his window, waiting to take Peter back to Neverland, as a viewer, we hope for a view of the lush green island full of fun, magic and surprises.
But Neverland fails to deliver. With more red-brown tones used throughout the island, Neverland feels more like it is witnessing a terrible draught. Also, there are too many props and too much happening on the costume front. The set looks exactly like a studio set, and not an exotic magical island. Most of the actors, including Hoffman and Roberts perform their parts more as a duty than something exciting. Robin Williams struggles hard to keep the magic alive, and he does succeed to an extent. But, one actor can do only so much to keep the magic alive. The fencing scenes between Williams and Hoffman towards the end leave a lot to be desired. Almost all Asian movies have tremendously better sword play than the one choreographed for this movie. All in all, the movie is worth one watch, specifically for the younger audience. But, with a storyline that starts off with a magical character having grown up, one does expect a lot more than what is delivered.

Hook (Released in 1991) - A fantasy film - Starring Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dying Young (released in 1991) - Starring Julia Roberts, Campbell Scott and Vincent D'Onofrio

Based on a book of the same name, written by Marti Leimbach, Dying Young was directed by Joel Schumacher, and released in 1991. This romantic comedy, before its release, was pinned as one of the biggest blockbusters to release in the summer of 1991. However, after its release all it got was negative reviews. The star cast included Julia Roberts and Campbell Scott among others.
The movie opens with Hilary (played by Julia Roberts) making it plenty clear that she has next to no luck in the love and work department. Having broken up with her cheating boyfriend, Hilary, who now lives with her mother (played by Ellen Burstyn) decides to answer an ad in the papers, for an attractive woman with little (or no) work experience. Dressed in a red miniskirt, she decides to go try her luck for this job.
Without even an interview she gets selected to take care of a young man, who is shown to be battling leukemia. Donned with the duty of taking care of Victor Geddes (played by Campbell Scott) who is a 28 year old, rich and well educated man, Hilary becomes his live-in caretaker. However, she isn’t sure whether she is up for the task especially after having seen his reactions to chemotherapy. But, obviously she rises to the challenge, reads up on leukemia and tries to be a better homemaker/caretaker.
Over time, it is shown that Victor’s chemotherapy is complete and the two head down to the coast, where Victor has yet another home. All this while, Victor’s father hasn’t been given a strong role. He is shown to be indifferent at the most. The happy couple continues to live on the coast where their relationship evolves to love, all the while Victor doesn’t share with Hilary the fact that he has been taking morphine to hide the pain and that his chemo hasn’t actually been completed.

However, during one dinner party with friends, when Victor acts aggressively and later collapses on the floor, Hilary rummages through the garbage and finds the syringes. She confronts Victor and finds out the truth. She calls up Victor’s father and tells him everything. He promises to pick up Victor in the morning and take him to the hospital. Hilary and Victor have another talk, and Victor convinces Hilary that he will go back but wants to stay for one more party. Hilary agrees and goes to call Victor’s father to let him know, only to come back and find Victor packing his back in order to flee.
Yet another confrontation and “supposed to be” emotional declarations of how Victor has lost hope and Hilary loves Victor, take place. Hilary however finally convinces him to fight and get back to his chemotherapy. The movie closes with the two of them walking out of Victor’s house to go to the hospital.
Although nobody actually dies in the movie (young or old), the characters and their constant dribble of self-pity does make the audience die a little bit inside. The plot has a vague similarity to Pretty Woman, but without the fun elements or Julia Roberts contagious and vivacious attitude. While the movie is about a young man, his relation with his caretaker, and how they fall in love while he learns valuable life lessons from her; it fails to create the same warmth and humor as Pretty Woman.
Since Campbell Scott fails to generate any warmth or sympathy for his character, it would be wrong to blame Julia Roberts for lacking humor and vibrancy. The filmmaking itself is not too great, with dramatic effects being thrown in, without actually being seen through. Overall, the movie got negative reviews and after painfully sitting through more than one and half hours of this movie, one can understand why.

Dying Young (released in 1991) - Starring Julia Roberts, Campbell Scott and Vincent D'Onofrio

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sleeping with the Enemy (Released in 1991) - Starring Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin and Kevin Anderson

Released in 1991, this psychological thriller is based on a novel of the same name, by Nancy Price. Directed by Joseph Ruben, the movie’s star cast includes Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin and Kevin Anderson. Even though it was a box office success, the movie received many negative reviews. Especially since the beginning of the movie raises expectations of the viewer, only to make it come crashing down through the remaining one and a half hours of the movie.
The plot of the movie starts off with some hope. Laura Burney (played by Julia Roberts) is the wife of a millionaire investment counselor, Martin (played by Patrick Bergin). However, everything in their fancy beach house is not hunky-dory. Trapped in a marriage where she is used as a trophy wife, and then abused at home on account of Martin’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCDs) Laura is looking for a way out. She decides to fake her own death by pretending to have drowned in an accident, when the two of them go boating.
However, having made it known to Martin that she cannot swim, Laura pretends to have drowned and then heads home to grab her “go away” bag and flush her wedding ring down the toilet. She moves to Iowa, under a new name. She even had Martin believe her mother is dead, and then gets her shifted into a nursing home. In her new set up under a new name, she befriends her next door neighbour, Ben Woodward, who also happens to be a drama teacher at the University of Northern Iowa. But soon has to confide everything in Ben, since he finds out that her new identity is not real.
While her life seems to be gradually getting better, Martin gets a phone call at the office from the YWCA about Laura. From that phone call he learns that Laura had secretly been taking swimming lessons, and his doubts start to play up. He goes home and somehow finds the wedding ring in the toilet bowl. It apparently did not get flushed when it was supposed to. He then tracks down Laura’s “supposedly dead” mother and manages to pry information, about Laura’s current location, from her.

He then follows Laura who is seen with Ben to her home. But, before he does so, he visits Laura’s new home and in rearranges methodically Laura’s towels and kitchen shelves in a very “slasher-meets - obsessive compulsive behavior man” kind of way! Laura sees these rearrangements and begins to get worried. Martin having followed Laura and Ben home from a local fair, confronts her while brandishing a gun. What follows is typical, with Ben trying to intervene and getting knocked out in the process. Laura struggling with Martin, somehow managing to get the gun in her control and finally shooting him, after placing a call to 991 stating she has an intruder in the house.
Only Martin isn’t dead, and he tries to take the gun from Laura and shoots. But thankfully by then the bullets in the gun are exhausted along with the audience’s patience. Martin finally dies and Laura and the now revived Ben hug over Martin’s dead body which was holding Laura’s wedding ring.
Having started with some pretty impactful scenes, the movie raises the expectations of the viewer. But, soon it turns into a typical slasher movie. And halfway through, it goads the audience to do the one thing they should not do in such movies, and that is try to find logic. For example, why did that ring not flush itself? Or was that toilet left unused for so many days? Or why and how did the YWCA call up Martin on his office number? Or even what was the point of Martin tracking down Laura only to rearrange towels in her new home?
The movie seems watchable if one keeps their brains aside and doesn’t ask too many questions. But in complete fairness, all the actors have done a wonderful job, especially Julia Roberts as the battered wife looking for a way out. The movie could have been a lot better, and in the opening it feels like it probably is. However, it just seems to miss its mark and falls a bit short of expectations.
Sleeping with the Enemy (Released in 1991) - Starring Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin and Kevin Anderson