Gorgeous AND Comfortable! Watch: 1st Full Trailer for Branagh’s Cinderella.

Cinderella, Kenneth Branagh, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, movie, poster, Lily James, Disney

This first trailer for Disney’s live action version of Cinderella just landed, promising a beautiful heroine, a handsome hero, but most importantly, that elusive thing that every girl truly craves, yet despairs of ever finding, a gorgeous and “really comfortable” pair of shoes!

After just one viewing, this two minutes, forty seconds of footage will make you feel like the Grinch standing atop Mt. Crumpet and listening to the town of Whoville on Christmas morning. Any vestige of cynicism will melt away and your heart will grew three sizes. (All of which is complete hyperbole, of course. Anyone who used to be a little girl at some point in their lives was already in. The rest of you will probably be dragged against your will to accompany a girl no matter how old she is.)

The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella whose merchant father remarries following the tragic death of her mother. Keen to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother Lady Tremaine and her daughters Anastasia and Drizella into the family home. But, when Ella’s father suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella since she used to work in the cinders, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who abuse her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an employee at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears as if her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming “Kit.” Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand as a kindly beggar woman steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice, changes Cinderella’s life forever.

That this looks familiar is not just down to the fact that the original fairy-tale is centuries old, but that the film was designed to look a lot like the animated version we grew up with, right down to Ella’s (Lily James, best known for a stint on “Downton Abbey”) blue gown. I will say that Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother doesn’t look much like the cartoon version (who looked and sounded like Maureen Stapleton), but she does look delightful (and I love that the director both gave his ex a juicy role and allowed her to look pretty. Something her current paramour rarely does).

Can we talk about Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother? This is going to be delicious!

Speaking of which, Richard Madden as the charming prince certainly appears to be so. (And it’s a fair bet that he’ll end up wearing the crown so hideously denied him in “Game of Thrones”, am I right?)

The rest of the cast is pure gold as well. Hayley Atwell, whom a lot of you know as Marvel’s Agent Carter, looks ethereal as Ella’s dearly departed mother (and like she could be related to James). And yes, that was Ben Chaplin seen briefly as her father. The stepsisters are played by Holliday Grainger (“The Borgias”) and Sophie McShera (another Downton regular). We also get Stellan Skargård, Nonso Anozie, and Derek Jacobi. (Dead Again reunion! Woot!) I can’t wait!

Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh, from a script by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) and Chris Weitz (About a Boy) opens in the US on March 13 and in the UK on 27th March, 2015.

Can you believe Emma Watson turned this down?

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Oooo Shiny! Brief Glimpse at The Glass Slipper in Cinderella

 

Cinderella, poster, movie

I guess the point of this bit of CGI footage is to announce to the world that Disney has, in fact, made a live-action Cinderella. There’s certainly nothing else to it. Yes, it’s a glass slipper. Very pretty. I defy anyone to get that particular shoe on their foot, let alone walk in it.

Disney has actually been rolling this out since at least March when a big production was made to introduce the film at Cinema Con, including the”logo” poster you can see below and a sneak peek at some footage. Apparently this version will take its cues from the Disney animated feature, which makes sense. There won’t be anyone singing about little chairs in little corners or posing philosophical questions on the dance floor, as in the Rodgers and Hammerstein version. (Which I grew up with and from which I can still quote lines)

The script is by Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses, The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory, I Don’t Know How She Does It – as well as the upcoming Annie remake) and Chris Weitz (About a Boy  – film and series), so expect it to be pretty “chick-flicky” with bold brush-strokes of genuine human emotion.

The official synopsis from Disney:

The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden). Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham-Carter) steps forward and — armed with a pumpkin and a few mice — changes Cinderella’s life forever.

Including both Cindy’s parents is new. Even Ever After only included Dad. Hayley “Agent Carter” Atwell and Ben Chaplin play ill-fated Mother and Father.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the cast includes Cate Blanchett as the Evil Stepmother, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, the late Robb Stark…er…Richard Madden as Prince Charming, Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera (Daisy in “Downton Abbey”) as the Stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella and Lily James (also of  “Downton Abbey”) as Cinderella.

I remain a fool for Branagh, so I know I’ll see it. Cinderella hits theaters March 13, 2015. (If that weren’t so far away, I’d say odds are we’ll get a longer teaser in front of Disney’s Maleficent on May 30.)

 

 

Trailer Trash

Just a few words about the trailers that I saw (or was subjected to) this past weekend.

The trailer for Hanna,

which I’ve seen countless times now, has me excited for the movie and for The Chemical Brothers soundtrack or maybe I’m excited for the movie BECAUSE of the soundtrack. That thrumming techno beat gets under your skin.

Remember when I said that the trailer for Arthur would have to knock my socks off in order for me to go see it? Well, I’ve seen a couple of them now and I have to say it does look entertaining and Helen Mirren is, of course, always worth a look. Perhaps if this weren’t a remake of one of my favorite films…

Arthur opens against Hanna on April 8. It should be interesting to see which one comes out on top. Right now, I’m going with Arthur. I think it will appeal to a wider demographic. I could be wrong. It happens.

Okay, I’ve seen the trailer for Thor on the big screen, three times now, as a matter of fact.

I’m sorry to say, I’m sad to report, that it looks loud and dumb or sounds loud and looks dumb. I can’t even figure out what accent Australian Chris Hemsworth was going for. The thing probably cost more than the GNP of a small country. I can’t imagine what drew Natalie Portman to it (or even dir. Kenneth Branagh for that matter. Because of him alone I was willing to give this one a shot,) not to mention the rest of the wonderful cast. Perhaps there’s more here than meets the eye, but considering it’s in 3D, I think what meets the eye is exactly the point.

While we’re on the subject, I watched How to Train Your Dragon the 1st time in 3D (but w/out the glasses because they didn’t give them to me,) but I haven’t seen anything in 3D since probably Jaws 3D. It really doesn’t interest me. If the story and character development aren’t there, having shit appear to fly at my face will not improve my movie going experience. A movie is a movie. It is inherently 2D. And I refuse to pay inflated prices (when a reg. ticket averages $11.50 in Boston) for the privilege. Rant over.

I have to confess that I laughed more at the trailer for Bad Teacher

than I did at those for Bridesmaids

and Your Highness

…combined.

This is a complete aberration. I ordinarily do not like Cameron Diaz. At all. I ordinarily wouldn’t watch a film featuring Cameron Diaz on purpose unless there was compensation of some kind at the end of it. (Speaking of Your Highness, it is a real shame that newly minted Academy Award winner Natalie Portman is going to have such a string of clunkers as some of the first films to be released following Black Swan. I’m counting No Strings Attached, despite how much money it made.)

I’m very curious about The Conspirator.

It’s directed by Robert Redford which gives it instant cachet (just as Eastwood gives to his films, warranted or not.) It’s had trouble getting distribution, which I suppose is to be expected of a film that is essentially a courtroom drama featuring the lesser known supporting cast of one of the more well known incidents in American history. In this economic climate, getting people to spring for a ticket to something like that will be no mean feat.

It’s got a great cast, although Evan Rachel Wood sounds like she’s in a high school play in the brief glimpse we get there. Oh well. (I know I’ll see it. I’m an avowed American History buff with a weakness for conspiracy theories. It’s practically mandatory.)

The one trailer I saw for a film that I really truly cannot wait for is Cowboys and Aliens:

That just has F U N written all over it! I expect great things from this one, especially since it’s produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Jon Favreau. I’ve been a fan of Favreau the actor since Swingers (even if he essentially always plays the same character – himself), but as a director he just gets stronger with each film. (C’mon, who doesn’t like Elf? What are you a Communist?) The writers are kind of hit or miss. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman co-wrote JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, but they also wrote Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Ick.

None of this matters of course since Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are playing the cowboys.



I’m sure I saw more than these, but I can’t remember any of them. That bodes well, doesn’t it? The total effect of all of this makes me think I need to spend more time watching TCM and less time at the megaplex.

Part Deux: Dance of the Demented Poodle

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…or “Popcorn for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner”

When I started the post about four films worth seeing that were all opening on the same weekend, I really hadn’t intended to see them all on that same weekend.  The project sort of took shape of its own volition and I felt compelled to see it through.

One of my very good friends and I used to do movie marathons on occasion and I think our record was six. In one day. We’d study the logistics and map out the theaters and show times as well as timing our travels around the city with the precision of a general leading an invading army into battle.  I also know that there are bigger, more well-traveled, more extensively-read bloggers than I who regularly attend something called the annual “Butt-Numb-a-Thon”, where they watch movies for 24 hours straight. My point is, it was certainly no hardship to see four films in a weekend. I don’t regret spending my weekend at the movies.  I just didn’t get much else accomplished that’s all. Oh well.

First up, on Friday night, was Limitless.

It is an entertaining film as long as the viewer is able to check the 20% of their own brain currently in use at the door. There are some serious plot holes and some threads that are just left flapping in the breeze, however, it’s also a lot of fun if you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Bradley Cooper must have been sleeping with Director of Photography, Jo Willems.  He looks fantastic in this movie. The camera certainly makes good use of the actor’s amazing eyes.  There are lots of closeups. It’s also worth noting how much better looking he gets, the smarter he gets. As if it’s not enough that with the drug there are no limits (Limitless, get it?) to what he can do and achieve with his brain, we have to add sex into the mix or else it’s all for naught. (Apparently the filmmakers are unclear on the concept that smart and talented is sexy.)

Willems certainly wasn’t sleeping with Anna Friel. In her first scenes (which are flashbacks) I thought I was looking at Evangeline Lilly before I remembered Friel was in the movie. By the time she shows up again, she is truly unrecognizable. I know it was makeup, but sheesh. (Either that or the dissolution of her long-time relationship with David Thewlis has REALLY taken its toll!)

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that Johnny Whitworth gets the Mark Strong Award for “Good Actors Cast in Tiny Parts in Big Movies”. And in this film, Friel shares it with him. I’ve been waiting for Whitworth to break out since The Rainmaker. Still waiting.  I’m hoping this will also lead to bigger things for Friel. “Pushing Daisies” was terrific, but it ended over two years ago. She’s also in the much anticipated (by me) London Boulevard. Hopefully that will see the light of day soon.

I loved Andrew Howard’s Russian gangster. A lot of the reviews I’ve read seem to be saying that an old school villain like Gennedy has no place in a movie like this, with such a modern premise.  I disagree.  Considering how he became involved with Morra, I think what came next is entirely plausible (within the unplausible context of this story.) Granted, I do have to agree that more could have been done with the character and his relationship to Cooper’s, but this wasn’t his story. And if you’re going on the ride at all, you have to be prepared to endure the bumps.

I have to say DeNiro is more DeNiro than we’ve seen in a long time, but he’s still not as DeNiro as he could have been. This was the DeNiro of Righteous Kill not Heat (to contrast two films with both DeNiro and Pacino).  Regardless, he’s always a joy to watch.

Abbie Cornish was underutilized. JMHO, but anyone could have played Lindy. Maybe you disagree.

I really enjoyed the trippy techno soundtrack music. I think I’ll have to see the movie again before I decide whether or not to add it to my collection.

I have to say, Roger Ebert summed up Limitless perfectly: “{It} only uses 15, maybe 20 percent of its brain. Still, that’s more than a lot of movies do.” I recommend it, although it will lose nothing in the translation from big screen to home viewing.

On Saturday morning, me and a handful of geeks bounced into the theater to see Paul. I’m quite sure some of them had already seen it at least once. The excitement in the air was tangible. The movie did not disappoint. It was, in a word, hilarious. The script, co-written by its two stars, must have contained a reference to every sci-fi movie made in the last 30+ years. (I’m sure I missed some of the references and will have to see it again if I hope to catch them all.) Filming part of the movie at Comic Con (and indeed using it as the jumping off point for the plot) was inspired. It was obviously a labor of love and a valentine of sorts to comic book geeks and sci-fi nerds.

Seth Rogan as the voice of Paul, is pitch perfect. I honestly can’t remember when, since "Freaks and Geeks", that I’ve enjoyed a performance of his more.  It’s also evident in his voice that he was enjoying himself as well. Indeed, it looked to me like everyone involved was having a great time. Perhaps that’s because I was following Simon Pegg’s Tweets while they were making the film, but I don’t think so.  I suspect there will be one hell of a blooper reel on the dvd (or at least I hope so.)

I’m trying to remember a comedy team with which to compare Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Their timing can be compared to Abbot and Costello or Martin and Lewis, and Nick Frost certainly has the sweet charm of a Lou Costello or 50’s era Jerry Lewis, but Simon Pegg is nowhere near as arch as Bud Abbott or as suave as Dean Martin. Over the course of three films and a television series, their chemistry has not been diluted at all, probably owing to the fact that they are close friends. Some of the best laughs in Paul come from just a look or a tilt of the head between them. Indeed, the bromance is at the heart of the film. Not only is it laugh out loud funny, it is also very sweet, in an ET kind of way, as well as a ‘we all have to grow up sometime and realize our true potential’ kind of way.

While I don’t remember most of the soundtrack, I will say it was nice to hear some ELO again.

I recommend this one as well and again, I don’t think it will lose much in the translation to home viewing.

After the credits rolled on Paul, I went immediately in to see The Lincoln Lawyer.

The opening credits of a film should be used to set the tone for the movie, but rarely are they to such good effect as for this film.  We get our first taste of the incredible 70’s flavored R & B soundtrack that is to come and the bold graphics reminded me of countless movies from the 70’s from Shaft to Death Wish to Prime Cut. I even got a bit of an Across 110th Street vibe, although that one is set in New York and this is totally an LA movie.

I’ve read a couple of references in reviews of this movie to both The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould and Twilight (Not the one with the vampire angst, the one with Paul Newman, Gene Hackman and James Garner.)

The former is an updated (at the time) take on Raymond Chandler from the 70’s in which Gould played Philip Marlowe and the latter is about an aging ex-cop turned PI. It was made in the late 90’s, but they share a "feel" with this movie. It was definitely this particular flavor of LA that the director was going for.

I knew nothing of Brad Furman before this film and judging from his CV on imdb, there’s not much to know. I’m not sure what anyone saw in him to make them think he was capable of making a multi-million dollar movie, let alone one with any nuance, but, JMHO, I think their faith was justified. I really like what he did with this. 

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The story itself was one you’d think would be more at home on the mean streets of New York, but instead they used LA (because the writer of the books did, I realize) and made it almost another character.

The color palette was very muted, almost washed out. This was the LA where ordinary people live and work. As McConaughey’s character Mick Haller rolled down the streets in his late model Lincoln, he did so past railroad tracks and cement gulleys (like in To Live and Die in LA) or small houses.  It was all very sun bleached, not quite seedy, but by no means glamorous. (I actually think the house in the hills in which Haller lived was used in Twilight, although I won’t swear that was the film.) They seemed to be using natural lighting.  Everyone, with the exception of the preternaturally cool Ryan Phillippe’s character, had a sheen of sweat that would come from existing in the heat of Southern California.

I can never get enough of William H. Macy. He’s one of the most talented actors alive and when he shows up looking like he could be Easy Rider-era Dennis Hopper’s younger brother, you know you’re in for a treat. He’s not on screen for nearly long enough. The same can be said of Michael Pena and John Leguizamo, who tones down the crazy in this one. Speaking of toning down the crazy, Frances Fisher finally dimmed her hair color so she looks less frightening. Ironic.

Uber-Douche played an Uber-Douche (although to be fair he was also a sociopath. Not sure if he is in real life or not.) I suppose I ought not to continue to refer to Ryan Phillippe in this manner, but I thought I should carry it through from my last post. I just don’t get his appeal. What was “pretty” in his 20s is now just “soft” in his 30s, and it’s just too much and yet not enough for me to take seriously.

I do have to say, that Marisa Tomei looks incredible. Better than she did at 25. As an actress, she’s light years from where she was at 25 or even 29 (when she won an Oscar.)

That funky soundtrack is worth coming back to. There are some original classics, some remixes and some that were complete modern remakes and they all completely jibe with the film; a soundtrack in the truest sense. In any case, I will be adding it to my collection.

Finally, Matthew McConaughey went a long way toward redemption in my eyes with this one. Speaking of eyes, one of the things he’s always done really well is to let his emotions play through his and he uses that talent to good effect here. Even before this movie was finished, I was thinking about how I wanted more of this character.  This felt like it was somewhere in the middle of the series and I know that there are many more books featuring Mickey Haller. I want to know how he got where he was and where he’s going next. I wouldn’t mind seeing this become a franchise, as long as they continue to do them right.

The Lincoln Lawyer was not a perfect movie, but I really enjoyed it.

Finally, on Sunday morning, came the film that I was undoubtedly looking forward to the most: Jane Eyre.

Oh, Focus Features, I forgive you for so shamelessly toying with me. Your film was well worth the enhanced anticipation you created by making me wait an additional week and in fact, you had me at the title card.

Cary Fukunaga, with all of two major films on his resume has positioned himself to be a cinematic force to be reckoned with. It’s staggering, considering how young he is, to think of the career that is ahead of him. Back-handing away any notion of a sophomore slump, he followed up the beautiful Sin Nombre with the equally beautiful and haunting Jane Eyre. On the surface, these two films could not be more different, but at their core they are both about the fragility and resilience of the human spirit. Fukunaga has created a film as beautifully and deftly as any old world master would put paint to canvas.

I’ve seen many versions of this story and they all have something to recommend them. This one is my new favorite.  Screenwriter Moira Buffini’s choice to land us in the middle of the story and use flashback to fill in the gaps helped to make it seem fresh. It was the most atmospheric and gothic production, although two recent BBC versions came close, that I can recall. It was again augmented by the use of natural light, which in those days meant a few candles and a hearth.  When Jane creeps through the dark hallways of Thornefield Hall holding a single candle, we only see as much as she sees, all of us waiting for something to jump out of the darkness. There is an instance where the entire audience did jump and it happens in broad daylight (well, as broad as it gets in the north of England,) but I won’t spoil it here.

The chemistry between the two leads was palpable from their first exchange. When they are onscreen together, everything and everyone else falls away. This scene that I showed you a few weeks ago, encapsulates all of that (and would have shown again if my post weren’t "too big".)

What I said at the time,This is the hottest piece of celluloid that I have seen in a LOOOOOONG time. I can’t stop watching it. And every time I do, I sit here with my mouth agape and my chest heaving with the effort to resume the breath caught in my throat, a hot tickle in my stomach…

TMI? Or the ultimate compliment to the palpable sexual allure of Michael Fassbender, an allure that has heretofore not so much remained hidden, but severely underutilized.”

I thought I was prepared. I thought I’d seen it so often that the magic had worn off, that I couldn’t possibly “feel it” the way I did the first time I saw it. I was wrong. Think about the frame of that scene a thousand times larger, with that voice booming out in Dolby THX (or whatever the hell the sound system at your local theater is)…imagine that and you’ll begin to get an inkling. It not only still took my breath away, but it rocked me to my toes. It was quite simply…erotic. Considering that the participants were both fully clothed and only their hands touched, that’s saying something.

Beyond all of that, (and frankly because of all that, Fassbender and Wasikowska could have been acting on a bare stage,) the English country side was used to spectacular effect. Just as LA became another character in The Lincoln Lawyer, so did the moors of northern England in Jane Eyre. It is easy to forget that England is geographically such a small country when there seem to be so many vast areas that appear to remain untouched, natural and wild and mostly uninhabited. In the film, as in the novel, the harsh landscape is a reflection of Jane’s life. We see it flower and bloom very briefly when Jane does, but for the most part it is harsh and unyielding.

The supporting cast, led by Dame Judi Dench as the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax and Jamie Bell as St.John Rivers, is all marvelous, as is befitting a movie made in a country where it appears every one of its citizens lives to act.

I must also mention the score by Oscar winner Dario Marianelli. (He won in ’07 for Atonement and was nominated for 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.) Gorgeous, just gorgeous. Actually, lush is a better word.  It’s not too early for me to predict another nomination.

JMHO, but the entire thing was utterly swoon-worthy and I can’t wait to see it again. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this one and I’d go so far as to say, see it, if at all possible, on the big screen. It will no doubt play well at home, but the sight and sound of 10 ft. tall Fassbender is worth the price of the ticket.

May I also just reiterate what a joy it is to see a movie at an art-house where only adults go to see movies? Not only were there people waiting for the doors to open for the first showing of the day (and not just for Jane Eyre, but obscure films like Poetry,) but inside the theater you could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire movie. (Unlike Limitless where I had to endure the five kids from the nearby technical high school that acted like they were on a field trip and came in 15 min. in, parked themselves next to me in the front row and proceeded to talk to the screen and to each other the entire time. Between them and the transient loudly SNORING at the end of the row, you people are lucky you didn’t see me on the news.)

Thus endeth my weekend at the movies.

As always, thanks for reading. Next up, Win Win on Wednesday night!