Monthly Archives: March 2011


Paying homage to Elizabeth Taylor (1932 – 2011)


“My Mother says I didn’t open my eyes for eight days when I was born but when I did, the first thing I saw was an engagement ring. I was hooked.”

Sadly after a long battle with serious health issues Dame Elizabeth Taylor passed away yesterday. This truly is sad; she was an icon – movie star in the true meaning of the word.

                                                               “Nobody tells me who to love, or not to love, who to be seen with and who not to be seen with”

She will be well-remembered for her long career that included 54 movies and 2 Oscars. We will also remember her for her turbulent private life – her eight marriages, battles with alcohol, drugs and weight. But also for being a true fashion icon with ever-changing looks and style. Camera just loved her!

Elizabeth Taylor was born in Hampstead, London in 1932. She was only 12 years old when National Velvet (1944) made her into a movie star. Her other memorable silver screen highlights include Father of the Bride (1950), Giant (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Butterfield 8 (1960), Cleopatra (1963), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and her final big-screen appearance in The Flintstones (1994). In the 50’s she was voted The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.

With Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Elizabeth Taylor was the first actress to have full control of her own image in the movies. Before studios could release any publicity stills, they had to be approved by her. She could also approve her own make-up, hairstyles and costumes.

When she was filming Cleopatra in London in the 60’s she stayed at the Dorchester and had the following food items flown to her: chilli from Chasen’s in LA, stone crabs from the coast of Florida, smoked salmon from Barney Greengrass in New York, steaks from Chicago, shrimp creole from New Orleans, spare ribs from St Louis, white asparagus from the French countryside and fresh linguine from Genoa, Italy. What a meal, I say!

                                                         With Montgomery Clift on the set of A Place in the Sun

Elizabeth Taylor remained close friends with many of her costars. She even married one of them. She also saved Montgomery Clift’s life in 1956, after he left a party at her house and smashed his car into a telephone pole. She removed his shattered teeth from his throat, thus prevented him from choking.

Elizabeth Taylor did a multi-episode appearance on General Hospital, which she was a huge fan of, in 1981. I love this blooper reel of her scenes. It shows her as a grande dame, but also as a person who can make fun of herself.


Elizabeth Taylor will also stay in our memories as of one of Hollywood’s earliest and most vocal advocates and fundraisers for AIDS and HIV patients. She started to raise awareness of the disease after her Giant costar Rock Hudson died from AIDS in 1985.

                                                           With Rock Hudson, James Dean and George Stevens on the set of the Giant in Marfa, Texas

Debbie Reynolds remembers Taylor, “She was the most glamorous and sensuous star of our generation. No one could equal Elizabeth’s beauty and sexuality. Women liked her and men adored her — my husband included — and her love for her children is enduring. She was a symbol of stardom. Her legacy will last….”

                                                          With Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher in Las Vegas during the early 1958

Michael Wilding (Elizabeth Taylor’s son) said in a statement after her passing away, “We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts.”

“I’m a survivor. I’m a living example of what people can go through and survive”


Well, Clarice – have the lambs stopped screaming?

The Silence of The Lambs opens with a scene in the woods. Mist is gathering. A young woman is jogging alone. The caption says “Near Quantico”. Eerie music is playing. The camera cuts to the woman’s feet pounding the ground faster and faster. Then the focus shifts back to her face and then to the surroundings. And back to the feet again. The music is building up the promise that something horrible will happen at some point. Suddenly somebody is running to her yelling her name. When he turns around, we see FBI on his cap.

What a brilliant opening scene! And to think that the original idea for the first scene was a drug bust. But thankfully Jodie Foster, who plays Clarice Starling, managed to convince the director Jonathan Demme to change that scene.

                                                             Do you spook easily, Starling?

The Silence of The Lambs is one of the best crime dramas to this date. It was the first crime movie to win five Oscars and it has inspired so many movies. Entertainment Weekly voted it as the fourth scariest film of all time. And I wholeheartedly agree. I have chills even thinking about Dr. Lecter and his taste for meat – human meat.

                                                             My precious…

This movie is based on a novel by Thomas Harris. It tells a story about a rookie FBI agent, who is sent by a veteran agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit to interview a psychopathic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Dr. Lecter used to be a brilliant psychologist. He also has an uncanny ability to get inside your head. Agent Crawford warns Starling not to share any personal information with Dr. Lecter. She does it anyways. However, doing so she manages to get Dr. Lecter to help the FBI to catch a loose serial killer “Buffalo Bill”, who kidnaps young women and skins them. But she is also letting Dr. Lecter loose inside her head.

I have chills and they are multiplying…

The screenplay is full of suspense and witty lines. The acting is excellent. Jodie Foster is great as the young agent, who has so much to prove in a male world of FBI. Not to mention that this movie created one of the most memorable villains in the movie history – Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). It is so easy to forget that Hopkins only has a little bit more than 16 minutes of screen time, so powerful and memorable is his interpretation of this cannibalistic serial killer. When Hopkins read the script for the first time, he had a hunch that Lecter’s personality would fascinate people. But even he could not imagine the lengths that this fascination would reach. Hopkins read the script 250 times (only his part) to get to know his character. This is something he does with all his roles. He was able to convince Jonathan Demme and the costume designer Colleen Atwood that in the scenes when Lecter is moved from Baltimore, he should be wearing a white jumpsuit instead of the normal yellow or orange to make his character feel more clinical and unsettling. I think that summons up Dr. Lecter quite well. You are scared of him, but at the same time Anthony Hopkins makes you feel sorry for Dr. Lecter’s circumstances. That truly is great acting!

                                                                 I am having an old friend for dinner…

Jonathan Demme uses impressive directorial shots and thus manages to catch the suspense masterfully. One of the best scenes is towards the end of the movie is which Demme uses twin frames of Clarice ringing a doorbell and FBI agents charging into a house. Another reason why this movie is so memorable is the score by Howard Shore. It accentuates the script. Like in all the good movies, all the separate aspects work well together. Even though this movie scares me, I do feel compelled to watch it again from time to time.

Don’t forget your phone call… Is it coming from inside the house???!!!

DUE DATE (2010)

If there’s a hell, I’m already in it

I sure was for the duration of this movie from the director who brought us the laugh-out-loud Hangover. I thought this movie would be like a cross between Hangover and Planes, Trains & Automobiles – both movies, which I really like. Sounds like fun, right? But Due Date is just not clever enough nor funny enough. It never delivers.

                                                  Denny’s is always open

Ethan Chase / stage name: Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) manages to get Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) kicked out of an airplane and placed on a No-Fly-List. Just think of two words, which should never be said aloud on a plane. Therefore, Peter’s only option to make it back to LA in time for the birth of his first child is to hitch a ride with Ethan. And so begins a road movie or should I say – a movie wreck, which luckily is only 95 minutes long.

Taking the road less funny

Ethan, who also was kicked out of the plane, is on his way to an audition in Hollywood. His dream is to be on Two and Half Men. Little did they know at the time of making this movie, that there would be a spot open on that show. Ethan’s father, who was like a father to him, has just died. Peter is about to be a father. Todd Phillips, who directed the movie has said that this movie is about why Peter and Ethan needed to meet at this moment and why Peter needed to travel with this kind of man-child who was going through this traumatic experience but really is a purely loving creature much like a child would be and just needs some adjustments.

                                                                 I despise you on a cellular level

To me this movie lacks funniness and likable characters. It’s like car which is stuck on the first gear and never really takes off. Robert Downey Jr. is good – he’s a fabulous actor, so he acts well. I have no complaints about Zach Galifianakis’ acting either. He was obviously typecast in this. Biggest problem with Galifianakis’ charter is that he is just not likeable, not witty nor interesting enough. Thus this movie just does not work for me. I was looking forward to Steve Martin / John Candy like chemistry. Sometimes the screenplay really does not make any sense either – not even on the level of “this-does-not-make-any-sense-but-it’s-funny”.

                                                         That ain’t Starbucks coffee

Ethan belies that perms take him to another level as an actor. Maybe that’s what this movie would have needed. It tries, but it never quite gets there. I think the biggest fault is in the screenplay.

I loved Sonny (the dog), though…

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Too late for this movie…

No. 99 TOY STORY (1995)

That wasn’t flying – THAT was falling with style!

After a depressing and busy week at work (lack of posts this week explained) I thought why not to watch a feel-good movie. Toy Story (the original one) was produced by Pixar and distributed by Disney. Those Disney movies are all about feeling good at the end after you have learned a valuable lesson. The lesson in Toy Story is the value of friendship and working together. Woody and Buzz don’t get along in the beginning, but thru an unfortunate situation they learn to respect and even like each other.

                                                      You’ve got bingo arms

Toy Story was the first fully computer-animated full-length feature film. Wow, the speed that technology develops blows my mind. We did not even have computers when I was a child– wait; wait – I mean iPods…

I saw Toy Story back when it first hit the theatres, so now watching it all these years later it felt like a reunion with good old friends. I found myself cheering for Woody and Buzz to break free from that little monster Syd. And getting sad when Buzz realizes that he is a toy.

                                                             To Infinity and Beyond! No story about Toy Story would be complete without this…

Toy Story is about Andy’s favorite toy called Woody (voice of Tom Hanks), who like all the other toys comes alive when humans are not around. Woody has it good – he rules the roost as he has been Andy’s favorite toy for many years. But things change drastically when every toy’s worst nightmare happens – Andy gets a new and more exciting toy as a birthday present – Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen). Buzz is a shiny action figure who has all kinds of gadgets that none of the other toys have. He does not realize that he is a toy. He thinks his spaceship crashed and he is here to save the planet.

Breathing – optional

He shortly becomes Andy’s new favorite toy and all the other toys begin to look up to him. Woody is consumed with jealousy and tries to get rid of Buzz. Instead of succeeding in that both of them wind up lost. They now must work together to get back to Andy.

That ain’t no happy child

John Lasseter who directed Toy Story based Woody and Buzz on his own childhood toys. He went on to direct several other groundbreaking animated films such as A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars. He also received a Special Achievement Oscar in 1995 for his inspired leadership of the Toy Story team.

Billy Crystal was originally offered the voiceover role of Buzz Lightyear, but he declined. Boy, did he come to regret that! Tim Allen as Buzz’ voice is perfectly arrogant. Tom Hanks as Woody is excellent. John Lasseter chose him because he thought that Hanks has the ability to take emotions and make them appealing. Woody did not start as a likeable character. The early draft was much darker and Woody looked like a jerk. This was because Disney kept on wanting edgier screenplay. Everybody thought it was really bad (yes, it is bad – it’s one of the bonus features on the Blu-ray released last year) and Pixar went on to make the movie they had set to make in the first place. The current Toy Story was born and it is the first animated film in history to be nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award – Adapted or Original.

I love the scene in the beginning of the movie when the toy soldier army is doing a recon mission to Andy’s birthday party. The animation team perfected the movement of the toy soldiers by gluing some sneakers to a sheet of wood and trying to walk around with them on. Also an interesting fact about the animation – whenever a character’s eyes blink, they never blink together, but one at a time.

I thoroughly enjoyed Toy Story way back in 1995 and also yesterday in 2011!

A good soldier never leaves a man behind


Go easy on the wine, hon. it’s daytime. –                                            Ok, and same goes with the micromanaging!

From the previews I gathered that this would be a slightly funny and enjoyable film to watch. Was I in for a surprise! I absolutely loved this film. It is beautifully shot. It has great acting – especially Annette Bening is superb! It’s not about being gay, having a family and having family issues. It’s about having a modern family unit and trying to get this unit to work under difficult times when the structure of the unit is changing. It’s about how a family will unconditionally have your back!

                                                        More is More!

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a married couple in Southern California. Nic is a highly driven doctor, who has a liking for red wine. Who can blame her! Jules drifts from one venture to another while feeling quite restless. They have two teenage children from the same sperm donor. It’s Joni’s (Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska) last summer at home before heading to college. Laser (Journey to the Center of the Earth’s Josh Hutcherson), the 15-year old son, wants to track down their biological ”donor dad”. They manage to do this without their moms’ knowledge. They find a thirty-something Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who is a groovy bachelor restaurateur and a co-op farmer. Growing organic veggies has never before looked this inviting! The moms soon find out and want to meet him and “kill him with kindness”. Jules, who is feeling underappreciated in the marriage and stuck in her life, ends up having an affair with Paul.

                                                                                        Those veggies certainly look yummy!

The Kids are All Right explores how the changes in the family dynamic affect the whole family. In this case, Joni’s departure to college is the underlying factor. Julianne Moore says that one of the reasons why she was drawn to the script was that it’s about where you are when you’ve been in a relationship for a long time and you have children. She also describes her character’s life pretty much being about staying home with the kids and because of that for Jules the idea that Joni is leaving home now is major.

                                                         Don’t be a zoomer!

Annette Bening delivers a powerhouse performance as a slightly neurotic but likeable Nic. She portrays confidently a complicated woman, who knows exactly who she is and is comfortable in her own skin. Bening won a Golden Globe for this and rightly so. The whole movie I was mesmerized about how much she can say only with pauses and facial expressions. Also you have to love the fact that Annette Bening has matured naturally (and beautifully) in this youth obsessed society.

                                                                 I like my wine, ok! So f***ing sue me!

Lisa Cholodenko’s and Stuart Blumberg’s screenplay is heartfelt throughout. It gives the opportunity for all the actors to explore their characters in-depth. It deals with modern family issues, which are familiar to all of us. It is emotional, but at the same time funny. I also love Cholodenko’s direction and the camera angles.

Modern Family Life!

The Kids are All Right has great scenes, such as the restaurant scene when Nic has a meltdown about composting (right there with her!), and the dinner scene when Nic and Paul sing a Joni Mitchell song. The most touching scene is close to the end of the movie, when Jules apologizes to her family. I love Annette Bening’s physical response – how you can see her fighting not to cry. I don’t think anybody can watch that scene without tearing up.

Hug her – that’s what she is there for!


We are simply passing thru history, but this – this is history

Who is the Greatest Adventurer of Them All? Who handles a bullwhip with confidence, wears a leather jacket and is recognizable all over the world by only his silhouette? No, it’s not E.T. – it’s Indiana (Indy) Jones. Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ professor of archeology and obtainer of rare antiquities still lives on strong 30 years after the first movie. Funny that Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was meant to be a low-cost B-movie, went on to win four Oscars. It is still studied at film schools and has gone to influence such films as Romancing the Stone (1984), Jewel of the Nile (1985), The Mummy (1999) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001).

Some things are better left unopened

Steven Spielberg wanted to make a globetrotting adventure and action movie, which would have a James Bond like main character. A movie, which would give homage to the Saturday matinee movies he grew up watching. George Lucas wanted to make a movie, which he would like to watch himself. During the making of Star Wars Lucas had an idea of one globetrotting Indiana Smith. When these two masterminds came together, film history was made and Indiana Jones was born.

                                                          Fair Trade in Action

Tom Selleck was cast as Indiana Jones, but he pulled out to make a little known TV-series called Magnum P.I. Harrison Ford from the Star War movies was cast instead and to this day – even though he has done zillion other movies – Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones.

                                                                                         Whip it!

Fundamental part of this movie is its musical score by John Williams. The music is recognizable even today. You only have to hear a couple of beats and in your mind you can see Indiana Jones riding to catch the truck that’s carrying the ark or running away from a gigantic rolling rock.

Each scene in this movie is good. Unforgettable scenes include the opening sequence with a golden statue, and the underground Egyptian temple filled with snakes. Both are my favorites. You just cannot choose only one. The scene that stands out the most for Steven Spielberg is the “basket chase”. George Lucas on the other hand prefers the “truck chase” scene.

                                                     Giving new meaning to travelling in economy

At the time the special effects were groundbreaking, especially “the melting face”. Chris Wales, the special make up effects artist, says that still today he gets calls asking him how he did it as it had never been done before. With computer technology nowadays, you could make that special effect even more magnificent, even though the basic process would still be the same.

                                                         They thought they got stuck in an elevator with Charlie Sheen

It has been said that this movie has the best screenplay ever written. You cannot find any fault in it. Even though some lines might sound quite corny, they are delivered in such way that they are believable. Remember – this is a Saturday matinée B-movie! It is supposed to be fun and over-the-top.

Steven Spielberg’s direction is genius. The use of silhouettes and shadows is mind-blowing. It gives the movie depth. The tension build up in the “bad dates” scene is perfection. The fast-moving action sequences are chained together continuously. What else would you want from an entertaining movie?

                                                   They’re digging in the wrong place!

So; needless to say – I am a fan of the whole Indiana Jones series. I love them all – even the latest one with Shia LaBeouf as the “future Indy”, but my favorite will always be The Temple of Doom.

It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage