A Star is Born (1937) is the timeless tale of rising fame. So timeless in fact that it was remade 3 separate times over the course of 9 decades. I’m probably the only person my age who’s seen every version. It all started in 1937. The original A Star is Born set the template, but it still has its own decade appropriate feel to it. The only constant is that a woman who hasn’t gotten her big break yet is given the opportunity by an alcoholic fading star. The two have a quickie marriage and as her star rises, his fades away. After embarrassing her at an award show, his alcohol abuse takes its toll on their marriage. Until he dies in a possible accident. Leaving her to carry on his legacy. In this version the woman is Esther Blodgett and the man is Norman Maine. Being the 30’s, Esther has dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood actress. So we follow her journey from humble beginnings to when she eventually meets major star Norman Maine at a party. Another constant is when he says “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.” As per the times, Esther is given the stage name Vicki Lester. She’s so successful that she even wins an Oscar. The movies themselves always gain the same attention. She may not be the most recognizable of the four actresses, but Janet Gaynor is perfectly charming as the lead. While Fredric Marsh can be both likable and a little aggressive. It’s their chemistry that sells the whole premise. I definitely wasn’t expecting a movie this old to tackle drinking the way it did. Let alone be in Technicolor. A Star is Born (1937) may not be the flashiest, but it’s an honest picture that deserves just as much admiration.
Argo is the very real hit movie from actor/director Ben Affleck. It details a 1979 dilemma known as the “Canadian Caper.” In which the U.S. embassy was raided by Iranian militants. During the chaos 6 American diplomats managed to escape. Seeking temporary refugee in the house of the Canadian ambassador. Since they were in immediate danger, the only man who could get them out was extractor Tony Mendez. Played by the director himself. Which drew some moderate controversy given Affleck’s lack of Mexican ancestry. There were also a few historical inaccuracies, but that doesn’t hurt too much in the grand scheme of things. Since Argo was one of the best movies released in 2012. So much so that it won Best Picture. Although everyone agrees it made no sense that Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Director. Despite the obvious amount of awards and acclaim the movie was getting. Argo is very tense and has you on the edge of your seat until the very end when the diplomats are rescued. It can also be funny because of the solution they came up with. Which is to get them out under the guise of making a fake movie. Because everyone understands the language of film. The titular space fantasy adventure Argo. Since sandy terrain like the ones in Iran are usually found in sci-fi. Alan Arkin gets most of the laughs, but John Goodman and Bryan Cranston have their moments as well. Argo is the best bad idea, by far.
Lost in Translation is the story of strangers in a strange land. After proving to be not much of an actress, Sofia Coppola tried her hand at directing. First with The Virgin Suicides and second with the much more critically acclaimed Lost in Translation. Like I said in my Godfather Part III review, her father is a great director, wouldn’t it be obvious that she’d be a great director too. She even ended up winning an Oscar for Best original Screenplay. Making them the only father-daughter duo to win the same award. Sofia Coppola based the movie on her own experiences in Japan. The idea of two people talking in Tokyo for an hour may not sound all that interesting, but it’s actually quite engaging. Since Coppola cast unconventional actors as the leads. Scarlett Johansson who only did supporting parts at the time and Bill Murray who is mostly known for comedy. Lost in Translation opens with a shot of Johansson’s butt (I’m still not sure why). Then it follows aging actor Bob Harris who is filming Japanese Whiskey commercials in Tokyo. Where he has trouble communicating. Eventually he has a chance encounter with Charlotte. The young wife of a celebrity photographer. You would think two people with such an age difference would have nothing to talk about, but they’re more alike than you think. They explore the bright streets of Tokyo together and just find comfort in one another. The movie is only R because of an out of nowhere strip club scene. Lost in Translation famously ends with the two parting ways, but not before Bob whispers something in Charlotte’s ear. Something that will forever remain a mystery. Lost in Translation is the best kind of midlife crisis.
The Devil Wears Prada showcases the high stakes world of fashion. It was also Anne Hathaway’s much more successful attempt at becoming a serious actress. She plays Andy, a fashionably challenged journalist fresh out of college. As with sports movies, I know next to nothing about the film’s subject matter. Like Andy, fashion has never been all that important to me. Which doesn’t stop her from landing the job of assistant at the prestigious Runway fashion magazine. Run by the fiercely intimidating editor Miranda Priestly. Her calm demeanor, casual insults, and commanding presence makes her one of Meryl Streep’s finest performances to date. This was also Emily Blunt’s breakout role as Emily. Andy’s fashion conscious rival co-worker who works herself to illness. Plus Stanley Tucci as Andy’s other co-worker who helps bring her into the fashion world. After a makeover, Andy proves herself by running errands, finding an unpublished Harry Potter manuscript, remembering names, and setting appointments all for Miranda. It’s here we see Miranda’s somewhat softer side, but not until after Andy decides the fashion world is not for her. The Devil Wears Prada is unsurprisingly full of stylish outfits that would make any fashion forward person gush. As well as plenty of strong characters and performances that elevate it from being pure showiness. “That’s all.”
Havoc is as the title suggests, full of self-destruction. It was also Anne Hathaway’s first attempt at shedding her good girl Disney image. For most young stars that means appearing in the most adult movie possible. Since this came out a year after The Princess Diaries 2 and a few months before Brokeback Mountain. Havoc deals with drugs, gang violence, promiscuity, and a variety of other heavy topics. All involving teens. The final result can be hard to watch, but not always for the reason you think. Havoc centers around the documented exploits of rich white kids from L.A. that talk and act like gangstas just cause they’re bored. It’s kinda too cringy to take seriously. Especially since a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum play a part. Their stupid behavior eventually catches up with them once they willingly enter a tough neighborhood and reality sets in. Although that doesn’t stop Hathaway’s character from going back, getting arrested, and bringing her equally incompetent best friend along for the ride. Anne Hathaway swears frequently and appears naked several times. It’s the main reason I knew the movie existed. It was apparently so lewd that it was released direct-to-video. Not that Hathaway isn’t putting effort into her performance. If Havoc is trying to say something, it’s probably to not make dumb decisions.
Mermaids is the underwater tale of several mermaids exploring the ocean… just kidding. Happy Mothers Day Everyone! Mermaids is actually about a 1960’s mother who has a difficult relationship with her oldest daughter. My mom recommend we watch the movie, because of how many actors we recognized. Cher plays the mother Mrs. Flax, Winona Ryder plays the oldest daughter Charlotte, and a debuting Christina Ricci plays the youngest daughter Kate. Bob Hoskins also plays a part as a willing love interest. The title actually refers to a costume Mrs. Flax wears for a party, but water is present in other parts of the story. Since Kate is an avid swimmer. Charlotte and her mother mainly come to blows for their conflicting ideologies. Mrs. Flax has a free spirited gypsy mentality that has them constantly moving. While Charlotte finds comfort in the catholic lifestyle. Which has her questioning her own sexual attractions. Ending with a near fatal tragedy that has the two accusing the other of being a tramp. The absentee father would be the thief that stole their car. Mermaids is a humorous tale of the undying bond a mother shares with her daughter. Love you mom.❤️
Monster’s Ball is not the most pleasant Oscar winner to get through. As it touches on some pretty uncomfortable subjects. Monster’s Ball refers to a death row inmate. Billy Bob Thornton plays a correctional officer (with a fondness for Blue Bunny chocolate ice cream) in charge of the inmates execution. Although Hank comes across as racist at first, it’s really his hateful father that lives with him and his son. I had no idea Heath Ledger was in the movie, but he does play a pivotal role. I was genuinely shocked by how good of a performance Sean Combs (P. Diddy) gave. His role is short, but impactful. Upon his execution, he’s survived by his wife Leticia and overweight son. Who also plays a pivotal role. Apart from curiosity, my only reason for checking out the movie was Halle Berry. Since Monster’s Ball was the film where she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Making her the first (and so far, only) black actress to win the award. Her acceptance speech is certainly notable for how shocked she was. It’s an impactful performance that’s been inevitably questioned. Since some believe she either tried too hard or won because of her nude scenes. Specifically, a famously steamy sex scene a lot of people are convinced is unsimulated. It occurs when Hank and Leticia find comfort in their common losses. I’m still not sure what to make of the ending, but I think it’s meant to be hopeful. Monster’s Ball is a brutally honest character study with enough social commentary to elevate it.
The Passion of the Christ is the most difficult viewing experience I’ve ever had. A movie that depicts torture would be a tough watch for anyone. Being a born again Christian, I knew it would be an especially tough watch for me. I’m no fan of torture themed horror movies, but I knew this was something I just had to watch at some point in my life. So after years of knowing its reputation, I finally built up enough stamina to watch it on Easter Sunday. The Passion of the Christ is without a doubt the most graphic depiction of Jesus’ final hours ever put to screen. Which also makes it one of the most accurate. Right down to the use of Hebrew, Latin, and Aramaic. It was famed actor/director Mel Gibson’s goal to truly capture the suffering Jesus endured for our sins. As written in the New Testament of The Bible. The film begins with the betrayal of Judas, then it focuses on the torture and humiliation inflicted by the malicious Roman soldiers, and ultimately the crucifixion. Every important detail is depicted. Including a few flashbacks of Jesus as a carpenter, delivering his sermon, saving Mary Magdalene, and communion. All the while Satan looms in the background. Thankfully, God’s presence is felt throughout. As predicted, the torture scenes made me weep profusely. I continued to cry as he received the crown of thorns, was visited by his mother Mary, nailed to the cross, and as he saved the thief beside him. After a swirl of emotions, my final thought was to cheer at the end when Jesus was resurrected. Jim Caviezel put his heart and soul into his performance of Jesus Christ, and the experience changed him forever. The Passion of the Christ is the highest grossing R rated movie of all time. It just goes to show the power of a faith based audience. He is risen indeed.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 revisits the sisterhood 3 years after their life changing summer. Only with a slighty more mature PG-13 rating. It may be the second movie, but it’s actually based on the fourth book in the series. Like the first movie though, it starts with the girls together as a group before parting ways again for the summer. Like before, I can only talk about them separately.
Bridget – Bridget is the first girl to get the pants. Her after college activity is an archeological dig in Turkey. Being around a bunch of fossils reminds her of her mother. So she leaves to visit her seldom seen grandmother in order to get more answers about her suicide. This story is probably the most disconnected from the rest.
Lena – Lena is the second girl to get the pants. After attending a nude art class, she finds herself caught up in an unintentional love triangle. With her true love Kostas and a new guy she meets in the class. Unsurprisingly, this story has the most romance.
Carmen – Carmen is the third girl to get the pants. She’s the one who feels like the group is drifting apart. The fact that her mother is having a baby isn’t helping. Which is why she decides to participate in a theater production. Accidentally landing the lead role and winning a guy’s affection. This story is the most dramatic (both literally and figuratively).
Tibby – Tibby is the fourth girl to get the pants. The problems she faces require its magic the most. She stays behind like before. Working in a video store and trying to finish her screenplay. She’s been dating the Dragon Quest guy she met in the first movie. She finds herself making difficult choices after a possible pregnancy gets in the way. It’s not as emotional, but I did find myself the most invested in her story once again.
In conclusion, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 brings back the magic of its lead actresses. Along with a few new faces. Like Lucy Hale as Lena’s never before seen younger sister Effie. At what seemed like the last minute, the sisterhood is reunited after the pants are lost in Greece. It leaves the movie a bit open ended. Making me want a third film right away. While I didn’t get into the sequel as much as the first, seeing the girls again was enough to make this magical pants adventure worth it.
Preceded by: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is all about magic pants. Which is why I’m writing this review while wearing jeans. Despite how popular it was (and two separate mentions of the book in TeenNick shows I watched), I thought I’d never get into it. Since a movie about sisterhood seemed like it would be too girly for me. I figured they’d be dealing with topics I couldn’t relate to. Luckily I was proven wrong, because The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is universal. It brings together four unlikely friends who decide to share a pair of pants that mysteriously fits all their unique body types. They each go on separate summer trips that I can only talk about separately.
Lena – The first girl to get the pants is Lena Kaligaris. She’s a quiet, shy, artist, with a petite body type played by Alexis Bledel. She visits her big fat greek family in Greece. Through the magic of the pants, she encounters a local boy named Kostas that her family warns her against fraternizing with. Due to a decades long feud. This story has the most beautiful location and the best romance.
Tibby – The next girl to get the pants is Tibby Rollins. She’s a creative, rebellious, documentarian with an average body type played by Amber Tamblyn. She’s the only one who stays home for the summer. Working a summer job at Wallman’s (Walmart) and trying to finish her movie. Through the magic of the pants, she meets a frustrating 12 year old girl named Bailey who inserts herself into her filming process. I won’t say what happens, but it had me crying my eyes out. It’s easily the most emotional story.
Carmen – The third girl to get the pants is Carmen Lowell. She’s a chatty, half Puerto Rican writer with a curvy body type played by America Ferrera. She visits her seldom seen father only a few states over. Only to discover he has a new family that he seems to care more about than her. Through the magic of the pants, she lets him know exactly how it makes her feel. Due to the subject of divorce, this story is perhaps the most relatable.
Bridget – The last girl to get the pants is Bridget Vreeland. She’s an outgoing, loyal, assertive soccer player with an athletic body type played by Blake Lively. She attends soccer camp in Mexico. Where she shows off her talent and pursues an older guy. All the while trying to forget her deceased mother. Through the magic of the pants, it’s implied that she loses her virginity. This story has a beautiful location as well and the best music (like my favorite song “Unwritten”). It also deals with some of the movie’s heavier topics.
In conclusion, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants really understands its teenage girl demographic, but their topics are too universal not to appeal to everyone. For a PG rated film, they cover a lot of mature topics. Ranging from familial loyalty, death, divorce, identity, suicide, and virginity. Even if some of it is implied. Every actress brings their best to each character. They may not always be together, but when they are, you totally buy their chemistry. In the end, each girl grows as a person. All it took was their lifelong bond and the magic of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Followed by: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2