Throwback Thursday: The Beguiled (2017)

Love and jealousy often go hand in hand. The question is, how much will jealousy color a relationship and have a hand in destroying love?

The 2017 movie, The Beguiled, is based upon a book by Thomas Cullinan and a reboot of the original 1971 film. It takes place at an isolated girls school in Virginia during the Civil War. Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) is the headmistress. One of the teachers who works under her is Edwina (Kirsten Dunst). When Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), a wounded Union soldier arrives at the doorstep, his presence upsets the delicate equilibrium that already exists within the building’s walls. With the women competing for his attention in and out of the bedroom, will they open their eyes about this stranger or fall prey to his charms?

I haven’t read the book or seen the 1971 adaptation, so I cannot speak to how good or bad they are. Overall, I liked this movie. The performances are fantastic, each actor is in their element in their particular role. The problem is that the sexual tension is not what is promised. Maybe it’s me, but I didn’t feel it as I expected to.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

The Power of the Dog Movie Review

Toxic masculinity represents a time in human history in which men were expected to be men. There was little room for feelings or expressing themselves in an open or healthy manner.

The 2021 Netflix film, The Power of the Dog, is based on the book of the same name by Thomas Savage. In Montana in 1925, brothers Phil and George Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) have taken over the running of the family ranch. Phil is a man’s man in every sense of the word, George is considerate and emotionally open.

On the road to the market, they eat at a restaurant owned by Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst) and her teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Rose is a widow who has been forced to change her life to support herself and Peter after the abrupt passing of her late husband. Phil’s callous and cruel jokes drive both mother and son to tears. George tries to make up for his brother’s actions, which turns into a marriage proposal. When Rose and Peter enter Phil’s orbit as his sister-in-law and nephew, this new reality turns his world upside down. Taking the boy under his wing, Phil swings between mocking Peter and teaching him how to run a ranch.

The question is, has Phil started to change, or is this a ploy to continue his brutish ways?

This is supposed to be one of the best movies of 2021. Whatever it is that made this film special, I don’t see it.

It has nothing to do with the performers or the story itself. Director and co-screenwriter Jane Campion does what she does best. Cumberbatch once again proves that he is one of the most versatile actors in the business. Plemmons and Dunst are well cast for their roles and the perfect ying to Cumerbatch’s yang. Smit-McPhee is a young actor who solely based on his one role, has a bright future. The problem is that I was on the verge of being bored and wondering why I should care about these characters.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

Throwback Thursday: Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

In the world of beauty competitions, the ultimate goal is to win. For some contestants and their handlers, that means resorting to tactics that break a few rules.

In the 1999 movie, Drop Dead Gorgeous, a small town in Minnesota is preparing for their annual beauty pageant. Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley) is the matriarch of the wealthiest family in town. She will do anything (and I mean anything) to ensure that her daughter Becky (Denise Richards) comes out on top.

But Becky has a rival in Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst), whose mother Annette (Ellen Barkin), is equally as eager to see her daughter take the crown. Before the winner is announced there will be some roadblocks along the way. One of which maybe a dead body.

It’s not quite a satire, but it has elements of the genre. What I remember about the movie is that is both entertaining and a treatise of how we treat young women. If all they learn is that their looks are the most important thing in life, what will their expectations be for the rest of their lives?

I recommend it.

Throwback Thursday-Jumanji (1995)

To some, a board game is just that. But in Jumanji, it is much more.

Alan Parrish (the late Robin Williams) has been stuck inside to the game Jumanji for decades. Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) have just lost their parents. Moving to new town with their aunt Nora (Bebe Neuwirth), they discover the game and start to play. Alan returns from the game. Now they must finish what was started decades ago by Alan and his childhood best friend Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) before the game takes over the city.

This movie is interesting. It certainly has more action than a typical Robin Williams movie. But underneath the action and the humor is a sense of loss that can only be undone when the main characters must finish what has already been started.

I recommend it.

 

Flashback Friday- Rachael Leigh Cook Double Feature- All I Wanna Do (1998) & The Baby-Sitters Club (1995)

There is something about a story of young women coming together, whether is to ensure their education or to become entrepreneurs.

In the 1990’s Rachael Leigh Cook starred in two different movies where the story focused on smart, persistent young women.

In 1998, she was part of the cast of All I Wanna Do. In the 1960’s, Abby (Rachael Leigh Cook), Odette (Gabby Hoffman) & Verena (Kirsten Dunst) are students at an all girls boarding school. When they are told that their school will soon be merging with the a local boys school, the girls come together to convince their parents and the faculty that the school should remain as is.

I like this movie.  What makes it enjoyable is that these girls are normal teenager girls going through what every teenage girl throughout time has gone through. What makes them different is that they fight for what they believe in, even if their tactics do get a little dirty.

Three years earlier, she starred in The Baby-Sitters Club, a movie adaption of best selling YA book series by Ann M. Martin.

The girls are all there. Tomboy Kristy (Schuyler Fisk),  fashion plate Stacey (Bre Blair), shy Mary Anne (Rachael Leigh Cook), nature lover Dawn (Larisa Oleynik), artistic Claudia (Tricia Joe), first child of a very large family Mallory (Stacy Linn Ramsower) and ballet student Jessie (Zelda Harris).

At the beginning of the summer, Kristy wants to start a summer camp. It sounds simple, but it won’t be easy.

This book series was a huge part of my pre-teen and early teen years. I used to devour these books back in the day. These books have been a staple of the YA genre for twenty odd years. Closely adapted from the books, the movie is the next best thing to reading them.

I recommend them both.

 

The Devils Arithmetic- Book And Movie Review

When your a teenager, family dinners are forced upon us, whether we like it or not.

In Jane Yolen’s 2000 novel, The Devil’s Arithmetic, Hannah Stern is a modern teenager who has grown up with her family’s stories of the Holocaust. After hearing them so many times, Hannah has become bored listening to them. Opening the door to Elijah during her family’s annual Passover Seder, Hannah finds herself in 1940’s Europe. World War II has started and the lives of Europe’s Jews are about to change for the worst.

In 1999, a TV movie based on the book aired with Kirsten Dunst in the lead role.

What I like about the book and the movie is that Hannah is just an ordinary teenage girl. She starts off as spoiled and unappreciative and only learns to appreciate her heritage when she relives the horrors of the Holocaust.

I highly recommend both.

Flashback Friday-Marie Antoinette (2006)

In her own time, Marie Antoinette’s reputation depended on  whom one spoke to. She was either liked and respected by the elite because of her status or hated by the common person.

The 2006 movie, Marie Antoinette, with Kirsten Dunst in the lead role, starts with her marriage to Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). Their marriage, like all royal marriages is an arranged one. Marie lives in the lap of luxury and becomes quite spoiled. Her job as queen is bring a royal heir into the world, but her husband is not too eager to do the deed.

Director Sofia Coppola has a very interesting take on her subject. Most of the movie is light and frothy, which makes sense because Marie and Louie were teenagers when they married. The film does get dark as it follows the characters  as French Revolution starts and ends of the monarchy in France.

I happen to like this movie. Ms. Coppola’s approach is to present her lead characters as an ordinary young woman (well as ordinary as a Queen Of France can be) whom she hopes that the young women who watch this movie will relate to. But there is also enough history to keep the movie grounded in the time period.

I recommend it.

 

Flashback Friday-Bring It On (2000)

Bring It On is one of those movies.  On the surface the plot is trite and predictable. The screenplay contains lines that are outright dumb. But somehow, it was successful and led to a series of sequels that went from bad to worse.

Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) is newly crowned captain of the Rancho Carne High School cheer leading them.  Their team is poised to take an easy victory at the national cheer leading championship for the sixth year in a row. She discovers that their routines are stolen from The Clovers, a cheer leading team from the inner city. Isis (Gabrielle Union), the team captain wants to see her team take their rightful place as winners in the cheer leading championship.

While Torrance and her team prepare original routines, Isis and her team need a way to get to the championship.

This is the type of movie that re-runs on cable when the station does not know what to put into an empty time slot. Shakespeare and Oscar worthy, this movie is not. But it does make a very interesting point about race relations in America, even if it is couched in the story of two rival cheer leading teams.

Do I recommend this movie? Why not.

Throwback Thursday Part II- Little Women

Little Women, for me as a reader, was a rite of passage. I was introduced to the March sisters at a young age. A precursor  of my addiction to classic literature by female authors in the 18th and 19th centuries, Little Women holds a place in my heart.

There have been several film adaptations of the novel. The most recent big screen adaptation was released 20 years ago.  Inhabiting the lives of the March sisters are Trini Alvarado (Meg, the sensible eldest sister), Winona Ryder (Jo, the tomboy who wishes to be a writer), Claire Danes (Beth, the homebody) and Kirsten Dunst / Samantha Mathis (wild child Amy). Rounding out the cast is Susan Sarandon as Mrs. March, Christian Bale as Laurie, Gabriel Byrne as Friedrich Bhaer and Eric Stoltz as John Brooke.

I like this movie. It’s true to the book while not sacrificing cinematic quality. This movie is good and still holds up after 20 years.

I recommend this movie.

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