Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
When I heard about this film, I couldn’t wait to see it. I imagined a delightful romp through the French countryside, full of beautiful scenery, great food and wine, and fantastic acting. Unfortunately, very little of that came to fruition in this movie.
The screenplay was full of utterly unoriginal and predictable dialogue. [You know a film is in trouble when the audience can answer a character’s question from the back of the theater, sort of like you do with a bad sitcom] Worse yet were the stereotypes. I think they used every one in the book: The chain smoking but charming Frenchman with a girl in every port; the pretty but ignored wife who accedes to her husband’s every need, from pairing his socks to finding his pills; the 60’s music playing languorously in the background as their car speeds by lush lavender fields. If this film had been released in the 60’s, it might have had a chance. It might even have evoked a certain “je ne sais quoi.” But as a modern day look at life among the middle-aged bourgeoisie, it fell flat.
The lovely Diane Lane is a waste here as the not quite over-the-hill mother of an 18 year old daughter – with her flat shoes and slept-in hair – who blooms once she puts on a nice dress, drinks a glass of wine, and is smothered in attention by, what the French call, a “mec.” And really, who would believe that she had flown all over the world in private planes yet did not know a good Chateauneuf du Pap; or that she would be revolted by escargots? And how many times is Alec Baldwin going to play the role of the foppish chubby husband with a “demi-heart.” Even scenes of the glorious countryside and the mouthwatering dinners couldn’t save this film, especially after they were repeated ad nauseum.
Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Eleanor Coppola for having the guts and grit to make her narrative film directing debut at the age of 81. And I love the fact that the story is based loosely on her own experiences. But having read her 1979 memoir, Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now; and having seen Hearts of Darkness, which she co-directed and for which she won an Emmy, I can only wonder, what went wrong here? And where were the other members of her talented family during the process?
If I sound somewhat annoyed and disappointed, I am. I love France and have been going there since the age of eight. I love snails and smelly cheeses, crunchy French bread, rich red wines, and the endless lavender fields of Provence. This film didn’t do justice to any of those things. It simply felt worn, forced, and utterly out of touch. And if you don’t believe me, feel free to ask the man sitting next to me at the screening. Oh yeh, he snored through most of it!!
As a dog-walker, pet-sitter, and pet parent myself, I take more than a small interest in canines – in real life or on camera. From Rin-Tin-Tin, to Lassie, to Bear the crime fighting dog on Person of Interest, man’s best friend has always shone in Hollywood. Here are some of the best examples to make it to the silver screen.
Old Yeller (1957) This coming of age Disney drama was based on the Newberry award winning novel of the same name. In 1860’s post-Civil War Texas, Travis and Arliss befriend a lovable mutt they name “Old Yeller,” for his coloring. They have a series of adventures and Yeller saves the boys multiple times whilst becoming a beloved member of the family. But sadly, there’s that darn hydrophobia (aka rabies) out there… Warning this is generally considered one of the biggest tear-jerker films of all time, so stock up on Kleenex.
101 Dalmations(1961) We all know the story. When their puppies are kidnapped by the evil Cruella De Vil (one of the most memorable and iconic villains of all time) Dalmatian couple Pongo and Perdita set out to find them. Along the way they rescue over 84 other additional puppies as well. Hence the title. This animated adventure from Disney based on the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith was an instant classic. It was reissued in theatres four times in 1969, 1979,1985, and 1991 as well as being made into a live action remake in 1996.
Best in Show (2000) This mockumentary follows five entrants into a snooty dog show and the bizarre antics that follow. The antics in question are actually all on the part of the dog owners and human handlers – the dogs themselves are a lot more level-headed. The legendary Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman) starred, directed and co-wrote this hysterically funny comedy with Eugene Levy (Splash, American Pie), who starred as well. The cast is a plethora of comedic riches with mesmerizing turns by Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, and Catherine O’Hara.
My Dog Skip (2000) Based on the autobiographical novel of the same name. In the 1940s,Willie Morris (Frankie Muniz of Malcolm in the Middle and Agent Cody Banks) is a lonely nine year-old with a veteran father (Kevin Bacon) and extroverted mom (Diane Lane). The latter decides against the wishes of the former to give Willie a Jack Russell Terrier for his birthday. Willie names the dog Skip and he quickly becomes the best and most important friend of Willie’s childhood.
Eight Below (2006) Professor McClaren (Bruce Greenwood of Double Jeopardy and Star Trek) travels to a remote Antarctic base in search of a meteorite. Local guide Jerry (the late Paul Walker of The Fast and the Furious franchise) decides the only way to make the trip is via dog sled. McClaren gets his meteorite, but is injured in the process and Jerry’s sled dogs rescue him. Back at base, the humans are evacuated due to an incoming storm, but the dogs are left behind – and then the humans can’t come back. Which leaves eight beautiful, brave, and smart Huskies abandoned to survive by themselves for months on end in the harshest environment on earth. Thank god they are, after all, Huskies. Loosely based on true events that happened to an ill-fated Japanese expedition to the Antarctica, it received good reviews and was a box office hit.
Top photo from Bigstock
Winnie’s book, The Dog-Walking Diaries – A Year in the Life of an Autistic Dog-Walker, can be bought for the dog lover in your life by clicking here to purchase on Amazon.
The latest powerhouse in comic-book adaptations, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, promises an explosive showdown between two of the biggest superheroes on the planet. Picking up where Man of Steel left off—with the city of Metropolis in tatters following Superman’s battle with Zod—Batman v. Superman opens in an uncertain era with many questioning Superman’s intentions and power. With Batman on a mission to stop Superman before he causes further harm, the two superheroes soon find themselves battling not just each other, but Lex Luthor’s evil creation, Doomsday, as well. Starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, the movie is chock full of explosions, and action, but does it live up to the hype?
It’s safe to say that the one saving grace of Batman v. Superman is its epic action. Featuring a wealth of impressive CGI over the course of two and a half hours, the film is bolstered largely by its highly-choreographed action sequences and explosions. These scenes are aplenty, and keep the film from collapsing into insipid tedium. On the other hand, the non-action scenes of the movie are surprisingly dull. Many of the performances only add to the muted, listless tone of the film. The acting is not bad, just dreary.
While there are some standout performances—most notably, Gal Gadot’s impressive Wonder Woman—Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader is disappointingly one-dimensional. Though Affleck succeeds at being stoic and steely, he lacks the charm of previous Bruce Waynes and leaves viewers yearning for Christian Bale or Michael Keaton incarnations. As evil Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg falls flat in his over-the-top attempt to recall a giggling villain on the brink of insanity, à la Heath Ledger’s flawless Joker character in the Christopher Nolan series. There are plenty of other famous faces in the movie—including Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch, and Diane Lane as Superman’s mom—but the real treat of the supporting cast is Jeremy Irons. Though he is in the movie far too briefly, Irons adds some much needed lightness and humor to the film as Alfred, Batman’s long-suffering butler.
If you’re a fan of the original D.C. comics that inspired the movie, or of big-budget superhero movies in general, then Batman v. Superman will surely knock your socks off. If, however, you don’t have a Batman costume hanging in your closet, aren’t already clued in on storyline, or even know who Lex Luthor is, you might be bored. Those viewers unfamiliar with the storyline will feel stranded by the scarce and flimsy explanations of critical plot points. Unlike other films that offer mass appeal to a large range of viewers, like the recent Deadpool or even 2015’s Antman, Batman v. Superman feels like it is specifically tailored for comic-loving audiences.
Ultimately, the movie offers an interesting concept but feels like it’s drowning in its own seriousness. Taking a cue from other superhero blockbusters and injecting some warmth and humor to the film, as well as adopting a more linear plotline, would have benefitted Batman v. Superman greatly. If you’re not a teenage boy, or a die-hard comic fan, skip this film and re-watch Deadpool instead.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opens nationwide on Friday, March 25.