September Blind Spot Review: Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

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“The only way to find out what story you’re in is to determine what stories you’re not in.”
– Professor Jules Hilbert

SYNOPSIS: An I.R.S. auditor suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death. – via IMDB

I have always heard that Stranger Than Fiction is a solid movie and that Ferrell is excellent in it (this reason is always cited when I say I am not a huge Ferrell fan) and I have always said I will get to it at some stage and then I never do, which is how it ended up on y 2018 Blind Spot list. I needed to cross it off my list.

Right off, I didn’t know what to expect from this movie when I started it. Was it going to be one of Ferrell’s ridiculous movies, would it be different, what was going to come from it? Well, let me tell you, Ferrell rocked this one. Completely. It was a more contained performance than I am used to seeing from him, and the humour landed for me from him now more than ever. I feel he is sometimes just too OTT and not my cup of tea. I think the cast all worked well together in this to deliver a pretty good comedy drama, and I enjoyed it.

The pacing was good, and I was sold on seeing what, exactly, Harold’s life was all about, because it was super bland, doing the same thing day in and day out. Emma Thompson as writer and narrator fit the role perfectly, and it was entertaining to watch her whenever she was on screen. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s insistence on being a kind anarchist is sweet, too, and Ferrell’s lonely Harold is quite sad. Dustin Hoffman, too, as the weird and quirky writing expert is quite fun, and just to see how all the characters interact and pull together to change the initially drab story is a satisfying experience.

The humour is rather sharp and low key in this, not forceful or over the top or anything like that, and it just worked completely for the story being told. I liked how the story paced itself, never too slow to be boring, never too fast to be confusing. I found myself delighted with Stranger Than Fiction coming to life, as a reader and a moviegoer, there was plenty that worked so well.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Stranger Than Fiction, and I might very well check it out again someday. Ferrell did not irritate, and it had enough quirk to keep it fun and sweet but not grating or excessively cheesy and with a cast that worked well together, and I can highly recommend it.

Rapid Review: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

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perfume story of a murderer poster

“Each perfume contains three chords: the head, the heart and the base, necessitating 12 notes in all. The head chord contains the first impression, lasting a few minutes before giving way to the heart chord, the theme of the perfume, lasting several hours. Finally, the base chord, the trail of the perfume lasting several days.”
– Giuseppe Baldini

SYNOPSIS: Jean-Baptiste Grenouille came into the world unwanted, expected to die, yet born with an unnerving sense of smell that created alienation as well as talent. Of all the smells around him, Grenouille is beckoned to the scent of a woman’s soul, and spends the rest of his life attempting to smell her essence again by becoming a perfumer, and creating the essence of an innocence lost. – via IMDB

perfume creepy

GRADE 8.5So, it was movie day recently, and my friend is a huge fan of this movie. I have said for years I will get to it, and then never did (we all have that list), but now it has changed, and wow, I am glad I finally checked this movie out. I was entranced from the off, with the narrator telling us this weird and bizarre story (and John Hurt was a fantastic pick for this), from the way it was shot, everything. I have got to commend the way the film was directed, as well as the way it looked. So washed out and dreary, and yet things with beautiful smells had vivid colours, which in turn made me think of the scents tied to it. The movie has this air of doom and creepiness hanging over it, this cannot be denied, the atmosphere is dark and broody, and Ben Whishaw is a fantastic Grenouille – he really just seems too damn off. You want to pity him, you do, and on the other hand, he is so outlandishly different you cannot help but recoil. The score suited this movie wonderfully, blending in, never taking over, always complementing. The performances, too, were impressive, and I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing of the movie. The storytelling and writing was brilliant because, while we know what Grenouille is doing is beyond heinous and wrong, we also want to see what will happen if he achieves his goal. Yes, it is that sick. It’s not about his success at killing these girls, it is just to see what he is willing to do about his obsession, how far he is willing to take it. I have always known this movie to get a lot of hate, but I don’t understand that. It isn’t a bad movie at all. But then, maybe it is just too different, too weird, that it sets people on edge? It is dark, for sure, and it tells of Grenouille’s love story with smell, and later his obsession to forever capture it, and the story has many dark avenues it explores. Maybe because people took it too seriously, expected a realistic story, when it was so obviously not that from the off. I think the best way to describe this film would be disturbing. I honestly do, after the movie is over, you feel unsettled, yet the movie is put together well, incredibly well acted, very strange and out there, and it gets under your skin. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is dark, broody, creepy, unusual, fascinating and extremely lonely, and worth a watch at least once. I will definitely be seeking the book out now!

Rapid Review: Rain Man (1988)

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rain man poster

“What you have to understand is, four days ago he was only my brother in name. And this morning we had pancakes.”
– Charlie Babbitt 

SYNOPSIS: Selfish yuppie Charlie Babbitt’s father dies and leaves a fortune — to Raymond, the institutionalized savant brother that Charlie didn’t know he had. They set out on a cross-country journey of discovery. – via IMDB

rain man k-mart sucks

GRADE 7You know, Tom Cruise get hated on way too much. I believe he is quite the crackpot in real life, but I think he is a pretty good actor, and to see him with Dustin Hoffman here was well worth it. Tom Cruise plays a real mean twit in Rain Man, a money hungry dweeb who is bitter that his father wrote him out of his will, and even angrier when he learns that he has an autistic brother he knew nothing about, and that Raymond is entitled to everything. Half the time you just want to slap Charlie for being an insufferable toolbag, and Raymond is highly amusing at the best of times. “Uh oh” became synonymous with something hilarious on the way, and “definitely” was also paired with laughter. However, as much fun as this movie is, there are flaws to it, too, which are often overlooked. They aren’t all glaring, and not all terrible, but some things just don’t work out as well as you would like. I am not a fan of the score, and the pacing was also a bit of an issue at the best of times. Some events were extremely unbelievable, too, which detracted from the movie for me in places. Something I did like a lot, however, was the accuracy that they went with in displaying Raymond’s autism spectrum disorder. SPOILER: I also like that there was no perfect, happy ending because that would have been so unrealistic and ruined the whole thing for me. I had quite a laugh while the brothers were in Vegas, very good! Anyhow, Rain Man is entertaining, contains quite a few decent performances and is enjoyable, though flawed.

Rapid Review: Chef (2014)

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chef poster

“I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this. I manage to touch people’s lives with what I do and I want to share this with you.”
– Carl Casper

SYNOPSIS: Carl Casper is an acclaimed chef with a family life that seems as decaying as his artistic freedom. Those frustrations boil over into a raucous viral-videoed public confrontation against a restaurant critic who panned his cooking of food that his boss ordered him to make against his instincts. Now with his career ruined, Carl’s ex-wife offers an unorthodox solution in Miami: refit an old food truck to offer quality cooking on his own terms. Now with his young son, Percy, and old colleague, Martin, helping, Carl takes a working trip across America with that truck to rediscover his gastronomic passion. With Percy’s tech savvy and Martin’s enthusiasm, Carl finds that he is creating a traveling sensation on the way home. In doing so, Carl discovers he is serving up more than simply food, but also a deeper connection with his life and his family that is truly delicious in its own way. – via IMDB

chef food

GRADE 8This is something I have been waiting a while to look into (sounds like so many of the movies I have been watching recently), mainly because I really enjoy Jon Favreau’s work. Plus a food flick? I was not sure  how this was going to work, but it came back with solid reviews, and let me tell you, with good reason. I think Favreau is actually a pretty damn good actor, and his skills were out on display here. I thought he was a fantastic chef, and his character made me laugh and exasperated the hell out of me because he was relatively miserable (by his own choice), and really did not focus on his son.

Granted, there is nothing revolutionary about this story whatsoever, but Favreau pulls it off, making it sweet, heartwarming and funny. The performances all round were so good. Scarlett Johansson again managed to not work on my last nerve (she is really going back to where I used to like her), John Leguizamo delivers such a likable character that gave me plenty of laughs, the friendship between him and Carl really was something to check out, Emjay Anthony was adorable as Carl Casper’s son, Robert Downey Jr had a great little cameo and Dustin Hoffman really was not a very nice guy – though I loved his Stones quote, of course.

chef dancing

One thing Chef did super successfully was the social networking integration (specifically Twitter in this case). Usually that is something that is never pulled off properly in movies and instead adds to serious annoyance levels, but in the case of this it was done properly, adding to the story and not taking away from it. It was a wonderful journey to undertake with Favreau and his portrayal of Carl Casper, moving from depression to losing everything to working to get his life centred again, repairing his life, so to speak.

I would highly advise, however, that you eat something prior to viewing or have a magnificent mean/sandwich/whatever when you are watching it because just watching that food the whole way through really got me hungry. Serious food porn going on here.I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the direction, the score and camerawork for this. Again, while predictable in places and nothing we have never seen before, Chef carries itself well, and is definitely something to see!