Posts Tagged ‘Pride & Prejudice’

Begin Again”  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the 2013 musical-drama “Begin Again“.  The movie stars Keira Knightley as Gretta James, a songwriter who has recently broken up with her boyfriend, Adam Levine as Dave Kohl, Gretta’s ex-boyfriend and a recently “hit” musician who cheats on Gretta, Mark Ruffalo as Dan Mulligan, a music producer who “discovers” Gretta in a dive-bar on an open mic night, Catherine Keener as Miriam Hart, Dan’s estranged wife – who cheated on him, (sensing a pattern here?), Hailee Steinfeld as Violet Mulligan, Dan and Miriam’s teenage daughter, James Corden as Steve, Gretta’s best friend from England, who has also moved to New York City to seek his fortune, CeeLo Green as Troublegum, a successful rapper who was discovered by Dan and who supports / funds Gretta’s (and Dan’s) album, and Mos Def (credited as Yasiin Bey) as Saul, Dan’s long-time business partner, who has pushed Dan out of their business because he (Dan) turned into an alcoholic flake.
The movie starts with an interesting (but confusing) sequence of Gretta singing and then flashes back to Dan hearing her sing.  This produces the most interesting (to me) scene in the movie where instruments begin to play themselves (much like the mop-cleaning-the-laboratory scene in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice“) and we get a feeling for what a “gifted” music producer must hear / feel when he is helping to create a “sound” / song.  I’d never seen this done this way before.  Normally, we see producers sliding knobs on a big panel and voila – a hit single.  This was (to me) a truer window into creativity.
Anyway, Gretta and Dan agree to make an album in NYC and most of the rest of the movie revolves around that.  And, it works!  The characters are fleshed out and there is a progression / growth across Dan, Gretta, Miriam (the wife), Dave (the cheating boyfriend), Violet (Dan’s daughter) and Steve (though he’s more in the background).  Spoiler Alert:  the movie ends with one person forgiving an “ex” and starting over together, and one person moving on and starting over on their own.  Hence, “Begin Again“.
So, I already said the movie worked for me.  The two other questions I normally ask / answer are: Was it any good?  And, was it entertaining?  The answer to both is yes.  I will say, I’m not a big Adam Levine fan.  I’ve seen him as some kind of music coach on TV and I guess he used to be the lead singer in a band at some point.  In any case, while his acting was okay, I didn’t think much of his singing performance(s).  Truth be told, I was surprised by Keira’s singing, which was much better than I thought it was going to be.  Not that I would ever pay money to hear her sing on an album, but as part of the movie performance, I thought she was pretty good.  I will add I felt Knightly looks (sadly) a bit anorexic in this film.  I don’t know if it was “just” makeup or if it was really her, but while she is almost always slim, her cheeks were positively hollow in a few closeups.  It was more frightening than attractive (IMHO).  Again, nothing to do with acting or talent, just a comment…
I thought Ruffalo basically steals the movie.  He carried the weight and most of the humor of the movie and he did it well.  Between his roles as the Hulk and some of the other films I’ve seen him in, I’m really becoming a fan.  Steinfeld (the actor who played the daughter) and CeeLo Green were both very good in their respective roles, too.
Final recommendation:  Strong.  A little bit of full disclosure here: I re-watched the BBC and movie version of “Pride & Prejudice” and was discussing Keira Knightley with my sister over the weekend.  I’m trying to get her to read the novel.  She said how much she loves Knightley and that this (“Begin Again“) is one of her favorite movies of all time.  We both agreed about the bar / music “imagination” scene being great and I told her: “Now I have to go back and re-watch the movie.”  The movie is rated “R” for language, but I did not find it egregiously so nor particularly offensive.
Dear Readers:  My apologies for not following up with a review (here) after my initial viewing last year.  To tell the truth, over the last 18 months, I’ve probably watched over 100 movies which I’ve not reviewed due to “life getting in the way.”  That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it…  I guess I’ll just have to re-watch them and get on with the reviews.  (Darn!)
On This Day In:
2019 The Opening Step
Day 17/18: That Didn’t Take Long
2018 I’ll Trade You…
2017 Luv Me Some Meat Loaf
2016 Unless Your Name Is #AmnestyDon
2015 A Tentative First Step
2014 Making People
2013 On Reading Books
2012 On America
2011 Shiver, Me Timbers!
2010 Fiduciary Breakdown

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Continuing in my pursuit of viewing all things “Pride & Prejudice“, I offer two more tangential movie reviews: “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” and “Austenland” and a third made for TV series: “Lost in Austen“.  The reviews are in the order I watched them, not in preference or year of release.  Because this post covers three “films”, it will be considerably longer than normal.  Feel free to skip it and come back another time if you’re not “into” P&P.
Lost in Austen” (2008) – TV Series 4 part on YouTube
This is a four part TV mini-series for a privately owned (not-BBC) channel in England called ITV.  The movie is a rom-com adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” book, but is really kind of a “Back to the Future” (back to reality?) feel.  Basically, the lead (Amanda Price, played by Jemima Rooper) is so in love with the book, she stumbles into it through a portal in her bathroom.  She retains all of her knowledge of the book and Elizabeth Bennet (played by Gemma Arterton) “replaces” her in our time.  Basically, what happens in a romance story if you know all the story but as soon as you join the story, the story is irrevocably altered.  Mostly, comedy (and romance) ensues.
The rest of the main characters are: Elliot Cowan as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Tom Mison as Mr Bingley, Morven Christie as Jane Bennet, Tom Riley as George Wickham, Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Claude Bennet, and Alex Kingston as Mrs. Bennet.
Once you know the premise, the TV-series is 70-80% predictable.  Given that, I still enjoyed it.  Rooper is not brilliant, but she carries the load and does it more than adequately.  Cowan is not “my” idea of Mr. Darcy, but he’s not bad.  Strike that.  He is better than most.  He is stern and formal without being Hollywood handsome.  And then he comes out of the pond…  LoL!  Adequate is true with the rest of the cast with the exception of Bonneville.  For whatever reason (mostly “Downton Abbey“, I think), I really like him as an actor and I thought he is very good as Mr. Bennet adding depth which is not always in some of the other portrayals in other versions of P&P.
The series uses the characters from P&P and kind-of follows the novel’s plot, but has (and ends with) significant variance.  Final recommendation: strong.  If you are a “P&P” fan, I think you’ll enjoy this series as an addition / alternate universe to Austen’s P&P.  If not, it is at least tolerable as rom-coms go.  I found it better than “tolerable”, but that may just be my taste.  If you are not a “P&P” or rom-com fan, why are you even bothering to read this review? (Just kidding…)
I watched this on YouTube for free and I would definitely consider buying it if it ever came out in my price range ($5).  Each episode is about 40-45 minutes, so you are looking at almost three hours of viewing commitment.
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” (2016)
I know that “everything” goes better with Zombies these days, but I really didn’t know what to expect before viewing this version of P&P.  I need to preface this review with a comment: I am not a horror or slasher film watcher.  Mostly, I find them repetitive, boring, or offensive. I stopped watching them about 1977 or so.  I very occasionally will touch base with one if it becomes a “societal” touchstone, but even then, it’s rare.  I have never seen a Jason, 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser, Saw or any of those series.  I have seen and do like some of the classics: “Wolfman“, “Psycho“, “Jaws“, etc and I also enjoy “monster / SciFi” films: “Predator“, “Alien“, “The Birds“.  I’m not sure why I like some and not others. I guess it’s just me.
Anyway, this is actually a rom-slash / martial arts / action film.  It is a “take-off” on P&P, so I thought I’d give it a chance.
Lily James plays Elizabeth Bennet, Sam Riley plays Mr. Darcy, Lena Headey plays Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Matt Smith plays Mr. Collins, Jack Huston plays Mr. Wickham and Charles Dance plays Mr. Bennet.  I like Lily James and love Lena Heady.  James makes a surprisingly good martial artist actor.  I don’t know how much is actually James doing the fighting, but “her” portions looked great.  Headey plays her typically serious role, even when it’s in a ridiculous role, like this one.  (I love the eye-patch.)  Dr. Who, I mean Matt Smith is outstanding as the incompetent and obsequious Collins.  Riley is handsome and gallant enough as Darcy, but seems (to me) a bit too young (and movie handsome, not really ruggedly handsome).  He looks like he should be in a boy band instead of on a parapet killing zombies.  And, finally, I liked Dance as Mr. Bennet.  I haven’t cared for him as much in other roles (GOT and “The Imitation Game“), but I thought he fit in this role.
Between the two threads, P&P and the zombies, this movie is 90% predictable.  The 10% which was unpredictable was whether James, Headly and the other ladies could pull off the martial arts scenes.  They do and quite well, too!
As a P&P fan, my final recommendation is moderate to strong.  I liked the sets, the costumes and the martial art set pieces.  I enjoyed this movie as a different “parody / take” on P&P even though I didn’t care for any of the zombie portions of the film.  They were merely action figures inserted to give the main characters moving targets to slice and dice.  I watched this on my “On Demand” TV service.  I’m not sure if I enjoyed it enough to actually buy a copy if ever comes in to my price point (yeah, still $5).  Despite James and Headey, I’m not sure I’d pay for this P&P theme movie.  And the movie ends as a setup to a sequel (which I will probably miss).
Austenland (2013)
This movie is supposed to be a “rom-com” about a late-20’s young lady who visits a theme park dedicated to re-enacting Jane Austen period life, social settings and romance.  The problem is while there is romance, there is almost no comedy.
So, who’s in this movie? It stars Keri Russell as Jane Hayes (the Austen fanatic), J.J. Feild as Henry Nobley (kind of a Mr. Darcy who looks vaguely like Tom Hiddleston), Bret McKenzie as Martin (the love interest for Russell’s character in the park), Jennifer Coolidge as Miss Elizabeth Charming (I thinks she was meant to be the comedic character, but she is an offensive “rich, unread, ugly American” instead – but with a kind heart), Georgia King as Lady Amelia Heartwright (another offensive rich guest – also American), and Jane Seymour as Mrs. Wattlesbrook (the proprietor of the resort).  There are also a number of other characters who aren’t really worth bothering to mention.
Russell is a “girl-next-door” version of Michelle Pfeiffer.  To be honest, I thought Russell might be Pfeiffer’s daughter or much younger sister.  She is the second best thing in this movie.  Feild is the first.  He makes both an interesting Nobly (Mr. Darcy) and a likeable history teacher.  The only other “interesting” actor was Seymour playing a manipulative park director.  The camera (or director or makeup crew) was not kind to her in this film.  She looks old in her closeups – much more than the early 60’s she would have been when this was filmed / released.  And not, evil / craggy / old – just old.  Like I said, “interesting”.
Final recommendation: moderate (at best).  I did like Russell and Feild and thought there was pretty good chemistry between them.  So, “rom” is the limit of this rom-com.  As a P&P fan, at least I can say I gave it a shot and watched it.
Thanks to any of you who made it all the way through this post / these reviews…
On This Day In:
2018 Dead Red
You Ain’t Done Yet
2017 Just Because
2016 As Close As They Can Get
2015 And So I Blog
2014 Take Flight
2013 Contributing Joy
2012 More Than A Race
2011 Institutionalized Leadership

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