Movies: Life Before Her Eyes, Kingdom of Heaven, My Favorite Year, Ella Enchanted

This weekend was a major movie weekend. TV programming is in a lull between the summer and new season beginning later this month. So Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday all had ample time for me to watch movies!

Life Before Her Eyes starred Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood. From Amazon:

Based on the novel by Laura Kasischke this powerful drama starring Uma Thurman unfolds in out-of-sequence flashbacks. Recklessly hedonistic teenager Diana (Evan Rachel Wood) and her best friend a Christian virgin (Eva Amuri) come face to face with a machine-gun-wielding classmate one morning at school in a situation reminiscent of Columbine. Thurman plays the grown-up version of Diana who has a perfect life in the same small town 15 years after the tragedy.

I read this book earlier this year and found it lacking. Fortunately, the movie cut away all the wasted prose from the book and was able to make a more cohesive statement. I’m not a big Uma Thurman fan, but thought she did a very nice job playing the anxiety-ridden adult Diana who still feels out of place fifteen years after the tragedy that took place at her high school. Similarly, Evan Rachel Wood was well-cast. But I have to say I much preferred her co-hort in fun, played by Eva Amuri. She was fantastic.

If you have the book on your shelf and haven’t read it yet – rent the movie instead. It’s much better. Not great, but better.

3 1/2 bundles of flowers out of five.

Kingdom of Heaven was a big waste of time. Starring Orlando Bloom, this movie is set during the Crusades and follows the story of a blacksmith whose wife commits suicide. He leaves the town in order to seek forgiveness in Israel on behalf of his wife so she doesn’t spend eternity in Hell. Orlando Bloom is completely miscast in this role. There is NO BELIEVABILITY whatsoever that this slight man could possibly lead an Israeli army in a battle against the Muslims for ownership of Israel. Add to that a poorly written script and this was a movie I barely made it through. NOT worth renting AT ALL. It’s a poor man’s “Gladiator” – which is ironic since both were directed by Ridley Scott.

1 bout of leprosy out of five.

Back in high school, I remember sitting in the lunchroom one day as someone talked about the movie My Favorite Year. There was a scene in this movie that my friend re-enacted, and failing to get the laughs he wanted, he said, “Trust me – it was funny in the movie.” Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to watch “My Favorite Year” just to see if he was right.

He was. This is a VERY charming movie. In this homage to the days of live television in the 1950s, the story, set in 1954 at NBC, focuses on one of the junior writers, Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker – remember him from the tv show “Perfect Strangers?”), who is given the task of chaperoning that week’s guest star, a famously ill-behaved movie star named Alan Swann. He’s based on Errol Flynn and marvelously played by Peter O’Toole. The look of the film is of the 50s, but is extremely dated as though this was a very low-budget movie to make. Despite this, it’s a glorious film that seamlessly ingratiates itself so that you can’t help but root for Swann to make good and for Benjy to get the girl. O’Toole absolutely deserved his Oscar nomination – it’s a performance that still holds up today. And how great to see Lanie Kazan (who looks just as good now as she did then, if a little bit heavier) as Benjy’s mother in a GREAT scene with Benjy takes Swann to his mother’s house for dinner.

4 1/2 tearaway suits out of five.

Lastly, I Tivo’d Ella Enchanted a charming little fairy tale starring Anne Hathaway as a woman who is given the gift (or is it a curse?) of always being obedient. This is basically an updated Cinderella story for kids, but has enough modern references (a la “A Knight’s Tale” starring the late Heath Ledger) that I found myself liking this movie a lot. So much so that I may buy a used version of it for my DVD library.

3 1/2 elvin lawyers out of five.

My Signature

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  1. Uncle Bill – yeah, most of the movie took place in Jerusalem and involved a battle over the land between the Israelis and the Arab Muslims. Although I suppose it wasn’t so much an army as it was the residents of Israel taking up arms.

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