Movie Review: “Cinderella”

Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgard, Derek Jacobi
Kenneth Branagh

It seems laughably apologetic to give a studio credit for not royally screwing something up – hey now, that wasn’t completely awful! Well done, gents – but to be fair, there are a number of ways that the live action “Cinderella” could have gone horribly wrong. It could have been directed by one of those ‘that guy’ directors, rather than Kenneth Branagh, who made sure the movie had style and class, by jove. The script, by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”), could have painted with a broad brush, rendering the wicked Tremaine women cardboard cutouts, and the prince a brain-dead trophy husband. “Cinderella” does none of these things, but more importantly, the movie reinforces the idea that kindness is always the better option, even when it’s not the easiest one. This may still be a fairy tale, but that is a great message for young girls and boys, and even better, the story is crafted in such a way that makes Cinderella not so much a lottery winner as a young woman making smart choices, honoring her family, and taking responsibility for her fate, by being kind. I can’t stress that last part enough.

Ella (Lily James) lives a simple but happy life with her loving, modest parents. Following the death of her mother (Hayley Atwell), though, Ella’s life takes a dreadful turn when her father (Ben Chaplin) marries the widow Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), and must share the house with her and her awful daughters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera). The aspiring social climbers treat Ella like a servant when her father travels, and when Ella receives word that her father has fallen ill and died on his most recent trip, Ella – now dubbed Cinderella by the stepsisters when they see her with soot on her face (cinders on Ella, ha ha) – rides to the forest to escape her misery.

While in the forest, she happens upon a group of royalty hunting an elk, and she shames one of them, a handsome young man named Kit (Richard Madden), for doing so, unaware that Kit is a prince and heir to the throne. The two do that period’s version of the Meet Cute (circling each other on horses, apparently) and are clearly attracted to each other – both mind and body – but Ella doesn’t tell Kit her name or anything about her, out of fear that he will be disappointed once he discovers that she’s a commoner. On the contrary, Kit is so smitten with Ella that he refuses the king’s (Derek Jacobi) insistence that he marry “up” (read: a princess in a larger empire) in order to grow their kingdom. Kit decides to throw a royal ball and opens it to the public with the hope that Ella will attend. Ella plans to, but the Tremaine women see to it that she cannot. Good thing Ella has a fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) to save the day, especially considering that up to that moment, she didn’t know she had one.

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Movie Review: “The Monuments Men”

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Dimitri Leonidas
George Clooney

When news spread that George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, “The Monuments Men,” wouldn’t be making its original December 2013 release date, many people were surprised, to say the least. After all, nothing sounded more Oscar-ready than a World War II film based on a true story and starring some of Hollywood’s finest actors. Although the studio’s official response on the matter was that Clooney needed more time to finish post-production, it was most likely because “The Monuments Men” just isn’t a very good film. It’s a lot better than most of the dreck that’s forced down our gullets this time of year, but for a movie overflowing with promise, it’s hard not to feel the sting of disappointment.

Clooney stars as Frank Stokes, an American art conservationist who leads a small platoon of experts – including museum curator James Granger (Matt Damon), architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman), theater director Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), French art dealer Jean-Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) and British professor Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) – into Europe during the final year of World War II. Their mission is to protect various monuments and buildings from being needlessly destroyed by Allied forces, as well as locate and retrieve the Nazi-stolen paintings and sculptures hand-picked for Hitler’s planned Führer Museum. After completing basic training, the men split up to undertake specific assignments across the war-torn continent, with Granger heading to Paris to meet a fellow museum curator (Cate Blanchett) who could be the key to tracking down some of the world’s most important cultural treasures.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Oscar Recap: Anne Hathaway of making us tingly

We love the Oscars. We just wish that they loved us back. Every year we get excited about the big show, and every year we feel a little sad when they’re over, and not because the show is over, but because they just can’t surprise us anymore. The major categories are all decided weeks before the show, and the non-award pieces, save the brilliant Auto-Tune bit, were pretty flat. At least there weren’t any dancers this year.

Ah, but the show did have its good points, along with some less than good points. Here’s the Bullz-Eye breakdown of the 2011 Academy Awards.

The Good

The show was short

It was over in three hours and 15 minutes, making it the shortest broadcast since 2005. And had Kirk Douglas not done that “You know…” bit over and over, it would have been five minutes shorter. But it’s hard to fault Douglas for that since it was one of the better improv moments of the evening.

Anne Hathaway

Did we mention that she’s hot, as in ‘would look good in a suit of armor’ hot? And the bit where she poked fun at her own movie by saying, “You know, it used to be that you get naked, you get an Oscar. Not anymore.” Then, one more time, wistfully, “Not anymore.” Gold. And that last dress she wore…wow. We found it extremely difficult to take our eyes off of her breasts, which was surely the point.

Inception” won more Oscars than we were expecting

We knew the technical awards were a lock, but stealing the Cinematography Oscar from the Deke (that would be Roger Deakins, who shot “True Grit“) was a shocker. And yet, despite winning four Oscars and being nominated for Best Picture and Original Screenplay, the Academy didn’t see fit to nominate Christopher Nolan for Best Director. Ugh.

They weren’t afraid to make fun of Charlie Sheen

Though, as one of our Popdose colleagues observed, the show probably would have been a lot more entertaining had he hosted.

Randy Newman

God love him. Even he knows the score that if you’re on screen, you damn well better be entertaining. “I want to be good television!” The sad thing is that, as we watched him win his second Oscar – in 20 attempts – we had a horrible thought: if he came along today, no major label would even think of signing him.

Trent Reznor is an Oscar winner

And rightfully so, though in a perfect world, he and Atticus Ross would have been dueling it out with Daft Punk (“TRON: Legacy“) for Best Score. The Frenchies was robbed, we tells ya.

The Bad

James Franco

We love James Franco. He turned in our favorite performance of the year in “127 Hours.” But he was, um, off last night, leading some to speculate that he was high. Personally, we think Franco is way too smart to do something so boneheaded; just because he played a friendly stoner in “Pineapple Express” doesn’t mean he is one. Dude’s too busy to get high. But it seemed as though he was playing his character in “Freaks and Geeks,” as if that was at all a good idea.

Everything else about Cate was stunning. Cute hair, lovely figure, wry smile, ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom. But that dress…what the hell? It looked like a tablecloth, one that had lemon cream pie spilled at the shoulders.

Tom Hooper winning Best Director

There is an argument that there is no bad acting, only bad direction, and by that standard, Tom Hooper did an outstanding job directing “The King’s Speech.” And truth be told, he did do an outstanding job directing that movie. But look at what David Fincher had to put together, the number of moving pieces, and the dialogue that his actors had to get just right. He should have won, plain and simple.

Christian Bale plugging a web site in his acceptance speech

Tacky, and the crowd let him know it.

Celine Dion singing during the “In Memoriam” piece

There wasn’t anyone else you could have found to sing that song? Really? Anne Hathaway is sitting right backstage. She can sing. And she doesn’t look like an alien.

Susanne Bier

The Danish filmmaker just won her first Academy Award for her film “In a Better World,” and here was the reaction from one of our party guests: “She has pit stains!” Ow.


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