Re-Watch: Cruel Intentions (1999)

Cruel Intentions
Director: Roger Kumble
Writer: Roger Kumble
Based on: Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ epistolary novel
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Louise Fletcher, Joshua Jackson, Eric Mabius, Sean Patrick Thomas, Swoosie Kurtz, Christine Baranski, Tara Reid
Seen on: 7.2.2016
[This concludes my Dangerous Liaisons marathon. At least until I can get ahold of the other adaptations.]

Plot:
Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) and Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) are step siblings, united in their love to manipulate and destroy the people around them, a skill they have so artfully mastered that their ploys don’t fall back on them. Both have a new project: Valmont is trying to seduce Annette Hargrove (Reese Whitherspoon), the new principal’s daughter, who is widely known for her chastity pledge and that before school starts. Kathryn, on the other hand, is looking for revenge on an ex-lover who just dumped her for the naive Cecile (Selma Blair). So she enlists Valmont’s help to completely corrupt Cecile.

I was 14 when Cruel Intentions came out, 15 by the time I saw it the first time and I think that it is one of the defining teen movies of my generation. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good film, though it definitely does have its strengths, but it is very hard to view it separately from its influence.

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Hot Pursuit (2015)

Hot Pursuit
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: David Feeney, John Quaintance
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofía Vergara, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley, Robert Kazinsky, Richard T. Jones, John Carroll Lynch, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia
Seen on: 22.6.2015

Plot:
Rose Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is a passionate cop, although she’s also a stickler for rules and a little too literal-minded, which led to a now infamous incident and to a long time-out for Cooper herself. The most exciting thing that happens to her in a long time is that she’s supposed to babysit the wife of a witness, Daniella (Sofía Vergara), until the trial the next day. But that assignment proves to be more exciting than anticipated and Cooper and Daniella soon find themselves on the run together.

Hot Pursuit is an extremely run of the mill “unlikely partners” movie like we’ve seen it a million times – only with two men instead of two women. Having two women starring doesn’t actually make it any better, but it is an exceptional thing to get such unexceptional fare with two female protagonists and a female director. So yay for that?!

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Inherent Vice (2014)

Inherent Vice
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Based on: Thomas Pynchon‘s novel
Cast: Joaquin PhoenixJoanna Newsom, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Eric Roberts, Serena Scott Thomas, Maya Rudolph, Michael Kenneth Williams, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, Sasha Pieterse
Seen on: 18.02.2015

Plot:
Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private detective who spends most of his time being high. When his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) surprisingly visits him to tell him about a plot against her current boyfriend, real estate tycoon Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), by his wife Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas) and then disappears, Doc takes up the investigation. As more people go missing and the police in the form of Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) gets involved as well, Doc quickly finds himself in deeper than he expected.

My relationship with Paul Thomas Anderson is difficult. With few exceptions I just don’t care for hard-boiled Detective Stories. Stoner movies are not my cup of tea. So it probably comes to no-one’s surprise that I did not like Inherent Vice, though it did surprise me how bored I was by it.

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Wild (2014)

Wild
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writer: Nick Hornby
Based on: Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Keene McRae, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffmann
Seen on: 19.01.2015

Plot:
Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) needs to get away from her life that keeps crumbling around her. So she’s decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, despite not really knowing anything about hiking. Things are hardgoing at first, but bit by bit, she finds not only her pace and the right amount to pack and bring along, but peace with herself.

Wild is a well-made film with an excellent structure and a wonderful lead actress that taps into something that many (middle-class, white) women are looking for. I enjoyed it.

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How Do You Know (2010)

How Do You Know
Director: James L. Brooks
Writer: James L. Brooks
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn

Plot:
Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) is a professional softball player but she’s just been cut from her team. A little bit at a loss with her life, she starts dating Matty (Owen Wilson) who is sweet and an asshole at the same time. In the meantime, George (Paul Rudd) who works for his father’s (Jack Nicholson) company is informed that he is being investigated for fraud and suddenly his life starts to fall apart – right after he got Lisa’s number from a mutual friend. On the advice of his assistant Annie (Kathryn Hahn) he calls her up but they don’t really hit it off straight away.

This movie is not exactly bad, but it isn’t any good either. There are some nice things about it, but somehow it’s neither fish nor fowl.

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Water for Elephants (2011)

Water for Elephants is Francis Lawrence‘ adaptation of Sara Gruen‘s book, starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz and Hal Holbrook. (And about 30 seconds of James Frain, which is so not enough.)

Plot:
After the death of his parents, Jacob (Robert Pattinson) quits his study of veterinary medicine and hits the road. By chance he ends up with a circus, where he is quickly hired by director August (Christoph Waltz) who can see Jacob’s use as a resident vet. August’s wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) takes a liking to Jacob – and Jacob to her. When they both start working on an elephant number for the show things soon get heavier and August’s abuse shows more and more. This can only end in drama.

Water for Elephants could have been great entertainment, either as the schmaltzy kitschfest it aspires to be or as the deliciously bad comedy Robert Pattinson movies tend to be. Instead it lands smack-dab in the middle of boring. Everything is terribly mediocre, apart from a few moments where it’s really bad, which is a welcome change. At least the alcohol helped [yeah, it was one of those movies]. And the elephant is cute.

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Monsters vs Aliens (2009)

Monsters vs Aliens is the newest Dreamworks Animation movie, directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon and with the voices of  Reese Whitherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Stephen Colbert, Rainn Wilson, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler and Renée Zellweger.
Unfortunately I had to choose between seeing it in English or in 3D and I went for the 3D.

Plot:
On her wedding day, Susan (Reese Whiterspoon) gets hit by a meteor and suddenly starts growing until she’s as tall as a small scyscraper. The government intervenes and Susan gets taken to a secret facility where she lives with some other monsters – B.O.B., a kind of sentient (though not much sentient) jelly (Seth Rogen), Dr. Cockroach, a crazy scientist who turned himself into a man-sized cockroach (Hugh Laurie), The Missing Link, a creature between fish and man (Will Arnett) and Insectosaurus, an oversized caterpillar (and when I say oversized, I mean as big as a scyscraper).
Anyway, when a giant alien robot lands on the earth, it’s the monsters who are called upon for help.

I really liked Monsters vs Aliens. It was full to the brim with references for geeks (starting with dialogue like “CODE NIMOY! CODE NIMOY!” to “Once again, a UFO has landed in America, the only country UFOs ever seem to land in.” and referencing movies from The Day the Earth Stood Still to Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Plus, it’s probably the most feminist kids’ movie in a while. The story was a bit old though, but at least that insured that it worked.
The 3D was really good, but I thought that they could have made more “gags” – things really coming out of the screen etc.  [Yeah, I’m a sucker for the cheap thrills.]

monsters_vs_aliens

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Penelope (2006)

Penelope, Penelope, why can’t more movies be like you?

Just so you know, I absolutely loved every frickin detail of this story. Starting with the plot, continuing with the characters, ending with set/production/costume design. Oh, and let’s not forget the beautiful message this movie sends, which actually makes sense.

Penelope is the daughter of a rich, aristocratic family. Unfortunately, she was cursed and is born with a pig nose. In an attempt to keep her safe until the nose is gone and the curse lifted, her parents lock her in at home and bring her one blue-blooded husband contender after the other, in the hopes that he’s Mr Right.

The setting is magical realism (tor has a great essay up on magical realism), the style reminded me of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium or Big Fish. And it really made me want more movies set in worlds like that. In literature, it’s pretty prevalent (think Gabriel García Márquez or Haruki Murakami among others), in movies, it’s not. Very sad.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Christina Ricci is a wonderful Penelope, sweet and naive, but also strong and powerful, filled with purpose and a sharp mind. Catherine O’Hara is the well-meaning mother of everybody’s nightmares. James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods and Russell Brand (who is everywhere nowadays) complete a perfect and very funny cast.

As I said before, I loved the design of the whole thing – Penelope’s clothes, her room, the city… it all fits the general mood of the movie and is just extremely pretty. And magic.

What it boils down to is that it’s a wonderful fairy tale that reminds you that the world is kind of enchanted. When you look at it closely.

And it’s actually a movie that got 10 out of 10 points on my list.