LEADING LADIES: BROOKE ADAMS

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brooke-adams

Brooke Adams in 1978.

Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, that column where we look at the careers of lead actresses in the movies, especially horror movies.

Up today it’s Brooke Adams, who, if you’ve seen the outstanding 1978 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, you’ll definitely remember her performance as one of the contributing factors to it being such a great movie.

The Philip Kaufman directed INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) is one of those rare instances where the remake is as good or arguably better than the original. There are many reasons for this. Among them, Kaufman’s direction, a truly unforgettable chilling ending, and a fine ensemble of actors, including Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy. I saw this at the movies when I was just 14, and it instantly became a favorite. I also immediately became a fan of Brooke Adams.

Here now is a partial look at Adams’ career, focusing mostly on her genre credits:

MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971) – Nurse (uncredited) – Adams’ first appearance on the big screen, an uncredited bit as a nurse, in this tepid horror movie by director Gordon Hessler, featuring Herbert Lom and Jason Robards. Based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.

THE GREAT GATSBY (1974) – Party Guest (uncredited) – another uncredited bit in the Robert Redford version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel.

SONG OF THE SUCCUBUS (1975) – Olive Deems/Gloria Chambers – plays the lead in this TV movie about a modern-day rock star haunted by the ghost of a Victorian era musician.

MURDER ON FLIGHT 502 (1975) -Vera Franklin – part of an all-star cast in this TV movie about a series of murders on a jumbo jet, featuring Robert Stack, Ralph Bellamy, Sonny Bono, Fernando Lamas, Hugh O’Brian, Walter Pidgeon, and receiving most of the hype at the time, Farrah Fawcett.

SHOCK WAVES (1977) – Rose – stars alongside Peter Cushing and John Carradine in this low-budget thriller about Nazi zombies.

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) – Elizabeth Driscoll – my favorite Brooke Adams role. Stars alongside Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy in this superior retelling of the classic Jack Finney story. The best part of Adam’s performance here is that she does fear very well and captures how unsettling it would be to be caught up in such a dire situation as the imminent invasion of the pod people.

invasion of the body snatchers 1978 adams sutherland goldblum

Brooke Adams, Donald Sutherland, and Jeff Goldblum about to get some bad news on the telephone in one of the many tense moments in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978).

CUBA (1979) – Alexandra Lopez de Pulido- co-stars with Sean Connery in this romantic adventure by director Richard Lester.

brooke adams - connery cuba

Sean Connery and Brooke Adams in CUBA (1979).

THE DEAD ZONE (1983) – Sarah Bracknell – David Cronenberg’s effective adaptation of Stephen King’s novel stars Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, and Martin Sheen. A good role for Adams, as she plays Sarah, the former girlfriend of Walken’s Johnny Smith. When Johnny awakes from a coma, five years have passed, and Sarah is now married to someone else. Jonny also finds that he now possesses an unusual power. Excellent horror flick!

brooke adams - walken - the dead zone

Brooke Adams and Christopher Walken in THE DEAD ZONE (1983).

THE STUFF (1985) – Special Guest Star in Stuff Commercial – appearance in Larry Cohen’s campy horror comedy, starring Michael Moriarty.

SNAPSHOTS (2018) – Patty – Adams’ most recent screen credit, in this drama co-starring Piper Laurie.

All told, Brook Adams has 66 screen credits. A lot of these have been on television.

Born on February 8, 1949, Adams is still actively acting. She has been performing on both the big and small screen since 1963, with her first big screen performance happening in 1971. For me, I’ll always remember Adams for her riveting performance as the very frightened Elizabeth Driscoll in the 1978 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this edition of LEADING LADIES and join me again next time when we look at the career of another lead actress in horror movies.

As always, thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

SECOND LOOK: THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

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The Great Gatsby Blu-RaySECOND LOOK:  THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

By Michael Arruda

 

THE GREAT GATSBY was one of my favorite movies last year (see my post from May 12, 2013 for my full review).  In fact, it made my Top 10 List for Best Movies of 2013 coming in at #9. 

 

I liked it so much I decided it was already time for a second look, and so I checked it out again the other day on Blu-Ray.  How well did it hold up? 

 

Pretty well, actually.

 

The biggest difference between seeing it at the movies and watching it at home was the quality of the visuals.  I saw it in 3D at the movies, and I was very impressed with the 3D effects.  The visual splendor of the film is lost somewhat in 2D on the living room screen.  Also, the fast moving camerawork which appeared smooth and perfectly natural at the theater was somewhat jarring on the smaller screen at home. 

 

Bottom line:  even though the Blu-Ray print was crystal clear, the film was nowhere near as visually stunning and impressive as it was in the theater.

 

The living room setting didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the controversial modern soundtrack, however.  I still thought it worked.

 

The strong acting performances hold up as well.

 

I appreciated Tobey Maguire’s performance even more the second time around.  His Nick Carraway is exactly the way I pictured him in Fitzgerald’s novel, and he really nails Carraway’s disillusionment with the people around him, as well as his growing affection towards Gatsby, a man he didn’t know what to make of at first.

 

And while I still enjoyed Leonardo DiCaprio’s interpretation of Jay Gatsby, admittedly I was somewhat less impressed with DiCaprio’s performance during this second viewing. I didn’t find him as spot-on as I did the first time around.  Don’t get me wrong.  DiCaprio is still excellent.  I just wasn’t wowed as much the second time.  Maybe it was because of his more recent and even better performance as Jordan Belfort in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013).

 

Carey Mulligan is just as adorable at home as Daisy Buchanan as she was at the movies, and Joel Edgerton is just as shamelessly confident and coarse as her off-the-charts rich husband Tom. 

 

And the parties are still just as vibrant and fun.

 

However, I still didn’t like the way director Baz Luhrmann handled Gatsby’s first appearance in the movie.  I didn’t like it the first time I saw it, and I liked it even less the second time. It’s probably the phoniest part of the movie, one of the few times the film doesn’t ring true.

 

I still like this version though, and prefer it to the 1974 Robert Redford version.  Its biggest strength is that it does a good job bringing THE GREAT GATSBY to life for modern audiences, without sacrificing the integrity of the story.

 

It’s full of energy and oomph and really puts a charge into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel.

 

THE GREAT GATSBY was a must-see film at the movies, and it’s still highly recommended, even at home on Blu-Ray in the comfort of your own living room.  The visuals may not translate as well, but everything else about this vibrant production still rocks.

 

So, go ahead and visit Jay Gatsby.  Like the rest of the guests at his mansion, you don’t need an invitation.

 

—Michael

NOT YOUR FATHER’S GATSBY

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THE GREAT GATSBYMovie Review:  THE GREAT GATSBY (2013)

by

Michael Arruda

 

This is not your father’s GATSBY.

The new movie version of THE GREAT GATSBY (2013) by writer/director Baz Luhrmann, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the mysterious Jay Gatsby, possesses more energy and pizazz than the stoic 1974 Robert Redford version, highlights the bawdiness of the 1920s with colorful flair, and really does a nice job getting to the heart of what’s behind one Jay Gatsby.

With a modern soundtrack, quick editing, and vibrant colorful photography in eye popping 3D, love it or hate it, this GATSBY was built with modern audiences in mind, and to that end, it’s an English teacher’s dream in that it’ll certainly titillate reluctant readers and at the very least pique their interest in the hullabaloo of all that is Gatsby.  To this end, F. Scott Fitzgerald would be proud of this version, because it captures what he wanted to say and it does so in a way that is true to the spirit of the novel.  After all, the novel The Great Gatsby is full of despicable characters who are tainted by money and live in another world because of it, sordid affairs, and ultimately, murder.

At the end of the day, all you really need to know about the new version of THE GREAT GATSBY is that it tells a good story.   It breathes life into one of the most famous literary characters of the twentieth century, Gatsby, and answers the question asked in so many sophomore English classes across the country, “what is it that makes Gatsby ‘great’?”

THE GREAT GATSBY is narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), as he looks back upon the time he lived next door to a certain Jay Gatsby.  It’s the roaring 20s, and Nick moves to New York to make his name in the world, working in the bond business.  When he visits his affluent cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), one of Nick’s college buddies, a former sports star and a member of one of the wealthiest families in the country, he meets their friend Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) who asks if he’s met his neighbor Gatsby, a name that causes Daisy to flinch.

When Nick attends one of Gatsby’s huge parties, he listens to all the sordid theories as to who Gatsby really is and how he got all his money.  Some even suggest there is no real Gatsby, as no one has ever really seen him.  But soon after Nick does meet Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and finds him much younger and more normal than he expected.

Gatsby invites Nick to lunch, and there introduces him to his gambler friend Meyer Wolfsheim (Amitabh Bachchan), the man who fixed the 1919 World Series.  Nick is clearly confused by Gatsby and is not sure what to make of him.  Gatsby is a teller of tall tales, yet his stories seem to be true.  Their friendship is tested when Gatsby asks Nick to arrange a meeting between him and Daisy, which Nick agrees to do.

And thus the story shifts to its love story, and in the process answers all of its relevant questions.  Just who is Jay Gatsby?  Where did he come from?  What’s his story?  Who will end up with Daisy?  Is Gatsby a murderer?  THE GREAT GATSBY has no shortage of intrigue.

Purists will probably hate this new version of THE GREAT GATSBY, but I loved it.  I loved its energy, its vision, and its performances.  This doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have flaws.  It does, but it also has an awful lot going for it.

My favorite part of THE GREAT GATSBY is that it does such a powerful job bringing the characters from the novel to life.

Tobey Maguire makes the perfect Nick Carraway, which is a good thing, because he pretty much has the most screen time in this one.  He’s every bit as good as DiCaprio in this movie.  Maguire does a nice job capturing the emotional gamut of what Nick goes through in this story, from his fascination with the times, with the glitz and wildness of Gatsby’s parties, to the pure disgust he feels the longer he knows these people, to the affection he ultimately feels towards Gatsby as he recognizes that in spite of everything, there is a hope about Gatsby that cuts through all the muck.

Carey Mulligan makes a beautiful Daisy Buchanan, and she’s much more successful at bringing this character to life than Mia Farrow was in the 1974 version.  I’ve often wondered when reading the book and seeing the 1974 film, just what the heck did Gatsby ever see in Daisy?  Mulligan answers that question with her performance, as she comes off as absolutely adorable.  She also plays her emotions perfectly.  We see and feel her angst at the key moments when she must decide between her husband Tom and Gatsby.  Her performance rings true and we know exactly what she’s feeling.

The film does steer her away from being a woman of money, as she’s portrayed in the novel, and leans more towards her affectations towards the actual men in her life, Tom and Gatsby.  It’s clear in the novel that her choice is based on money and the life of comfort she’s grown accustomed too.  Here in the movie her choice seems to be made based upon her feelings for the men, rather than the wealth they possess.

Joel Edgerton is also excellent as Tom Buchanan.  As much as I like Bruce Dern, I’ve always felt he was miscast as Tom in the 1974 version.  Here, Edgerton plays him with all his physical ferocity and privileged confidence.  He makes Tom a very unlikable fellow, not because he’s an evil man, but because his wealth has given him the power to do whatever he damn well pleases, and he does just that. Edgerton nails Tom Buchanan, and it’s a much more satisfying performance than his role in the recent re-imagining of THE THING (2011).

The supporting cast acquits itself well.  Elizabeth Debicki makes an icy yet captivating Jordan Baker, a woman who Nick seems to love and hate at the same time. He dislikes her personality, yet he can’t stop looking at her or wanting to be with her.

Isla Fisher is sufficiently sultry as Myrtle Wilson, the woman Tom Buchanan is having an affair with, while Jason Clarke is solid as her clueless sad husband George.  Amitabh Bachchan makes for a very memorable Meyer Wolfsheim, and he makes you believe that this is a guy who could have fixed the 1919 World Series.

But what about Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby?

It goes without saying that DiCaprio is excellent as Gatsby.  The guy’s a terrific actor who I continue to admire the more I see his performances in the movies.  He just might be the definitive Gatsby.  It’s hard to knock Robert Redford’s performance, because even though I don’t think he truly captured the Gatsby from the novel, he put his own stamp on the role, and it worked.  Redford’s Gatsby made sense, and I bought into the character even though I recognized it was different from the man in the novel.

DiCaprio’s interpretation is much closer to the way Fitzgerald wrote the character.  He brings that incredible sense of optimism and hope with him, which conflicts with his smooth fast talking business persona, of a man who may or may not be involved in very shady business transactions.  There is also no denying his love for Daisy, and the passion DiCaprio brings to the role might be the most satisfying part of his performance.  His Gatsby is a passionate man, much more so than the character in the novel, and certainly more so than the guy played by Redford.

And he succeeds in convincing us why Nick would call Gatsby great.  In spite of all the underhanded things Gatsby was involved in, Nick recognized that there was a sincerity about the man that drove him forward, that lifted him above others in similar positions.  Behind all the disreputable rumors was a man with a singular purpose, and that purpose had to do with love, not greed or power.  When Nick tells Gatsby at the end that he’s better than all the others, he means it.

Baz Luhrmann does a masterful job directing this movie.  He captures so many of the novel’s key scenes and key moments.  Gatsby’s parties are spectacular to behold, and the scene in the apartment with Tom, Myrtle, Nick and their guests is a keeper.  It captures so well what Nick was feeling during these moments, a combination of extreme discomfort, embarrassment, and drunken ecstasy.

The confrontation scene where Gatsby and Tom fight over Daisy is also potent, especially once the power shifts from one man to the other, which for me, always catches me off guard because I always expect the plot to go one way, and inevitably it goes the other.

The screenplay by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce should be applauded for bringing this story to life.  No doubt, THE GREAT GATSBY will be compared to Luhrmann’s previous efforts, ROMEO AND JULIET (1996) and MOULIN ROUGE! (2001)  I found GATSBY less gaudy than MOULIN ROUGE! and less innovative than ROMEO AND JULIET in terms of visual style, but GATSBY is a more handsome production than either one of them.  GATSBY also does a better job of telling its story.

But the film isn’t without flaws.  Once it shifts to its love story, it actually loses some steam.  This is probably inevitable, since the film really flies early on, with scenes at Gatsby’s parties, the gathering at Tom and Myrtle’s, and the highly intriguing and kinetic lunch date with Meyer Wolfsheim.

There are also a few awkward moments where the film’s visual style gets in the way of its story.  The worst of these is Gatsby entrance.  It’s done in such an overdramatic gawky way that both DiCaprio’s glowing expression and Maguire’s look of awe and surprise nearly made me laugh out loud.  What should have been a neat concise introduction is blown up into a silly goofy scene that is nothing short of comedic.

I suspect a lot of folks will have trouble with the modern soundtrack, but I think it worked surprisingly well.

THE GREAT GATSBY is a visual delight.  I saw it in 3D and enjoyed it, but I suspect it would have looked just as good in old-fashioned 2D.

It succeeds in breathing new life into a classic novel, and it does it with respect and reverence for the source material.  It also succeeds in capturing the essence of Jay Gatsby, so convincingly played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a self-made man of wealth for one singular purpose, for the love of a woman, and even though many question his motives and his dealings, it’s clear that through it all he has a sincere heart and a noble purpose, and we know this because the conscience of the story, Nick Carraway, brought to life in a brilliant performance by Tobey Maguire, gets to know him, grows to understand him and ultimately likes him.

THE GREAT GATSBY is an exceptional movie, well worth your time, and makes a worthy cinematic companion to one of the most intriguing and well-written novels of the twentieth century.

—END—

Blockbuster Movies Open in May

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Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in IRON MAN 3

Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in IRON MAN 3

Bring on the May Blockbusters!

After what I’ve considered a rather lackluster crop of movies so far in 2013, the month of May brings out some heavy hitters, and I’m really looking forward to them.

Things start today, Friday, May 3, with the release of IRON MAN 3 (2013).  Sure, it’s the third film in the series, so how good can it be?  Shouldn’t it be falling off in quality somewhat?  Yeah, it should, but the Marvel Superhero movies have enjoyed such a strong run for the past decade with a proven formula, I think the odds are somewhat higher that IRON MAN 3 will play better than a second sequel.

And who doesn’t like Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man?  If there was ever a role he was born to play, Tony Stark is it.  He’s certainly one of the most entertaining superhero alter egos going.  Stark’s more fun to watch than brooding Bruce Wayne, goody-goody Clark Kent, or nice guy Peter Parker.  Heck, Stark is more engaging than Iron Man.

Plus you have Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Pots, and the great Ben Kingsley playing the villain, the Mandarin.

On Friday May 10 THE GREAT GATSBY (2013) opens, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby.  Like Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, if there were ever a role that DiCaprio was born to play, it just might be Gatsby.

The trailers for this one look terrific, as it looks like it’s going to be a visual tour de force, which comes as no surprise, as it’s directed by Baz Luhrmann, the guy who directed ROMEO AND JULIET (1996) and MOULIN ROUGE (2001).  If you’ve seen those movies, you know what kind of visual style Luhrmann brings to the table.

Tobey Maguire also looks like he’s going to make a perfect Nick Carraway, and I like Carey Mulligan a lot, and she’ll be playing Daisy Buchanan.

I just recently finished teaching a unit on THE GREAT GATSBY, and so I’m really looking forward to watching this latest film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, especially since I’ve never been a big fan of the 1974 Robert Redford version.

On Friday May 17, it’s STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013), J.J. Abrams’ follow-up to his successful STAR TREK (2009) reboot, a film I liked a lot.  I’m a big fan of the original series, and so yes, I was slightly sad to see my favorite characters being portrayed by different actors, but I also happened to really like these new folks, as they all seemed to put their own stamp on the roles while keeping the spirit of the original players.

I also liked the alternate reality part of the story, which explained how these characters and the events in their lives would now be slightly different.  It opened the door nicely for brand new stories and provided a clever defense against die-hard fans who might find fault with future stories that didn’t fit in with the known Star Trek universe.

We turn to laughs on Friday May 24 with the release of THE HANGOVER PART III (2013).  Sure, this series isn’t for everyone, but I find these movies hilarious.  The exploits of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are so over the top ridiculous and insane I just can’t stop laughing.

Again, this is the third film in the series, and so a drop-off is expected, but that doesn’t mean I’m not really looking forward to this one.  I expect to laugh quite a bit.

There are even a couple of scary movies coming out in May.  On the final weekend, Friday May 31, there’s THE PURGE (2013), a promising thriller about a futuristic society that allows crime to run rampant for one night of the year.  It stars Ethan Hawke, and it’s from the producers of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and SINISTER (2012).

That same weekend, though not scary, there’s NOW YOU SEE ME (2013), an interesting looking yarn about a team of illusionists who rob banks.  It’s got a great cast which includes Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Elias Koteas.

And earlier in the month, on May 10, there’s the horror film AFTERSHOCK (2013), an intense looking end-of-life-as-we-know-it flick starring Eli Roth.

I’m so looking forward to the May movies.  Bring ‘em on!

—Michael