Robert Downey Jr. - The Futurist

Friday, June 17, 2016

The world can be so unkind to dreamers.

Five years ago I was about as anti Robert Downey Jr. as you could get. Iron Man? Get outta town! Sherlock Holmes? Over my dead body!

Now, knowing what I do of his life, of his struggle with drug abuse, of his remarkable comeback, he's starting to speak to my soul. This is a man whose father started giving him illegal drugs when he was EIGHT YEARS OLD. Who does that? What kind of normal life can someone have when drugs have always been a part of their identity, from the time they were a small child? There's a quote from RDJ when he was arrested in 1999 for drug possession, where he tells a judge, "It's like I've got a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal." Proof that he doesn't need a scriptwriter for his words to make an impact.

What changed?

It takes a survivor to admit they need help . . . to reach out for that help. Which is what RDJ did. He told Oprah Winfrey in 2004, "when someone says, 'I really wonder if maybe I should go to rehab?' Well, uh, you're a wreck, you just lost your job, and your wife left you. Uh, you might want to give it a shot." He realized he couldn't keep doing it anymore. The drugs were destroying his career, his personal life, and his individuality as a performer. Manic individuals on drugs burn bright for a second and then die. RDJ didn't want that person to be him.

2003 saw the beginnings of a comeback for him, mostly due to a lot of support by Mel Gibson. Does that surprise anyone other than me? Because I was shocked. Sorry Mel. Semi-Indie films were RDJ's career for awhile followed by a supporting role in Zodiak which is pretty phenomenal and then, of course, 2008 saw the birth of the Iron Man franchise. The rest, as they say, is movie-making history.

But between 2003 and the rest of his life, RDJ released something I only just now discovered . . . an album called The Futurist published in 2004. Did you even know he could sing? I sure didn't. Did you know he could play the piano? Again with the nada. As if the singing and the piano playing wasn't enough of a shocker, he was also the lyricist for 8 out of the 10 songs on the album. Crazy, I know!

The Futurist is like nothing I've ever heard. My vision of RDJ includes Black Sabbath t-shirts courtesy of Tony Stark. So I wasn't expecting the Folk/Blues/Indie/Country sound that he dished out in The Futurist. My first time through the album had me mildly enthralled. Those of you who know me know that I tend to watch favorite things repetitively and the same goes for my music. My third time through The Futurist, I was head over heels in love with it. Some songs have more meaning than others and some are almost country ballads, but Broken and The Futurist and Details are pretty astounding.
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Liebster Award Answers

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Just to clarify, I was not nominated for the award, but I liked Sarah's questions from the blog How to Watch a Movie so much that I wanted to answer them and she most kindly gave me permission.

1. Favorite movie genre, and why?
Right now, my favorite movie genre is magical realism. Like Harry Potter or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or Inkheart. Stories with one foot in reality and the other in a world of magic. I'm the same way with books. Can I get three cheers for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

2. Favorite movie that's an adaptation of a book you've read?
Hmmmmm, possibly The Outsiders from 1983 based off S.E. Hinton's novel of the same name. I love the book, absolutely love it, and to my delight the movie sticks close enough to the original story that it genuinely impressed me. Plus, it has Emilio Estevez in it and I LOVE Emilio Estevez. It's a terrific story about gang rivalry in the 1960s and how even if you're not truly a gang, you can be lumped into a stereotypical group simply because of your family or your appearance.

3. An actor or actress you're enjoying who you've only recently noticed?
That would be Steve McQueen. Was never, ever a fan until about 6 months ago. I happened to show my best friend The Magnificent Seven, a movie I've loved for years, and I genuinely noticed McQueen for the first time. How bizarre, right? So now I'm loving his movies and oh, boy is his western television show Wanted Dead or Alive so . . . much . . . fun!

4. A favorite "unexpected surprise" movie?
Probably Zootopia. I was amused by the trailer for sure, but had no idea I would love the story concept so very much, the idea of stereotypes and breaking stereotypes, etc. It's a great theme with a lot of truly relevant content. One of my top favorite animated movies of all time.

5. A movie that has a cast catered to you?
Okay, so I'm not 100% in love with the film adaptation of Inkheart, but the casting, oh the casting is sublime. Brendan Fraser as Mo had me over the moon, but I was in 7th heaven with Paul Bettany as Dustfinger (one of my absolute favorite literary characters!). And Helen Mirren as Elinor and Jim Broadbent as the author, Fenoglio! As if those 4 weren't enough, then I also have Andy Serkis as the villain, Capricorn. It's perfect casting. I wouldn't have changed a single, solitary person!

6. An obscure movie that you think is great and you wish more people knew about?

I love this little sci-fi flick from 2011 called In Time with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. It's the story of a society where time is a commodity. You earn time instead of money, so it's your wage and you also pay with it. Imagine what would happen if someone suddenly had over 100 years of time. What would the repercussions be? It's a fascinating movie and shockingly proved that Justin Timberlake is a pretty terrific actor.

7. A movie that has a great soundtrack?
Okay, so I love the soundtrack for The Magnificent Seven. Elmer Bernstein knew exactly what he was doing to make such an incredibly western and American soundtrack. Loveit.

8. A movie that reminds you of summer?
Oh, possibly Three Coins in a Fountain, a movie I love and probably shouldn't. But Rossano Brazzi is just so gorgeously Italian!

9. A movie you loved as a kid and still love (not because of nostalgia)?
I grew up watching Newsies and it's still one of my favorite musicals. Brilliantly cast and choreographed and just has so many awesome songs. Love it.

10. Plot device pet peeve?
I'm tired of the villains chattering on about their evil plans. That's why it's so hilarious when a speech gets interrupted, like in Guardians of the Galaxy or The Avengers. Best moments ever!

11. Ending preference for movies, and why?
It depends on the genre. If I'm watching a romance, happy ending, please. Nothing ambiguous, just straight up happy. If it's a superhero flick, sure, let there be some ambiguity as to who's right and who's wrong. If it's drama, don't wrap everything up and present it to me in a neat little package. That's not real life. Don't get me wrong, I like happy endings, but I also like realism in my movies. But I definitely hate terrible endings of sadness for sadness' sake. That's just for shock value and loses my respect and interest quickly.
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Book Review: Fearless by Cornelia Funke

Fearless by Cornelia Funke
Mirrorworld #2

My Rating

When Jacob Reckless first found his way through the mirror in his father's study to a different world, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to him. Becoming a renowned treasure hunter and literally growing up behind the mirror, no longer the little boy who first found his way but a confidant young man. But after the events of Reckless, the first novel in the Mirrorworld series, Jacob is left battered and with a curse growing on the skin over his heart. Jacob's one and only thought in Reckless was to keep his younger brother, Will, safe after Will followed him through the mirror and ends up growing a skin of stone, evolving into a promised protector of a Goyl King (a society of beings created out of stone). The involvement of the Dark Fairy, the Goyl King's mistress, and the hatred her sister the Red Fairy bore Jacob for abandoning her, all combined in a curse that will be Jacob's death sentence. Unless he can find a way to undo it as he undid the stone skin that had stolen Will from him.

Now Jacob and his faithful friend Fox, a shape shifter, are racing against time to find a cure for Jacob's curse. The moth growing over his heart is stealing back the Dark Fairy's name that Jacob uttered in the first novel, every bite removing a letter from the name. With the final bite, the moth will tear itself free from Jacob's skin, sealing his fate and killing him. The blood of a Djinn from the North does him no good. Nor did any other remedy that he concocts. Until he learns of a crossbow that belonged to the wicked King Guismond who was also a Witch Slayer and a Warlock (A title earned only by those who drink the blood of witches. It gives you power, but also drives you mad). Legend has it that a bolt from the crossbow will not only kill the commander you aim for, but will also destroy the entirety of the commander's armed forces too. One bolt can bring down thousands. But it also has healing properties, for rumor also says that Guismond fired it at his dying son and instead of death, the son came back to life. Jacob has Fox, both woman and vixen, who loves him deeply. Could the crossbow work? It is his last hope.

But nothing is ever easy. To find the crossbow, Jacob must first find the hand, the heart, and the head of Guismond himself. Only when these pieces are rejoined to his body will Guismond's bewitched castle reappear in the place where it has been invisible for so many hundreds of years, concealing the crossbow. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems, whether Jacob and Fox are contending with contemptuous young princes, or Jacob's rescuing Fox from the mansion of an ancient Bluebeard, to say nothing of the Bastard, an onyx and malachite Goyl who is also a treasure hunter and is chasing after the crossbow himself. Time is running out for Jacob and the moth continues to bite his heart one letter at a time.

Oh my goodness. Some books are so hard to describe to others because they are just completely unique. Nothing else is like the Mirrorworld series. At least nothing that I've encountered so far. Cornelia Funke's name is likely familiar to those of you who've read the Inkworld novels, which are at least as brilliant as this series. I know that Inkworld has more readers than Mirrorworld, but that's okay. These books aren't written for children or even really teenagers. Jacob is in his twenties. Not a child and he doesn't have the same angst as a teen, which is probably why I love him so much. Magical realism that isn't YA fiction. How awesome is that?

I love how in Fearless, Jacob and Fox are dancing around being in love. They're building towards something beautiful. Technically, Fox is much younger than Jacob. She was a little girl when he saved her life when she was in fox form, but shape-shifters age so very faster than humans and so she's caught up with him. She has the mind and body of an adult now, probably a young woman in her early twenties, and her heart that belonged to Jacob as a child to a protector, now belongs to him as a woman. She loves Jacob through his weaknesses, though his sins, and she always welcomes him back. She's loved him, really, for years, but only now is Jacob realizing his feelings towards her have evolved. Mirrorworld has just that hint of romance, enough to satisfy, but not so overwhelming that it steals the story.

Remember how the Inkworld was just scary enough without being too scary? Well, Mirrorworld is that other level of scary. It's Cornelia Funke's way of upping her game, of taking fairy tales and making them her own, like the Tailor with his snapping scissors and his love of human skin in Reckless and like the Bluebeard and his collection of women in this novel. It's a scary world to be in, but I don't mind a little fear now and then. Our own world is scary in different way, in its unpredictability and its politics and its so very mundane lifestyle. So I use the Mirrorworld series to escape from the doldrums of real life, hopping into a world of magical realism to escape for just a few hours. I understand why Jacob found the Mirrorworld so much more compelling than his own.
 Like him, I would have gone through the mirror and found it hard to come back.

I've owned the 3rd book in the series, The Golden Yarn, for quite a while, and even tried to read it, but it had been so long since I read Fearless that I was hopelessly lost. So now I'm well prepped for my foray into the 3rd novel by re-reading Fearless. Here's to a new adventure! ❤
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Frank Langella and Me

Friday, June 3, 2016

Written for my Frank Langella Celebration! ❤ 

First of all, many thanks to those of your who participated in this Frank Langella Celebration. I appreciate you very much, and it's been fun going back in time and re-examining his films in order to share them with others.

I wish I could have written for Sphinx, but what with unexpected overtime and my sister's grad party this Saturday, life's a little insane.

Next . . . my story. Because of course you're wondering how a girl who really hates the 1970s ended up loving a 70s actor, right?!

My best friend, Charity, introduced me to Frank Langella back in 2002. I'd only known her a very short period of time so we were still sort of feeling one another out. And I had come from a very spiritually protective background, probably more protective than hers in some ways and less in other ways. My confidence levels in long-lasting friendships was pretty much zilch since I'd never had a friendship last. I didn't think they could. So I wasn't quite sure how to attempt a friendship in a way that might have long-lasting results.

Near the beginning of our friendship, Charity and I met halfway between her house and mine, so I could carpool back with her and her dad to spend a weekend at their house. They live miles down a dirt road in the country. It's awesome.

We met in a Borders bookstore (before they went bankrupt) and I caught on immediately to a strange aloofness from her. Talk about confusing. She actually seemed to be hiding something from me. I didn't know then what it was and only years later did she confess that she actually was hiding a DVD of Frank Langella's Dracula! Well, not exactly from me, but rather from my mother, who had carpooled up with me since I wasn't ready to drive the stretch on my own yet. Like I said . . . sheltered. Charity knew my mom wouldn't approve of Dracula, still doesn't approve in fact, and she didn't want to give a bad impression.

Ahhh, the moments we remember.

Dracula was not, in fact, the first Langella film she showed me. She started me off gently with The Mark of Zorro that she'd loved since she was a little kid, under the age of 10 if I remember her story right. And so she knew it was safe and harmless and a good introduction to Langella's filmography. I fell in love with him immediately. And it was all downhill from there.

After Sphinx and The Twelve Chairs we eventually arrived at Dracula, although as I recall that was some years later. And now we've watched Dracula so many times together that I'm sure we both can practically quote it. And our commentary rarely varies and yet we still giggle and harangue over the same things every single time with great enthusiasm.

Like the slobbering nastiness of Jonathan Harker's kisses. And the absolutely mind-numbing sensuality of Lucy and Dracula's waltz. And now, thanks to blu-ray, you can SEE the harness cables Frank's wearing as he climbs down the building! Uber exciting, I know.

Part of the charm of Frank Langella is that Charity and I share our love of him together. He was there at the start of our friendship and he's been there ever since. Frost/Nixon was amazing and I would never have bothered watching it if I didn't already know and love Langella because of Charity.

Are his movies brilliant? Most of them, probably not. But they're fun and they acted as building blocks for a friendship that has now lasted 15 years. And that is pretty awesome.

Thanks, Frank, for helping build all those crazy, fun memories with my best friend. That Frank Langella all-nighter we pulled was something else, collapsing into bed FINALLY at around 6am. Ahhhh, the insanity of youth.

I encourage you to go read Charity's post Hopeless Romantic: Langella and Dracula for this blogathon. She manages to give voice to half-formed thoughts I've had about what makes Langella work in certain roles. It's well worth the read.
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Langella as the BEST ZORRO EVER

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Written for my Frank Langella Celebration! ❤

Okay, so maybe I am a tad biased. Who wouldn't be? It's funny how every time I watch the 1974 made-for-television version of The Mark of Zorro that I always wish it was longer. As it is, the film is only about 75 minutes long, which isn't nearly long enough in this reviewer's humble opinion.

Think back to every version of Zorro you've ever seen.

What do you love most about it?

For me Zorro must also be Don Diego Vega. He cannot be someone made into the image of Don Diego Vega, which is why I struggle with the rewrite with Antonio Banderas. He's remade into Zorro from a bum. So there's one point, Zorro and Diego are one and the same man and Diego is of noble blood. Like Robin Hood. Like the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Next, he must sell me the lie that nobody would ever consider him capable of being Zorro. With Frank Langella at the helm Don Diego becomes the most foppish, most foolish, most inane male to ever come out of Spain. He's not at all masculine with all his talk of frippery and lace and his delicate pitched voice. That is, until he transforms and becomes Zorro. Langella made me believe that no one in their right mind could consider Diego a viable candidate for Zorro. And I love him for it!

Finally, when Diego transforms into Zorro, he must do so wholeheartedly. Become an utterly different individual with almost nothing left of the man that everyone sees. He is passionate, he is angry, he is determined, and he rebels. All of these traits combine into one very attractive package when Langella dons the cape and mask of Zorro. His height didn't hurt things either.

Now, just for kicks, if you haven't already decided to at least try his version of The Mark of Zorro, here's a few more screen shots to give you a bit more incentive.

News from home isn't good and Diego decides to leave Spain for California.

His concerns are already justified when fear of the Alcalde (his father) is evident in the people.

Except that Diego arrives home to find the house is no longer his father's, but belongs to a new Alcalde, a much crueler man, and his military leader.

Dude, I hate you already.

But I can't let you know, so look and see what a silly oaf I am, afraid to catch a blade and stain his Madrid lace handkerchief with blood!

Ooh, hark, is that the lovely niece of the new Alcalde?

And the Alcalde's wife who is salivating most disgustingly over Diego.

Zorro befriends the local priest.

And in his escape masquerades as a monk in order to woo the Alcalde's niece. What? Silly girl, you need to know something is wrong when a MONK is wooing you.

Making friends with the new Alcalde. Apparently it's normal for men to hold each other's arms in that culture. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Hey, Don Alejandro Vega, I'm stealing your sword and making sure the Alcalde's military leader sees me doing it.


How dare you take my family's sword!?

The Alcalde's niece primping for a party where she hopes to find herself swept away by Diego.

Only to find his conversation is limited only to idle prattle.
And there is nothing particularly memorable about scented bathtubs!

Playing the game.

Oh so very slyly.

You and your faux pas.

And here we have Zorro, ready to battle valiantly and defeat the corrupt Alcalde.

Jeering and sneering going on, as usual.

Wait, Zorro is also my son?! Yay!

To the victor go the spoils and all is well once more in California with Zorro there to protect the people.
And yes, Diego and the Alcalde's niece fall deeply in love. It helps when she learns there's more between his ears than a "This space for rent" sign.
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Frank Langella as the Great Sherlock Holmes on the Stage in 1981

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Written for my Frank Langella Celebration! ❤

There are three types of Sherlockians in the world. If you don’t know what the word even means, then you’re clearly not one of them. Love you anyway!

You either a) are a Sherlock Holmes purist and only read the novels because no film adaptation has ever done the stories justice, b) don’t mind some changes to the concept so long as the general design of Sherlock Holmes remains intact, or c) are good with any and all adaptations and don’t care whether they match the books are not.

I, personally, fall into the 2nd category with occasional leanings either way depending on what it is I’m watching or reading.

My less forgiving Sherlock Holmes stance omits the idea of an older Holmes marrying a girl in her twenties like in Laurie R. King’s novels (despite liking the authoress as a person because she’s hilarious).

My more forgiving side is what we’re here to discuss right now.

Because Frank Langella (who I adore) played the great detective himself in a filmed theater production in 1981. It was based off a silent film from 1916 and even appears to use the same screenplay, although I’ve never seen the original so I can’t truly compare the two.

Having just recently watched The Twelve Chairs from 1970 with Frank (review coming later!), there is one scene in that movie which set him up as being a potentially brilliant Holmes. He’s masquerading as a communist worker in the bureau of chairs and tables and is so convincingly strict, so coldly calculating, so delightfully rude that it just screamed “cast me as Sherlock Holmes” to the world.

The world obviously listened.

Frank Langella embodies a perfectly entertaining version of Sherlock Holmes that has always and will always make me smile. I can even forgive his Holmes falling in love . . . because he does, and to the beautiful, young Alice Faulkner who wishes only to protect him. Yes, I find that funny since I’m certain Holmes can protect himself with very little effort. But there you have it, true love can be so very blind. So the romantic in me is indulgent of Holmes and Alice’s love, simply because it is Frank Langella and I can never get enough of him as a romantic lead. You’ll either love or hate this aspect of the play.

Romance aside, however, the mystery itself is a clever mashup of several of Holmes’ cases. I spotted elements of A Scandal in Bohemia and The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, although I suspect there are more of the short stories incorporated into the plot. Holmes himself is both colder than normal and more yearning. He confesses to hopes and dreams that I’m sure the “real” Holmes never experienced. But his interaction with the feared Moriarty is fiendishly clever, and a goodly portion of the dialogue is played for laughs, which really works in a theater setting. You’re supposed to laugh when things are funny and so the staging of the lines ensures that you will.

The costuming is stunning as is the set-dressing. I fully believed I was watching scenes from actual Victorian, England, they were that good.

If you’re only accustomed to Frank in the movies, then you’re missing out. There are many nuances to stage acting that must be eradicated or toned down for film acting and so it’s intriguing to watch the stage version of Langella and discover just how very much of his acting style he had to change depending on whether he was on film or on the stage. It takes real talent to make an accomplishment of both venues.

Really, if you’re a diehard Langella fan, like me most of the time, then you’ll be forgiving of the little quips and quibbles in this play. Is it a faithful representation of Sherlock Holmes? No, it is idealized and humanizes him more than probably any other filmed version I’ve seen except for the steampunk movies of RDJ. But a little bit of humanizing never hurt anyone and I love to see Holmes revealing a softer side to Watson and to Alice, a side that many fans wish existed. This play isn’t for purists and that’s okay. It is, however, for Frank Langella fans, which is why I guiltily indulge in a viewing every couple of years or so, wishing that it was better film quality and dreaming that I will someday own an officially released DVD (not ever going to happen, I’m sure).

Should you care to try his charming version of Sherlock Holmes, visit the Youtube link below!

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Frank Langella and Mel Brooks unite in The Twelve Chairs (1970)

Frank Langella and Ron Moody in The Twelve Chairs

Written for my Frank Langella Celebration! ❤

I love dark comedies. Not all of them, mind, but enough of them to consider myself a fan. And fortunately for this celebration, Frank Langella just happens to star in one of my absolute favorites, The Twelve Chairs, by Mel Brooks from 1970.

Frank Langella was essentially a nobody before 1970.

His first major role was in Diary of a Mad Housewife, also in 1970, and which I have no intention of ever watching simply because I don't care. But 1970 was a very kind year to him and sort of sky-rocketed him towards the potentiality of fame.

Frank Langella in The Twelve Chairs

The Twelve Chairs is a satirical look at communist Russia in 1927 and follows the story of Ippolit Vorobyaninov (Ron Moody), one of the deposed Russian aristocracy. His step-mother, at the very end of her life, tells him that she hid her prized jewels in one of the chairs in her magnificent dining room suite, sending Ippolit on a chaotic journey to try and recover the gems. Along the way he joins forces, albeit reluctantly, with a con man named Ostep Bender (Frank Langella) who won't take no for an answer, and together they must battle against the wily greed of Ippolit's local priest, Father Fyodor (Dom Deluise), who heard the step-mother's final confession. Throw in Ippolit's old servant Tikon played by Mel Brooks and the audience has a complete set!

Ron Moody in The Twelve Chairs

To be completely fair, even if Langella was not in this film, I would still love it. Ron Moody is a favorite of mine ever since he played Fagin in the musical Oliver! and Dom Deluise is an absolute gem of a comedian and quite the sneaky scene stealer. As my bff and I both agree, Deluise is the best thing in this movie. And we're both Langella fans!

Still, The Twelve Chairs gave Langella a decent start in acting.

He was only 32-years-old at the time, the same age as I am now, but he possesses the experienced demeanor you would expect from a much older actor. Nothing surprises him. He struggles with nothing. Every interaction, every intonation of voice, every movement . . . all come together flawlessly. To say nothing of his height. How many 6"3' men do you meet who never, ever slouch? I mean, come on!

Frank Langella and Mel Brooks in The Twelve Chairs

For me, The Twelve Chairs is HILARIOUS. It always makes me laugh, absolutely always. However, my sister finds it depressing, probably because she studied Russian history and anything having to do with Russia now depresses her. So, if you like dark comedies, try The Twelve Chairs. If you don't, well, maybe try it anyway and if you don't like it within half an hour, call it quits.

In better news, the film itself is actually the cleanest of Mel Brooks' films that I've seen. There's one make-out session Frank has with a girl and then a little bit of sexual innuendo on the mild, mild side. On the whole, it's a pretty clean comedy. If you enjoy films like The Wrong Box, The Trouble with Charlie, The Ladykillers and Arsenic and Old Lace then The Twelve Chairs stands a sporting change of making you snort your iced tea up your nose because you're laughing so hard. Love ya!
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