Watching: Freaky Friday (2003)

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Much of the 2000s flew right by me, and upon finally watching Walt Disney’s Freaky Friday I never really understood exactly how much I ignorantly passed by. A barrage of teenage comedy films. Questionable fashion fads. Normal Lindsay Lohan. But while these things may have been a thing of the past and I now live in a completely different world, I thoroughly enjoyed this family comedy for what it was – a heartwarming, albeit whimsical, story about family ties.

I’ve always managed to scroll past this film when browsing the listings on what I should watch next. I’m a very big horror junkie, and so I never really payed any attention to a Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls, The Parent Trap) film until I noticed Jaime Lee Curtis (Halloween, A Fish Called Wanda) was also in it. Seeing as I absolutely loved the Halloween series, I gave it a chance. I was not disappointed.

Anna Coleman (Lindsay Lohan) and her mother Tess (Jaime Lee Curtis) couldn’t be anymore different – while Tess is an uptight mother trying to keep her family in line, Anna is a rebellious, rocking teen. Really, the only thing they seem to share is… arguing and fighting. On a visit to a Chinese restaurant they’re at it again, fighting, until an old Chinese woman (Lucille Soong) offers them fortune cookies. Unfortunately (heh), the next morning not all is at it should be, as both mother and daughter find they have switched bodies – and must learn to walk in each other shoes.

I’m not sure if I’m starting to enjoy comedies a lot more, but I had a great time watching Freaky Friday. Yes, while the premise is more common than it should be, and the strained mother/daughter relationship a tad cliché, the film is more than deserving of praise for the amazing Curtis/Lohan performance. They seem to work well off each other, and both did a great job in portraying the other’s character. Props definitely go out to JML though: my eyes were glued to the screen whenever she was on it. She was vibrant, exciting, and most importantly, genuinely funny. It amazed me when I found out she was put on the cast only four days before filming, which made me all the more impressed with her performance. Other than that, dialogue in the film was above average at best and average at worst, and the rest of the film pretty much plays out on that line. The supporting cast does well to compliment the unique personalities of the mains, and a very special mention goes out to Lucille Soong for making me burst out in laughter at the end scene.

I have to say, I quite enjoyed a taste of early 2000 Disney. Freaky Friday overall was a great film to pass my Sunday morning, and I have no regrets about watching it. Oh, except for the music video-esque performance by Lindsay at the end – yeah no, I cringe at those things, really, skip right past it and onto the scrolling credits. But other than that, I suggest you don’t do what I did – don’t hesitate! Enjoy this fun and heartwarming film that is sure to leave you laughing.

Bry Rating: 3.5/5
Recommended? Go for it!
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

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Watching: How I Live Now (2013)

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How often is a good premise destroyed in the world of film? Lately, it seems, all too often. Piling on the mountain of teen romance films, Kevin MacDonald’s How I Live Now is a somewhat mediocre attempt in creating a romance amidst the chaos of a World War. In essence, while a variety of film aspects are generally quite good, it seems that the overall film is weighed down by a poor plot line and story telling.

To be honest, the Netflix description really intrigued me – with the unique combination of the war and a girl-meets-boy- movie tropes, I was expecting a balanced story that wouldn’t severely hinge on either for a long period of time. Unfortunately, I was flat out disappointed, and worst of all… proven wrong.

The film opens with Daisy, a compulsive American arriving in England seemingly completely oblivious to the impending threat of a World War III. She later arrives at her cousins’ house and although she is hesitant at first, befriends her family and learns to be more at ease with herself and others. This happiness is short lived though, as she is soon separated from her cousins and is forced to cope with the harsh realities of war, the responsibilities as a carer and the deep desire to reach the one she loves.

I’ve never seen the director’s previous work, nor have I read the novel the film is based of, but it seemed as though he went through a checklist of things to shoot in the film. A love scene? Check. A sex scene? Check. A confrontation scene? Check. Stock character death? Check. And even then, there are some plot details that audience members like me were left wanting more of. It can be said that the general plot is horribly watered down, sanitised and wholly unrealistic, most likely to appeal to the filmmaker’s “stereotypical”  young female audience. Luckily though, Saoirse Ronan’s (The Lovely Bones) performance, as well as the performance of her fellow cast members, give the film some good points, providing a welcome sense of relief to MacDonald’s train wreck. Other kudos come from the few scenic shots, as well as the focus on Daisy’s development from a neurotic teen to a more rounded character by the end of the film.

In short, the film definitely has more downs than up, and while that is a legitimate reason to ignore this attempt at a romance-during-war story, the acting and casting of the movie just lifts it enough to be palatable. If anything, watch this film to see the brilliant work the actors put on… or don’t, to save yourself the pain in watching a film that will leave a longing, bad taste in your mouth.

Bry Rating: 2/5
Recommended? Don’t bother.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English

Watching: Anastasia (1997)

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Taking the spot as my favourite animated film of all time, Fox’s Anastasia gives the audience a unique take on the urban legend of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia’s survival of the execution of her family. It draws on the mystique of the infamous Rasputin and has a loveable cast, excellent musical score and an intriguing plot.

I remember when I first watched it, it didn’t really stick in the mind of my 9 year old self. The only thing that did seem to stick was the song titled “Once Upon a December” (Do yourself a favour, check it out). It was so unbelievably catchy that 5 years later, it forced me watch the movie yet again – only this time, I actually understood what I was watching and I fell in love.

Anya, an orphaned girl with no memory of her past leaves her orphanage and heads to St Petersburg to find out about her family. When she arrives, two con men, seeing her likeness to the long lost Princess Anastasia, decide to take advantage of her likeness to the long lost Princess Anastasia to receive a reward for her return. Unsure of whether or not she really is the lost Duchess, Anya and the two men, Dmitri and Vladimir, make their way to collect the reward whilst the evil Rasputin attempts to kill the girl once and for all.

Anastasia is an incredibly charming story that combines both drama, suspense, humour and innocence in a superbly balanced form. The film, which sustains an engaging plot, receives most of its praise from its animation, visual style, voice acting and (My favourite) the song sequences. Although some may see similarities between the film’s art style and that of Disney’s past movies, the film is authentic in its own right, providing viewers with an original and intriguing tale. It did, unfortunately, receive some criticism for its fairy-tale like depiction of a historical figure, but inaccuracies aside, this retelling of one of Russia’s most known figures is undeniably entertaining for kids, adults, and all those in between.

Whenever I’m asked what my favourite movie is, I can’t give a straight answer. I’ve got one for each genre, and so to narrow it down to a single film is impossible. In saying that, I immediately mention this film when asked what my favourite animated film is – every time. The plot, the visuals, the music – Oh, the music – simply make this movie an absolute delight to watch. If you are ever in need of a good movie on a rainy day or it’s one of those days you just crave for an animated children’s movie, be sure to consider Anastasia. It will, without a doubt, be worth your while.

Bry Rating: 4/5
Recommended? Yes – and you won’t regret a thing
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

Watching: Muriel’s Wedding (1994)



Although I watched it as part of the English curriculum in school, Muriel’s Wedding is a surprisingly loveable film. With a range of distinctive characters, nostalgic ABBA soundtrack and both humorous and touching plot, this movie has become one of the greatest films to come out from Australia in my opinion.

I had already known the plot of the film before going into it. Small town girl stands up against the world to build her self-confidence. Simple I thought – it was a simple plot ergo, a simple essay that I had to write. But within 15 minutes of watching the dreary, depressing and unfortunate life of Muriel, those thoughts were blown away.

The story follows Muriel Heslop, a woman considered the laughing stock; the ugly duckling by the people of Porpoise Spit. Living at home, jobless and without anyone to provide any real sense of support, life for Muriel is understandably depressing. Using ABBA music and her dreams of getting married to escape the real world, Muriel later learns to stand up against those who stomp on her wishes and becomes perhaps what we all yearn to be – happy with herself.

Muriel’s journey is arduous and ultimately a metaphor for the sense of belonging everyone wants to achieve. P. J. Hogan, director of the film, creates an incredible sense of isolation within modern society, as well as the barriers many are confined to as a result of being labelled a misfit or an outcast. The soundtrack for the film, which was mainly comprised of ABBA hits, was considered to have revived ABBA’s own popularity around the world but mostly within Australia. Escapism and reality is explored within the film through Muriel’s character, as well as the lengths an individuals will go through to obtain a sense of normality or complacency in their lives.

At the beginning, I had already judged the movie in a negative light. In a way, I’m happy it did as it was able to break down and surpass my expectations. Although the film itself is a decade old and filled with music unknown to our generation (This may actually be honest though), Muriel’s Wedding  is an emotional masterpiece from start to finish. If you’re willing to put yourself through any romantic comedy, then I sincerely suggest to give this movie a go – You won’t regret it.

Bry Rating:  4.5/5
Recommended? Definitely
Country of Origin: Australia
Language:
English

Watching: Sunny (써니) (2011)

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Whenever I speak to anyone of my interests, I always try to sneak a mention of this film to people. Never have I felt such sadness, shock, joy and happiness watching a film. I was outraged – the mere thought of a film, a fictional story, reducing me to tears. A blubbering mess, I was ridiculed by my family who failed to watch it with me.

Going into it, I was expecting a light hearted story about a group of friends – and for the most part it actually was. Yet the constant time jumps from the past and the present (and the “convergence”) gave it more meaning than any plot device could. Laughs eventually turned to tears and the pain in my stomach turned to pain in my eyes.

The story itself is about Im Na-Mi, a housewife that meets her childhood friend by chance, Ha Chun-Hwa. This chance meeting is not in the best circumstance though – as she is slowly dying due to cancer. She asks Na-mi to regroup their old group, “Sunny”, as she wants to meet them one last time.

Director Kang Hyeong-Cheol tells the story in an interesting manner – while showing the bright and colourful past of the girls (which is ironically set against the backdrop of the Gwanju Democratisation Movement and civilian-military clashes), he also tells of the dull, if not depressing lives the girls live in the present. Memories of what was and what could have been are presented to the audience in an insightful manner, adding to the  sincerity of the film. It forces people to reflect on their own past – and how they’ve changed through life.

There is very little doubt that this movie is my all time favourite drama, and it would be extremely difficult to take its place (I would love to see someone try). The plot, soundtrack (Especially Boney M’s cover of the song Sunny), scenery and humorous references to Korean culture cements this film in my mind and heart. Even if you don’t enjoy foreign films or dramas in general, I sincerely wish everyone to watch this film – it’s certainly not one to miss.

Bry Rating: 4.7/5
Recommended? Absolutely
Country of Origin: South Korea
Language: Korean