Archives for November 2011

On Location with On Location Tours

As many of my readers have gathered from many of my posts, I am almost equally as passionate about travel as I am about cinema. On several occasions I have attempted to marry the two loves of my life in a set of featured articles tagged as On Location.

This month, I spent a balmy Saturday afternoon in the borough of Brooklyn, NYC. It was all part of an excursion put on by a touring company aptly named On Location Tours.

Founded in 1999 by Georgette Blau, On Location Tours has grown to become one of the largest media orientated tour operators in the world!

According to the press kit, On Location Tours is:

“… a one-of-a kind sightseeing company specializing in TV and movie location tours, brings fans closer to their favorite on-screen characters. The company’s stated mission is “to create tours that allow people to straddle the border between fiction and reality, letting them feel as though they are part of the show, ultimately bringing them closer to the characters and TV history itself.”

A visit to their website, http://www.screentours.com, reveals a variety of options of tours:

  • Sex and the City Hotspots;
  • Gossip Girl Sites;
  • Central Park TV & Movie Sites and
  • Sopranos Sites, to name a few.

And if you find yourself in Boston, you can book a Boston TV and Movie Sites tour!

For my trial run I decided to on the Brooklyn TV & Movie Sites Bus Tour. The tour originated in Manhattan and focused mostly in the area of downtown and Northern Brooklyn – DUMBO (aka, Down under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Boernum Heights, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, etc.

 

Brooklyn Bridge

 

The tour was an informative, entertaining exploration into this eclectic and diverse borough and its place in film history.

At the start of our three-hour-tour, we made stops at Junior’s (Sex and the City), the coffee shop (now named Marybelle’s) where Nic Cage’s character works in Moonstruck, and the dock in DUMBO – a site featured in several films, including Coming to America, What Happens in Vegas, and Two for the Money.

 

Junior’s Restaurant (exterior)

We also made passing stops by a bookstore featured in Eat, Pray Love, the firehouse featured in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and, notably, the Hotel St. George, which was seen in The Godfather.

As we travelled from place to place, we received on-board entertainment in the form of video clips from the places featured along the tour route. As an added treat (and surely to keep our blood sugar up) we each received a piece of Junior’s cheesecake.  Do not fret: each tour has a similarly themed “treat” that its participants receive. I suspect, however, that on the Brooklyn tour, we fared the best! 🙂 And sorry there is no photo of the actual cheesecake … it was inhaled.

From our tour guide, we learned that Brooklyn has also stood in for other cities/locales – Boston (The Departed), Georgetown, Washington, D.C. (Burn After Reading), New England (Mona Lisa Smile) and even Paris, France (in Julie and Julia).

I have not even mentioned the ‘small screen’ (television) portion of our tour. Allow me o do so now. We learned about the various television shows that film in part or in whole in Brooklyn (Bored to Death, White Collar, 30 Rock, etc.).

One interesting factoid: while The Cosby Show was filmed in a studio in Brooklyn (and later, Queens), the exterior shot of the iconic “Huxtable Brownstone” was in fact of a home over the bridge in Manhattan’s West Village.

Our last major stop was a drive-by of the largest film production studio outside of Hollywood – Steiner Studios – on the site of the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Steiner Studios

 

As the day wound down and we crossed the Manhattan Bridge on our way back to lower Manhattan, we reflected on all the sights that we have seen; it surely gave me anew, interesting and different perspective of the borough.

If any of you get the opportunity, I recommend that you seek out these types of tours, no matter the city you live in. I have lived in the greater New York area for the majority of my life and a lot of the information I received on this tour was new to me. And of course, when you are New York City or Boston, check out On Location Tours.


One last thing, for anyone who is interested in booking any of On Location Tours’ tours, you can go to their site and enter the following code, LUVCINEMA10, to receive an exclusive, 10% discount on your booking.

* Note: if you are to take any of the tours mentioned, the stops may vary.

Tuesday’s Overlooked Films: Center Stage (2000) and The Company (2003)

This week’s selection started out as one film but has morphed into TWO selections. This week also comes with the following caveat: I love to dance and to watch it on film.

The first film I am discussing is Center Stage from 2000. The film was directed by Nicholas Hynter (History Boys, Madness of King George, The Crucible). The cast consists mostly of unknown actors with the exception of some of the supporting players, including Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy and Debra Monk. This film also served as a pre-fame Zoe Saldana’s first big screen role.

The other distinction that the majority of the cast share is that they are either ballet dancers or, in the case of Saldana, a dancer with ballet training.

To put the plot in a nutshell, we are given an inside glimpse of the trials and tribulations of a group of young dancers at the fictitious American Ballet Academy in New York City. We have the ingenue (Amanda Schull), the dancer with the talent but with too much attitude (Saldana) and the young prodigy driven by a pushy stage mother (Pratt). You even have the “rebellious” dance instructor who just cannot be confined by the rules of the academy and who eventually breaks away and starts his own company.

Due to the acting inexperience of the central cast – notably Schull (whose story is one of the front burners), this is a film that one can find easy to dismiss. Also as a piece of storytelling, it reads more like a soap or after-school special than a motion picture. But for me, this film is all about the dancing. In my own life, I never amounted to much in the world of dance, aside from the compulsory ballet/tap/jazz/modern performances of my youth. But that never diminished my love of dance as a piece of performance – especially the ballet.

At nearly two hours of film, this may be more than many of you can bear but if you are someone who likes to dance or watch dance performances, I suggest you give this film a chance.


My second selection is Robert Altman’s 2003 film The Company, which stars Neve Campbell, Malcom McDowell, and James Franco. In The Company, we again have a film where the principal star (Campbell) does her own dancing. All the other members of the company are actual member of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. There are no fictitious elements surrounding the company of dancers; we are watching the “real” Joffrey Ballet in action.

This was a passion project for Campbell, who spent the earlier part of her career studying as a ballet dancer in Canada.

There is no plot construct as such in The Company, except for a minor sub-plot of the burgeoning relationship between Campbell and Franco. The film mostly focuses itself at looking at the world of the Joffrey Ballet and the blood, sweat and tears (literally) that is involved in being a part of this team of world-class dancers. In this way,  The Company reads kind of like a documentary, sans narration. We are merely observers caught up in the action.

The Company also clocks in at under two hours and given its pace and non-linear narrative, many viewers may tire of it before the film’s closing sequences. But it is in my opinion, a lovely story and of the two films I have discussed this week, the one that has more universal viewing appeal.

Fun Over At Anomalous Material

Drafts are Fun!

Hope you all have had a great holiday weekend (those of you in the States). Part of my weekend has been to take part in an exciting online activity, courtesy of fellow LAMB, Anomalous Material. We are currently in the third round of what the site’s 2012 Hollywood Fantasy Draft. I defer to the website for the rules of engagement. But in summary, there is a point system based on individual accolades and box office receipts and well as potential point deductions if a member of your fantasy team runs afoul.

Another means of accumulating points is to create a movie pitch based on your fantasy crew. They say everyone has a book or screenplay in them and I suppose I am no different; I will use this as a chance to plot out a few ideas I have in my head for a film idea.

What is cool is that the pace is rather sow; so far we have averaged a round a day, so you do not have to be fixed to your computer waiting your turn – although I do like to check in every so often and see what my fellow film bloggers are up to 🙂

And if you get your timing right, you can just about guesstimate when your turn to pick is. If you do miss your ‘window or opportunity’ no fear – you just make your selection as soon as you are able to. The one potential downfall to this practice would be the actor/director you have your ‘heart set on’ can be gone by the time you make your pick.

As previously stated, we are well into the third round and my three picks are slotted. So far, so good – Michael Fassbender, Kathryn Bigelow, Naomie Harris.

This is my first time taking part in the event and can I just say as someone whose NFL Fantasy Season is winding down, I am pumped and rearing to see what lies ahead in 2012!

Another one from Mattel

This time it is the Rear Window Barbie:

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: A Taste of Honey (1961)

 

In honor of Shelagh Delaney, the playwright who passed away last week, this week’s selection is the film adaptation of her most popular work, A Taste of Honey – a play she wrote at the age of 18.

The movie took a look at an England that stood on the precipice of social and sexual change. It was directed by Tony Richardson and starred Rita Tushingham in her feature film debut. She would later star in other films such as The Girl With Green Eyes. This film is also one of a spate of British films made during this time that focused on the world of England’s working classes in a realistic, straightforward way.

While A Taste of Honey may not be considered overlooked in its home territory, it may not have the same recognition to American audiences, especially those of my age. In very much the same way that The White Bus (also based on a Delaney work) looked the England post-WWII, post-industrial, working class life (but from a surrealistic perspective), A Taste of Honey has a gloomy, bleak environment. A Taste of Honey is a bit more personal and grounded in its look at the life of teenager Jo (Tushingham) – a life that is seemingly as glum as her surroundings. Her unstable life is primarily dominated by her absent mother, who is often absent because she is off with her man of the moment.

Jo eventually befriends and ultimately has a brief interlude with a black sailor, which results in an unplanned pregnancy. She also strikes out on her own and shares a flat with a gay design student.

Despite this murky, setting and themes, I felt this was quite an entertaining film, mainly on the strength of Ruth Tushingham’s performance.


* Be sure to visit Todd’s blog, Sweet Freedom for more overlooked selections residing out in the blogosphere.

Favorite Films Set in Prague

With this installment, my cinematic journey through places I will visit in Central Europe for 2012 is complete. Previously, I mentioned my favorite films set in Vienna. Today I am going to focus on Prague, Czech Republic. When I say ‘focus’ I may be exaggerating a bit; in fact, I have only come up with one film that I have seen (and really liked) which are set in Prague.

 

Casino Royale (2006)

The film that made me think twice about the 007 franchise. I was never a HUGE fan of Bond films, but I was more than greatly entertained by this film. From the start, the action was non-stop and kept me on the edge of my seat. Prague was just one of several locations where the film takes place.

 

Honorable Mention: Mission Impossible (1996) This receives an honorable mention mainly because if memory serves, I did enjoy the film at the time of its release, but over the course of the years, my interest had waned a bit. So I cannot technically count this as a ‘favorite.’

 

Can you think of any other films set in Prague? They do not have to be in the English language.

The Serious Season

We are well and truly in the midst of the awards courting season. Basically this means time for the kids to stay in and now it is the grown ups’ turn to attend the cinema in droves.

For me, this year more than any other in recent memory seems to have a lot on offer. The challenge I put to myself is to try to catch each of the following films by year’s end.

 

The Skin I Live In

(dir. Pedro Almodovar, starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes)

i luv cinema’s Take

From what I have heard about it is just OTT (over the the top) enough that I will be thoroughly entertained (and possibly grossed out).

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A Dangerous Method

(dir. David Cronenberg starring Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassell)

i luv cinema’s Take

Freud, Jung and the woman that drove them apart.

Does not seem to be standard Cronenberg fare but the lead actors and story are a real draw for me.

 

[Read more…]

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Gaslight (1940)

For this week’s selection of the ongoing series from Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom, I have chosen the British thriller Gaslight from 1940.

The film is based on the play Gas Light / Angel Street (in the United States) by Patrick Hamilton. It is also the film that caught the attention of Hollywood studio MGM, who made the picture 4 years later with director George Cukor and starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten and Angela Lansbury. In fact, according to reports at the time, MGM attempted (unsuccessfully, obviously) to get all negatives of the original version destroyed, for fear that it would compete with their bigger budget adaptation.

While I did enjoy the MGM production, I feel that the British version also has a lot going for it. For one, it is not as melodramatic as the American version. There is a coldness, sterility and greater sense of peril present in this version; especially in the way the actors interpreted their roles. I pay particular notice of the portrayal of Paul/Gregory (Anton Walbrook and Boyer, respectively) and my response to them and their actions. When the big “reveal” happens, I found myself not as surprised that Boyer’s character could go to such lengths – in fact I do not see Boyer batting not giving his action a second thought. But in the case of Anton Walbrook, it is made all the more surprising.


*While this article is not entirely dedicated to an analysis of Gaslight, it provides a solid background to the film.

Shame Posters

I love movie posters – especially when they are done well. Here are a trio of posters for the upcoming (12/2) Steve McQueen picture, Shame starring two of my personal faves – Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

All three posters play on the obvious theme, but visually I find the coolness and muted tones of the second and the third posters to be quite evocative. But then again I was sold on this film from jump, so I am hardly an impartial observer here.

Let me know what you think.