The holidays through movie quotes – is there any other way to see the world?

December 28, 2007

Naturally, I meant to write during vacation, but, you know, the best intentions… and family always seems to take up much more time than planned (how do they do that?). I have just lots of really brilliant (or, okay, “why not pass the time and read it?” interesting) things to say, of course, about the holidays, and movies, and holiday movies, and, um, the sociopolitical struggles inherant in media portrayals of festive interactions between genetically linked members of the human race. Sigh, gotta love college-bred gibberish. But those’ll just have to wait until after the holidays. Instead, I’ll leave you with this. It’s a Blockbuster commercial – because what are the holidays about but cynical commercialism? And lots and lots (and lots) of movies?

See you in January!



December 20, 2007

Notting Hill

BLIND DATE (Emma Bernard): I’m a fruitarian.
WILL (Hugh Grant): And, um, what exactly is a fruitarian?
BLIND DATE: We believe fruits and vegetables have feelings so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush – that are, in fact, dead already.
WILL: Right… right. Interesting stuff. So these carrots…?
BLIND DATE: Have been murdered, yes.
WILL: Murdered? Poor carrots. How beastly.

For some inexplicable reason, the above quote in particular seems to come up quite often in conversation, where it is always endlessly funny. Must be something to do with those murdered carrots, poor things. Or the word “beastly.” (ah, British words) Or, um, the wine we’ve had with dinner. Whichever.

MARTIN (James Dreyfus): Did you know, and this is pretty amazing, but I once saw Ringo Starr.
WILL: Where was that?
MARTIN: Kensington High Street. At least I think it was Ringo… um, it could have been that guy from Fiddler on the Roof. You know, Toppy.
WILL: Topol.
MARTIN: Yes, yes… that’s right, Topol.
WILL: Um, actually, Ringo Starr doesn’t look at all like Topol.
MARTIN: Yes, but he was – he was quite a long way away from me.
WILL: So it actually could’ve been neither of them?
MARTIN: …yes, I suppose so.
WILL: It’s not really a classic anecdote, is it?
MARTIN: Not a classic, no.

Peter Jackson to make ‘The Hobbit’

December 18, 2007

I’m sure this sudden turn around in the New Line – Jackson conflict has absolutely nothing to do with the low grosses of New Line’s other film, the seriously expensive fantasy epic The Golden Compass… I mean, that would just be cynical.

According to Yahoo:

Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have reached agreement [sic] to make J.R.R. Tolkien’sThe Hobbit,” a planned prequel to the blockbuster trilogy “The Lord of the Rings.”

Jackson, who directed the “Rings” trilogy, will serve as executive producer for “The Hobbit.” A director for the prequel films has yet to be named.

[…] Two “Hobbit” films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, similar to how the three “Lord of the Rings” films were made. Production is set to begin in 2009 with a released planned for 2010, with the sequel scheduled for a 2011 release.

So that’s it, Jackson won’t be directing (for now anyway) but he will be involved. On a high level. Somehow. Of course, considering that he directed, produced and helped to write the original Rings trilogy makes this news perhaps not as comforting as it could have been. On the other hand, Steven Spielberg exec produced Transformers and that has his mark all over it…

What could have possibly made relations less than amicable (some might say unrelentingly frigid, but that’s just some) between these two parties that made so much, okay, bucket loads of money together? Read Entertainment Weekly’s cover story about the dispute.

Film critics: how useful are they anyway?

December 17, 2007

Every summer or so (dating back many years), and occasionally in the winter, the hallowed circles of film criticism seem to go through a major identity crisis. In the summer: why do so many people still go to see the movies that we’ve not just disliked, but often truly loathed? and why won’t the studios screen those movies for us in advance? In the winter: why has no one else seen our top movie picks for the year? And yet, sadly, despite the copious amounts of erudite writing, nothing seems to change. Go figure.

Here are some excerpts from how this weighty matter played out through 2006-2007:


Avast, Me Critics!” Ye Kill the Fun: Critics and the Masses Disagree About Film Choices (yep, that whole thing really is the title)

A.O. Scott (The New York Times)

But the discrepancy between what critics think and how the public behaves is of perennial interest because it throws into relief some basic questions about taste, economics and the nature of popular entertainment, as well as the more vexing issue of what, exactly, critics are for.

Are we out of touch with the audience? Why do we go sniffing after art where everyone else is looking for fun, and spoiling everybody’s fun when it doesn’t live up to our notion or art? What gives us the right to yell “bomb” outside a crowded theater?

[…] So we’re damned if we don’t. And sometimes, also, if we do. When our breathless praise garlands advertisements for movies the public greets with a shrug, we look like suckers or shills. But these accusations would stick only if the job of the critic were to reflect, predict or influence the public taste.

Screening Call

Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly)

There’s been a bit of media chatter over the last month on the question of whether movie critics ”still matter.” Obviously, I have a vested interest in the subject — I confess! I really want to matter! — but what irks me is that whenever this issue comes up, which is every few years (generally in the midst of the summer season, when some mediocre blockbuster that all the reviewers hated becomes a big hit anyway), it leaves in its trail the same soggy residue of lazy analysis and historical half-truth about what critics do, why it should matter, and, if you look closely, still does.

[…] The vast majority of movie critics I know are not snobs. We enjoy a vast range of films and help, in our non-godlike-power way, to guide readers to (or away from) them. What the ”Do critics matter?” question truly misses is that the heart and soul of our jobs is not merely to recommend. It is to take this popular art we all love and hold it up to the light, to absorb it and reflect it back to you, to enhance the experience of seeing a movie by serving, on the page, as a companionable guide, someone to bounce your own opinion off of, whether or not you happen to agree with that opinion. It’s that process, that exchange, that dialogue that matters — and will, as long as the movies themselves matter too.

Criticism’s status quo getting thumbs down

Anne Thompson (The Hollywood Reporter)

But critics do have a huge impact on independent movies, [Paul Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal] adds. Tentpole movies with gargantuan ad campaigns don’t need critics to brand their titles. But most other movies need reviews, which are crucial to their long-term life, from their theatrical run through television and DVD. That is why filmmakers kill to get a theatrical platform even in just a few key cities. Films like the 2005 mock-docu “My Date With Drew” could easily have gone directly to DVD — but the filmmakers insisted on the legitimization of a theatrical review.


Do Movie Critics Matter?

Richard Corliss (Time)

Oh, our readers revere us — while calling us heartless when we don’t like a film they love, and snobbish when we like a film they wouldn’t care to see. Our publishers cherish our expertise, although they’d rather print profiles of stars than reviews of the movies they’re in. The big movie studios are crazy about us — although they keep us out of screenings that every other staffer on the newspaper or magazine is invited to.


Calling Out Film Critics

Mike Nizza (The New York Times blog)

That the movie “300″ was able to weather an unusually fierce barrage of bad reviews on its way to becoming the No. 1 movie in America is prompting a simple question. Should critics just … stop?

One way to answer that would be to judge the success of critics as studios judge the success of their movies: By their box office receipts. People may disregard reviews, but do they continue to seek them out?

In defense of film critics

Peter Rainer (The Christian Science Monitor)

Why do we need film critics? It’s a question that movie executives, publicists, and even readers often ask around this time of year, as we edge into summer, and the studios haul out their extravaganzas – the types of films often panned by reviewers.

[…] But criticism – reasoned, informed, independent-minded criticism – is truly the only thing protecting the consumer from the seller in the movie marketplace prior to a film’s release. That’s why studios try to marginalize serious critics – the ones who can’t be counted on to gush over every piece of product that skitters off the assembly line. The marginalization usually takes the form of withholding preview screenings until it’s too late for the film to be reviewed on its opening weekend. Newspaper and magazine feature editors may discover that their access to movie stars has dried up if the house critic is too tough. Movie ads may be pulled.


Do Film Critics Know Anything?

Richard Corliss (Time), round two – as a movie writer himself, I think this guy may have some job issues

[…I] realized that we critics may give these awards to the winners, but we give them for ourselves. In fact, we’re essentially passing notes to one another, admiring our connoisseurship at the risk of ignoring the vast audience that sees movies and the smaller one that reads us.

[…] the Golden Globes and the Oscars, if they follow the critics’ lead, will have V.D.D. — viewer deficit disorder. Large numbers of people won’t watch shows paying tribute to movies they haven’t seen.

[…] And it all starts here, with critics fighting over which hardly seen movie they want to call the best of the year.

See Cinematical’s thoughts on the seasonal Corliss crisis here.

For some other views from ’06-’07, click on one of the links below:

Rotten Tomatoes
For a list of movies not screened for critics in ’06; shockingly, critics despised them once they did finally see them – who would have thought?

Public radio
In print and audio; go for the audio, clearly there’s way too much text in this post already anyway. Helpful quote: ” ‘I’ll even go one further and say that when you have a very big movie and you get a bad review from critics, I bet there are some people at the studios who say, “I think we got a winner on our hands.’ ”

Helpful quote: “The distribution gurus say they prefer “four-quadrant movies,” but I”d suggest that there are only two: One quadrant consists of the hardcore fans who are propelled by “buzz” and the second embraces the rest of the filmgoing public who wait to learn whether the movie”s any good or not.” If you can’t guess, they’re speaking about movies like 300, which I seem to recall doing, you know, okay at the box office.

Beware the Forbes Welcome Screen; but once you get past that, another look at critics being “frozen out” of film screenings.

The war between the elitists and the populists: fought to the death, or to the deadline at least, until the end of time. Oh, and Pirates again (ooo, and another list!).

The New York Times
Yet more on movies that don’t get screened for critics, but this time via The Da Vinci Code.

Okay, that’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but what do I think about all this? Well, I think that as long as there is something to critique, we’ll have people there critiquing it and an audience who wants to know what they think. The format may change (a platform in the Forum, a pulpit, print, blogs, virtual transmission of a central system’s information), but the need and message stay the same. We always want to know what others think, particularly those who seem like an authority in some way and can make an “official” judgment, and will seek out what they have to say. Not for everything, sure, but for enough. Whether we follow what they say is a bit irrelevant; we still need to know. And therefore, we still need them.


December 14, 2007

National Treasure

One of my “junk food” favorites. And no, I would not care to say how many times I’ve seen it – not because the number’s embarrassing, of course, but just because, you know, I don’t want anyone to fell intimidated (or, well, scared).

And again no, this is not intentionally a “Best of Riley” collection, but hey, he does have all the best, and some might say “the only good,” lines. (gotta love the role of comic relief / brainy technology sidekick)

SCARY BAD-GUY HELPER: [looking at an elaborate, underground wooden staircase] How do a bunch of guys with hand tools build all this?
BEN (Nicolas Cage): The same way they built the pyramids, and the Great Wall of China.
RILEY (Justin Bartha): Yeah… the aliens helped them.

RILEY: We didn’t miss it because… [pause] you don’t know this? I know something about history that you don’t know!
BEN: [tense] I’d be very excited to learn about, Riley!
RILEY: Hold on one second, let me just… [deep breath] let me just take in this moment. This is cool. Is this how you feel all the time? Cuz, you know… Well, except for now, of course…
ABIGAIL CHASE (Diane Kruger, our very own Helen of Troy): Riley!

BEN: Your accent… Pennsylvania Dutch?
ABIGAIL: Saxony German.

BEN: Do you know what the preservation room is for?
RILEY: Delicious jams and jellies?


[whining] When are we gonna get there…? I’m hungry… This car smells weird…

Albuquerque. See, I can do it too. Snorkel.

That means… by the time Ian [Sean Bean] figures it out and comes back here… we’ll still be trapped… and he’ll shoot us then.

Yeah, someone that did something in history and had fun. That’s great. Wonderful.

♦ ♦ ♦

For more fun quotes from this American history / Indiana Jones combo (an interesting pitch meeting, no doubt), go to IMDB or Wikiquote.

To learn how You Too Can Walk In The Steps Of History like Ben Gates (dramatic capitalization added by me), click here for National Treasure film tourism.

Joker photo from new Batman movie

December 13, 2007

The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger as the Joker: click here for photo (from Yahoo).

My boyfriend says crazed blind clown. I say a slightly trimmer Beetlejuice with better fashion sense. You decide.

Movie travel destinations

December 12, 2007

Are you a set-jetter? And nope, I didn’t write that wrong. With the seemingly endless need these days for one-word sound bites and catchphrases – the interminable celebrity “blended name” phenomenon (wasn’t that supposed to burn out, like, 2 years ago?) and the constant barrage of new e-words like bacn (hint: it’s not spam) – there is even a cute little term for film tourism: set-jetting. Like jet-setting, but, you know, backwards, where “set” refers to a film set, and jet … well, you probably got all that long, long ago. It’s people who travel to visit places where movies were shot or take place, okay?

Um, anyway, if you are a set jetter, or one of your Christmas gift recipients is and that DVD package just won’t cut it this year (if they have the original release and the collector’s edition of that DVD, they probably don’t need the ultimate director’s cut special edition in a collectible painted tin as well, but that’s just a hunch), there are plenty of great destinations for you to try out.

Of course, one option is to just travel to famous film locations like New York, Paris, London, and so on, and see the sights yourself. Apparently, UK’s film board is hoping that many people think that way after this movie holiday season and will want to soon set-jet off to see the locations prominently displayed in new films like The Golden Compass and upcomers like the new James Bond and The Dark Knight.

Here are some fun film location activities you can do on your own:

The real “Hogwarts Express” in Scotland

Hogwarts Express (Harry Potter) – aka, the Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
Pictured above.
(Approx. £29 round trip for an adult, second class. Less than 6 hrs round trip. For dates of operation, fares, timetables, and more, click here.)

I’m very excited, because I’ve actually done this one and can, you know, speak from experience, which is always a bonus. Steaming its way from the small Highland town of Ft. William in Western Scotland to the very small port village of Mallaig (try the Smoked Haddock Soup at one of the seafood restaurants during your 2 hr break in the town; trust me, it’s worth it), and then back, the Jacobite Steam Train and its route were both used in the Harry Potter films as subs for the gleaming Hogwarts Express and its journey to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sadly, the interior is not quite Hogwarts material – and no magical candy cart! the indignity… – but the scenery on the ride is spectacular, and when else are you ever going to ride on a true steam train?

Bonus: Ft. William sits right next to the beautiful Glen Nevis, a location featured in Braveheart and also Harry Potter, among other films.

Cinderella’s palace (Ever After) – aka, Château Hautefort, France
Pictured below.
(Entrance fee is €8.50 for an adult. Click here for hours, directions and other information.)

Okay, while it’s not Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany or the (supposed Sleeping Beauty inspiration) Château d’Ussé in France, both of which helped inspire Disney’s original animated Cinderella, it does have the unique distinction of being the home of Drew Barrymore’s Prince Charming (Dougray Scott) in Ever After. Complete with drawbridge and turrets, the exterior and interior of Château Hautefort were used in many scenes in the film (that cool beamed room where Leo da Vinci paints? actually in the castle itself).

Not to mention the fact that it’s located in the gorgeous rolling hills and fields of the Périgord, kind of a lesser-known version of Provence if you will. Since it seems as if Périgord literally has a castle on every hill top, make sure to leave some time to see more than one, particularly the towering Beynac (a darn cool fortress built in the 12th century that was also used in Ever After) and the cute little village (used in Chocolat) that sits below the castle and along the Dordogne river. The Périgord area also has some pretty impressive caves (with cave drawings!), including Lascaux (or its replication anyway; the original is closed off to tourists, but the replication is startlingly authentic, minus that rubbery-style plastic floor, of course) and my personal favorite, Padirac (ever want to feel like you’re in that mythical boat that goes across the river Styx? now’s your chance!).

If you like this castle, you may definitely want to consider looking up Chatsworth in England, the Pemberley in Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice (and rumored to be the inspiration for the original Darcy abode in the classic Austen novel). For a complete Pride and Prejudice movie tour in England, check out this tour provided by British tours. And if you happen to be in India and have some free time, you might want to look up the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which was featured prominently in Bride and Prejudice (title similarity to Austen novel definitely not coincidental).

The Beach (The Beach) – aka, Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
(I have no idea. Maybe Wikitravel knows?)

Enough with the cold places, I think. And for this one, I think I’ll let it speak for itself. Or rather, the pictures speak for themselves. It was the location of The Beach after all.

And I would recommend the so-called James Bond Island (from Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun), otherwise known as Khao Phing Kan, while you’re in Thailand, but I think that one may have already succumbed to mass set-jetting (i.e., tourism overload disorder).

Also check out other beautiful film locations, such as Malta and Tenerife, in Expedia UK’s Top ten film set locations list.

◊ ◊ Budget Travel does an excellent real world breakdown of various film spots and moments (including restaurants, shops, streets, mansions, trains, etc.) from 10 different movies released in ’07, such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Atonement and even Ratatouille (the more people-size side of things, though).

◊ ◊ At Ripple Effects: also make sure to check out Arti’s own beautiful photos of famous film locations like Petra (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but without the Holy Grail), Lacock (Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice miniseries – remember Meryton?) and Bath (Austen again). Scroll down for the Petra photos, which are definitely a not-miss.

Chateau Hautefort

♦ ♦ ♦

But let’s be honest, why go to all that effort when someone can just do all that troublesome “finding” and “researching” work for you? Here are some organized tours that will take you through everything you want to see. And yes, I know the distinction between some of these and the items in the previous list may be a bit hazy, but what can I say, I like living on the edge.

Lord of the Rings – New Zealand

With the success of the epic trilogy, let’s just say it’s highly unsurprising (bordering on dull) that many New Zealand tour grips have developed their own specialized tours that guide your through the various (and quite breathtaking) sites used in Peter Jackson’s fantasy films. Activities could include everything from simply viewing the valley of Helms Deep to rafting the Anduin.

Here are a bunch of options. Costs, naturally, vary widely by trip and the trips last anywhere from half a day to over 2 weeks (for the truly dedicated fans, I’m guessing).

All things Dracula – Transylvania

Because nothing says “vacation” like a ritual killing of the living dead. Yep, that – along with a viewing of “Dracula’s castle,” a stop at Vlad the Impaler’s citadel and the consumption of something called a “Vampire dinner” (totally benign, I’m sure, this is Transylvania after all) – is included in Transylvania Live’s well-known Vampire in Transylvania: Dracula tour. Don’t worry, I’m, say, 86.5% sure that the ritual killing isn’t real.

Price is generally €1390 per person for a 7 day / 6 night trip (meals, entry fees, etc. included).

Steep? Well, good news, the site declares that the whole trip is available for free if:

You don’t have a reflection in the mirror,
You decompose when sun light strikes you,
You’re over 200 years old,
Can use your wings to fly to Transylvania,
[…] Come join your fellow vampires in Transylvania.
Blood treats not included

Transylvania Express (a railway tour company) also offers 4 and 5 day Dracula trips starting at €945 / €1994. They also offer special Dracula trips for groups.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dominica, in the Caribbean Sea (appropriately enough)

I know what you’re thinking. Pirates? Really? Isn’t it time that someone finally pays attention to this film trilogy? Well, fortunately, at least the Tamarind Tree Hotel and Restaurant on the Caribbean isle of Dominica agrees with you! They’ve thought ahead of the curve to design a 7-day package that takes you to all those Depp-graced spots on the island.

For 2007-2008 rates and other information, click here.

Don’t want to stop there? Check out’s look at some of the other Caribbean locales used in the Pirates film shoot.

… and much, much more – New York, San Francisco, Philly, and D.C.

Come to New York and you see a movie scene around every corner – isn’t that where Sally ate her (extremely) good sandwich? or where Sara ate her slightly-less-than serendipitous frozen hot chocolate? And sure, you can visit Katz’s Deli and Serendipity 3 yourself (and, well, brave the waits yourself as well – expect about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour wait at Serendipity on the weekends if you haven’t reserved, a little less if you have), but why not have a tour company take you to all the other sights you might not think of?

On Location Tours provides approx. 2 to 4 hour tours of movie (and TV) spots in the Big Apple (and Washington DC), with tours that specialize in everything from Sex and the City to just Central Park, for about $15 to $40 per person.

Washington Walks offers a Bus, Camera, Action! Reel Washington 3 hr tour for $30 of the national capital’s big movie spots, such as those seen in All the President’s Men and The Exorcist.

Not to be left out, San Francisco has its own handy tours, including these two Hitchcock-inspired tours (because what trip can really be fun without getting totally spooked out?) that guide you through those eerie (or they will be) sights from Vertigo and The Birds (which includes a Shadow of a Doubt sighting as well).

Also, while this is totally unguided (I know, I know, but this tour fits in so well in this section!), tourism organizations in Philadelphia and DC have banded together to produce a National Treasure guide to the two political capitals.

And for more of a fun list of sights in NY and the movies shot there (from the Central Park reservoir and Times Square to those oh-so-realistic, palatial Manhattan apartments – and just because you’re on TV, don’t think we’re not looking at you, Monica Gellar!), click here. For movie location mistakes in NY (that’s the NY subway??), and other cities, click here.