The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

You never realize just how formulaic the movies you typically watch truly are until you see something completely unique, such as this one. Considering how eager studios are to remake everything, I’m surprised this wasn’t of interest to anyone. It’s probably just as well; they would likely turn it into a slapstick comedy. I’m sure […]

Much Ado About Nothing (1993 & 2012)

This one’s a two-fer!

Shakespeare is tricky by any standards. Many universally human traits brought out by timeless situations are easily lost in translation from a long-gone language into modern culture. Fortunately, Billy the Bard still inspires story-tellers the world over. It continually surprises me that such a wide range of demographics appreciate his plays, though it shouldn’t, considering his original audience: the rich had plush seats up high with a stunning view of the entire stage while the commoners, who had to stand on the floor down in front got to hear all the bawdy jokes, i.e. something for everyone.

As filmmakers often attempt to adapt a classic play for the screen, it’s interesting how a scholarly approach and a layman’s view can be two sides of the same coin. When it comes to sifting through antiquated vernacular to interpret its meaning, just as much is overlooked by over-analyzing as by lack of context. With this in mind, both a classically-trained European thespian and an American Sci-Fi scriptwriter/ director have different yet complementary versions of what is widely considered William Shakespeare’s funniest comedy. Kenneth Branagh’s pre-millennium period piece and Joss Whedon’s post-millennium modern retelling (inspired by a wine-and-cheese reading party with friends) will turn anyone into a fan of Shakespeare.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Director, Tim Burton’s name alone should give away the tone of this movie, which is an adaptation of a young adult novel inspired by some odd vintage photos its author found at a flea market. It reminds me of Stephen King, not only because it’s a dark fantasy (Burton considers it “a scary Mary Poppins”); the author admits the movie version of his story is better. Screen writer, Jane Goldman tightened it with various character modifications/ amalgamations and plot elucidations.

Perhaps vaguely similar to the founder of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngster or Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Miss Peregrine nurtures and protects a unique troop of children stuck in a time loop. They’re discovered by an unsuspecting young man on a research trip with his scientist, father. The beauty of this film is both in its minimal use of digital effects as well as in the infusion of subtle details, which are either foreshadowing, references to aforementioned history, or homages to Burton’s prior work, none of which distract from the plot or compromise its consistency.

Emma (1996)

Though many people understandably attribute pop culture classic, Clueless to this movie, both were inspired by the 1815 novel, “Emma” by Jane Austen. Many of its leads said this particular story gave them a greater appreciation for Ms. Austen’s work. In fact, the director of this version had his own plans to adapt it for a modern context, not realizing “Clueless” was already in the works. I’ve heard that the Jane Austen Society of North America (of which I am not a member) likely frown upon this adaptation. However, we the uncouth masses, enjoy how approachable it is. Simple and sweet with the right amount of drama, this film is delightful in every way. In my mind (interpret that literally), the 19th century version of the classy sophistication embodied by legends, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Tim’s Vermeer (2013)

Who better to orchestrate the collaboration of Art, Science and History than famed magician, Penn Gillette? This film documents every detail of the ambitious undertaking of his friend, Tim, who by reconstructing the creation of a classic painting in painstaking detail, uses an analysis of History to actually rewrite it. It absolutely must be noted that the previously unknown details, which come to light in no way detract from the exquisite beauty of Vermeer’s artistry. Rather, they illuminate both his ingenuity and exceptional grasp of composition.

This Beautiful Fantastic (2016)

Apparently, I’m not used to Art that isn’t at least a little bit pretentious because I initially struggled to enjoy this one. Since I could find no particular fault in the movie I figured the problem must be with me. The plot has many classic elements that make you realize how much effort modern and/ or American movies put into manipulating your emotions. As far as plot twists, no big shockers; just a simple story—that might even be a tad predictable—about growth, both personal and floral. Love and imagination blossom in a delightful British story that’s so sweet it’s almost a fairytale.

Calendar Girls (2003)

This frolicking romp from grief to healing is based on a true story about the Women’s Institute, who hosts seminars and competitions for techniques baking, knitting, gardening, etc. for the ladies in a small British town. When one of their own loses her husband to cancer, all the flowers and cross stitch in the world can’t beautify the grieving process. A friend and fellow W.I. member takes inspiration from firemen’s fundraising calendars and enlists others to help create a calendar that will raise money towards remodeling the dilapidated waiting room in the hospital’s cancer ward. It takes convincing but by adding a subtle tribute to their friend’s late husband in the form of a sunflower in each month’s photo, the ladies soon revel in the thrill of their confidential subversive project. The shock value that offends some and delights others ends up sending them to America to appear on The Tonight Show to be interviewed by host, Jay Leno.