29 Days of Romance, Review #21: Notting Hill (1999)

29 Days of Romance, Review #21: Notting Hill (1999)
Notting Hill poster
IMDb

Directed by: Roger Mitchell. Starring: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans.  Runtime: 2h, 4 min. Released: May 28, 1999.

Man, I totally love Notting Hill. Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is the biggest movie star in the world and visits Notting Hill, a small district in West London, where she walks into a travel bookshop owned by William Thacker (Hugh Grant).These two characters are from very different world and the film handles that in intriguing ways.

It’s a romance about love being put off until the timing is right. Anna is an interesting character in how she handles her overwhelming fame, jokingly insecure that people will eventually figure out she can’t act. Roberts plays the persona perfectly, as she tries to be a normal person but she’s unable to be because her face is truly everywhere.

Thacker offers an escape into an everyday normalcy she craves, where there are no flashing cameras everywhere. When the flashing cameras find their way into William’s world, she’s frustrated the worlds collide because it could hurt her image.

It’s a conflict that rings true because of her character and writer Richard Curtis builds these characters well. This is a great romance that is at its best when Roberts and Grant share the screen, though they’re often apart throughout. Their chemistry is so strong and I prefer a film like this over another film I reviewed this month, Pretty Woman, because I like both Anna and William here as characters. I don’t like Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman that much and I think William Thacker feels authentic here.

Notting Hill article
Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in Notting Hill. (IMDb)

Notting Hill is also much more about Thacker’s world and existence in Notting Hill, where Anna comes in as a glorified, and at first surreal, guest. Anna Scott is this huge movie star and it takes some getting used to for the characters in this much smaller world, and that’s played for comedy, especially when she accompanies William to his sister’s birthday dinner. While at this dinner, Bernie (Hugh Bonneville) doesn’t realize he’s talking to Anna Scott and learns this when they all gossip while she’s gone to the bathroom.

These supporting players help make this film great and the dinner party is one of the best scenes here. The best moment of this scene here is when the worst cook in the world, Max (Tim McInnerny) has cooked them something. Bella (Gina McKee), Max’s wife, asks, “What do you think of the guinea-fowl?” Anna replies, “I’m a vegetarian.” When Max asks how she likes it, she says, “Best guinea-fowl I’ve ever tasted.” Bella looks at Anna like she’s different, and that she could be different for William, too, and be the one to make him happy.

It’s an endearing moment that also shows Anna’s humanity: A big star like that could demand anything, but she does not. She wants to be just another person and the film goes to great lengths that we see that, but not in a convoluted way. The film’s enchanting as it plays Ronan Keating’s “When You Say Nothing At All” (recorded specifically for the film) and Anna just smiles, basks in the moment, content to enjoy herself and not be the centre of attention.

Notting Hill, Roberts
Julia Roberts in Notting Hill. (IMDb)

By the time she gets to the famous line, “I’m just a girl… standing in front of a boy… asking him to love her,” we know she wants the life of an everyday person, but this just hits it home. With a scene like this and how charming she is throughout; it also just proves that I’ll fall in love with Julia Roberts all over again every time I watch this. Mind you, Hugh Grant makes this just as great, and I adore this pairing. I’ve only seen this film once, but I can see myself re-watching it often.

By the way, the best supporting star here isn’t even at that dinner and that’s Rhys Ifans as William’s flatmate Spike. He’s a complete dimwit but Ifans plays him perfectly and he is one of the funniest aspects about the film.

The film in general is wonderfully directed by Roger Mitchell, and Richard Curtis’ screenplay is brilliant. After this and Love Actually, he’s one of my favourite writers. He’s also the writer of 2013’s About Time, which is one of my favourite films of the 2010’s. His writing shines even when it’s simple, as there is always charm. The comedy and romance in Notting Hill is just so well-written, making it one of my favourite films from my 29 Days of Romance so far.

Score: 90/100

Little Nicky (2000)

Little NickyReleased: November 10, 2000. Directed by: Steven Brill. Starring: Adam Sandler, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans. Runtime: 90 min.

I’m not sure why I give Dennis Dugan a hard time as a director. It isn’t that he’s a poor director; it’s just that the movies he directs are usually brought down its poor writing. But Steven Brill is probably the worst director out of Adam Sandler’s crew.

Little Nicky’s (Adam Sandler) two evil brothers Adrian (Rhys Ifans) and Cassius (Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister) have just escaped from Hell and are wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting earth. His dad (Harvey Keitel) is disintegrating and it’s up to Nicky to save him and all of a humanity by midnight before one of his brothers becomes the new Satan.

“Little Nicky” is sort-of a guilty pleasure. Yeah, the premise is far-fetched, but it’s a fun movie. It’s not the worst movie out there, but I know it certainly isn’t the best. One main flaw about the movie is the soundtrack. It just feels like it was made the night before development started, from Rock N’ Roll’s greatest hits.

The main character, Nicky, isn’t exactly the greatest guy out there. He’s the son of Satan. He’s oddly likable, if one could get past his facial oddities. Patricia Arquette a great actress who makes for one of Sandler’s finest on-screen counterparts. In any other Sandler movie, she would not work. But Valerie’s, Arquette’s character, oddities really match the odd personality Nicky possesses. Arquette is sweet and softly-spoken, so she brings Valerie to life well.

The movie’s hilarious at times but the sentimentality doesn’t ring true, really; and the writers attempt to force the sweetness too much. I like the fish-out-of-water humour, and some of the cameos are hysterical. Dana Carvey as a referee, Whitey, who was actually a character in “Eight Crazy Nights,” portrayed by Sandler. Peter Dante and Jonathan Loughran are funny as people who hail Satan.

Quentin Tarantino is awesome as a Deacon who one would see on the streets, the cuckoo guy preaching God’s word. Reese Witherspoon shows up for a bit as a sexy angel. A character from one of Sandler’s classics makes a cameo. And Jon Lovitz shows up as a pervert peering in on a sexy mother, and get sent to hell for it. Whenever he shows up, Kool & The Gang’s Ladies Night sounds, and it’s a great touch.

You’ll only find this movie funny if you enjoy Sandlers’ shtick. He talks in a funny speech impediment throughout. It will get laughs from his fans. His character is distinctive because of the speech impediment. The movie lets us know that Nicky got his speech impediment by being hit in the face by a shovel by his brother Cassius. (Speaking of Nicky’s brothers, Rhys Ifans puts in an amusing turn as Adrian.) Why doesn’t anyone just hit him with a shovel early on again? Maybe it’s like amnesia? Reverse effect, guys…

The movie is completely stupid, but it knows it. So that’s good. That’s funny. But it would be better if it just feels like “Little Nicky,” not “Popeye’s Chicken presents: Little Nicky.” The comedy also gets extra points for shoving pineapples up Hitler’s ass. Thanks for the laughs, Satan.

Score63/100

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man

Release Date: July 3, 2012

Director: Marc Webb

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

Runtime: 136 min

Tagline: His past was kept from him. His search for answers has just begun.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner.

While inferior to Spider-Man 2 of the Sam Raimi trilogy, it’s vastly superior to Spider-Man 3, but it’s a little better than the first Spider-Man. It doesn’t have too many villains, and Marc Webb is a worthy enough director to reboot the great super hero. It doesn’t really ever reach amazing, as Raimi set the bar pretty high, but it is pretty awesome. Granted, The Pretty Awesome Spider-Man doesn’t have a good ring to it.

Peter has to deal with a few situations throughout the feature: some relationship problems, deaths within the family, a police captain, and of course, the Lizard.

Peter is having a few relationship problems with his new girlfriend Gwen Stacy, because he wants to keep her safe. Of course, super heroes are going to have villains. Also, one other relationship problem could arise because he’s never vibrantly exciting. He tells a few jokes, and he has that charming smile he’s always flashing, but that’s about it. Nothing else is virtually off about him, but there aren’t any other notable things about him. No one can forget the great Tobey Maguire, and comparisons between the two are inevitable. Garfield is pretty bland compared to Maguire. Gwen Stacy is a great love choice for Spider-Man. Garfield may be bland when he’s without Stacy (portrayed by Emma Stone), but when the two are together, they’re a pretty fine team. I really like Gwen Stacy, maybe even more than Mary Jane Watson.

Any of you who have seen the original Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, or are generally familiar with the story of Peter Parker, will know which family member of his gets killed off fairly early in the story.  The death of this character brings on solid character development to Peter, as it fills him with a need for vengeance, a trait one would not think of when they hear the word: super hero; but that is one of the primary traits of Parker after this time. Parker’s search for this character’s killer is actually realistic. He goes through a countless number of thugs in search of a man with a star tattoo on his left wrist. This ultimately puts him in the path of a New York police Captain, and that said Police Captain thinks Parker is a vigilant menace, mirroring the character of J. Jonah Jameson.

Compared to Raimi’s first Spider-Man, there are some things this does better, and things it does worse. The introduction to Peter’s new found powers is better, and funnier. Sometimes, the things he does are cooler. Although, no one can forget those “Go go spider web!” or “Up, up and away! ” lines that Maguire uttered in the original Spider-Man. The search for his relative’s killer is more realistic in this, because he just doesn’t find the killer off the bat. Though, if he did find the killer off the bat, it would bring closure much earlier in the story, and Spidey wouldn’t be haunted by that unholy ghost called vengeance.

That whole sub-plot goes on in the first bit of the film, and the actual super villain (in the full Lizard state) doesn’t get fully introduced until after the one-hour mark. Dr. Curt Connors has motivations that are quite easy to understand. He only has one arm, so he has a raging jealousy of lizards because they can regrow limbs. His motivations are easy to understand, but his master plan… not so much. He wants to turn everyone into lizards. Sure, we’ll be stronger and faster, but everyone’s more content being human… We’ll have scaly skin, and even a year supply of hand and skin lotions can’t cure that.

While it probably won’t enter the reboot series status of something like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it still makes the sequels look promising. There are some great action sequences, dramatic scenes and plot development, and it’s a great introduction to a new Spider-Man series. Garfield may make for an often unfunny Spider-Man, as all the jokes are given to Police Captain Stacy, Gwen, Uncle Ben and Aunt May; but maybe the writers will give him a little more flare and heart in the sequels.

75/100