THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Meow. It’s been a long time.

1625454_10201731630993298_125276479_nHowever, I feel that when there is snow outside, it is absolutely imperative that I do NOTHING. I have to preserve my precious body heat. I’m a cat, not a snow leopard!

Speaking of snow leopards.

While in the great state of Idaho with my humans, we visited the zoo. It sounds like a great plan until you realize that January in Idaho means SNOW. And COLD. Most animals in zoos don’t like that.

Except the snow leopards.

Two baby snow leopards and their dad snow leopard were out in FULL FORCE. The baby snow leopards were running, playing, punching, chewing, and thoroughly irritating their dad snow leopard. It was glorious. I told my humans that I thought I might be part snow leopard and that they should permit me to join this herd. They told me that I was the size of these snow leopard’s paws. I stood down.

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

Speaking of snow leopards, my humans and I just saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Why is this related? Well, to not give too much away, there is a scene that has a snow leopard.

I must admit that the trailers for Walter Mitty got me all aflutter. I love cool music when it plays alongside hyper-realistic and creative running and jumping. Yet a whole movie can’t just be that, and this one isn’t, which is almost too bad.

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The basic plot is this: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is the photo editor for TIME magazine. As a kid, he dreamed of traveling the world, but instead has worked a bunch of boring jobs and lived a super boring life. At the start of the movie, new management, led by Ted (Adam Scott), takes over TIME and announces that it will publish its final issue before transitioning to an only-online version. The cover of that final issue will be a photograph by famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Unfortunately, in the roll of negatives O’Connell sent to Walter, that photo’s negative is missing. This begins Walter’s epic journey of self-discovery and world travel, where he learns that life is crazier than daydreams!

Oh, there’s also a love story with Kristen Wiig, but it’s not that important.

The good: the music is great, there are some gorgeous vistas of Iceland, Greenland, and the Himalayas, and there are a lot of sweet moments. Unfortunately, on the whole, Walter Mitty fails to coalesce into the sweet, magical movie it wants to be. It’s neither as funny nor as romantic as it thinks it wants to be. This is disappointing. Ben Stiller is a consummate actor, though, and he’s so easy to watch and love that, on the whole, Walter Mitty is a really enjoyable way to spend two hours.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTYThe snow leopard is the sole cat in the film, but considering my current snow leopard obsession (I WILL JOIN MY PEOPLE), it was a highlight. Below is the PawPrint Plot. I gave it a generous score of 20 points. Not great, but SNOW LEOPARD.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 12.53.08 PMStay warm out there, fellow snow leopards!

xoxo
Franny

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AMERICAN HUSTLE (and Greetings from the Rocky Mountains!)

Dear loyal blog readers,

I have been out of touch because I am currently ensconced in my grandparent’s home in the Rocky Mountain West.

It is heaven.

They give me wet food AND dry food, have a huge house with a bunch of different beds I can sleep in, and windows where I can watch squirrels anytime I want. The only thing I have to do is occasionally wear themed pajamas. We all have a cross to bear.

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But let’s jump right into it– I’ve seen a couple of movies recently but have been too lazy to write. Till now!

It’s been an embarrassment of riches this year at the movies .

Gravity left my hindquarters sore from clutching them with tension.
12 Years A Slave was simultaneously a feast for the eyes and unbearable to watch.
Wolf of Wall Street was an adrenaline rush of disgust and delight.
Captain Phillips was an action movie with a big brain and one of the strongest single scenes of the year.
Short Term 12 was unbelievably simple and if you haven’t seen it, find a way.
Inside Llewyn Davis starred a cat.

There’s still much to see (and Inside Llewyn Davis does require a full review), but I need to preface this review with some of the year’s best to convince you that I can afford to be a little picky here. So let’s move on to tonight’s picture: American Hustle.american-hustle-poster-636-380
Despite what you may have been told, American Hustle is not a mob movie, or a con movie, or a sting movie.
In fact, it’s not a movie that cares much about plot or narrative at all.
This movie is about really great art design and unbelievably complex, stunning performances.
Which, frankly, disappointed me.

Look, I’m a cat. I prefer my movies to focus less on humans and more on cats. I mean narrative.

Essentially, American Hustle focuses on the Abscam scandal of the late ‘70s. Two con artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to team up with an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to try and take down a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) and some other top dogs.  It’s a great story and I wanted to know about it! Unfortunately, after seeing the film mere hours ago, I’m not quite sure I could provide more detail about the plot than I just did.

Now, a great story does not a great movie make. You’ve also got to have great characters and great actors to play them. Here, Russell hits a home run. Each of his stars are scene-stealers, and there are a few scenes that nearly steal the entire movie (the club scene with Adams and Cooper, Renner and Bale singing together in a bar, Robert DeNiro’s excellent cameo). Unfortunately, the actors are SO good, SO honest, and SO bold in their work, that nothing else felt important. When Jennifer Lawrence, who played Bale’s wild wife, was onscreen, I was smitten, but when she wasn’t, I didn’t quite know why the character needed to be so important. The stakes of the heist were low, and the consequences of each character’s actions didn’t feel risky. I felt enormous empathy but very little danger.

Perhaps David O. Russell likes his characters like I like my morning dry food—a little bit too much, a little bit too fast, and then vomited. (Maybe that’s just my food.)

It’s a good movie, but it’s not a great one.

As far as cats go, not to fear, cat-lovers!! We’ve got a few felines to feast your eyes upon (albeit briefly, and albeit in 70’s-era polaroids). One of the people who the schemers work with is a woman who controls the wires (which wires and for whom? Therein lies what I was saying about narrative holes). Anyway, in order to get on this woman’s good side, they give her fancy liquor and tea, and talk to her about her cats. She has lots of photos, and they all have names.

I know we’re supposed to laugh about the cat lady, but she and her photographed felines (one of whom was definitely named Barnaby and “likes to play the piano”) get a passable 30 points.Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 11.03.28 PM

I’m back to watching squirrels. G’night!

–Franny

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CLOUD ATLAS

Hello again readers.
As you know, I don’t make it out to the cinema often.  I am, however, a Netflix fiend.  So when my humans went and saw a crazy flick called CLOUD ATLAS and raved about it, I thought I should put it on my Netflix queue.  That way I could take a look at it when it was released on DVD.  This past week, I saw it.  And what a trip it was.

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CLOUD ATLAS, with a budget of over $100,000,000, is one of the most expensive independent films ever.  Based on the novel by David Mitchell, it interweaves six separate story lines that take place between 1849 and 2321.  Using crazy makeup that sometimes turned Hugh Grant into a passable Asian and Halle Berry into a not-quite-as-passable Jew, the film uses the same core cast to portray different characters in each story.  This highlights the film’s underlying themes of universal connective tissue and global cause-and-effect.

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Since there are six separate stories, I shan’t go into each one here.  Suffice it to say, though, that the cast handles the odd material with finesse, and the cinematography is spell-binding.  Each setting, ranging from a 19th-century slaving ship to a 1970’s San Francisco warehouse to a futuristic South Korean city with flying cars and laser guns, has its own feel, its own palate, and indeed, its own director.  Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski shared the screenwriter, producing, and directing credits in this behemoth, and I think the collaboration paid off in spades.

But really though, Franny, what’s the deal with the cats?  Where can we find them?  Ahh, dear readers, this film is – unfortunately – not cat-heavy.  The one instance of cat takes place in the story of Henry Cavendish.  Played in spectacular fashion by Jim Broadbent, Henry Cavendish is a book publisher living in London, 2012.  Due to some unforeseen events (having somewhat to do with a rough-neck author version of Tom Hanks with a giant prosthetic nose pushing a critic over a balcony), he finds himself examining his life and what he has made of it.  He dreams of yesteryear and muses on his salad days, when he was courting a young woman named Ursula.

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There is a flashback scene with a young attractive couple canoodling naked under some bed sheets when Ursula’s parents walk in.  Young Henry Cavendish leaps up and grabs the closest thing he can find to cover his genitalia – a cat.  Oh, that my species should be used in such a manner as this is thoroughly unbecoming of our inherent high status, but these things do happen sometimes for the sake of comedy.  The cat meows and scratches at the boy’s nether regions, distressed by the prospect of being a human’s underwear (the finest bit of acting in the entire film), and Henry Cavendish falls out of the window in a panic.

All in all, although the cat presence in this film leaves something to be desired, the film is quite good.  It’s so good that it makes me want to cuddle up on the couch with my humans and read the original novel.  I’ll make them hold it for me, though.  No opposable thumbs, you know.

So, the final score for CLOUD ATLAS is………………………………………

Cloud Atlas Pawprint Plot

50 points!!!!!!!!

Wow!  That surprised even me!

Well done, CLOUD ATLAS!

Until next time, readers, I remain yours in reviewing.

– Franny

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HOCUS POCUS

Boo!

It’s Halloween, my feline followers, which is one of my least favorite holidays. First of all, it gives us cats—particularly those of us with a slightly darker fur tone—a bad reputation. Second, I live in New York City, and Halloween in New York isn’t fun if you are a normal person. My mom-human hasn’t gone out on Halloween since her freshman year of college, and her stories about the subway down to the Village make me claustrophobic. And I sleep in boxes.

So tonight I snuggled in for a Halloween classic, ‘cause a cat has to celebrate somehow! Hocus Pocus, here I come!

1341831695_hocus_pocus2-ff I assume all of you know the basic plot of Hocus Pocus. The film opens with a young man in Puritan-era Salem, Massachusetts discovering that his sister has been kidnapped by the town’s three witches, who intend to use her for a spell to make them younger. The young man, Thackeray Binx, fails to rescue his sister, and instead is turned into… you guessed it… A CAT! From there, we fast forward to the present (1994), where some erstwhile younguns—teens Max and Allison (Omni Katz and Vinessa Shaw) and Max’s young sister (Thora Birch)—release the witches from their graves for one night only—Halloween, 1994. While the witch sisters attempt to find more small children to devour to retain their youth, the three kids, along with Binx the cat and Billy Butcherson the zombie, fight against time to make sure these witches are destroyed before the sun comes up.Hocus-Pocus_20Things_9As anyone who has seen Hocus Pocus knows, though, the plot is not really what makes this film great. What makes this film great is Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, and the amazing animatronics of the 90s (i.e. Binx the cat). It is anachronistic nonsense, which, if you read my reviews, you know is my cup of shredded chicken in pumpkin broth (wait… that was just my dinner tonight).

Onto serious matters, though, I need to share something very, very special tonight on Franny’s Feline Film Forum. The last few reviews I’ve done had fairly low ratings on my Pawprint Plot.IMG_2831

Tonight, though, after much notetaking and some very important fact-checking, I was excited to award Hocus Pocus THE FIRST EVER 100 PAW-POINT FILM ON FRANNY’S FELINE FILM FORUM! That’s right, ladies, gents, and felines, Hocus Pocus got a full 100 points. You didn’t think it was possible, but see below for proof.

And in the meantime, please enjoy what’s left of your Halloween. Myself, I’ll be watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch trying to determine whether Binx and Melissa Joan Hart’s cat, Salem, were played by the same cat-actor.

Meow,
Franny

Pawprint Plot Hocus Pocus

Happy National Cat Day! (and THE SECRET LIFE OF CATS)

In honor of National Cat Day, I’ve gone back to the core of my interests—myself. Also other cats.

This evening, after a delectable dinner of chicken bits in gravy and some running around pointlessly, I settled in to watch the National Geographic documentary from 2008, The Secret Life of Cats.

The film begins with an examination of cats’ nature and history of domestication, which features some of the most incredible cat re-enactments I’ve ever seen. I have to share some screen grabs.Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 5.58.14 PM

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Nothing too new to report from this section of the film—we are told that cats generally have the upper hand in every situation. We are “a marvel of engineering.” Tell me something I DON’T know.

However, after the playful opening, The Secret Life of Cats took a turn for the worse.

After learning about an abandoned cat community in Florida, we are treated to an incredibly disturbing scene of these cats being captured, anesthetized, tested for feline AIDS and leukemia, and spayed or neutered (I, for one, don’t remember being spayed, and I don’t care to). I had to look away more than once.

We then turn an eye on the problem of outdoor cats hunting where they shouldn’t. Some very sad small children show the camera injured baby bunnies: “The cat bit it here, on its foot.” An ornithologist shows us the tattered carcass of a bird: “We have about a 50% survival rate in wildlife here, mostly due to cats.”

They stalked cats for MONTHS using nightcams. Blair Witch Project, anyone?!

They stalked cats for MONTHS using nightcams. Blair Witch Project, anyone?!

Um, excuse me, but weren’t we just talking about how we’re still wild and supposed to be hunting? Am I crazy?

Then, we travel down under to New Zealand, where cats are not a native species.

This is not a cat in New Zealand, but it is a cat in Antarctica with penguins, which is even weirder.

This is not a cat in New Zealand, but it is a cat in Antarctica with penguins, which is even weirder.

Naturally, though, since we are the most popular animal anywhere, cats were brought to New Zealand, where they proceeded to disrupt the life cycle. Sigh. Haven’t you “naturalists” in your little hats ever heard of Darwin? Survival of the fittest? I’m rolling my eyes, and THEN:

Apparently they are now EATING CATS in New Zealand? And that’s not all: Nat Geo also thought it okay to show a cat being killed, having its stomach cut open and the contents investigated, and then eaten. WHAT IS THIS, A HORROR MOVIE?! WHAT IS THIS FILM RATED?!

THIS MAN HAS A DEAD CAT PELT ON HIS HEAD

THIS MAN HAS A DEAD CAT PELT ON HIS HEAD

Thank god for some sanity. (that is a live cat)

Thank god for some sanity. (that is a live cat)

Frankly, that was about all I could take. I hung in there for the remainder, where Nat Geo finally decided to tell us what we “should” do. The best solutions to the cat hunting problem was demonstrated by two cats named “Tootle Loo” and “Diddles” respectively (I’m not joking, though I wish I were). Tootle has a curfew. No nightime hunting, little Tootle! Diddles has an outdoor cage where he can watch the birds at their feeders. Oh sweet Diddles, you will never know the wonders you are missing behind those metal bars.

I can’t in good conscience recommend this film to other cat lovers with less steely stomachs than I, but as far as my Pawprint Plot, The Secret Life of Cats managed a top score:    80 POINTS!IMG_0209

May you all celebrate your holiday with far less graphic depictions of cat-kind. I plan to curl into the shape of a cinnamon roll and sleep the whole thing off.

Regards,
Franny

Pawprint Plot secret life

UNCLE BUCK

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Sometimes it’s nice to revisit the past.  And by the past, I don’t mean as far back as my last review.  I also don’t mean a past that I can remember.  I do mean a past that my humans can remember, though.  Well, kind of.  Both of my humans were at least alive the era of John Hughes.  And more importantly, the era of John Candy.  And even more importantly, the era of UNCLE BUCK.

UNCLE BUCK (1989) has a simple premise: What happens when you put your schlub of a relative in charge of three high-strung kids?

The answer is, of course, movie magic.

Here’s how we start: Cindy and Bob Russell are average middle-class Americans who are very focused on their work and their busy lives.  They have three kids, one of whom is a “dreamer” of a little girl, one who is a young Macauly Culkin (literally), and one who is really angry teenage girl.  They don’t know their kids, their kids don’t know them, and they eat Chinese food for dinner a lot, apparently.  So not good things here in Chicagoland.

One night, however, Cindy’s dad has a heart attack.  The couple need to go to Indianapolis.  Immediately.  They can’t even wait until the morning (so the film purports).  Who should they get to watch the kids?  They have school, after all – they can’t come.  The neighbor?  Oh no.  Friends from work?  Out of town themselves.

“What about Buck?” asks Bob.

Bob’s brother Buck, played by John Candy, is the black sheep of the familiy – big, loud, living in an apartment, no job, an avid bolwer (the shame of it!), dating a woman who (gasp!) sells tires, smokes cigars, drinks a lot, and is often seen at horse races.  Not necessarily Mary Poppins, here.

Ahh, but they have no choice.  Best call him up.  He comes over in his lemon of a car, and the chaos ensues.

The film from there on is basically a series of vignettes that detail the ridiculous insertion of this character into the formerly orderly lives of the three children.  There’s a lot of angry teenage fighting, especially when Uncle Buck disapproves of Tia’s new boyfriend.  There’s a lot of Macauly Culkin with his eyes wide open looking surprised.  And there’s a lot of John Candy just being a funny fat guy, including a particularly great scene where he makes a giant breakfast for Macauly Culkin’s birthday.

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Eventually, all the humans learn the importance of family, and the kids appreciate their parents a little more for all they do.

It’s sweet.

Now, the cat factor:  In a terribly funny scene, Uncle Buck tries to get the family cat to come inside.  He calls for it, he chases it through the bushes, and he picks it up.  He carries it inside while it caterwauls in dismay and scratches his face and arms.  Once inside, he asks, “Who let the cat out?”  One of the children answers, “We don’t have a cat!”  Out the cat goes back on its merry way.

Now, as much as I don’t appreciate a scene of a human forcing a cat to do something against its will, I even have to applaud the comic timing in this bit.  Well played, John Hughes.  Well played, John Candy.  Well done, Johns.

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UNCLE BUCK is a quintessential end-of-the-eighties film and, even though my parents probably weren’t even alive then, it’s cinema gold.

And the final cat factor is………………………………

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50 points!!!  

It’s a good flick with just a bit of cat, but that bit of cat is a bit of great.

Thanks for stopping by!  Check back soon for more reviews!

– Franny

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PORTRAIT OF JENNIE

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My male human fancies himself a writer. I put up with this because “writing” usually means “sitting on the couch in soft pants and thinking,” which ends up providing me a soft place to sleep and a captive ear-scratcher. All day long. I’m telling you, my life is HARD.

Now, my human is a writer of many things, but lately, he’s doing crazy stuff like making up alternate steampunk universes and post-apocalyptic landscapes. To spark his creativity, he’s been venturing into the great canons of sci-fi filmmaking. The limit of my interest in technology begins and ends with the remarkable CGI Richard Parker in Life of Pi (we could be TWINS), but with a soft lap just waiting to be napped in, I resigned myself to settling in for a classic of the genre—1948’s Portrait of Jennie.

The film opens with Joseph Cotten as Eben, a dejected artist wandering snowy Central Park as a pensive voiceover tells us, “those were the years when therewas a hunger in you for more than food… It was a winter of your mind when the life of your genius seemed frozen and motionless.”As a cat, I understood this well. Under an icy arbor, Eben meets a strange little girl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones), dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing. They strike up a merry conversation, and Eben begins a sketch of what will become the eponymous Portrait of Jennie.

Eben’s return to his boarding house is where the reason I’m reviewing this film comes in. THERE’S A CAT! The landlady (Florence Bates) meets Eben at the base of the stairs, and informs him there’s a package waiting. Eben fetches it and leaves, and we’re treated to a brief scene in which the landlady and her elderly friend discuss… something. I didn’t hear a word, because one of the cutest cats ever captured in black-and-white was prettily weaving around their ankles. I got very excited, but I hate to say, this was the beginning and the end of that charming kitten.

The film continues, and Eben runs into Jennie intermittently over the next year. Strangely, it seems she has aged 9045568_origsignificantly between each meeting. By meeting number three, she’s of marriageable age and they become engaged. Perhaps I’m a prude, but wasn’t she thirteen less than a year ago? Anyhow, Eben is naturally a bit suspicious, and does some digging. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll leave the plotting there. The only thing I’ll tell you is that Eben does finish the Portrait of Jennie.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this little movie. It is predictable and a bit trite, but there are also some real gems in the screenplay, though not quite enough to call it “great.” The story is engaging and never lags, and while I wasn’t entirely convinced by the romance, Jennie is undoubtedly magical. The most impressive element of Portrait of Jennie, though, is the massive, atmospheric shots of winter in New York City by cinematographer Joseph August. It’s incredibly beautiful, evocative work, and worth a Netflix queue jump there. My favorite moments were those shot in Jennie’s convent/college, filmed at the Cloisters in Northern Manhattan, right near where I live. I’ve been known to spend time in the nearby park with my humans, but I’m not allowed inside since it’s a “museum.” Like I care. It was a great pleasure, though, to see the nooks and crannies of the Cloisters through the literal lens of 1948. This exemplifies my experience of Portrait of Jennie on the whole—you know what it is, but that doesn’t take away from the beautiful, enjoyable journey.

Me, in Fort Tryon Park (the leash was a compromise).

Me, in Fort Tryon Park (the leash was a compromise).

So, for Portrait of Jennie, a small 30 paw-points, but a good-hearted recommendation.

Till next time,

Franny

Pawprint Plot Jennie