You’ve Got Mail

The Heartbreak Kid

Sixty-four years ago today, one of Alec Guinness’ best films hit U.S. screens – Henry Cass’ darkly comedic Last Holiday. Guinness plays George Bird, a boring bachelor in a boring job who goes for a routine check-up and finds out he has a deadly and incurable disease. Upon his doctor’s advice he decides to clear out his savings and make the most of his final days, checking into a luxurious hotel. It is a choice that paints his remaining time with the most wicked irony. Having a moment to stop and live rather than work and worry, George earns all the fortune his life had been missing – friendship, love and professional success that he can’t act upon. Except, this is a wildly dark comedy with enough cruel life twists that make George’s experience anything but simple. Though its wickedness is irresistible, the film has been tragically forgotten, its themes only vaguely living on in Joe Versus the Volcano until it finally got remake in 2006. But George became Georgia, Queen Latifah was cast, and the film excised all the darkness that made the 1950 film such an atypical treat in order to whip up a chipper and typical comedy full of good tidings and bolstered by Latifah’s charm. Though we always lament the obvious remakes, there are many more where the source material is forgotten, wiped away because the remake came so long ago, or because the remake was so terrible that no one ever wanted to look beyond […]


SpaceCamp 2

It may not have cracked the top ten this weekend after finally entering wide release, and it probably will be left empty handed at the Golden Globes tonight, but Spike Jonze‘s Her is one of the best movies of last year (it was #4 on FSR’s aggregated top ten, #3 on resident critic Rob Hunter’s list, #2 on our best sci-fi list…) and if you haven’t seen it already, you must go out as soon as you can and fall in love with this movie about love. If you don’t already know from our coverage and praise, the futurist sci-fi film stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man recently separated from his wife who rebounds with his computer’s sentient operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. That plot has reminded me of other movies since I first heard about it, and I’ve continued to recall related recommendations before, during and after seeing it. It’s not necessarily derivative so much as the next step for cinema that deals with the idea of love as a concept, what it means to be in love and how much it’s in our heads as opposed to heart and how much is really a mutual experience. This week’s list of movies to watch mostly involve those same themes, though not all. As usual, some come from connections made by others. I’ve decided to leave out one particular movie, WarGames, as it’s not about love and I already highlighted it in relation to Her in the special year-end […]



The rom-com pairing of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks is the stuff of fluffy dreams — we dare you to name another pairing that is even remotely close to usurping their royal hold over the genre, at least within a modern context — and it’s one that has spawned three charming features. The duo has, quite memorably, starred together in a fizzy romance trifecta: 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano, 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle and 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, and while it’s the second title that often gets all the big buzz and affection, we’ve got a big soft spot for the unrelenting sweetness and strange humor of Nora Ephron’s other Ryan/Hanks feature. You’ve Got Mail is celebrating its 15th anniversary this week (yes, 15th, also, you’re old, I’m old, we’re all old, but nothing is as old as that dial-up buzzing we hear about 20 times within the film itself). It is stylized as a modern take on the Miklos Laszlo play Pafumerie, which was also the inspiration for the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner. It’s “modern” because it involves the Internet or, more specifically, AOL chat rooms, early email and the then-wacky possibility that someone could fall in love with a stranger over the net. Ephron, Ryan, and Hanks had previously explored a similar idea with Sleepless — that two strangers could be so destined to be together that they could fall in love via various types of correspondence — but You’ve Got Mail dove right into the burgeoning […]



One of the main criticisms I’m hearing about The Internship is that it’s all one big advertisement for Google with little else of substance. This isn’t surprising, but it is very disappointing. When you have a movie with such prominent brand-integration it should go beyond the idea of product placement. The Internship shouldn’t be set at Google because they worked a deal with that company, whether financially beneficial to either side or not.  The Internship ought to be set at Google only because its story couldn’t be about or set at any another company than Google any more than The Social Network could have changed the name of Facebook in its script or a Steve Jobs biopic could rename the company he started. Of course, those two examples are true stories. But either would still be stronger for their relevance to the era and to what their stories are ultimately about even if they weren’t based on real events. It helps that Facebook is more than a brand now. And so is Apple. And so is Google. The fact that people groan when they see Peter Parker use Bing, an obvious product placement, rather than the more widely accepted Google search engine proves that we don’t think of the company the same way we think of Reese’s Pieces or whatever random car manufacturer is willing to spend the money for a close-up. I haven’t seen The Internship yet, so I can’t speak to how much the story is dependent on that […]


Nora Ephron on Set

Nora Ephron‘s film career – despite three Oscar nominations and credit with re-inventing an entire genre – somehow doesn’t get the legendary status that it probably deserves. She only wrote and/or directed a few more than a dozen movies, but in those films she delivered iconic characters that achieved a sense of honesty that few filmmakers are even brave enough to approach. She fought myopic views about her sex to build fame as a journalist, an essayist, a novelist, a screenwriter and a director. She got started in screenwriting because everyone else was writing scripts, her film school was being on set with Mike Nichols, and her work made a huge impact on popular culture and faked orgasms. So here it is, a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a comedy genius.


Reel Sex

As we approach Valentine’s Day (yes, it’s just a few days away) I think it’s only fitting that the topic of romance come into play in anticipation of the day meant to celebrate all things feelings. I’m not sure about you, but I have actually never celebrated Valentine’s Day with a loved one not related to me. Instead I spend the day (or week) loading up on conversational hearts, Reese Peanut Butter cups, and a collection of melodramas so depressing I become skeptical that love can actually end in anything but death. Regardless of my tendency to eat my feelings while crying over the tragic love found in Douglas Sirk films, I do enjoy happy love stories and tend to pair the sadder movies with some of my must-have romances. In honor of the big V-Day, I’d like to share my favorite 14 romantic scenes and also open it up the floor to hear your suggestions as well. Here are my concluding seven romantic scenes to last week’s first half of this list. Bring out the smelling salts; you might need them after all these swoons.


Culture Warrior

Buried deep within this sentence (Doritos are delicious) is an advertisement. Did you catch it? You probably didn’t because it was so subtly subliminal, but that’s exactly how product placement has worked for a century to varying degrees of success. After all, there’s a thin line between using real-life products in a film to create a sense of verisimilitude and using them to promote the product in question. Where that line is drawn is up to each person. One person might see a kid reading “National Geographic” in It’s a Wonderful Life and think it’s quaintly appropriate while another person might find it craven and conspicuous. To the same extent, different film productions have delivered brands with means ranging from the slyness of near-imperceptibility to almost Doritos-Scorchin’-Habanero-Flavor levels of obviousness. It’s far from new, and even though sold items have sneaked their way into movies for almost one hundred years, there’s been an explosion in recent decades, seeing a new revenue stream for studios and a new annoyance for film fans.


I thought I’d compile a list of life ruining films. In other words, films that have ruined lives in the same way that World of Warcraft has.

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published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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