20 November 2012

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (starring Nia Vardalos)

It's very rare for me to re-watch films - at least, it has been. While I re-read favourite books fairly regularly, the imagery of movies tends to stay with me longer and I'm far less likely to think of seeing something I've seen before, unless it was twenty or more years ago in the cinema.

However, some teenage friends have started coming over a couple of times per month to watch films of their choice from our collection; time was limited on Sunday, and the choice was 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding', which I saw, for the second time, less than two years ago.  I thought I might get bored, or even drop off... but found that I enjoyed it very much indeed.

The story revolves around Tula (played exceptionally well by Nia Vardalos), a Greek girl living in the United States. Her family are loud, and cheerful, and hard-working; caricatured, perhaps, and yet there's a great deal that we recognise, after living for fifteen years in Cyprus, where culture is very similar to that of Greece. Tula is expected to marry a nice Greek boy and raise Greek babies...

However, Tula is something of a geek, and does not appear to attract any boys, Greek or otherwise. She works in her father's restaurant, but is frustrated that it's a dead-end job which doesn't begin to take account of her intelligence. With her mother's help, she persuades her father to let her enrol on a computer course and then to work in the family travel agency... where she meets and falls in love with Ian (John Corbett) a quiet, all-American white English teacher. He is a very nice guy indeed, but absolutely not what her parents were hoping for.

That, basically, is the story. A young girl's bid for independence, and breaking out of the family expectations and stereotypes. Of course it pokes fun at Greek culture; it also pokes fun at American culture (Ian's parents are unbelievably naive, and don't appear to know about anything beyond US borders).  Tula's father Gus (Michael Constantine - a Greek American by nationality) is absolutely brilliant in his exaggerated control of his family, his desire for tradition, yet with a deep love for all his family.  There are echoes of 'Fiddler on the Roof' in the story, as well as some very funny moments, no less amusing for knowing that they were coming.

I had forgotten a lot of the detail of this film, and found that I enjoyed it very much indeed. I'm a little surprised that it's only rated PG in both the UK and the US; the content would not be of much interest to anybody under the age of about 13 or 14, and although there's no nudity, bad language or sex, there is the end of a bedroom scene where it's very clear what has gone on - something which I would have expected to raise the rating to 12/PG-13.

All in all, I'd recommend it highly to teenagers and adults, particularly anyone who knows anything about Greek and American culture.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

05 November 2012

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (starring Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore and Dee Wallace)

I first saw ET when it was first out in the cinema, back in 1982. I had no idea what to expect, but fell quite in love with it. However, although some people went to see it several times, I didn't re-watch it at all. We bought the DVD about eight or nine years ago so that our sons could see it with their friends, and I watched it - or at least half-watched it - about six years ago. Yesterday evening we watched it again with some teenage friends.

The story is well-known: an odd-looking but lovable alien comes to earth to collect some plants, then accidentally gets left behind by his spaceship. He is taken in by a boy called Elliot, played absolutely brilliantly by Henry Thomas. Dubbed ET, the alien and Elliot get to know each other gradually, each developing trust in the other, and sharing an odd kind of psychic link. There's a poignancy in the friendship, as Elliot is a stressed, often lonely boy whose parents have recently separated. He's the middle child of three, teased by his brother (Robert MacNaughton) and sometimes irritated  by his small sister (a very young Drew Barrymore).

Unfortunately ET can't survive for long on earth; we never really discover why in any detail. Worse still, government officials want to capture him, worried about alien contamination, so that in the end the children have to fight to get him away.  I had forgotten most of the details of the story, and enjoyed it very much. I would have liked more scenes with Elliot and ET, and fewer of the later more tense ones that featured fast action - but the whole thing was brilliantly done, directed by Steven Speilburg, with a very moving end.

Supposedly this film is for children, with a PG rating on both sides of the Atlantic. This sounds about right, since it would be fine for many children of about nine or ten and upwards, but it would probably not be understood by much younger ones.

The edition we own is the 20th anniversary one, with an extra CD. We watched the 'creation of ET'afterwards, in which the stars and director were interviewed. It was amazing watching Henry Thomas's audition - his acting and emoting were outstanding for such a young boy - and also very interesting learning how ET himself was made before the days of CGI. The film had been digitally enhanced to take account of modern technology, and clear up a few minor glitches; seeing how it was done was fascinating, and certainly hadn't spoiled the film in any way.

Highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews