Tag Archives: Fantasy

How to Watch: “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2”

It’s difficult putting into words how I feel about the end of “Harry Potter,” but this last installment in what has turned out to be an incredibly entertaining movie franchise does everything it’s supposed to – and more. In fact, let me count the ways – and I’ll warn you now, I’m highly emotional over this.

1. Because both parts were filmed back-to-back, there is no break in the story flow, which makes it seem like you just watched the first part, even though it’s been six months since “Deathly Hallows, Part 1” was released. Wow. And I remember thinking then, “Well, at least I have one more movie.” Sniff.

2. You are immediately immersed, picking up where things left off, i.e. Voldemort taking the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave to use to kill Harry, and Harry, Hermione and Ron at Bill and Fleur Weasley’s beach house, where they’ve just buried the beloved elf, Dobby. Harry and his stalwart two best friends must continue their quest to find the Horcruxes – the objects Voldemort has left pieces of his soul in so he can live forever – leading them to find one in Gringotts, in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault. It’s the first of a series of big action sequences, and it’s awesome. Hermione disguised as Bellatrix to get into the vault is hilarious, especially since Helena Bonham Carter is basically playing Emma Watson. The last remaining Horcruxes are Hogwarts, so off they go.

3. The final, all encompassing Hogwarts battle, in which Harry must finally confront Voldemort, is suddenly looming close. Harry, Ron and Hermione’s reunion with their Hogwarts pals touches your heart, but Hogwarts is now a damp, dismal place under Headmaster Snape. Ah, Snape [more sniffs]… more on him later. By the time Harry figures out what the last two Horcruxes are, Voldemort and the Death Eaters are already coming. It’s go time, but I feel dread just watching them wait for the onslaught.

4. Hermione and Ron finally kiss. It’s immediate, passionate and should probably go down as one of the better cinematic embraces of all time, because we’ve been waiting for it for SO LONG. Emma Watson should get most improved over the course of the series since she started as a precocious 11-year-old who had only auditioned for Hermione as a lark. Now, she – and Hermione – have transformed into confident, beautiful young women. Her best scene overall? In “Part 1,” when she has to erase herself from her Muggle parents’ minds in order to go off on this dangerous quest.

5. Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint have also blossomed into skillful actors. Grint was plucked from obscurity as well, a red-headed moppet who could scrunch up his face like nobody’s business, while the hunt for the unknown young actor to play Harry Potter became national news. Remember how damn cute those three were in the 2001 “Sorcerer’s Stone,” all wide-eyed and innocent? I do. Credit must be given to those “Harry Potter” directors who shaped them: Chris Columbus (“Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Prisoner of Azkaban”), Mike Newell (“Goblet of Fire”) and particularly David Yates, who took over the franchise with “The Order of the Phoenix” and stuck with it until the end. God bless him.

6. Snape. As played by Alan Rickman, this complicated character’s true nature – and motivation — is finally revealed in “Deathly Hallows, Part 2.” I’ll admit, this is where I started sobbing, and while many of you who read the book know why I’m crying, some of you don’t, so I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say, the Harry Potter saga has attracted a laundry list of British A-listers, who have added an immeasurable amount of talent and wisdom to the franchise. Thank goodness producer David Heyman never buckled under what had to be some pressure to employ a big-name American actor. Actually, I don’t think author J.K Rowling, who has been involved every step of the way, would have allowed it.

7. I also won’t spoil the ending – who lives, who dies – because these films have appealed to so many people, whether they’ve read the books or not, that it wouldn’t be fair. Big things do happen. Beloved characters do die. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry bears the brunt of all the action and while the final battle may not feel as massive as it does in the book, the 3D effects and cinematography are still fairly impressive. Everyone has their favorite “Potter” movie (mine’s probably still “Prisoner of Azkaban”), but I bet most fans will pinpoint these last two “Deathly Hallows” movies as the pinnacle.

8. Is this really the end? It’s hard to fathom since it’s all still so fresh in my head. But maybe a few months from now or a year from now, it’ll hit me. And I may have to pull out the first “Harry Potter” movie and watch it.


How to Watch: “Sucker Punch”

Step 1: Take a look. The uber-stylistic, action-packed  Sucker Punch definitely titillates the ocular senses. I mean, it’s some bad-ass eye candy, no question about it.

Step 2: Try not to have high expectations. This isn’t the kind of film you go see if you want zippy dialogue or a thoughtful drama. It isn’t about great characterizations or a linear story. Sucker Punch does just that – KABAM POW! The story centers on Baby Doll (Emily Browning), a young woman who loses her mother and her baby sister in one fell swoop, and is left with an evil stepfather who has her committed to a mental institution for the criminally insane. This all happens very quickly so we can get to the action. Once there, she meets other young women in similar circumstances — including Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and her sister Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). The conditions are rough, of course, with leering guards and abusive orderlies, but there is one kindly doctor (Carla Gugino), who urges the girls to create fantasy worlds in order to help them cope. And boy, do they take this to heart.

Step 3: Here’s where the movie gets a little hard to figure out. Baby Doll arrives at the institution, she sees it at it really is, horrible, but suddenly the surroundings change when the camera zeroes in on Sweet Pea, having a moment onstage in the “break room.” Now, the hospital has turned into a speakeasy of sorts, with all the girls glammed up and forced to be “dancers” in this new milieu, so this guy named Blue (Oscar Isaac) can make money. The girls are indenture servants, so to speak, and while it’s not ideal, they make the most of it. They don’t really like Baby Doll much, at first, but soon she gains their trust when she comes up with a plan to escape. Then things get even weirder when Babydoll starts to dance, going into a semi-trance and transporting herself and the other girls into one stylistic, seriously kick-ass action sequence after another, trying to find certain objects that will help them in their quest for freedom.

Step 4: Play dress up. The actresses all fit their roles nicely, gorgeous and psychosexually charged, all equipped with weapons of choice (Baby Doll loves her some samurai sword).  In Baby Doll’s fantasy, they are a small band of expert mercenaries, easily handling the slo-mo Matrix-esque, acrobatic moves as they take down a series of otherworldly armies, from walking dead Germans, to Lord of the Rings-like creatures to robots. Browning is particularly fetching with her blonde pig tails and false eyelashes, and while it’s hard to tell if she has any acting chops from this performance, she does wield said sword with aplomb. Malone and Cornish probably have the most emotional scenes as the two sisters, and they are capable actresses, while Gugino also makes the most of her 15 minutes on screen. All the men are appropriately grotesque — except for Jon Hamm, who comes in at the last minute as the High Roller.

Step 5: Don’t think about it too hard. The wonderfully fantastical elements of Sucker Punch far outweigh any of the film’s faults. Director Zack Snyder, who gave us 300 and  Watchmen, solidifies his signature stamp on filmmaking — the overly stylized action against the canvased backdrop of greys and blacks splashed with vibrant colors, turning scenes into near works of art. Now, while some feel he hasn’t ever really surpassed 300, I think Synder continues to be a intriguing visionary. I like the chances he takes, even if he fails to engage the audience every time. Sucker Punch is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure, but it is endlessly fascinating and highly inventive — and well worth a look-see if you want some ultra-cool action.

How to Watch: “Red Riding Hood”

Step 1: How do you take a short fairy tale warning kids not to talk to strangers and stretch it into a feature film? In Red Riding Hood‘s case, not very successfully.

Step 2: Start with a red cloak. All the classic elements are in there: the girl, the red cloak, the woods, the grandmother – and of course, the wolf. Yet this time the wolf is a werewolf who terrorizes a small medieval village, nestled deep in the woods, and the girl, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is considerably older. In fact, she’s a beautiful young lady who is in love with a woodcutter named Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) but has been promised to the town’s richest eligible bachelor, Henry (Max Irons), by her mother (Virginia Madsen), who wants a better life for her. Val’s dad (Billy Burke) is a woodcutter, too, and an alcoholic, so the mom has her reasons, obviously. Valerie and Peter aren’t too happy about it and plan to run off – when tragedy strikes [cue ominous music].

Step 3: Veer off the path. You see, the town has an uneasy truce with this werewolf, offering small animals to the beast when the moon is full so he won’t kill anyone in the town. But when Valerie’s sister is found slashed apart, all bets are seemingly off – as are Valerie and Peter’s plans. The local minister (Lucas Haas) decides its time to bring in the big guns and calls for Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a known werewolf hunter. When Solomon arrives, he informs the town that this wolf takes human form during its off times – and that it most likely lives among them as they speak. Gasp!

Step 4: Get lost in the woods. Then the story becomes a sort of whodunit, mixed with the love triangle between Val, Peter and Henry. Up to a certain point, you have to stick it out because you want to find out who is the big, bad wolf, but Red Riding Hood does drag on. It’s not really the actors fault; they are just not given much to do. I mean, you couldn’t get a better Red Riding Hood than Seyfried, whose naturally big, expressive eyes do the trick in most of her scenes. The boys Fernandez and Irons (who is the son of British actors Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack) are eye candy as well, newcomers to the big screen who should find some luck there. But for the older actors, there are many wasted opportunities. Oldman seems bored, playing Solomon as a cross between Van Helsing and Vincent Price, while Julie Christie makes brief appearances as the kooky, new-agey Grandmother, handing out words of wisdom, and then fading away.

Step 5: Better to make it rated R. Although Red Riding Hood could have benefited with an R-rating, you can’t fault the look of the film, either. Those props go to director Catherine Hardwicke, who has learned a few things since directing  Twilight – but maybe not quite enough. While the script is ultimately the film’s downfall, Hardwicke also has a problem with pacing. She taps into her young lovers’ yearnings, but some scenes go on and on, especially the weird celebratory scene in which the whole town is dancing drunkenly in the streets after they think they killed the wolf. Like I said, if the film had an R rating was able to escalate the sex and violence, this could be an entirely different review. But I guess, in order to keep the younger audiences, Little Red Riding Hood can’t really be, er, devoured.

How to Watch: “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

Step 1: No need to tread lightly. The third installment to the Chronicles of Narnia definitely fairs better than the last one, Prince Caspian, but it still can’t hold a candle to the first Narnia movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Step 2: Read the story. In a nutshell, Voyage of the Dawn Treader follows Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) as they struggle living with their relatives in WWII London while their older siblings Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Peter (William Moseley) are away with the parents. Lucy and Edmund have to endure their snotty, spoiled younger cousin, Eustace (Will Poulter), who thinks their talk of fantastical creatures and high adventure is a lot of bunk – until, that is, Eustace finds himself transported to Narnia, along with his cousins, via a painting hanging in their bedroom. The three find themselves on the Dawn Treader, King Caspian’s (Ben Barnes) vessel, which has set out to find seven lords banished from Caspian’s land. They must retrieve seven swords and place them at Aslan’s table, which will rid Narnia of more evil. Aslan the lion (Liam Neeson) makes an appearance, of course, as does Reepicheep (Simon Pegg), the talking rodent, who teaches the incredulous Eustace a thing or two about respecting Narnia.

Step 3: Bring back the White Witch. Now while Dawn Treader has a more adventurous, quest-like spirit than the dull Prince Caspian, there is a good reason these two films don’t hold up as well as LWW: lack of acting power. Honestly, Tilda Swinton’s White Witch was such a spectacular villain in the first installment; she is sorely missed through the next two films, even though she makes very brief appearances. Maybe that’s a problem with the Narnia stories in general – the fact that after the White Witch is supposedly deposed of, there really isn’t another antagonist that’s worthy of her awesomeness. LWW also had James McAvoy as the endearing faun Mr. Tumnus, Jim Broadbent as the mysterious Professor Kirke and Neeson as Aslan, who has a much bigger role in the first film. Unfortunately, the kid actors haven’t really gotten much better than their first go-around, with newcomer Poulter pretty much mugging through the whole thing. Barnes looks dashing and handsome, but he doesn’t have any real acting chops either.

Step 4: On second thought, don’t read the story. So, you’re left with the story, which still just seems so saccharine in these days of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Director Michael Apted is handed the reins to guide Dawn Treader into murky waters, replacing Peter Jackson protege Andrew Adamson, who directed the first two films — and Apted definitely brings a fresher take on the subject matter, especially after Prince Caspian, a LOTR: The Two Towers rip-off. I think ultimately the problem lies within the original source material itself. I understand the C.S. Lewis books are a children’s classic. I was absolutely mesmerized by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was 6-years-old and sitting in my school’s library, listening to the teacher read the book. But once you move beyond the wonderment of a young girl finding a magical land inside a wardrobe – and the adventures she and her siblings have there, vanquishing the White Witch – the stories are just not as intriguing.

Step 5: To be or not to be a sequel. We’ll see if Dawn Treader creates enough monetary momentum to make the next in the series, The Silver Chair. Be forewarned, there are two more after that.

How to Watch: “Prince of Persia”

Step 1: Just go with the flow. Prince of Persia is the sort of popcorn-eating, mindless actioner you’d expect for the summer, made only slightly more appealing by Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance.

Step 2: Don’t play the video game first. As video-gaming adaptations go, Persia’s story isn’t half bad, even if it’s a little convoluted. In a cross between Aladdin and The Time Machine, the story follows Dastan, a desert street urchin whose courage and spunk impresses the king of Persia so much he adopts the boy. And when the boy (Gyllenhaal) grows up, he becomes a worthy prince — feisty, smart, agile and pure of heart. But when Dastan’s falsely accused of poisoning his dear father, he finds himself on the run with Tamina (Gemma Arterton), a princess who had been captured when the Persians overtook her city. She’s only looking to protect the dagger that holds the Sands of Time, a gift from the gods that can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world, which Dastan now possesses. So, Dastan discovers the mysteries of the dagger, finds out who really killed dad, partakes into a few action sequences — you know the drill from this point on.

Step 3: Realize Jake has some moves. Let’s just say, Persia isn’t much different from what you’ve seen in the trailer, save for seeing Gyllenhaal’s performance in total. He definitely outshines the material, but doesn’t necessarily dumb it down for the mass pop. The actor keeps his integrity, for the most part, infusing his Dastan with a wry sense of humor, genuine reactions — and a whole lot of Parkouring. I read Gyllenhaal took to the French physical discipline like a duck to water and performed most of the movie’s stunts himself. Arterton, too, did a few stunts herself and can now be tagged as the mythical go-to girl this year with Persia and Clash of the Titans. Ben Kingsley plays the dastardly Uncle Nizam, going over the top, as he’s wont to do in these type roles. One wonders when the superb British actor is going to rid himself of these foolish big-budget shenanigans and settle in on another excellent indie film. The other standout, though, is Alfred Molina, who can go from an indie film, such as An Education, to commercial fluff in a blink of an eye — and be totally engaging in both. In Persia, he plays a wise-ass desert con man whose likes to set up ostrich races. Good stuff.

Step 4: Eat your popcorn. As summer fare goes, Persia fits right in, but surprisingly, the film is directed by Mike Newell, whose best known for the rom-com Four Weddings and a Funeral. I suppose his experience with the fourth Harry Potter, The Goblet of Fire must have turned him on to make-believe and action. At least Newell keeps the narrative and pacing in line. But, as for the tone and theme, you can sum up Persia with two words: Jerry Bruckheimer. The actioner has the producer’s fingerprints all over it. Not too thought-provoking or even substantial, but entertaining nonetheless.

Level of difficulty in watching Prince of Persia: Pretty easy, but you’ll forget it the moment you exit the theater.

How to Watch: “Alice in Wonderland”

Step 1: The off-kiltered Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland might frighten younger children, confuse older ones – and bore the adults.

Step 2: Watch a different kind of Alice. We’re definitely not in Disneyland anymore. Burton has re-imagined Lewis Carroll’s timeless classic as only his kooky mind can. Much like all his films, Alice takes on a particularly skewed, slightly scary perspective, all at once visually dazzling and inventive. Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now 19, remembers her original Wonderland experience only as a dream, but when faced with the reality of having to accept a marriage proposal, she once again sees the rabbit in a waistcoat and follows him down the hole. She still thinks it’s a dream – until the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and the others convince her it’s oh-so-real. She’s back because she’s the only one who can end the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) reign of terror.

Step 3: Hire the right cast. Always unique, Depp channels another kind of weird, foppish Brit, who adopts a decidedly edgier Scottish brogue when the Hatter gets angry – and boy, he works those crazy eyes. Wasikowska, best known for her role in HBO’s In Treatment, is spunky and valiant as Alice. But Bonham Carter simply steals the show as the insecure Red Queen, big head and all. She’s hilarious, screaming for a warm pig for her feet and to be entertained by her “fat boys” Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas). For once, she actually outshines Depp, her real-life companion’s other favorite person (I’m talking about Burton).

Step 4: Not what you’d expect. Naturally, I took my 10-year-old daughter to the movie with me, having read the book to her when she was little and watched the Disney adaptation together, so both us were full of high expectations. I truly believed Burton was basically born to make an Alice in Wonderland. Yet as technically stunning and well-acted as Alice is, the director unfortunately falls short in my assessment. The script takes mostly from Carroll’s Alice sequel Through the Looking-Glass, along with the poem “Jabberwocky,” and while Burton has all the moving parts in order (little ones will definitely hide their eyes from the Bandersnatch), the pacing drags and misses some of the wonderment and magic of the Carroll’s vision. My daughter started fidgeting, and I grew restless, as the film droned on in the middle, only to pick up during the climactic final battle. A “Very Merry Un-Birthday” song would have been nice addition, I’m just saying.

Level of difficulty in watcing Alice in Wonderland: Pretty easy, but it’s just not what I was hoping for from someone like Tim Burton.

How to Watch: “The Lovely Bones”

the_lovely_bones05Step 1: Try to adapt. While some book-to-screen adaptations hit the mark, others miss it. Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones sort of falls into the latter category. Yes, it’s a beautiful, thoughtful film, full of dark mystery and life affirmations, yet somehow it’s lacking a certain inner strength.

Step 2: Admit it ain’t easy. Jackson himself said that there can never be a perfect adaptation of a book. He says, “Alice Sebold’s novel IS The Lovely Bones – that is the work that has everything in it, every character, every subplot and that’s the way you should experience the story in its most pure form. A film adaptation of ANY book, especially The Lovely Bones, is only ever going to be a souvenir, an impression of aspects of the book.” Fair enough. Alice Sebold’s novel truly does transcend and is nothing less than spectacular, in my opinion. Yet, it is also a very cerebral novel, which makes it even more difficult to translate to screen. Basically, the entire story is told by from the mind of a young 14-year-old girl, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), who, after being brutally raped and murdered, looks down from her heaven and tries to help her family catch her killer (Stanley Tucci), as well as try to stop them from falling apart. Her father (Mark Wahlberg) obsesses over solving her murder, while her mother (Rachel Weisz) simply wants to escape – and her younger sister Lindsay (Rose McIver) ends up living the life Susie wishes she could have had. While Jackson, along with longtime writing partners Fran Walsh and Phillip Boyens, gather as many “impressions” as they can to fit into a two-hour movie, the result comes off a tad superficial.

Step 3: Realize part of the problem also stems from the some of the performances. Wahlberg, for example, doesn’t dig nearly deep enough to aptly portray the grieving father. To be fair, this role really isn’t suited for him; he’s much better kicking ass. I wonder, though, what Ryan Gosling, who was originally cast as Mr. Salmon, would have done with the part. Switch it up, I’d imagine. The usually wonderful Weisz also sort of phones this one in. Thankfully, the lovely Ronan, who was soooo good in her Oscar-nominated performance in Atonement, does a nice job bringing Susie to life, as it were. She captures Susie’s wonderment on her new environs and sadness in having to watch her family struggle, while Susan Sarandon provides the comic relief as the boozy, chain-smoking Grandma Lynn, who comes in to take care of the family when Mom checks out. But the real plus in The Lovely Bones is Tucci’s take on the terrifying Mr. Harvey, who is so much more menacing in all the things he doesn’t say. If anyone were to get an Oscar nod, it would be him – and rightly so. With this and his terrific turn in Julie & Julia earlier this summer, Tucci may finally have one of those years.

Step 4: Stick with what you do best. There’s no doubt Jackson knows what he’s doing tackling the technical aspects, especially when it comes to creating Susie’s “in-between” world, in which things from her subconscious spring to life, either by the actions of those still alive connected to her or from her own hopes and dreams. Creating fantastical tableaus is what Jackson lives for, so I wouldn’t expect anything less. My favorite image is of giant glass bottles, with sailing ships inside, crashing on a beach, just as Susie’s father is destroying all the very same miniature models he built with his daughter. Overall, Jackson does his best in adapting The Lovely Bones, a task that would be difficult for any director, seriously. If he isn’t able to quite capture the book’s magical qualities, at least you know going in it’ll be a worthwhile cinematic experience.

Level of difficulty in watching The Lovely Bones: Easy, but just not as good as the book.

How to Interview: “The Lovely Bones” Crew

lovelybones_saoirseronan31-500x282Seriously, how can director Peter Jackson ever top The Lord of the Rings trilogy? I don’t think it’s possible, but he definitely finds projects that challenge him, yet also speak to those fantastical sensibilities he so very fond of tapping into. King Kong and now his latest effort is to adapt Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones, a cerebral yet mystical tale of a murdered girl’s running dialogue in heaven, trying to heal her family and expose her killer. In an hour-long press conference, Jackson – along with his cast, including Saoirse Ronan (Susie Salmon), Rachel Weisz (Abigail Salmon), Susan Sarandon (Grandma Lynn), Stanley Tucci (Mr. Harvey), Mark Wahlberg (Jack Salmon) and Rose McIver (Lindsay Salmon) – talks about the process of bringing this transcendent novel to the screen.

Step 1: How to adapt a book. Hey, it’s is hard to do!
Peter Jackson: “In my mind, there’s no such thing as a perfect adaptation of a book. The master work is the book. Alice Sebold’s novel is The Lovely Bones – that is the work that has everything in it, every character, every subplot and that’s the way you should experience the story in its most pure form. A film adaptation of ANY book, especially The Lovely Bones, is only ever going to be a souvenir, an impression of aspects of the book. So to me to adapt a book isn’t to produce a carbon copy, would be impossible. To include everything, the film would be five to six hours long. It’s a personal impression that Phillips Boyens, Fran Walsh and myself, the three of us wrote the screenplay and we responded to aspects of the book, especially emotional themes and the comforting value of the book and the things it had to say about the afterlife, which is personal to anybody. It’s what we responded to and our adaptation is just elements of the book restructured following our instincts and tastes. No adaptation is perfect, it’s impossible. You don’t make a movie for the fans of the book, you can’t do that.”

Step 2: How to personify evil – and leave it behind when you are done
Stanley Tucci: “It was hard in every respect. Pete knew I was very reticent to take the part. I can’t read or watch anything about kids getting harmed or anything about serial killers. And there’s so much serial killer information out there, documentaries and whatnot. A lot of it is just gratuitous, almost pornographic really, what’s being shown. But this was not that. This was a beautiful story about an exploration of loss. Phillpa, Fran, Pete and I had long conversations about it, and I felt safe with them that this wouldn’t be gratuitous and that we were going to create a person together. That Mr. Harvey was a real person. The more real he is, the more subtle and banal he is, the more terrifying he is. At the beginning, it was very hard to leave it at the end of the day, to drop it especially after being fresh off the research. It was repulsive. But once you understand who he is and you find him for me, then I could drop him at the end of the day. And no doubt, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done as an actor. I looked forward to going into the make-up trailer and taking everything off and having a martini at the end of the day. And at the beginning of every day, too, for that matter. ” [Laughter]

LB-04910-550x365Step 3: How to tap into a parent’s worst nightmare – and leave it behind when you are done
Rachel Weisz: “As an actor, you have to imagine all sorts of things. I imagined I was a young woman in the 1970s, I imagined I was American – neither of those bad things. You imagine beautiful things, you imagine ugly things, that’s my job. I just don’t think that way, that something’s too dark or problematic to go to. I don’t know why but I just don’t think that way. I immerse myself in something but I’ve learned to come out of it. I’m a mother in real life, so I can’t go home to my kid in a state of despair and tears. It’s a skill you learn, like one might learn to juggle, that you learn to turn things on and off. But bad things happen in story since the beginning of time. So it isn’t a new thing to be a storyteller and be in a film where there are bad things. There are also beautiful and uplifting things about this film and the book, and I knew that going into it. You know what? I guess the uplifting theme of book to me is that life is a treasure, and precious and a miracle, which did make me want to hug my son tighter. It’s hard to remember life is a miracle. Often we’re just living it and forget that. It gave me a positive feeling rather then a depressed one.”

Mark Wahlberg:
“Because of the way I approach work, I wasn’t that thrilled with the subject matter because I have one beautiful little girl and two beautiful boys. I don’t have the God-given talent like Rachel has and just snap into it.  Have these floods of emotion coming out and then just turn them off. I’m still learning to juggle … I would just go home and grab my daughter and hold her and I would start crying. She’s like, ‘Daddy what’s wrong with you?’ She just wanted to play. And I would try to talk to her about taking care of herself and to not talk to strangers. She was 3 at the time. But thankfully, I had another movie to go into right after, so I was able to shake it after awhile.”

Step 4: How not to show a rape
Jackson: “There are artistic, moral, impractical reasons, a variety of them, really [for not showing the rape and murder]. The film is about a teenager and her experiences of what happens: she’s murdered, she goes into an after-life and we wanted to make a film that teenagers could watch. Fran and I have a daughter around Susie’s age, and we wanted Katie to be able to see this film. So it was important to us not to go into an R-rated territory at all. Also, I never regarded the movie as being a film about a susie_salmonmurder. And if we shot any aspect of that particular sequence … to show a 14-year-old girl murdered in any way, no matter how briefly, it would completely swing the balance of the movie. And frankly, make it a film that I wouldn’t want to watch. I would have no interest in seeing that depicted on film. Every movie that I make is a film that I want to see. It’s very important. I make movies that I know I’d enjoy seeing at the cinema …  I’ve shot some pretty extreme things in my time, with Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles and Braindead, and there’s a certain style and sense of humor that I believe you can do to get away with that. But to do anything that depicted violence, especially towards a young person in a way that was serious, to me I’d have no interest in filming it. It would be repulsive.”

Tucci: “To that, we talked a lot about that and how far it should go when we were getting to know each other. And in our conversations, I ask, ‘We don’t really need to see this, do we?’ and we all agreed that no, not at all, we don’t need to see it. But then I had a conversation with a journalist this morning who said people were upset that the rape WASN’T shown and the killing. And I just don’t get that.”

Jackson: “I mean how much murder and killing do you need to see to be satisfied? How much to make someone happy?”

Tucci: “I don’t know. Obviously, a lot because there’s a lot out there. I think anyone who’s disappointed in that regard should go onto the Internet, they’ll find a lot of stuff like that. It’s so much more interesting what Peter did to me. To leave it to the audiences’ imagination, because our imagination of rape and murder are much greater than what anyone could ever put on film.”

Susan Sarandon: “Also [Susie’s] the narrator and she disassociates herself  at that point. So to watch it happen, you’ll lose that element of her confusion and her displacement.”

Jackson: “One things we did that’s different from the novel in restructuring the screenplay is we had [Susie] fleeing from the murder … At the point her spirit becomes disconnected from her body, she’s running, across the field, into the streets, running home. Susie doesn’t know what has happened to her. She’s literally confused and finds herself in the in-between, essentially the world of dreams and the subconscious and she has to start to put the pieces of the puzzle together like a mystery. So showing the murder would have changed all that.”

susan-surandon-ronan-the-lovely-bonesStep 5: How to add some comic relief, like the boozy, chain-smoking Grandma Lynn
Sarandon: “The fun part was figuring out how to clean the house with a cigarette and a drink. That was a new area for me. Obviously, she’s been self-medicating for years in anticipation of some grief. Maybe she mourns in another movie but not this one. That’s not my job [as the character]. My job was to keep things moving forward. It’s really a great choice to have someone inept try to keep the house going. Cause if I was a seemingly solid, knitting granny you’d expect to come forward, it would be really boring. But the fact she’s throwing ashes everywhere she’s cleaning, it allows the audience to laugh in the appropriate places. I love that this is just the way life is. When something horrible happens, you do find yourself laughing in weird places in the midst of grief and crying in the supermarket when you see a cereal that somebody used to eat. There’s just no way of guarding yourself one way or another. Everyone griefs differently, there’s no right or wrong way. And my function in the film was to be hilarious. I’ve been there and have lost many a child on celluloid, so I was happy I was once removed.”

Step 6: How to play in the “in-between”
Saoirse Ronan: “There were quite a lot of scenes on my own in the in-between. We actually did go on location in New Zealand, which was beautiful, a great experience. But when we used blue screen, there were different things that they figured out would help me. Of course, how well written the script was. Really, most of what I needed was in the script already. We would also play music during the day, during the shots. Music that would reflect the mood of the scene, which would help so much. Pete would talk to during takes as well, describing what was around me. I never really felt like I was alone, because I had my guardian angel there [looks at Peter Jackson] … and I loved New Zealand, very similar to Ireland. One of my favorite places to shoot and visit. I’d move there.”

“For me, there was always one scene that stuck out I got very emotional with, where I was drowned in the scene for quite a long time: It was the barley field scene towards the end in which Mr. Harvey’s victims come to take Susie to heaven. One of my favorite scenes in the film and definitely my favorite to shoot. It was so emotional and touching.”

Step 7: How to believe in the afterlife
Jackson: “I think everyone has their own points of view about it. We didn’t want to make a film that cast judgment on people’s religious beliefs because that wasn’t at all the motivation for making the movie … all religion aside, I do think that there is some energy we do have inside us. I have experienced a couple of people that have been close to me dying, and I held their hand and there is a feeling that when someone passes on, that they leave. There’s a sense of departure that’s very, very strong.  And it’s been so strong that it leads me to believe there’s a form of energy inside us that continues to survive. Physics tells us that the energy cannot be destroyed, it has to go somewhere. It doesn’t evaporate.”