Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Movie and Television Reviews for April Part Two
The Four Seasons
The premise is simple: three couples meet every few months to enjoy one another’s company. They cook nice meals, go on a boating trip, visit their children at college, etc. They also get on one another’s nerves as foibles come out and flaws within the individual marriages reveal themselves. It should come as no surprise to hear that the script, which was written by Alan Also, occasionally sinks into sentimentality and pendantic preachiness. Alda has a mid-life crisis point to this movie and he’s going to make sure that he shoves it down your throat through his carefully crafted characters. And in spite of this, I did enjoy this movie. Go figure. Perhaps because as soon as I saw that Alda had written it, a part of me sighed internally and got ready for the self-righteous ride.
The 24th Day
Morality play meets the 21st century. In a post HIV/AIDS awareness world, we still seem to have dramas where one man’s sin is played out as a caution to the audience. Of course, now we also have a bit of noire mixed in. Commendable performances in a claustrophobic drama in which one pretty boy takes another hostage. Add a bit of melodramatic back-story. In spite of this, the actors make the whole thing work. Not brilliant but it is interesting and it had me wondering about morality plays in general and how they have evolved over time. I suppose the screenwriter and director et al wanted me to think about STDs but my mind was elsewhere.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Once upon a time I read a graphic novel which I thought was silly and overwrought with cliches. It was not the graphic novel upon which this movie was based. It was, however, written by the same person as the one who wrote the graphic novel upon which this movie was based. Is it really any surprise that this story is also full of predictable plot devices, two-dimensional characters, etc.? Pretty effects and costumes can’t salvage this from being more than a bit of cotton candy fluff. I love Jake Gyllenhall. I didn’t love this film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cute. I don’t know why it was vilified as much as it was when it was released. I’ve seen worse the past few weeks. (See above!)
The Cake Eaters
I have no clue what the title means even after watching the movie but I do love a quiet, understated, typical indie movie and this one lived up to my expectations with a lovely performance by Kristen Stewart. She continues to impress me, probably because I avoid the Twilight movies altogether. She just surprises me every time I see her on camera and I love her more and more. She once again does a lovely job and she almost makes me want to watch those other movies. Almost, but not quite.
The Three Musketeers
I remember going to see this as part of a school trip. Years later I got my hands on a few of Alexander Dumas’ novels and went through a phase of reading everything he and his son wrote. Unfortunately, I forgot most of it. I do, however, remember thinking that this particular version of his d’Artagnan novel was closest to the original in intent and such. For one thing, this young boy gets around and sleeps with a lot of women throughout the first novel. And, of course, there is the “church bad / state good” plot that doesn’t even do the real political intrigue justice. (You gotta love the hypocrisy of a Cardinal who gives the king a lover even though the king is married and the lover male.) The character of Athos has always been a favorite and Oliver Reed does such a lovely job of portraying this complex character. Not so much in this film version, where the plot focuses mostly on the first part of the novel but the conclusion of this movie has a trailer “coming soon” promoting the next movie so . . .
The Four Musketeers
I wish I could remember the novels better because it does seem to me that these movies are a bit ridiculous, nearly frivolously humorous. I don’t know. I wish I could remember the novels better so I could tell whether or not these movies are compromising the integrity of the original. I mean, I remember reading the novels and being surprised by how much d’Artagnan slept around.
The Guild, Season 4
Okay. So today I was talking with a friend and she said, “What is wrong with men? I mean, what is it about Lord of the Rings?” I stopped her practically mid-sentence and explained that I am probably not the right person to talk to about his. I told her about my as yet unspent gift card and how I am thinking of buying the soundtrack–not just the soundtrack but the expanded soundtrack even. I said, “You probably want to talk to a real girl.” So what does this have to do with this show? I am sitting there and I said, “Oy. That’s Crusher. Wil Wheaton. I think. Maybe. Looks totally like him. Is it?” Did I stop watching to find out? No. I waited for the credits. I’m so pathetic. Pathetic for watching this and more so for recognizing Ensign Crusher. Yep. That’s me.
Kramer vs Kramer
I’d seen this in the theater and I remember that when it was released it as quiet a scandalous look at marriage and divorce and, most especially, parenthood. After all, what loving mother would leave her child behind to find herself? Of course, history has many examples of women who boldly left kith and kin behind to get in touch with something else. If you focus on the edginess of this movie, its relevance is lost. But relationships, especially the one between the father and son, are timeless and when this movie is watched for the purpose of appreciating that, it stands up. Sort of. The problem is, I don’t know what the message is. It seems, on the surface, to be a feminist movie in the sense that it shares the story of a sensitive man, a hard-working and driven individual who nearly loses it all–his wife, child, and home–before he wakes up and realizes what it is he’s missing. During the course of the film he learns to juggle the different aspects of his life, a juggling act women have been managing for a lot longer than most people seem to recognize. The professional compromises he makes are measured against the personal gains so is that the lesson here? You can’t have it all because in order to have one you must sacrifice the other? I don’t know. This is the sort of film I would have loved to pick apart in a film class to try to get to the bottom of what it was saying then and what it is saying now.
You can count the number of Stephen King books I’ve liked on one hand. This is one of them. It’s funny, however, that I now realize how much I had forgotten about this story. Not the characters or the action so much as the spiritual subtext that was splashed around with the subtlety of a Warhol image. Good versus evil will not suffice. You must have virgin sacrifices and crucifixions and even demons that morph into birds while “the magical black man”—here a woman—works the ultimate miracle as the hand of God. This made-for-television version of the book reminded me of how choked the story was with symbolism and it is interesting that what lasts in my memory is not the spiritual weight of the story but the characters who fill the pages.
East of Eden
I seem to go through times of immersing myself thematically. What is the theme between this and the previous? Mini-series? Associations between kinky sex and evil? Books I’ve read? Definitely it is that last one although the other two are valid observations as well. Unlike the previous example, however, the blatantly Christian themes in this novel are so beautifully woven into the very core of the story that one can’t remove the spiritual message without compromising the integrity of the plot. The characters are inspired by Biblical archetypes and, yet, stand up on their own merit to such a degree that, even to this day, I will easily and without hesitation announce that if I were to meet any fictional literary character, it would be Steinbeck’s Lee from East of Eden. Unlike the James Dean movie, this attempt at telling the full story does the novel’s vision justice. Too much is lost if you don’t try to at least carry the generations from one to the next. Yes, some of the perversions are lost as evil is left to be more understood than fully realized. I guess these are the sacrifices one makes for translating a book like this to the screen. I doubt another version will ever see the light of day. And why should it? Jane Seymour as Katherine/Kathy/Kate is utterly brilliant. The facets of the story that were dropped from the script are not necessary for what is left is enough to tell a brilliant and powerful story.