Friday, November 27, 2015
Below are images from the 1979 adaptation of Henry James' 1878 short story, "The Europeans: A Sketch". Produced by Ishmail Merchant and directed by James Ivory, the movie starred Lee Remick, Robin Ellis, Lisa Eichhorn and Tim Woodward:
"THE EUROPEANS" (1979) Photo Gallery
Monday, November 23, 2015
”THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN” (2008) Review
I must admit that it took me quite a while to write a review of the second cinematic installment of ”THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA” saga. This second installment, ”PRINCE CASPIAN”, tells the story of four Pevensie children’s return to Narnia to aid Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in his struggle for the throne against his corrupt uncle King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). I tried to think of something different about this chapter in compare to the first - ”THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE”. But it occurred to me that my reaction to this movie seemed more or less the same as the 2005 release.
And what does that say about my feelings about ”PRINCE CASPIAN”? Honestly, I thought it was a solid and entertaining film that both children and adult fans of C.S. Lewis’ saga might enjoy. That is all I can really say. There was nothing really unique about it. Like many other adaptations of literary works, ”PRINCE CASPIAN” did not faithfully follow its literary counterpart. Considering that I have never read any of Lewis’ works, I was not particularly disturbed by this. The only reason I am aware of any differences between the literary and cinematic versions, is the Internet.
Like the previous movie, the cast is pretty solid. The actors who portrayed the Pevensie children returned for this sequel. Due to the rapid aging of children in general, work on the script began before ”THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE”was released, so filming could begin before the actors grew too old for their parts. William Moseley (Peter), Anna Popplewell (Susan), Skandar Keynes (Edmund) and Georgie Henley (Lucy) all gave solid, yet slightly uninspiring performances as the four siblings. Whereas Keynes got the chance to show Edmund at his peevish worst in the previous film, Moseley portrayed a slightly negative side of oldest brother Peter, whose dissatisfaction with being back in England had produced boorish personality. Perhaps I should rephrase that. Peter’s boorishness, which had been hinted through his handling of Edmund in the first film, was allowed to flourish in this film. It took a military failure against the main villain to give him a boot in the ass to improve his personality. On the other hand, Edmund seemed remarkably changed for the better in this film. One critic had described him as being the film’s ”Han Solo”. I would agree, except Edmund came off as more mature and intelligent than Han Solo. Anna Popplewell had convinced producer Douglas Gresham to allow Susan to appear in the movie’s major battles, because she feared the character came off as too passive in Lewis’ novel. Many fans of the novel were appalled by this. Not being a literary fan of the saga, it did not bother me at all. At least it gave her something to do. Of all the Pevensie siblings, Georgie Henley’s Lucy seemed to have changed the least. Although she seemed less tolerant of Peter’s boorishness than she was of Edmund’s darker side in the first film.
British actor Ben Barnes portrayed the title role of Prince Caspian of Telmarine with as much solid competence as the four actors who portrayed the Pevensies. Perhaps he seemed a little more competent than his younger co-stars in acting skills, but I could not sense anything remarkable about his performance. Portraying Caspian’s evil uncle and the Telmarine’s false ruler, King Miraz, was actor Sergio Castellitto. He made a very effective villain, but lacked Tilda Swanton’s memorable portrayal as the White Witch. Who, by the way, briefly returned to bring a much-needed spark in the middle of the story. If I must be honest, her brief appearance was probably the best scene in the film. But not even Swinton’s spectacular appearance could not overshadow what I feel was the best performance in the movie – namely that of Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin, a cynical red dwarf. I really enjoyed his sharp and caustic take on the dwarf, who is skeptic of the idea of Aslan and magic.
As much as I enjoyed ”Prince Caspian”, I must admit that I found it no more remarkable than the first. Also, I found it difficult to maintain interest in the film’s first half, as it switched back and forth between Caspian’s flight from his murderous uncle and the Pevensies’ arrival in Narnia. Director Andrew Adamson seemed to lack George Lucas and Peter Jackson’s talent for seemless transition between multiple storylines within one film. But once the Pevensies and Caspian finally met, the movie seemed to discover its pace as it flowed toward the heroes’ ill-fated attempt to attack upon Miraz and the final showdown. There were two scenes that gave me a sense of déjà vu – namely the attacks of the trees and the river god upon the Telmarine army. It seemed as if either Adamson or Lewis had a Tolkien moment. The attack of the trees especially reminded me of the Ents’ attack upon Isengard in ”LORD OF THE RINGS: The Two Towers”.
”Prince Caspian” is not the greatest movie I have seen this summer. Nor is there anything unique about it. But if one can overcome the fact that it is not an exact adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ novel, anyone might find the movie quite entertaining to watch. I heartily recommend it.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
ANALYZING LOVE IN THE "STAR WARS" PREQUEL TRILOGY
I am curious as to why people think they can analyze love, whether between fictional characters or in real life. And why do many assume that love and morality is one and the same?
If Anakin Skywalker, in the STAR WARS Prequel Trilogy, had been the model Jedi who could do no wrong, people would have never questioned why Padme Amidala had fallen in love with him, or why she had married him. But since Anakin was presented as a very flawed person, people come up with all kinds of theories and reasons (which usually has nothing to do with love) as to why she fell in love with him in the first place.
The problem seemed to be that people harbor the mistaken belief that love is all about perfection or near perfection. Or that no one would fall in love with someone with the potential for evil. They also believe that one can only fall in love with someone after a certain period of time. Unfortunately, love does not work like that. Love is wonderful, dangerous, unpredictable and very confusing for all. You cannot pinpoint on why someone will fall in love with a certain person . . . or when.
One thing I have always admired about Padme was her willingness to love Anakin for himself. Yes, some people like to theorize that she became his wife, because she mistakenly believed that she could "reform" him. I cannot help but laugh at such a theory. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the true reason Padme fell in love with Anakin was because he brought up feelings within her that no one else has ever been able to?
When you love someone, you have to be willing to accept that person is and always will be flawed - and will always have the potential for both good and evil. Not only was this true of Anakin, but of Padme as well. She was no more perfect than Anakin or any other character. In "STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE", the then Queen of Naboo had given in to her anger and frustration with the Galactic Senate, which allowed Senator Palpatine to coerce her into declaring a vote of "no confidence" against Chancellor Valorum. This act led to Palpatine's first step into a position of real power. And it also proved that Padme was just as capable of making disastrous choice on the spur of an emotional moment. Anakin, himself, discovered how arrogant and pushy she could be upon their arrival in Naboo, when he had served as her personal bodyguard in "STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES". During their time on Padme's home planet, he realized that she was not the symbol of angelic perfection that he had originally perceived. Yet, he fell even deeper in love with her.
In the end, I think we must realize that we cannot really judge why Padme fell in love with Anakin. She discovered that he was capable of evil, after his killing of the Tusken tribe in "ATTACK OF THE CLONES". Her own reaction merely highlighted a potentially ambiguous streak within her. But she also knew that he could be a good man. But I think that in the end, what really mattered was that he had made her feel something that no one else could. And when you find someone like that - why ignore it? Even if the relationship might end in disaster or tragedy?
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Below are photos from the 2010 action comedy, "THE OTHER GUYS". Directed by Adam McKay, the movie starred Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg:
"THE OTHER GUYS" (2010) Photo Gallery
Thursday, November 5, 2015
"JANE EYRE" (1996) Review
According to the Wikipedia website, there have been sixteen film adaptations of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel, "Jane Eyre". And there have been ten television adaptations of the novel. That is a hell of a lot of adaptations for one novel. A lot. And judging by the numbers, I have no immediate plan to see every movie or television adaptation. But I have seen at least five or six adaptations. And one of them is Franco Zeffirelli's 1996 movie adaptation.
Adapted by Zeffirelli and Hugh Whitemore, "JANE EYRE" told the story of a 19th century English orphan named Jane Eyre, who is rejected by her aunt and sent to a strict girls school. After eight years as a student and two years as an instructor, Jane is hired as governess to the French ward of Edward Rochester, the brooding owner of an estate in Yorkshire called Thornfield Hall. Although Jane possesses a mild, unprepossing manner, she also possesses strong internal passions and strength in character that her employer finds attractive. Eventually, Jane and her Mr. Rochester fall in love. But a deep secret that exists at Thornfield Hall threatens their future relationship and forces Jane to mature in a way she did not expect.
I could have delved more into the movie's plot, but why bother? The story of Jane Eyre is so familiar and has been recounted so many times that I believe it would be best to describe how I feel about this adaptation. And how do I feel about it? Honestly, it is not one of my favorite adaptations. Mind you, it is not terrible. In fact, I find it pretty solid. The movie's production values seemed to be first rate. I was impressed by Roger Hall's production designs, which did a very good job of re-creating Northern England of the 1830s and 1840s. Jenny Beavan, whom I am beginning to believe is one of the best costume designers on both sides of the Atlantic, did an excellent job in re-creating the fashions for both decades. And I also liked how David Watkin's photography captured the beauty of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, which served as the Rochester estate, Thornfield Hall.
I would probably rate Zeffirelli and Whitemore's adaptation of Brontë's novel as slightly below above average, but not quite average. I feel they did a first-rate job of re-creating at least three quarters of Brontë's tale. However, their adaptation fell apart, following Jane's departure from Thornfield Hall. They allowed Bertha Rochester's death and the burning of Thornfield to occur not long after Jane's departure. At first, I found that odd. But now, I realize that Zeffirelli and Whitemore wanted to rush the story as fast as they possibly could. Matters did not improve when Jane met St. John and Mary Rivers. Jane's inheritance of her uncle's fortune and St. John's loveless marriage proposal happened so fast that my head nearly spinned when she finally returned to Thornfield. The movie's weakest writing proved to be in the last twenty to thirty minutes.
The biggest criticism that "JANE EYRE" received from critics proved to be Zeffirelli's casting of William Hurt as Edward Rochester. Mind you, I found Hurt's English accent a little shaky. But I really enjoyed the cynical and world weary air he projected into the character . . . especially in scenes featuring Rochester's meeting with his brother-in-law, Richard Mason. And he also managed to achieve some kind of screen chemistry with leading lady Charlotte Gainsbourg. I find this quite miraculous, considering my belief that Gainsbourg's portrayal of Jane Eyre proved to be the movie's weakest link. I realize that this is not a popular view. But aside from one scene, I found Gainsbourg's performance to be completely BORING. All she had to do was open her mouth and her flat tones nearly put me to sleep. The only time she really managed to effectively convey Jane's deep emotions was in the famous scene in which the character revealed her love for Rochester. Only in this scene did Gainsbourg gave a hint of the acting talent she would eventually develop.
Other members of the cast gave solid performances. I noticed that the movie featured three cast members from 1995's "PERSUASION" - Fiona Shaw, Amanda Root and Samuel West. Shaw was very emotional, yet vicious as Jane's cold Aunt Reed. Root gave a warm performance as Miss Temple, Jane's favorite teacher at Lowood. And West was very effective in his portrayal of Jane's religious cousin and savior, St. John Rivers. It seemed a pity that the movie's script did not allow for a further look into his character. John Wood was perfectly hypocrtical and cold as Jane's religious headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst. Joan Plowright gave a delightful performance as the outgoing housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. And I was surprised by Elle Macpherson's effective portrayal of the charming and self-involved Blanche Ingram. Edward de Souza gave a solid performance as Rochester's emotionally delicate brother-in-law, Richard Mason. But like West, he was barely in the movie long enough to make any kind of an impression. Julian Fellowes made an appearance as one of Rochester's friends, a Colonel Dent; but aside from a few witty lines, he was not that impressive. But the one supporting performance that really impressed me came from Anna Paquin's portryal of the young and passionate Jane. It seemed a pity that Paquin was only 13 to 14 years old at the time. Because I believe that her performance as Jane seemed ten times better than Gainsbourg.
Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of Brontë's novel is not bad. Despite a shaky English accent, Hurt proved to be an effective Edward Rochester. And the movie also featured fine performances from many supporting performances. The director did a solid job of re-creating Brontë's tale for at least three-quarters of the movie. However, the adaptation fell apart in the last quarter, when Jane flet Thornfield Hall following her aborted wedding. And Charlotte Gainsbourg's flat performance as the titled character did not help matters. Like I said, "JANE EYRE" did not strike me as above average, but it seemed a little better than average.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Ever since I watched (3.01) "The Heart of the Truest Believer", the Season Three premiere for ABC's "ONCE UPON A TIME", I have been experiencing troubling thoughts about the series' writing. And those troubling thoughts centered around the deaths of two recurring characters.
Anyone who had watched both the Season Three premiere and the Season Two finale, (2.22) "And Straight On 'Til Morning" would know to what I am referring. The latter episode saw two recurring characters, Greg Mendell and Tamara, attempt to destroy Storybrooke in an effort to rid the world of any magic. Before Regina Mills aka the Evil Queen and Emma Swan could foil their plans, they kidnapped the pair's son, Henry Mills, and took him to Neverland using a magic bean. Apparently, the leader of their anti-magic organization called "the Home Office", had ordered them to take Henry to Neverland, claiming that his presence was more important than destroying magic.
Upon their arrival in Neverland, Greg and Tamara discovered that "the Home Office" had never existed. They had been tricked by Peter Pan and the Lost Boys to bring Henry to Neverland, because Peter wanted the boy he believed possessed the heart of the truest believer. Realizing that the Lost Boys wanted Henry, Tamara ordered him to run. Meanwhile, an entity called "The Shadow" ripped Greg's shadow from his body. One of the Lost Boys shot Tamara with an arrow, badly wounding her. While all of this occurred, the Charmings, Regina, Rumpelstiltskin aka Mr. Gold and Captain Killian Hook arrived in Neverland via the latter's ship, the Jolly Roger. Rumpelstiltskin left his companions behind and appeared on the island. He eventually found the wounded Tamara, ripped her heart and crushed it, killing her in the process. All of this happened before the end of the episode's first half.
My reaction to Tamara and Greg's fates really took me by surprise. I realized that the pair were merely recurring characters. But I never thought that the series' creators, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, would get rid of them so soon. I, along with other regular viewers of "ONCE UPON A TIME", knew that Sonequa Martin-Green, the actress who had portrayed Tamara, was scheduled to resume her role on AMC's "THE WALKING DEAD", which had been upgraded from recurring to regular, during this new television season. But I had no idea that Horowitz would get rid of her character so soon. Too soon, in my opinion. If Horowitz and Kitsis realized they would not be able to employ Martin-Green for more than one episode, they could have recast the Tamara character with a new actress. Would it have really killed them?
Why do I have such a problem with Tamara and Greg's fates? It happened . . . too soon. And too fast. The writers of "And Straight On 'Til Morning" gave Greg and Tamara's kidnapping of Henry and journey to Neverland such a big buildup. To have them killed off - or in Greg's case - shadow ripped from his body in such a quick fashion left a bitter taste in my mouth. Unlike many fans, I never disliked the pair. But I have to admit that Horowitz and Kitsis really mishandled their characters. Their handling of Tamara proved to be even worse than their handling of Greg. Do the two creators plan to reveal how Peter Pan and the Lost Boys created an anti-magic organization in the first place? I hope so. After all, Greg was first contacted by "the Home Office" thirty years ago, after losing his father to Regina and Graham in Storybrooke. And what about Tamara? What led her to embrace this anti-magic agenda? When was she first contacted by "the Home Office"? Since Rumpelstiltskin had murdered her halfway through the episode, I now realize that viewers will never know the truth.
If I have to be honest, Tamara's death bothered me a lot more than Greg's. Greg merely had his shadow ripped from his body. Audiences do not really know whether he is still alive or not. Horowitz and Kitsis made it very clear that Tamara was killed. Now, this might have to do with the fact that Martin-Green was scheduled to appear on "THE WALKING DEAD" set. But as I had stated earlier, they could have simply hired another actress to replace her. And there are other aspects of Tamara's death that bother me. She was killed off before any attempt could be made to reveal her background. Audiences know how she became acquainted with both August W. Booth aka Pinocchio and Neal Cassidy aka Baelfire. Otherwise, we know nothing about her past. The writers did not even bothered to give her a surname. And judging from the comments I have read on the series' messageboards and forums, along with television critics from the WALL STREET JOURNAL blog, the HUFFINGTON POST blog and DEN OF GEEK; no one really cared that Tamara's background and her surname were never revealed. Instead, they crowed with glee that the pair was quickly killed off. They especially crowed over the manner of Tamara's death - either deliberately dismissing her remorse with sarcasm or ignoring it altogether. Their attitudes did not merely bothered me, it angered me beyond belief.
I am coming to believe that Tamara's death merely confirmed what many critics have been complaining about "ONCE UPON A TIME" - their shabby handling of characters portrayed by non-white characters. Tamara was a prime example. Between her and Greg, the latter was given a background story, a surname and a questionable "death". Nor did the fans and critics regard him with the same vitriolic hatred leveled at Tamara. Horowitz and Kitsis could have developed Tamara's character in Season Three by recasting a new actress for the role. They did not bother.
But Tamara was not the only example of the series' poor handling of non-white characters. I still cannot help but shake my head in disbelief over that fight scene between Snow White and Mulan in Season Two's (2.08) "Into the Deep" in which the less experienced princess quickly defeated the more experienced and non-white warrior. Mulan, who was portrayed as a young woman from a well-to-do Chinese family in the 1998 animated film, was portrayed as illiterate in another Season Two episode, (2.11) "The Outsider". Her illiteracy prevented her from being able to read Chinese characters. Yet, the very white Belle, was able to reach Chinese characters after reading a book. I just . . . I just could not believe this. Poor Lancelot, who was portrayed by African-American actor Sinqua Walls, was killed off in the Season Two episode, (2.03) "Lady of the Lake", his only appearance on the show. In fact, his character was already dead and being impersonated by Cora Mills aka Queen of Hearts. And Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, who was portrayed by an African-American actress, was killed by Rumpelstiltskin during the first three-to-five minutes of the Season One episode, (1.04) "The Price of Gold". Only Sidney Glass aka the Genie-in-the-Lamp and Regina, who are portrayed by Giancarlo Espocito and Lana Parrilla respectively, avoided such poor handling. Well . . . somewhat. Espocito could not reprise his role in Season Two, due to his obligations as a regular cast member of NBC's "REVOLUTION". However, he could have been replaced by another actor. It would take another essay to write about the handling of the Regina Mills character, especially in the last five to six episodes of Season Two. But I found it annoying that she was the only major character described as "the Villain" by ABC's promotion for Season Three, when there was a bigger villain worthy of the title - Mr. Gold aka Rumpelstiltskin.
I am amazed. I had started this article with the intent to complain about the series' handling of both Greg and Tamara in "The Heart of the Truest Believer". I am still upset over their fates and the piss poor reactions by the fans and critics. But I now realize that what pissed me even more was that the show's handling of Tamara merely confirmed my worst instincts about "ONCE UPON A TIME" and the creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis - their inability to write or maintain decent characterizations for those roles portrayed by minority actors and actresses. But I should not be surprised. Despite the Hollywood community's pretense at being liberals, in the end it is just as narrow-minded and conservative as the worst bigot or pop culture geek.