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Treasure Island (2012)
Just don't expect the classic adventure
First, I have to say good on Eddie Izzard for not trying to copy John Newton's Silver. On the other hand, it would have been staggeringly foolish to try that *again* in this day and age. No, Izzard delivers a new interpretation of Silver and does rather a good job of it.
In many trivial ways, this production is more faithful to Stevenson's classic than the as of yet undefeated champion of dramatic productions: the Disney 1950 film. (More running time, I guess) In some important ways it's even more faithful, and even adds a few interesting ingredients. We get to meet Capt. Flint (both of them). We also get the meet the "woman of colour" that Stevenson had married to Silver--something Disney didn't acknowledge. Oh, and speaking of the race card, it was played with the likes of Billy Bones and Mr. Arrow (black as a bucc'neer's colours in bilge water, they is!) I guess it does add an important bit of realism, now present in a lot of recent 18c nautically-themed productions.
But in some serious ways it diverges from the the book. I can't say whether or not it was a mistake to make Trelawney a partial crook and "Bible-reading hypocrite". (It was definitely a mistake to have a gentleman using "who" in the objective) It certainly was important to the ending. Oh yeah, that ENDING!!
The ending loses it 2 stars easily (though as a TI purist, it was a challenge not taking off 4). It's perfectly understandable that they not use the book's ending, Disney didn't even do that, but this unique ending takes the whole story off course and changes the genre from pure adventure to something of a morality tale. In making a miniseries, there was the opportunity to rehabilitate the Treasure Island myth, as was done in 2000 with Frank Herbert's Dune. Unfortunately, what we have is probably the least Stevensian Treasure Island production to date. Sorry.
"It's not your fault you're white"
The above is a misquote from the lovable, bigoted patriarch of All In The Family. No points for guessing which word I changed, and what it was before. But what was funny in the 1970s is now a cliché Hollywood attempt at catering to white guilt.
This movie pretty well follows the same formula that Quigley Down Under and, more recently, Avatar follow: the Dances With Wolves formula. The story is about a child-Viking who lands in North America and gets separated from his people. Raised by Indians, he eventually leads them against his own sinister race, when it returns to bring oppression and genocide. His new nation, while noble and virtuous, is ultimately helpless and backwards, (that's right--it's not entirely about political correctness) and would be facing a route and certain extinction were it not for this great white hope.
Now, I'll tell you what would be novel: a movie based on the hypothesis that the indigenous Vikings of Greenland where exterminated by the ancestors of the Inuit. I'd love to see that! (In the same way I'd love to see the Toronto Maple Leafs win a cup: not gonna happen.) What I'd not like to see are the riots that would follow.
Beyond Sherwood Forest (2009)
Terrible acting/dialogue, excellent plot basis, mediocre movie
I don't have any new Simon Cowell to add, so I'll only go into depth about what was good about this film: not a whole heck of a lot, but it was batting 1.000 when the guy came up with the idea. (I'm really interested in this genre since Origin Systems stopped producing Ultima) That idea was that a young woman who comes from another world (a murky one at that!) is somehow cursed for breaking a law and spends part of her day as a winged monster. A cynical government-actor captures her to use her as a weapon. This story is woven into a Robin Hood one. (How that last part works, I don't know, but I guess someone else does.) Unfortunately, the movie kept putting me to sleep (figuratively) so I missed some of the finer points of the plot.
The acting and English accents have a serious credibility problem, the dialogue isn't exactly chancy, and sometimes the seams show on the CGI. I don't think the plot was executed in a very good way either. There was a romantic dimension, but that looked like they remembered to throw it in at the last minute.
There are a couple of things that I can respect a movie like this for: one is that it didn't have a lot of silly modern slang (the worst was a single "a little help"). Also, while Katharine Isabelle does show a lot of skin, there is no bona fide nudity (possibly because Isabelle refuses to do any). A movie like this should be going for such cheap thrills, but it doesn't. Good for it!
I wish it was Steven Spielberg who'd gotten ahold of this idea. I think it would have made a fine story, but instead what we have is typical Canadian B.
Insightful and frugal
I probably doubled my knowledge of Iran when I saw Secret Ballot (2001). Now I know about four times as much (I doubt I learned a whole heck of a lot from Not Without My Daughter (1991)).
Offside is a splendid budget Iranian comedy about a group a girls (working individually) to attend a decisive soccer match for their country's place in the World Cup. Women are not allowed to attend soccer matches, so the nation's armed forces have been mobilized to save any women who try to enter from themselves. Some (teen?) girls try to crash the party by dressing as boys, but are caught. The movie is mostly set at this holding pen where the girls are detained by soldiers, awaiting some unspecified punishment (although, the girl who dressed as a soldier claims that she was one insignia away from being executed!)
The movie explores the absurdity of the situation. The thinking that bars women from football matches comes down to it being too raunchy an experience for the fairer sexa philosophy not unknown in the west less than 100 years ago. This farce comes to a head when a girl needs to go to the bathroom, so a soldier escorting her demands that she cover her eyes so she can't see the graffiti. The conflict is not entirely about the battle of the sexes: at one point some friction arises between a solider who is rural and the girls who are urban.
Fortunately, this movie was not too culturally esoteric that the comedy was lost on this neighbour and cultural cousin of the Great Satan. You have to be in the mood for it, but no one should avoid this movie because they think that they won't get it.
Chasing Sleep (2000)
2 hours I could have dedicated to curing herpetologic claustrophobia
Just one meaningless, inscrutable scene after another. I was quite confident that it would all come together in the end, which is why I was looking forward to its conclusion. There are several ways to interpret everything that was seen (almost none of which may have actually happened) but I wasn't able to come up with anything harmonious. So my consternation spiked when all I saw was a dark hole, and the credits rolled.
The main character has a lot of episodes which are clearly delusions, but then there are many rational-looking scenes some of which are contradicted by other rational-looking scenes.
Anyone who likes this movie cannot care one toss about the plot, since in the end, the only thing we can be sure of is that Jeff Daniels thinks therefore he is.
Event Horizon (1997)
Frustrated the inferus out of me
It started off with a great storyline (reminds me of Aliens: a great cinematic work) but loses much of its credibility by the end, and I didn't find the scraps of information about the nature of this evil phenomenon suspenseful--I found it frustrating. There were several scenes showing shots of less than a second of what this world is supposed to be like, and there are some recordings of what was going on with the first crew of the Event Horizon; that's all. I read that 20 minutes had to be cut to reduce the rating from R. Maybe that's part of the problem.
Who was that Latin-talking freak? And what are we supposed to assume seduced Weir to the dark side of the force? His love of the science? And why did he show concern for that dead crew member while he was turning into... you see my frustration.
Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973)
The movie opens with a series of affidavits attesting to its authenticity, as if it already expects its accuracy to come under suspicion. At least, that's what I thought when I saw various scenes and conversations that appeared to be badly interpolated from known or widely accepted historical facts.
The basic problem is the fallacy that you can't go wrong in saying bad things about a bad guy. Unfortunately, this oversimplified formula is applied here and takes the subjective high ground. This is most obvious, in the 21st century, where Hitler's anti-smoking policy is hyped. An analysis of this from a 1973-based perspective shows an arrogant, self-indulgent dictator imposing his own killjoy whims on those imprisoned in his presence. On the other hand, what we see now is a top-level politician banning smoking in a very small portion of all government offices. No one is to blame for playing on dated values, however this does highlight the subjectivity and specious moral judgments being made.
In fact, there is also a good deal of realism. Real historical events are referenced and Hitler's real attitudes towards certain individuals and groups are also demonstrated. But they are tacked on to the unconvincing drama.
However, if you did like this movie, you probably won't like The Bunker (1981) with Anthony Hopkins. It's much more even in it's portrayal of history's easiest portrayable villain, if you don't mind Goebbels sounding like he's from... what, New York?
Counter Measures (1998)
I don't know if there's an aphorism to put to this type of movie, but there should be, because this flick reminds me a lot of Steel Sharks. And the similarities are unexpected. Both movies are set on subs, both movies involve terrorists (of a sort), both movies are very cheaply done, and critically unrealistic. What've those links got to do with each other?
You've got underwater listening devices that can identify screws among wreckage, an American submarine commander who has way less battle-sense than his Russian counterpart, and bad guys with ridiculously unrealistic, paranoid objectives. Anyone in any military service anywhere in the world could probably expand vastly on that list. They'd probably start with: instruments that do not register with military accuracy, but icons and labels that are marketed to American civilians.
1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)
Only if you hate history
Yes, too long, too boring, too much license on the culture, and the characters aren't very believable. Also very surprising how it can be so outrageously kind to Columbus since this film was produced at a time when politically correct forces were raking the guy into infamy. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the music was beautiful. Maybe too much so. A inconspicuously second-rate score might have been more appropriate.
The Outer Limits (1995)
It's so bad it's good
I haven't seen so much cheese since I went to a pizza-eating contest hosted by John Candy. This show tries it's best to be profound (the narration at the beginning and the end shows no dignity) and introduce unique concepts, while the acting and dialogue are often pretty silly and the surprise ending of each episode has only 1 degree of separation from predictability. To it's credit: you gotta love it! The stories make the show seem like it is written by real sci-fi writers, rather than unimaginative, cost-effective screenwriters, (but I don't actually know) and, personally, I somehow can't manage to be irritated by its wannabe approach to sci-fi. I can't say the same for other shows by Atlantis--PSI Factor, for one.