Reviews written by registered user
|205 reviews in total|
As a back story to the American Civil War, much has been told about
events in New York City during the 1860's. The city was booming
economically, and immigration, particularly but not exclusively from
Ireland, was changing its character in ways not always to the benefit
of its old Dutch and Yankee establishment. Anti-war riots and corrupt
politics reflected that change, and this relatively new TV series
attempts to make use of these elements in promoting a story line that
lies somewhere between fact and fiction.
Dramatic exaggeration is normal in a play based on historical material. The greater the mundane is made lively, the greater the audience participates in reliving the past. Even Shakespeare stretched the truth and shaped events to his narrative. But this is not Shakespeare, and Copper has at this point in its second season provided almost nothing by way of believable character delineation. It is populated principally by a gaggle of misfits, stereotypes, and sociopaths.
As to plot, there is precious little. It meanders from one scene of human depravity to another, sparing no inch of bared flesh and no act of vicious physical abuse. One mutes the sound at times so as not to hear its vulgar dialogue, following the depictions fully enough in silence.
Why then do I rate it higher than average? Because it is so indefatigably true to the setting, and its technique is well-crafted. Few period pieces capture a place and time so well. Its darkness is physically compelling, though insufficient to overcome the weakness of its narrative.
Contrary to Copper, it is true that the spring of 1865 on the East Coast was brilliant, marking the end of the war and slavery and a return to summer. Veterans were returning home and business was brisk. Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mark Twain and Oliver Wendell Holmes were about to define a new era in American culture.
A great and talented cast is largely thrown away on a script that
starts and stops relentlessly. As one who has lived through all the
historical periods portrayed, I was regrettably bored by large segments
of the narrative, which seemed didactic in the extreme. That is not to
diminish its important social and cultural significance to a younger
audience, only that I personally found all the Presidents as played
much smaller than in life than I remember them. Robin Williams as
Eisenhower and Alan Rickman as Reagan seemed oddly miscast, though John
Cusack as Nixon caught the essence of the man nicely. The parts showing
home life among the main characters was a highlight, however.
In short, a good but not great film, perhaps better with fewer intrusive star-studded cameos and less overt moralizing.
No period piece or series is without flaws. Principally, there must be
a big name cast (historical big names, never mind the actors) given
certain standard things to say and certain ways to say them. All this
verges on cliché. The best part of this series is its ability to
surprise from time to time with lovely sets and very nice photographic
angles. I made use of my cable provider's library to watch the entire
first three seasons in relatively quick sequence, which provided a
greater sense of continuity than having to depend on weekly teasers.
A comparison with the more fanciful Da Vinci's Demons on the Starz network resolves many complaints one might have about historical verisimilitude. That series turns the same places, characters, and period ( c. 1500) on its head in a kind of cartoonishly pornographic way that The Borgias only hints at. I recommend watching the two in close company with each other.
Jeffrey Irons is a pro. I find no fault with his Pope Alexander. Indeed, I viewed the series in the same week as the installation of Pope Francis and was blown away by how little the papacy has changed in outward appearance in the last 500 years. One can only imagine!
Of the Borgia offspring as presented, Juan overacts horribly, Cesare walks as if the stitching around the crotch of his trousers impairs his mobility, and Lucrezia is far too demure in the role. Micheletto is however spot on as a complex assassin with a tragic flaw.
The sole redeeming quality of the series thus far is that it avoids
straying too far from Washington, D.C. Otherwise -- to steal a conceit
borrowed from Happy Days -- it clearly jumped the shark a long time
ago. To borrow still another aspect of televised dramas, I would say
its nearest comparable series is one not usually associated with spy
stories and the like. As I was watching it develop, so slowly that it
was possible to skip some of the episodes and go three or four more
without losing the thread, I was reminded less of the Bourne Supremacy
or Manchurian Candidate and more of the soap opera Days of Our Lives.
The main characters fail to remain 'in character' as it were but mutate
in and out of each others' lives depending on a story line that
meanders from one crisis to another.
There are some solid acting skills at work here from time to time, minus antic facial expressions of Claire Danes, so annoying one feels compelled to throw a shoe at the screen were it not for the fact she changes them so rapidly it would likely be misplaced.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have not worn 3D glasses since watching Bwana Devil in the early
50's. It was a surprise to discover that the process has been improved
upon. The clumsy paper frame with two plastic lenses, one red and one
green as I recall, have given way to what might pass for ordinary
sunglasses, and the screen effect is quite satisfying.
I also liked the superb animation in this film. I have no idea at all how it was achieved, having not yet bothered to read other people's reviews. Not only are the various animals made to act in a certain manner consistent with the story line, the visual images seem uncannily true to life.
That said, I found the conclusion of the narrative ever so slightly sententious and disingenuous, suggesting two possible interpretations the viewer might entertain. What had been up to that point an exciting and colorful tour de force became instantly pallid. For what it's worth, I chose the allegorical version.
As a frequent traveler on cruise ships that offer on-board cinemas, I can confidently say this film will never be shown there. My physical response to the maritime scenes even knowing I was actually surrounded by desert bordered on nausea.
At a noon screening I sat in a full house of mainly seniors but also
some young folks who appreciated the mood and gravity of the narrative
as it reflected our own time as it did that of the debate and passing
of the 13th Amendment. To my pleasant surprise, the crowd laughed at
the right times and remained silent at the right times. Complicated
history laid bare as stark reality rarely elicits such insight from a
mixed audience. I attributed their discernment, perhaps too generously,
to the fact we have good schools and great teachers in our community. A
snobbish but natural reaction.
Daniel Day Lewis will almost surely receive an Oscar nomination for his thoughtful performance of Lincoln. Indeed all the main characters may be nominated in one form or another, as will the director and the production staff. This is not merely a good film but a great one.
If I have one reservation, it is that the opening scene in which a group of soldiers ponderously recite parts of the Gettysburg Address seemed curiously staged, rather like having schoolboys stand at a PTA meeting to take turns mouthing patriotic slogans. A jarring departure, and too reminiscent of modern political correctness from an otherwise compelling drama.
I hope the outtakes will someday be available. I could have watched another hour or so without complaint.
If you like gratuitous but funny one-liners intermixed with blood and
gore, this is a film for you. As a captive of cult-film enthusiasts one
evening after dinner last week, I was forced to watch it through to the
end. All I liked about it was the backdrop of downtown L.A., a small
dog, and the vintage cars employed here and there. The best I can say
about the concept is that it reminded me of what a much better written
parody of a Quentin Tarantino production might convey,albeit with a
Farrell, Walken, and Harrelson have all appeared in films that did not rely on their stock personae as much as here, propped up in this turkey. I smiled rather than laughed at the jokes.
I may have missed some of the psychopaths. I counted only one and a half.
A kind of mix between mini-series and standard detective fare. The
unique aspect is that the very British cast lives in Rome and the
detective bit is more Columbo than Sherlock Holmes. It succeeds mainly
because of technical filming excellence, acting, and direction rather
than any clear sense of originality.
The comparison to early James Bond in looks and feel is likely deliberate. Everything from the credits to music to those creepily retro narrow ties and tight pants fairly shouts 1963. The only nod to 2011 is how cell phones seem to control major parts of the plot. Everything else could just as well be transposed from similar films from fifty years ago, namely the storyline and romantic subplot. To be fair, it is difficult in this kind of fiction to avoid cliché, but I keep hoping that something new will turn up rather than the usual car chase scenes.
Still, the scenery is beautiful and the ambiance captivating. I hope it portends more episodes in the future.
I have not read the story on which the series is based. To the extent
that the filmed version aims to represent historical fact in linking
fictional characters to real ones, it is successful. Whether the
linkage is correct or appropriate is another matter. Some of the filmed
elements ring true, while others seem disjointed -- almost as if the
scriptwriter intends to play with the viewer's mind. Non-linear
storytelling is often like that, aiming for contrivance rather than
Taken strictly as theater on film, it is a highly entertaining piece of work. The camera pursues the protagonist (as played by three different actors) with a compassionate yet critical eye, inviting the viewer to pass judgment on his character by selectively picking out key episodes irrespective of logical development leading to foregone conclusion. This can be a sometimes gut-wrenching experience, not suited to lazy acceptance of questionable motivation on the part of a flawed hero.
To put it simply, if there is any moral to the story it pales by comparison to a theme of accidental and ineluctable passages in the life of a minor player on the stage of history, enhanced by backdrops of larger-than-life public figures and horrific events from the twentieth century.
Watch it for great acting and superb cinematic design rather than mere pleasure.
Not intending to be flippant, but this elegantly filmed yet shamelessly
copycat series is something of a pleasant yawner when compared to its
obvious predecessors. My spell checker keeps prodding me that it should
be "downtown" instead of Downton -- an ironic comment, perhaps. I
should say that I did enjoy watching it, and will continue to do so.
But really...how much can one take of duplication?
Here's one for the film buff: Maggie Smith as an almost word-for-word reincarnation of Dame May Witty (should be spelled with an "h" but the edit machine will not take it). Got it? If so, you qualify for expert! Hint: The reference is not to Upstairs Downstairs but a much earlier film. Think gardening.
I wonder where the Titanic will be sighted next. As we approach the centenary year, there will surely be other dramatic renderings. It was after all the end of one era and the beginning of another far less discriminating, less clearly reminiscent of social division as a mode of theatrical expression. Matters of race and gender are now in the forefront, as traces of political correctness intruding upon this screenplay attest.
Update 29 Dec 2011: No one has as yet identified the source of Maggie Smith's character as I mentioned above. Most disappointing! It is of course Dame May W-H-ITTY in the film Mrs. Miniver. Almost identical dialogue and plot. Shame on the author for not giving proper credit!
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