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The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Good film but not as good as the stage production
I saw "Phantom of the Opera" the Weds before Christmas for a matinée so I was expecting the theater to be uncrowded but I was surprised to see SO few people there for the opening day. I enjoyed this version of the Phantom very much (and I AM NOT a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Weber as I think most of his musicals sound alike).
However, some aspects were disappointing and/or confusing for me. 1) I agree with an earlier comment about the Phantom's make up. The masks keep changing shape and, in theory at least, his disfigurement should have appeared under a couple of the designs (since the forehead and chin was showing).
2) The explanation given for the Phantom's "bad mood" was so unbelievable! It did not appear in the stage version and was a departure from the explanation given in the original book. I guess someone figured that giving this character childhood trauma would make his actions more palatable for a contemporary film audience. 3) The continuous switching from the era of the auction shown in the beginning to the past drama. I was given just way too much information about Christine's fate.
The acting was good across the board. Gerard Butler was a very romantic and dashing Phantom (I always liked the Phantom character more than that milk sop Raoul). I think that for a big screen adaptation, Michael Crawford might have been inappropriate. Emmy Rossum was a pleasant surprise. She was age appropriate for the character and her singing was impeccable. Minnie Driver was just plain fun. She gave Carlotta a kick in the pants. All in all, I liked this film...I simply wish that Schumacher would have left out some of his embellishments.
Stage Beauty (2004)
"Stage Beauty" was visually stunning, lush AND fun for an adult. As a viewer I loved this film. I evidently do not have the theater knowledge of some of the other reviewers but as a film goer with not a few years of experience going to the movies, this was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had. Billy Crudup has turned in another textured, finely drawn performance, Rupert Everett (as usual) was marvelous and Claire Danes can finally leave behind the moniker of "from 'My So Called Life' ". Some of the supporting characters (with the notable exceptions of the terrific Tom Wilkinson and Ben Chaplin) were kind of thin but that is a minor complaint. I also have some friends who quibble with the depiction of Crudup's sexuality towards the end of the film (why can't a gay man BE gay). However, I adored this film.
Dear Frankie (2004)
How naive to think that all movies do not "manipulate"
I thought "Dear Frankie" was a delightful film. It was supposed to be a tear jerker! I felt the acting was true (especially the work done by the child who played Frankie) and that the story, while fanciful in some portions, was good. In my opinion, the story was about the lengths a parent will go to in protecting their child from the ugliness of the world. Why must films always emulate reality? What is wrong with telling just a sweet, gentle story? Emily Mortimer was great, portraying a woman who had to be strong, yet who was also vulnerable, who was barely holding life together for her son and mother. Jack McElhone was terrific as her son. He was neither a cloyingly innocent deaf "victim" or the smart butt kid typically portrayed in current films. Gerard Butler did a good job of conveying "the man behind the disguise" as his interaction with Frankie progressed. I saw this film at the LA Film Festival, and judging by the audience reaction, I was not the only viewer who was enchanted by this movie. Those of you looking for a gritty slice of life would be wise to avoid "Dear Frankie". But if you want to spend some time in a world were parents DO care and good things do happen to those who are deserving, then this is the film for you.
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
I liked this movie and so did most of the rest of the audience!!
I just saw this film and I really enjoyed it. Sure, it is not the same a "Pitch Black" which I think was also a good film in its own right. "Chronicles of Riddick" is a big budget summer blockbuster film and on that level it succeeds. Sure it is silly in parts but we are not discussing a project based upon a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It is action packed science fiction. I think Riddick DID stay true to the character he played in "Pitch Black". While the Riddick in that film was a brutal, self-centered opportunist, I think we see by the end of that film that he had good characteristics as well. The Riddick in this film is still brutal, self-centered and opportunistic (see the full size statue of Riddick shown during the end credits) but we see more of the decent aspects of his character as well. The action scenes in this film were great! I especially enjoyed the "topside" chase scene on Cremetoria. And Thandie Newton was a really good "baddie"!
The thing that pleased me the most was that there were people of color in central key roles who were not stereotypes. The main hero was not the buff blue-eyed white man out to save humanity that we have been feed by Hollywood. And the female characters seemed to have more sense at times than the male characters. Thandie Newton's character had a much better grasp of court politics than her husband and Dame Judith's character wasn't just the stereotypical "wise mystical being", she was politically savvy as well.
The only problem I had with the film was the lack of development for Linus Roche's character. I just did not believe his actions toward the end of the film. But, that is trivial.
All in all, it was a good way to spend about an hour forty five on a Saturday evening!