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Bond is really back in 'Spectre'
Just got back from a most delightful and satisfying afternoon--to a showing of the long-awaited, long-anticipated new James Bond film "Spectre." I was NOT disappointed; I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am a big James Bond films fan—I like them all, but Daniel Craig's Bond is my favorite. The photography in this one was spectacular and I appreciated the "homages" the film made to so many of the previous Bond movies—subtle, but there for the REALLY DEVOTED! And, of course, from the first opening chase/chaos scene to the rest of the film, I was "caught." It did seem to have more than the usual chase scenes, but I was okay with that. And, of course, there is the usual amount of die-hard violence, but in the Bond movies, we seem to accept it more. And, too, Mr. Bond is still the ever-so-sophisticated Renaissance man, who just happens to look like a zillion dollars! The plot? Puleeze. Bond films aren't generally known for their plots--but the excitement of getting the villain and meeting plenty of beautiful women. And seeing a lot of world geography. It's entertainment--it's NOT Tennessee Williams or David Mamet. And Sam Smith does an exceptional job with the title song. Just sit back and enjoy, analysis is for Dr. Freud.
To Sirs (McKellen and Jacobi) with Love!
It's deliciously vicious, this "Vicious" series from the Brits. And no one does "camp" like the Brits. Between Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi, we have "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe" meeting "Will and Grace," with the former coming out better, higher, funnier.
Sharp, very sharp, screenplay and the biting, scathing retorts to these who longtime partners is at once horrifying yet all this ends up in an "ab fab" understatement: they really are more than partners; they are friends. Kudos to them for chancing such roles and kudos to the writers for being so "spot on." (And what's NOT to like about Ash!)
Here's to a continuation of this series.
August: Osage County (2013)
Forget "August"--let's look to September!
Take out Meryl Streep (she can act anywhere or in anything) and perhaps Julia ROberts, and what do you have left: "Who's Afraid of Virginia WOlfe" with lots of potty mouth language (I wonder if Streep and Roberts actually eat with that same mouth!)meets daytime soap operas (which don't have this senseless, needless awful language (does anyone want to hear the "f" word about a brazillian times?)meets a bad-rerun of the Aeschylus tragedies and you get "August, Osage County." Give me a break. I kept wishing I could slit my wrists, yet HOPING that the movie would redeem itself. I am a big Streep fan (I think she's the greatest living actor)but I wonder: what was she THINKING when she accepted this role. Thanks but no thanks. On the plus side (redeeming side), the cinematography and editing were first rate. Still. I wasted the price of admission.
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
The book's (a little) better!
Sigh. Where's "My Cousin Vinny" when Marisa Tomei needs it? Now, THAT'S a decent movie. But "The Lincoln Lawyer"? Puleeze. I'm being generous with "four stars" here.
For Matthew McConaughey fans, such low ratings is heresy, but please. Why ruin a decent novel? If we have to put up with Matthew's fake southern drawl ONE MORE TIME, give us a break! The movie actually glosses over the author's use of the Lincoln (plays a larger role in the book) and the reader doesn't have to put up with Matthew who seems to know one role: Matthew McConaughey. So that prejudice aside, the movie depends upon the "brilliance" of Lawyer Haller's courtroom manner (as well as his law practice "practices") which, to perhaps the uninitiated, seems "brilliant' (may I recommend the Perry Mason shows for those who do? Or "My Cousin Vinny"?). On film, author Connolly's plot now seems less-than-original and this film uses about every stereotype in "courtroom drama" shows. Enough, Mr. McC. Just stick to posing shirtless for the supermarket mags. That seems to be what you're best at.
La cage aux folles II (1980)
A real "riot"!
When this film was released on VHS worldwide, the voices had been dubbed in English; since then, I've only found subtitled in English versions. That said, the dubbed version, for those of us not fluent in French, was absolutely excellent--hats off to the producers of such an entertaining film. We find our "heroes" all embroiled in all kinds of shenanigans, but mainly: they're in trouble with the Mob. Terrifically funny and clever, it backs off the social statement that La Cage I went to great pains to present. Cage II seems to have set social significance aside, for the most part, and then panders to the "funny bone" to get laughs, albeit good ones. Both I and II were (are) trailblazers in the gay movement around the world (well, perhaps not so much in Uganda, Nigeria, or Kenya or in some Mid-Eastern countries, alas). Cage III is something else.
Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost (2011)
Jesse goes Stone cold in this episode
While this is a welcomed continuation of a good (excellent) Tom Selleck series (I don't care for "Blue Bloods"), I was a bit disappointed in "Innocents Lost." For one, it clearly,clearly plays to Selleck's vanity as he lays (not so cleverly) the decided foundation for the next episode. While that is good, this one was too incomplete for my liking. Second, the pacing of "Innocents Lost" seemed to be out in the netherworld--slow at times, possibly to make sure that the full two hours time slot was completed yet not forgetting to set the stage for the next episode, when? In six months' time? A year? New viewers could easily have been baffled by the "inside" story, events and characters based upon previous episodes (which really isn't fair to new viewers, that is, if new viewers were wanted). Character development lagged (we've a new police chief and we know we don't like him and we know that he's bound to be "gone" in another episode, but, please, don't tease us to the extent that it did. And, Jesse, forget about your ex-wife. Pul-eeze. Enough whining. Move on. Please.
All this said, though, I didn't regret watching "Innocents Lost"--but was quite let down by its "incompleteness."
The Ruby in the Smoke (2006)
This "Ruby" is not really a gem!
"Ruby in the Smoke" really has lots of potential. It certainly has set the stage for future episodes. It's a Victorian suspense story (with excellent settings and scenery)based upon the original novel. PBS does its usual good job of making this one available. Alas, it has some serious shortcomings, especially for American audiences. Understanding the fast-paced "English" dialect was quite difficult, thus taking away from not only the plot and story line, but adding some confusion as well. Perhaps it's just fine for our friends in England, but the fact that I could not understand all the dialog was a disappointment. In addition. the characters just didn't come across as fully developed; Sally oftentimes was the weepy whiny Victorian woman and at other times, leaping into the 20th century with some of her "liberations." Greater interaction between the "good" characters would enhance the story (and hold viewers' interest more). Mrs. Holland comes across truly as the wicked woman she is and is perhaps the most convincing of the entire cast. Still, there are possibilities here and I, for one, am hoping to see this story developed into a more convincing series.
The Oxford Murders (2008)
More like "Oxford Blues"!
Intriguing? Fast paced? Exciting? Time-well-spent-while-watching? Pul-eeze. Dreadful is more like it. Usually the British know how to put on a show, especially set in Oxford. But "The Oxford Murders," mathematically speaking, is a problem unto itself. Young Elijah Wood should STICK with the hobbits and trolls of Tolkein (who DID spend real time in Oxford) for his wooden performance, snd with his terribly fakish American accent, it was too much. And WHAT was the great actor John Hurt doing in this film? Paying some bills? The only redeeming grace of this film (if I may call it that) is that it was set in Oxford.
A new turn on "the master"
"Sherlock" takes many liberties with Conan Doyle's original works--and characters. But what a refreshing "re-visit" with the king of all detectives (and detective mysteries). Now in the 21st century, Holmes and Watson continue as a formidable pair, but tasteful to the times. The clever, very clever, fast-paced dialog (and repartee between the two) accentuate Holmes' genius. Fortunately, the creators of this new series (one hopes it will continue beyond these first three episodes) don't depend upon a lot of computerized, glamorized gadgetry, relying mainly on Holmes' brilliant deductive methods (in keeping with the original, of course). This series probably will not appeal to the Doyle "purists," but for the progressive thinkers, this will do. For one, the relationship between the two principles is more poignant. Dr. Watson (who has enough of his own baggage to carry) isn't the sycophant that the Jeremy Brett's Watson was--he's much more his own man, but the devotion is clearly there. Two, the series doesn't rely upon strong language, gratuitous sex scenes, or stomach turning violence to carry it along, although they're all there, just not stated. The chemistry between the two is perhaps one of the strengths of the episode as well. And lastly I found the suspense created in this series is much greater--sometimes much more subtle--than previous Sherlock Holmes films. In this version, the stories are original, but they still possess that Doylian touch! Let's hope for more: let the chase begin!
Lewis: Life Born of Fire (2008)
This series is quite good!
Not Inspector Morse. But nearly. The "Inspector Lewis" series continues at a strong pace. The duo of Kevin Whateley and Laurence Fox as the two detectives of the Thames Valley Police in Oxford is a winning combination. Like the Morse series, the producers/directors of the films go for the cerebral, the literary, the intellectual communities (no poor folks here!), but all this adds a certain class to the art (or science) of murder. In this episode, the writers drew heavily from both religious and mythological sources. Set in/around/about Oxford University doesn't hurt either (although one begins to wonder if there is any one to be left alive in the city after this series finishes!).
In this episode, too, the "Is Hathaway Gay" question comes to the front and the issue is handled well (you have to see the episode to know the answer!). The relationship between the two policemen and within their police ensemble makes the series move along with continuity, excitement, and curiosity. We've only seen the first couple of seasons, but apparently there are plenty yet to be aired. It's a good series and it seems no one does a police procedural with the air and the class that the Brits do! Rule Britannia!
Lewis and Hathaway make a good team
The "Inspector Lewis" series is an excellent "spin off" of the Inspector Morse episode. Based upon the characters created by Colin Dexter, the producers of this series, taking up after the inimitable Morse died, literarily and literally, this is a welcomed "next step" in British police procedural filmed mysteries (no one does it better).
The Morse episodes were always filled with a certain amount of class, certainly of the intellectual variety, and the Lewis series keeps the same motif. In "And the Moonbeams Kissed the Sea," the mystery (murder) involves, once again, the Oxford University academics, this time concerning some long lost letters by the Romantic Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley ("and the other members of the band" as Hathaway quips). What better (more academic) setting could one ask for than Oxford U, with scenes from the Bodelian Library. The plot line is complicated, but not impossible, and viewers are quickly caught up in the story. Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox are excellent as the detectives from the Thames Valley Police in the entire series and cameo performances by some of the top British actors (who seem to vie for a role!)add to the excitement, the entertainment, and the overall excellence. The periodic quips (comic relief) are well paced and well done. "Lewis" continues to work hard to stay up with the Morse episodes and so far, they get an A for their work.
'Inglorious' it is...
Oh my. "A cult classic," I'm told. Oh my. Where does one begin? The acting? The directing? The screenplay? The cinematography? Basically, this looks like a film out of Film 101. Unconvincing, not funny (when it's supposed to be), unrealistic (when it's supposed to be), melodramatic (who WROTE these scenes?). It is easy to see Brad Pitt and gang (and Pitt probably belonged in this version anyway--sigh. What's with the bogus Hollywood accents of Southern folks!) But in this version, verisimilitude is out the window (does ANYBODY believe this is "France, about 50 miles from Switzerland? Pul-eeze. It's a Sergio Leone setting for a World War II "scene"! One could go on and on. Back to the "cult classic" label--always identified by the "literary" and "intellectual" crowd--like they do with the book "Finnegans Wake"! ONe can see where Bo Svenson's career didn't leap forward after this film and can anyone identify anyone else, save Ian Bannon, with another dreadful British "version" of American lingo. But I won't keep beating a dead horse. My time would have been better spent trying to read "Finnegan's Wake"!
Latest Christie "Murder" takes a leap
Interesting, this at least the third filmed version of Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express." Clearly,the director (and Suchet himself) sought to distance themselves from the two earlier versions--for after all, the original source was the same. In this version, great effort to make it more socially significant (a term Christie rarely considered)--beginning with the stoning of a woman for adultery in a Muslim country without benefit of "Western" justice by jury. This justice theme is carried out, in the extremes, of course, in the main course of the film: it is a question that confronts Poirot (as always, brilliantly played by David Suchet); a man is murdered on the post Istanbul Express. The perpetrators claim "just cause," and in the book and certainly in the earlier films, this "frontier justice" seems to be upheld. Here, though, a more philosophic Poirot wages a larger debate. When is taking the law into one's own hands justified. That said, this film departs from Christie's intent, clearly. In so doing,however, it makes the film more viable in terms of "meaningfulness." Suchet stars, as usual, and the cameos (so many characters in so little time!)are run of the mill. Still, worth watching. The Brits do a great job, on just about anything serious they film.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)
Tinker gives us a good view of the Cold War "scenes"
Watching "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" again after a number of years reminds me just how well done the film (and the John LeCarre book) was done. It has stood the test of time, for certain. It's the Cold War (over and over again) and British "family" is in its usual turmoil(the "Days of Cambridge" are never far behind, it seems with British espionage history)--a mole is suspected and the out-to-pasture (for past sins and indiscretions) George Smiley (Alec Guinness) is called in to uncover him (or her).
Amazingly, the film (the mini-series) seems to capture the pacing,the nuance, the landscape and atmosphere of that time and that place. The Cold War--which lasted, it seems, almost as long as our own Afghanistan War--and all its ramifications (fabricated or not) is on the line. This is a sophisticated spy story; Smiley is James Bond--not. LeCarre's books always deal with the cerebral, even when he's uncovering treason in the ranks. The subtle (even understated) dialog speaks volumes and the ensemble cast (Patrick Stewart gives us a mystifying Karla performance) make this mini-series a credit to the genre.
It's good to see the Cold War (in literature!) again. How we've missed you!
Tea with Mussolini (1999)
Zeffirelli's film shows his genius
That Franco Zeffirelli is a genius when it comes to directing films is a given. In "Tea with Mussolini," not only does he present his genius at directing, but he manages to use a score of what must have been a maven of egos with the assembled cast. Apparently he's good at this as well. This ensemble of actors would make ANY film worth seeing. Set in Italy (primarily in Florence), this "bio-pic" captures the eternal beauty of the country yet at the same time presents the macabre, the unacceptable, the dis-ingenuousness of the political system (Mussolini--what more needs to be said in terms of relegating him to "ogre" status, the little creep!).
It is 1935 when we meet "the ladies" (the Scorpioni, they're called, "because they bit," Lily Tomlin says. A group of ex-patriot English women (and two Americans) are living "la dolce vita" in la belle Italia and then the war comes along. Zeffirelli's portrayal of the times, the scene, the inter-dynamics make this a movie that is one not to miss.
A Mind to Murder (1995)
James and Dalgleish--a winning combination, always!
P.D. James' Dalgliesh novels are simply the best and those responsible for transposing these books to the screen do an outstanding job. As Dame James told me a couple of years ago in London, she is very proud of Roy Marsden's Dalgliesh and of the adaptation of her books into TV/movies.
"A Mind to Murder" captures (and reflects) the intensity of the plot's expectations. It's more than just "cerebral," it's captivating and mesmerizing, in the acting as well as the representation of the book. I've read all the James books and seen all the cinematic versions. All are well done and not disappointing, especially so with Marsden as Adam.
A Certain Justice (1998)
Dalgleish exceeds himself!
"A Certain Justice" was a long-awaited novel release by Dame P.D. James and it was worth the wait. Even more worthwhile was the wait for the movie/TV release.
Roy Marsden's Adam Dalgliesh is simply superb: cerebral yet human, captivating, mesmerizing, never a dull moment. James is considered the "queen of the modern mystery novel" and who can argue? In this episode, the irony of the title is not missed, as the film touches on more themes than just murder. A judge is found dead, murdered, with a number of bizarre clues and incidents that relate to the case and it takes Dalgleish (and his team) a while to piece together the puzzle. But viewers need not worry. Every scene is worth watching and never slows down, as it approaches an incredibly suspenseful climax. An A-plus for sure.
Supernova is light years ahead of other situation comedies!
"Supernova" is a refreshing series, filled with excellent (and intelligent) witty lines. I never knew "astronomy" could be so enlightening! The cast is quite well suited for the situations and their relationships with each other is at times intriguing and at other times amazing--all in all, an excellent series, but, alas, it didn't seem to catch on enough for it to continue. Perhaps there is something especially intriguing about Australia. Certainly, the show not only shows a few "Aussie stereotypes" but the witty satire takes care of all this. At the same time, it doesn't revert to dialogue that only Australians can understand. This is almost a "Monty Python" meets "2001: A Space Odyssey" with Max substituting for Hal. The innuendos also score a hit!
PBS does a credit by showing it (and re-showing!).