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2/10
Papist Drivel . . . Well, Almost
25 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Imagine John Lennon's "Imagine" as an Easter hymn and you may have some sense of the gratuitous moralizing balderdash that goes on in this adaptation. Poirot condones the stoning of an adulterous woman, and yet follows the barbarous crowd to watch the unfolding of an action not only foregone but also approved; that makes him little better than a torture-porn voyeur. He proceeds to snarl and growl at the entire cast, make snap judgments, and be insufferably disgruntled; while manifesting the soul-searching profundity of a middle school Hamlet who converted to Catholicism over lunch. Yes, it makes sense that a Belgian of his age and time would be Catholic, but do we need to have his religiosity shoved down our throats in an Agatha Christie mystery; when the queen herself only threw it in casually and never foregrounded it in this tasteless ham-handed homiletic manner. The earlier seasons were elegant non-sectarian fare, light and breezy and deliciously materialistic; but with this, and the even more execrable "Appointment with Death," suddenly I feel like the old Jewish man in the beer garden listening to a blond Adonis with a swastika armband singing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me." The snow was not the only thing piled deep around the Calais coach.
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Happy Town (2010)
3/10
Bad Promises
14 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
What a load of crap this show is turning into after such a promising beginning. Still, at only eight projected episodes for the season, it may deserve a chance.

The comparison to TWIN PEAKS surfaced early and it was marginally justified. Now we have writers who seem to be playing off a masterpiece to shore up their sloppy artistry. Why should we continue to care about a Sheriff who would protect someone who drives a spike through a man's head; who removes his badge to beat people up, and yet who imprisons a high-school boy for acting out of outrage--granted, criminally--to protect his girlfriend from a drunken abusive father. Are we still comparing this to TWIN PEAKS. Neither Cooper nor Truman would ever behave in this way, and, via Truman's love for Josie Packard, that show did address the issue of the conflict between the professional and the personal.

Sheriff Conroy--(the one with two hands, as if this entitles him to moral ambidexterity-- sinister, to the say the least)--is too despicable to be the center of meaning in this town. That role has passed, in my opinion, to Andrew Haplin. Tommy Conroy is a vacuous thug, and if we want to push the realism of this, why not extend that charity to excuse the appearance of a mysterious bird. Because TWIN PEAKS had an owl, you see. A clutch of closet Satanists have conjured the Magic Man, and he demands sacrifices. I could be wrong. Either way, for me, on an expressway of self-vindication or through a culvert of chagrin, I suspect the plot will lead to a dumpster.
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Wuthering Heights (2003 TV Movie)
A Commendable But Ultimately Disappointing Effort
1 February 2004
Remember that this movie is not a version of the classic novel-as with numerous other movie versions in the past-but an update, a free-wheeling variation on Brontë's somber theme.

There are strokes of genius interspersed with much banality. One of the former is to take the brooding socio-ethnic outcast of the novel-a gypsy foundling there-and rethink him as a petulant blond rockstar, a drifter from childhood whose only home is music. Mike Vogel alternately smolders and dazzles in the part, but the writing is ultimately too weak to sustain his efforts, which are commendable, and give us a character who is by turns passional, poignant, and heroic.

Erika Christensen is less compelling as the update of the tempestuous and incomparable Catherine. And this is partly due to the fact that, once again, the writing fails to elevate her character to a level of true complexity. When she delivers what must be one of the most famous lines in all English Literature-"I am Heath(cliff)"-we reach, emotionally, for a pinnacle that lies far below our literary flightplan. When I reminded myself that these characters were (and were meant to be) kids, and that they couldn't play out the grand adult passions of their counterparts in Brontë in a viable way, I connected better with the work.

The film's greatest strengths, aside from those observed, are what may at first appear to be its weaknesses, its earnestness, its flickers of post-modern flippancy, its fast-cut MTV style. The music is quite good, and there should've been much more of it. The symbolism of linking the electric guitar with the feral and blue-collar Heath and the cello with the effete and white-collar Edward is another masterful stroke and one has to wonder why this pairing of two seductive and powerful instruments was not used to better and more sustained effect in the score. The one scene in which the instruments duel illuminate the action and its psychological subtext with exhilarating but, regrettably, only meteoric effect. With that lovely musical moment and a few others of true emotional thrust, the film flashes its occasional strengths a us, like the lighthouse which houses its protagonists, but as at whole it cannot keep our hopes for what it could have been from the rocks beneath.
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