Monthly Archive for March, 2010

Proof

Proof (3/31/10) TV-IFC (2005 ****) Directed by John Madden, screenplay by David Auburn and Rebecca Miller, based on Auburn’s play, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hope Davis. The daughter of a recently deceased mathematical genius struggles with the gifts and mental instability she inherited from her father. On a whim several years ago, my wife and I went a Mendocino stage production of Auburn’s play and I thoroughly enjoyed it, probably because it contains so many story and character elements that speak to me personally. I also very much enjoyed this film version, and I think it fits safely into the category of films I wish I’d made, along with Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous and Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude.

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Clash of the Titans (1981) (3/30/10) TV-TCM (1981 **1/2) Directed by Desmond Davis, screenplay by Beverley Cross, starring Harry Hamlin, Laurence Olivier, Burgess Meredith and Maggie Smith. Perseus, bastard son of Zeus, must defeat Calibos, Medusa and the Kraken in order to save the city of Joppa and marry the beautiful princess Andromeda. In other words, just another day at the office. I had medium-fond memories of this film, which played constantly in the early days of cable, usually sandwiched between Stripes and Private Benjamin. Watching it now, I wonder how, for the poorly-reviewed remake, they’ve modified the story from the original to make it palatable to modern audiences. So much of it simply wouldn’t fly. Even the “Release the Kraken” line (which my wife and I both remembered being spoken by Burgess Meredith) seemed laughable. Then again, maybe it’s high time the stories of Greek mythology were presented in film form again. The main thing I learned about the Greek Gods from this film is that they were a pretty petty bunch. As an added bonus, here’s my advice for all you would-be heroes and heroines out there: If you’re going to talk trash about one of the Gods or Goddesses, don’t do it in their temple, for Christ’s sake!

Brigadoon

Brigadoon (3/29/10) TV-TCM (1954 **1/2) Directed by Vincente Minnelli, screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner (based the Lerner and Loewe musical), starring Gene Kelly, Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse. A Scottish village appears one day every 100 years, coincidentally on the same day Gene Kelly and Van Johnson are in the vicinity. I watched this film when I was in my early 20’s, and then sometime in my 30’s I saw a dinner theater production in Chicago. And now in my 40’s I’ve watched it once again.You know what? I don’t think I need to see it again in my 50’s. For some reason this film has never resonated with me, and I’m not entirely sure why. Knowing myself, I would think the idea of a modern man discovering Utopia and love in the hills of Scotland would appeal to me, but I found too much of it… boring.

Irredeemable, Vol. 2

Irredeemable, Vol. 2 (3/26/10) Graphic Novel (2010 **1/2) Written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Peter Krause. Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a… oh my dear God, no!!!! The story of the world’s mightiest psychopath continues. When I read the first volume, the premise of a mass-murdering Superman reminded me (in a good way) of one of the early issues of Miracleman, when the character based on Captain Marvel Junior went on a killing spree. Unfortunately, in the second volume, the storyline seems to have turned away from that shock and horror and toward backstory and the scrambling efforts of Earth’s remaining heroes. As such, the series has lost much of its initial steam.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear the Hunters

The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear the Hunters (3/26/10) Graphic Novel (2010 ***) Written by Robert Kirkman, illustrated by Charlie Adlard. Yet again we learn that, in the zombie apocalypse, the undead aren’t the only things that will get ya. This volume was probably the least dramatic of the series so far, and I was a bit disappointed. That is not to say there weren’t a few twists and revelations, but they seemed tame compared to similar story elements in the past. Given Kirkman’s established dramatic pattern, that means (hopefully) that Volume 12 is gonna be a doozy!

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (3/23/10) Netflix (2009 ***) Directed by Chris Weitz, screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, starring Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson. Poor Bella turns 18 and must choose between Team Edward and Team Jacob. As a 45-year-old man, I’m pretty sure I’m not the demographic for this series, but it was fun to experience my wife’s enthusiasm vicariously, I suppose. It also probably says a lot that my frame of reference for the Twilight films remains Dark Shadows meets Smallville.

Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever (3/23/10) TV-TCM (1977 ***) Directed by John Badham, starring John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller and Donna Pescow. 19-year-old hardware store employee Tony Manero attempts to change his world through the medium of disco dancing. It’s interesting that sometimes the films that have the greatest cultural impact are not necessarily great films. There’s no denying that Saturday Night Fever, along with its Bee Gees soundtrack, plugged directly into the brain stems of the inhabitants of 1977. I was 13 at the time, too young to really be a part of it, but I still felt it. This film definitely worked best as wish-fulfillment, offering up a world where the responsibilities of Joe or Jane Average can be lost for a few hours… in the world of the disco dance floor.

Follow the Fleet

Follow the Fleet (3/22/10) TV-TCM (1936 ***) Directed by Mark Sandrich, starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard, and featuring two very young future-stars: Betty Grable and Lucille Ball. “There may be trouble ahead” for two salty sailors and the landlubbin’ ladies who love them. I’d never seen this film before, and the story didn’t hold much… er, water. However, it featured one of my favorite Astaire/Rogers dance numbers, a number prominently featured in the 1981 Steve Martin film Pennies From Heaven: “Face the Music and Dance.” One new observation about that number: I wonder if the filmmakers deliberately planned that the women in the audience would be enthralled (and distracted) by the motion of Ginger Rogers’ gown (which spun around her legs every time she paused), while their husbands enjoyed the fact that every time she stepped in front of a back-lit part of the set they got an eyeful of Ginger Roger’s shapely legs? If so, Bravo!

How to Train Your Dragon (3D)

How to Train Your Dragon (3D) (3/21/10) Gibson Theater, Universal City (2010 ****) Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, based on the book by Cressida Cowell, featuring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson and America Ferrera. A Viking boy faces incredible danger and discovers that sometimes longstanding wars (and hatreds) should be re-thought. As was the case of Kung Fu Panda, I once again find myself a bit envious of my Dreamworks co-workers who worked on this film. It’s possibly the best animated film my company has ever created. DeBois and Sanders were also responsible for the 2002 film Lilo & Stitch, one of the strongest Disney films in recent memory. Fans of the book series, be warned: The story in How to Train Your Dragon bears little resemblance to the source material, but hopefully Ms. Cowell understands. As for me, I can’t wait to see it again!

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (3/20/10) TV-FMC (1975 ***1/2) Directed by Jim Sharman, written by Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien, starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick and Richard O’Brien. One dark and stormy night, an asshole and a slut show up at Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle and ask to make a phone call. I have fond college memories of going to midnight showings of Rocky Horror, and if someone twisted my arm, I could probably be convinced to do the “Time Warp” again. I bought the soundtrack (on vinyl) way back when and memorized all the songs. Phenomena don’t come more bona fide than this one, and I’m sure people smarter than I have theorized why it connected with the post-Watergate generation and became the subversive cult success it became. For me, it never fails to make me smile. (Favorite)