28 June 2009

Netflix is always good to me

My crazy, insane week(s) left me little precious brain function to actually focus on much of anything - so Netflix saved my sanity (my friends did, too, by convincing me to go to the midnight release of Transformers 2 the evening after we turned the grant in...).

I watched:

Richard III (thought I blogged this, but I guess not) - having seen the Olivier version (with the wig-that-needed-it's-own-credit) I wanted to see Ian McKellan's performance. Now, this one is set in some weird, Nazi-themed, 1930s-era England with Richard III's fascist army taking over England so I was prepared for some strangeness; I do happen to like alternative settings for Shakespeare and usually don't make many bones about it unless the casting is hinky. And there was hinky - Annette Benning as Elizabeth Wydville and Robert Downey, Jr. as her brother Lord Rivers; couldn't they have tried for an English accent? Because the words do not roll "trippingly on the tongue" in the American. McKellan was truly a vile Richard, Kristin Scott Thomas very tragic as Anne Neville, Nigel Hawthorne gave such a moving performance as the Duke of Clarence, and Dame Maggie Smith is fantastic as Richard's mum. The glamorous 1930s setting was shot beautifully but did get a little creepy because it started to look like photographs of the Windsors about the time of Edward VIII's abdication.

Time Bandits - I'm not sure how I escaped the 1980s without having seen this loony romp through time particularly because I loved the over-the-top Baron Munchausen and Monty Python. Terry Gilliam sure makes some weird but ultimately enjoyable movies. I was really taken by David Rappaport's performance as Randall, became convinced I'd seen him in a movie recently, and was saddened to read that he committed suicide nearly 20 years ago.

The Name of the Rose - a re-watch, having seen it eons ago when my dad did a shot-gun approach to Mr. Movies rentals (I had just had my wisdom teeth out and he neglected to ask what I wanted, before I got pickled on Lortab, so he just picked out some things from areas he thought I'd like - and that my younger brothers would watch with me since they were keeping an eye on me and changing out my icepacks). My brothers were enthralled and all I could remember was "lurid" in my hopped-up state. Since then I've read the book - awesome, by the way - and I really appreciated Annaud's attention to detail; I also thought the casting was excellent, even Christian Slater.

This Film is Not Yet Rated - a serious/honest/funny investigation/documentary about the whys and what-are-they-thinkings of the secretive MPAA. Who are sucky bastards by the way. Quit moralizing about my films. Don't be such secretive nincompoops, you're not NSA. If people aren't smart enough to police their own children at the movie theatre and leave the brats there all day that shouldn't interfere with someone's creative vision or my ability to see said vision's results. Bring on the NC-17 ratings - I hate it when immature teenagers come to my art films anyway. Oh, and the filmmaker interviews John Waters (awesome!).

Ghosts - This is a 1987 BBC production of Ibsen's play starring Dame Judi Dench (Mrs. Alving), Kenneth Branagh (her son, Oswald), Michael Gambon (Pastor Manders), and the late, lamented Natasha Richardson (Regina, the Alving's maid). I was interested in this adaptation because Kenneth Branagh described his "corpsing" while on the set (and he was the least experienced actor of the cast) in his autobiography, Beginning. This is a very spare (i.e. small cast, precise dialogue) play but beautifully done by the actors. Dame Judi is one of my very favorites.

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake - this is the "all male" version done in the 1990s, choreographed by Matthew Bourne, and danced wonderfully by the awesome Adam Cooper. I was less enthused with the palace scenes, etc. (as I am with the traditional version) and was very impressed by the actual swan sequence; it came far too late into the piece for my taste - they should have cut some of the psychological stuff - but the dancers were very well trained. I was seriously unimpressed with the camera work; who needs close-ups of faces during variations and phrases. Save the closeups for mime sequences and "between" sections. Grr. The object of recording a dance piece is so we can see the dance.

Born to be Wild: The Leading Men of American Ballet Theatre - Ahhhh, my ballet boys. Vladimir Malakhov, Angel Corella, Ethan Steifel (my hottie), and the studly Jose Manuel Carreno in an documentary about the four leading male dancers at ABT. Aside from visiting each dancer's beginnings, the documentary follows the creation of a piece set on the four of them by Mark Morris (who is quite funny when he's creating). A live performance of the new work ends the documentary and is a beautiful example of HOW YOU FILM BALLET/DANCE (see above for how you should not). The documentary should have been twice as long, IMO, because one hour wasn't enough. [OMG, Le Corsiare isn't available on DVD yet, *sob* I want my Ethan/Angel/Vladi fix]

And then...I went to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with some friends from the store, all of them having seen the first one....I have not. It's in the Netflix queue. Installment #2 was a good two hours plus of entertainment (not quite worth it's $10, but entertainment none-the-less) but it could also have shortened up by throwing out a few stupid shots (the tenth testicle joke via the giant Decepticon's "balls" was clearly aimed at the 13 year olds who should have been in bed and was unnecessary) and a few characters (did we need the "jive"-talking Autobots?). There were also a few characters lost in the shuffle, disappointingly one of those being the little Tonka Truck Decepticon that Mikayla "trains" who seems to drop out of the film after the lot of them arrive in Egypt. I had a few odd Matrix flashbacks - check out the Decepticon's germination pods - which wasn't helped by Megatron being voiced by Mr. Smith aka Elrond aka Hugo Weaving. As far as preview goodness, I was disappointed by there being only three:
1. G-Force: a very silly-looking, stupid-looking, tie-in-ready movie about anthropomorphized guinea pigs trained as some sort of CIA attack team who wind up in a pet store after their project is decommissioned; best part of the preview was the mice and that will probably turn out to be the best part of the movie; Bill Nighy is in this - who roped him in?
2. 2012 - another "OMG, the end of the world!!!!!!!" movie by the king of "destroy every major city on Earth" disaster movies, Roland Emmerich; this one has John Cusack in it instead of Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum; Emmerich destroys the Eiffel Tower which is notable because....
the first shot of ....
3. GI-Joe:The Rise of Cobra 's preview shows the Eiffel Tower being eaten/destroyed by some green stuff deployed by Cobra Commander (who is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun, odd); guess the French are on everyone's bad-list; this one looks pretty good, not sure if it's good enough for a theatre viewing

And that's it for now! Tune in later for info regarding things I might actually read and books I might actually buy (or have bought).

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