Monday, December 10, 2012

A Princess in Peril, a World about to End, and a guy in a rubber suit. Star Wars? Nope just three reviews (and Vader wore leather, not rubber. Pay attention.)

A few nights ago a friend sat me down to watch The Princess Bride, a movie I’d never seen in its entirety. I knew the basic premise, and I knew it was written by screenwriting legend William Goldman (Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men), but the rest of it was new to me.

So what did I think? I liked it, but only in a ho-hum, “that was a pleasant way to pass the time” manner.  There were a lot of pluses, to be sure. Top to bottom it was a great cast, with Robin Wright’s pure beauty and Mandy Patinkin’s awesome talent headlining the list for me. I thought the story itself was good, although certainly nothing original. I like that the special effects were pretty non-existent, which is refreshing to eyes that are sick of CGI. The interaction between the grandpa and his grandson was sweet.

The bad? Well there was no ‘bad’, just ‘less good’.  As I said, the story wasn’t original in the least, and I’m in the distinct minority in saying that the humor largely distracted me from what  little story there was on screen.  And while I raved about the cast a paragraph ago, in truth I found Cary Elwes’ portrayal of Wesley to be too over the top for my liking.

I’m fully aware that I come off as a joykill, but I rate this a B-

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a bittersweet little dramedy starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as two neighbors who spend the last few days of mankind on a quest to fulfill their last wishes: his to confess his feelings for his true love and Knightley to find a plane to carry her home to her parents one last time.  Whether they reach their goals is beside the point, as the experience changes them in ways neither could have foreseen.

A friend asked me if this was like Melancholia, and other than the impending doom of planet Earth, I told her no, it isn’t ; Melancholia was a festering heap of hopelessness, not just for the future but for the present and the past – nothing mattered, and nothing ever would.  It dang near drove me into waking off a short pier. This is in many ways the opposite. The future is non-existent, but that fact is almost secondary to, well, everything.  What’s important is that the few days they have left are spent making the whole of their lives accumulate some value beyond just ‘being’, and so, even as disaster looms, I think this film resonates with the wonder of life.

I enjoyed it, and despite some noticeable flaws, I’d rate it an A-

Finally, Lisa and I finished watching Season 1 of American Horror Story on Netflix.  I don’t think it quite lived up to the hype my friends piled on it, or the critical acclaim it racked up, but given the mountains of each saying it wasn’t tip-top still means  it was grand.

At first I was put out by how often the show plagiarized real-life tragedies – Columbine, Richard Speck, the Lindbergh kidnapping – but then Lisa, in her wisdom, pointed out they were key tragedies of American life and thus part of the mosaic of an American horror story.  Smart girl that one, but I will argue that the appearance of the Black Dahlia herself was too much, no matter the scholastic interpretation. 

Still, bit by bit as the storyline evolved I was drawn in, and had the series ended after episode 11 (the birth), I’d have walked away saying “wow”. The final episode, which seems written just to force a “happy ending”,  felt contrived to me and watered down the whole. In fact, I think if you trimmed the fat this 12 episode (mini)series would have been tighter and cleaner at 8 or 9 hours of TV, but that’s splitting hairs. There were plenty of great twists and turns (Violet’s status, for instance) to keep us all from grabbing the remote. 

[Special kudos to Evan Peters, who played Tate. He’s a wonderful actor, and I expect we’ll see more of him in the future]
Grade: B+

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