Friday, September 1, 2017

"Mulan" (1998)

I hope someone somewhere favors Mulan because it really is okay.  For me, I enjoyed it enough to watch it all the way through.  But it seemed to be a re-hash of "been there, done that".  It's possible that this was the "original" and I watched it out of order, but more than likely it was riding the tide of fashionable "girl saves the story and gets the guy" stories.  Even the music didn't seem like it would be that memorable.  I say all this but I repeat again, it's really not a bad movie and I hope someone somewhere favors this movie because it really is okay.

Monday, August 7, 2017

"The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part 2" (2012)

Director:  Richard Eyre

Cuts the prologue (about the spread of lies); Falstaff's page is more "serious"--more as one on the outside looking in, as an observer.  This production has the advantage of on-site locations for setting.

This version seems to do a better job of tying the larger story threads together across the entire play.

Also, the initial arrest-attempt of Falstaff is humorous.  Eastcheap scene is bawdier.  The king's while-ill speeches are played with more temper and more reflective.  The character of Silence is played, at least part of the time, with a stutter.  Falstaff's draft was played more straight/serious.  Wort was played as a small/short person.  Falstaff faces much more how he is growing old as all things are changing around him--something he is at first in denial of and, later, reluctant to face when finally absolved to confront it (during his draft visit).  Prince John of Lancaster is played strong, and his distaste if Falstaff is clear.  Prince Hal upon viewing his father on his deathbed, while torn inside, is played with more certainty, with Prince Hal trying to steel himself to do what he knows is coming, what he himself will have to do.  The fight between Hal and his father, true, genuine, and its resolution touching and heartfelt.

"Royal Shakespeare Company: Henry IV Part II" (2014)

Director:  Gregory Doran

This series continues to be a good one to aid the understanding of the text, and to see the spirit and manner of a theater/stage performance of plays.

The beginning cast light figures of hash tags to go along with the speech about rumors.

Includes the beginning prologue.  Falstaff's page is more humorously played as if in cahoots with Falstaff's take on things, or at least is along for the ride.  The King's death runs like a long heart-attack scene which may be considered as fair reason for the king's staggering-around doubts about Prince Harry's reformation and intentions having muddied his ability to think and see clearly.  The character of Silence was played as one whose mind tended to wander off making him seem a bit spacey.  Falstaff's draft was played attempting to bring out more of the humor of the scene--Wort played as a humpback.  Prince Hal upon viewing his father on his death bead seems more at a loss for what to do.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"A Trip to the Moon" (1902)--Black-and-White and Color versions

The black-and-white version had a voice-over, so you didn't necessarily get the silent film experience, but the music to it seemed to match a little better.  And if you really wanted to know what the story was, that would be the way to go.

The color version (Netflix's color version with "music from the band Air") apparently has been restored to the original coloring and there is no voice-over narration; however, the music is a very modern take.

So, the color would be better if you wanted to try to figure the story out without the voice-over narration, and if you want to see what the coloration looked like, but the music gives it a completely different feel--not bad, just different.  If you look at the music as an adaptation of the original, then it is kind of interesting because the music is very unique.  But if you are looking for it for historical purposes, then you might want to go with the black-and-white (or some other version that might be out there).

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"Royal Shakespeare Company: Henry IV Part I" (2014)

Director:  Gregory Doran

Where the Dromgoole version Falstaff is more the power/authority figure in much of the banter in the first half of the play, in this version, the power/authority figure is Prince Hal and the beginning of the play this power/authority is definitely used for fun, games, jest, jokes, drinking, and being lord of fun.

While Dromgoole's version shows good back and forth banter, I think this version might have the best post-robbery version of Falstaff's tale.  The play within a play is  humorous to the end.  Even the "I do. I will" line while delivered serious--and can be seen as genuine--there are no serious ripples for its expressing, at least not immediately.

The confrontation between Prince Hal and his father had a Prince Hal that was much more humble and a father who was much closer to tears at his dismay than other versions (so far).

The fight between Prince Hal and Hotspur was less a carrying out of resolve for Prince Hal.  It was more a growing up epiphany to have faced the death of someone who had always been praised.

Finally, the conflict--the age-old conflict--between King Henry and Hotspur's father and uncle was much clearer, more pronounced.  It is much clearer in this version the tragedy that a disagreement between two men (leaders, older generation) would result in the deaths of so many who were not a directly a part of the heart of the quarrel.

This film does have a live audience present in a deep-thrust stage.  I liked this performance.  I enjoyed how Falstaff was portrayed, and it was nice to see other viable options for the other characters taken up.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Macbeth" (2015)

Director:  Justin Kurzel

The art direction is amazing.  Things have been done in previous productions with light and dark (set, costumes, lights, etc.).  This does the same but adds fire.  Light.  Dark.  and Fire.  It also looks to have worked to weave a thoroughly Scotland feel through the whole thing (definitely in scenery; twinge of Scottish accent, but still keeping it understandable for those of us who are outsiders--made it feel more Shakespearean that way too--at least for me).  Intriguing things are done with stopping and starting (fast and slow) action and with music (open chord drones on violins/strings), especially at the beginning and end.

The weird sisters also had repeated appearances in this version as with previous ones, but putting it together with the fire theme against the uses of the cross and light through crosses brought more "just whom do you serve?" belief questions into the story without necessarily addressing the question directly.  (Note [with the weird sisters nearby] Macduff's "let the angel whom thou still hast serv'd" near the end)

The text is moved around and different lines juxtaposed in a way that works.  The Birnum wood coming to Dunsinane is via fire burning a forest and the smoke and fire heading up to Dunsinane castle, providing both a screen of fire and smoke for the military force there and another way to work the theme of fire in.  This fire screen besides providing an ongoing thematic element and dramatic set piece also provides a way for the audience to watch the violent showdown between Macduff and Macbeth with a little less gore while still getting the action of a "good" fight.

Other than an occasional yell--okay rare yell--I think the entire movie was whispered.  It was thus with relief that I found some scenes cut--some of the "talking someone else into something" scenes such as the lengthy discourse when Macbeth hires the murders and when Macduff searches out Malcolm.  I found this a relief this time because while Goold's 3-hour version flew by, this version seemed to crawl through its two hours.  I suppose if you looked at all the whispering as sitting around a fire (note theme) and telling a tale full of sound and fury, then perhaps you wouldn't worry about how fast you told the story while you waited for the fire to burn itself out.  I couldn't tell you why it dragged, but it did.  A well-done tightly woven text of a two hour movie drags on more than an include every line and go for three hour movie.  Go figure the mysteries of movie making.

The ghost in this banquet hall scene was shown in this version--well done with subtle appearance instead of in-your-face.  There is no double, double toil and trouble speech.  No Siward and son scene.  No Lady Macduff lamenting about hubby leaving, though you see her and her kids captured and burned at the stake (note again the fire theme).

This Macbeth seemed to be played as a soldier from beginning to end, not having gone crazy but perhaps not knowing how to stop being a soldier.  Through Lady Macbeth, a story thread was woven of her having had kids--one for sure, maybe two?--and then lost them, perhaps not able to have more, and then having to watch Lady Macduff's kids burn at the stake; the thread of the loss of children as a significant theme/story thread.

Recapping:  I liked the art direction--light, dark, fire, violin drones.  I liked the text changes.  It's nice to have a different interpretation of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to compare to and with.  But it sure did drag.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Great Performances: Macbeth" (2010)

Director:  Rupert Goold
Patrick Stewart

This version of Macbeth is not for those who are squeamish at the sight of blood.  In fact, should you consider showing even a scene of this to a classroom, it would be wise to carefully consider twice-over what you would show.

That said, the interpretation of this Macbeth is the closest interpretation yet to how I read Macbeth's transformation:  unsure and hesitant some (while still a soldier) at the beginning, moving through the middle where he has power and "enjoys" being in charge at the top, and ending with a crazy man who let power go to his head from too much war/violence without it seeming only "psycho".  Unlike the 1983 interpretation of Lady Macbeth (who one could be sympathetic with for her plight regarding her changing husband), this Lady Macbeth is much less soft, but just as real a portrayal.  The repeated physical gesture [hand in hand we go in/out together] was noted and effective.

This version works more women characters in well (good!).  We see Macduff's family more than once.  Hear from them lines in more than one scene.  This version also has the three witches/weird sisters repeating appearances in different ways throughout the play.  The Siward and Young Siward scenes/moments are kept.  You have an invisible dagger (first vision), but a visibly demonstrated Banquo Ghost.  The last set of visions is a mix of invisible and visible representations.

Most lines are heard plainly, but the very first soldier's report and many of the weird sisters incantations are not understandable.  However, the sense of all these hard to "hear" lines are not lost.  The effect of the first soldier's report was clear enough.  The sense of the "double, double toil and trouble" song is clever; so was an effective delivery.  (The incantation hints of rap in style.)

The set and costume are reminiscent of 1940s war, though done well to keep the "country" of that of the world of the play, and none other (or none other as far as I'm concerned).  I saw a documentary not too long back about one of England's castles that during WWII had underground headquarters where much war time council and action was done.  This Macbeth set reminds me of that documentary--an underground "bunker" where most of the action takes place.

The play "takes its time" in that it does everything and it is a 3 hour movie; yet, it hooks so well that the time is not long, and I did not wish to hit "pause" at all (except to re-watch a scene or two here and there).

The warning at the beginning of this movie/play was well needed.  It is a bloody play, then it again it's a bloody story.  It was told very well.

Now I want to go watch something light and fluffy so that I'll actually fall asleep tonight.