Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

I finally watched the movie to blame for those oddly decorative Guy Fawkes masks appearing at every tiresome pep rally of a couple years back–V for Vendetta.

The story involves–oh, I can’t be bothered to tell the story. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing–it is based on a comic book, ludicrously unbelievable, and touting a repugnant concept of politics–so why, why was I continuing to watch such silliness?
Simply, those astonishing actors, filling the screen with their lunatic energy and panache. As the repellent dictator, John Hurt was mesmerizing–his baleful face, all wrinkles and bad teeth, spitting virulent hatred–projected into the huge screen in the conference room where sat his minions, resentfully regarding him.

There was Stephen Rea, as the dogged detective, and wicked wicked Tim Piggott-Smith (whom I remember so well as the heinous Ronald Merrick in The Jewel in the Crown)–oh, and Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, Sinead Cusack–this movie is a feast of fabulous acting.
With, I’ll admit, a completely silly plot. But it is after all based on a comic book.
Intelligent entertainments based on brilliant works of art are rare. This will do until the intelligent, brilliant one comes along.
PS. RIP, John Hurt and Tim Piggott-Smith. Both died this year.

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Danish Lads and Lizards

I was watching a VERRA exciting movie, one of those Star Wars shows, a prequel–the wicked villains are BUILDING the I-felt-a-great-disturbance-in-the-Force Death Star–GOSH! Non stop action! Space ships! Hyperdrive! Huge explosions! Robots!
Image result for rogue oneBut I had to stop, it being my bedtime and a school night. And, such was the perturbation of spirits aroused by the show that I was unable to sink into slumber for at least an hour, if not more.


So the next night, instead of watching the heart-stopping conclusion of Rogue One…I watched Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Netflix has poured roughly a gazillion dollars into this much loved old clunker, and a great deal of wild zest too. I own that while at first I held back–ever faithful to the incredible silliness of the original show–I was guffawing away soon enough. The ghastly movie our team is forced to watch–Reptilicus–is so extremely awful one can hardly believe it wasn’t actually created to be the butt of their wit, but, not. Reptilicus is a Danish-American Big Monster movie, and apparently still a Thing in Denmark, cheesy and dumb, but THEIR cheesy and dumb. See, a bunch of Copper Miners in the Frozen North drill into–FLESH. They take it back to the Lab in Copenhagen and keep it in a Freezer Room. But UH OH! The door is left open, the flesh thaws and regenerates into a MONSTER (“t-t-talking bout regeneration!” sing the MST bots).

The terrible production values, the stilted dialogue, the amazing stupidity–it’s all there!

Image result for mads mikkelsen dancerAnd speaking of Denmark, I notice that Danish Favorite Son Mads Mikkelson is now all over the place–just saw him as Evil Caecilius in Dr. Strange, and there he was as Brilliant Scientist and Loving Dad in Rogue One.
Nice looking fellow, no?

From gymnast to ballet dancer to actor to WORLD STAR. Well done Mr. Denmark! Once I felt strong enough to continue with Rogue One, I was pleased to find that–after terrible trials–he is reunited with his now-all-grown-up daughter; albeit briefly. It was a completely unbelievable but nonetheless heart-warming scene, after which he…

But so does everyone else as the Bad Empire forces blow up the entire set. But not before the Plans to the Death Star are smuggled to Princess Leia, or at least, an slightly creepy CGI version of Princess Leia.
Image result for rogue one cgi carrie fisher
The CGI Tarkin is even more creepy. The Stars die but the movie making goes on. T-t-talking bout regeneration!

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Guilty Pleasures

My brother sheepishly admitted watching a show which no sensible adult could watch without shame. So naturally, I feverishly hunted for it on Netflix and settled down to waste my time with it.
MY, the Stupid is very strong in this one.
And yet, strangely compelling.
What can I say–while I may have made derisive comments to the cats during the episode, I watched the whole thing. Shannara is one of those American made series, with a strong ‘Yonda is da castle of my Fadda’ vibe (honesty constrains me to add that apparently Tony Curtis never said these words in any movie ever) and of course it complies with the exacting American TV casting tradition which rules that all the young actors and actresses must look EXACTLY ALIKE–all beautiful, slim, and perfectly made up. Mascara is mandatory. Half of them must be blonde and half brunette: is the LAW.
Also, elf ears.

It’s Friday night. GO ON. You can watch that depressing Sundance winner tomorrow.

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I watched two entirely unrelated shows this weekend, and as always, I am completely taken aback by the enormous effort–the reckless outlay of life force, the vast expenditure of treasure and human power–that is gladly undertaken by countless armies of men and women in the effort to entertain me.
Well, me and the rest of the paying audience that is.

The closing credits of Kubo and the Two Strings–an absolutely charming stop action film, all witty origami and Japanese woodcuts–scrolls on and on, hundreds of people listed–and so delightful were the accompanying drawings, I watched the whole thing.

This work of art was produced by the same company that produced Coraline, another gorgeous show. The story is engaging, the images are beautiful, and the lovely scene of Kubo and his friends setting the glowing lanterns afloat on the waves to honor their dead brought tears to my eyes.

Well, well, it is true that almost anything in that vein will do that.
The incredibly demanding work of animating this show included making hundreds of puppet heads on 3-D printers, sewing hundreds of kimonos, and making the sets–the village, the ship. And then smoothing it out with elaborate computer graphics. The end result is really really lovely.
Image result for making kubo and the two strings
The other show I watched involved real live people strutting about on a stage, busting a gut in their effort to amuse me. Well, me and the the rest of the paying audience as mentioned before. This was yet another in David Ives’ sprightly retellings of 17th century French plays (see review of previous one here), all decked out in modern language wittily set in Iambic pentameter. The play is called School for Lies, and is based–LOOSELY based–on Moliere’s Le Misanthrope. Ooh la la, such delightful silliness! Well, delightful after the first few obligatory political references, which the audience obediently chortled at. Then, on we went, ridiculous costumes and stunning hairstyles–such fun!

AND, only one act long, a thoughtful courtesy to the audience–we laughed, we clapped, we went home.

How I honor the valiant bands of dedicated jongleurs, prestidigitators, and lunatic visionaries who entertained me so well this weekend.
And now I shall do a little work.

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WHY, you will no doubt be plaintively asking, would Hope watch Dr. Strange, yet another imbecilic entry in the comic book dramatization Hall of Shame?
Answer: Benedict Cumberbatch.

VERY fetching in his dashing cape, and as for that perfect coiffure and goatee, TOO TOO adorable.
The perfect coiffure and goatee come late in the film, once Ben has achieved enlightenment. Previously he was either clean shaven (as eminent but arrogant surgeon) or lavishly hairy à la unabomber (after ghastly car accident in which his skilled surgeon’s hands were maimed).
So, after the accident (which was totally his fault) Dr. Strange heads off to Kathmandu in search of mystic healing.
And WHAT DO YOU KNOW? He finds it! In the person of Tilda Swinton, head shaved and sporting long mystic robes. Actually, I could watch Tilda in just about any outfit, she is so lovely and has the voice of an angel. So, she teaches him to do lots of Important Mystic Stuff because he may just be the one who will save the world! Not only does he learn Mystic Stuff (including magic rings!) but he also learns some pretty fancy fighting techniques, the kind that requires acrobatics, très Cirque de Soleil. Also, he starts wearing mystic robes like all the other students of the Mystic Arts, AND gets the coiffure and goatee as mentioned above. VERY becoming!

However there is trouble ahead, of course. Extremely Evil Sorcerer Kaecilius (I kept hearing ‘silly’ instead of ‘Cilius’–somewhat blunting the ominous effect) has Evil Plan to DESTROY THE WORLD! He is played by Mads Mikkelson, that compelling Danish actor who was so fine in After the Wedding and The Royal Affair–movies in which he played grown ups. In this movie he wears stunning eye make up (and mystic robes, of course) and soon crashes the party together with his group of fanatical followers (all wearing matching eye makeup).

Vast battles ensue! All is LOST! Except it isn’t! Except it is!
Well, well, we wind up at a final battle in Hong Kong and just when all seems to be lost yet again, Dr. Strange flies off into the sky (because, magic cape) to confront the Satanic Lord of Something or Other Which I Can’t Remember, who is vastly large–a sort of planet. And MEAN! They have a Mutual Mock Fest, and then the Satanic Lord KILLS DR. STRANGE! Only he doesn’t of course, because Dr. Strange has a magic bracelet: Backward turn Backward oh Time in Thy Flight! It is a pleasing shade of green (green=magical) and whenever he twists it, time is set back. One twist= one minute? Or perhaps one hour?–it is not made clear. So anyway, Dr. Strange and the Satanic Lord play a kind of Groundhog Day Game–he’s DEAD! No he’s not!–until boredom sets in, and then the Satanic Lord promises to leave the earth alone, and take the bad fanatical people to play with instead. So, all’s well that ends well!
Though I wonder how Dr. S managed to twist the magic bracelet when he was, you know, DEAD. However.

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Having just returned from Brooklyn, it seemed fitting to watch the movie of that name, a rather charming evocation of the city as it was 80 years ago, teeming with hard working immigrants from Europe. The lovely Eilis has arrived from Ireland, lonely and homesick, but with the aid of a kindly priest (played by dear Jim Broadbent, always fun to watch), her sharp tongued but amiable landlady, and others–all lovingly portrayed, and the ladies especially pleasant to look upon in their splendid 1950’s array–she survives and prospers. And naturally enough, finds a likely lad–who, shockingly, is NOT Irish! However, being Italian he is of course Catholic, so THAT’S OK. He is almost as lovely as Eilis!

MY, what a lovely couple.
They first meet at a dance and I was so afraid he was going to prove to be a Bad Guy–but, not so! No dark scenes with the lovely girl pregnant and abandoned on the cruel streets–or worse, sobbing in a back room abortion clinic, heartbroken and overwhelmed with guilt–NONE of that! There are hard times and anguish to be sure–and an absolutely venomous lady back in Ireland whose bitter words had a great deal to do with Eilis’s determination to emigrate–but it all ends well. A detailed look at my parent’s generation. Really, simply charming.
PLUS there is a scene at Coney Island WITH PINK COTTON CANDY! How can you not love it?

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I just watched the latest Disney animation, Moana–simply lovely. The vision of green islands in glittering ocean is ravishing, and then the images invoking Polynesian art and culture are so inventive–brilliantly drawn, deft and clever. And the story–a folk tale involving a goddess and a stolen heart–is quite charming. There is–of course–that whole business about Believing in Yourself and Girls R Strong, which frankly I have had about enough of. Kids these days are so COMPLETELY believing in themselves! A new message: doubt yourself every once in a while, maybe.
But the gorgeous ships gliding over the turquoise sea, just wonderful–there is one scene where a whole fleet of those splendid Tahitian vessels sails by, incredibly detailed, crammed with people–and all quite accurately drawn. The wind in the sails! The porpoises dancing in the waves!

And Moana herself (available not only as a doll but also as action figure AND Lego set, not to mention the costume and artificial flower crown) is of course adorable–and so is the demigod Maui, huge and tattooed (with a tattoo that talks back to him).

This is, by the way, an EXCELLENT example of typical Disney sexual dimorphism: males are generally 4 times the size of females. More, even, see fine Scottish example below:

These movies are such astonishing works of art. The detail and scope are breathtaking–I am filled with admiration for the vision that created these fine shows, and the hundreds of people who labored to make them happen. Sail on, Disney!

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