Movie Reviews 2007 #148-154

I watched a bunch of movies while laid up with a virus the last several days. Being stuck in bed has allowed me ample time to watch a bunch of movies, which I will comment on in one large post here. My perceptions of the movies might be a bit skewed, however.
The Movies:
The Three Musketeers (1948 version)
Blood and Chocolate
Mr and Mrs Smith
Superman Returns
Khartoum
Dawn of the Dead (2004 version)
The Name of the Rose


The Three Musketeers (1948 version)
Starring Gene Kelly and Lana Turner (as Milady), this version is not quite as strong, IMO as the 1973 version. It doesn’t have the camp factor of the Disney version.
The movie rises and falls on the strengths of Kelly and Turner’s performances. Turner makes a Milady every inch the one that Dunaway does. Kelly makes a good D’Artagnan. However, the movie falls down when it comes to the Three Musketeers. Athos (Van Heflin) gets good play because of his history with Milady. The other two Musketeers, though, get less screen time and are much less detailed. Too, the movie focuses strongly on D’Artagnan’s skills and abilities to an unreasonable degree, IMO.
Vincent Price plays Richelieu. Strangely, though, the movie changes him from a Cardinal to just a “Minister”. He’s as power hungry for the throne as Curry’s version, but he doesn’t seem to have any religious office in this version.
Overall, I don’t think this is as strong a version of the story as the 1973 version.



Blood and Chocolate
A teenage werewolf movie set in Bucharest, the best part about this movie is the visuals and the settings in that lovely, medieval city. Everything else is forgettable. Vivian is a girl born in Bucharest, raised in America for a time and now lives in the city making chocolate. She’s also part of the community of loup-garoux, werewolves. Conflict erupts when she has to choose between the leader of the pack for a mate, and a young human graphic artist who is visiting the city. I thought the story and characterizations and acting were weak. I didn’t care for it at all.


Mr and Mrs Smith
The “Brangelina movie”, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a domestic husband and wife couple who are each, really, living a secret life as an assassin. They’ve kept this from each other to the point of a boring life, until their commissions intersect, and then result in being the target for each other. Can this family feud end in anything except a big bang?
The movie is light entertainment, and even has Vince Vaughn as the “buddy” of Pitt’s Mr. Smith for comic relief. It takes the “True Lies” formula to the next logical step, and its a lot of fun to see the two leads try and kill each other, and others. The movie has no other real redeeming features and it entertained me for two hours.


Superman Returns
Bryan Singer passed on X-Men 3 (much to our loss!) to direct the return of Superman, starring Brandon Routh as the man of steel, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. Although Superman II is not referenced directly, the movie makes it clear that this movie takes place after that movie in the “Superman movie” timeline, as Lex takes a trip to the Fortress of Solitude in order to use the technology of Krypton to amass power…in the form of creating a brand new continent, at the expense of world devastation.
And then there is of course Lois Lane, her long suffering fiance, and their son. Or is he Superman’s son instead…?
Singer shows his taste and abilities for twists and turns and a knotty, lovely movie.


Khartoum
The only on-screen pairing of Laurence Olivier and Charlton Heston is the story of General “Chinese Gordon (Heston) and the Mahdi (Olivier) in 1880’s Sudan. A story involving two characters with two very different but passionate views of God, epic battles, and the tangles of history, imperialism and conflict.
While the choice of Olivier for the Mahdi is a politically incorrect choice today, (I think a remake would do well with someone like Alexander Siddig), having two strong actors meet in this movie is something special. These two characters are foes…but they are foes who can sit and talk, before being driven to unavoidable conflict. The other major weakness in the movie from today’s standpoint is that this is a boys club movie, with no female characters of any consequence. While that’s accurate from a time period and story point of view, it is a weakness compared to more modern fare.
Still…I love this movie for its grand vistas, strong characters and its illumination of a period of history and a place that doesn’t get that much airtime.


Dawn of the Dead (2004 version)
This is the remake with Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley, one of the recent crop of “fast zombie” zombie movies, featuring zombies which are not undead, and are more dangerous than the slow shambling corpses seen in most movies of the type. These zombies are fast, and infect their victims with a bite. Polley and Rhames are among a small group of survivors who manage to hole up in a shopping mall, with a giant horde of the zombies waiting outside.
So we get to see the characters under pressure, from the outside and with each other, in classic horror fashion. There is blood, there is gore, there is plenty of violent action.
One of the best things about the DVD besides the movie (which I happen to like) is the feature starring the late Richard Briggs (Dr. Franklin on B-5) which has him as a network news anchor reporting on the progress of the infection across the country as the country disintegrates.


The Name of the Rose
Starring Sean Connery, a young Christian Slater and F. Murray Abraham, The Name of the Rose is a long exploration of dark doings in a Monastery in Northern Italy during the Avignon Papacy. Connery plays William of Baskerville, a Benedictine Monk known for his powers of deduction. These powers are put to the test when he arrives just in time to be confronted by an increasing number of strange murders. Throw in an old foe of Baskerville (F Murray Abraham’s Bernando Gui) and other goodies, and mix well. The movie is nowhere near as complicated and subtle as Eco’s novel, but its a lovely puzzle of a movie. It gets the gritty, grotty nature of the life of the 14th century well.

2 thoughts on “Movie Reviews 2007 #148-154”

  1. Ah yes, _Name of the Rose_ which doesn’t entertain me QUITE as long as the book, but had a NUDE young Christian Slater. AND Sean Connery. Add in religious secrets, and it’s like a young Fierce’s dream…well, for my hormones at least.
    Hey, did you get the “ending credits” for the new _Dawn of the Dead_? I remember them as disturbing, but we had to hurry my young sister out of the theatre. She had nightmares, poor thing.
    _Mr. and Mrs. Smith_ is remarkable for one thing for me: it’s the first time I ever saw Brad Pitt as attractive. I think it’s the Angelina Jolie effect, though.

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