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March 6, 2009

Watchmen: Quick Review (No Spoilers!)

by at 11:34 pm.

This week was the debut in theaters of Watchmen, the film adaptation of the 1986-87 comic graphic novel, and we headed out to see it tonight.

For those not a fan of the comic, or who have never read it, it’s an dark alternate-80s world inhabited by vigilantes in masks - all just normal people who know how to fight, except for one, Doctor Manhattan, who is practically omnipotent. Ostensibly, it’s a murder mystery, as the main characters try to find out who killed one of their own.

But Watchmen is so much deeper than that, and in reality, you could read the graphic novel several times and still not reach all the subtleties therein.

Our general consensus (the Mr.’s and mine) is that it was a pretty damn good adaptation of this super-complex story. While a lot has been left out by necessity, they managed to portray most of the larger themes. As for the ending, which I won’t tell you, but which is well known and publicized to be a major deviation from the comic, it is a very interesting choice and works superbly for the story. (Mr. Lynne says it’s even better than the novel version, though I pointed out that there are story elements in the novel that make the ending in it work for it. We agreed that perhaps each ending works for each version of the story.)

The Mr. mildly complained that the acting could have been better, but the actors playing the Comedian, Rorschach, and Doctor Manhattan did really well (Rorschach creeped the hell out of me, as well he should - he delivers some of the best lines in the book or film), and the other actors weren’t bad, just not as good as they could have been. All in all, whether you’ve read and liked the graphic novel or not, you should see this flick, and while it’s in the theaters, for full impact. You should also consider reading the novel if you have not.

Just fair warning - there are some pretty graphic (in the hide-your-face sense) scenes in the film. Having read the comic a few times, I knew just where to turn my head, but it’s pretty gritty.

As for me, I expect to see it a few more times to catch elements I missed the first time around. A good fan should do at least that much!

November 17, 2007

The Battle of Algiers

by at 2:46 pm.

If you are a subscriber to Comcast on Demand, I would strongly suggest that you watch the 1966 (Italian produced) film, The Battle of Algiers, which is now available at no charge on cable television. It is rarely shown on television and difficult to find at your local video store.

This is the film that was screened at the Pentagon a few months after the U.S. invaded Iraq. After the Pentagon viewing became public, there was a lot of discussion in the press as to why the Pentagon would show this somewhat obscure film.

At the time some suggested that the Pentagon was using this film to help their staff understand “the earlier efforts of a Western power to deal with terrorism in an Arab capital.” Apparently, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger thought there were similarities and a lesson to be learned from the French-Algerian War. He offered George Bush his copy of a newly published book, “A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962” written by historian Alistair Horne. Kissinger even highlighted passages for the President to read.

Those of you who want to try to understand French national psyche at it relates to their former “colonies” and the immigrants from those countries, this is a great film to watch.

Warning, the film is in black and white; documentary (cinéma-vérité) style, in Arabic and French with English subtitles and needless to say, lefty. If you are a film buff, this is a must see.

February 3, 2007

Movie Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

by at 11:57 pm.

We headed out to the theater tonight and saw Pan’s Labyrinth, a fantasy movie filmed by a Mexican company (English subtitles) with a dark adult theme.

I thought I would write as best a review I could for those interested. In the top of the post, I’ll talk about things that will not spoil the movie, and might even make it more interesting for those of you who want to go see it. After the click, I’ll get real specific.

First and foremost I’ll warn you, the movie is very dark. Set in Spain during WWII during the regime of Franco, the victorious fascist government is still fighting bands of rebels in the mountains. Some of the monsters in this movie are fantastic…and some human. There are quite a few scenes I had to turn away, and though I’m not known for my strong stomach, I can mostly watch a movie like Gladiator without flinching now. I think it was the intimacy of the violence which hit me. So beware.

That said, this is not a horror flick, just one set somewhere between a bloody civil war and a world existing just beyond our own. Whether that fantasy is imagined or real, you will have to decide for yourself. I know what I prefer to believe.

My husband and I agree, the pacing could have been better, though he says he’s not sure how this story could have gotten told with standard Hollywood-style plot movement and still reach its ending. But its well-built and interwoven narrative will keep you interested, and there are believable moments of tension. And some fantastic moments as promised.

Pan’s Labyrinth spends as much time, or maybe more so, in the real world of WWII Spain. Look for the common element of “escape” in the real and the unreal parts of the film, a theme that is picked up throughout the movie. I found that the story’s conclusion about that theme, at the end, is the real surprising element of the whole fairy-tale. But you’ll have to go see it to find out what that is.

Now, I’ll continue with specifics…if you click on the link, there are major spoilers. So only continue if you’ve already seen it or don’t care what you find out ahead of time. (more…)

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