All Defiant on the Western Front in Wonder Woman

Early on in Patty Jenkins’ confident and electrifying big-screen Wonder Woman epic, after getting rescued by the film’s hero (a robust yet appealingly vulnerable Gal Gadot), our guy in distress (a somewhat charming gritty Ken Doll with a sense of humor, Chris Pine) upon being asked about how he stacks up to other men says, “I’m above average.” In some ways, that’s the best way to describe Wonder Woman in comparison to every other superhero movie. It’s above average. But to leave it at that would be deny the film’s subversive charms and contextual place in the pantheon of fantasy films as mirrors into the audience’s psyche.

Let’s not dismiss, however, just how fun it is to simply watch an above average film in this over-saturated genre. Jenkins and her crew show great creativity and tactical savviness in their treatment of all the genre clichés while choosing a relaxed and serialized pacing in the action, following each big set piece with moments of more intimate drama and character development (witness celebratory Belgian villagers and our heroes dancing in the streets in the evening snowfall that seems ripped from a great war-time romance).

The film’s inherently silly exposition (routed in Greek myth) is made palpable thanks to beautifully rendered Renaissance-style paintings of Greco-Roman fantasy come to life – smartly linking the lore and art of old with modern comic book pages and colorful cells flipped through feverishly by childhood’s fingers. Playful camera angles bring to life a rousing aeronautical flyover of an exploding enemy bunker and battle horses and motorcycles racing through war-torn woods, while slo-mo is used judiciously when warranted and not just for the sense of style. Continue reading

Ridley and Russell Sitting in a Tree

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first.  Russell Crowe is in his mid-forties and playing the “younger” Robin Hood — you know, as is the trend these days to show us how the men became the legends.  He’s utterly mis-cast in the role.  Being such a chameleon of an actor in his younger days has taken its toll on Mr. Crowe, and he hasn’t aged well.  He’s reached that point in his career where he now only plays Russell Crowe — you know, that bullish, overweight, talented dude full of piss and vinegar on and off the screen.  Thankfully, his old pal Ridley Scott still loves him, and you have to give the director some props for not giving a damn about the age thing (hell, Sir Ridley is in his seventies himself) and casting ol’ Russell in the title role of his revamp of Robin Hood.  He then had the good sense to cast (shouldn’t she be Dame by now?) Cate Blanchett as a feisty Lady Marion, and for fans of old school Hollywood epics, it’s a real treat to see two accomplished Oscar winners create palpable chemistry and act against each other within the comfortable context of well-worn characters.

Ridley Scott has traversed many genres, but he — more than any director out there — knows his way around historical epics.  Let’s not forget it was his first marriage to Russell Crowe in Gladiator that brought the two their biggest hit — and deservedly so.  His Robin Hood (though I already can imagine a bloated director’s cut coming to Blu-Ray) is surprisingly quick-footed.  Continue reading

Watch or Die: HBO’s John Adams

 **This was a post in progress. 

 Weekly updates appeared as each episode of John Adams aired Sunday nights on HBO.   

 

And remember, faithful viewers, Samuel Adams White Ale is the (un)official beer of HBO’s John Adams.  Real Patriots Drink Samuel Adams.

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*Above: Political Propaganda circa 1776.

PREVIEW: 

Ever since the demise of The Sopranos and Rome, the only thing even remotely worth watching on HBO (or on TV in general) has been the Mormon soap opera, Big Love.  Well, thankfully, the good folks at HBO have got their wits about them once again and will be unveiling the first two parts of their epic 7-part miniseries, John Adams this Sunday, March 16th. 

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by David McCullough, HBO’s John Adams will attempt to take the same intimate look at history that made the two-part Elizabeth I starring Helen Mirren and, like John Adams, directed by Tom Hooper, such a roaring success, while painting historical events across a sprawling gritty epic canvas like they did with the decadent Rome (which was essentially a 22-part miniseries) in hopes of bringing the past frightfully alive. 

Loaded with a cast of award-winning character actors and familiar faces (check out Danny Huston as Sam Adams, David Morse as George Washington, and Tom Wilkinson as Ben Franklin), and headlined by Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail Adams, HBO will give us a glimpse into the events leading up to the American Revolution and the first 50 years of American history.   For many people, their knowledge of this time period comes only from school textbooks or images from the ridiculous musical 1776 or more recently, the historically inaccurate Mel Gibson vehicle The Patriot.  HBO has taken on the task of educating and entertaining, a dangerous gambit that could pay off in scores. 

Check out the full length trailer:

Official Site:

http://www.hbo.com/films/johnadams/index.html

For a complete list of cast and crew:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472027/fullcredits

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REVIEW: 

After each episode aired over the course of six weeks, I posted a review of each part. Continue reading