Tuesday, December 31, 2013
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is probably not a great film. It has a number of flaws, and signs of compromises made in the name of box office appeal. But there's something remarkable about it. It's often beautiful, meditative, and disarmingly sincere. It really isn't much of an adaptation of the short story and at many times seems to drift away from the very premise, but since fidelity to the source material and actual quality are two completely separate things, the worst that happens is the film gets a little unfocused. It has all the signs of the familiar Oscar-bait feel good picture, but its true atmosphere is more relaxed. And there's the very real danger that the conventional elements of the film, as well as its nature as an adaptation, will overshadow its very real and very odd strengths.
Daphne: I'd like to venture an opinion here. I know this doesn't exactly concern me, but I feel very strongly about this. I like zither music, and I always have!
[She goes to her room. Silence for a moment.]
Frasier: And we're back!
Sitcoms introduce us to families and groups of friends, but inevitably they leave people out. It's a fair bet that if a show runs long enough, we're going to meet long lost cousins who didn't exist before because the writers didn't need them to exist. "Beware of Greeks" basically posits an entire bough of the Crane family tree who we've never seen, all to get Patti LuPone to do a Greek accent and threaten people with violence. It's a silly contrivance and the whole episode is basically an odd excursion into a parallel universe, but it is amusing enough for the duration.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
It's hard to separate one's feelings about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug from one's opinion on Peter Jackson and company's entire approach to the trilogy. Much more than the Lord of the Rings films, this is a radical rehaul of the source material, expanding upon it in such a way that the focus and tone fundamentally changes. There are downsides to this approach, on display in Desolation of Smaug as in the first film; an inevitable sense of bloat, a story that feels stretched and oddly contorted, characters getting lost in the cutaways. But even if the whole thing comes off a little indulgent and undisciplined, there's still a lot to be entertained by, from elven cities and dark foreboding secrets to a terrifying dragon with the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch. It's just a little bit tighter and better focused than its predecessor as well, and its changes to the source material start to pay off in interesting ways.