Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Capsule Reviews 3/31/10

A few more short reviews of films to keep in mind if you run across them. Todays collection are all remakes from England.

39 STEPS (1959)
Kenneth More is Richard Hanny in what is essentially a bright and colorful version of the Hitchcock film. Its the second screen version (followed by the more faithful to source version from the late 1970's and a BBC TV version from a few years ago). Its the classic story of the wrong man on the run having to unravel the mystery that officials are too blind to see. Its a good little film on its own but suffers in comparison to the other versions. There are two problems with the film, first the bright daylight and colors work against the mood. the other problem is Kenneth Moore is too stalwart a hero to be anything other than a man of action. he carries himself with such aplomb that its hard to believe that he could ever not come out on top.. Other versions aside, its a good little film that is fine in its own terms.

DORIAN GRAY (2009)
British made version of Oscar Wilde's tale of the descent of Gray into depravity once his portrait is painted. Its an adult updating of the tale with sex and violence out front for all to see. For the most part its very well acted by the name cast that includes Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin, Fiona Shaw and Maryam d'Abo. However in the title role of Dorian Gray, Ben Barnes, leaves little impression. He seems to have been cast not because of his acting ability, rather because he looks good. This isn't to say he's bad, he's not its just that he comes off as rather bland and not really compelling even when he's deep in the dark side. Its not fatal to the film but it makes you realize how much betterthis should have been.(It might have gotten more than a capsule review) Worth a look if you run across it.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1949)
Surprising good animated version of the classic tale begins with a brief bit with brief bit set at Lewis Carol's college where he and Alice (and her sisters) meet various characters, including the Queen of England who end up as characters in Wonderland. Once the story begins Alice interacts with the Wonderland characters who are all stop motion characters. It's a trippy tale that kind of reminded me of the big budget color spectaculars (The Red Shoes came to mind) that were produced in the late 40's and early 50's. This film was supposedly suppressed by Walt Disney whose own studio was working on his own version at the time and so has been difficult to see ever since. While the music isn't as spectacular as in other (Disney) versions, the film bests those other version in that it flows better. This is probably the first film version that I've seen where the story seems as if it's a single story instead of a group of loosely connected sequences. It may not seem like much but it really works wonders and for my money is the first version that satisfies me from start to finish. I know some people don't like the animation which is old school, but I like it since it adds a sense of other worldliness to the proceedings. Worth a look if you can find it.

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