April 1, 2007

A Rant & A Rave

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I have been ill with a mild flu since Thursday, felt a little bit better today and was able to watch 2 movies on dvd (but refused to cook). One is the awful Children of Men and the other is the brilliant The Fallen Idol directed by Carol Reed & written by Graham Greene.

Children of Men 2 Stars
Why do I keep watching movies that have gotten rave reviews only to find out they suck big time. Children of Men is one of them. I was excited when I heard about this movie being made based on P.D. James' novel. I was hoping the movie will be better than the book. P.D. James is one of my favorite authors and I have read nearly all of her mystery novels (Adam Dalgliesh as well as Cordelia Gray) but I did not particularly love her 1993 novel The Children of Men. My main problem with the book is not the plot but the second half and the ending. She seemed to have lost interest and did not know how to end it. Regardless, I still liked the idea of a movie set in the future when men all over the world stopped producing sperm and therefore no babies were born for the past 18 years. I was hoping that the moviemakers will improve on this story and with Clive Owen (I loved him in Croupier and the TV series Second Sight) as Theo I was really looking forward to watching it. Huge Disappointment. The movie is awful: all shades of gray in the entire movie, why? Men not being able to produce sperm would not prevent the sun from rising, so it is so very annoying not to see a little bit of color. The untalented Mexican director Cuaron wanted a certain atmosphere of gloom, with evil terrorist fighting the equally evil government, and illegal immigrants being caged like animals, but what do they have to do with the world without babies? The movie is all about Theo and his charge, the pregnant black woman, running, being chased by terrorists, ducking bullets, having friends who help them get killed unnecessarily along the way; these scenes kept repeating like a nightmare, it kept going on and on and on until everybody they encountered got killed and the only ones remaining are the woman and her child. And, as the movie progresses Clive Owen gets grimier and grimier as he nears his death and the end of the film. The director and the writer spent so much emphasis on illegal immigrants. I do not want certain political agenda being prominently forced on me in a movie that advertizes as SciFi, I want to be entertained, not fed political crap. I could watch politically themed movies and documentaries if I want to. The movie (as in the book, my main complaint, actually) did not offer any hope for the future. Why? Because the father of the child is not known, according to the girl there were several possibilities (sounds like she's a ho) and was never discussed again, in the book P.D. James killed him. THE FATHER is the only hope for the new generation but his character was set aside, and then the baby born they decided should be a GIRL! How will she be able to continue having babies if there are no men producing sperm, dumb, dumb, dumb. Now, if the baby were a boy, then he might carry the father's genes that gave him life and there will be a slight chance of a world with new babies, but no, the baby has to be a girl. Reminder: the title is Children of Men, take your cue from the title, you morons. Just imagine her age at say, 80, when everybody has died including her mother, all alone in the whole planet, isn't that the saddest thing, and this movie (and the book) didn't make any sense at all. One laughable idiotic moment (others thought it's poignant, whatever) in the movie: The soldiers stopped shooting at the rebels/terrorists as Theo, the mother and the newborn child were walking amidst them, they did the sign of the cross, let them pass, then resumed fighting, what the heck is that? JesusMaryJoseph! This is the first child born in 18 years and that's their response to the phenomenon? I would have been stunned at the sight of a newborn baby and would have brought the mother and the baby to the Warden right there and then, yes, that's what I would have done.
The 2 stars is for Clive's crying scene and for Michael Caine being the only person in the whole movie who was happy (his character is an old pot growing/smoking hippy, that's why he's happy).

The Fallen Idol 5 Stars
This black and white 1948 movie is by the same director/writer team of The Third Man, Carol Reed and Graham Greene. The screenplay was written by Greene based on his own short story The Basement Room. The movie is not your typical "the Butler Did It" thriller, it is visually dazzling, and the dialogue and acting are brilliant. The butler, Mr. Baines actually did not murder his wife who is the caretaker of the boy, Phile, who thinks he pushed his wife to her death. The boy is alone in the embassy, where they live, with the couple while his father, an ambassador to England of an unspecified French-speaking country, is out of the country to fetch his wife from a hospital somewhere where she was being treated for the past 8 months. The boy has been drawn to the likable Mr. Baines who indulges him, takes him for walks and to the zoo, and even gave him a box for his pet snake, Macgregor. He also loves to impress the boy and tells him stories of his 'adventures' in Africa, which are all lies. On the other hand, his wife is harsh and stern and terrorizes the child and her husband. Mr. Baines has fallen in love with an employee of the embassy. When the boy followed him one day, he saw him in a coffee shop with the girl, Julia who said she was leaving the next night because there is no hope in their relationship. Phile joined them and had pies and tea with them, which Mrs. Baines absolutely forbids. While the 2 adults are talking the boy hears everything, including the part when Mr. Baines said he will ask his wife for his freedom. To make the story short the wife died accidentally after she and her husband argued about Julia. When the police came to investigate, Phile tried to save his dear butler and friend by lying to the police. But with each lie he unwittingly made Mr. Baines look more and more guilty that you will start to think, what an obnoxious boy, shut up already. But the movie has a happy ending, the police found out for themselves how Mrs. Baines died.
The things I love: the child is wonderfully natural, he is not a professional actor but the son of a French couple immigrants in England. Carol Reed himself enacted the parts for the boy to copy and both he and the boy did an exceptionally good job. I love the simple but memorable story, the intelligent dialogue and the beautiful visuals.


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