Friday, September 25, 2015

Flights of fancy

I was ridiculously excited about the entertainment selections on the plane rides back from Africa. And even though I probably should have been sleeping for some portions of the flights, I went a little crazy with the movie watching.

The Giver was really only loosely based on the book, which I only read recently, so I don't have any particularly strong ties to it. It gave way more plot time to minor characters from the book, which changed a lot of the book's relationships but that I actually thought rounded everything out better. The book's ending was pretty vague, but the movie made it a quasi-happy Hollywood ending. So at least it wasn't entirely dreary like the book was.

While on safari, I overheard some members of another party highly recommend Kingsman. Since it stars Colin Firth, it wasn't hard to convince myself to watch it. While it was pretty good cheesy fun, as a spy recruitment caper it tried way too hard to be story about class. Samuel L Jackson must have had a ton of fun playing the evil super villain. But it was actually a pretty gruesomely violent movie, for all its camp. And it definitely needs a sequel: as a stand-alone, viewers have invested too much emotion in a street kid who bests the toffs and saves the world to just leave him as he takes over a secret intelligence society.

Someone in my own safari party, during conversation about Disney cartoon plots, recommended the new Cinderella film. Basically, Disney made a film version of its 1950 animated feature. After the Kingsman bloodbath, I needed something happy and predictable. And to my own utter surprise, I actually liked Cinderella. There are some pretty bad retellings of this particular fairy tale out there; Ever After is still my favorite, but this one is pretty good.

Like a lot of fans of the musical Into the Woods, I was skeptical when a movie was announced. I've only ever seen a PBS broadcast of the Broadway version, but this film version was actually pretty decent. Meryl Streep is always a good villain (though still not better than Bernadette Peters!), and "Agony" is still one of the most hilarious songs in show tunes.

Lastly, because my nieces all loved Tangled and it was pretty short, I forced myself to watch this meh cartoon.  I get why it would appeal to several rather strong-willed small children, but I've never liked the Rapunzel story in the first place. None of the songs were memorable, Flynn the romantic interest is basically just Aladdin in a different setting, and the plot twist of Rapunzel's hair being magical threads made the climax no different from Beauty and the Beast. It's a pretty forgettable cartoon. I want those 100 minutes back.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The same age inside

Back from Africa, but am still processing the experience. It's only been 6 days, during which our annual convention at work took place, so I haven't had much rest time since climbing Kilimanjaro and going on safari and seeing old college friends on a different continent and celebrating a friend's wedding.

I know Kilimanjaro changed me, but I've had precious few well-rested moments to myself to articulate exactly how.

In the meantime, other entertainment sources have flooded my brainwaves. I watched Midnight in
Paris on the plane to Amsterdam and LOVED it. Obviously, because it involves time travel to the 1920s and features both Fitzgerald and Hemingway (among other of my idols-between-the-World-Wars), it was practically tailor-made for me. It was also somewhat timely, since reading Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in my formative years contributed to my wanting to climb the mountain. I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan, but this was a light-hearted, funny movie that hit home in many ways: a writer who loves the 1920s gets transported back, meets his idols, and reassesses his life and priorities in the 21st century. And when every famous artist (writer, painter, philosopher) appeared, I almost clapped with glee. So delightful!

Miss Buncle's Book also took place between the World Wars. It came up in the library's "You might also enjoy this" suggestion list. I enjoyed it a bit, but it took a while to get into. The premise is seems trite now, but maybe 90 years ago was novel: an anonymously published book about the lives of villagers in a small English town starts to come true, and the townspeople start accusing each other of being the author.  The real author is a dowdy spinster named Miss Buncle, and I think the main reason I couldn't really get into the book was because she came across as something of a country simpleton. She didn't mean to upset the balance of her town, but her reaction was something of a "Oh gosh, gee willikers, tee hee, look at all this" and it was a little off-putting. Definitely not a modern heroine, but not an entirely dislikable one either. She had an idea for a book, and subconsciously wrote her astute observations into them; it wasn't her fault they storylines all came true.

Like Owen Wilson's character in Midnight in Paris, maybe there's a lot I can relate to in that.