One upside of being snowed in for a week was that I got to watch a lot of DVDs. Here's a few mini reviews---
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
This French spy film parody was the best film I've seen in a while. Perhaps the easiest way to describe it is a cross between the Sean Connery James Bond and the Blake Edwards Pink Panther films. French spy Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath (OSS 117) is sent to Egypt in search of a missing colleague and finds himself enmeshed in plots involving everyone from Islamic radical groups to British Secret Service to secret Nazi cells.
OSS 117 is as clueless as he is culturally insensitive. He has a hard time stifling his laughter each time his Egyptian love interest Larmina El Akmar Betouche describes her Muslim faith, telling her "you'll grow up." He insults the Egyptian ambassador to such a degree he's thrown out of the embassy. In short- the character is a great send up of the Western arrogance towards the Middle East that still exists today.
Everything about the film is done "old school.' Driving shots have backgrounds projected behind them. The camera was pretty static with not a Steadicam to be found. The music was a perfect send up of the old Bond scores with lots of horns and strings accentuating the action.
There were two, perhaps three gut-busting scenes in this film and laughter pretty much straight through. I'd highly recommend this film if you're a fan of James Bond or just need a good laugh.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season Three
I've been sort of waiting anxiously for the kids to get old enough to watch this show as it does have an abundance of mature situations despite it's comic book title. When this show originally aired I avoided it like the plague simply based on that silly title alone. Thus, I missed most of the first three seasons and am discovering them along with my brood.
The third season of the show brought the character of Faith the street smart Slayer and the evil Mayor antagonist. There are a lot of standout episodes but the third season episode that I think epitomizes why so many people love this show is actually the Xander episode "The Zeppo."
In "The Zeppo" Buffy's friend Xander is going through an identity crisis trying to define his role to the Scooby Gang in fighting evil. What follows is a crazy evening that has Xander shuttling around a street gang of zombies in his uncles borrowed Chevy convertible, hooking up with the badass Faith who is way out of his league and ultimately stopping the high school from being blown up by the zombie gang.
What makes this whole thing so cool is how Joss Whedon and the other writers on the show here dealt unconventionally with the normal structure tv shows. Typically, if you focus on one of the supporting characters you still have the main character go through some sort of minor arc. In "The Zeppo" they basically have Buffy and the major characters literally dealing with the end of the world in the background story while Xander deals with his own drama in the main story. The show deconstructs and pokes fun at itself in the process.
First- my chick flick bonafides. I enjoy the hell out of "Bridget Jones Diary." When Bridget gets drunk and sings along to "All by Myself" I can't help but get a little choked up. I love the Hugh Grant/ Colin Firth fight scene, Bridget's dad and a heap of other stuff make that film a classic.
I also it find it necessary to point out that I have quite a few musicals on my great films list. Albert Finney in "Scrooge" is a wonderful that I absolutely HAVE to watch every holiday. The scene in "the Sound of Music" where Captain Von Trapp fires Maria and then goes into the house to see his children singing to his fiance gets me every time. Don't even get me started on "Shall We Dance?" in "The King and I."
That preface is necessary because, when I say I didn't enjoy "Mamma Mia!" all that much I wan't it to be clear that it's not genre that turns me off. If I had to put my finger on the biggest thing that stunk up this movie for me it would be the music. Let's face it- Abba just weren't that good.
But it wasn't just the music. My problems with this musical were the same problems I had with the recent "Across the Universe," a film in which I very much enjoyed the covers of Beatles tunes. My issue is that the music felt "shoehorned" into the story rather than flowing naturally out of the narrative. In both cases I'm certain this is a product of neither writing the music for the story, nor being able to look to more than one artist to find the right song as in the case of the far superior "Moulin Rouge!"
Worst of all my wife loves the flick which marks one of the few times we disagree on entertainment stuff. It means I'm going to be subjected to "Take A Chance On Me" for years.
The price we pay for love.