Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I've seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I'll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I'll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
It's almost impossible to explain the plot of Cloud Atlas. Not because it could give something away, but the incredible depth to each story and inter-connectivity of it all is challenging to put forward succinctly. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer have crafted a sometimes confusing, extremely passionate film about the ability of love to run through the fabric of time as the lives of many are woven together in myriad complex ways. There are more comments the film has, mainly of social justice, equality and fairness as well as the will of the powerful to control others inconsiderate of their needs.
There are many ideas at play in Cloud Atlas and I don't disagree with them; however, at times, there was an overreliance on preexisting platitudes and euphemisms to explain complex ideas. Yet, these simple phrases are but minor cogs in a frequently jumped narrative framework that thrills and confuses with equal tenacity. Each star takes on multiple roles including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant and many others. Each of these actors form key elements to the various stories at play in the film. Each acquits themselves well with Whishaw, Sturgess and Berry the obvious standouts and Hanks and Weaving doing quite well. David, D'Arcy, Sarandon and Grant are hardly in the picture, though they perform admirably in their few appearances on screen. Hanks does a fine job and it's great fun to watch him blend into each role, but there are times when some of his performance almost seems to disingenuous, but that's an issue with dialogue and not performance. Bae is a newcomer and does well standing against some of these formidable voices, but she's the least capable among them, finding a couple of characters that seem stiff or overly stereotypical.
Every actor of the main cast finds a part as a villain in the film except Weaving who never gets a chance to play the good guy, a disappointing outcome considering he has such capability of range, but seldom is given the opportunity to show it. He is definitely good at menacing, but it gets a bit tedious at times. As for the film, it has problems, sometimes too many, but its heart is in the right place and presents some fairly radical ideas...if you happen to be on the American political Right. For the rest of us, it take a common sense approach.
Margaret Rutherford played Agatha Christie's legendary spinster detective Miss Marple in four films from 1961 to 1964. I've managed to watch three of the four (the fourth is currently still in my Netflix queue) and there's a certain fiendishly entertaining quality about the films. The first film, Murder She Said is a charming little whodunit the hews closely to the Marple character I'm most familiar with from Joan Hickson's performance on PBS' Mystery. Rutherford's take on the sleuth was that of a charming busybody able to see threads to a mystery many might easily miss. Unlike her first outing, her final outing, Murder Ahoy is a stark departure from the cozy British landscape of the first film. Taking place on a small ship set up by a trust Miss Marple has recently been named to for the betterment of young men, put to service in a realistic, naval experience. The mysterious death of another of her trustees sends her out to the ship, the Battledore, to further investigate the strange goings-on that may explain her comrade's murder.
Rutherford is at her feisty best and there's seldom a frame of the film that isn't dangerously amusing. Turning the series into a more farcical event is as far removed from Christie's legendary work as it can get, but damned if it isn't entertaining. Helping to make it so enjoyable is Battledore's captain played by the engaging comedic talents of Lionel Jeffries. Jeffries plays his character's flaws to the hilt, delivering a raucous performance, that isn't incredibly believable. He sets the film's tone in a way that Rutherford could never have imagined. The movie is certainly a clever little trifle, but probably shouldn't have been a Miss Marple film.
Murder Most Foul
The third film in the Marple franchise was so far its most dull. Set amidst a troupe of travelling actors, Marple pretends to be a thespian in order to slink her way into the group to uncover a murderer whose killing of a hapless barmaid and former actress could lead to the execution of an innocent man. Few in the cast stand out, a startling fact considering they are meant to be actors. While it does stick closely to the tenets of Christie's vaunted detective, the pacing is off, the mystery isn't terribly exciting and Rutherford seems adrift in the proceedings. Whether you can guess the culprit at the end or not, you'll find this to be one of the least enjoyable of the three films and is perhaps the reason her final film was so heavily laden with humor.