Sunday, August 12, 2007


Friday Movie Review (quite early)

Went with my daughters to Stardust and had a good time. Especially good was Robert De Niro. It's very predictable but it's a fun amusement park ride just the same. You could do a lot worse.

The director, 36 year old Matthew Vaughan, also directed the good Layer Cake, and produced Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. So he's climbed the heights (or plumbed the depths) of English organized crime. This is fantasy--not usually my favorite.

Here's my problem--the son Tristan (played by newcomer Charlie Cox) is looked on by most of his village (including the comely Sienna Miller) as a shop keeper's boy. He and the star, (played by Claire Danes) think of him as a boy who happens to work in a shop (he's actually a bastard prince destined for better things). He and the star are right. But is it a deserved belief? One of the best tests of sanity is the congruence of how you view yourself with how others view you. Good mental health is a close congruence. We all know the kind who have a grandiose self image but who most people think suck, but there are plenty of people who others think are great, but who think of themselves as crap (like Curt Cobain). Why isn't Tristan just a guy who thinks too much of himself? You may think this is a trivial question but it is key, I think, to the emotional resonance of the movie, its very success. The transition is in the brief time he spends on the air pirates' ship. He learns a style he has heretofore not had; he learns to fence, he begins his own journey of self awareness about the object of his heart's desire. He has to work on these, with the help of his mentor. It's a fairly easy transition (just a week of effort) but at least he pays some dues and can enter the witches' lair with a hope of success of being the man his mother somehow knows he can become. (How do these people know this stuff? Oh, that's right it's fantasy).

It pained me to see the beautiful Susan (Sarah Alexander) on Coupling only in old hag make-up. Michelle Pfeiffer, just a few months from 50, is a wonder; when she sheds her old hag makeup and puts on hot woman makeup she looks, well, hot--very hot. Just a miracle. The whole movie is beautiful and the wonderful lake district, where I believe most of it was filmed, doesn't hurt. Another plus is the Greek chorus effect of the seven sons of Peter O'Toole. Excellent. And yes, as he 'promised' in Venus, he only has a death bed scene. The narration by Ian McKellan is pretty good too. It's just over two hours long but doesn't drag a bit.

One final quibble. Small magic, like turning a man into a goat, has a big aging effect on Michelle Pfeiffer's arms. Even a few small repairs to her face causes her bosom to collapse. However, the huge magic of making an Inn from her chariot costs her not a thing. So much for Newton's Third Law of Magical Transmutation.


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