Posts Tagged ‘ Liam Neeson ’

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Seventeen

I’m growing increasingly dissatisfied with how these reviews are turning out, but I’m probably not the best judge of their quality. My mood for the longest has been one determined to take the angst-ridden teenager route, and just assume that everything I come up with is severely lacking in some way.

I guess I only believe that up to a certain point, since I’m obviously still publishing and trying to sell work, but the feeling is there, and nothing I try to do seems to change it.


Life is hard.

People keep telling me I should start delving into more social/political pieces, or to try for something that’s more directly comedic than what I usually do. Those things are tempting. I just keep stalling under the excuse of not knowing where to begin. That might be true, but it’s lousy reasoning nonetheless. I shouldn’t let that kind of thing stop me.

I’d also love to throw on an interview on this thing. My interviews generally wind up at Unlikely Stories, but I’m sure there’s something I could do that wouldn’t necessarily work there.

Anything is possible. Unfortunately, everything also feels like it’s about a million miles away from my grip. All I can do is keep moving along regardless. There isn’t a whole lot else I can do. The creative things I try to do can also be looked at as how I lead the rest of my life. Like everything else, I can only try to continue moving forward, continue doing all that I can. Imagine that somewhere along the line, other things will fall into place, and I’ll finally cheer up a little.

What does any of this have to do with movies?

Search me.

I don’t ramble very much about myself (at least, not in print), and this seems like as a good a place as any to do it.

30 Day Movie Challenge:

Day Seventeen: Least Favorite Book Adaptation

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Directed by Andrew Adamson
Starring: William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes

Religion just wasn’t a big deal where I grew up in British Columbia, Canada. That’s at least how I remember it. There were churches, people went to them if they wanted, and that largely seemed to be the end of it. I didn’t encounter people screaming about me about their faith (or lack thereof) until I moved to the States in 1998.

I only mention this, because I was roughly five or six when I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I guess I wasn’t a very bright Kindergartner, because the religious allegories of C.S. Lewis’ long-standing classic were completely lost on me until a few years later. I just thought it was a great story. I quickly gobbled up the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, and then moved on to other Lewis works (like The Screwtape Letters), and even the live-action BBC adaptations (which have not held up especially well for me).

Eventually, I took on more sophisticated books, but I never forgot how much those books meant to me. A monstrous Hollywood adaption just made sense. All the elements for a great fantasy epic were right there. All it needed to rival Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings was someone to piece those elements together. It’s not a complicated task. The right vision for bringing something like Narnia to life coupled with a great cast would be able to cover things just fine. I was excited by the trailers I saw for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I wasn’t expecting the greatest movie of all time, but what I saw gave me every reason to believe I would at least be entertained.

This probably isn’t the Goat Boy Bill Hicks was talking about.

Maybe I had weirdly high expectations of how much I expected from the concept of entertaining. I don’t know.  I know I was (and still am) baffled by the positive reception this got from a large number of critics and fans. It wasn’t that I went out of my way to dislike The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When it comes to movies I’m not a masochist, and I’m not looking for excuses to complain. There’s better ways to spend almost two and half hours of my life, than to watch a movie I want to hate before the opening credits have even appeared.

I realize a lot of people like this movie, and I desperately wanted to like it, too. The impact the books had on the literary aspect of my childhood was substantial. From Narnia I moved on to countless other fantasy books and authors. I read them more than once and probably liked that BBC adaptation more than it deserved. Those elements seemed like they had a great chance of coming together. The cast seemed fine (especially Tilda Swinton), and they were throwing a monstrous budget behind it. Disney wanted to cash in on the Harry Potter/LOTR market, and I couldn’t blame them. They had the perfect property on their hands. The source material has plenty going for it to create a great adventure epic. What’s even better is that the Narnia books aren’t particularly deep even when you take all the allegory into account (and it doesn’t really matter if you do—You don’t really have to be an expert on Christianity to enjoy Narnia). They’re well-told, earnest but pretty straightforward fantasy stories, and I didn’t see how a film adaptation could completely screw that up.

It’s true, there are some stunning visual sequences, battles and backdrops. It’s also true that Swinton tears the house down, with the best performance in the whole thing (Liam Neeson as Aslan is also pretty damn cool). It just wasn’t enough for me. Compared to LOTR or Harry Potter (and in my mind comparisons between all these films are inevitable), this just struck me as very flat, and devoid of the scope and personality that allowed LOTR and Harry Potter (well except for the first two films maybe) to be more than just fantastic light shows. The source material being straightforward is no excuse for a movie filled with unappealing actors, and a story that’s overlong and poorly told.

There is indeed a lion though. The movie certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front.

I can probably blame the child actors for that. God knows why, but I truly couldn’t stand any of them. Perhaps I’m just not very tolerant of child actors in general. The list of ones I can put up with for more than eight seconds is pretty thin. The kids of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are nowhere near that list. I found them to be smarmy, obnoxious little twits, who spend the entire movie wandering around, getting into trouble and accomplishing anything useful mostly by accident. Georgie Henley wore on my nerves me more than any of them. Something about her made me want to leave her at a grocery store. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to be engaged by her precociousness, ageless wisdom and cheery pluck. I’m not one of those people.

The other kids bug me, too (as does much of the cast), but there’s something about that particular little scamp that makes me glad I don’t know any English children off the top of my head. It’s probably not fair to condemn an entire country of children over a movie, but the kids of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were annoying enough to make me want to.

The running time is also ridiculous. Much of consists largely of director Andrew Adamson assuming I’ll be so impressed with the visuals that I won’t notice that most of the time, nothing is really happening. And when something does happen I don’t really care, because everything is so lifeless, so by-the-numbers that I’m really just waiting for Tilda Swinton to say something sinister, Liam Neeson to say something noble or for an extraordinary battle scene to break out. Even those things lose their appeal by the end. All I felt at the end was a completely useless sense of accomplishment. I’ve never walked out on a movie in my life, and I don’t intent to start. Everything I begin will be finished to the bitter, half-awake end.

What does that actually achieve? Probably nothing.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe worked for a lot of people, and I wouldn’t dream of faulting anyone who did like it. I just walked away feeling as though the parts didn’t create the sum of a good movie. Certain aspects of the film are beautifully realized, but for me a great deal of it wasn’t. Most likely there’s a book adaptation I dislike even more, but this one is probably the most disappointing. The books are easy to get into, but that doesn’t mean the movie has to be a dull, completely hollow experience. I left this first film in the series feeling as though I had just seen the same kind of fantasy film, everyone is seemingly trying to do these days. It didn’t feel like the Narnia from my childhood. It was just another empty blockbuster.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Thirteen

30 Day Movie Challenge:

Day Thirteen: Favorite Chick Flick

Love, Actually (2003)
Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Alan Rickman

The label chick flick has always pissed me off a little. I grant some films are specifically marketed to women, but the term in of itself still seems both one-dimensional, and kind of insulting for everyone involved. A good movie moves past those labels. A great movie doesn’t even know they exist. The same goes for bad movies. Terrible is terrible, and there isn’t a label or genre in the world that’s going to grant it immunity.

I hated that term even more when I was a kid. Chick flicks had a negative connotation with the people I hung around with, so I always felt like I was watching porn. Or just anything that people associate with phrases like “Shameful” and “Disturbing.” I would know better, or just not care, as I got older, but the negative connotation still seems to remain with most of the people I know.

That sort of makes sense. A quick glance at Wikipedia’s definition of the term also lists several examples. Some of the examples I like a great deal (Terms of Endearment, Sixteen Candles). A lot of them (Twilight, You’ve Got Mail, Pretty Woman and several others) I loathed. Most I wouldn’t watch, even if I had to choose between waking up in bed with Al Roker over ever sitting through Sex in The City, Beaches, The Princess Diaries, The Notebook amongst many, many others. I’d like to think I hated those movies (and have no interest in seeing the ones I haven’t seen) for reasons other than a label.  Some types of films are just not meant for me (but I might feel like trying them anyway). That’s fine. I still reserve the right to think the term “Chick flick” is stupid, useless and potentially insulting (since it rarely has that positive connotation) to a movie with a lot more depth and range than it’s going to get credit for.

I think the Wikipedia article is lacking, because in the end, I still really don’t know what a chick flick really is. Does it have to have certain elements to qualify? Is it limited to only one or two genres? I know women who loathe the types of movies defined by that article. What about The Expendables? That movie made some decent bank last summer, and a lot of those tickets apparently came from women. Does that mean it’s a chick flick? I know that wasn’t really the intention behind the movie, but should the term apply, since it clearly found a large fan base with women?

Some people might consider Nekromantik a chick flick (I’ve met a couple). It’s all about definitions.

What about Harold and Maude?

I have no idea how far I can stretch the term, so I wasn’t sure what to pick for day twelve. It wasn’t a huge surprise to me that Love, Actually was also referenced in that Wikipedia article. I was half-expecting it, but I didn’t know for sure.

Is Love, Actually a chick flick? I still haven’t the faintest clue (it’s possible that Wikipedia is just a filthy liar). It has the word “Love” in the title, and it’s to my understanding that women enjoy movies with the word “Love” in the title. At several points in the movie there are indeed women, so that should mean something, too. There’s also quite a bit of romance, and scenes in which people express their feelings. God knows, broads are into all that nonsense as well.

Love, Actually is, I suppose, technically a chick flick. I guess it’s good then, that it makes the cut for day twelve. I wasn’t sure how far I was going to have to stretch the concept in order to pick something. It qualifies as a chick flick, but I’ve never seen it in those terms. In the first place it’s very, very funny. Bill Nighy steals the whole thing and deserved at the very least an Oscar nomination. I’ve always liked that the first of the film’s many stories begins, with his depressing but very funny attempt at recording a holiday-themed cover of The Troggs’ “Love Is All Around.” It’s the one plot-line in Love, Actually that never directly interacts with the rest of the movie (all of the other stories are connected in some way), and it’s my favorite.

Rowan Atkinson also shows up. That might be a deal-breaker for some of you.

The rest of the movie is pretty good. The largest reason is the cast. Getting into a movie that’s largely just a mish-mash of differing love stories may or may not appeal to me. I can’t think of anything that would influence my decision more, than the prospect of seeing several people I like in one movie. Love, Actually has one of the best casts of mostly-English actors and actresses I’ve ever seen. That would at least get me to watch the movie, and it’s mostly the work of the cast that’s warranted repeat viewings. The stories aren’t terrible. Some of them work just fine, but none of them are all that remarkable. We get a miserable writer (Colin Firth) falling for his assistant (Lućia Moniz). There’s an executive (Alan Rickman, who’s just as awesome, when he’s playing a character who isn’t terribly sinister or snide) seriously considering cheating on his wife of several years (Emma Thompson, who could never wear out her welcome with me) with his young secretary (Heike Makatsch).  We also see a recently-widowed father (Liam Neeson) get over his grief by helping his stepson (Thomas Sangster) with his first crush.

The headbutt that immediately follows this scene makes it even more touching.

Those are three stories (Nighy makes four) out of the ten that fill the movie’s lengthy running-time (two hours, and sixteen minutes). Writer/director Richard Curtis does a good job telling several different love stories (not all of which are romantic) with so many characters. Without going completely off the rails and drowning the movie in a sea of too much material. That’s a rare feat in any ensemble piece. Some of the stories (Kris Marshall’s hilarious, seemingly misguided reason for wanting to move to America) are just stronger than others (Andrew Lincoln’s very, very boring crush on Keira Knightley).

As a whole though, Love, Actually succeeds by making most of the stories work, and by boasting a cast capable of making average material a better than that. Hugh Grant will never be high on my list, but it’s really hard to dislike him here. It’s one of the two movies that suggest to me Grant can actually be pretty good with the right kind of material (the other is About a Boy). Laura Linney is the only saving grace, in a weak story about an American (who works at the same company as Rickman’s and Makatsch’s characters) struggling to both care for her institutionalized brother, and find a connection to a coworker (Rodrigo Santoro). There are more solid narratives in Love, Actually than ineffective ones, but all of them are maintained and even enhanced by the on-screen talent. That isn’t always going to be enough to support a movie (especially one this long), but it does the job in this case. Only occasionally does this veer into obnoxious, smarmy territory. That is one of the constants, I’m aware of in movies that tend to be considered chick flicks. At least, it’s too obnoxious and smarmy for my tastes. It’s probably just fine here (and elsewhere) for others. Love, Actually largely avoids those moments. Maybe, that’s why I like it. I’m still not entirely convinced that stupid Wikipedia article is right about what kind of movie this is.