Archive for the ‘Adaptation’ Category

Eight Men Out

June 12, 2017

I’m screening a number of older John Sayles’ films for a Fall project I’m developing at the library. First up is Eight Men Out, the 1988 film about the The Chicago White Sox players who decide to throw the World Series of 1919. Featuring a classic Sayles ensemble cast including John Cusack, Clifton James, Michael Lerner, Christopher Lloyd, Charlie Sheen, David Strathairn, D. B. Sweeney, Studs Terkel and even John Sayles himself, Eight Men Out explores the complicated relationship between sports players and owners in the early 20th Century who didn’t appropriately compensate the players for their talent and draw. One of the great signatures of a John Sayles film is his effective use of a massive cast. My only complaint was the confusion of having a lot of young white male actors in baseball uniforms and a lot of older white male actors in suits and hats. I didn’t connect individually with many of the secondary characters. Still it felt like a John Sayles film. And absolutely worth the view if you’re a sports fan, especially historical baseball. 3.5 out of 5.

Animal Kingdom: Season 1

June 7, 2017

I blew through five episodes of the American television series adaptation of the Australian film, Animal Kingdom based on a true crime family. Ellen Barkin executes a strong performance as the matriarch of a California crime family – four sons and a grandson. The testosterone spews everywhere in this household. Raw, hardcore, feral. These boys barely contain themselves enough to get the job done. Scott Speedman, Ben Robson, Jake Weary, and Shawn Hatosy deliver fine performances as the Cody brothers with Finn Cole entering the family as the youngest member now that his mother has OD’d. There’s definitely a pull with this series. It’s hypnotic, gritty, forbidden. It’s also homoerotic with all the guys hanging out shirtless around the pool half the time. You can’t help but keep watching. I made it through five episodes. There’s one awful homophobic bashing I got through early on, but another begins in episode five and I just couldn’t stomach it. Both make sense per the plot. Perhaps you may have a higher tolerance to violence. I simply could no longer watch. Animal Kingdom performs well. 3 out of 5 for me. Higher if you can stomach the violence.

Riverdale

May 25, 2017

Really enjoyed watching the first few episodes of Riverdale, The CW’s dark mystery based on the Archie comics. The print comics continue to be sweet and innocent, a blast of much-needed nostalgia in these troubled times. But the series decided to take a more serious and adult turn and it works. Loved all the secrets. Loved the inappropriate choices some of the characters made. Not sure I will continue to watch, not because it’s deficient. It definitely works on many levels and is worth checking out. 3 out of 5.

Deep Water

May 23, 2017

Australia’s 4-part mini series Deep Water based on the “real life hate murders of… up to 80 gay men in Sydney’s eastern suburbs (Bondi) beaches in the 1970s and ’80s” (Wikipedia)  might be a hard sell if the quality of production wasn’t so thoughtful. There was a documentary produced in addition to the mini-series. Starring Yael Stone (Orange is the New Black) and Noah Taylor as the detectives who link a gruesome reality of homophobic hate crimes and murders that continued through the present. The current killings are linked to the past as Stone’s Tori Lustigman uncovers a vast ritual of gay bashings dating back 30-40 years ago. Tori’s interest in the case goes from professional to personal jeopardizing the investigation at several key points. Deep Water creates a quiet, steady police procedural eschewing theatrics for methodical detective work which pays off in the end and makes the series easy to watch. Actor Jeremy Lindsay Taylor gives good eye candy as Tori’s friend Oscar who we find deeply connected to the past and puts himself into jeopardy to find answers. No denying the subject matter is difficult. The production respectfully honors the story with a steady, kind heart. 4 out of 5.

I watched Deep Water on DVD from the library. Netflix has it on DVD as well and it’s available streaming through Acorn TV.

I Love Dick: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

May 22, 2017

I was intrigued by the Amazon pilot I Love Dick, Jill Soloway’s (Transparent) new comedy on Amazon which aired earlier this year and got picked up for a full season. Soloway bills it as the first series which looks at the world from a female gaze. I’m paraphrasing there but that idea intrigued me enough to watch the next episode on Amazon.  Unfortunately I didn’t find the characters universal or relatable as in Transparent. To be honest, there was too much posing. The show feels too contrived skewering the hipster world of art and writing. Full disclosure, I read this rather confusing article last evening about Soloway which may have put a damper on my enjoyment of the show. Sometimes I learn too much about the creatives behind a project which colors my feelings. Based on the novel by Chris Kraus, I Love Dick explores a woman following her male partner to Marfa, TX where she explores the meaning of her art and life through an obsession with a self-absorbed male teacher named Dick. Though the premise and pilot intrigued me, I didn’t connect with the series after viewing episode 2. Again, I’m thrilled to not add another series to my list of must-see’s. I didn’t hate Dick, it just got on my nerves. Art hipster posing is not something I look forward to embracing on a rainy evening after dinner. 2.5 out of 5.

Director James Ivory (Merchant Ivory) at the NYC 30th Anniversary Screening of Maurice

May 21, 2017

What an honor to spend an evening watching the 4K remastered version of Merchant Ivory’s Maurice last night. For Maurice’s 30th Anniversary, the Quad Cinema in New York City hosted director James Ivory in a Q&A after the screening of the film. Truly a masterpiece, E.M. Forster’s adaptation felt just as fresh and necessary today as it did 30 years ago. And to think Forster and Ivory had the audacity to leave us with a hopeful ending. A sumptuous feast for romantics at heart. Always a 5 out of 5.

88 year-old James Ivory discussing the making of Merchant Ivory’s Maurice to a sold-out audience at the Quad Cinema in New York City. May 20, 2017.

King Charles III

May 20, 2017

I got so wrapped up in this weekend’s activities, I forgot to review the British production King Charles III (I keep trying to type Charlie III). Based on the play by the same name, King Charles III imagines the future king and all he would inherit. Tim Pigott-Smith plays Charles to perfection reprising his Olivier and Tony nominated role from the West End and Broadway. Unfortunately, Pigott-Smith died in April 2017. I loved the concept of imaging Charles reigning stronger than his quiet demeanor implies. I loved seeing his children act out of character as well. Who knows what is in store for the monarchy when Elizabeth passes. Written in blank verse, King Charles III has a decidedly Shakespearean quality to it. This is a well done production worthy of you time – especially if you are fascinated with royalty or anything British. 4 out of 5.

Third Man Out

May 13, 2017

Sometimes it can be painful writing reviews. There are certain films I simply don’t want to bash or dismiss. Third Man Out is one of them. In the mid-2000’s, HereTV produced four indie films based on the Donald Strachey Mysteries written by Richard Stevenson. Stevenson’s written 15 Strachey novels. They are fun, easy-to-read mystery novels based in Albany, NY featuring an out gay male private eye. Third Man Out was the first of four novels HereTV produced directed by Ron Oliver and starring Chad Allen and Sebastian Spence as Donald and his life partner Timmy. Watching the film a dozen years later, I found myself cringing in places and definitely wanting more. I love Chad Allen. Although he’s left acting, his thirty-year career highlights include Reel Charlie indie favorites, Save Me and Hollywood, je t’aime. I wish Third Man Out had felt as good as those two gems. But in truth it fell flat. Perhaps the series got better as time went on. Not sure I will investigate further, but lovers of murder mysteries and gay male indie film might want to give them a try. 2 out of 5. Next.

‘Little Women’ Is Coming Back As A Three-Hour Miniseries On PBS (HuffPost)

May 8, 2017

The tenth adaptation (1917, 1918, 1933, 1949, 1950, 1958, 1970, 1978 and 1994) of Little Women begins filming this summer and set to air on PBS in 2018. Which version is your favorite? I’m partial to the 1978 Susan Dey version with Meredith Baxter, Eve Plumb, and William Shatner.

From HuffPost,

Whether you’re a Jo, a Meg, a Beth or an Amy, we have good news: your favorite treatise on girlhood and growing up is back.

Masterpiece and PBS announced on Thursday that the network has an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women underway, in conjunction with Colin Callender’s Playground and the BBC.

So far we know that the two-volume novel will be turned into a three-hour miniseries, though further details, such as casting choices or release dates, have yet to be announced. The U.K.-U.S. production team will begin principal photography as soon as July.

Read the full article here.

Dear White People: Season 1

April 30, 2017

For some reason the original film, Dear White People didn’t resonate with me. Looking back on the review, I didn’t feel there was enough energy in the 2012-2014 project. Fast-forward to 2017. Creator Justin Simien turns his idea into a 10-episode Netflix television series. Now this was the right vehicle. Focusing on a character at a time, Simien and the crew tackle mostly race but also sexism and homophobia on modern college campuses. Dear White People is fun, but in the fifth episode things get very serious. And then by the seventh episode there’s some melodrama I could have done without, but then I remembered this is college after all and even intelligent, evolved young people are going to get messy with their emotions. Overall I love the Netflix show and am positively looking forward to Season 2. The series tackled a lot of really tough subjects head on as young people have a tendency to do. Bravo to the fearless cast and crew. 4.5 out of 5 for Dear White People.


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