Archive for the ‘Adaptation’ Category

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1

March 18, 2018

Released this week on disk, Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood‘s book, The Handmaid’s Tale exceeds all expectations. Why? Well first there’s the obvious: the production value swings off the charts – writing, directing, acting, costumes, set design, cinematography all outstanding. The tenor of the production brought literal chills to my body. By episode three I was curled up in a ball on the sofa. The Handmaid’s Tale might possibly be the first excellent television series I don’t suggest binging on. Let the terror settle in a bit similar to how Hulu released it – one episode per week. But the real reason I felt wrecked to my core was that this 1985 Sci-Fi novel now reads as a warning to our potential future. And not something in the distant future we need to pay heed. Instead it feels very much like the possibility of what might happen to our country if Trump walks away from the Presidency for even more greed and power leaving the executive branch shattered and ripe for Pence and his insane far-right christian cronies to take over the country once and for all declaring martial law on all of our freedoms. And by all I mean every woman, all men who don’t follow strict heteronormative behavior, people of color, the poor and disenfranchised and my own personal group – LGBTQ folk. So the creators at Hulu have done their job well scaring the shit out of me and making The Handmaid’s Tale a call to arms. Each of us is required to do what we can to keep these lunatics not only at bay, but to bury this hatred for diversity and freedom once and for all. Love truly must win in all its beautiful colors and permutations.

Shout out to a crazy great cast including Elizabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski, Max Minghella, Amanda Brugel, Joseph Fiennes, Madeline Brewer, O-T Fagbenle, Ann Dowd (shudder), and Alexis Bledel (shattering her Rory Gilmore curse forever). Words cannot describe how visceral my reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale has been. It deserves all the praise your friends have doled out, it deserves all the awards, it’s deserves attention and it deserves to be an artistic warning to every decent human being to do everything in their power to crush this hatred and darkness in humanity once and for all. 5 out of 5.


The Man Who Came to Dinner

March 15, 2018

I wish I had a category called “return to later” like I do with books on Goodreads I think are good, I’m just not in the mood to finish. Such is the fate of The Man Who Came to Dinner, a 1941 comedy based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart starring Monty Whoolley, Bette Davis, Billie Burke, and Mary Wickes. Woolley plays a famous author who gets stranded in a small Midwestern town and ends up alienating everyone around him. Classic film critic Steve Hayes felt Woolley’s character was the quintessential fussy urban gay man, which made me add this to my to watch list since I’m always looking for hidden classic film gems with LGBT content or in those days – LGBT implications. For some reason, after finishing about a quarter of the two-hour film, I lost interest. It’s a well-made film. It just didn’t speak to me. Perhaps another time. For now, I’m giving it a 3 out of 5. Next.

By the way, this is the last DVD I received from Netflix after cancelling my DVD subscription.

Mozart in the Jungle: Season 4

March 11, 2018

Breezed through the 10 half-hour episodes of Mozart in the Jungle: Season 4. It started out quiet, not sure where it was headed. I’m glad I stuck around because once they got to Japan, everything fell into place. Lots of great moments as Lola Kirke’s Hailey continues to discover herself, Rodrigo continues to unravel, and Gloria and Thomas find their footing,  expertly walking the line between complicated supporting character and punch line. This was the season John Cameron Mitchell guest starred as an annoying choreographer. He nailed that role. It was also the season the writers made it clear how difficult it is for women to be conductors. The producers balanced the gender gap between writers and directors which always makes me feel better about supporting a project. My only issue with the writing is poor Cynthia. Saffron Burrows has second billing in the credits but the writers seem unsure what to do with her character. I have a hard time understanding that. To me, Cynthia has always been fascinating and could have her own show. I give Mozart in the Jungle a 3.5 and leave it at that.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

February 27, 2018

Finally saw the Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Agatha Chrisite’s glorious novel, Murder on the Orient Express. I realize there’s a lot of telling in the book (and film) rather than showing, but the cast of characters is so much fun and having them marooned on a luxurious train makes for some great suspense and solidifies the book as a beloved classic.

The opening of the most recent adaptation got me so excited. The pace, the cast, the special effects, the food styling – all made me feel like I was entering a Harry Potter-esque adult world – a film that uses special effects for something other than blowing people up or showing us some cowboy western in space. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’ (Mamma Mia!, Eye in the Sky) beautiful shots adds to the excitement I felt entering Poirot’s world of mystery. Unfortunately once the actual murder is discovered, the film fell flat. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t shoulder-shiveringly good. I mean it’s Agatha Christie! Changes towards the end felt like Branagh was caving to the studio execs rather than being true to Christie’s original intention. Too bad. Still parts of it were splashy and fun. Just lacked consistency.

This latest incarnation ranks in the middle of the other two:
2 out of 5 for 1974.
4 out of 5 for 2010.
3 out of 5 for Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Check out Reel Charlie’s review’s of
Murder on the Orient Express (audiobook)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Murder on the Orient Express (2010)

Call Me By Your Name

January 25, 2018

Regular readers to Reel Charlie are aware of my trepidation for the new film, Call Me By Your Name adapted from the novel by André Aciman. For background, take a look at my post Call Me By Your Name: Straight Man. I realize there are a million stories to be written about love and sexuality. Actually there are probably as many stories to be written as people existed. Since my previous post focused on the novel and marketing of the film, let me now focus on the film. I’m glad I watched it. I almost bailed halfway through, but I persevered and saw the entire film. I’m happy to now have the complete experience to review.

A lot of people loved this film: 96% of reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes and 88% of viewers. And specifically several people I know whose film opinion I respect. So did I watch a different movie? The first half was lackluster. Armie Hammer’s stilted acting, moments when it felt like the two leads were reading lines from a teleprompter. It didn’t feel like passionate acting to me. I assumed I would have to eat crow over this film and so I was expecting it to exceed my expectations. Instead it proved to be a very uneven film. In the end, Timothée Chalamet carried the film. Elio’s story proved complex and compelling. The rest of the characters served as window dressing to his journey of first love. Hammer’s Oliver blossomed in the second half of the film. But he never did embody the irresistible charmer and erotically charged stranger every character touted him to be. Perhaps his big lug American presence was enough to sway the small town? We’ve all known men like him. Conflicted beings who might open up for a moment only to slam shut once again after they go back to their conventional life. Did that experience make Elio stronger? I hope so. I had an experience like Elio’s when I was 19. It lasted six months with an older man of 25. It took him 10 years to marry a woman, but marry a woman he did. When I look back at the loves of my life, he doesn’t even make the top 5. Perhaps that’s why I personally wouldn’t waste story time on a character like Oliver. Olivers never stand the test of time. They end up dull and quietly miserable with their life. The final scene with Elio and his Dad spawned mixed feelings. I certainly appreciated the openness his father’s sharing allowed, but his Dad’s logic felt less like sage wisdom and more like a middle-aged man who could only approve of passion and authenticity for teenagers. I hope viewers realize the nuance of that scene. Every morning you wake up is the right time to seek passion, adventure and love. If you didn’t get it when you were young, the only moment when time has truly run out is literally when time has run out.

Finally, I want to address the sex scenes, or rather the difference between the male/female and the male/male. Female/female are in a whole other category due to the patriarchy. Normally when I watch a gay male film, there ends up being more straight sex scenes than gay. That’s a marketing ploy to get more than just gay men to watch the film. I have a feeling Call Me By Your Name deliberately attempts to make the straight sex scenes rough and the gay scenes infused with a sense of sacredness. Of course everyone should evolve to the point where they respect all sexualities and points of love. From my 2018 vantage point, many films still feel unbalanced. So much so, I am in awe when filmmakers present gay male sexuality with the same openness as their straight counterparts. I know, I know. I’m so binary. Whatever the reason, most films continue to shy away from showing two men in a sexual situation as equally as they show a woman and a man.

I didn’t hate Call Me By Your Name. The infusion of openly gay director Luca Guadagnino  and a script from James Ivory helped soften Aciman’s awkward story. I think it does a disservice not to pepper the script with conversations around bisexuality if that was indeed the original point. Instead we are once again fed the trope that some men seek out other men when they are young, but in time they find a nice woman to settle down with and live a conventional life because that is what real men do. The only openly gay men in the film were made fun of by the family and given a split second of screen time. I wish Call Me By Your Name presented as a film for us to digest and love or not. Instead, it continues being heralded as the best film of the year, and finally a post-gay film which doesn’t focus on gay identity or AIDS or any other tedious aspect of modern gay male life. Reality check: we still don’t live in a post-gay world. And what does that even mean anyway? I don’t want to be post-anything. I like the perspective I have as an openly gay man in a culture which more often wants to suppress rather than celebrate who I am. 3 out of 5 for Call Me By Your Name.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

January 13, 2018

Sat down the last two evenings with the 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I stayed with it for more than half of the film. Honestly I could not get into it. The pacing too slow, actor’s delivery dull, sets looked cheap. Lauren Bacall overacted. Ingrid Bergman atrocious. Anthony Perkins reusing his Psycho persona. I’ve heard fun things about this incarnation from Steve Hayes. It’s as if he watched a completely different movie. I simply could not finish it. I really enjoyed the 2010 version from the Brits. And am looking forward to seeing Branagh’s newest addition when it arrives on Blu-ray in the library. Meanwhile 2 out of 5 for Sidney Lumet’s lackluster film, Murder on the Orient Express. Better go back and re-read the book.

Alan Cumming Makes History As First Gay Lead In A U.S. Network Drama (Logo)

January 12, 2018

From Logo,

Alan Cumming is returning to television this season in Instinct, a police procedural with a groundbreaking twist.

Based on a James Patterson novel, the CBS drama stars Cumming as Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a former CIA operative lured back into law enforcement after becoming a professor and authoring a best-selling book on abnormal behavior.
But Dr. Reinhart is also gay and married, which makes Instinct the first hourlong broadcast series in the U.S. with a gay leading character.

Read the full article on Logo.
Visit the CBS show page.
premieres March 11, 2018 on CBS.

Best of luck to Cumming and CBS. Hoping for a great series like Cumming’s The Good Wife.

Heat and Dust

January 6, 2018

Watched the Cohen Media Group’s restored version of Merchant Ivory‘s 1983, Heat and Dust today. For me this next line will be Merchant Ivory heresy. I did not like the film. I turned it off after 30 minutes. Shudder. The horror. I know! I am so ashamed. I simply could not get into it, understand it, or enjoy it. It wasn’t awful. It was flat and meandering. I’m still shuddering. Take away my lifetime membership card now. Someone quick, beat me with an old VHS of Howards End. For the record, I still consider Merchant Ivory’s quartet of films, A Room with a View, Maurice, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day beginning only two years after filming Heat and Dust to be four of the most perfect films every created. Meanwhile 2.5 out of 5 for Heat and Dust.

Westworld: Season 1

December 16, 2017

So a while ago, I watched a couple episodes of Westworld, ok maybe just one? Anyway I forgot to blog about it and now my memory is foggy. What I do remember about this adaptation based on the 1973 film of the same name, which was written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton is that it’s a near-future story with a Western theme. I thought the idea was genius. A kind of billionaires’ playground where any and all fantasies can be acted out in a safe place populated by robots. What wore me down – wait for it, did you guess it? Yup, the Western theme. I just can’t stomach it. Not sure whether the series really deserves a review from me based on my Western-aversion. Still I gotta say what I like and don’t like. Westworld bored me. 2 out of 5. Next.

Love, Simon (trailer)

December 4, 2017

Have you read Becky Albertalli’s novel Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda? Check out my review on Goodreads,

Loved Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda! Easy, feel good YA novel about a 16 year-old boy in the suburbs of Atlanta coming out as gay. These stories warm my heart and make me happy LGBT teens today can find a voice in literature. Great writing and strong characters make Simon stand out in the crowd. The formulaic plot doesn’t hinder – instead makes it easy to breeze through this beautiful book. Becky Albertalli makes Simon 3-dimensional while balancing a light and fun read.

So they’ve adapted the book into a film called, Love, Simon. The first trailer is out and it looks lovely. Check it out.

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