April 17, 2008

Tristan & Isolde

This is a medieval tale of a love triangle between Isolde the princess of Ireland, Lord Marke the Cornish King, and his adopted son Tristan. Tristan loves Lord Marke as a father. Marke loves Tristan as a son. The beautiful Isolde is loved by and loves both men. Despite all of this love, politics are at the center of this love story.

I was initially excited to watch this film yet in the end disappointed. I didn't have any real sense of compassion for the characters involved nor the political situation they were in because the film makers didn't take enough time to make them important to the viewer. Some of this could have been caused by some of the editing or choice of shots as well. Several times a scene would end prematurely making me feel like I needed just a few seconds more to digest it. The love stories felt "almost" real, but in the end I didn't really care about the characters.

The "kingdoms" of Ireland and England seemed a bit deflated as well. The sets looked more like the forts that were made in America's west. In fact, the "castle" in Cornwall reminded me more of Fort Mandan than a great kingdom of England.

I wanted this film to be a great love story that pulled me in and made me fall in love with the characters and their time. I felt let down instead and left wanting more.

Food: Turkey Leg
Drink: Mead

April 8, 2008

Planet Earth

Planet Earth is a BBC created documentary that comes to you in a 5 DVD collection. The photography is phenomenal. I have only watched disc one so far, but am hoping that the quality continues in this series that really makes me appreciate the world I live in. All together, there are 11 documentaries in this series each dealing with a different ecosystem and a final documentary that looks at the future of our planet.  It is masterfully narrated by David Attenborough whose voice knows just how to fluctuate to draw you further into the beautiful imagery.

This was a joy to watch with my 5 year old daughter. She was so inquisitive about everything on screen that we have had numerous conversations in the last 2 days about climate, mountains, animals as well as animals eating other animals. She has decided that if she was a wolf or a crocodile or a snow leopard that she would be nice to the other animals rather than eat them.

The cinematography blew me away. I kept wishing my television was an IMAX screen so that I could have a closer experience. My TV didn't do the film justice. There is a shot of some migrating birds that you initially look at and think, "Gee, that's a lot of birds." Then the camera starts to pull back and back and back. Now, THAT'S a lot of birds.

Seriously consider renting this series.  It is many hours of television viewing, but well worth your time.  

5 out of 5 stars

What to eat with this documentary delight?  Perhaps a fruit & vegetable plate.  Maybe a bit of cheese.  Oh and a good wine, red or white will do. 

April 1, 2008

The Brain From Planet Arous

What would you do if you suddenly noticed concentrated bursts of gamma radiation coming from a nearby mountain? If you're anything like scientist Steve March, you grab your geiger counter and your best friend, leave your fiancee and her father to wash the dishes, and you go over there, that's what you do.

Enter Gor, a floating brain with eyes. He hijacks Steve's body and threatens every country on Earth and comes on to his fiancee, Sally. She and her father find help in another brain, Val, and together they must stop Gor from taking over the world.

Brain has all the staples of a typical 50s sci fi story: hobnobbing men who sweet-talk their loved ones into submission, goofy aliens, and complete trust in the US government. What sets this one apart is John Agar's portrayal of Steve, a man possessed by a criminal alien mind. When he's under Gor's influence he becomes genuinely scary, and you aren't sure what he might do. He even gets to wear cool black contacts. Look for an especially creepy shot of his possessed face from behind a glass water cooler as he tries to conceal his anguish.

The film spends a lot of time on the cheesy transparency-like effect of Gor going in and out of Steve's body. And there are several props that are so good you can even see the strings. So if you like horrible special effects you won't be disappointed. 

Beyond their need to save Steve, Sally and her father don't have much to do. And their reaction to meeting the good-guy-alien-brain is anything but convincing. They might act the same way if they were meeting an estranged family member.

The voice of Gor sounded like all men from that era -- old radio announcers who smoked. But I liked his attraction to Sally. He was a better kisser than Steve until he got forceful, another risky play for an older movie.

The music was odd, it sounded like Benny Goodman wanted to try his hand at scoring a science fiction movie. But it kept the pace going.

I give The Brain From Planet Arous 3.5 stars, one for each character.

What to eat with this movie: grilled tilapia on rice pilaf with a diet caffeine-free soda. Good brain food with a hint of camp.

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