Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Girls on and off trains

In at attempt to keep this blog from going too quiet for too long (as it had for most of 2016), I'm planning on writing shorter reviews and comments. Let's see how it goes. I read Paula Hawkins' Girl on the Train and found it to be a good, if not great, thriller in the Gone Girl mold of narrative trickery--multiple viewpoints, fractured chronology, weirdly evasive moments when the author is trying to keep information from us without making it too obvious that she is. The story of an alcoholic mess of a woman who gets tangled up not only with her ex-husband and his new wife but also with the disappearance (and possible death) of a young woman who had been the ex's nanny works fairly on the page, but it doesn't quite translate well to the screen.

The voices and overlapping storylines that flowed well on the page feel jerky and artificial on screen. Emily Blunt (pictured) does the best she can with the unpleasant title character, but the other two important women (Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson) seem interchangable--it's a plot point that the two have similar looks but neither one developed a strong individual character to care about. The men (Justin Theroux, Luke Evans and Edgar Ramirez) are more strongly drawn but their internal lives remain blank--partly because we're supposed to kept guessing about which of them, if any, is a killer. They could have been better written characters and still not given away the game. It's an ugly looking movie as well. The one thing about the film I thought was interesting was how often the train of the title is seen and heard in the background. Otherwise, this is a so-so thriller that I wish was creepier.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rocky Horror x 3

Last week, Fox TV aired a remake of the classic cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. [I'm assuming if you're bothering to read this, you don't need a recap of the original movie.] In antic-------ipation of its broadcast, lots of folks took to social media to blast this show before having seen it. I was tempted to do so as well, but I waited and watched it instead, more or less assuming I'd be hate-watching. Well, it wasn't bad enough to hate, but it wasn't good enough to take to one's heart.

There were many mistakes and missteps along the way, and the biggest one was to scrub the material PG-rated clean--technically Fox rated the show TV-14 but that was wishful thinking on their part as there was very little here to raise the ire of 21st century moralists. No f-bombs, no gory cannibalism, no slips of nipples, and no skimpy gold Speedo on Rocky (though his baggy gold shorts did highlight his ass rather nicely from time to time). Worst of all, no Frank running his finger slowly down Rocky's stomach.

Giving the transsexual Laverne Cox the lead as Frank N. Furter was a mistake as well--Frank was not a transsexual, he was a transvestite, something very different. As a performer, she tried very hard and she can certainly hold an audience's attention, but since she presents as a woman and we only know she's gender-non-conformist by knowing Cox's life story, most of the subversive danger of Frank's pansexuality was dissipated. She also tried too hard to ape Tim Curry's original performance, and oddly, when she most succeeded is when she seemed most artificial.

The other performers were fair to middling--no one was a disaster but the only truly bright spots were Reeve Carney as Riff Raff and Ryan McCartan as Brad. The whole thing felt a little like a really good amateur production--they were all trying to achieve something they all seemed to know they never quite would. The production too slavishly reproduced the movie to its detriment, though I did enjoy the opening song; instead of the lips, they went back to the original stage production and it was sung by a theater usherette.

Speaking of which, after watching this, we watched a recording of a live performance of the Rocky Horror Show, the stage production, done last year in London. I'd never seen the stage show before, and it was fun even though it was performed in a fairly small space. The lead, David Bedella (pictured above with Ben Forster as Brad), did a great job of evoking Tim Curry without impersonating him, and most of the R-rated hijinks were present; especially rewarding was the return of Rocky's short shorts. The next night, we watched the original movie, still a glorious camp fest after all these years. And now I've been walking around for days singing "Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still..." and "Let's do the time warp again!" So thanks for the Fox production for putting those songs back in my head.