Monthly Archives: October 2011

Review: The Three Musketeers

the three musketeers one sheetThe Alexander Dumas book The Three Musketeers is one of the most exciting books of its era and still offers a thrilling adventure with the coming-of-age tale of D’Artagnon leaving home to join up with the fabled Musketeers, acting in the service of King Louis XIII against the evil Cardinal Richelieu. Sword fights, treachery, beautiful women, honor, it’s a truly epic tale.

Which is why it’s been adapter to cinema again and again, with predictably mixed results. In fact, this Paul W.S. Anderson production is the 28th time the Dumas story has made it to the screen, and there are rumors of another adaptation to be released early in 2013.
With a story this familiar, it’s necessary for the writers to come up with a new twist, a take that weaves in the three Musketeers — Athos, Porthos and Aramis — and the familiar characters of Richelieu, Milady de Winter, the Duke of Buckingham and Rochefort with something new, something that’ll capture our modern sensibilities. For this version, it’s an airship that the Duke of Buckingham (a completely wasted Orlando Bloom, in a surprisingly minor role on screen) uses to visit King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox). The King must have an airship of his own, but evil Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) instead secretly builds one for his own nefarious purposes, having stolen the plans from the Duke by way of the feminine wiles of the equally evil Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich).
Then there’s the acting. While the cast was strong and each has turned in solid performances in films like Lord of the Rings, Inglorious Bastards, Death at a Funeral, Robin Hood, and The Book of Eli, none of them brought much more than minimal effort to The Three Musketeers, and it really hurts the film, ranging from Fox’s painfully foppish performance as King Louis XIII to Jovovich’s disengaged attempt at one of the great femme fatales of the big screen, Milady de Winter.
This is a completely forgettable version of a tremendously entertaining story and I strongly encourage you to check Netflix or the local video store for one of the many superior productions that preceded it. Yes, there are some nice visual effects, but not enough to justify a $10 ticket. You’ve been warned.

Continue reading

Review: Take Shelter

take shelter movie posterSomething really bad is coming, an impending apocalypse and only Curtis (Michael Shannon) can see it on the horizon. His Mom was institutionalized after a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia when he was ten, however, so are his dreams a prophecy of the future or his own mental facilities starting to fail?

Stuck in the chaos is his loving wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) who want to support him and tries to understand what he’s going through, but can feel his distance and fear, and can’t avoid his increasingly bizarre, erratic and random behavior. When Curtis spends the money they need for their daughter’s cochlear implant on an expanded storm shelter in their rural Ohio backyard, it’s the last straw and Samantha leaves. But is he right? Is there a storm heading their way?
Take Shelter is a powerful film about mental illness that uses a very atypical narrative approach. There’s a level of ambiguity throughout the film that leaves you wondering whether the apocalyptic visions are foreshadowing the future or whether we’re witnessing a blue collar construction worker in rural America break down, day by day.
It’s all too easy for a filmmaker to oversimplify the anguish and confusion of a mental illness, just as alcoholics “just stop drinking” in movies, or bigots “just see the light” and reform. Were the film to have just a slightly shorter running time and ended just a few minutes earlier than it does, Take Shelter would be a powerful and provocatively ambiguous movie about mental illness, but the final scenes that suggest one ending, then switch to another, highly ambiguous one hurt the story a bit too much for me to recommend this without reservation, though I still felt it was quite compelling.

Continue reading