Saturday, May 31, 2008

Edge of the City (Martin Ritt, 1957) C

Martin Ritt's Edge of the City tries too hard to be Stanley Kramer meets On the Waterfront with it's take on 50's race relations and many of the same plot points from that Elia Kazan classic (down to the fight on the pier and a main character named Charlie). It's as if the film can't decide if it wants to be a morality story about standing up against corruption or a love story between an educated woman (Kathleen Maguire) and a lowly dockworker (John Cassavetes) and consequently juggles them both awkwardly. By the end, neither is completely developed or ended properly. The only storyline that moves forward is one that concerns Cassavetes and another dockworker (Sidney Poitier) who befriends him. It's not especially interesting because nothing really happens between them, but Poitier is as charming and potent as always. It's hardly his most interesting role, but I always enjoy seeing him do his thing.

Autumn Leaves (Robert Aldrich, 1956) C

In this Robert Aldrich film, Joan Crawford plays a lonely spinster who suddenly falls in love with a handsome stranger (Cliff Robertson). They get married on a whim and all is well until Crawford catches Robertson in a small lie, which soon escalates into madness after visits from his ex-wife and father. Aldrich, the director of such gothic works as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, does a fine job in the beginning of setting up the melodrama and the beginnings of a delicious plot twist. But, somehow, neither of these devices are developed completely. The melodrama aspects weren't as trashy as they could have been, but neither were they on a Sirksian level. There was a slight hint at some kind of twist, with the shot of Robertson's ex-wife and husband embracing in the hotel room, but nothing about this relationship was explored beyond this scene. Autumn Leaves isn't a complete failure, but it's not as successful as its pedigree and beginning suggest.

Sex and the City: The Movie (Michael Patrick King, 2008) C+

Having never seen an episode of the TV series, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Sex and the City: The Movie. My friend Jill, knowing my love of juicy, bitchy TV shows like Gossip Girl, The Golden Girls and Desperate Housewives and Jennifer Hudson, told me I would enjoy it, so off we went to the theater. I'm not going to say that I didn't enjoy the film, because I did, but I don't really think it was a great film. There were some great one-liners- especially from Kim Cattrall's Samantha- and all four ladies were in fine comic form, but something just didn't click for me. The melodramatic tendencies at certain points were a little overdone and felt a bit forced to stretch out the run time. The film didn't feel too long to me until the last 20 minutes when I realized that I had been sitting there for two hours and the ending didn't feel any closer than it had 30 minutes ago. Jennifer Hudson, as Carrie's assistant Louise from St. Louis, proved that Dreamgirls wasn't a fluke. Her character wasn't anything special, but she added personality and pizzazz to the role to make it sparkle. Hudson knows how to work a camera and has the raw talent and appeal; give her a couple years and she'll mature even further into an accomplished actress- all she needs is experience. I'm glad that films about mature funny women are making a ton of money, proving to Hollywood that there is an audience for films like these, I just wish it was a better film to praise. Seeing this film totally made me wish someone would make The Golden Girls: The Movie. Now that would be a cinematic experience aimed at the same demographic (and who wouldn't pay $10 to see that reunion?)

P.S. I'm totally a Miranda.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cranford (Simon Curtis and Steve Hudson, 2008) B-

Everything about Simon Curtis and Steve Hudson's adaptation of the popular Elizabeth Gaskell novel of the same name screams out every single stereotype of Masterpiece Theatre that we've come to expect: stiff upper lip British-ness, stuffy characters, competent, yet not passionate, camera work, costumes recycled from Pride & Prejudice and Becoming Jane. But, somehow, Cranford works. The script is warm and funny in a dour, British way and the acting is superb. Then again, what else would you expect from the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins, Imelda Staunton and Julia McKenzie. It was strange to see Dame Judi Dench play such a nice and genteel older spinster after her sinister spinster in Notes on a Scandal, but, as always, she adds her own flair to the part and provides another fascinating performance to her repertoire. The real stand out, however, was Imelda Staunton as the town gossip Miss Pole. She's a great comic relief and a quick jolt whenever the miniseries/film descends into Masterpiece Theatre hell (which was too often for me). Cranford is decent enough overall, but I can't imagine sitting through this without the excitement of seeing these four grand dames duking it out.