True Blood, Season 4 was too much, too fast, too many people, and too many storylines. Generally, HBO shows know how to pace itself. Often the first couple of episodes of a new season of an HBO show are so slow that some viewers get bored. This slow, ramping up pace is done deliberately for proper story development. The first three seasons of True Blood followed this model to the letter; however, Season 4 did not.
This season introduced more characters and each character has a special talent of their own. I think we are up to eight different forms of the supernatural since the show began. Vampires are the least of our worries these days. True Blood also went very soap opera this season with lots of relationship drama. Of course, Sookie was in the middle of all it, solving as many problems as she created. To date, Season 4 is my least favorite season of True Blood, but there is a payoff at the end that sorta makes it all worth it. Sorta. Grade: B-.
Treasure Island (B). This is the old 1934 version, starring Lionel Barrymore (Grand Hotel), Wallace Beery (Grand Hotel), and child star Jackie Cooper (Superman). Although some of the acting is overripe, especially Cooper’s, the story is so good that even this old-fashioned film is a pleasure. Young Jim Hawkins is helping his mother run a seaside inn in England after the death of his father. A mysterious old sailor named Billy Bones moves in, and after misfortune befalls him, Jim finds himself in possession of a treasure map. Some family friends get together and hire a ship and crew, including a one-legged cook named Long John Silver. But it turns out that Silver is a pirate and so are many members of the crew, and once the ship reaches Treasure Island a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. I haven’t read the book in years, but I remember thinking it was very clever, as the winds of fortune favor first the pirates, then the honest folks, and alliances are made and broken. This film captures the spirit of the book pretty well—and without all the special-effects wizardry of The Pirates of the Caribbean. Definitely worth watching.
Scrubs: Season 2 (B-). I didn’t watch this show when it originally aired, but a couple of years ago I bought and watched season one out of curiosity, and I liked it pretty well. I finally got around to watching season two, and I discovered that . . . I liked it pretty well. The three interns from season one are now residents, so they are a little more adjusted to life as doctors, but generally things are pretty much the same. Drs. Kelso and Cox continue to make life hard on them. Dr. Turk and Nurse Carla take the next step in their relationship and get engaged. J.D. and Elliott have another fling, but it doesn’t last. All in all, reasonably entertaining, but not as fresh as season one. There’s still way too much reliance on casual sex to keep things interesting. I will say the show had a remarkable run of guest stars during season two, including: Heather Locklear, Dick Van Dyke, Rick Schroder, Jay Leno, David Copperfield, Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Rerun from TV’s “What’s Happening,” and the lead singer from Men at Work.
A guest review from The Movie Snob’s sister, Kentucky Rose.
Into the Abyss (D+). I really like 48 Hours Mystery type shows, and this documentary that my fiancee found on Netflix seemed like it would be similar. It wasn’t very good, though. The interviewer/reporter (Werner Herzog) who talked to the police, victim’s families, and murderers was European and was sooooo awkward in the interviews. Plus, he seemed more fascinated by the redneck lives of the people than the actual story. I have to admit, the redneck stories were pretty interesting. It’s hard to believe people live like that!
King Arthur (C-). This 2004 film is a very different version of the Arthurian legend from any I have seen before. In fact, it’s more of a Roman epic like Centurion or The Last Legion (although much better than either of those turkeys). In the mid-400s A.D., the Romans are pulling out of Britain, but Roman commander Artorius (Clive Owen, Children of Men), is sent north of Hadrian’s Wall to rescue a handful of Roman citizens from an approaching Saxon army. He takes his handful of comrade knights, including Lancelot (Ioan Gruffud, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer) and Galahad (Hugh Dancy, The Jane Austen Book Club), on his quest, and against great odds they succeed. They also pick up a rather fetching local pagan named Guenevere (Keira Knightley, Never Let Me Go) along the way. She persuades Artorius to stay and help her people, the Woads, oppose the wicked Saxons, who are led by the evil Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgard, Thor). As you may have gathered, this movie is completely unlike Excalibur (Merlin is barely in it, and there’s no magic at all), but like Excalibur I give it credit for trying to have some decent fight scenes (although they go on and on a bit too long in the “director’s cut” that I watched). Oh, I should note that, in Hollywood fashion, the movie makes the few Roman Christian characters out to be villains and it associates Artorius’s relative benevolence and love of freedom with his adherence to the early Christian heresy of Pelagianism. Anyhow, it’s not a very good movie, but it’s a tolerable one.
Excalibur (B). This was my first time to see this 1981 version of the legend of King Arthur. I have to say, I thought it was pretty good. The special effects were a little cheesy, as befits a movie of that era, but I thought the numerous battle scenes were generally well done. Nowadays, directors so often fudge big battle scenes (or even little fight scenes) by editing them into a jumble of quick cuts so that you have no idea what is going on. But there are no such shortcuts in Excalibur, and you get the feeling this is something like how battles were back in the day—clamorous and confusing affairs, with men staggering and stumbling about in their armor, and hacking and bludgeoning about almost blindly. Director and co-writer John Boorman (Deliverance) crams the whole Arthurian legend, including some backstory about Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon, into 2 hours and 20 minutes. I had heard the movie was pretty racy for its time, and there is a bit of sex and nudity. What’s shocking is when you listen to the director’s commentary and find out one of the young ladies involved is his own daughter! And it is a little gruesome in parts, so the R rating is even more fully justified. The guy who plays Merlin (Nicol Williamson, Robin and Marian) is kind of a kick, seeming only about half serious most of the time. Another fun aspect of the movie is seeing all the actors who went on to become famous, such as Liam Neeson (Wrath of the Titans), Patrick Stewart (X-Men: The Last Stand), Helen Mirren (The Queen), Ciaran Hinds (John Carter), and Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects). I enjoyed it.
Pride and Prejudice (B). This is the 1940 version starring Greer Garson (Goodbye, Mr. Chips) as the spitfire Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier (Clash of the Titans) as the dashing but aloof Mr. Darcy. I’m a Jane Austen fan, and I enjoyed this film just as I have enjoyed most films based on her novels, but I have to say this version of P&P didn’t really capture me the way the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley did. Garson was fine, but she seemed a little old for the part, and Olivier was a little too reserved even for a stiff like Darcy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie. Note that the screenwriters included Aldous Huxley of Brave New World fame, and that the filmmakers noticeably changed up Austen’s portrayal of the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh.