The Morning After: Apr. 30, 2012

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Blue Angel

Released in 1930 as the sound era was beginning to advance more and more each year, a lot of films still looked at the new medium and did everything they could to use it to its full advantage. One such film is Josef von Sterberg’s The Blue Angel, a German export filmed simultaneously in German and English, a technique not frequently used before or since. The story surrounds a boarding school English teacher who must combat the prurient interests of the young boys in his care who have begun frequenting a baudy night club. In early scenes as the professor whistles to a silent songbird, blows his nose in a handkerchief and opens the windows of his classroom to hear the angelic singing of girls in a nearby girls school. It’s all an effort to showcase the capabilities of the medium. And being only three years into the sound era, the use and execution is rather impressive even if showy.

Oscar-winning actor Emil Jannings, not wanting to work on his heavy German accent for the Talkies , returned to his native Germany not long before the first Academy Awards where he would have been presented his trophy as the first Best Actor winner. The Academy arranged to dole it out early, making him the first individual in history to receive an Oscar statuette. Shortly after his return, Jannings was given the role in The Blue Angel, delivering one of his most respected performances. Having been able to perform in both English and German made his performance all the more exacting.

The professor falls in love with a then-unknown German actress named Marlene Dietrich, who played the main attracting at The Blue Angel club. Once his school forces him out for his deviant behavior, he decides to marry the young chanteuse and joins her on the road, becoming ever more depressed and frustrated that his former life is now gone and he is reduced merely to the status of a sideshow clown, both literally and figuratively. It’s not hard to see why Dietrich emerged from this film as a key player not only in her native Germany but especially in Hollywood. She has a rugged beauty that the more sensuous starlets today couldn’t fathom. She’s talented, though under-tuned in the role. Von Sternberg’s direction is solid and the film plays out almost unexpectedly as the professor’s live spirals out of his control. I plan to check out the English version of the film to see just how the two differ and decide which I prefer, but right now, this one is a wonderful enough effort to be appreciated on its own.


I had previously capsulized the review for this film, but finally had a chance to put my full thoughts down in print. So, here’s my full length review of Coriolanus.

Click here to read the review

Shark Night

Can there be anything more abysmal than a poorly written horror film? Yes. One that tries hard to placate audiences who seem to eat 3D up with a spoon. Shark Night falls back to the painful reality of 1980’s red-blue 3D gimmicks and conjures up memories of the disaster that was Jaws 3D. Set on a small island in the middle of a Bayou lake, a group of college students have gathered to celebrate their futures. When they discover sharks have inhabited their warm waters, the body count rises until an ending so predictable and unimaginative that it could have been written on a cereal box for children and still been considered boring.

Although it was released well before The Cabin in the Woods, it’s absolutely scary how similar the two film setups are. There’s the creepy proprietor of a gas station, the jocular teasing performed against the “brainy” lead and any number of dissatisfying parallels. Had Cabin not been written and filmed two years prior to Shark Night, I might almost have though Cabin was a smarter Scary Movie-type send-up of the film.

Director David R. Ellis has an impressive resume of stunt coordination for films, but his directorial efforts are a what’s-what of painfully bad movies. Some of the scenes in the film are energetic, but they are all lazy and unsophisticated regardless. For that matter, the cast itself is a who’s who of D-movie actors who’ve made their careers off of bland, forgettable horror or teen-oriented twaddle including Josh “Blair Witch Project” Leonard, Sara “Superhero Movie” Paxton, Dustin “Slighter” Milligan and Chris “Butterfly Effect 3” Carmack. The only actors in the cast that have respectable credits to their names are Joel David Moore who appeared in James Cameron’s Avatar and Donal Logue who starred in the short-lived but acclaimed drama series Terriers. Then you have American Idol alumnus Katharine McPhee, former soap stud Sinqua Walls (Passions), soap siren Alyssa Diaz and superfluous eye candy fodder Chris Zylka. It’s not the most impressive cast and that’s saying something not just of their performances, but of their careers.

I tried to think of merits the film might have had and other than some really cheesy elements, there’s little to redeem this awful, messy production. No wonder it came and went from theaters with less than $20 million in receipts.

Being Human (Episode 1)

I am still in the middle of the series Merlin, which I was hoping to finish before moving on to another program or back to Star Trek as I really need to do, but I opted instead for the British drama Being Human, the story of a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf struggling with their aberrant existences while trying to fit into a world that would be afraid if they knew the truth. The show lands very much on the dramatic side and being the first episode, there are some areas for improvement, but it’s a worthwhile program at this early stage and I’m curious to see where it goes from here. The performances aren’t exactly exciting, but they are likable actors playing conflicted, yet ultimately likable characters.

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