The Morning After: July 11, 2011

Today, I’m going to go with a new format for The Morning After. Each film will have its own separate review posting and this article will bear links to each individual movie review. The only review content that won’t merit it’s own page will be television series reviews, which will continue to be highlighted in this article.

So, here is what I watched this weekend:

Great Expectations (1946)

Falling just above of the three-star range, this film, one of David Lean’s earliest pictures (his fifth as credited director), shows that his talents for grandeur are a bit lost in the intimacies of Dickens. As adaptations go, this is fairly solid with some good performances. The film is brisk, making you feel as if you saw a much shorter picture. Still, for 1946, some of the early scenes are a bit antiquated, stuffed with old style effects and backdrops. The only scene that felt fresh was the opening outdoor scene, which gave us a hint of Lean’s eye for exteriors. The art direction inside Mrs. Haversham’s waiting chamber is superb, but the rest of the film feels less detailed. To date, I much prefer later Lean than early Lean.

Cars 2

The original was often cited as one of Pixar’s most disappointing, however, I fairly well liked the first film. It had its charms, and was subtly astute. This second film has no subtleties. It’s as brash and abrasive as you would expect from a spy romp with Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) at the wheel. While I wasn’t as disappointed as a lot of critics were, this film easily takes the crown of Worst of Pixar (a title, I previously assigned to Monsters, Inc.) The espionage elements were fun and it was clear from early on that this film wasn’t going to follow the adult-strong thematics of previous Pixar efforts. While Disney’s pro-merchandising machine is clearly at work, there is some terrific animation. The sumptuous cityscapes have a photo-realistic quality that shows the dedication the art direction team had in re-creating those venues (places they actually visited). So while the plot might not be of the caliber we expect from Pixar, the design work exceeds those expectations.

True Blood, Season 3

What season 2 lost in overly fantastic elements, season 3 restores in grittiness and pure sex appeal. This isn’t your grandfather’s vampire flick and every scene of this series makes me grateful I don’t care for the Twilight series. Sex and blood have never been better mixed and what the original season set up for tone and pace this third season has revived. That I’m only four episodes into the season may mean my praise is premature as part of what marred the second season was the slow and muddied latter half. Still, I’m excited to see where this one is going.

Star Trek (The Original Series)

Before I get into the later reviews, I wanted to preface this by saying that I’m a Trek fan, so I am a tad biased. One of my biggest failings is not having seen every episode of each of the series. While I saw a larger totality of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine than the other five series (animated included), I have never felt like I was satisfied. Now that Netflix has all but DS9 (which will be coming later this Summer) and the animated series streaming live, I have a chance to see them as they were intended: in their entirety. So, to make myself happy with my viewing, I’ve decided to write small capsule reviews of each episode and give them all star-ratings so I can look back and remember the best and worst. I intend to work my way through all of the series, even the episodes I’ve already seen, so that I may better understand the evolution of Star Trek on television, one of the best television franchises in history.

Star Trek (The Original Series): The Cage (un-aired pilot)

The pilot episode, featuring only one of the series’ standard crewmen, was a compelling first episode. It showed off the power of science fiction as a medium to explore human civilization and human nature. The effects, for the period were revolutionary, though the set design was a bit rudimentary in places. It’s no surprise the network was willing to pick the series up. Where it would have gone with the more serious Captain Pike than with the more jovial Captain Kirk is anyone’s guess, but you don’t get a finer start to a series than this.

Star Trek (The Original Series): The Man Trap

The full crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise (minus Chekov) is together for the premiere episode of the series. Centered on a creature that sucks the salt from its victims, the crew handily solves the mystery. More polished than the pilot episode, this action-oriented drama still gave audiences an idea of how compelling the show could be while keeping them on the edge of their seats. Although it would have been nice to learn more of the character of the show entire, it’s the kind of episode that is not just memorable, but enticing for non-sci-fi fans.

Star Trek (The Original Series): Charlie X

While I admire their desire to show how a teenager with great power could be devastating without the knowledge of proper social interaction and the selfishness of a child, the episode is frequently frustrating. The superfluous scene in the cantina where Uhura sings a ditty before being silenced by Charlie is one of a handful that feels unnecessary. Robert Walker Jr does a good job playing Charlie, the petulant man-child, he gets a bit over the to in several scenes and the constant close-ups of his eyes as he makes things melt or disappear, is often distracting. It’s not a strong enough episode to come second in the series, but it did.

Star Trek (The Original Series): Where No Man Has Gone Before

Finding a way to both praise and demonize the power of ESP (Extra Sensory Perception), this episode features a young Sally Kellerman as a research scientist and Gary Lockwood as one of Capt. James (R?) Kirk’s longtime pals who are affected by a mysterious space anomaly that gives them powerful ESP. While the morale of the story deals with absolute power corrupting, it just doesn’t feel like a substantive theme for a series about the future.

Star Trek (The Original Series): The Naked Time

My first exposure to this episode was through a Next Generation episode that referenced back to this. I had not seen it until now. I find it an interesting chance for the actors to try something different. Leonard Nimoy and George Takei have a chance to shine alongside a solid supporting cast. It’s a fun little episode that doesn’t have a lot to say about human nature. However, every series needs a bit of levity to break up the dramatic tension.

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