The Morning After: July 18, 2011

Every week, 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:

The African Queen

One of the great pleasures of the cinema is seeing films in bright, rich colors or crisp black-and-white. The African Queen got a massive restoration two years ago and it looks stunning. The story of a Methodist missionary in Africa at the outset of World War II who falls in love with an uncouth steam boat operator as they plot their escape from Africa and the eventual destruction of a prominent German ship in the nearby lake. Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart are at the top of their respective games and the film, apart from looking absolutely breathtaking, has a lot of great narrative twists and a handful of contrivances, but there’s never a dull moment and the on-location setting aides it tremendously.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Click here to read the review

David Copperfield

Silent films had been fully abandoned, yet a lot of the melodrama had not been lost. This film featuring an over-the-top, but somewhat likable, Edna May Oliver tells Charles Dickens’ popular and classic novel of a young boy whose grows into a man as those around him love and betray him in equal measure. Despite the broad acting presented in the film, Freddie Bartholomew does a superb job as the young David. Even though he’s given some bad direction from the normally lovely George Cukor, he keeps his emotions in check and draws the audience in. Basil Rathbone plays a fine villain, but there’s nothing more than surface viciousness on display. The story itself transcends presentation and yields an entertaining film that could have been better served applying more subtle performances.

Star Trek (The Original Series)

Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Lovell. My continuing mission is to explore strange new episodes, seek out new concepts and new situations, to boldly go where I’ve never gone before. Cheesy as hell, I know, but it was fun. I continue my exploration of the entirety of the Star Trek canon with the most recent episodes of first season of the original Star Trek series. This weekend saw a mixed bag of offerings from the original from the mediocre to the grand. Here’s what I watched this week.

Star Trek (The Original Series): The Enemy Within

Another prime example of how science fiction can be used to explore philosophical concepts that would be nearly impossible without it. Here, a transporter malfunction causes Captain Kirk to be split in twain. One of his halves contains the anger, fear, lust and other negative emotions we keep bottled up while the other maintained his intellect, reason and compassion. As Mr. Scott works feverishly to repair the transporter so they can reverse the damage, Kirk tries to rationalize whether it would be better to stay apart or be brought back together again. While the episode gives Shatner too much leeway in terms of over-the-top performance, the episode still has some interesting things to say about how our negative side enables us to make decisions even if we keep it hidden from the rest of society.

Star Trek (The Original Series): Mudd’s Women

The first clunker to date features a smuggler and huckster Harry Mudd who’s attempting to sell off three beautiful women for a vast sum of money is captured by the Enterprise while trying to run from them. After the Enterprises sustains heavy damage saving Mudd and his women, they must travel to a nearby lithium crystal mining station where they hope to buy crystals to return power to their ship only to discover that Mudd has contacted them and arranged a trade: he will be freed along with his women to become the miners’ wives in exchange for the crystals the Enterprises needs. The ultimate moral to the story revolves around the search for internal beauty and not relying on drugs to bring it out of a person. The entire concept, while noble for an era where women were treated less civilly and equally than men, doesn’t go far enough. The episode misses a few key developments that could have made it more convincing and important.

Star Trek (The Original Series): What Are Little Girls Made Of?

If you could live forever without the ability to hate, fear or even love, would you take that opportunity? In search of a legendary scientist, the crew of the Enterprises seek out the fiance of Nurse Christine Chapel, a renowned scientist long through lost. When they come across him on an icy planet, they find that he has discovered the secret to the creation of android life that is so life-like and realistic that it’s impossible to tell the difference. He has found the way to take any man or woman and turn them into an android replica with the same memories, but without the complicated emotional trappings that make them inferior. Captain Kirk must unravel the mystery and uncover a way to protect himself, Nurse Chapel and the crew of the Enterprise. One of Shatner’s more subdued performances, this is one of those pensive episodes that doesn’t have a lot of fancy effects, but builds itself entirely on intriguing concepts on Utopian ideas tarnished by selfishness and a lack of a clear picture of consequences.

Star Trek (The Original Series): Miri

On a planet duplicate to our own, a virulent disease threatens to kill the Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Yeoman Rand along with two security officers if they cannot find the cure in a week. Complicating matters is the mystery of over a dozen children, the last remnants of a society that died away to the same disease three centuries earlier. Their longevity threatens to be their undoing as each one develops symptoms as they enter puberty. Michael J. Pollard leads the children while young Miri (Kim Darby), closing on womanhood herself allies herself with the Kirk and Co. Darby delivers a knock out performance at such a young age while Pollard, looking a bit older than he should playing a teenager, also does well. As the clock ticks away, Kirk must confront the children and convince them of his sincerity and the threats they face. While the moral of the story is nothing revolutionary, the acceptance of growing up and the abandonment of childish things, it works quite well in this sometimes bleak story. And sometimes the human touch is more important than being revolutionary or overly scientific. The idea of prolonged life, and the eradication of disease, are strong themes that play as well today as they did back then.

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