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April 25, 2002

The Musketeer

The Musketeer a.k.a. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Croissant

Alexandre Dumas must be drilling himself halfway to China by now. The Musketeer is quite possibly the worst adaptation Iíve ever seen, riddled with bland acting, bad scripting and even worse directing. For the nitpickers like myself, itís also chock full of historical and literary inaccuracies.

From the very opening credits, I had a bad feeling about the movie. Youíd think with a budget of $40 million they could have come up with something better than uninspired titles superimposed on grainy still shots from the film. It was all very ABC movie of the week.

In the opening scene, young Díartagnan, son of a former Musketeer, has his parents killed in front of him by a sadistic henchman of Cardinal Richelieu named Febre (Tim Roth phoning in a bad copy of his role in Rob Roy). Despite slashing Febre in the eye, the men ride off and do not kill Díartagnan. Of course not, for who would travel to Paris to avenge his parents fourteen years later?

Fourteen years later, Díartagnan is now played by underwear model Justin Chambers. He and his mentor Planchett arrive in Paris. There he finds that the Musketeers have been disbanded, there is an evil plot to dethrone the King of France, he meets and falls in love with a hottie, yadda yadda yadda. The plot is so thin itís nearly transparent, and the acting so abysmally flat that I couldnít care less what happened.

Díartagnanís love interest is renamed Francesca (as opposed to Constance in the novel) and played by Mena Suvari, who is obviously using the same phone as Tim Roth. She came over from Spain with the Queen, but somehow ended up working as a chambermaid in her lecherous Uncleís inn. She and Díartagnan have a fantastically boring love affair. What else could it be with Chambers delivering such lines as ìWhen you look at me like that, I don't know what to say,î in a tone of voice more suited to ìI think I left the stove on.î

The remaining three Musketeers were a group of actors I had trouble distinguishing. That one was Porthos, oh wait, maybe heís Aramis. No, heís fat; he has to be Porthos. You get the idea. In any case, all the secondary characters fade into the background, and probably thankfully so, just waiting for the paycheck to come in.

There are a few cameos by well-known actors, such as Catherine Deneuve, who provides the one bit of spark from an actor. Although she is far too old to be playing Queen Anne (who would have been 24 years-old historically), Deveuve valiantly plays her as a spunky no nonsense woman. The part where she dresses as a servant and brains a guy with a bottle is one of the best in the film.

Xin-Xin Xiong, noted Hong Kong fight choreographer is responsible for most of the action scenes in this movie. They are, without a doubt, not your average swashbuckling swordfights. There is a lot of wire work and incredible acrobatics, but even that wasnít enough to elevate this movie out of the dregs. Many, if not all, of the fight scenes are lifted directly from other Hong Kong action films, like Once Upon a Time in China. Rent one of those instead.

I donít know how The Musketeer ended, I was nodding off at what seemed like the two-hour mark (the film is only 88 minutes long) and went to bed with 20 minutes left to go. That about sums it up, I just didnít care enough about this movie to be bothered staying awake for a little longer.

If you're really interested in seeing Jackie Chan meets Douglas Fairbanks fight scenes, wait for it on cable. Then tape it and fast foward through the rest.

Posted by Anne at 1:26 PM

April 17, 2002

Smallville - Stray - 04/16/02

Once again, she tries to do a plot summary...

A young boy sees what we later learn is his stepfather and his stepfather's girlfriend (or was it wife?) shoot a man, and runs away. Only to be hit by Ma Kent, as she is driving down the road at night. She takes him in (gee, they have a habit of doing that). It is soon revealed that this is no ordinary boy, but one who can read minds. And his stepfather is searching for him, so the boy can help him continue his crime spree. In the B plot, Lex's father returns to Smallville with Lex's reward for all his hard work at the Luthercorp plant there -- time to return to Metropolis and take his place at Daddy's side. Will he do it?

This was a good, solid episode. Nothing too outstanding, and it introduced a person with a power not supplied by the meteorites. Yay him! I really did love the interplay between Ryan (the boy) and Clark, and even Ryan and the Kents. The boy just fit right in.

But of course, the stepdad is not far behind.

It turns out the kid can only read surface thoughts, but it's easy (second nature) for him to ask a question or say something to get people thinking about what he wants to know. Leading to much wackiness ensuing as he spills the beans on Chloe's hopes of Clark asking her to a dance. And lo and behold, he can't read Clark at all.

This kid could easily have been turned to the dark side, save for his favorite comic, Warrior Angel. He knows the path of good, and he wants to be on it. The Kents, especially Clark, help him see that even more.

Good interaction with the kid and the rest of the cast too, Chloe, Lex, and Lana. He knows lots of stuff, or has inklings, as evidenced by his warning Clark of Lex at the end of the episode.

What of Lex? Ah yes...going back home to Metropolis. Of course he doesn't go, but once again they give him a great speech to deliver to Daddy Luthor. Will Lex one day return to Metropolis at the head of an army? Of course he will, but not until Smallville has run its course. They're keeping him home on the farm.

Rating - 7/10. The evil villain stepfather was the only downside - very one-dimensional, but that was most likely the intent.

Posted by Julia at 9:42 AM | Comments (7)

April 16, 2002

Angel - Forgiving - 04/15/02

And the excitement keeps growing and growing.

Basic summary:

Fred and Gunn spend most of the episode tracking down Wesley, and wondering why he kidnapped Connor.

Angel cares nothing about Wesley at this point, so spends the episode trying to get Connor back from the hell dimension, including kidnapping Linwood and then getting Lilah to help him.

Wesley spends the episode bleeding in the park where he was knifed.

The Host/Lorne tries to talk everyone out of everything.

Justine realizes that Holtz has lied to her all along, and life really sucks.

Cordy continues to screw Groo off-screen (did Charisma Carpenter do a movie or something??).

Okay, now for the other bits...

I really like the White Room, from Wolfram and Hart. I'd had an inkling of this by reading the Roush Review in TV Guide, but was still really pleased by it, and how they did it. Making sociopathic (okay, maybe not in the true sense, but she weren't no normal kid) kids is tough, and she had the right glee/delight in what she was saying to pull it off without sounding silly.

And you knew that giving Angel that info on how to make Sahjhan substantial was just so wrong...

I really, really liked the twist on the prophecy. I was wondering how they were going to pull it off, and they did it so perfectly that I am kicking myself for not seeing it coming. I think I was so drawn into Wesley's paranoia that no other thoughts occurred to me. Which was no doubt how they intended it to be.

I liked Justine's reaction to everything. She really is lost without Holtz, and they showed, with neat flashbacks, just how dependent she'd become on him. I never really liked Justine to begin with, but they're giving her some neat depths now. I hope they don't drop her. I did like the image of what she had done to Wesley haunting her when Gunn had the knife at his throat.

And now, for the ending.

When Angel showed up in the hospital, I knew something was up. I looked at the time on the clock, and then at Lou. I told him, something's going to happen here, this is not going to be a happy ending.

Angel's speech before grabbing the pillow just confirmed it. I could point to Angel's abandoning of the group last season, which will possibly be pointed to in a future episode. But it likely won't matter. To quoth the oracle:

"Can't wait to see how it turns out."

Posted by Julia at 12:56 PM

April 6, 2002

Farscape - I-Yensch, You-Yensch - 04/05/02

I'm really pissed.

I had a review all written out, and then my 'net connection blorped in the middle of sending, cutting me off. I was unable to retrieve the post, since I'd typed it in the text box.

I'm not writing it up again. Go here and read that review. I agree with everything the poster said.

Rating - 5/10, with the comic relief of D'Argo in the nerve-pain bracelet being the only thing to raise it to a 5.

[grr...still annoyed...]

Posted by Julia at 8:42 PM | Comments (2)

April 5, 2002

Open Call Explained

Good question, Meera!

(of course, you have all the good questions...bitca...(gdr))

Style? Reviewers can post in their own style. I'm not looking necessarily to have consistency. In fact, differing views and reviews would be welcome.

As in-depth or as shallow as you like. I know, I'm so wishy-washy, eh?

I'd definitely want to keep spoilerage down to a minimum. Maybe use the same color text as the background so people can highlight to see spoilers if they want to.

I'd love to hear what other people like/don't like. My own tastes in books run to fantasy, some sf, romance. I don't do much else, so if someone wants to review the same kind, that's fine. Or if they want to do non-fiction, general fiction (Oprah's bookclub, anyone? (gag...but that's just me)), feel free.

This blog is entitled "Pop Goes the Culture" simply because it was cute and I liked it. I was going to have section on my website for pop culture things that I wanted to link to, then realized I wanted to do reviews, commentary, things about episodes of my favorite shows that I liked/disliked, and get it out beyond my local friends, to see if others felt that way.

If Brian hadn't abandoned me to go work in some OTHER Brown office, I'd bug him more to post in here. And the other person I'd have love to roped in, Anne, got talked into doing her own MT blog by some idiot, so there went another chance at an author. And Paula has her own mediablog on her site.

Hmm...this deserves a full post, and not a comment. (cutting and pasting...)

So, that's probably not what you wanted to know. You can be as scathing as you want here. Swear. Get really bitchy. Let me (and others, hopefully) know what you REALLY think.

Or be as sweet and treacly as you want (trying to picture Meera that way...not working...especially as I've never met her).

Or somewhere in the middle. That's me, fence-sitter extraordinaire.

Posted by Julia at 4:30 PM | Comments (1)

April 2, 2002

Open Call

I invited a former co-worker to participate in this blog, but he has chosen to be lazy and not post anything.

So I'm opening this up to all my friends, local and far away!

Anyone else want to have their voices heard on the latest in pop culture? Anyone want to talk about their favorite shows in a place that's not their own living rooms (or blogsites)?

Let me know! I'll create a login for you, and you can post at will!

All I have to say is -- thank $DIETY for new Farscapes starting Friday. This rerun season is killing me!

Posted by Julia at 4:38 PM | Comments (1)