"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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Summer Of Sam et al

06 Apr 2002

Over the long weekend, I caught up on some summer movie fare, and rather than waste a whole lot of time hashing them out individually, I wanted to do them all at once and get them out of the way.

Let's start with Spike Lee's new film, Summer of Sam. Summer of So What? more like it. It's the story of a group of friends living in New York city in 1977, and how they are affected by the serial killer known as the Son of Sam. It is not about SoS, or about the police's efforts to track him down, although both are depicted in the movie. The real focus is on Vinny (John Leguizamo), his wife (played by Mira Sorvino) and his friends. Sounds promising: a film about characters -- just the thing I like. However about 45 minutes before the film ended, I had already checked out. My problem was that in the end, I just didn't care about the characters, most of whom are seen as stupid and small minded. There are exceptions of course; Sorvio's character is strong and just smart enough to see how Vinny mistreats her. And Ben Gazzara as a "plumber" brought a fine note of concealed power to his part. The film is shot with an interesting, and maybe even engaging style, but make no mistake: I just didn't care. I have often said of Lee's films that they might be improved by some judicious cuts and this is no exception. How many music videos do you really in a movie that's not about music videos? When generous, I allow one. This had two or three. Cut, cut, cut.

Sunday afternoon found me at my favourite rep cinema for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Now, it wasn't nearly as dreadful as I thought it might be. I was afraid Calista Flockheart would be the weak point in the film (she was not). I wondered if Michelle Pfeiffer was right as Titania (who knows?). And I wondered why Sophie Marceau manages to find so much work (she was Hippolyta) when she plays all her parts with the same dead somnambulistic ennui. Oddly enough, this isn't an awful film, just much less than it could have been. Recently, I saw a tiny bit of a production from 1968 featuring a very young Helen Mirren (Hermia), Ian Holm (Puck), Judy Dench (Titania), and Diana Rigg (Helena). It being the 60's, the costumes were laughable. Still -- much fun.

Final word goes to Wild Wild West, a feature adaptation from the 1960's television series. It's some pleasant eye candy that spent too much on special effects, and not enough on writing. Kevin Klein is affable as always (as he was in Midsummer Night's Dream), and it's always nice to see M. Emmet Walsh working. For that matter, I guess Will Smith was light and fun too. Uh huh. When Monday morning came 'round, I tried to remember what I had seen no more than 72 hours ago. The name of the young woman who served me at the snack bar came to me in a second (Megan); the name of the film took minutes. I'd like to see Megan again, but the film...

Related Sites

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
Summer of Sam (Official Site)
Wild Wild West (Official Site)