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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Snippets: Made for TV movies

WHAT I LIKED:

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Jonathan and I had watched the HBO mini series on John Adams which was recommended to us. Having plenty of time to sit around these days, we worked our way through the series over the course of a few weeks.

I think the title explains itself. This seven-part mini series documents the life of John Adams and his wife Abigail, before, during and after the War for Independence. The movie is quite thorough in giving you an adequate picture of their lives from the time their children were young until the their respective deaths. Based on the book John Adams by David G. McCullough (which I have not read) we found this to be very engaging.

What we liked about it:

  • It expands your knowledge of history and builds your appreciation for the sense of responsibility, duty and sacrifice that our founding fathers felt as they worked towards establishing a new system of government in a free land.
  • We liked the relationship between Abigail and John that was depicted on screen.
  • We liked how realistic the cast and characters were and the excellent make-up artists who brought these historical figures to life and then aged them appropriately throughout the film.
  • We thought it would be nice if such a mini series was done for each of the founding-fathers-turned-president and thought it would be great to use in a high school history class to bring history to life, as it were.

What we did not like about it:

  • There was some brief nudity. One scene shows a tarring-and-feathering (which was horrific) and shows a nude male. There is also a breast amputation towards the end of the film and the woman is showed partially nude.
  • We were taken aback by how much the Adams family truly sacrificed - in being a family! - in order to fulfill a sense of duty or obligation to the American people. John and Abigail had a rather terribly relationship with their sons, in particular, and that was painful to see.
  • We hated/were laughing at some of the cinematography in which the film makers chose to shoot scenes at an angle instead of straight on. This "angled" approach is a fad in photography circles and so we had a good snicker or two over that. (Terrible choice for the film!) It was distracting but it certainly doesn't make it unwatchable. Just amusing in parts which aren't supposed to be amusing.
Two personal points of reference:

The actor who played John Adams looked and acted remarkably similar to an attorney I used to work for. This worked both for and against me as I could therefore more easily identify with his behaviorisms. At the same time, it made it difficult because certain negative behaviors were, well, negative, and so I didn't always like the man John Adams that I saw on the screen.

Sarah Polley (of Road to Avonlea fame!) is part of the cast. That was a big surprise to me!

On the whole, we'd recommend it.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

On the tails of reading The Kitchen Boy (linked to my review) I found a made for television film about the women who claimed to be Princess Anastasia, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia. Anastasia - The Mystery of Anna boasted a rather impressive cast with the likes of Rex Harrison, Olivia de Havilland and even Christian Bale as the young Alexie!

The problem with this movie is that it was made in 1986 and I don't know what it is about movies from the 80's but there is a corniness to them that I cannot get past. There are dramatic lulls, combined with poor cinematography and I find it all very distracting. Characters are either over-emphasized or under-emphasized and I confess that I could not finish this film.

I made it up the part where Anna declares herself to be the princess and then I couldn't really take it any longer. This movie is based on the book Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, by Peter Kurth. I think I would rather read the book than watch the movie in this case. That way I could picture the characters and history for myself, in my own head - where the scenery is much nicer.

5 comments:

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Visiting the John Adams National Park & homes is on my list of things to do when the weather warms up. When we go up to Boston we drive to Quincy Adams and take the T in the rest of the way. :) What ages would you recommend for watching the documentary?

I love 80s movies BECAUSE of their cheesy-ness. :)

Carrie said...

SMB - I would say that the John Adams movie is on par with Mel Gibson's "The Patriot." I'd let my boys watch it at 13/14 (maybe 12.) Just a little too graphic in spots with some mature situations that need to be dealt with. High school students before. Definite use of caution before.

Kate {The Parchment Girl} said...

I really want to watch the miniseries, but I'm trying to wait until I have a chance to read the book since it's sitting on my shelf anyways. I love David McCullough's work and the detail he goes into. Can't wait to read/watch this one!

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

The 80's -- Watch it, you whippersnapper, that's MY generation.

Ha ha. Totally agree. I watched something recently and thought the same thing. It was a good movie, but it seemed so very dated.

Lisa writes... said...

McCollough's book John Adams is fabulous, one of my favorites! I've had the miniseries on my amazon wishlist forever!

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