It’s all fine and well to write about films we like and recommend, but it’s just as helpful to tell you about our failed experiments, too.
First up, briefly, I was actually looking forward to City of Ember, thinking it might be a kind of Bladerunner for kids and offer them a more sophisticated movie experience. I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the reviews, so if it received a generally lukewarm or thumbs-down response, and you already know this, apologies for being late to the game.
We rented it recently and as much as I liked the visuals and the texture of the movie, it lacked a strong core. The message was clear (it’s an environmental fable), but for some reason it just misses the mark. The main thing I want to convey here is that it is a rather dark film, and if you’re considering it for kids under 10, you may want to reconsider. Many unpleasant things plague this underground society, and one of them is a truly hideous and horrific monster that would scare the pants off most kids. (I hated this thing.)
So, City of Ember: a reluctant Don’t Go There.
Next, I listened to my inner voice and watched a true classic, The Lion in Winter (1968), with and Peter O’Toole, on my own. I’d seen a comment on saying “Even though it’s rated PG, it’s not for kids,” but they didn’t say why. (The parental warning content on was also scant.) I’d put it on my Netflix list because it’s a classic I’ve never seen (we have hundreds of films on our Netflix list; how many do you have? Are we crazy to think we’ll see them all?) and I thought, when it arrived, it would appeal to K, who of course gets excited by all things medieval right now. (The year is 1183, and gathers his family -- including the exiled -- for Christmas in 1183; he intends to name one of his sons successor to the throne.)
I knew it features a dysfunctional family, to put it mildly, full of betrayal and scheming and lies, and figured there may be some bloodshed, but, considering K’s Xbox games, I wasn’t too worried. But for some reason, I decided to watch it one evening when K was elsewhere, just following a hunch, and was glad I did. Yes, it’s a Machiavellian Home for the Holidays, and is a very adult story, with complex relationship issues (loving a spouse you despise and keep locked in a tower!), and that is literally murderous. But beyond that, there are issues such as the king’s sexual promiscuity and his young mistress (whom he wants to marry off to a son, intending to continue their relationship), the homosexuality of another son, the queen’s alleged dalliance with the king’s father, etc., not to mention references to syphilis and sleeping with sheep.
So much for a lighthearted historical romp at the movies.
Whew. PG? Are they kidding?
For you grown-up types, it’s a stunning piece of Oscar-winning cinema, and something to see if you haven’t. The script is awesome, and Hepburn is of course brilliant and sharp as a dagger. The chemistry between her and Peter O’Toole is super charged, and two hours just fly by. For this one, I say, Date Night!
Henry II: Hmmm?
Eleanor: I have a confession.
Henry II: Yes?
Eleanor: I don't much like our children!
My last in the Trio of Failure taps into a whole genre, which may be particularly useful for you. I’ll post that tomorrow.