Horror, 'Honeymooners' are this week's picks May 10, 2010
By G. Michael Dobbs
A recent horror film and more television from the vault are in this week's DVD review column.
What is it about the human psyche that we are constantly attracted to the concept of the end of the world? There have been a long line of movies depicting the end of the planet entirely or "life as we know it," and the recent release "Legion" is the last in line.
"Legion" takes story and visual themes from a variety of sources. It's a religious film presenting the idea that God wishes to wipe humans off the face of the planet once more. It's got a little New Testament material in it as well. It's got some zombie imagery as well as moments of gore. And the end scene is a direct homage or rip-off -- from the conclusion of the second installment of a very well known science fiction franchise.
It's quite the cinematic casserole.
Paul Bettany plays the archangel Michael, who has come to earth and cut off his wings -- therefore becoming human and denouncing God's wishes -- in an effort to save mankind. Specifically, Michael wishes to save the yet to be born child of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), a disillusioned young waitress who works at a truck stop in the Mojave Desert.
It is at the truck stop Michael will recruit others to help him ensure the child will be born, whom, he said, would eventually lead humanity out of the darkness.
Instead of a flood, God sends down a group of beings -- angels? -- who inhabit the bodies of weak-willed humans. Aside from one of them, they all act like George Romero-type zombies, showing a preference for shambling about and biting off chunks of human flesh.
The problem with the film is director and co-writer Scott Stewart doesn't develop many of his ideas enough to make a truly different and involving film. Why does God want to destroy humanity now? Why are some people zombies and others are not? Does the birth of the child stop God's efforts to wipe man out?
Bettany's performance is quite good, but he can't save this film from being ultimately unsatisfying. The DVD has the usual "making of" extras.
The Honeymooners Specials: Second Honeymoon
The Honeymooners Specials: Valentine Special
When I was a kid, I thought the original "Honeymooners" shows were hilarious. When I watched the originals years later, I confirmed those half-hour black and white shows were among the best comedies American television had produced.
Jackie Gleason produced new "Honeymooners" skits as part of his subsequent shows in the 1960s and '70s with the battling Kramdens seen in color. He even did some as musicals! That's the point when I stopped watching them.
Now two of the last four "Honeymooners" productions -- made in 1976 and 1978 -- are on home video. The shows reunited Gleason with Audrey Meadows who had left the role of Alice -- and while there are some pretty funny moments, there seems to be something off a bit.
In the original series, audiences saw a married couple who had been together for at least 10 years. They were blue collar and often expressed a desire to better themselves. Some of the best shows were about Ralph and his latest get rich quick scheme.
They were believable as a couple and their situation seemed all too familiar.
With these two shows, we're asked to believe these couples have been in suspended animation -- everything is the same except they've grown older. It just doesn't ring true.
The stretching the skits out to an hour also doesn't seem to work too well.
Perhaps I'm being picky, but I held these shows up to the stand-alone series from the 1950s and they just don't reach that comedic height.