‘Kingdom of Heaven’

‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is one of those mid-00’s films which for many people, I am sure, has achieved some sort of an iconic status. Mind, it is not terribly accurate historically or in any other way really, but it’s a very interesting view into religion and conflict in a time where the combination of the two is far too common.

I have known the basic version for a long time, and it often felt to me that something was missing. I have now watched the Director’s Cut, and that, by everything, is incomparably better than the standard one.

In the normal version, there are so many topics which come out of nothing and have no background, starting with the very first scene where Godefroy comes to the French village. In the extended version, the extra information helps create a story. We got a beginning and an ending, both of which were cut short by the shortened cinematic edition. The scene where Ibelin is bequeathed is especially rewarding for the people who thought Balian and Sibylla just rode off into the sunset (literally, here, though, as that’s where the Levant is).

Lastly, the music is perfect. The themes centred around Ibelin are my favourite, with the Arabic lyrics making this song absolutely perfect:

What I have not yet mentioned is the original topic. Both Saladin and Balian are deep in thought in this film about the underlying causes of their warfare. Baldwin IV comes across as a kindly and good king as does Saladin. Guy de Lusignan is a malicious fool, and Reynald de Chatillion is a  warmongering tool. One of Saladin’s lieutenant’s is also in the warmongering camp, but in general the Muslim side looks a bit more peaceful. The Templars are merely an extension of Guy’s hand, and the Hospitallers are represented by someone who both a) takes orders from others in the order, b) travels on his own volition, and c) eats with the King of Jerusalem. These three feel slightly contradictory and I wish more had been thought about making the Hospitaller sensible.

I have been driven away from the topic again. I like the quiet pondering of morality versus victory, of the peacefulness and the righteousness of religion. I find it very calming that even though the film depicts the Crusades, it can also depict religious peace between various sects. Maybe some hope is still out there.

What is Jerusalem worth?

– Nothing. And everything.

‘Wrapped Up in Death’, ‘Castle’

There’s no upside to screwing with things you can’t explain.

That’s very much the takeaway from the ‘Castle’ episode ‘Wrapped Up in Death’. A very good and meaningful phrase uttered by the Captain Roy Montgomery after relating a story from his early detective years, it’s hard to argue with.

Things you can explain with, go ahead. Things you can’t, be aware…

‘Anne Boleyn’, H. Brenton

I had the great pleasure of going to theatre yesterday — the play I saw in the Maddermarket Theatre was ‘Anne Boleyn’, written by Howard Brenton. This was the first time I went to this theatre, but quite definitely it shall not be the last. I enjoyed the play very much indeed, quite possibly the main reason for this being the wonderful character of Anne herself. She was brilliant, there is no other way to describe it.

Of the surprises that the play cast towards me, a definite one was bringing James I into the action. Thinking about it slightly more made the overall setting fit though. It was an interesting way of looking back at the tumultuous period of Henry VIII, and, from my perspective, definitely an unique one.

What enthralled me most was the way in which Anne was characterised; she was a Queen in name and deed, and as Cromwell’s character muttered later, he had had enough with politicking women. Anne definitely had her ideas and did her best to carry them through, and I think that was for the best, if not for the best for her. Missing a head can generally be considered a problem…

However, with the vision that the play suggests, would Anne truly have minded the loss of her own head for the progress that England achieved in the direction she hoped it would?

The play is probably rightly called slightly too ‘kind’ in Anne’s direction and with her character (I dug up a review to see what others think), but it is incredibly difficult for any of us now to divine the motives of people from centuries ago. There is nothing to say that Mr Brenton’s approach is not the more correct one from the generally demonstrated ‘woman on the prey’.

As a piece of alternative thinking, therefore, if in nothing else, this play is worth the time. And if the character of Anne you see is as envigorating and strong as she may have been in real life, as was the case yesterday, that much better indeed!

‘Castle’

I was brought into watching ‘Castle’ by a good friend of mine who insisted that it was a show worthy of the time and effort invested. I was dubious. After all, what good can be a show that’s called ‘Castle’ if it doesn’t have any castles in it? That, at least, was my initial reaction.

The first episode of ‘Castle’ that I saw was the season 2 finale. An odd choice, I dare say, but I had very little control over the circumstances. However, I did enjoy that first look and soon afterwards took the series up from its beginning. By now, I’ve seen all five seasons as well as the latest finale that aired just in the beginning of this week. And, I’m here to say what I think of the show in general as well as of that finale.

I would like to start by saying that ‘Castle’ has treaded the fine line between humour and serious attitude quite well for a long period of time. The jokes — out of all categories of possible interest — were certainly a part of what kept me with the show. How often do people find main characters who are self-confessed comic book fans, or who can spar with lightsabers, or who can just want for a better story in their murder?

As an aside: I am afraid that if you look at the categorization of this post, you’ll see ‘Drama’. That is slightly wrong… ‘Castle’ is almost never as drama-like as it could be, preferring the lighter shades of life to the darker ones. I don’t fault the show that — I can’t fault a show for wanting to be happy and amicable after all, but I felt that this needed a mention.

But, is there something that I could find fault with in the show? Yes, there certainly are things. One of these objects is the persona of Richard Castle, the namesake of the show. Nathan Fillion makes for a very good actor and I enjoy his performances, but every now and then his character fails on me. Mr Castle does this by trying too hard, in a way — it’s not that I mind him being childish occasionally, after all, nearly everyone is. It’s rather that I find Richard Castle a bit too self-centred and unwilling to compromise. It’s his way or nothing at all. Or, at least, that’s how it has looked for the majority of the series, and while there may be good reasons for this, there’s also plenty of not-that-good in an attitude like that.

Stana Katic in Mr Fillion’s female counter-part role as Kate Beckett (and the real reason for the show) is a far more interesting character. There’s a lot going on in that brilliant mind of hers, and that is something I certainly appreciate. What I do wish, at times, is for her to be less stubborn and to know when to give up, but I guess that not everything can be done as I wish it to be. Overall, of the two lead characters, I certainly prefer Ms Beckett to Mr Castle.

[Of the minor characters, Detective Ryan is probably my favourite chap on the show. Seamus Dever brings the detective to life better than the others, in my opinion, and I have really enjoyed a more thorough look at the fellow that we’ve had in season five.]

One other thing ‘Castle’ does really well are these random scenes, with people walking out singing or entering in the middle of an important sentence. One of these from the mid-third season was really memorable for me, by virtue of introducing me to a very pleasant song. Here it is, just so the cast can sing it once more for us fans…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4mebeNe0pw]

But now, on to my thoughts on the ending of season five. I enjoyed the last episode, and I am looking forward to the sixth season. In a way, this was the only possibility for keeping the show going, but the episode served well to reinforce my doubts on ‘Castle and Beckett’. I’d like for her to go for what she wants, just because I don’t think he can open himself up — which has been a topic throughout the last season but not really explored in anything except Kate’s thoughts. It is very easy for Castle in every situation to make it about himself, but life’s not like that. And it could be that he has realized that.

It does seem that we need to wait for a few months to see how real this impression is, but hopefully things will be on a more interesting level in season six.

EDIT: With regards to the topmost comment below, I’ve changed the post above to reflect to the characters and not the actors as is proper. Thanks!

‘Life Is a Dream’, P. Calderón de la Barca

For there is such a pleasure in complaining
That a philosopher I’ve heard maintaining
One ought to seek a sorrow and be vain of it,
In order to be privileged to complain of it.

I recently got around to trying what Calderón de la Barca’s writing was like, and I decided to go with ‘Life Is a Dream’ as the first choice. I was a bit confused by the translation at times for unlike the verse above, some of the text seems to have a very difficult pause in it. I am unsure whether this was part of the original or a necessity of the translation, but it did manage to confuse me every now and then.

In this world’s uncertain gleam,
That to live is but to dream:
Man dreams what he is, and wakes
Only when upon him breaks
Death’s mysterious morning beam.

However, this was a very minor fault compared to the rather interesting plot that I did enjoy. After all, fate and predetermination — how could one not enjoy something with as clever a topic as that.

So, read it: but preferably in Spanish to avoid translations, and to get closer to the originals.

What is life?
A thing that seems,
A mirage that falsely gleams,
Phantom joy, delusive rest,
Since is life a dream at best,
And even dreams themselves are dreams.

‘Faces of Rome’

Despite this being a measly trailer for Rome 2 Total War (or as they like doing it these days, Total War: Rome II), I really enjoy ‘Faces of Rome’. It has this dramatic appearance plus the very excellent music… and how brilliant are those few keynotes in the end!

The end makes me so want to see the next day in Rome!

[This also makes me wonder whether I should post a really bad example of a trailer I saw earlier on, which I might just do for the fun of it. Then people can see how a dramatic and striking appearance that can generate interest is set contrary to a base idea of what people could like.]

The music for ‘Faces of Rome’ was done by Jeff van Dyck, and he is also the composer/author for the Rome: Total War soundtrack. Admittedly, I can’t remember much of it, but people seem to say it was good. This here is a link to his own blog/site where he has a more thorough video of this trailer. Enjoy!

‘Detachment’

I was pleasantly surprised, I assure you not by the content, when I today had the chance to watch ‘Detachment’ after a recommendation to that effect. I cannot truly remember when I was last as little disappointed in something recommended to me as this, for while not a happy movie in any way, it was a thought-provoking one.

I would not go as far to say as the recommender did that this should be seen by everyone, and is one of the worthy things to experience, but I will say that this movie had a certain ring to it by bringing to the forefront of thought the problems that we currently find permeating our societies.

Unsurprisingly, concentrating on the problems of the day meant that those lying deeper were not really touched upon nor is any solution provided. I guess that the director more intended to start a dialogue (which makes me wonder if I have truly not read a word of this film or have I just forgotten it or has it not just been mentioned).

For anyone who has seen ‘American History X’, this is a similarly styled movie in many a way and by the same director (Tony Kaye) — so it might bring to your mind a similar portrayal of the American life as that did. I certainly found a few (external) similarities, although I would say that ‘Detachment’ is a bit more relevant in this day and age (or rather, possibly as relevant but the more solvable of the two and the one which needs more enthusiasm to solve).

In any case, watch it. Not quite a clever win-it-all, but worth the hour-and-half that would probably not be spent in any reasonable way anyways.