The Carrie Diaries is a fun retro series about a young girl finding her footing in big city Manhattan in the 1980s. The girl in question … Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame. The only issue with the series is that it’s a new take on wildly popular characters we have come to know in six seasons and two films. Since we’ve known these characters for more than 10 years, can a series really justify making changes?
The series follows Candace Bushnell’s Carrie Bradshaw’s life more closely than the version we know from television and films. However, this Carrie does call into question our perspective about the unlucky in love fashionista. Can a girl with such fabulous teen years be so relatable?
1. Carrie's Daddy Issues
Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) didn’t have a dad in the HBO series. In the episode “A ‘Vogue’ Idea” she confesses that her dad abandoned her family. This explains why she was consistently drawn to older men like Mr. Big (Chris Noth) and Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov). However, in the CW teen series, Carrie (AnnaSophia Robb) has lost her mother. Her father Tom Bradshaw (Matt Letscher) is doting, attentive, and pretty respectful. The shift does work to change the way we'd analyze the behavior of adult Carrie, just a bit.
2. How They Met
In the Sex and the City 2, Carrie describes how she met all of her friends: first Charlotte (Kristen Davis), then Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), then finally Samantha (Kim Cattrall). However, on the Carrie Diaries, young Carrie meets a young Samantha (Lindsey Gort), who is cousins with Carrie’s sex-obsessed school rival Donna LeDonna (Chloe Bridges). From a narrative perspective, it makes sense. Young Carrie has a friend like Charlotte in overachieving Mouse (Ellen Wong) and snarky Maggie Landers (Katie Findlay). Also, Samantha is a fan favorite. But it calls into question why the show would alter the canon if it would so readily pander to fans of the HBO series.
3. Carrie's Lost Virginity
Older Carrie confesses she lost her virginity in a Sean Bateman’s rec room on a ping pong table (something more or less... relatable). In The Carrie Diaries, rather than losing her virginity to her boyfriend Sebastian Kydd (Austin Butler) she loses it to a young playwright Adam Weaver (Chris Wood). This is symptomatic of the need to paint a young Carrie Bradshaw of having fabulous teenage years. If she grows up to be a “the last single girl” at 40 years old who makes poor choices with men, money, and her life the series seems more like a tragedy.
4. The Escapades of Samantha
Gort’s portrayal of Samantha is the right blend of a wink and a nod to Catrall’s unique cadence and over the top behavior with a fresh take on the character. Catrall’s Samantha represented successful women with more traditionally "masculine" attitudes on sex. Echoing adult Samantha's business savvy, Gort’s Samantha can scam her way into something fabulous. She isn’t as sex-obsessed as Catrall’s Samantha, but she does have sex pretty indiscriminately in the 1980s with AIDS on the rise. The prospect of Samantha having a ton of sex for 30 years is a little excessive if you stop to think about it.
5. Carrie Doesn’t Struggle at All
Adult Carrie is always struggling but handles it with grace. She can’t pay her bills but can use her cache in Manhattan nightlife to still live fabulously. However, young Carrie has no real problems. She’s upper-middle class, is able to accept an internship at Interview magazine during with her school schedule, and she has rich boy after rich boy interested in her. The series is lighthearted and doesn’t really offer Bradshaw any character building struggles. So why is the woman we meet in her adult years so harried?
Here's a video that shows all the similarities of the two series.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
For a film that involves a love triangle, mental illness, a Bohemian colony of free-spirits, an impending war and several important historical figures, the most exciting elements of Summer in February are the stunning shots of the English country and Cornish seaside. The rest of the film never quite lives up to the crashing waves and sun-dappled meadows that are used to bookend the scenes, as the entertaining opening never manages to coalesce into a story that lives up the the cinematography, let alone the lives of the people that inspired it.
Set in an Edwardian artist’s colony in Cornwall, Summer in February tells the story of A.J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper), who went on to become one of the most famous painters of his day and head of the Royal Academy of Art, his best friend, estate agent and part-time soldier Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens), and the woman whom they both loved, aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning). Her marriage to Munnings was an extremely unhappy one, and she attempted suicide on their honeymoon, before killing herself in 1914. According to his journals, Gilbert and Florence were madly in love, although her marriage and his service in the army kept them apart.
When the film begins, Munnings is the center of attention in the Lamorna Artist's Colony, dramatically reciting poetry at parties and charming his way out of his bar tab while everyone around him proclaims him to be a genius. When he’s not drinking or painting, he’s riding horses with Gilbert, who has the relatively thankless task of keeping this group of Bohemians in line. Their idyllic existence is disrupted by the arrival of Florence, who has run away from her overbearing father and the fiancé he had picked out for her in order to become a painter.
Stevens and Browning both start the film solidly, with enough chemistry between them to make their infatuation interesting. He manages to give Gilbert enough dependable charm to win over both Florence and the audience, and she presents Florence as someone with enough spunk and self-possession to go after what she wants. Browning’s scenes with Munnings are equally entertaining in the first third of the film, as she can clearly see straight through all of his bravado and he is intrigued by her and how difficult she is to impress. Unfortunately, while the basis of the love triangle is well-established and entertaining, it takes a sudden turn into nothing with a surprise proposal from Munnings.
Neither the film nor Browning ever make it clear why Florence accepts his proposal, especially when they have both taken great pains to establish that she doesn’t care much for him. But once she does, the films stalls, and both Stevens and Browning spend the rest of the film doing little more than staring moodily and longingly at the people around them. The real-life Florence was plagued by depression and mental instability, but neither the film nor Browning’s performance ever manage to do more than give the subtlest hint at that darkness. On a few occasions, Browning does manage to portray a genuine anguish, but rather than producing any sympathy from the audience, it simply conjures up images of a different film, one that focused more on Florence, and the difficulties of being a woman with a mental illness at a time when both were ignored or misunderstood.
Stevens is fine, and Gilbert starts out with the same kind of good-guy appeal the won the heart of Mary Crawley and Downton Abbey fans the world over. However, once the film stalls, so does his performance, and he quickly drops everything that made the character attractive or interesting in favor of longing looks and long stretches of inactivity. He does portray a convincing amount of adoration for Florence, although that's about the only real emotion that Gilbert expresses for the vast majority of the film, and even during his love scene, he never manages to give him any amount of passion.
Cooper does his best with what he’s given, and tries his hardest to imbue the film with some substance and drama. His Munnings is by turns charming, brash, and brooding, the kind of person who has been told all of their life that they are special, and believes it. He even manages to give the character some depth, and even though he and Browning have very little chemistry, he manages to convey a genuine affection for her. It’s a shame that Munnings becomes such a deeply unlikable character, because Cooper is the only thing giving Summer in February a jolt of life – even if it comes via bursts of thinly-explained hostility. It's hard to watch just how hard he's working to connect with his co-stars and add some excitement to a lifeless script and not wish that he had a better film to show off his talents in.
Unfortunately, by the time Florence and Gilbert are finally spurred into activity, the film has dragged on for so long that you’re no longer invested in the characters, their pain, or their love story, even if you want to be. Which is the real disappointment of Summer in February; underneath the stalled plot and the relatively one-note acting, there are glimmers of a fascinating and compelling story that’s never allowed to come to the forefront.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Tired of Oscar-worthy dramas? In the mood for (hey!) a teen flick? Your time is here (again).
"Down to You," a Generation Y romance starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Stiles, leads the pack of new releases this week, presumably to the delight of the nation's mall rats.
Elsewhere, a host of critically acclaimed (or in teenspeak: boring and long) films previously in limited engagements will add screens. That list includes: "Angela's Ashes," "A Map of the World" and "Titus".
Here's a complete list of films opening this week:
"Angela's Ashes" (Paramount) -- Adapted from Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, this film documents the author's childhood in Ireland during the 1930s and '40s. Emily Watson ("Hilary & Jackie") and Robert Carlyle ("Trainspotting") co-star as Frank's working-class parents. Directed by Alan Parker. (Expanded release)
"Diamonds" (Miramax) -- In an effort to bond with estranged son Dan Aykroyd, former prizefighter Kirk Douglas takes his son and grandson on a road trip to Reno in search of 13 stolen diamonds, stashed away years ago. Lauren Bacall co-stars. (Expanded release)
"Down to You" (Miramax) -- Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Stiles play a young college couple whose precarious romance is blighted by the pull and tug between true love and the temptation to wander astray from commitment. (Wide release)
"A Map of the World" (First Look) -- Based on the novel by Jane Hamilton, this drama casts Sigourney Weaver as a married woman whose tranquil life in rural Wisconsin is shattered after the accidental drowning of a friend's daughter. Julianne Moore, Chloe Sevigny and David Strathairn co-star. (Expanded release)
"Play It to the Bone" (Buena Vista) -- Out-of-work boxing rivals (and friends) Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas get the chance of their lifetimes to work together in Las Vegas. Directed by "Bull Durham's" Ron Shelton. (Expanded release)
"Rear Window" (USA) -- A restored version of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic starring Jimmy Stewart as a housebound magazine photographer whose voyeuristic pastime unwittingly unravels a murder in the apartment facing his rear window. (Limited release)
"Titus" (Fox Searchlight) -- In Shakespeare's epic tale of revenge, Anthony Hopkins stars as Titus Andronicus, the Roman general who sows the seeds of vengeance when he executes the son of the enemy queen, played by Jessica Lange. Alan Cumming co-stars. (Expanded release)
"Topsy-Turvy" (USA) -- Acclaimed director Mike Leigh's tale of operetta composers Gilbert and Sullivan. The film traces the duo's bumpy collaboration. Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner co-star. (Expanded release)