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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stardust

I could use a little Stardust about now. I saw the movie Stardust today at the Essex Cinemas and it is all about magic and wishes coming true and happiness achieved. I guess I’m feeling sorry for myself, Dear Readers, but I’ve got the blues. Lots of the young’uns who work at the Essex Cinemas seem to be flying the coop all at once, you see, and, like a mother hen, I’m missing them already.

It’s amazing how attached you can get to people you don’t really know, but people you still like and enjoy chatting with whenever you see them. In this case, I’ve always been so impressed by the young men and women who work at the
Essex Cinemas. They are so uniformly professional, yet fun-loving, smart, hard-working and a lot of laughs to be around whenever I’ve blown in to see whatever new releases have hit the silver screens on any given week. Now, after what have been several years for some, there seems to be an exodus of sorts as more than a few spread their wings and fly off to college or life in the “adult” world beyond their after-school and weekends jobs at the theater. Siblings Eric and Dana are headed in opposite directions with Eric already gone to Kansas while Dana is about to go to graduate school in Boston. Their sister Greta, another Essex Cinemas alumnus, has already graduated and now has a social work job locally. Heather A. is headed to a Christian college in Pennsylvania, Adam to NYU grad school to study politics, and Jerris is headed back to Rochester, New York soon for her second year. Oh, and John, Emily, and Sonja are all off as well to parts unknown to finish up their formal educations. And speaking of education, Lan, who graduated last year, is sticking with that very field and has gotten a position teaching high school in Enosburg, so she’s left us behind. I hate goodbyes.

Okay, so not everybody is gone. There are still some great people around. There’s a crop of young young’uns with another year or two of school to go before they get the wanderlust, and so I’ll continue to cherish Jess, E.J., Kyle, J.P., Mike, Abby, Rachel, the other Heather, Dave, Kristie, Walter and all the rest, but I’ll always save a little place in my heart just for the gang who are venturing forth into their brand new adult lives this Summer. Maybe I’m just a teensy bit jealous because I wish I had a few of those younger years back for myself, which is, in fact, a prevailing theme in the film
Stardust.

In
Stardust Michelle Pfieffer (Hairspray), under pounds of latex and make-up, plays Lamia, a many-hundreds-of-years old witch who, along with her equally aged sisters Empusa (Sarah Alexander; I Could Never Be Your Woman) and Mormo (Joanna Scanlan; Grow Your Own), are so anxious to turn back the clock and regain their youth they’d rip your heart out for it. Well, not YOUR heart but a star’s heart, and by “star” I don’t mean Helen Mirren or Matt Damon. I’m talking more like Claire Danes, who plays an actual star, like from the heavens. Apparently they aren’t big balls of gas after all. Those are talk radio hosts. Real stars are beautiful young women who sparkle and shine in the night skies. Occasionally one may fall to earth and when that happens it can cause a run after her that resembles a stampede not seen since Rosie O’Donnell heard the McRib was back on the menu at Chez Ronaldo’s. It seems that by cutting out the heart of a living star and eating it one can gain everlasting life. Now the rules here did seem a bit shaky because when a mortal in the story gets wind of this star on earth, he, too, knows of its magical properties, so it apparently works on anybody, though since the witches look like owners of a store called Hags-R-Us and they had already gobbled down a heart in the past, it obviously isn’t a one-time fix. Maybe these stars should come with a warning label: Heart eating may become habit-forming and could lead to addiction. Please check with your witch doctor before sacrificing any virgins unnecessarily.

But I am probably confusing you a bit. The real story of Stardust is about Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox; Casanova), a young man from the town of Wall in rural England, who seems hopelessly infatuated with the hamlet’s prettiest girl, Victoria (Sienna Miller; also of Casanova). Unfortunately for him, Victoria is actually much enamored of someone else until Tristan boasts upon the sight of a falling star that he will cross the wall that separates their world from the unknown and forbidden ‘other side’ in order to retrieve the star for Victoria to prove his worthiness for her hand in marriage. Victoria accepts his offer, partly because she is tipsy on champagne, but mostly because she doesn’t for a moment think he would dare venture into the world beyond their own and she doesn’t think the quest is even achievable.

That world beyond England is called Stormhold and it is a magical place where all sorts of drama is unfolding. The King (Peter O’Toole; Venus) lies on his deathbed and his four surviving sons, having bumped off three already, are prepared to do what they must individually to become the last surviving male heir to this bloodline in order to secure the throne for himself and no other. Watching all this from the sidelines are the unheard and unseen (except to the audience) ghosts of brothers past, a group whose numbers grow as the film progresses. Tragically, it seems how one meets death seems to affect one’s looks on the other side, so you may want to consider that before leaping out of any tall buildings or setting yourself on fire. Think of this as just a little public service announcement from Miss Cleo.

So the King manages before he dies to send a bewitched ruby necklace into space where it inadvertently knocks the aforementioned star to earth. Wouldn’t you know she is star quality
through and though too. She looks just like indie darling Claire Danes (The Flock) though her name is Yvaine. Claire has obviously been hanging with Gwynneth Paltrow for a while now because she is beginning to sound more British than the Brits, which is pretty good considering she’s originally from SoHo in lower Manhattan. Anyway, Yvaine suddenly becomes really popular. She’s got Hagatha, er, I mean Lamia after her, Prince Septimus (Mark Strong; Sunshine), the mortal who has figured out that being the last heir would be a lot more delicious if it was not just last but also eternal, as well as a few assorted hangers-on and bounty hunter types, in addition to Tristan himself, who just wants to take her back to Wall as dowry.

Now if you think I’ve given away too much of the plot I can assure you I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are all sorts of other things going on as well, including kidnappings by pirates in an air ship commanded by the meanest scallywag this side of Key West, Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro; The Good Shepherd), a mother and son reunion saga straight out of “Oprah!” (well, if “Oprah!” was hosted by Samantha Stephens anyway), there’s even a bit of martial arts madness thrown in to the mix for those who enjoy seeing a 97-year-old guard kick teenage butt, but most of all a wonderful and unexpected love story awakens in the midst of this chaos.

There’s really a lovely tale (well a few actually) in
Stardust and a lot of good old-fashioned swordplay, romance, special effects, and comedy to please just about everyone. I’m sure many people will see traces of The Princess Bride at work here though Stardust’s pedigree comes from a novel by Neil Gaiman, creator of the Sandman “graphic novels” franchise (we called them “comic books” back in the day, I’m just saying) and author of the very popular novel American Gods.

The acting is superb, and the visuals are breath-taking enough to make you wish both Wall and Stormhold truly existed (and not just the backdrops of Scotland and Iceland where much of the action was filmed. I mean the actual sets themselves. I’m ready to move to the peaceful town of Wall as soon as EuroWest builds an
Essex Cinemas 2 there). This is a HUGE production with what seems like half of the UK’s greatest actors and actresses appearing in bit parts. There’s Ricky Gervais (creator and star of “The Office”, Rupert Everett (Shrek the Third), Jason Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Nathaniel Parker (tv’s "The Inspector Lynley Mysteries"), Henry Cavill (HBO/BBC’s “The Tudors”), David Walliams (tv’s “Little Britain”), and Mark Williams (in all the Harry Potter films as Arthur Weasley) to name several. It really is a charming production and one that Americans (so far) seem dead-set on missing if the box office is any indication. Maybe it is Potter fatigue or just too much fantasy over-all this Summer. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame because this really is a lively cup of tea.

2 comments:

Tanner M. said...

Great review... i'm sold!

Anonymous said...

i saw that movie yesteray..

i wish i could find a star:(