Sunday, January 22, 2006

The highs and lows of entertainment

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the Metropolitan Opera's season premiere of Mozart's Die Zauberflote, directed by Julie Taymor (who directed The Lion King on Broadway, among other things). The production was amazing -- it had puppets, a revolving stage, and set design the likes of which I've never seen before. Musically the show was equally impressive. Papageno, Sarastro, and the Queen of the Night were all fantastic singers and actors. I've now see five operas at the Met, and this one was by far my favorite. It's also the last one I'm likely to see for a while, as it was the final production in my four-opera subscription and I'm not sure I'll renew it for next season. But it was a fantastic way to go out if it has to be the last one.

Later that evening, I met a group of friends for a showing of Underworld: Evolution. The outing was organized as a way to help one of our friends through a rough time in his life. I figured I'd go along and see if I could pick up any residual support that he didn't need. I hadn't seen the first Underworld, so I watched it on Friday night. It looked cool, but it seemed to be vampires and werewolves mixed with The Matrix. But at least I had some idea what the sequel would be about. The group convened at the theater at the appointed time, but there was no sign of the friend who had proposed this movie in the first place. As none of the rest of us were not Underworld fans, we were particularly concerned that the guest of honor would miss his own event. Sure enough, when we dialed his home number, he was still there, out of touch due to technical issues on his end, and clearly not going to make it to the theater in time. So, stalwart ticket-holders and movie-goers all, we resolved to see the movie anyway in spite of his absence.

I fully understand why the studio didn't screen it for critics. It wasn't a complete mess, but anyone who hadn't seen the first film would have no idea what was going on in the sequel. Fight sequences seemed to have been inserted at random, the love story is completely unbelievable, and the story is barely comprehensible. Derek Jacobi plays some sort of immortal, though whether he was a vampire, a werewolf, or something else entirely was left unexplained. I think he must have needed the money, because I can't understand how or why an actor of his stature was in this thing. Kate Beckinsale was easy on the eyes, and at least she wasn't doing her horrible Transylvanian accent from Van Helsing, but otherwise there's not much she can do to help this movie. It doesn't end with a cliffhanger per se, but the ending narration hints at more Underworld movies to come. I think I'll skip the next one. All I know is that I need to see a good movie now to get this claptrap out of my head.

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