More movie reviews. Ho hum.

Joss Whedon is a fine TV writer. He creates characters in which you become invested -- Buffy, Angel, Mal and his crew -- you care about them. The new film, Serenity is decent television, with all that implies. Fans of the show upon which Serenity is based, Firefly, will find closure with this film. They may not like it when they find it, however.

Actually, I'm not being fair to Joss Whedon. He's written some very good screenplays as well. Frankly, George Lucas could learn quite a bit about filmmaking from this television writer. I enjoyed Serenity even though I'm not a Brown Coat.

Speaking of film legends, I'm a little annoyed with Francis Ford Coppola. He executive produced, and edited for Western release, a Thai film, The Legend of Suriyothai, a historical epic directed by a member of the sprawling Thai royal family, Chatri Chalerm Yukol.

At the behest of the queen of Thailand, Yukol, in an attempt to reawaken in the Thai people a knowledge of their history and heritage, painstakingly researched the story of Suriyothai, a 16th century queen of Thailand, then Siam, who died while fighting on elephant back against an invasion from Burma. In this task, Yukol succeeded. The film broke all records in Thailand and it is a gorgeous bit of movie, sumptuous and sweeping but, at the same time, as history can sometimes be, distant and remote.

Casting one of the queen's handmaidens in the lead as Suriyothai (which means 'the sun') and a Thai rock star as one of her nemeses, Srisudachan (which means 'the moon'), a rival queen and scheming duplicitous poisoner, Yukol takes the story far beyond the boundaries of just Suriyothai's tale, and into the annals of civil war, betrayal and murder that went on right in the midst of invasion. Finding extras and real elephants cheaper than using CGI, Yukol directs gigantic battles on a scale to rival Cecil B. DeMille. The costumes and sets are eye popping and entirely exotic. One can practically smell the incense and taste the betel nuts.

Intended as a four hour mini-series for Thai television, Francis Ford Coppola edited the film down to two and a half hours for Western viewers. Thus my annoyance. The film is a little choppy and hard to follow. Part of that, of course, can be attributed to cultural difference and ignorance of 16th century Thai or Siamese custom and practice. But I have to wonder how Coppola would feel if someone cut down Apocalypse Now for easier consumption.

If you want a taste of something a bit different, and you have two and a half hours to kill, you might want to look this over. Me, I'm going to see if I can track down the uncut version. I do so enjoy tales of palace intrigue and grandiose battle.
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