“V/H/S 94” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.
The reason great classics endure the tests of time and place is because they have a universal appeal to which all peoples, in all times and places, can relate. At the heart of these classics is typically a protagonist whose central struggle is a very human, very relatable one. “Cyrano,” written for the screen by Erica Schmidt and based on the stage musical “Cyrano de Bergerac,” adapted from the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand, and based on a real life seventeenth century nobleman with a prominent proboscis, is one such classic.
The relatable character is Cyrano himself. Cyrano may live in seventeenth century France, but he has the warrior poet characteristics of an ancient Greek. He can outmatch any man in a duel of words or of swords. The only time he’s ever tongue-tied is when he’s face to face with the beautiful Roxanne, whom he practically worships and crushes on from afar. It would be pathetic if we didn’t sympathize with him, and we do, so it’s not. As bold as Cyrano is in battle, he’s overcome with self-consciousness due to a physical irregularity. Classically, this is his protruding nose. In this version, Peter Dinklage is well-cast as Cyrano, and the self-consciousness shifts from being about nose length to being about height.
The most heartbreaking scene (of many) in “Cyrano” is the one in which the comely Roxanne (Haley Bennett) confesses to him her love of a man. Cyrano spends the bulk of the conversation believing she’s talking about him. When she reveals a detail that betrays that she’s speaking of another, you can put Dinklage’s reaction in slow motion to determine the exact moment his heart rips in half.
Dinklage is that good of an actor. As a singer, however, let’s just say I respect the man enough to give him an “A” for effort. He can’t carry a tune as well as others in the cast. He can, however, act better than anyone else and director Joe Wright very wisely had Dinklage play to that strength. While others do the typical stage performance cliché of looking off into the distance and singing to the balcony, Dinklage sings in a softer, more internal, more introspective manner. His songs are shot with a lot of close ups so that we may see the emotions play out on Dinklage’s incredibly expressive face. He may not perform his songs with perfect melody or rhythm, but his emotional conveyance is second to none.
The one Roxanne does love is Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). This is a thankless role since the character is essentially an empty-headed inarticulate pretty boy with nothing to offer except his looks. Of course, this is the point, but nonetheless I respect anyone who takes this role. At least in “Cyrano” the man who plays Christian has to do more than just look good—he has to be able to sing as well. At this, Harrison fares just as well as Bennett, who is also a terrific singer.
In the end, what lessons are we to take from “Cyrano”? Is it that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Or that beauty is skin deep? How about that it’s important to be true to oneself and not try to fake who you are? Or that a vow, such as Cyrano’s vow to Roxanne to protect Christian and make him fall in love with her, can be taken to such an extreme that it becomes toxic? The answer is that these are all lessons we can take from “Cyrano,” and that’s why it’s an enduring classic. Buy it.
I guess after going “Viral” in the last installment in 2014, this series of anthology movies had nowhere to go except back—all the way back to the analog days of 1994 with “V/H/S/94.” If only they could have found something more interesting to do when recalling one of the best years in movies.
All of the shorts in this anthology are themed after horror movie tropes: the apocalypse, cults, zombies, mad scientists, and vampires. This in and of itself is not bad. It’s the execution that counts. Unfortunately, “V/H/S/94” brings nothing new to the table. All play out as predicted. With the exception of some cool gore effects in the zombie short and the crazy mouth design in the vampire short, there isn’t much innovation, which leaves “V/H/S/94” lacking on the whole. Stream it with low expectations and you may get a modicum of enjoyment from it.
“Jackass Forever,” the idiots are back, doing idiotic things that I’m sure will entertain someone, starring Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Dave England, Ehren McGhehey, and Jason ‘Wee Man’ Acuña.
Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover and author of the novel “Takedown,” which is available on Amazon, iTunes, and more. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.