A Prairie Home Companion Reviews
This is a look at the (fictional) last show of the long running radio show (performed on stage in front of live audiences) that is an ode to old timey radio shows, Americana, and folksy, old time music. The show itself is also very much a legit member of the very thing it is an homage to, and I will be really bummed out when it does end for real.
Even though this is fictionalized, it's a fascinating look at what likely goes on during and behind the scenes of a show like this, made more dramatic by the fact that this scenario positis that the showing being done is the final one. The film is an elegy (on multiple levels) as is a real meditation on the past, death, endings, and questions of the future, though it mostly focuses on the past. It all sounds heavy and somber, but it's actually presented in a very light and bittersweet way, and I think that, as Robert Altman's final film, it was a great way for him to end his lengthy career.
I have no doubt he knew this was his final film, but I'd like to believe that the film's themes and mood were planned that way from the get go, and that they're made more powerful because he was dying and knew this would be his last hurrah. This makes it a bit more haunting, but death is presented in a rather gentle and calm way, despite the lingering somber undertones.
In typical Altman style this has naturalistic, improvised, yet stylized feel to it, filled with long takes, a continually moving (no matter how subtle) camera, and of course, a sprawling ensemble cast filled with many notable names from Keillor to Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Lily Tomlin, and Meryl Streep among others. Even Lindsey Lohan shows up and does a decent job. In fact, there's not really a bad performance to be found, and that includes the musical numbers and not just the acting.
I actually rather like the film's loose plot about the scenario with the show, although I am bummed that there's no "News from Lake Wobegon" segment. I think that might be my only real complaint to be honest. Given that I'm not as well versed in Altman as I'd like (though I'll be watching and reviewing two more of his films within the next few days) I maintain that this is a good film for him to go out on, though I think an Altman diehard might be more qualified to answer that. I have no idea what people who aren't fans or familiar with the show and the type of music it features would think of this movie, but I like it.
I'd like to think that if you enjoy quaintness, nostalgia, and get a warm fuzzy feeling when you reminisce about small towns, the good old days, and simpler times ,then you miht just get something out of this if you give it a watch.
(Watching "A Prairie Home Companion" all these years later, knowing full well that the death of Robert Altman happened months after it's release, ends up being a prophetic and haunting experience.)
[font=Century Gothic]The movie captures the mood well but not the manic energy of live performance anywhere near as well as the great "Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald." And the all-star cast is overkill(particularly Kevin Kline who is simply annoying). It would have been better going with professional singers in the featured roles. [/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"A Prairie Home Companion" is about the disposability of culture and how easy it is to forget the past. Here, most of the characters are out of touch with the present, and are not sure what will happen to them once the theater is gone.[/font]
[font=Book Antiqua][b]The Proposition[/b][/font]
[font=Book Antiqua]Did you ever watch any of those dusty old 1940?s westerns starring Roy Rogers or Gene Autry? Handsome heroes with perfect bone structure, cast against a backdrop of random beautiful rock formations and clouds pinking in the sunset?.and somewhere somebody is playing a harmonica. They always had that far-away expression, like their heart beat to every movement of the west. They spoke kindly to ladies, cleaned their boots, and fed their shiny horses. They freely defended piles of dirt and wood they called a ?town,? and never lost a fight. They were amazing creatures. (The cowboys, not the horses ? those things were just shampooed well). You wondered if dastardly thoughts ever flickered in those hero brains of theirs. ?I?m not only Sheriff, ma?am. I aim to be a peace officer.? Can?t you just picture these mythological beings, gazing upon invisible injustices a thousand miles away, gently being swayed into duty? (Harmonica Guy, that?s your cue.)[/font]
[font=Book Antiqua]Now picture somebody shooting Roy off his perch, pistol-whipping him in the face, and stealing his shiny horse. And if I were to guess, he spat something gross on Roy, too. (Poor Roy.) Picture, then, this thief as a ?good guy.? That?s more of what ?The Proposition? is like, a rugged Australian western set in the harsh Outback wasteland of the 1880?s (the ?bushranger era?), and made of palpable desert grit, sun-dried blood stains, and a lot of Australians. ?Honor? is as foreign a concept in this film as ?Hygiene,? and routines itself with the odd case of raw, shocking violence. And yet, and yet, all of this plays out like a brooding song of unusual beauty. There?s this undercurrent of subtle lament and prevailing humanity that seems to crystallize ?The Proposition? into a diamond in the Outback.[/font]
[font=Book Antiqua]The title proposition is a bit complicated. Captain Stanley, a cruel local lawman, apprehends outlaw brothers Charley & Mikey Burns. Instead of imprisoning both, Stanley (Ray Winstone) poses an ultimatum to the stronger brother, Charley (Guy Pearce): hunt down and kill the third brother, the madman cutthroat Arthur Burns (Danny Huston), or Mikey will be executed. Aside from the immediate tension this moral dilemma creates (despite being sluggish for a stretch), it also becomes the vehicle for a more wide-reaching exploration of loyalty, betrayal, and the family relation. The cultural and historical background is rife with interesting subtexts (ie.- Aboriginal racism), and pronounced by the characters and their relationships to this unforgiving landscape and to each other.[/font]
[font=Book Antiqua]D[/font][font=Book Antiqua]irector John Hillcoate emphasizes this devouring desolation of the Australian Outback to the point of making it a character by itself, with numerous focused frames of its deadly beauty, giving the movie a scorched quality and enhancing the sense of isolation (a nice contrast to the futile elegance of the British transplants, like a rose garden in the sand). Also deserving of high billing in the cast list is ?Swarm of Flies,? which appears in more scenes than Guy Pearce (and emotes pretty fiercely). But it?s in following Charley?s quiet torment or Captain Stanley?s slow unraveling, or even Arthur?s intense dichotomy, does the viewer gradually understand the wonderful struggle and hopeless passions on display. We get the sense all involved are caught in the terrible machinations of historical progress, the classic case of man attempting to conquer the land and instead the land overcomes them, yet us viewers know that human progress eventually wins out. But through it all there shines a glint of beauty that finds its way to all souls staggering through this hard-knock life, as we see with every brilliant sunrise or sunset that surveys the world.[/font]
[font=Book Antiqua]Framed beautifully, scored hauntingly, and acted superbly (also want to mention Emily Watson & John Hurt ? yay for them), ?The Proposition? is a compelling portrait of wayward virtues trying to escape from the sorrowful, barbaric side-effects of molding a civilization out of utter wildness. ?The Proposition? operates on a kind of blood poetry philosophy, one that?s slightly more evolved than Sergio Leone?s in-your-face grittiness and more on par with Eastwood?s ?Unforgiven.? A kind of verse that Gene or Roy have no clue how to speak. Which is okay, because they both work. Roy just doesn?t want to be involved on this side of things anymore.[/font]
[font=Book Antiqua][b]The Da Vinci Code[/b][/font]
[font=Book Antiqua]More like Da Vinci Blow?d. Does anybody even like this movie? Personally I found the book marginal at best, with its pacing being the primary redeeming quality. It?s amazing, then, how the movie is as exciting as rotting wood. In slow-motion. Was that [i]classical music[/i] playing during the car chase sequence? ?How to prevent potentially entertaining sequences from occurring,? by Ron Howard. Each new uncovered secret provided the same sense of historical gravitas as discovering what?s inside a peanut shell. I?m not convinced this book was un-adaptable, either, so this movie?s failure in doing so renders it an exercise in 150-minute tedium, or a test in imagining dollar signs flit across the celluloid. If I gave the dollar signs fangs and a taste for flesh, and of course allowed them in the film, I think I could have made the movie a billion times more entertaining.[/font]
[font=Book Antiqua][u]Others[/u]: [b]United 93[/b] ? 10/10, [b]X-Men: The Last Stand[/b] ? 7/10, [b]Over The Hedge[/b] ? 5.5/10, [b]Mission: Impossible III[/b] ? 6/10, [b]Poseidon[/b] ? 4/10, [b]Akeelah & The Bee[/b] ? 7/10, [b]A Prairie Home Companion [/b]? 7.5/10, [b]Cars[/b] ? 7.5/10.[/font]
?A Prairie Home Companion?, while flawed, is sure to get your toes tapping. In this case, it?s a good thing, considering the fact that there?s an actual movie at work while you?re aching to dance to the music. Strong acting and throughout, genuine entertainment guarantees that ?A Prairie Home Companion? will capture the hearts of many. Sure, it isn?t even close to being a perfect movie, but with music so catchy and an atmosphere so cheery, what?s not to like? Actually, if I said there wasn?t anything to particularly ?dislike? about ?A Prairie Home Companion?, then I would most certainly be lying. This film isn?t always as interesting as it wants to be. But for what it is, it?s a simplistic, cheery, and fun experience none the less. Helmed by the ?legendary? Robert Altman, this is a near-masterful cinematic experience. It is the last film by Altman, and I?m glad to say that it?s a pretty worthy one overall. Sure, it could have hit harder than it does, but it packs a hell of a punch. Well, at least it?s a pretty good punch considering that it?s a film about a radio station. It?s better than it needs to be, thanks to smart direction, strong acting, good humor, and a nice atmosphere. It?s a fun time at the movies, and you?d be a party pooper to complain elsewhere. You?d also be crazy to deny the good time that this film offers. Sure, it?s not for everyone. I imagine that soon will find it to be shallow and nearly tasteless. Some may even find it to lack the humor that it apparently has. See, in some situations you simply need to look at both sides of a situation, and in this case it is a benefit. If you like it, then you like it. If you don?t, then you don?t. But to say it doesn?t have charm is almost a crime. To say that it has charm but it just didn?t work for you would be a smarter (and just overall better) way to put it. Packed with endearing characters all portrayed by a wonderful assemble cast, ?A Prairie Home Companion? is smart, fresh, and funny enough to suffice as solid entertainment.
?A Prairie Home Companion? is a radio show which has long-since been on-going. It has been successful, although a fellow known as ?The Ax-Man? wants to shut it down for good. So we know that much. That?s great. That?s awesome. But what the hell is the actual story about? Well, I?ll tell you what it?s about. For pretty much the whole darned film, we are treated to the last show from these good-natured souls. It is one full of interest, death, humor, and the like. Everyone wants to send their show off with a bang, as well as please ?The Ax-Man?, in hopes of changing his on-sided mind. What matters here is not so much the plot, but rather the characters. Oh, how this film feeds on its characters. You?ve got a likable cast of performers; all who lack depth but instead have unending amounts of charm. You have you cowboy comedians, your sisters, and the daughter of one of the sisters, the host, and some other kind folks who can provide an entertaining listen. Each character tries their hardest to cope with the stress of the grand finale, which is always hard to do. But what?s so darned interesting about a movie where the characters simply sing and converse? Well, I?ll tell you what. The fact that a film about merely a final radio show broadcast can be entertaining throughout is beyond me. Why it was pulled off as well as it is here, I don?t know. Robert Altman must have known his stuff. The film is actually based on an actual radio show of the same name. And what do you know, there?s an actual original member of the REAL show in this film. That would be Garrison Keillor, who also wrote the film. He did well, I guess. While not a film of considerable depth, this is a simplistic and fun watch. It is elevated by catchy music and overall solid filmmaking, even if it is an imperfect film. In the end, I guess it?s not all that memorable, but it?s a good watch anyways. Well worth your time, whether you?re a genuine party pooper or not.
Garrison Keillor returns to the world of ?A Prairie Home Companion?, this time starring in a film about the infamous radio show. He?s as wonderful as you could imagine in his role. I mean, he knows himself like no other person does. Therefore, I think that?s precisely why he was able to portray himself so well. And that?s not all for good performances. Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly literally play ?the singing cowboys? of the show. I can?t say I?m particular surprised on Harrelson?s part. I mean, he looks pretty damn good in one of those old cowboy hats. It just?it suits him right. Reilly isn?t too shabby either when he?s donning a ten gallon hat. Meryl Streep plays the same potentially funny character that she always does, and as always, she does it well. Lindsay Lohan is also in this movie, and (surprise, surprise) she?s not all that special. Needless to say, this IS a pretty big improvement on her other films within her career, most of which have been rather bad. Lily Tomlin provides her comedic charm to a role in this film, with glorious results. Tommy Lee Jones is still a fairly intimidating badass, and Kevin Kline plays a guy whose name is an obvious reference to the film noir. Then there?s a pretty huge supporting cast, all of whom I will not name. So there, at least you have a little more to work off of when you rent this film (if you rent it at all).
This film has a limited, but substantial amount of raw charm. It benefits from that charm consistently throughout without completely relying on it for help when things get border-line ugly. I like how the film kept a simplistic tone while telling a suitably simplistic tale of a radio show?s last broadcast. The film has a sort of atmosphere to it, which I seriously adored. My toes were tapping, and I was smiling, at least when the film called for it. We have a truly winning original soundtrack to thank for that, which has a handful of playful, upbeat tunes to it. There?s also a solid amount of somewhat well-being humor to this film. The film is not meant to be consistently funny, but it has plenty of PRETTY darn funny moments. Emphasis on the ?pretty? because none of it is truly hilarious, but it made me laugh when it wanted me to. The film doesn?t sport a particularly unique or interesting visual style, but it?s not too shabby. It looks as good as most 2006 films should, and for that I can be glad. Sadly, it?s not as good as some films in 2006. It?s not one of the best films of the year, in my opinion, but rather one of the most purely enjoyable (upbeat) ones. It?s fun to watch and simple enough to follow. It should entrance most viewers with its seductive, innocent charm. It?s like Pirate Radio except not as awesome, meaning (of course) that it?s got ?a good beat and you can dance to it?. Indeed you can.
Enjoyable and suitably average as far as films go; ?A Prairie Home Companion? could have easily gone both ways. It could have been either much better of must worse, although for the shape that it?s in, it?s doing pretty darn well. The jokes are never offensive and the music never fails to impress. Why, I wouldn?t be surprised if this film inspired a play based on the film?s central plot. I?d like to see it whether it happens or not. Unlike most partial musicals on film, this is a movie meant to inspire a musical rather than based on a musical meant to inspire a film. With that being said, that doesn?t make the film unique. However, I still felt that it was very pleasant to watch and just plain entertaining for the most part. Grouches will despise it, and the severely depressed will resent themselves for watching it. However, optimists will surely love it and anyone else will most likely enjoy themselves at least mildly. None the less, this is a pretty good film. It?s entertaining, well acted, humorous, and uplifting. For what it is, I?d say it?s pretty damn good. And that?s good enough for me.
In this PG-13-rated comedy, a corporate axe-man (Jones) cues Prairie's curtain closing, which causes Keillor and company to pull out all of the stops and prepare for their last broadcast, with Private Detective Guy Noir (Kevin Kline) and an Angel of Death (Virginia Madsen) waiting in the wings.
Screenwriter/star Keillor plays with his own well-worn format, debunking - with the whimsical but cynical wit of a seasoned vaudevillian - the mythos behind a live medium that still seems magical, if only because it remains sight unseen. From Harrelson and John C. Reilly's Dusty and Lefty to Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin's Johnson Sisters, the ensemble shines, rounded out perfectly by Keillor's usual Sunday night musical lineup and framed perfectly by Altman's understated directing style.
Bottom Line: Believe the hype--Radio is the new cinema.