Three wishes from the djinn's point of view – Courier-Gazette & Camden Herald

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Tom Von Malder of Owls Head, a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, reviews "Three Thousand Years of Longing," "Ski Patrol, A Discovery of Witches: The Complete Trilogy," and "Bloodlines: The Jersey Devil Curse."
Three Thousand Years of Longing (Warner Bros., Blu-ray or DVD, R, 108 min.). It was a bit of a shock to realize this film was directed and co-written by George Miller of the “Mad Max” franchise. Instead of traveling vast wastelands, most of the film takes place in a hotel suite, with just two characters. It is a meditation on one’s heart’s desire, which naturally involves love.
Tilda Swinton plays Dr. Alithea Binnie, a British narratologist (studier of storytelling) who is convinced that science can explain most of mankind’s myths, yet she is increasingly having hallucinations, even as she delivers a lecture in Istanbul. After collapsing during her talk, she purchases a small, burned bottle with a nightingale pattern. While cleaning it with her electric toothbrush, the bottle breaks, unleashing a very large djinn (Idris Elba), who quickly goes through the rules for making three wishes. The only trouble is that Alithea does not want to make any wish, knowing all too well that wishes involving genies never work out due to the stupidity or venality of the wisher or, as Alithea maintains, because genies are notorious tricksters. Plus, she feels she has no deep heart’s desire.
So, the djinn tells Alithea of his three confinements in a bottle and great loves during the past 3,000 years. The first was with the Queen of Sheba (Aamito Lagum), until Solomon (Nicolas Mouawad) came and ruined things. Then he was released by a slave girl (Ece Yüksel as Gülten) who was secretly in love with Prince Mustafa (Matteo Bocelli). The girl only made two wishes and the djinn needs three wishes to be set free. The third to release him was Zefir (Burcu Gölgedar), a 19th-century merchant’s wife who wished to acquire all knowledge.
Miller is sometimes playful in depicting the djinn’s tales. Solomon has a self-playing lyre to help win Sheba. Another ruler’s son, overweight and dull himself, is secluded. in a fur-line room with a steady stream of very large women. The latter is a bit Felliniesque. Grade: film 3 stars.
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it
Ski Patrol (1990, MVD Rewind Collection, Blu-ray, PG, 92 min.). Producer Paul Maslansky had success with the “Police Academy” movies, but this snowy variation, directed by Richard Correll, has few real laughs, only one memorable character and some so-so skiing and snowboarding scenes. The plot is ancient and hung like a bare Christmas tree.
Martin Mull plays Maris, who, despite hating snow, wants to force Snowy Peaks Lodge and ski hill out of business so he can create Maristown destination resort. Snowy Peaks is run by Pops Sandrich (a still good Ray Walston). But his 40-year lease is now up for renewal. Maris hires Lance (Corby Timbrook) and his pals to sabotage Snowy Peaks’ lease renewal.
The film is stolen by Paul Feig as Stanley, who is not good enough to be certified for the ski patrol, but who turns out to be an energetic, somewhat amazing dancer. The best parts of the film are his solo dance and then his pairing with Iceman (T.K. Carter) to sing “Dancing in the Street,” while in drag.
Somewhat wasted is George Lopez, while Sean Sullivan plays a crazy metalhead with three personalities (he often wears two masks on the sides of his head to converse with). Also of note, the recently deceased Leslie Jordan plays the height-challenged ski patrol head. The disc comes with a mini poster. Grade: film 2 stars.
A Discovery of Witches: The Complete Trilogy (2018-2021, Sundance Now/Shudder/Universal/RLJE Films, 6 Blu-rays or DVDs, TV-MA, 19 hours). This set combines all 25 episodes and 80 minutes of bonus features from the three-season series based on the “All Souls” trilogy by Deborah Harkness.
Although set in the modern day, it is a world where witches, vampires, and demons secretly live and work alongside humans. Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) is a brilliant historian, who has been dampening down her own witch heritage, until the day she unexpectedly calls up an ancient, bewitched manuscript from Oxford’s Bodleian Library, a book that other supernaturals desperately want. She finds herself allied with vampire and enigmatic geneticist Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode), even though there long has been distrust between witches and vampires. They eventually become lovers and then marry.
One of those who wants the book is powerful witch Peter Knox. The powerful Satu also has evil intentions against Diana.
In season two, Diana and Matthew flee to 1590 in Elizabethan England, where the younger Matthew was friends with Walter Raleigh and Christopher “Kit” Marlowe (Tom Hughes), with Marlowe very much in love with Matthew. They were hunted by The Congregation in the present but used Diana’s ability to “timewalk” to try and find the Book of Life, which Diana once was able to access at Oxford College and which may hold the key to cleaning the De Clermont bloodline of the “blood rage” that causes murderous sprees.
The book is believed to be with Edward Kelley, now a favorite of Emperor Rudolf II of Bohemia. Before they journey there, Diana takes spell creation lessons from Goody Alsop (Sheila Hancock); there are 10 “knots” she must learned before they can return to their own time. Also, in this period, the younger Matthew serves as a witch hunter and torture/interrogator for Queen Elizabeth (an excellent Barbara Marten).
En route to Bohemia, Matthew must visit his father Philippe (a good, surprisingly emotional performance by James Purefoy). While Matthew and Philippe have a sword fight, dad also engineers a celebratory event. There is lots of action in Bohemia and some good magical events.
Back in modern London, an unknown vampire is killing humans (aka “warmbloods”), putting pressure on Marcus Whitmore (Edward Bluemel), whom Matthew has sired and named the leader of the Knights of Lazarus. Marcus is helping a forbidden couple, that of a witch and a daemon who are about to have a baby. Marcus encounters Phoebe Taylor, a worker at the auction house where he needs to buy two 16th century miniatures with portraits of Matthew and Diana to keep their whereabouts from The Congregation, which tries to keep the species separate.
The show has an unusually high amount of effective emotional scenes, even one with Queen Elizabeth. The series is often gorgeous to look at, particularly the Oxford University settings and the castle that is Matthew’s ancestral home. The Elizabethan sets and the castle and outdoors scenes are a delight in season two. The box set is housed as if it were the magical Book of Life, “Ashmole 782.” Extras include looks at the characters, the mythology, the central love story, creating Elizabethan London, the blood rage and creating the others’ worlds, plus a set tour. Grade: series 3.75 stars; extras 3.25 stars.
Bloodlines: The Jersey Devil Curse (1091 Pictures, VOD, NR, 79 min.). The film is part documentary and part recreations of three stories involving contact with the Jersey or Leeds Devil, which supposedly stalks the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The demon, said to inhabit the dark forests there, has terrified the locals for centuries. The creature is said to be the 13th child of a witch and has long been one of the most popular urban legends in North America. The film, directed by Seth Breedlove, is a new entry into the “Small Town Monsters” canon.
The documentary portions of the film are quite entertaining and follow the legend backwards in time to 1735 and Daniel Leeds, an almanac and pamphlet publisher who fell into disfavor with local religious leaders. Of the recreations, the first is best as it tells of the encounter between a young man lost in the woods and a forest ranger. The second encounter, by two burglars, is done as a silent film with dialogue cards. The third, about an evil birth (the Leeds baby), is in black-and-white and is the most disturbing. Grade: film 3 starsShadows (Ireland-Italy, Red Water Entertainment, VOD, NR, 103 min.). This psychological thriller is the second feature by director Carlo Lavagna. It stars Mia Threapleton as Alma and Lola Petticrew as Alex, two sisters living with their strict, overprotective mother (Saskia Reeves) in an abandoned hotel after the apparent end of the world. The mother hunts for food – sometimes for days – while the girls can only travel a short distance and only at night.
The film is a bit boring and frustrating, as it withholds details of what actually is going on. After an hour, the girls decide to go out on their own and things become a bit more interesting. Grade: film 2 stars.
Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.
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