16 December 2013

Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco 1997
  • Director: Mike Newell
  • Based on book: by Joseph D. Pistone
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, Anne Heche
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Al Pacino – 88 Minutes, The Merchant of Venice, Looking for Richard, Angels in America, Insomnia, The Devil’s Advocate, City Hall, Heat, Carlito’s Way, The Scent of a Woman, Glengarry Glen Ross, Frankie and Johnny, Sea of Love, Author Author, And Justice for All, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Panic in Needle Park
    • Michael Madsen - Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill 1 & 2, Thelma and Louise, Mulholland Falls, The Doors, Racing with the Moon
    • Bruno Kirby – A Slipping Down Life, The Basketball Diaries, When Harry Met Sally, Good Morning Vietnam, This Is Spinal Tap
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Thirteenth movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Three times.  Now: December 15, 2013.

        Al Pacino is a pathetic, scared, big mouth mafia small fry.  Johnny Depp is an undercover cop trying to juggle the dangerous double life of apprentice Mafioso and suburban husband and father.
       We expect the best from these two actors.  We get even better than that.  Their performance is nothing less than phenomenal.
       Lefty (Pacino) wants out. It’s a lousy life, he’s unappreciated, passed over.  He has cancer and a drug addict son and a lovely girlfriend he’d like to just be with. Donnie (JD) wants out. He can’t help liking Lefty and feels guilty about the old man’s loving loyalty to him but he has to keep setting him up in the operation. He finds himself turning into the kind of violent brutal criminal he’s trying to put in prison. And he’s losing his family in the process.
       It’s a very sad film.
       There are only two things wrong with it.  It’s too long.  And it’s a mafia movie. I don’t like mafia movies.
      

4 * of 5


       

Elizabeth the Golden Age

Elizabeth – The Golden Age 2007
  • Director: Shekhar Kapur
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, Abbie Cornish, Eddie Redmayne, Adam Godley
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Cate Blanchett  Robin Hood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I’m Not There, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Little Fish, The Aviator, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Heaven, The Shipping News, The Gift, The Man Who Cried, Elizabeth
    • Geoffrey Rush – Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4, The King’s Speech, Elizabeth, Intolerable Cruelty, Ned Kelly, The Banger Sisters, Frida, Lantana, Shakespeare in Love, Les Miserables, Shine, Twelfth Night
    • Clive Owen – Children of Men, Derailed, Closer, King Arthur, The Bourne Identity, Gosford Park, Croupier,
    • Samantha Morton – The Libertine, In America, Jane Eyre, Morvern Callar
    • Abbey Cornish – Bright Star, A Good Year
    • Eddie Redmayne – My Week with Marilyn, Les Miserables
    • Adam Godley – Case Histories, Merlin, Son of Rambow, Nanny McPhee, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Love Actually
  • Why? Good cast. History. Part two of two
  • Seen: Twice. Now: December 14, 2013.

 Lavish like the first, but slow. It’s hard to get involved in either the story or the characters.
       It’s visually stunning, but boring.  The cast is good but the roles they are asked to play are…silly.  The romantic vibes between the Queen and the dashing Walter Raleigh don’t convince.
       And the title is wrong! The Golden Age came after this period.
       The Armada was exciting though. And the film is a beautiful sight.

2 ½ * of 5
      

       

9 December 2013

Elizabeth

Elizabeth 1998
  • Director: Shekhar Kapur
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Attenborough, Fanny Ardent, Kathy Burke, Emily Mortimer, John Gielgud, Eric Cantona, Vincent Cassel, Kelly McDonald, Kenny Doughty, Daniel Craig
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Cate Blanchett  Robin Hood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I’m Not There, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Little Fish, The Aviator, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Heaven, The Shipping News, The Gift, The Man Who Cried,
    • Geoffrey Rush – Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4, The King’s Speech, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Intolerable Cruelty, Ned Kelly, The Banger Sisters, Frida, Lantana, Shakespeare in Love, Les Miserables, Shine, Twelfth Night
    • Joseph Fiennes – Good-bye Bafana, The Darwin Awards, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare in Love,
    • Christopher Eccleston – Twenty-Eight Days Later, The Others, eXistenZ, Shallow Grave
    • Richard Attenborough – Hamlet, Jurassic Park, Dr. Doolittle, The Great Escape, Whistle Down the Wind
    • Fanny Ardent – Paris je t’aime, Ridicule
    • Kathy Burke – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Nil by Mouth, Absolutely Fabulous, Sid and Nancy
    • Emily Mortimer – Hugo, Shutter Island, Paris je t’aime, Dear Frankie, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Notting Hill
    • John Gielgud – Hamlet, Arthur and many others
    • Vincent Cassel – Black Swan, Derailed, Birthday Girl
    • Kelly McDomald – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II, No Country for Old Men, Nanny McPhee, Tristram Shandy, The Girl in the Café, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Finding Neverland, Gosford Park, My Life So Far, Trainspotting
    • Kenny Doughty - Titus
    • Daniel Craig – Defiance, Infamous, Road to Perdition (no, I have not seen the James Bond movies, but we just ordered the box…)
  • Why? Good cast. History
  • Seen: Three times. Now: December 8, 2013.


       Having recently read The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer, Hal and I were in the mood to take a trip of our own back to Elizabeth’s era.
       The film doesn’t exactly take us there, i.e. not to the England we would see. I don’t think they’d admit us commoners into their midst, these royal folks.
       Fortunately! I wouldn’t want to be a part of this gang. Clever Shakespeare to have survived all the intrigues and executions.
       Actually he mainly survived because he managed to not be born yet when the intrigues in this film take place. By the time he came around, Elizabeth had reigned a long time and though intrigues abounded then too, the ones of this film were long past.
       And intrigues there certainly are. This is the third time I’ve seen this film, I’ve read countless books on the subject and I’m still confused. The first three quarters of the film are actually rather boring in spite of all the lavishness but it pulls together to become strong in the end.
       The cast is top notch.  Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes are always a pleasure to see as are many of the others.  But it’s not really worth all of the Oscar nominations.

3* of 5
      

       

Nick of Time

Nick of Time 1995
  • Director: John Badham
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken, Charles S. Dutton, Roma Maffia, Marsha Mason, Peter Strauss, Gloria Rueben
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Christopher Walken – Romance and Cigarettes, Catch Me If You Can, Sleepy Hollow, Suicide Kings, Blast from the Past, The Addiction, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Sarah Plain and Tall, Deer Hunter
    • Charles S. Dutton - Honeydripper, Secret Window, Homicide Life on the Street, Alien 3
    • Roma Maffia – Holes, Double Jeopardy
    • Marsh Mason – The Good-bye Girl
    • Peter Strauss – Rich Man Poor Man
    • Gloria Rueben – Homicide Life on the Streets
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Twelfth movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Twice.  Now: December 6, 2013.

        The story is not altogether likely but it is pretty exciting.
       Our mild-mannered hero, JD himself, again an accountant, is blackmailed through the kidnapping of his small daughter into assassinating the governor. He has one hour to do it or his daughter dies.  He’s watched constantly so getting help is not an option.
       JD as a dad in a suit, wire-rimmed glasses and a dorky haircut is not as enthralling as his Edward, Gilbert, Sam, Don Juan or Bill Blake but he’s convincingly shocked, incredulous, scared, rebellious and calculative.
       The star of the show though – I have to admit it – is not JD in spite of his top billing. It’s Christopher Walken. No one can just stand around staring and be as creepy as Walken.  Here he’s just a normal, easy-going, smooth-talking killer and he’s terrifying.
       Roma Maffia as his partner, cool street smart, gum-cracking (does she actually chew gum or is my memory just adding this for effect?), is so laid back that the kidnapped little kid doesn’t suspect a thing.
       This is good Friday evening excitement. But not more.

2 ½  * of 5


       

Every Day

Every Day 2010
  • Director: Richard Levine
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Liev Schreiber, Helen Hunt, Carla Gugino, Eddie Izzard, Brian Dennehy, Ezra Miller, Skyler Fortgang
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Liev Schreiber  Hamlet, Repo Men, Taking Woodstock, Defiance, Kate and Leopold
    • Helen Hunt – Then She Found Me, Cast Away, As Good As It Gets, Twister, Peggy Sue Got Married
    • Carla Gugino – somehow I seem to have missed everything, though she’s been in a lot
    • Eddie Izzard – Valkyrie, Across the Universe, Romance and Cigarettes, Velvet Goldmine
    • Brian Dennehy – The Exonerated, Romeo & Juliet, The Stars Fell on Henrietta, Presumed Innocent and various TV series
  • Why? Cheap. Good cast
  • Seen: December 1, 2013

        The cast is really good.  Every single one is really good.  But the movie is so filled with clichés that I wonder why they wanted to be in it.  In fact it’s too boring to even write about but here’s a hint: bourgeois family drama where it all works out in the end. Cute kids. Regretted adultery. Horrible old grandfather who’s good-hearted, really.
       Sorry. Don’t bother with this one. Watch all these people’s other movies instead.

1 ½  * of 5


2 December 2013

Dead Man

Dead Man 1995
  • Director: Jim Jarmusch
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop, Gabriel Byrne, Mili Avital, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Gary Farmer – Adaption, Swing Vote, Smoke Signals, Skins
    • Crispin Glover - Alice in Wonderland, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Wild at Heart, Racing with the Moon
    • John Hurt – Merlin, I Claudius, Harry Potter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brighton Rock, Melancholia, V for Vendetta, Hellboy, Dogville, Manderlay, King Lear, Rob Roy, Elephant Man, Alien
    • Robert Mitchum – who knows? A bunch of old ones probably. He’s just been around for a long time.
    • Iggy Pop – Well, Iggy Pop is Iggy Pop and eternally recognizable but he’s been in a few movies too: The Crow, Trainspotting, Cry-Baby, Sid and Nancy
    • Gabriel Byrne – Jindabyne, Wah-Wah, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, The Usual Suspects, Little Women, Miller’s Crossing, Gothic, Excalibur
    • Mili Avital – The Human Stain
    • Billy Bob Thornton – Love Actually, Intolerable Cruelty, Levity, Monster’s Ball, The Man Who Wasn’t There, A Simple Plan, Sling Blade, The Stars Fell on Henrietta
    • Alfred Molina - An Education, Chocolat, Frida, As You Like It, Prick Up Your Ears
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Eleventh movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Three times.  Now: November 15, 2013.


      Poor nerdy, uncool JD. Or William Blake as he’s called here.  That suit!  Those soulful bespectacled eyes. He’s so pathetic.
       But he makes a pretty cool killer. Poor guy. He’s just a simple accountant from Cleveland trying to survive the Wild West. It isn’t easy. Crooked industrial tycoon. Vicious bounty hunters. Vengeful lawmen. Everyone wants him dead except the mysterious Nobody in full Indian regalia spouting the poetry of the other William Blake and a lot of “Indian malarkey,” to quote the JD version of Bill Blake.
       It can’t get much more absurd than that but it does. It’s a road movie on horseback through summer deserts and forests and bleak winter mountains with touches of cannibalism and head squishing. To quote Hal: “This is so grotesque.”
       That it is.  It’s also fascinating, beautifully filmed in black and white and scored with Neil Young’s twangy guitar.
       Superstars (at least in my listings) pop up all over the place: John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne, Crispan Glover, Iggy Pop, and that’s always fun.  Gary Farmer is known to me mainly through the dad in Smoke Signals, one of the world’s best movies which I’ve seen about ten times (yet to be reviewed on this blog however).
       JD. Yes.  If not his best, then this one is right there at the top.  He, and the film, must be seen. Repeatedly.

5 * of 5


       

25 November 2013

Hunger Games - Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 2013
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Based on Book: by Suzanna Collins
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth,  Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lenny Kravitz, Jena Malone
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Jennifer Lawrence: Hunger Games, Winters Bone
    • Josh Hutcherson: Hunger Games, The Kids Are All Right, American Splendor
    • Woody Harrelson:  Hunger Games , 2012, Battle in Seattle, No Country for Old Men, Prairie Home Companion, North Country, White Men Can’t Jump
    • Jena Malone: Contact, Into the Wild, The Soloist, Cold Mountain, The United States of Leland, Donnie Darko, Homicide Life on the Streets
    • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Boat that Rocked, Cold Mountain, Punch Drunk Love, Almost Famous, State and Main, Flawless, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Twister, The Scent of a Woman
    • Stanley Tucci: Hunger Games , Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Why bought: the books, of course!
  • Seen: November 23, 2013 at the cinema with Hal, YW and KW

      It’s been a long wait and expectations are high.  The novels are riveting, the first movie a full-pointer.  Will this one hold up?
Yes. It holds up.  From the first frame where we see a troubled Katniss sitting in profile on a rock by a lake to the last where we see her eyes in close up shift from grief to revolutionary resolve, this movie fulfills all expectation.
The contrasts between the luxury train and the militarized slums they speed through, between the starving angry crowds of District 11 and the glitzy fake beauties of the capitol city, are visually spectacular.  Katniss’s swanky wedding dress being transformed into the dramatic black mockingjay dress is beautifully done. Kudos to poor doomed Cinna.
It’s an emotional roller coaster and my first sniffles come with Peeta and Katniss’s tribute to young Ruh. The second come with the three finger salute from Prim and Gale and the other people of District 12 when Catniss and Peeta are once again chosen to compete in the Hunger Games.  The fever of the coming revolution shimmers in the air throughout the whole film.  As well it should.
The only problem with the movie is that it ends.  It’s another long wait for the third part.  Hurry, please!

5 * of  5

PS An added bonus – we see the movie at the cinema housed in the same building where Greta Garbo made her first films.  It’s kind of cool for a movie freak to live a 20 minute walk from Greta Garbo’s first studio!


18 November 2013

Parked

Parked 2010
  • Director: Darragh Byrne
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Colm Meaney, Colin Morgan, Milka Ahlroth, Stuart Graham
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Colm Meaney  The Van, The Commitments, The Snapper, The Last Mohican
    • Colin Morgan – Merlin, Island, and on stage at the Globe Theater in London in June 2013 The Tempest
    • Milka Ahlroth  – She’s been in an awful lot of Finnish films and TV programs but I haven’t seen any of them  
    • Stuart Graham – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Hunger, Song for a Raggy Boy, The Butcher Boy, Michael Collins
  • Why? Colin Morgan
  • Seen: November 16, 2013.


       Homelessness. Drug addiction. Loss. Finding your way home. Or not.
       Watching Parked makes me so sad, and I can’t shake the feeling.  Even in the funny parts, in the parts where young Cathal is laughing and goofing around and teaching Fred how to live again, even when Jules is applauding Cathal’s silly singing.
       The three characters have lost their anchoring in life.  Fred, in his late fifties, returning to Ireland from England, has no home and lives in his car.  Young Cathal has lost his mother and though she died from cancer, his father has kicked him out of the house, blaming her death on him and his drug addiction.  Pianist Jules has lost her husband.
       Cathal (pronounced Ca-hal) is an energetic optimist – or actually a speeded junkie – who shows the timid, socially inept Fred how to get the most out of a life that doesn’t have much to offer.  But as Fred starts to get back on his feet and form a friendship with the refined but grieving widow Jules, Cathal is pulled down into the drug world of violence and overdose.  Cathal’s kindness and humor in the face of utter bleakness helps the two older characters find their way home but he can’t help himself.  Fred’s innocence blinds him to the seriousness of his young friend’s drug abuse and he doesn’t even realize that help is needed until it’s too late.
       Colm Meaney is a natural in this role.  It probably is his strongest role, as one of the reviewers quoted on the DVD box said (although my favorite is his Elvis Presley singing Da in The Commitments).  Milka Ahlroth is strong as the widow slowly finding her way back to her music. I hope we see more of this Finnish actress. Stuart Graham delivers as the grieving father who can’t take anymore and ends up with even more to grieve for.
       But it is Colin Morgan who really carries the film. He takes a large step away from his Merlin role here but brings with him the uncanny ability to portray humor and deep-seated pain, often in the same time span of two or three seconds, in his rendering of a young Dubliner drug addict of the 21st century.  It’s an outstanding performance and rates at least a 10 in itself.  It pulls an already strong film up to

5* of 5


PS Two days after watching the film and writing this, it still haunts me.  The rating has risen to 10* of 10.

Don Juan DeMarco

Don Juan DeMarco 1995
  • Director: Jeremy Leven
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway, Geraldine Pailhas, Bob Dishy, Rachel Ticotin, Talisa Soto, Marita Geraghty, Tresa Hughes
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Marlon Brando – Apocolypse, Superman, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Young Lions, Tea House of the August Moon, On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One, Julius Caesar
    • Faye Dunaway  – Arizona Dream, Voyage of the Damned, Network, The Towering Inferno, Chinatown, Little Big Man, Bonnie and Clyde
    • Why? Johnny Depp. Tenth movie of JD marathon.
    • Seen: Three times.  Now: November 15, 2013.


      For those of you (us) waiting impatiently for JD to play a romantic lead – oh my goodness. It was so worth waiting for.  The story is so ridiculous it makes Sleeping Beauty look positively realistic but it’s oh so…so…sweet and believable. And funny.  And touching.  And I believe every word that falls from the delectable sultry lusting and loving lips of Don Juan.
       Of course he’s stark raving mad, but who cares?  Certainly not his psychiatrist who gets all fired up in his comfortable aging marriage. Or all the nurses in the mental hospital to which he had been taken as a suicide risk.
       JD is so gorgeous it’s absurd but he’s still his vulnerable Edward Scissorhands/ Gilbert Grape self. The whole film exaggerates gender stereotypes to the point of parody – on purpose I assume – but it’s not offensive, it’s just adorable.
       The truth, when it comes, is a little sad and JD is, if possible, even more gorgeous as a normal kid from Queens.  It should have stopped there.
       But romance triumphs and the film ends on a note that’s just too saccharine.  Actually I don’t like romantic movies.
       But oh, is he gorgeous.
      

3 ½  * of 5

11 November 2013

King Lear (1971)

King Lear 1971
  • Director: Peter Brook
  • Based on: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Paul Scofield, Irene Worth, Susan Engel, Cyril Cusack, Tom Fleming, Anne-Lise Gabold, Ian Hogg, Robert Lloyd, Jack MacGowan, Patrick Magee
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Paul Scofield  Hamlet, Henry V, A Man for All Seasons
    • Irene Worth  Coriolanus
    • Cyril Cusack  – Harold and Maude, My Left Foot, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, King Lear, The Taming of a Shrew, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Fahrenheit 451
    • Ian Hogg  – Macbeth (BBC), Macbeth (Polanski)
    • Jack MacGowan – The Exorcist, How I Won the War, Doctor Zhivago, Tom Jones, Darby O’Gill and the Little People
    • Patrick Magee - A Clockwork Orange, King Lear (1974 Davenall)
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: November 10, 2013


      Either hypnotic or just deadly slow, depending on your mood, this is certainly the starkest of the Lear films I’ve seen. It was filmed in Denmark in beautiful black and white, at times by very effective hand held cameras.  Sometimes the characters present their lines in a convincingly normal tone of voice; at times they are theatrical, which works. Or not.
       The costumes are an odd mix of Soviet revolutionaries and peasants, and medieval Sami-Siberian. Like in Ran there is a lot of galloping across fields, only this time in the winter, not the summer.
       An awful lot is cut from the play and the silent movie style text cards that show up now and then don’t help much.
       As with the Olivier version I started out liking this one quite a lot but lost interest during the storm. How can such a dramatic storm be so consistently boring?
       I wish someone would make a really good version of Lear.

2 ½  * of 5
      

        

King Lear (1974)

King Lear 1974
  • Director: Tony Davenall
  • Based on: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Patrick Magee, Patrick Mower, Ann Lynn, Beth Harris, Wendy Allnutt, Robert Coleby. Ronald Radd, Ray Smith, Ellis Jones
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Patrick Magee  A Clockwork Orange, King Lear (Peter Brook version where he plays Cornwall)
    • Ann Lynn  A Shot in the Dark
    • Wendy Allnutt  Oh! What a Lovely War
    • Ray Smith  – A Family at War
    • Ellis Smith – Measure for Measure
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: November 9, 2013


      A more irritating production is hard to imagine.  From the beginning Lear’s monotonous gravelly voice gets on my nerves as do Cordelia’s big teary brown eyes.
       Essentially the entire cast orate their lines as stiffly and stagily as my sixth-grade theater group, sapping Shakespeare’s eternal drama of all genuine pathos.  Only Edmund and Edgar manage to act like real people at times.
       According to the DVD box this got an Emmy award. I can’t imagine why. I could hardly bear to watch it. If this hammy production was the only Shakespeare I had ever been exposed to, I would be like those who think he is silly, boring, stilted, “naw, never read’m” (to quote my own father).
       It grieves me. I’m sure they were all sincere in their efforts but even their sincerity is stilted.
       I kind of like Edgar here, though, and Kent, whom I never like, is sort of OK, so

1 * of 5
      

        

4 November 2013

King Lear (2008 Nunn McKellan)

King Lear 2008
  • Director: Trevor Nunn and Chris Hunt
  • Based on: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Ian McKellen, William Gaunt, Philip Winchester, Ben Meyjes, Frances Barber, Monica Dolan, Romola Garai, Sylvester McCoy
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Ian McKellan  Extras, Lord of the Rings, X-Men, Richard III, The Ballad of Little Jo, Macbeth
    • Frances Barber  Prick Up Your Ears, Friday Night Dinner, Hustle, Twelfth Night
    • Monica Dolan  Never Let Me Go
    • Romola Garai  – As You Like It, Atonement, Inside I’m Dancing, Daniel Deronda
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: November 3, 2013


      This is such a difficult play to perform that I have to confess I don’t see why directors and actors want to do it. It does have some of Shakespeare’s strongest lines on madness, aging, betrayal, abandonment, familial conflicts, death and meaninglessness. It also has some of his most babbly babble and the most paradoxical and unsatisfactory characters.  Lear is a dreadful person and even at his most pitiful I have a hard time pitying him.  He has been such a tyrant to his daughters that it’s no wonder they turn on him.
Well, this isn’t an analysis of the play itself. I’ll try to do that soon on Shakespeare Calling http://rubyjandshakespearecalling.blogspot.com/ . This is about the film.
                      Ian McKellan is always awesome, both in the original sense and as it is used in the current slang.  This role is no exception. Every line is convincing. He is genuinely cruel, mad and pathetic.
                      The others are more anonymous, but strong enough in their roles.
                      For some reason it’s all set in some kind of 19th century Russia but nothing is really made of it so one has to wonder why.
                      The somber sepia toned scenography is effective. I always like minimalism on stage and I like it in this film a lot.
                      As usual though with Lear, it’s the interpretation of the sisters that’s the real problem.  It starts out strong with Barber showing the grief and hurt caused by Lear’s uncalled for curse against her and it’s almost enough to explain her consequent nastiness. Why Regan is so vicious against Gloucester is not explainable in the play nor is it here but the choice to make her a snide alcoholic doesn’t work for me although Dolan does it well.  The big disappointment is the ridiculous, insultingly stereotypical sex bomb aspects tossed into the sisterly rivalry over Edmund’s love. Or, as the case actually is, his sexual favors.  It just doesn’t work.
                      This is, in other words, more of a mixed bag than Trevor Nunn usually offers. He usually pulls things together to be strong and gripping.  He does so here too but it’s too little and too late. It’s a disappointment in spite of its merits.  But maybe it’s unreasonable of me to expect a movie to make this impossible play work.

2 ¾ * of 5
      

        

28 October 2013

Ed Wood

Ed Wood 1994
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, Bill Murray, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lisa Marie
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Martin Landau – Sleepy Hollow, EDtv, Mission Impossible (the entire series as it was broadcast) plus many other series episodes.
    • Patricia Arquette  – Holes, Bringing Out the Dead, True Romance, The Indian Runner
    • Sarah Jessica Parker – Smart People, State and Main, Mars Attacks!, First Wives Club, Footloose
    • Jeffrey Jones – Sleepy Hollow, The Devil’s Advocate, Beetlejuice, Amadeus,  
    • Bill Murray – Darjeeling Limited, Broken Flowers, Lost in Translation, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, Cradle Will Rock, Rushmore, Hamlet, Groundhog Day, What About Bob?, Ghostbusters
    • Vincent D’Onofrio – Men in Black, Feeling Minnesota, Strange Days, JFK,
    • Lisa Marie – Planet of the Apes, Sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks!
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Ninth movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Twice.  Now: October 25, 2013.

       If Johnny Depp was trying to break what might have become a pattern of quiet introverted vulnerable young guys, he succeeded. His Ed Wood is vulnerable but doesn’t know it; he’s talkative to the point of babbling and frantically sociable. In this film we see signs of JD in his manic mode that he hones to perfection in Jack Straw.
       Here, I’m sorry to say, he hasn’t quite reached perfection though some critics regard his performance as outstanding. For me his irrationally optimistic Ed Wood doesn’t quite ring true. Ed Wood probably really was like this but the tone of the movie is an affectionate parody rather than a portrait.
       It’s supposed to be funny – isn’t it? – and Ed Wood’s encounter with the Baptists is funny. It is fun to see the making of Plan 9 from Outer Space which is truly a stupid movie (but not the stupidest I’ve seen). But generally I just feel sorry for everyone.
       You know I love JD.  I am also extremely fond of Tim Burton’s films. But I just can’t get into the spirit of this one.  Maybe next time.


2* of 5

King Lear (Olivier)

King Lear 1983
  • Director: Michael Elliot
  • Based on: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakeley, Anna Calder-Marshall, Robert Lindsay, Leo McKern, David Threlfall, Dorothy Tutin, John Hurt, Diana Rigg
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Laurence Olivier  As You Like It, Richard III, Hamlet, Spartacus, Sleuth, Oh! What a Lovely War.
    • Colin Blakeley  The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Murder on the Orient Express, A Man for All Seasons
    • Anna Calder.Marshall  The Winter’s Tale
    • Robert Lindsay  – Extras, Absolutely Fabulous, Much Ado About Nothing, Cymbeline, Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well that Ends Well, Twelfth Night,
    • Leo McKern – The French Lieutenant’s Woman, A Man for All Seasons, Help!
    • John Hurt – Merlin, Harry Potter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brighton Rock, Melancholia, Rob Roy, V for Vendetta, The Elephant Man, Hellboy,  I Claudius, and more
    • Diana Rigg – The Avengers
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: October 21, 2013


      In the opening scene Stonehenge looms in the mist and the characters move in and around the giant monoliths. It’s one of the best opening scenes I’ve seen and it sets the stage for an impressive early medieval – or even earlier, pre Christian – kingdom that is sustained throughout, ending again at Stonehenge when Lear and Cordelia lie in the center, surrounded by a ring of knights with torches. A long camera shot. The end.
       Olivier’s films are always visually beautiful and this one is no exception. Olivier himself gives possibly his best performance, at least in his quiet moments when he is simply a nasty but sad old man.
       The first half of the film is best. The entire cast is excellent in presenting a rather normal dysfunctional family (excuse the oxymoron), bickering over what families bicker over, inheritances and who loves whom most.
       Unfortunately the film doesn’t take the opportunity so tantalizingly at hand to show how Lear’s viciousness turns Regan and Goneril into the hateful women they become.  Suddenly they just are.
       The film also simply loses momentum in the storm scene and in portraying Lear’s madness. Instead of drama and pain he just shouts a lot with the rain pouring down on his head and Mad Tom just babbles frantically and we can’t hear a word he’s saying.
       Linsday is most consistent as bad boy Edmund and Hurt does fine as the Fool though I would have liked to see him as Lear.
       Even though my high hopes in the beginning were not fulfilled it’s a Lear well worth seeing.


3 * of 5