This is a film that honestly brings Shakespeare to life…literally and figuratively. A brilliant movie that utilizes many of the Bard’s plays for dialogue and antidotes, but most notably Romeo and Juliet, the ever-tragic saga of Italian star-crossed lovers. The tragic lover story is key to this film…the movie follow Romeo’s plot, in a lot of ways, and even takes quite a few scenes directly from the play. But, then again, that is the gimmick here. Will Shakespeare, in the film, is supposed to be suffering writer’s block…longing for a muse to get him back in the creative spirit. Just when all hope is lost, he meets Viola, the well-to-do daughter of a wealthy family. As she becomes his muse, their story, verse for verse, scene for scene, mimics what Shakespeare is writing. So, Viola’s and Will’s love is really Romeo’s and Juliet’s as well. So, when I say that this film TAKES scenes from Romeo, that is how it’s supposed to work…since the story of the film inspired the play. And, boy, does it all come together with passion. It might sound confusing, but worry not, it’s just a bit hard to explain. All will make sense. Even if you are not a fan of the Bard, or you are not familiar with Romeo (how could you not be?), the story still plays well and is ever-entertaining. Though, it does help some if you are able to catch the nuances between the film story and the play. How art not seen the play? For shame, for shame. A plague on your house.
Posts Tagged: British
Random Harvest could be called a sappy soap opera that is virtually unwatchable. It could be, but in my opinion, it’s most definitely not that. This is a highly powerful and engaging film with…yes, some very improbable circumstances. But, so what? If the acting weren’t as good as it is, maybe this one would have fell into that pile of melodramatic mush. But because Greer Garson and Ronald Colman are so believable and passionate here, I find it impossible not to enjoy the ride. Colman plays a man who has lost his memory during combat duty in WWI. At the beginning of the movie, he is in a mental institution. Garson is the woman who befriends him after he escapes. Of course, Colman and Garson fall in love and then, through a series of circumstances, he regains his memory…forgetting all about his life with Garson. Yes, I know it sounds illogical but trust me, it works…mostly because of the performances. Garson and Colman take the slightly over-the-top dialogue and bring it back into reality. They are both fabulous here…as is the entire movie in general. A great old-fashioned love story for a cold Winter night…or even a hot Summer evening…!
For a moment, I forgot I was watching a movie. It’s more like a captivating documentary. The film takes place (with the exception of a small series of scenes at the beginning when Prime Minister Tony Blair first takes power) all within the span of one week in 1997…from the day Princess Diana died to the day she was buried. This film transported me back to this time and I felt as if I was watching the inner goings-on of the Royal Family and the Prime Minister…on CNN. Maybe one of the reasons for this docudrama feel is that Helen Mirren looks SO MUCH like Queen Elizabeth II in this movie. And, I imagine, the Queen acts pretty much like Mirren does…reserved, official, composed. But, the film itself is an intense piece of work…never dull or slow. I thought it would be tough to fill a whole film based on just one week’s events but director Stephen Frears does a great job of keeping up the level of drama through fast-paced editing and through creating tenuous chemistry between the Queen and Blair. Their political relationship defines the film and keeps things moving. The Queen is a must-see! Hail, Elizabeth!
Scoop is no Match Point. Woody Allen’s VERY serious and VERY Allen-less film Match Point was a favorite of mine in 2006 (it was released the end of 2005). So, when Scoop came along, I was excited…I mean it has a couple of the Match Point similarities. 1. It is set in London…of which Match Point was Allen’s first film set outside of the New York area. 2. It stars Match Point’s Scarlet Johansson. And, it also has Hugh Jackman, who I love as a actor. So, three pluses. Now, the minuses. 1. Allen goes back to his COMEDY roots…I think all of his gags have been treaded over one too many times. 2. Allen puts himself in the film. His neurotic New Yorker bit was funny in the beginning but now it’s just annoying. That’s it. So, three pros and two cons. Not exactly a ringing endorsement but enough for a good night in front of the DVD player. The story is the one that really sold this one for me…I was able to over look the neurotic Allen and the bad jokes since the story was pretty fresh and original. It revolves around a dead reporter who gets the “scoop” of a lifetime after he’s dead. He escapes the Grim Reaper just so he can try and get the story in the press through another reporter. He picks naïve Johansson as the person to give to “scoop” to and she tries her best to run with it, even though she falls in love with the person the “scoop” implicates. Complicated? No, it’s just hard to explain…but it is fun to watch. If only Allen would stay behind the camera…and try his hand at a little less humor…his genius for storytelling would continue to shine for years to come.
A classic love story, based on the award-winning novel by A.S. Byatt. Told in both the present time and Victorian times, Byatt’s story and characters leap off of the pages and director Neil LaBute captures that same vividness in the film. Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow play academics in modern-day England and while they research the relationship between two historical lovers, they fall in love themselves. LaBute does a great job of combining the past and present elements throughout the movie—scenes go seamlessly from historical times to the present day. LaBute lends equal time to both eras, allowing each love story to evolve in its own way…at its own pace. Beautiful scenery and lush dialogue enhance the emotions of this timeless love story.
I re-watched this one recently and was reminded what a good thriller it really is. Harrison Ford is in his peak here and Tom Clancy’s work has never been sharper and better. Based on the Clancy novel, Ford plays Jack Ryan, former CIA and current instructor at Annapolis…aside from devoted father and husband. While on a business trip to London with his family, he stumbles into an IRA fringe group’s plot to do some damage to the British royals. Ryan kills one of the terrorists, saving the lives of the Royals but making an enemy for life of the dead man’s brother. Filled with tension and just enough lightness to soften the ride some, this film is just as sharp as it was when I saw it in the theater in 1992. If movies are good, they stand the test of time and only get better. This one proves that even political thrillers can stand the tests of time…if done right.
Good old Eliza Doolittle with her flowers in Covert Garden Market…she’s so seemingly content in her existence on the steps of the famed London opera house. Then, along comes Professor Henry Higgins and turns her simple world upside down. From the classic play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and then adapted into a musical production by Lerner and Loewe, director George Cukor masterly takes hold of the big screen version, making Eliza, Professor Higgins, and all of the rest seem as fresh as the day Shaw originally penned them. Audrey Hepburn as Eliza caused quite a bit of controversy in the day. Julie Andrews, who originated Ms. Doolittle on the stage, was seen by Hollywood execs not to be “Hollywood” enough for the starring role. So, very Hollywood Hepburn was brought in as a replacement, along with professional-dubber Marni Nixon singing the songs for her. Rex Harrison was able to reprise his stage role of Professor Higgins (I guess he was “Hollywood” enough, or at least would not take no for an answer) and he did manage to “sing” his own songs. As in the stage productions, Harrison got away with his lack of singing talent by doing more of a “melodic talking” to music. Regardless of all of the hoops that were leapt through along the way, the end result is one fabulous film. And, even though I’m sure Andrews would have been great in the movie, Hepburn just shines here, as if Audrey and Eliza were one in the same. Isn’t it Loverly???
My soft spot for this one is that I love Beatrix Potter’s books. And I’m heading to the English Lake District this year on vacation…hoping I will love it as much as I think I will. Aside from that, is this an accurate film of Potter’s life? Um, not by a long shot. But, it is a charming, sweet film that, on its own, stands as a wonderful love story. Renee Zellweger again (as she does in the Bridget Jones movies) plays a great Brit — aside from perfecting the accent, she has the slightly aloof manner down pat. Here, she plays Potter as a woman ahead of her time…independent, aggressive, disobedient and defiant. If you’re looking for a film to watch with the whole family, look no further. If you’re looking to write a biographical report on Beatrix Potter, keep looking.
When I took screenwriting classes in college, I always wondered if I would make it in Hollywood. One of the reasons I never did is that I do not write like Woody Allen. I’m not always a fan of Allen…most of his recent films have been so-so comedies (with the exception of the unique Melinda and Melinda), but Match Point is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and most assuredly the best film of 2005, in my opinion. Why? How about this…not a word is out of place and there is nothing extra that should be in the film and nothing that shouldn’t. It’s a perfectly constructed film all the way around, I attest solely to Allen’s writing. The actors are good in their roles but I wouldn’t say that’s what “made” the film for me. Allen just simply has a way of working a story so it seems so easy and so perfect at the same time. It is a neat, clean circle…the story starts off with one thread and that thread runs through the entire film but in a subtle way until the ending, when you realized, “OH, I get it.” The story revolves around a young tennis pro who gets a job at an upper class athletic club and soon makes friends with one of the members…an affluent young man who has both a pretty, demure sister and a beautiful, sultry fiancée. The tennis pro falls for the sister but really falls hard for the fiancée. What happens from there leads to a complex, intricate series of events that keep the audience guessing at every turn. The ending, unlike most films I’ve seen recently, will not disappoint or ruin the masterfulness of this film. What happens right up to the last second will only increase how strong this film is…which is proof of Allen’s genius.
For Roger Moore’s second time as 007, the filmmakers decide to go back to what James Bond does best…be Bond. In Moore’s previous outing as the super-spy for MI-6, 1973’s Live and Let Die, the best thing about it was the music (Paul McCartney and his post-Beatles band Wings did the title song). Here, Moore’s Bond welcomes back Q’s gadgets and his fast-acting romances. The plot is pretty silly (unlike the other Bond stories???)…Bond believes a famous hit-man (who only shoots his prey with golden bullets from a golden gun) has targeted him so he goes on the lookout for the assassin. What the “Man with the Golden Gun” really wants, though, is money (don’t they always want money!)…money for his clever way to harness the power of the Sun. But, if Bond happens to die, all’s the better. Christopher Lee (of Dracula fame) plays “The Man with the Golden Gun” but even though the role as a baddie usually offers actors to live out their fantasies of depravity, Lee does not seem to be enjoying himself. But, then again, maybe he read the script!!!! All in all, this is a fun romp through the MI-6 world of Bond and his ladies. Not the best Bond but not the worse either. A ringing endorsement, ain’t it?