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The Monuments Men (2014)
It is amazing that World War Two can still throw up interesting subjects for a movie such as this one. Allied teams sent into liberated Europe to claim art stolen by the Nazis. Director George Clooney has assembled a great cast including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett and Hugh Bonnevile. The movie does not work. There is no drama, no tension or even a scene that will linger in your memory. It is a very mediocre film. Maybe its a lack of interesting characters, or the poor script or the light hearted tone. It failed to click with me, and I love war movies! Luckily for me I watched it on blu ray rather at the cinema. The extras on the DVD confirmed what an interesting topic this is, and that Clooney's film failed to make it.
The Post (2017)
Engrossing look at the publication of the Pentagon Papers
The Post is not just about the publication of The Pentagon Papers in 1971. It is also about one woman finding her place in the world. Meryl Streep plays Katherine Graham the publisher of The Washington Post, she has inherited the paper due to her husband's death. Graham is lost in this world of men, who patronize her, today we call it mansplaining. To add to her difficulties, the Post receives a copy of a secret study commissioned by the Pentagon into the conduct of the Vietnam War. The paper's editor, Ben Bradlee ( Tom Hanks) wants to publish even though he knows that the Nixon Administration will come after the paper. The papers were taken my Rand Corporation official Daniel Ellsberg and copied. Ellsberg wanted to expose the fact that previous Presidents had lied about the reasons for and conduct of war in Vietnam.
Graham is hesitant as she is about to go public on the Stock Exchange. She could also go to jail for publishing classified documents. This is an engrossing film that shines a light on the internal struggle between Graham and Bradlee, both of whom do not see eye to eye. One of the telling scenes in when Graham is told that she is compromised by her friendship with former Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara , and Graham reminds Bradlee that he was once buddies with JFK.
There are moments when the film starts preaching about the freedom of the press, and how government must be accountable. I'm sure this film is using the past to tell us about the present, but what the hell? It's never dull, and there are moments of humour. The Post is told that it will not cover Nixon's daughter's wedding due to their coverage of him!
Director Stephen Spielberg has assembled a great cast which includes Matthew Rhys, Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie, Tracy Letts, Bruce Greenwood, Bradley Whitford, Bob Odenkirk and Jesse Plemons. We also hear Richard Nixon's voice on the phone to this aides. This film serves as a prequel to All the President's Men.
State of the Union (1948)
Great satire on American politics
State of the Union is one of the best Hollywood films about American politics, especially the behind the scenes dealings during a presidential election.
Spencer Tracy plays Grant Matthews a successful businessman who builds aeroplanes. He is touted as the potential Republican nominee for President. Katherine Hepburn is his wife Mary,who believes in him and his ideals.Her problem is that his mistress,Kay Thorndyke (an icy Angela Lansbury)is a powerful newspaper mogul who also is one of his supporters. She believes that she can make him President and be the power behind the throne. Which woman will gain control of his heart and his political soul? The film shows how Matthews gradually loses his way as compromises have to be made with various interests from unions to farmers. Ambition leads to expediency.Mary watches as the man she loves becomes a shell of his former self as he gives in to special interests. His lofty speeches become standard stump speeches just like any other politician.
Adolph Menjou is great as Jim Conover, the fixer who loves the back room dealing and horse trading.His character is so cynical about the process,you wonder if he believes in anything apart from process.
Angela Lansbury is a revelation, as this role is a million miles away from cosy Jessica Fletcher in Murder, she wrote. Kay can only be described as ruthlessly ambitious. She can stand her ground in a room full of men and is not afraid to tell them who is boss. If she can't run for President herself, she can at least make one. Only Mary stands in her way. The personal and political become intertwined. I love the scene when the two meet near the end of the film and eye each other up.
Special mention has to go to Van Johnson, as Spike Macmanus the campaign manager who provides relentless comic relief.
I noticed a couple of things in this film, which shows how chaste Hollywood was in the late 1940s. You never see the Matthews in bed together. Grant and Kay's affair is referred to, but very rarely are they seen together. How times have changed! This film is the perfect companion to The Candidate(1972) starring Robert Redford. There are lots of comparisons.Both films made over twenty years apart, ask the same questions: Can a politician remain idealistic once the process gets hold of him or her ?Is compromise inevitable?
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
A forgotten classic that is still relevant today
A Face in the Crowd is about the rise of television personality called Lonesome Rhodes played by Andy Griffiths. We first meet him in jail. He is discovered by a producer played by Patricia Neal, who sets him on the road to stardom.His appeal is that he is "authentic", a real man of the people. He talks like them, he knows what they like and what they don't like. He soon rises in popularity and even more sinister, his influence grows. Politicians soon appear on his TV show, eager to be seen with him. The power and the fame goes to his head.
Apart from Griffiths, who is amazing in this, look out for a young Lee Remick, Anthony Franciosa and Walter Matthau. Patricia Neal is great as the woman who realises that she has created a monster.She is the first to spot what lurks beneath the easy going facade.
Bear in mind that this film was released before reality TV and you will be amazed at how prophetic it is. The film also touches on the dangers of populism and how a demagogue can poison political debate via the medium of television. It also demonstrates how fleeting TV fame can be. Please watch this film. It may be a black and white movie from the 1950s , but it has so much to say about our culture in the 21st century.
American Sniper (2014)
Gripping character study of a warrior
What happens to a man who is exposed to constant violence?Does his humanity begin to erode? These are some of the issue raised in American Sniper directed by Clint Eastwood. Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, the true story of a Navy Seal sniper who served four tours in Iraq. Kyle proves himself a skilled marksman, who acts as a guardian angel for the Marines by picking off threats like potential suicide bombers. Kyle becomes a living legend.
Cooper plays Kyle as a dedicated killer who loves his team, and is a patriot.He is certain of his mission and the wider cause that has brought the United States to Iraq. This is not a movie that asks big questions like The Green Zone or Fair Game. We also see the toll that the war takes on Kyle's family.
His wife,Taya as portrayed by Sienna Miller, finds it harder to re- connect with him.Can a man be the same person after he returns from a war zone? Miller is a revelation, as the spouse who becomes increasingly frustrated with her husband.
The battle scenes are well done as you would expect from the man who directed Flags of our Fathers.
In one scene, Kyle comes very close to killing a child. You can feel his relief when he does not have to pull the trigger.Eastwood's film seems to be saying that no matter how macho you are and no matter how battle hardened, you can never be whole again.
Green Zone (2010)
Thrilling political thriller about the Iraq War
The Green Zone is a well crafted thriller set in Iraq just after the invasion by the Allied coalition in 2003. Director Paul Greengrass who we know from the Bourne movies, again teams up with Matt Damon to explore the aftermath of the invasion and the behind the scenes machinations of the American government.
Matt Damon plays Roy Miller a Chief Warrant Officer who is tasked with finding WMD sites in Iraq. The only problem is that he keeps finding nothing. He is told the intelligence is solid, but he soon starts to doubt what he is being told. He soon bumps into a CIA officer Brendan Gleeson, who is trying to prevent the country falling apart. Miller soon realises that various branches of the US government are not on the same page.
Greg Kinnear's character Clark Poundstone is a slimy official who is not above using lethal force to enforce the Penatgon's agenda.Special mention must go to Jason Isaacs as a ruthless Special Forces type who does Poundstone's bidding.
The Green Zone is quite a subversive film as it is highly critical of the American government's actions after the invasion. Greengrass depicts chaos everywhere,highlighting the lack of planning post invasion.Miller, through whose eyes we see most of the action, is shocked at the lies that he and his men have been told by his superiors and a compliant media.
A well made thriller that will be better appreciated in the future. Keep in mind the state of Iraq when you watch this film.
Fascinating story about a little known rescue mission
Ben Affleck proves yet again,that he is a gifted director and that his previous offerings (Gone Baby Gone and The Town)were not flukes. Both films were set in Affleck's native city of Boston.
His latest film, Argo, tells the story of the rescue by the CIA of American diplomats in Iran during the Hostage Crisis.We are give a crash course in Iranian History taking us up to the events in 1979 when the US Embassy was stormed in November of that year.
The diplomats, six of them, hid in the Canadian Ambassador's residence, while the main hostages were held in the American Embassy. Affleck, plays CIA agent, Tony Menendez,who is tasked with getting them out of Iran. His plan is so outrageous that it could have come from an episode of Mission Impossible. Why not have the diplomats pose as a film crew making a sci-fi movie called....Argo? For this, Menendez travels to Hollywood where he creates a fake production with media notices, a producer and a script.The previous ideas for a rescue floated by the CIA were even more far fetched.
Comic relief is provided by Alan Arkin as the movie producer who realises what is at stake, and yet treats the whole thing with a world weary movie mogul air. Arkin gets the bulk of the film's funny lines. There are lots of visual gags about Hollywood especially about the poor Star Wars knock offs that Hollywood produced in the late 1970s.We are also given snippets of the tension between the CIA , the State Department and Jimmy Carter's White House.
Affleck assembles a huge cast of talented actors including Tate Donovan,Clea Duvall,Bryan Cranston and John Goodman and gets great performances. He also shoots his film with a grainy stock to give it that 1970s feel. The crowd scenes depicting the stormy of the Embassy compound are well done. You can smell the panic inside the building as the staff decide to burn all the classified papers.
Well done,Mr Affleck. Oscars nominations ahoy???
The Imposter (2012)
Totally absorbing tale
The Imposter is one of the most fascinating documentaries you will see this year. The story is so bizarre that if a Hollywood screenwriter had written this story, no producer would touch it!!
In 1994,Nicholas Barclay then 13 years old,disappeared from his home in Texas. His family were understandably distraught. Three years later, a teenager claiming to be Nicholas was found in Spain! He looked nothing like Nicholas, and he spoke English with a French accent. Can this person be the Barclay family's lost relative? The clue is in the film's title. He was in fact a French man called Frederic Bourdin.
What makes this story compelling is the fact Bourdin hoodwinked both the Spanish and the American authorities. Even more shocking than that is that the Barclay family believed that he was Nicholas and welcomed back into their home!Nicholas's mother, sister,nephew and brother in law are were all deceived.The desire to believe was so strong that they embraced him and his story about his abduction. His story of how he got from Texas to Spain is shocking.
We are given insights into what motivated Bourdin, who is an extremely skilled conman. He came from a troubled background, and he wanted to be loved and accepted by a family. The Barclays fit the bill.
We also see how a traumatised family that would swallow his lies even when it's clear to us, the audience, that he is clearly a bullshit artist on an epic scale.Special mention must be made to dogged private investigator Charlie Parker, who smelt a rat from the moment "Nicholas" hits the media spotlight. He steals every scene!!!The tragedy of this story is that we are no nearer to the whereabouts of the real Nicholas.
This is an amazing documentary that will grip you from start to finish. Go and see it and then tell everyone you know about it.
Running on Empty (1988)
A touching saga about love, family and breaking free.
Running on Empty is a gem of film, with some great performances, especially the late River Phoenix.This is one of those films in the late 1980s that looked back on the recent past. Mississippi Burning is another film that springs to mind.
The Pope family are fugitives.They have been on the run from the FBI since the early 1970s.Arthur(Judd Hirsch)and Annie (Christine Lahti) were once student radicals who blew up a lab that produced weapons, as a protest against the Vietnam War. Think Weathermen Underground and you get the picture.Their act of terror resulted in a fatality.
We meet met them years later, when they are the parents to two boys. One of them, Danny played by River Phoenix, is now a teenager. He is tired of running, never having time to put down roots or make real friends. Danny also has to assume a new identity each time the family move. Whilst enrolled at his latest school, Danny, under the alias of Michael Manfield comes to the attention of a music teacher who notices what a gifted piano player he is.
The teacher's daughter Lorna(Martha Plimpton) also notices Danny and begins to fall for him.The scenes between Danny and Lorna are well done. He slowly lowers his guard and starts to trust her
This film covers so much ground. Its about identity, love and how your past can both trap and mould you. Danny learnt to appreciate music through his mother, Annie who was from a wealthy middle class family. She knows how good he could be, but can she and Arthur let him go? Can he keep running forever without being able to live his life?
There are two stand out scenes for me in this film. Annie meets her father for the first time in years. She clearly rejected everything he stood and yet there is so much emotion between them. The other scene is the pivotal one where the Popes make a decision about Danny. It is a clear indication that River Phoenix would have been huge had he lived.Just watch the look in his eyes as they bid farewell.To execute that range of emotions, you got to have acting chops. River definitely had it.
The late Sidney Lumet shows what a skilled film maker he was, taking a difficult subject matter and getting great performances from the main players.
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
An all time classic war too
It is rare that Hollywood makes a war movie about a disastrous campaign, and yet A bridge too far is just that and more. If you love epic war movies like Midway, The Longest Day or Battle of the Bulge, then this is for you.
Directed by Richard Attenborough, and scripted by William Goldman,based on Cornelius Ryan's best seller.Bridge delivers all that you need from a good war film such as courage, bravery and sacrifice. Boasting an all star cast that includes Michael Caine, James Caan,Sean Connery,Dirk Bogarde, Robert Redford and Elliot Gould, this is a must see.
The film focuses on the attempt by the Allies in 1944 to end the war by capturing key bridges in Holland and then advancing into Germany. It was an audacious plan, devised by Field Marshall Montgomery who believed that the Germans were near collapse. The plan, named Operation Market Garden, required a three airborne divisions to capture and hold the bridges long enough so that a mechanised army can relieve them. It was the largest airborne drop in history. It would have been an amazing victory had it succeeded.
Needless to say, it all goes terribly wrong. The film does not hold back in depicting the mistakes of the Allies from bad intelligence, massive egos ,poor planning and down right incompetence. The film also shows the thinking from the German side, and also we get the point of view of he Dutch people.
My favourite scene is the attempt by Major Julian Cook, played by Redford to capture Nijmegen Bridge by a river crossing. The paratroopers are subjected to merciless barrage of machine guns and mortars by the Germans.
A mark of a classic is that you can watch time and again, and still be entertained.Bridge delivers in spades.
The Iron Lady (2011)
Streep is great in a disappointing film
Meryl Streep proves yet again that he is one of Hollywood's finest actresses in her latest role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Streep is great, playing Thatcher from her rise to power in the 1970s to her fall and subsequent lapse into near dementia.
The weakness of the film is that the script is not good.We have too many scenes with Maggie speaking with her dead husband Denis,a wasted Jim Broadbent,and not enough of her relationship with her father.We see very little of Maggie's relationship with Edward Heath, the man who promoted her to Education Secretary in 1970, and whom she challenged for leadership of the Conservative Party in 1975.
One of the other flaws with this film is that it is too short for such an eventful life, and it rushes through key events in Maggie's political career.For example, the Falklands War is dealt with so swiftly that it hardly registers. And yet this war lasted 77 days.It was one of major achievements of her administration.It would have been better to focus on one event like this or the Miners Strike to highlight Mrs Thatcher's strengths and weaknesses.
Credit must go to Streep an American, who gets the accent right.We see the Grantham accent replaced with a much more media friendly (trained)accent.
A great cast of actors such as Richard E Grant, Olivia Colman ,Anthony Head and Roger Allam play small roles as colleagues, family and advisers.
Should have been a much better film given the talent involved.
Presumed Innocent (1990)
One of Harrison Ford's best films
Presumed Innocent is a murder mystery, a character study and also an examination of the criminal justice system. Rusty Sabich (Harrison Ford) plays a Prosecutor who is tasked with investigating a murder. The victim is his former mistress, Carolyn Polhemus played by Greta Scacchi in her first big Hollywood movie.
Soon he is charged with Carolyn's murder.The irony is that the system, he once served for years, now turns on him. He finds himself in the same position of the character played by Kevin Costner in the movie No Way Out which came out in 1987.
Quite early in the film, we are given hints that all is not well in the Sabich household. The blow back from the affair still creates tension.
Ford gives one of his best performances, as a decent man who becomes bewitched by a sexy(and very ambitious) colleague. We want to believe that he is innocent.Harrison is one of those actors who does so little,but his eyes give so much away.He is so wounded by his actions and the fallout.The scene at the end, when all is revealed is great.Rusty says nothing, but his face reveals so much :hurt, guilt, sorrow and pain.
The supporting cast is excellent, from Brian Dennehy as Rusty's shifty boss Raymond Horgan to Bonnie Bedelia as Rusty's wife. Look out for future West Wing Star Bradley Whitford in a small role. Greta Scacchi's role is basically a cameo, but her performance is central to the whole story.
This is a great thriller that still stands up after all these years due to great performances and a great direction from the late Alan J Pakula.
Fair Game (2010)
Revealing behind the scenes view of the lead up to war
Fair Game is the portrait of a marriage under extraordinary circumstances. The film is set the period before and after the invasion of Iraq.Naomi Watts plays Valerie Plame a career CIA officer who worked mainly under cover.
Her husband, Joe Wilson is a career diplomat who is asked to investigate a claim that Iraq is seeking to acquire yellow cake from Niger in order to manufacture uranium. He does as he asked, and writes a report stating that the Niger claim is false.
The White House, determined to prove that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the world,goes ahead and says the Niger claim is true. This is when things gets tricky for Joe and Valerie.The professional becomes very personal as Valerie is outed by the press leaked by the White House.All hell rains down on the Wilson household once Joe publicly challeges President Bush's claims.
Sean Penn is great as Wilson, he bristles with anger as he sees a ruthless White House turn on him. Naomi Watts is just as good as she plays a woman who has had to live a life of secrets and deception in the service of her country.She is shocked when that country turns on her for political reasons. Her face when she is outed is a picture of pain. She knows that her career is dead.
There is a great supporting cast from Sam Sheppard, Bruce McGill and Noah Emmerich.Credit to Director Doug Liman for getting committed performances from all concerned.
The film also gives us a sneak preview of the machinations of the White House especially the office of Vice President Dick Cheney and the pressure exerted on CIA analysts.
This film would make a great triple bill with The Green Zone and W.
Neat little Conspiracy Thriller
This film hardly gets any showing on television, but it fits in nicely into the sub genre of conspiracy thriller movies like Executive Action,Winter Kills and The Parallex View.
This is a sideways look at the Kennnedy Conspiracy from the point of view of two bystanders who happen to be cops.Kris Kristoferson and Treat Williams play Border Patrol officers who stumbled upon a buried jeep, a body, a rifle and a whole lot of cash in the Texas desert.Who could it be?Why have the Feds shown up all of a sudden?Could there be a link?Should they take the money and split or investigate? It has a great cast of actors who would go on to be familiar faces like Tess Harper, Miguel Ferrer,Kurtwood Smith and Jean Smart.Kristoferson and Williams are always reliable actors.
This an interesting movie that asks what happened to the Other Gunmen if you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was not acting alone on 22 November 1963.Oliver Stone's JFK was then first big studio movie to explicitly challenge the Warren Commission report.Some films are made just before their time, which means that it will be overlooked.
The Killer Inside Me (2010)
A vile piece of cinema
Michael Winterbottom's film about a killer who also happens to be a law enforcement officer in 1950's Texas is a huge let down.Casey Affleck plays Lou Ford, a seemingly polite Deputy Sheriff in a small town. The reality is that he is psychopath who is willing to use violence on women.
This film is an empty peace of crap.None of the characters are convincing,all seem to act in an illogical way.It has two shocking pieces of violence that are gratuitous in the extreme.I had two cover my face to avoid seeing some scenes. Great supporting actors like Ned Beatty and Elias Koteas are wasted.The two female stars Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba are given hardly anything to do except.........
An empty nasty film not worth the time of day.Can this be the same director who made Welcome to Sarajevo?
A real 1960's classic!
Darling is one of those films from the 1960s that are so good, that requires multiple viewing.Like The Great Escape, Breakfast at Tiffanys,Lawrence of Arabia everything just comes together to create a perfect package. At the heart of this film is Julie Christie, who plays Diana Scott, a model in Swinging Sixties London.Diana is determined to find fame and fortune, and she will use sex to assist her if necessary.
It is very difficult to make a lead character compelling even though she is selfish, immature and shallow. Watch the look on her face when he thinks TV journalist Robert Gold(Dirk Bogarde)owns a flash sports car.Quite early on, we are tipped off that this is a shallow woman. Robert falls in love with her, and they set up house together.Unfortunately for him,fidelity is not on the cards.Soon Diana spots greater opportunities with caddish Miles Brand played to perfection by Laurence Harvey.
The film is daring by touching on previously taboo subjects like adultery, abortion and homosexuality.It also hints at the rise of the model as a celebrity.Director John Schlessinger is clearly satirising the rich,the famous and the vacuous.
My favourite scene is the party scene in Paris,when Diana pretends to be Miles.Vicious but very funny!
Julie Christie richly deserved her Oscar for Best Actress for this performance.
In the Loop (2009)
Feels like reality or something close to it
In the loop comments on and makes fun of British politics, the special relationship and the US system of government. Using the lead up to a war in the Middle East, we are given a front row seat to the machinations that take place in the halls of power.
British minister Simon Foster(Tom Hollander) makes a comment about the prospect of war being unforseeable and then finds himself sucked into a media vortex. The peaceniks within the State Department and the Pentagon all strive to use him, while the Prime Minister's media thug played by a gloriously profane Peter Capaldi tries to muzzle him. James Gandolfini plays a US general seeking to put the brakes on war machine, but finds himself overwhelmed by the war mongers.
You watch in amazement as lies are told and the news is spun/managed.You hope that this is not how government works , but then you compare it with the reality. If you followed the lead up to the war in the Iraq, you could not help notice how much it reflected events in London and Washington from 2002-2003. How many battles did Colin Powell fight with Donald Rumsfeld? I love the way the film makes fun of British politicians who go to Washington all starry eyed. Hilarious! This film should be watched as part of a double bill with Wag the Dog.
Public Enemies (2009)
Disappointing Gangster movie
Michael Mann has demonstrated that he can make good crime dramas like Heat,Collateral and Miami Vice. He adds a slickness that few directors can match. Unfortunately, his latest offering ,Public Enemies falls well short.
The film centres on the pursuit of John Dillinger by the FBI as the crux of the film.Dillinger is played by Johhny Depp, a charismatic actor of some talent.His FBI nemesis is Melvin Purvis(Christian Bale) who is charged by J Edgar Hoover to catch Dillinger and his gang of bank robbers.
The problem with the film is that is not sure what it is. Is it story about John Dillinger and his duel with Purvis or is it a look at the rise of the FBI? There is also the relationship between Dillinger and Billie Frechette, a totally wasted Marion Cotillard.We learn almost nothing about their love affair and what was the attraction.The film sets no context about the hatred of the banks during the Depression nor the rise of the celebrity gangster like Dillinger,Alvin Karpis, Bonnie and Clyde.So much is left unexplained.
The shoot outs as expected are great , with copious use Tommy guns.You are constantly reminded of that classic shoot out in Heat,which was a far superior film.No one can shoot a film better at night than Michael Man.
Sadly, there is not enough in this film to make it compelling.With the talent involved, you expected something special,Public Enemies does not deliver.
Gran Torino (2008)
A gem of a movie.
You have to give Clint his due, he is one of the few stars who has emerged from the 1950s who is still a box office draw today.He may not have the acting skill of a Brando or a Newman, but he knows what he's good at and how it translates on screen. He fully delivers in his latest film, Gran Torino.
Walt Kowalski(Clint) is Korean War veteran, who lives in Detroit.He is a bitter old veteran. When we first meet him,he is at the funeral of his wife. We see him with his two sons, and their families. He has very little connection with them.
One of the few white faces still living in his neighbourhood, Walt gets involved with Thao, who is being threatened by a local gang. Thao is from Hmong,the people relocated to America from Laos .For Walt, who is a racist and makes no attempt to hide it, the sight of these immigrants are too much for him. He uses words like "gooks" and "fishheads".
One of Walt's prized possessions is his Ford Gran Torino. He never drives it, but he keeps it in mint condition. The gang urge Thao to steal the car as part of his initiation into the gang.Walt attempts to save Thao from the gang and adopting him as his surrogate son.He may be a racist, but Walt reclaims his humanity.
Why is the film called Gran Torino?The car is a symbol of old fashioned values,values that Walt sees disappearing. It is also symbolic of an America that is in decline.Walt growls at everything, from his granddaughter texting in church to his son driving a Japanese car.
This is Clint's commentary on modern America. He despises, the lack of respect for tradition,the decline of patriotism, political correctness,wiggas and gang culture.This could easily be Dirty Harry in 2008, railing against the current orthodoxy.We still get the typical Eastwood humour and that magnetic screen presence.
Clint still has the magic, even at 78 years old.
The Duchess (2008)
Keira Knightley proves yet again that she can do costume drama in her latest film. She plays Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who was also an ancestor of Diana Spencer(Princes Diana).
Georgiana married the Duke(Ralph Fiennes) in 18th England,a wealthy aristocrat.The deal, and it is a deal, is that she provide him with a male heir.Geogiana became a fashion icon and a celebrity in high society.She was also quite a fun loving character who liked gambling and attending the theatre.
We are given plenty of references to the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.Georgiana marries a man who is unable to show his emotions, and is determined to have a male heir to carry on the bloodline.Her happiness is way down the list of priorities.
The film makes it clear that women,including aristos like Georgiana were regarded as second class citizens.With no money, no votes or sexual freedom, they had were required to look pretty and breed children for the men who formed the ruling class. Once the Duchess decides to gain her own happiness, the Duke makes sure that he takes that away.
The Duchess also shows that unconventional lifestyles were in existence long before the 1960s.The Duke moves his mistress,Lady Elizabeth Foster,played by Hayley Attwell into his home.
Keira Knightley carries the film as the central character, with great support from Ralph Fiennes,Charlotte Rampling and Dominic Cooper.Miss Knightley has got that star quality camera that any movie star must have.The girl can act ! A very entertaining film about the aristocracy in Britain before the Industrial Revolution.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
A Damn good film-almost a classic
This film is so good, that you can watch read it a number of ways. It can seen as a critique of capitalism, especially the rise of the oil barons in the early twentieth century. You can also view it from a Biblical angle: What happens when you gain the whole world, and lose your soul? Daniel Day-Lewis proves that he is in a class by himself. His portrayal of Daniel Plainview, the greedy oil tycoon is amazing.Cunning,ruthless and vengeful, this is not a likable man.We watch this forceful man rise from oil prospector to millionaire, brushing aside anyone who will impede him.
The only person who comes close is Eli Sunday(Paul Dano) a Preacher who has his own agenda and tries to challenge Plainview's dominance.You know that sooner or later, these two men are going to have a showdown.
My only quibble is that final scene when Day-Lewis seems to go over the top. Having said that, he more than deserved his second Best Actor Oscar for this powerhouse role.
Broadcast News (1987)
An 1980s classic that is eerily prophetic
This is a love story set against the back drop of television news. The three main stars, William Hurt,Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks create a love triangle whilst working at the Washington bureau of a TV network.
Tom Grunick(Hurt)is the handsome reporter who is being groomed to be a star.Jane (Hunter)is the producer who recognises that Tom lacks the intellectual gravitas to be a real journalist, but falls for him anyway.Aaron Altman(Brooks)is the man who shares her beliefs in journalistic standards is also the man who truly loves her.
Holly Hunter was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award ,but lost out to Cher(Moonstruck!).She was robbed! This is Hunter's film.Her character Jane is smart,ruthless and totally driven. She is also hilariously neurotic. Her performance is perfect.Just watch her face when she watches the tape of Tom's interview of a rape victim. The scales literally fall from her eyes.
Wiliam Hurt's performance is less showy.He plays a man who is well aware that he is a himbo and a fraud,but is smart enough to know that his rise will be facilitated by people like Jane.He gives little hints of a man who is extremely calculating and is a complete narcissist.
The film comments on celebrity, journalism,integrity and the commercial pressures on news in a medium that is focused on the bottom line. It predicted that news would be dumbed down, that standards would slowly be lowered due to commercial pressures.
Think about this:this film was released before the end of the Cold War and before rise of reality TV.Yet, it predicted the dumbing down of the news.Paris Hilton's release from jail was treated like a major news story! To see how prophetic this film is,just watch your evening news and note the set, the graphics and the presenters.Tom Grunick and his clones are well and truly alive!
Forrest Gump (1994)
A real classic for the 1990s
I have just watched Forrest Gump again on DVD,and it still stands up after all these years!Tom Hanks is truly amazing as the simple man who remains true to himself.It is an amazing performance, as he truly understands the character, this is not a moron but a man who lives his life by basic truths, from which he never deviates.
The first time I saw this film in 1994, I dismissed it as baby boomer crap.I missed the emotional content that gives the film its real power.Forget about the ground breaking computer generated imagery, its the performances and the story that lifts this film above the ordinary.
Tom Hanks truly deserved his second Oscar for what was a truly memorable role.Just watch the scenes just after Jenny leaves him near the end.He does not need say anything.
Robin Wright has the smaller role as the love of his life.We watch her journey throughout the film. It is deeply moving as she recognises that walking on the wild side will not bring her happiness.If I have one complaint about this film, it is that Jenny is almost used as a cipher to depict the drug culture and the permissive society of the 1960s and 1970s.Anyone who is conservative in their politics, could be comforted by the arc of Jenny's character including her demise.
Gary Sinise is terrific as Lt Dan Taylor.He is good in so many films like Ransom,Snake Eyes and Apollo 13.Here he portrays a complex character who evolves in much the same way as Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July.
It is an emotional film about love and its various incarnations, that at the heart of this movie.Forrest's love never changes even though his country changes all around him.
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
A genuine classic
The Forbin Project is classic sci-fi movie, and yet is criminally neglected. Most people have never heard of it, and TV channels rarely broadcast it. I first saw it 1977 on Jamaican television. I think I have only ever seen it once on the BBC.
This the old story of Frankenstein's monster updated for the Cold War era. The Baron, is now a scientist,Dr Charles Forbin played by Eric Braeden. The creation is super computer designed to control the American defence system.Every conceivable problem has been thought of and programmed into Colossus.What could possibly go wrong? For a movie made in the 1970s, it predicts the rise of artificial intelligence and man's eventual enslavement to technology. The makers of The Matrix and The Terminator must have seen this film at some point as they both deal with the same issue.
I have managed to watch a widescreen version, and I must say that it still adds up,despite the dated technology.The film has no stars in it, which is good because you are solely focused on the story and nothing else.What is refreshing is that this is sci -fi that refuses to dumb down-hardly any violence,flashy effects and no sex.
Once you see it, you won't forget it.
Michael Clayton (2007)
Good legal thriller for grown ups
This is unusual film as its a legal drama without a single courtroom scene.Michael Clayton(George Clooney) is not a normal lawyer.His role at a prestigious New York lawyer firm is a fixer.He works behind the scenes to make scandals go away.In the process, he has lost sight of who he is.He is mired in debt, divorced and he gambles.We never see him relaxed or at peace during the film.
His chance at redemption appears when one of the firms senior lawyer loses his marbles during a deposition of a witness in a case.The lawyer,Arthur Eden(Tom Wilkinson)has gone off message.Clayton has to bring him around, there are millions (and jobs) at stake.
Tilda Swinton gives a great performance as the in house lawyer for the chemical company being sued.You know that this highly strung woman is just a few crises away from cracking up under the strain.
The film is a commentary on corporate culture and goals,and the lengths that people will go to achieve their goals. Think Three Days of the Condor, which was also about company/Company (CIA) culture and you get my meaning.As a nod to the those 1970s thrillers, we even have the great director Sydney Pollack in the cast, playing one of the firm's senior partners.Clooney portrays a man who is drowning, but has enough humanity left to save himself.
Well worth a look, if you like films that take their time, and does not spell everything out to you.