Sunday, November 28, 2010

The King's Speech

The true story of King George VI of England, who reluctantly becomes ruler when his brother abdicates the throne in 1936. His reluctance is due to a terrible stammer that destroys his confidence to rule. His wife, Queen Elizabeth finds speech therapist, Lionel Logue to help with the King's problem. Lionel's unconventional treatments eventually lead the two men to a life-long friendship.

Colin Firth stars as King George and Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue. These two actors are at the top of their game and are wonderful to watch as they bond over the King's problem. Mr. Firth is marvelous in a role with such vocal difficulty. Mr. Rush also shines as the commoner, not afraid of royalty but rather committed to helping a man in dire need. They should both easily get Oscar nominations for this film. Also outstanding is Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth. She makes the queen regal and yet, so human as a wife and mother.

Director Tom Hooper captures the period along with all the pomp and circumstance of the royal family perfectly. He directs an all star cast that also includes Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon and Sir Derek Jacobi. The film is obviously very British but the story holds a universal appeal. With perseverance, one can overcome handicaps and go on to great things.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Let's be real here. We're up to film number seven in the series. At this point, you're either a fan or couldn't care less. And if you are a fan, the film is pretty much critic proof. Warner Brothers decided to split the last book into two films. They claimed it was to enrich the story. Since we're being real here, let's be honest and realize they are milking the Harry Potter cash cow to the last drop.

The film picks up where we've left off with Harry and his friends on the run from the forces of Voldemort, trying to find the Horcruxes that will destroy Voldemort's power. The most original thing about the film is how it opens up the story from the confines of Hogwarts and ends up a travelogue for the British Isles. Otherwise, it's all the characters you've come to love (or hate) doing what they do best.

The film could have been done in one part if it didn't need to include countless scenes of Harry, Hermione, and Ron sitting around beautiful locations contemplating their next move in the war against Voldemort. There are some well done action sequences but they are far and few between. The look of the film is consistent with the others in the series. Dark is the operative word both figuratively and literally.

It's been fun to watch stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rubert Grint grow up and mature with each film. And as for the supporting cast, I think every British actor (with the exception of Hugh Grant) makes an appearance in "Part 1". There's still time for Hugh to show up in "Part 2".

I have to hold off complete judgment until "Part 2" next year when the series finally comes to an end. Wow, think of all the British actors who will end up "on the dole" after that.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

127 Hours

Director Danny Boyle and actor James Franco team up for an unforgettable experience. The film is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, an extreme sports enthusiast and in the hands of another director, it could easily have been a two hour bore. Utilizing similar techniques first seen in "Trainspotting", Mr. Boyle takes us on a rollercoaster ride of emotion watching James Franco try to survive, trapped in a rocky gully in the Utah Canyonlands.

Mr. Boyle mixes audio and video imagery to create a non-stop rush of flashbacks, hallucinations, and agonizing close-ups of Mr. Franco's efforts to free himself from an seemingly impossible situation. There is a scene late in the film that is definitely not for the faint-hearted and by film's end, you will feel drained and exhausted as if you were actually there.

Credit Mr. Franco with his best role to date, bringing you into Aron's world and experiencing every moment of joy, agony, and everything in-between. He is in almost every frame and it is simply an amazing performance.

I won't explain any plot points or individual scenes. Try to see this film with little or no knowledge of what actually happened to Aron Ralston. "127 Hours" will reward your time and come next year, Oscar will surely reward "127 Hours". Danny Boyle has done it again.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Fair Game

"Fair Game" is an uncharacteristic dud from director Doug Liman, best known for the "Bourne" films. This political drama is based on a true story of an exposed CIA agent during the Saddam years in Iraq. The film stars Naomi Watts as agent, Valerie Plame and Sean Penn as her husband, former Ambassador, Joseph Wilson.

The first hour is all background information on Valarie's operations around the world and our government zeroing in on supposed WMD's in Iraq. We get to the crux of the story when Joe writes a piece in The New York Times, calling the Bush Adminstration liars after he finds no WMD's on an overseas mission. The government then exposes Valerie in an attempt to deflect attention to their impending Iraq invasion. The story was a mild sensation for a moment and Mr. Liman tries in vain to create a "thriller" out of it. The closest the film comes to excitement is whether or not their marriage will survive the exposure and it's consequences.

Naomi Watts gives it her best as Valerie as does Sean Penn as Joe. I'm sure Mr. Penn was excited about a role where he gets to criticize the government multiple times. Their scenes together are strong but there is just not enough of a story here to keep an audience thoroughly engaged. Yes, you will be angry at what Mr. Bush and his "henchmen" do this family but the film brings nothing new to the story. In the end, the most interesting thing about "Fair Game" is Mr. Penn's haircut choice.