“A Quiet Passion” a Poignant View of a Disenchanted Poet

 

Strong willed Emily Dickinson’s biography comes to the screen in A Quiet Passion with a sharp delivery by actress Cynthia Nixon and it’s a personification you’ll not easily forget. Dressed in 19th century clothing and placed in an antebellum setting the actress holds nothing back as the real life story unfolds with unrelenting chastisement. If you like her works of mostly poetry and essays than this period piece is your cup of bitter tea. Read more

Madame Bovary, An Old Spin on Adultery

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Lavishly filmed showing all the beauty and dreariness of 1800’s France, the film Madame Bovary is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. This production marks at least the sixth time the film has been brought to the big screen and TV. Not much different in story as the 2000 release starring Frances O’Connor as the cheating wife, but let me analyse this film as if you had not seen it or even read the novel. As most costume dramas and period pieces go, this depiction of the book by French writer Gustave Flaubert written in 1856 isn’t half bad. If you would like a pleasant afternoon with tea, toast and a heartfelt movie, then you will be thoroughly entertained.
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The Immigrant, a Gripping Drama

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The fine actress Marion Cotillard shows her ability to fascinate and convince her audience in the film The Immigrant, now on Blu-ray and DVD. A tale of hardship, debauchery and despair, the film takes you into the life of a woman who sought freedom from oppression to one of despondency and a life of challenging choices. Able direction, strong acting support and convincing cinematography make this period piece a definite choice for those that like their drama gripping and emotional. Read more

Effie Gray, Not Fanning’s Cup of Tea

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Dreary and unemotional the true story of Effie Gray with a script by Emma Thompson plays out on the big screen this weekend. Terribly miscast, hollow and not quite as realistic as other films of its ilk, the Victorian period piece falls short of any real praise. The camera work does create a spark of artistic applause and the scenic shots are a treat. Performances by its honorable cast while admirable, get wasted with very little character development. Read more

“Invisible Woman” A Dramatic Period Piece

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Set in the 1800’s England, The Invisible Woman comes to the screen with all the opulence of the period.  The period piece takes you on a journey of uncharted romance shrouded with an affair.  Appealing due to the actuality of the true story based on Charles Dickens, the film offers a look into the private life of one of the world’s greatest authors.  Beautifully presented with realistic settings of the era and enjoyable acting by the whole cast, it’s a drama you can relish a long time after you have left the theater. Read more

A Royal Affair, an Opulent Film in Both Story and Costume

 

Picturesque, intriguing and romantic the odd love story of the strange King of Denmark comes to theaters this weekend.  Called A Royal Affair, the opulent period piece transports the viewer back to the late 1700’s for an inside look at a time of ‘Enlightenment’ when this country was ruled by tyrants who deceived the crown.  Take a look into this interesting world of idealism, insecurity and revolution.

The true story of the Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) who takes Caroline Mathilda (Alicia Vikander) of England to be his Queen is at the center of this beautiful costume piece.  While King Christian has a mental illness and depends largely on his advisors who make favorable decisions for the court, but chastise the people of his realm, have caused unrest.  His new wife urges him to take advice from his newly appointed German doctor Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) who has visions of a free society. While he loves Queen Caroline, so does Johann and a love triangle of sorts ensues leading up a rebellion in the kingdom that changes forever. Read more

THE WOMAN IN BLACK, A DISMAL TALE

For the first time being away from his comfort zone of playing Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe takes on a Victorian horror flick called The Woman in Black.  Although Radcliffe has shown a strong growth on his way to being an adult film star, he chose this film that has to prove he has made it.  Good choice or bad, he’s now matured and ready for something even bigger. Although I was not pleased with the story due to it’s weak ending, lack of true horror and some plot points that did not work, most of Radcliffe’s followers will be waiting in line for tickets.

It’s an early period in England and when the story opens we find Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) at the foot of a bed receiving his newborn child only in disbelief that his wife has died giving the birth he holds in his arms.  Five years pass and now a lawyer we see him in the office of his boss.  Not happy with Arthur’s successes he gives him one more chance to remain in his position.  His assignment takes him to a remote town of Crythin Gifford where he must go over the final papers of an estate. He arrives there and finds the town haunted by the mystery of their missing children. When he goes to the island mansion estate to search through files, things get very creaky and threatening. 

Daniel Radcliffe as Kipps arrives at the haunted estate

Director James Watkins spools his movie out very slowly getting as much gothic local color as he can in every shot.  Setting his ominous mood he adds the fog, rain and cold weather of the North, muddy roads, worn houses, beat-up shops and costumes of the era. The dank atmosphere that Watkins provides for Kipps helps with the ghostly feel that makes the film at least passable.  When Kipps arrives at the island mansion estate, Watkins’s set looks daunting, worn, overgrown and unkempt. It’s a perfect setting for a horror film. 

Beyond the façade of the sets and costumes lies a story that never stands up to the horror that most American’s have come to enjoy.  Yes there’s a lot of shadowy movements in the dark, a very tormented screaming woman wasting away in a black dress, scenes of children in grotesque poses; well you know, Disney’s Haunted Mansion.  The film just didn’t cut it for me and especially a story with a litany of sadness, grief and remorse, having an ending so weak I walked out at the end feeling, not scared, but scorned. 

Kipps and his son (Misha Handley)

Well, did Daniel Radcliffe do a good job of acting? In spite of the lame story and cheesy scare tactics, Radcliffe made his intended character believable, interesting and enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, for those of us who feel that Radcliffe could do no wrong as Harry Potter, he got sucked into a role that will not be memorable except to say, “Wow, too bad he chose to do that role after leaving such an awesome legacy”. But, Daniel do not be discouraged, tweens and teens will crowd to see you in The Woman in Black, but start choosing your future career moves more wisely.

The MPAA has rated The Woman in Black PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images.  Maybe the film is scary by British standards, but lame by American horror releases.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A poor choice for Daniel and his fans. (C )

 

ANONYMOUS, a work of art

 

I hope the film Anonymous is true because as being a former Theatre (plays) critic it has always intrigued me if William Shakespeare did or didn’t write his sonnets and plays.  So, being the kind of guy I am and having enjoyed the film so much, it must be very near the truth.  Even if this period piece was all contrived, the settings, costumes, acting and directing provide some awesome entertainment.

 

The film centers on Queen Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave) during her reign in the early 17th Century and Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans) the Earl of Oxford.  Elizabeth has been getting very crotchety at this point in her life and shows it with malice.  Her attendants get the brunt of her emotional trauma but Edward is not without some of the impudence.

 

Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere the Earl of Oxford

Over many years Edward has taken a favor of writing poetry and prose and now in his latter life has chosen to turn some of it theatre. Knowing that Elizabeth will not be happy with his providing entertainment for the local playhouse, he seek out Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto), a member of the Globe Theatre and gives him one of his plays.  The play gets performed and the audience wants to know the writer.  Being sworn to secrecy Johnson does not come forward.  Instead Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) comes forward to take the credit.  So begins the intriguing plot that includes danger, revelations, dastardly deeds, greed and an attempt at royal power.

 

Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) takes his cast into an era of evocative emotion when England stood on a dangerous precipice and only Elizabeth’s strong powerful devotion to her throne could hold back an insurrection.  Vanessa Redgrave gives a powerful performance as the ‘wicked’ Queen who used her authority to manipulate the people around her.  But, as Edward de Vere, Rhys Ifans one-ups her acting with an impeccable performance of his own.

 

Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth in her royal robes
Costumes show the period well
David Thewlis wears his courtly garb while Joley Richardson is dressed for pubic appearance

Anonymous provides a platform for an amazing costume piece.  Combined with some gorgeous sets, special lighting, wide-angle cinematography and excellent make-up the presentation makes a show of its own.  Dazzling gowns, suits, ruddy town’s garb, stalwart guard uniforms and much more set the period in all its glory.  Plays dressed and presented on the ‘Globe Theatre’ stage are striking, rambunctious and fun to watch.

 

As for the validity of the speculative matter here is what Wikipedia says about the subject: “Around 150 years after Shakespeare’s death, doubts began to be expressed about the authorship of the works attributed to him. Proposed alternative candidates include Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Several “group theories” have also been proposed.Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution,but interest in the subject, particularly the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship, continues into the 21st century”.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare

 

Anonymous is rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content. The movie runs two hours and ten minutes but moves along at a fast clip with a feast for the eyes.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A work of art by Roland Emmerich. (A) 

 

 

 

 

 

JANE EYRE, AN EXCELLENT REMAKE

Captivating and as the British would say utterly romantic, the movie version of the Charlotte Bronte novel Jane Eyre moves into theaters this weekend. I enjoyed the acting, the amazing landscapes and period costumes.  If you like the book, enjoy period piece films, dream about those who live in huge estates, then wake up and go see Jane Eyre.

 

At the center of the plot is a young Jane Eyre (Amelia Clarkson) who finds herself living with her aunt after her parents die.  At odds with her male cousin, her aunt feels that Jane should be put in a private school.  Fast-forward to the 17 years of age Jane (Mia Wasikowska) who escapes the confines of her dull life and finds her way to the home of the wealthy Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender) where she takes on the job of governess.  When a romance starts between Jane and Edward, her life starts to change in a direction she did not anticipate.

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre

Even though the age differences between Jane and Edward are distances apart, the actors are able to show the fire that burns between them.  You can see the change on Wasikowska’s innocent face when she realizes that Edward can be hers. The chemistry between the two burns a hole in the screen.

One of the many costumes in Jane Eyre

The costuming and sets are a major part of the story and here no expense has been spared to provide the look and flavor of the early English period.  The camera captures every bit of the countryside, the worn English manor and the clothes that are as important to the entertainment as the actors.  The camera lens even instills a cold damp feeling during Jane’s trek through an unforgiving forest during a horrendous rainstorm.  Jane Eyre is a feeling and director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) provides the complete experience from script to actor to the big screen.

 

Jane Eyre has been produced some seventeen times on television and film starting as far back as 1914 according to the International Movie Data Base.  But with today’s technology, special cameras and creative sets, I found this Jane Eyre to be the amazingly good.

 

The film is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image in a painting and brief violent content.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A classy look at an old plot. (A-)