Sunday, January 22, 2012


“The IRON LADY” (Meryl Streep & Jim Broadbent)

I was prepared not to like this film since I vehemently disliked the worst Prime Minister in the history of Great Britain (Well, in my lifetime) I thought they would glorify her mistakes as accomplishments and sugar coat her deplorable decisions that took England from being prosperous (Thanks in part to a pop group called The Beatles) to being an economic disaster... One might call her the prototype to the Bush administration.
Instead, I found a different reason not to like it – it is quite boring – especially the beginning. It piddles along for the first 20 minutes or so showing an old lady (a retired Thatcher) basically doing nothing. She buys a carton of milk... She spends several minutes picking out a suit for her husband to wear... She tells someone on the phone that they’re having halibut for dinner... I wasn’t at all tired when I went into the theatre, but I found myself yawning at the lack of entertainment I was receiving.
Meryl Streep plays Margaret Thatcher from middle-age on and she is very good in the role, though some of the credit should go to the make-up artists that made her look believably elderly, as well as the authentic horrible British teeth she revealed whenever she smiled – usually in a condescending manner toward whomever she was addressing – be it family member, staff member or member of Parliament. I’ve never been a big fan of Streep’s, I think she’s been vastly over-rated in the past, but here she earns her reputation and so I won’t grimace when she finally wins an academy award that she actually deserves. She is good – the film, not so much.
As “Iron Lady” tries to rebound from its droning start, it delves into time travel as Thatcher’s life story is told via memories spurred by the elderly, borderline dementia-stricken Thatcher as she putters around her apartment. Jim Broadbent plays her carefree, happy-go-lucky dead husband Dennis – Sure, who wouldn’t be happy-go-lucky in death after being married to the Iron Bitc... um, I mean, Lady.
Retired Thatcher does make a telling quote when she tells a reporter, on being in politics; “It used to be about trying to DO something – Now it’s about trying to BE someone.”
Problem with Thatcher is that she tried to do too much and most of her ideas were crap.
When the film finally became interesting – on the first lady Prime Minister’s handling of the Falkland Islands debacle – I thought for sure they would spin it to make that look like a reasonable undertaking, but they do not. When the American ambassador questions her motives for calling for an all out attack, Thatcher thinks she puts him in his place by comparing the United States decision to go to war with Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor with her extremely stupid military decision - I was glad to see the ambassador, as well as every person in the room at the time wear the same bewildered look I had.
Thatcher makes big speeches about ‘prosperity’ and ‘doing what’s right for the country’ but she doesn’t DO anything about it. Kind of like our current administration...
Margaret Thatcher had no idea how to run a country and as Great Britain begins collapsing around her she blames her staff instead if taking responsibility for her actions. So the film got it right – No sugar coating. She seemed to be surrounded by likable people – which made her hard-assed ‘I’m always right and you’re always wrong’ attitude easier for everyone to put up with, and her steadfast, “I have a Cold War to win’ mentality began the fall of England’s economy. In fact, I found it amusing as the film rolled along that the old Iron Lady with dementia made more sense than the Prime Minister in her prime.
One notation I had was how it struck me that there were no other females involved in the Parliamentary procedure even after M. T. was elected P.M. You’d think after her victory more women would be encouraged to delve into British politics, but I guess she wasn’t a very good role model was she?
It wasn’t a bad film, in the long run, but it left a lot to be desired – there was very little back story as to what qualified Thatcher to make the citizens of Great Britain want to put her in the ultimate place of power... other than losing the frilly hats.

Monday, January 16, 2012


“MY WEEK WITH MARILYN” (Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branaugh & Eddie Redmayne)

Prior to entering the theatre my main concern was that Michelle Williams simply wasn’t pretty enough to play Marilyn Monroe. Being old enough to remember the living breathing Marilyn, I figure I have the right to pass judgment.
I will congratulate Michelle for getting Marilyn’s voice and mannerisms down, but she never convinced me for a single moment that she was MM – Too many close-ups didn’t help – Every time my mind kept telling me, “That’s Michelle Williams in a blonde wig with a fake beauty mark on her cheek.”
I liken it to having Will Smith play Muhammad Ali; I just wasn’t buying it at all.
Kenneth Branaugh, though looking nothing at all like Laurence Olivier, pulled his impersonation off without any complaints. Laurence, though a talented thespian (a little over-rated, but what actor from his era isn't?) was never an icon like Marilyn.
Branaugh was able to convince me he was Olivier from his acting ability and the fact that the image of Sir Laurence is not ingrained in my memory from childhood.
But it wasn’t Michelle’s casting that made this movie something to scoff at rather than admire – It was the story.
Normally a film taken from someone’s ‘memoirs’ is labeled as being ‘based’ on a true story – “My Week With Marilyn” flat out boasts ‘This IS a TRUE story’. . . Yeah, in Colin Clark’s dreams it’s a true story.
I liked the first half hour or so; it was interesting to see how a movie was brought together – Laurence Olivier being hired as the director and his concerns of working with the American beauty that was reportedly ‘difficult’. And Marilyn did not disappoint... Well, she did disappoint, but disappointment is what was expected so... never mind.
Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) is hired as the 3rd assistant director to Olivier by simply showing up on set and helping out without actually being paid. The title ‘3rd assistant director’ is given to make the gophers feel more important. Redmayne as Colin couldn’t look any more hillbilly if he wore a straw hat and overalls – the distraction is that he spoke with that ultra-British accent and was so soft spoken that I knew he’d never yelp out a ‘Yee-haw!’ for me.
Marilyn arrives with new husband Arthur Miller and within a few scenes Arthur and Marilyn are having marital problems. I know the Millers marriage didn’t last, but I think they probably were still in the stages of bliss so soon after their honeymoon - but if that were the case, Colin’s fantasy wouldn’t be believable... Yee-haw!
Somehow the gopher becomes Marilyn’s favorite person to lean on when she’s depressed and throughout the story Colin both skinny dips and sleeps in the same bed with a naked Marilyn Monroe. Now, they don’t have sex – he didn’t carry the fantasy all the way to ‘give me a break!’ land, but trust me, it was creepy enough just watching her frolic with this hillbilly kid in the nude as if she were madly in love with him.
The first part of the movie was enjoyable – it was interesting to view the behind the scenes making of a film starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. But when it turned into Colin Clark’s ‘fantasy’ version of what it was like it became to unbelievable to take seriously; when the naked Marilyn
invites the gopher to ‘spoon’ with her while she was lying naked beside him, I could only picture the real life Colin whacking off at his typewriter as he wrote that fantasy scene... Reality checks weren’t being cashed during the second half of the film as it deteriorated into something a kid going through puberty would write... At least they waited about 60 years before trying to pass this story off as a being TRUE. I’m sure Marilyn is rolling over in her grave... but not to spoon with a gopher!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


“TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY” (Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, John Hurt & many more)

Today’s ‘Worst Person In The World’ award goes to Keith Olberman, who spent an entire segment of his show ‘Countdown’ singing the praises of this movie, which he hailed as possibly the best movie ever made. I was expecting to see a film that clearly belonged in the Top 10 of 2011 because Olberman wasn’t the only one harping “Tinker, Tailor...” as a taut espionage thriller. It’s going to end up being closer to the Bottom 10 than the Top 10 and I don’t think the let down from high expectations is the reason – this film is exceedingly bland; about halfway thru I renamed it “Tinker Tailor Snoring Spy”.
I was also encouraged when I saw that John le Carre, author of the original novel, was one of the producers – that’s usually a good sign that they ‘did things correctly’.
I came away with the impression that the film was made for those who had seen the British miniseries version of the story in 1979 because I had no idea what was going on – who was who – and why were they doing what they were doing and where they were doing it. Olberman did warn me that the film bounces back and forth in time and the best way to tell which ‘period’ they were in was to notice George Smiley’s glasses, since director Tomas Alfredson decided not give the audience any assistance in figuring out where and when in time the current scene was taking place.
But when all was said and done and the ‘Mole’ was revealed – easily figured out by everyone in my party – there was no ‘taut’ thrilling finale; the ending like the rest of the film was bland and boring.
Gary Oldman played George, the ‘Spy’ of the title (though they ALL were spies) and if ever an actor slept walked his way thru a film, Gary’s performance here rivals the Nicolas Cage in almost every single one of his hundreds of roles of the past decade – the difference being we expect mediocrity from Cage, NOT from Oldman.
The concept was intriguing; John Hurt, playing ‘Control’, the boss of all the spies working for ‘The Circus’, discovers he has a mole in his organization and calls all of the suspects together to hopefully get the others to flush out the traitor. His right hand man, George, is pretty much put in control by Control but Smiley later learns that he too is a suspect.
After a half hour or so of ‘set ups’ to nowhere, a character named Ricky Tarr appears and tells George an interesting story about an encounter he had with a Russian girl named Irina – the story is set in England in 1973 so Cold War fears are prominent.
We are told of a ring of Russians called ‘Witchcraft’ but we are never really told as to what their mission is or who they actually are. Just the word ‘Witchcraft’ is supposed to make adrenaline pump thru our veins and strike fear in our hearts – it did nothing for me.
Mark Strong makes an early appearance as spy ‘Jim’ who is shot and killed during a meeting in Budapest. I mention him only because he finally returns to some of the promise he showed earlier in his career. To give the film a bit of praise – the acting is above average – and even though Oldman never changes his expression; whether celebrating at the Circus’ Christmas party or discovering fellow spy, Bill (Colin Firth) is diddling his wife, Ann – Smiley’s countenance remains as stoic as a statue. That couldn’t have been easy, yet at the same time made George come across as an unfeeling robot.
Another piece of faint praise; the movie was set in the 70’s and it not only had the look of that decade, I kept being struck by the fact that it ‘felt’ as if it had been filmed in the 70’s... You tell me if that’s a good thing or not.
Toby Jones plays feisty little spy Percy who acts like he’s in charge and can do whatever he wants. In the latter part of the film, the others start talking about Allaline; ”Where is Allaline? Did you meet with Allaline?” I had no idea who Allaline was until the credits rolled and they revealed that Percy’s last name was Allaline.
The film becomes a horrible parade of one bland float after another with no cohesive story being put together until the final scenes – and then, whether it was due to indifference or lack of surprise, I really didn’t care who the mole was, I just wanted this movie to end.
I tried to watch closely, to pay attention to the clues so I could cleverly tell my wife and ex-teacher why everything that happened in the movie happened – but along the way, I simply lost interest.
An espionage thriller? Not hardly – it’s just about a bunch of whining English twits that start bawling like babies when they’re outted as traitors to her majesty.

SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 : Game Of Shadows

“SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 : Game Of Shadows” (Robert Downey, Jr. & Jude Law)

I could take the easy way out and tell you just to scroll back to my review of the first installment of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ with Robert and Jude because the similarities are prominent. Being a sequel makes this the lesser film because it’s simply a matter of ‘been there, seen that’.
Once again, the culprit for what hurts the movie is director Guy Ritchie – Can we PLEASE get someone else to take over this franchise? And if not, then let’s kill it before he drags the good name of No Poop Sherlock down into the slow-motion pit of shame where it will die an ugly, though exceedingly l-o-n-g death...
Once again, Downey & Law provide the only entertainment value in the film – despite the irritating slo-mo for no reason and the fact that most of Holmes’ brilliant deductions come from figuring out how to win a fistfight before it actually begins instead of making clever deductions from the clues left in a room as to who was there and what they were doing – The Holmes-Watson relationship remains fun to watch. And a lot of that credit I feel has to go to Robert as his subtle English accent is so dead on you couldn’t tell which of the two actors was the actual Englishman. Usually I’m praising English or Australian actors for their ability to adopt ‘American’ accents so it’s nice to be able to throw some accolades to one of ‘our’ thespians.
One problem I had with the first was the casting of Rachael McAdams as Holmes’ love interest. Here, Rachel disappears early after making several ‘Why did she do that?’ moves in her opening scenes. I kept waiting for her to reappear to explain herself, but in typical Guy Ritchie fashion that never happens. Guy and bad story-telling do seem to go hand-in-hand.
Sherlock’s #1 nemesis, Professor Moriarty should have elevated this story to a higher level of entertainment value, but no, when it comes time for the Professor to confess his evil plan to Holmes just before killing him, thus giving Watson enough time to swoop in and save the day, we are told that Moriarty’s reason for devising his latest devilish scheme is to ‘sell bandages’. Sorry for the spoiler – but maybe it isn’t really THAT stupid - perhaps I just made that up to conceal the true evil plot of that maniacal criminal genius of literature. Yes, I must have, not even the annoying filmmaker Guy Ritchie would stoop so low as to make Professor Moriarty nothing more than a salesman for Band-Aids*.
*Band-Aids is a registered trademark and should not be included in this review by penalty of law.
Okay, pretend you didn’t read that part about Band... er, uh, ‘Ow-ie patches’...
The stuff that worked / the addition of Watson’s bride, whom Holmes throws from a speeding train – It would initially seem just to get rid of her so he and his ‘bud’ can continue to fight crime without female interference.
The stuff that didn’t work / the addition of Holmes’ brother Mycroft; although I didn’t have a problem with him until the extremely overweight broken nosed actor that played him did one scene completely nude. There was no reason for it, other than Ritchie thinking it would be hilarious to show an unattractive fat guy walking around his house naked while having a tea and crumpets with Mrs. Watson.
Noomi Rapace plays a gypsy woman (Of Curtis Mayfield fame) who warns Holmes that he has the mark of the werewolf upon the palm of his hand – No wait, that’s from the original ‘Wolfman’ with Lon Chaney – but, I digress...
I have nothing bad to say about the addition of Rapace – nor did she bring much in the way of interest to the table. Let’s just blame that on the director too and make it a clean sweep, eh?
I said it at the end of my review of ‘SH 1’ and I’ll repeat it here – If there’s a sequel, I’ll be there as long as Guy Ritchie is NOT involved!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


“WAR HORSE” (Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullen & Emily Watson)

Any critic that doesn’t give “War Horse” a glowing review is a soulless creature without a heart. This is a wonderful film, the type that used to win Best Picture Oscars before they decided to start giving trophies to lesser stories just to be ‘fashionable’ (I’m talking crap like “Slumdog Millionaire” and the over-rated “Hurt Locker”)
“War Horse” is an epic story; well made and well told. it included some scenes that were hard to watch but almost every scene (after the initial ‘introducing the characters’ beginning) contained a memorable moment, or what I would call a ‘nice touch’.
I would compare it to a little gem I loved called “Paulie”. If you haven’t seen it, and you liked “War Horse”, make it your next rental choice.
“Paulie” was a simple story about a special little bird and his quest to find the young girl he was taken from by a jealous father.
“War Horse” is the story of a remarkable equine and is told in a grandiose style spanning the length of World War I. I can only fathom that anyone who has a bad thing to say about this film is P.O.’d because the Americans aren’t given credit for helping the British win the war. But, my over zealous patriotic Americans, the movie isn’t about America or Great Britain for that matter – it’s about Joey - the horse that would never give up hope of finding his lost master. Like “Paulie”, Joey was separated from the human that cared for him by an ungrateful father, who sold him to the British army.
Jeremy Irvine plays Albert ‘Alby’ Narracott, who, after witnessing ‘Joey’ being born, becomes infatuated with the colt.
For some unknown reason (one of the films few flaws) Jeremy’s father, Ted (Peter Mullen) buys Joey at an auction – spending more than twice what the horse was worth, just to one-up his landlord, Mr. Lyons (David Thewlis)
Rosie, meticulously played by Emily Watson, is Alby’s mother and she is furious with her drunken sot of a husband for spending the rent money on a horse that can’t plow. Albert insists that he’ll train Joey to be a usable workhorse and Rosie agrees to keep the animal.
Under the watchful eye of the Narracott’s ‘Watch-Goose’, Albert develops a bond with the thoroughbred, allowing his young owner to place a harness around his neck in an attempt to plow the Narracott’s rocky pasture.
Even after Joey and Alby prove their worth, Ted, a truly worthless, drunken gimp, sells Joey to the British Calvary – specifically, to a young Captain (Tom Hiddleston) who promises Albert that when the war is over he will do everything in his power to return Joey to his rightful owner.
Joey befriends the regiments’ commander’s horse, whose original name I didn’t catch.
Since he was a black horse, I called him ‘Sham’ (expertly played by Sarah Jessica Parker)
At first it seems as though the older horse takes the younger under his wing until Joey proves he is the fastest, toughest and bravest horse in camp. One of those ‘special moments’ occurs when Sham is summoned to help pull an enormous cannon to the top of a hill and Joey intervenes to save his friend.
There are so many of those heart-tugging moments in this film that to list them all would spoil it.
I do have a question for my readers, though – if anyone can explain to me why the German’s left Joey & Sham in the windmill after punishing Gunter & Mikael, I’d appreciate it, as it left me a bit baffled.
And another item that both my wife & I wondered about – It seemed that the two German boys – Gunter & Mikael switched names from the first time they were introduced – Was anyone else confused by that, or were we not paying close enough attention?
The moments were both sweet – French girl Emily, after renaming the pair of horses Francois and Claude, tries to teach Joey (Francois) how to jump over a fence and Joey either does what the girl does, or cheats his way around the blockade.
It had already been established that Joey/Francois DOES NOT jump.
And other moments were dreadful – very difficult to watch. I know they used computers to make it seem as though Joey ran through barbed wire fence after barbed wire fence until he was thrown to the ground after doing a complete somersault, but boy, that was painful to view – congrates to the special effects dept. for making that look horribly realistic.
A German soldier, put in charge of ‘captured’ soldiers Joey & Sham says, “It’s a pity they found you.”
I liked the fact that they made some of the ‘evil’ Germans appear human – this was a man who obviously loved horses and was more than likely forced into the war.
Not every person on the ‘wrong’ side was bad just as not every soldier on the ‘good’ side was angelical.
The two soldiers that meet in ‘No Man’s Land’ to save Joey from the barbed wire that would have torn him to shreds if he struggled while they tried to free him was another ‘moment’ that left a lump in my throat.
I even inserted my own special moments – When the Lieutenant from Devon (Charlie, I think – there were a LOT of characters that came & went) was rescued by Albert during a fierce battle, I thought he should have told Alby the name of the girl that was in the car with him when Alby discovered Joey didn’t jump fences.... Alby had asked him earlier for her name and he arrogantly answered, “I don’t recall – there’ve been so many women in my life.”
Incredible film – An epic – And if it wins best picture, despite all of the lame brained critics that have panned it, it will be a well deserved award.
Oh, and thanks, Emily's Grandpa, for turning that lump in my throat into tears streaming down my face like the little girly-man that I apparently am...