31 December 2014

Kingdom of Heaven


Kingdom of Heaven 2005
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, David Thewlis, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Jon Finch (behind the mask), Ghassan Hassoud
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Orlando Bloom  Extras, Troy, Lord of the Rings et al, Ned Kelly
    • Eva Green – Dark Shadows
    • David Thewlis – Harry Potter, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Restoration, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?, The Big Lebowsky, Naked, Life Is Sweet
    • Liam Neeson – Star Wars, The Dark Knight Rises, Life’s Too Short, Seraphim Falls, Batman Begins, Love Actually, The Gangs of New York, Les Misérables, Rob Roy, Nell, Schindler’s List
    • Brendan Gleeson– Harry Potter, In Bruges, Cold Mountain, Gangs of New York, 28 Days Later, My Life So Far, The Butcher Boy, Michael Collins, Braveheart
    • Jeremy Irons – Beautiful Creatures, Being Julia, Merchant of Venice, Longitude, The House of the Spirits, Damage, Waterland, Kafka, Reversal of Fortune, Australia, The French Lieutenant’s Woman,
    • Jon Finch – Much Ado About Nothing, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Richard II, Macbeth
    • Ghassan Hassoud – Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End
  • Why?  It needs to be seen more than once
  • Seen:  Once previously. Now December 27, 2014
The Crusades were insanity, as all wars and much of religion are. In some ways this film recognises that. It also recognises the complexity of history and the crimes committed by the Christians.
As usual with battle movies (and real battles, I assume) it’s impossible to keep track of what’s going on but it’s visually magnificent.  The horses are beautiful.  The skies and deserts and mountains are glorious.
In the film the Crusades have been going on for a century. The Christians rule Jerusalem but under a good king. Relationships with the Saracens, under the noble Saladin, are good.  Fanatic Templar knights, however, want to provoke war with the Muslims.
History is always fascinating, the Crusades and the battles over Jerusalem more than much else.  The film goes a long way in capturing this.
Battles always put me to sleep; so it is this time too but less than usual.  There are a few clichés – the noble people are a bit too noble and the beautiful woman is too beautiful and little else.
But as a whole it’s a very well made and watchable film.

4 * of 5

James Bond Diamonds Are Forever


Diamonds Are Forever 1971
  • Director:  Guy Hamilton
  • Based on the novels  by Ian Fleming
  • Cast: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Sean Connery  The Rock, First Knight, Murder on the Orient Express, Goldfinger, Marnie, Dr. No, From Russia with Love, The Longest Day and others of the early Bond films but I’m not sure which ones
    • The others: in various old films and TV series
  • Why? Curious. Hal and I saw several Bond films in a Bond festival in the early 70’s and enjoyed them. Sean Connery is the only Bond we have ever seen.  Friends have said later actors have been good too. And with Judi Dench they can’t be all bad.  So we bought the box...
  • Seen:  Once previously, maybe? I really don’t remember. December 26, 2014.
Sean Connery is back. Will it help? Shirley Bassey is back.  Will it help?
It certainly starts harshly with a bizarrely violent Bond. And he’s turned into a priggish snob with no signs of recently having lost his beloved bride.
Mr Wint and Mr Kidd, the gay villains – is this the first time gays appear in a macho spy film? – are funny. Much of the movie is funny.
But diamond heists – and diamonds – have always bored me.  As do car chases.  Do other movie goers really love car chases or do directors just believe they do? Me they put to sleep. .. zzzzz....
Well, well, well. The arch villain (with the white cat), so viciously murdered by Double-Oh Seven in the intro, suddenly reappears – in several versions with several white cats. Of course he’s behind the entire diamond thievery.
And now we’re suddenly out in outer space again.  And there seems to be a lot of atom bombs going off. This is getting a little weird. But it also touches upon the grim possibility of nuclear blackmail.
Connery and Bassey do their bit. Mr Wint and Mr Kidd lift it too.  Otherwise it’s much the same as the others. A little better than some.  And it’s rather endearing that macho James Bond allows himself to look so ridiculous so often, and with such a suave smirk.

2½ * of 5

28 December 2014

Stanley and Iris


Stanley and Iris 1990
  • Director: Martin Ritt
  • Based on novel  by Pat Barker
  • Cast: Jane Fonda, Robert De Niro, Swoosie Kurtz, Martha Plimpton
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Jane Fonda    The Butler, The Morning After, On Golden Pond, Nine to Five, The Electric Horseman, The China Syndrome, Homecoming, Julia, A Doll’s House, Klute, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, Barefoot in the Park, Cat Ballou
    • Robert De Niro – Stardust, Extras, Fifteen Minutes, Flawless, Jackie Brown, Cop Land, Marvin’s Room, Heat, Frankenstein, Awakenings, Brazil, Falling in Love, The Deer Hunter, New York New York, 1900, Taxi Driver
    • Swoosie Kurtz  Nurse Jackie, Citizen Ruth, Reality Bites, The World According to Garp
    • Martha Plimpton – Beautiful Girls. I Shot Andy Warhol, Stars and Bars, The Mosquito Coast
  • Why? Liked it the first time
  • Seen:  Once previously. Now December 20, 2014
About a year ago we watched Frankie and Johnny with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer and I kept waiting for Pfeiffer to discover that Pacino couldn’t read and start teaching him. I finally figured out that it was the wrong movie. And finally, after some frustration, I remembered this one. And bought it. And now we’re watching it.
Iris, newly widowed, has a hard life. She has family burdens and a lousy low paying job on a baked goods assembly line.  Her co-worker Stanley can’t read, can’t keep a job, and has no one when his aged father dies.
It’s an unrelentingly grim story. An American version of Mike Leigh’s kitchen sink realism. A bit sugar-coated though.  It goes slowly but predictably from bristly resentments to friendship to love.
It’s a serious subject – economic oppression and illiteracy in the wealthiest nation in the world (though the novel it’s based on is by a British writer about Britain) - that deserves a good movie, but this isn’t as good as it should be.  It’s not as good as I remember it. I think the problem is De Niro. He’s been great in some films but he just isn’t right for this one. There’s no chemistry whatsoever between him and Fonda, who gives a strong performance.  Too bad. And the rippling yes-we-have-a-difficult-life-but-let-us-be-uplifted music is irritating.

2 ½ * of 5

James Bond - On Her Majesty's Secret Service


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 1969
  • Director:  Peter Hunt
  • Based on the novels  by Ian Fleming
  • Cast: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Bernard Lee, Eunice Lois Maxwell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Diana Rigg  Extras, King Lear, Julius Caesar, The Avengers
    • Telly Savalas - Kojak
    • The others: in various old films and TV series
  • Why? Curious. Hal and I saw several Bond films in a Bond festival in the early 70’s and enjoyed them. Sean Connery is the only Bond we have ever seen.  Friends have said later actors have been good too. And with Judi Dench they can’t be all bad.  So we bought the box...
  • Seen:  December 19, 2014.
This will have to be very very good to be watchable.  Double-oh Seven without Sean Connery? I don’t think so!
       No, no, no! He is so not James Bond, this Lazenby.  But then he only did the one movie, poor sod. It was an impossible task. I’ll try to be indulgent.
       But. What is Diana Rigg doing in this dreadful film?  She much much too good for it!
       Lazenby is completely charmless as the misogynist Bond. This is simply awful.  What was Maltin thinking, giving it 3½ * of 4?
       Come on! I’m bored to death! Even the real James Bond couldn’t rescue it! Sean Connery is well out of it.
       Sorry, I find essentially nothing to like about this film and much to dislike.  It quickly deteriorates into minus points. Only the Alps and the presence of Diana Rigg raise it out of the minus up to

½ * of 5.

26 December 2014

Restoration


Restoration 1995
  • Director: Michael Hoffman
  • Based on novel  by Rose Tremain
  • Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Sam Neill, David Thewlis, Ian McKellen, Meg Ryan, Polly Walker, Hugh Grant, Ian McDiarmid
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Robert Downey Jr  Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows, Sherlock Holmes, The Soloist, Zodiac, A Scanner Darkly, Good Night and Good Luck, Gothica, Black and White, Richard III
    • Sam Neill – Skin, Little Fish, Merlin, The Dish, Jurassic Park, The Piano, Ivanhoe
    • David Thewlis – Harry Potter, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Kingdom of Heaven, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?, The Big Lebowsky, Naked, Life Is Sweet
    • Ian McKellen – Vicious, King Lear, Lord of the Rings, Extras, X-Men, Richard III, Cold Comfort Farm, The Ballad of Little Jo, Macbeth
    • Meg Ryan – Kate and Leopold, You Have Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, The Doors, Joe and the Volcano, When Harry Met Sally
    • Polly Walker – Enchanted April
    • Hugh Grant - Music and Lyrics, American Dreamz, Love Actually, About a Boy, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Sense and Sensibility, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Remains of the Day, Impromptu, Notting Hill
    • Ian McDiarmid – Star Wars I, II III,VI, Sleepy Hollow, Cold Lazarus, Karaoke, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Why?  Found it interesting the first time, especially the historical period
  • Seen:  Once previously. Now December 13, 2014
Lavish debauchery in the 1600’s makes me long for Oliver Cromwell’s Puritanism.
Is this just a love story in outrageous costumes and wigs, after all?
Unrequited love, it would appear, and complicated by a campy Hugh Grant’s betrayal of hero Robert Downey Jr, the debauched physician, who ends up returning to what he fears most – being a physician.
He arrives at a madhouse where his medical skills return in spite of his reluctance and the film becomes interesting.
But then the whole story changes again and the unwilling physician finds himself with one of the no longer mad inmates, Meg Ryan, in plague-ridden London.
And then the Great Fire.
The story twists and turns and I find that the fates of the characters have etched themselves into my feelings.
It’s a bit too clever to be really profound but history itself has a strong presence and Ian McKellen and David Thewlis raise the level of any film they’re in.

3 ½ * of 5