2 November 2015

The Hollow Crown - Henry IV Part Two

The Hollow Crown – Henry IV Part Two 2012
  • Director: Richard Eyre
  • Based on play by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russel Beale, Julie Walters, Michelle Dockery, David Dawson, Maxine Peake, Reece Shearsmith
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Jeremy Irons – Beautiful Creatures, Henry IV Part One, The Kingdom of Heaven, Being Julia, The Merchant of Venice, Longitude, The House of the Spirits, Waterland, Kafka, Reversal of Fortune, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
    • Tom Hiddleston – Henry IV Part One, The Deep Blue Sea, Thor, Wallander, Cranford,
    • Simon Russel Beale – Henry IV Part One, This England, My Week with Marilyn, The Deep Blue Sea, Hamlet, Orlando
    • Julie Walters – Henry IV Part One, Harry Potter 1-8, Mamma Mia, Becoming Jane, Driving Lessons, Wah-Wah, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot, Titanic Tow, Intimate Relations, Prick Up Your Ears, Educating Rita
    • Michelle Dockery – Henry IV Part One, Downton Abbey, Hannah
    • David Dawson – Henry IV Part One, Dancing on the Edge, Gracie
    • Maxine Peake – Henry IV Part One, The Theory of Everything
    • Reece Shearsmith – The World’s End, Shaun of the Dead, Birthday Girl
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: 1 November 2015 

This is the first Shakespeare play we saw performed on stage in English. It was in London in 2008 and we were enthralled. We didn’t understand so much but it was an unforgettable experience.
Somehow, though, much of the play itself is forgettable and though the cast put a lot of pathos into their parts and the settings are handsome it’s difficult for me to get involved.
With that said, it’s still a very good film. Again Hiddleston and Irons give masterly performances. Even Beale makes one pity Falstaff for being old and pathetic.
As often with Shakespeare plays it gets stronger and pulls together in the end. The ‘I know thee not, old man’ scene is very well done. The hoodlum Hal is now king and the boisterous and self-serving Falstaff is rejected.
So it goes, the grinding wheel of history.


4 * of 5 

The Hollow Crown - Henry IV Part One

The Hollow Crown – Henry IV Part One 2012
  • Director: Richard Eyre
  • Based on play by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russel Beale, Joe Armstrong, Julie Walters, Michelle Dockery, David Dawson, Maxine Peake, Robert Pugh, David Hayman, Harry Lloyd
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Jeremy Irons – Beautiful Creatures, The Kingdom of Heaven, Being Julia, The Merchant of Venice, Longitude, The House of the Spirits, Waterland, Kafka, Reversal of Fortune, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
    • Tom Hiddleston – The Deep Blue Sea, Thor, Wallander, Cranford
    • Simon Russel Beale – This England, My Week with Marilyn, The Deep Blue Sea, Hamlet, Orlando
    • Joe Armstrong – Land Girls, Rose and Maloney
    • Julie Walters – Harry Potter 1-8, Mamma Mia, Becoming Jane, Driving Lessons, Wah-Wah, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot, Titanic Row, Intimate Relations, Prick Up Your Ears, Educating Rita
    • Michelle Dockery – Downton Abbey, Hannah
    • David Dawson – Dancing on the Edge, Gracie
    • Maxine Peake – The Theory of Everything
    • Robert Pugh – Robin Hood, The Ghost Writer, Kinky Boots, Hustle
    • David Hayman – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, My Name is Joe, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Rob Roy, Sid and Nancy
    • Harry Lloyd – Wolf Hall, The Theory of Everything, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre, David Copperfield
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: 31 October 2015 

With Jeremy Irons as Henry IV, and after the spectacular Richard II, I’ve been looking forward to seeing this. Mistakenly believing that The Hollow Crown had combined Parts One and Two we were waiting to watch it until we had read both.
No matter. We’re watching this one now.
It’s quite a complex story. Prince Hal hangs out with the low classes in taverns and bawdy houses, to his father’s distress. Hotspur and other rebels prepare for war against the king. Sir John Falstaff, fat old Sir John Falstaff, respects no one but loves Prince Hal in his way, while the Prince treats him with amused contempt.
Jeremy Irons lives up to expectations.  Joe Armstrong as Hotspur and Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal exceed them. Julie Walters is the best Mistress Quickly I’ve seen. Falstaff is a character I’ve never been able to love as much as other Shakespeareans do and Simon Russel Beale’s blustery interpretation doesn’t do much for me. His honour monolog, which being one of Shakespeare’s best, should be the strongest moment in the play but unfortunately it is lost in a speak over, with little expression.
But it’s virtually gritty with stark monochromatic dirt, sweat, rags and mud, from tavern to castle to battlefield.


4 * of 5 

My Own Private Idaho

My Own Private Idaho 1991
  • Director: Gus Van Sant
  • Based loosely on Henry IV Parts One and Two by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, Udo Kier
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • River Phoenix – The Mosquito Coast
    • Keanu Reeves – The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Lake House, A Scanner Darkly, The Matrix 1-3, Sweet November, The Gift, The Devil’s Advocate, Feeling Minnesota, A Walk in the Clouds, Johnny Mnemonic, Much Ado About Nothing, Dracula, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Dangerous Liaisons,
    • Udo Kier – Iron Sky, Melancholia, Manderlay, Modigliani, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves, Johnny Mnenomic
  • Why? Shakespeare spin-off
  • Seen: 2 or 3 times previously. Now: 25 October 2015 

We’ve just finished reading Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts One and Two and are now watching the films. Why Van Sant chose to weave Prince Hal and Falstaff into this story I’ve never understood but it is without question an unusual movie.
River Phoenix is a white trash screwed up narcoleptic street hustler. Keanu Reeves is the heir to a fortune, the son of the mayor and slumming it with the dregs until he comes of age, like Prince Hal.
There’s a hallucinatory feel to the film and if you don’t know your Shakespeare you wouldn’t even notice, you’d just think they talk funny at times. But knowing my Shakespeare it seems to me even more hallucinatory.
For whatever reason, I like the film.


3 * of 5 

As Good As It Gets

As Good As It Gets 1997
  • Director: James L Brooks
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr, Shirley Knight, Yeardley Smith
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Jack Nicholson – About Schmidt, The Pledge, Mars Attacks!, Wolf, A Few Good Men, Batman, Ironweed, The Witches in Eastwick, Prizzi’s Honour, Terms of Endearment, Reds, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Shining, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Tommy, Chinatown, The King of Marvin Gardens, Carnal Knowledge, Five Easy Pieces, Easy Rider, The Little Shop of Horrors
    • Helen Hunt – Then She Found Me, Cast Away, Twister, Peggy Sue Got Married,
    • Greg Kinnear – Little Miss Sunshine, Nurse Betty, You’ve Got Mail
    • Cuba Gooding Jr – The Butler, Jerry Maguire, A Few Good Men, Boyz n the Hood
    • Shirley Knight – The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Petulia, The Fugitive, The Outer Limits
    • Yeardley Smith - The Big Bang Theory, Dead Like Me, Dharma and Greg
  • Why? Love it
  • Seen: 2-3 times before. Now 18 October 2015. 

Mistreating animals is of course something of which I strongly disapprove. But I do love that opening scene. Throwing the peeing dog down the rubbish chute is priceless and people who kiss dogs are yucky. No one can do detestable like Jack Nicholson. So pardon me while I sit back and enjoy this truly awful racist homophobic male chauvinist totally neurotic Jack Nicholson.
Every single frame of this film is filled with human foibles superbly played by a fantastic cast. We laugh, we cringe. I love the film, contrived and far-fetched as it is. I love watching tough-mouthed waitress Helen Hunt turn Jack Nicholson into a human being.  She is just so good.
But the dog. Nope. I don’t like dogs and the cuter they are the less I like them.  So minus a star for the dog, though it too is a good actor.

4 * of 5


World War Z

World War Z 2013
  • Director: Marc Forster
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Brad Pitt, Mirielle Enos, Daniella Kertez, Peter Capaldi, Fana Mokoena, Moritz Bleibtreu, Ruth Negga, David Morse
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life, Inglourious Basterds, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Burn After Reading, Babel, Troy, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, Meet Joe Black, Twelve Monkeys, Seven, True Romance, Thelma and Louise
    • Peter Capaldi – Dr Who (here he plays a W.H.O. doctor, haha), Modigliani, Shooting Fish, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Dangerous Liaisons, Local Heros
    • Fana Mokoena – Hotel Rwanda
    • Moritz Bleibtrue – Les femmes de l’ombre, Lola rennt
    • David Morse – Dancer in the Dark, The Green Mile, Contact, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Rock, Homicide Life on the Streets, The Indian Runner, Twelve Monkeys
  • Why? Brad Pitt. Sci fi.
  • Seen: 17 October 2015  

Virus. Frenzied animals. Ordinary family life. Martial law. This doesn’t bode well.
It gets exciting immediately. NYC has gone mad. Brad Pitt flees with his wife and daughters as the city explodes and people turn into zombies.
It’s global and everything falls apart fast. The chase for a solution starts. And that’s just the beginning.
The pace is relentless and maybe it’s not realistic (maybe it is) but it’s convincing and it doesn’t give us a chance to think about it. Those zombies are scary.
This is the most suspenseful film I’ve seen for a long time. And the best thing – there are no villains. There are a lot of good people trying to deal with a crisis. Even the zombies aren’t villains, they’re victims.

4 * of 5


The Ice Storm

The Ice Storm 1997
  • Director: Ang Lee
  • Based on novel: by Rick Moody
  • Cast: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Adam Hann-Byrd, Katie Holmes
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Kevin Kline – As You Like It, A Prairie Home Companion, Wild Wild West, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dave, The January Man, A Fish Called Wanda, Silverado, Sophie’s Choice, Hamlet, the Shakespeare Sessions
    • Joan Allen – The Bourne Supremacy, Pleasantville, Face/Off, Nixon, In Country, Peggy Sue Got Married,
    • Sigourney Weaver – Be Kind Rewind, Infamous, Snow Cake, The Village, Holes, A Map of the World, Alien et al, Death and the Maiden, Dave, Working Girl, The Year of Living Dangerously
    • Tobey Maguire – The Great Gatsby, Spiderman 1 & 2, Cider House Rules, Pleasantville, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
    • Christina Ricci – The Man Who Cried, Sleepy Hollow, Desert Blue, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Opposite of Sex
    • Elijah Wood - The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Everything is Illuminated, Paris je t’aime, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Black and White
    • Katie Holmes – Batman Begins
  • Why? Interesting director and cast
  • Seen: Once before a long time ago. Now 11 October 2015 

Families are not necessarily my favourite social unit, especially not rich liberal bourgeois intellectual families like the ones in this film.
It’s the early 70’s with Nixon, Watergate, flared trousers, posters for Jesus Christ Superstar, music by Nilsson and Elton John. The families? Adultery, rebellious kids, smoking, smoking, smoking. Are these families really weird or are they normal in their own world? I don’t know. They seem weird to me.
But also quite interesting. And the whole cast is fun to watch. It’s fun to see adolescent Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire and Elijah Wood and dorky Kevin Kline, cold-hearted Sigourney Weaver and neurotic shop-lifting Joan Allen.
It’s quite humorous at times. But what’s the point? To show the pathetic absurdity of rich, liberal, bourgeois intellectuals?
And then there’s the ice storm. Someone is bound to get killed. Someone is.
There’s probably a lot of existential symbolism in this film but I won’t bother. It’s enough to say that in spite of everything I quite like it.
Poor devils.

3* of 5


The Book Thief

The Book Thief 2013
  • Director: Brian Percival
  • Based on novel: by Markus Zusak
  • Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Barbara Auer, voice of Roger Allam
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Roger Allam – on stage at the Globe in London The Tempest, Endeavor, This England, Henry IV Part One, The Woman in Black, Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides, The Queen, V for Vendetta, Tristram Shandy
    • Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4, Intolerable Cruelty, Ned Kelly, The Banger Sisters, Frida, Lantana, Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth, Les Misérables, Shine
    • Emily Watson – The Theory of Everything, Testament of Youth, Wah-Wah, Equilibrium, Punch-Drunk Love, Gosford Park, Cradle Will Rock, Hilary & Jackie, Breaking the Waves
  • Why? The book
  • Seen: 10 October 2015 with YW in our read-book-see-film circle 

It’s hard for a film to live up to a book as powerful as The Book Thief and this film is flawed. There are too many rosy cheeks and I can’t decide what I think of everyone speaking with German accents. On the other hand, it would probably disturb me if they all spoke with British accents.
The book didn’t have a false word or nuance in it. The film has a few clichés and Hollywood touches. Sophie Nélisse undoubtedly has a fine acting career ahead of her but unfortunately she’s miscast as Liesel.
Nevertheless, it’s a good film.  Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are very good, as always. Everyday life in Nazi Germany at war is well depicted.
It’s an admirable attempt to do the novel justice.

3 ½ * of 5