Entries tagged with “Helen Mirren”.


Maria Altman, the principal character wonderfully acted by Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’ is a Holocaust survivor. At some point in the film she gives a public speech where she traces the origin of the word ‘restitution’ to a Latin term which means restoration to original condition. Today’s Wikipedia further clarifies: ‘The general rule, as the principle implies, is that the amount of compensation awarded should put the successful plaintiff in the position he or she would have been had the tortuous action not been committed.’ At the top layer of the story ‘Woman in Gold’ is about the restitution of a work of art, the fabulous ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer’, one of the masterpieces of Gustav Klimt and of the Austrian art to the successors of the rightful owners, Jews from whom the work was confiscated and who perished in the Holocaust. Deeper it asks the question whether the true restitution is ever possible. Returning to the original condition of the Jewish life in Europe after the Holocaust? The answer given by the film is a definite ‘No’. Restitution of art may be possible. Restitution of the broken human lives is not.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2404425/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2404425/

 

The story has many elements of docu-drama and is largely based on a true story of a legal battle held in the last years of the 20th century between a Holocaust survivor from Los Angeles helped by a young and idealistic lawyer and the government of Austria. The combination of the BBC and Hollywood production of the Weinstein studios did not leave too much room for cinematographic invention, and director Simon Curtis did not add too much on this respect. The successive sequences of the legal battle may have been close or remote from the actual truth, but they were not terribly interesting even for the fans of the courtroom movies. The schematic depiction of the Austrians as bureaucratic bad guys, as well as the idealization of the American justice system did not add too much either. The gold in the ‘Woman in Gold’ lies somewhere else.

 

(video source  MOVIECLIPS Trailers)

 

First, acting of Helen Mirren is superb. She’s one of these few actors who leave me lacking words. After each great role that she makes I declare that she is at her peak, and then in the next movie she reaches another higher one. Same here. To say that she deserves an Academy Award for this role seems too pale a compliment. Part of my family comes from that part of the world and has similar origin. She is like one of them.

Her role is however more than this. She gives a face to the Holocaust, she makes me understand the human dimension of the tragedy that the generation of my parents went through. That part of the film, the flashbacks that bring back to her mind the memories of the lost happiness, the brutality and vulgarity of the change, the tragedy of leaving the parents back, the determination to survive, the refusal to look back, the decision to end being silent – all these are very well described, and they make of ‘Woman in Gold’ one of the important movies about the Holocaust.

Ryan Reynolds is a miscast. Tatiana Maslany on the other hand is a splendid young Maria. In its good moments and there are many of them ‘Woman in Gold’ is a ‘must see’ film.

 

 

‘The Truth’ or ‘The Truth That Needs To Be Said’? this is one of the dilemmas facing the heroes of ‘The Debt’, which is quite an exotic entry in the list of films made by John Madden, the exoticism being that it’s well closer to the pattern of routine Hollywood thrillers than movies like Shakespeare in Love or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1226753/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1226753/

 

There are however a few reasons that make this film interesting, even if you are not necessarily a fan of Mossad action movies processed by the American commercial cinema filters. This is the story of an unfinished business which involves a team of Israeli idealistic young agents of Mossad trying to capture in the 60s one of the notorious war criminals modeled on the  image of ‘doctor’ Mengele. Their mission takes them in no other place than East Berlin in the days of the Cold War, and when things go wrong they have to make extreme choices – not only about life and death, but also about absolute and convenient truth. The story alternates between the 60s and the 90s, which opens another kind of question mark about whether big mistakes can ever be fixed. Of course they can, it’s Hollywood stuff after all. This does not necessarily result in a great movie.

 

(video source MOVIECLIPS)

 

While the premises are interesting the execution is far from brilliant. Director Madden brings nothing new in a genre that had so many successes and even more failures, beyond quite a rigorous and detailed rendition of the East Berlin atmosphere. The biggest failure is however in the way he directs the characters of his Israeli heroes. They behave and talk like no Israeli, and even the setting of the scenes supposed to take place in Israel in Israeli location does not help. The approach is superficial and does not go too deep beyond the crust of the characters, and this crust does not seem genuine at all. I love Helen Mirren, she is best as queens or chief-detective roles, and I found even her acting as a retired agent in the RED series to be delicious. Here she undertakes another retired agent role, and I am sorry to say, she is not at her best. As a general note, the actors that play the three heroes in the 60s and in the 90s did not connect well with each other, I could not recognize the characters at all over the years. At the end of the screening I remained with the feeling that the makers of this film still have some ‘Debt’ to their viewers.

 

I must confess that one of my guilty pleasures is watching from time to time a movie like RED 2. I mean a movie that is made just for the purpose of entertaining, mixes action and comedy, brings to screen funny characters played by great actors, and is not shy about what it is meant to be. A movie that when watched feels like the actors and the team had themselves fun making it.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1821694/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1821694/

 

Such a film is RED 2, the second in a series which if you ask me can go on and on. Yeah, there is a story here which does not really follow the path of the logic as we may know it. The cold war may be over, but our retired (or pretending to be retired) hero-spies continue to fight it, and its aftermath, among other a non-detectable weapon of mass destruction of yesterday which risks to fall in the hands of the bad guys of today. No fortress, spy agency HQ, prison or government palace remains un-penetrable for more then 100 screen seconds. In any city they travel to they leave a pile of corpses and a trail of destruction that would have granted them centuries of punishments under any jurisdiction – no charges are ever pressed, of course, because this is the world of the action comedy which has its rules or lack of rules of its own.

 

(video source MOVIECLIPS Trailers)

 

I do not feel at all bad for this guilty pleasure of mine. Without any over-analysis I believe that I like these movies because they are sincere in their explicit intentions of entertaining – no more, no less – but actually this is very much. Then when well written and acted as it is the case here such films have a logic of their own. We actually do understand these retired spies and their run for thrill. The dialogs are well-written and funny in many moments, the situations follow well one after the other, and director Dean Parisot’s succeeds to make a film that does not look at all as the work of a prime timer.  All the big stars gathered on the same list of credits – Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins Catherine Zeta-Jones, Marie-Louise Parker – seem to enjoy themselves and this fact crosses the screen. If I am to recommend a fun and non-pretentious entertainment at the movies this would be one of them.

 

There is a woman behind any great man, or so they say. According to the story told in ‘Hitchcock’ this may never have been more true than in the case of the famous master of suspense that was Alfred Hitchcock. His wife Alma Reville was a talented script-writer, a focused and sharp assistant-director, and above all a dedicated wife who not only did all she could to support in many ways the genial director, but also made sacrifices and put intentionally in shadows her own self to ensure his indisputable success. Sacha Gervasi‘s first(!) long feature film is apparently the saga of making the masterpiece of the horror genre called Psycho, but for me is before all a film about Mrs. Hitchcock.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0975645/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0975645/

 

One thing that Hollywood knows to do well is movies about Hollywood. This is the case again with Hitchcock, a film which radiates love for cinema, succeeds to be funny and is a reverence at the same time towards one of the directors who was a darling and a maverick of the film industry at the same time, dominating the suspense, horror and spy films genre in the 50s. We see him here at the top of his creativity, after a series of successes which he knows he must avoid repeating in style in order to stay relevant when crossing the threshold of the age of 60. This is not simple even for the legendary Hitch, as the (Hollywood) system would rather have him go on the safe path of blockbusters, and much of the story in the film is about taking artistic and personal risks in order for him to make the movies he wants. His eccentricities and oddities are presented in details and with delights, yet they hide his more serious search for artistic truth and a fight against aging and the drought of creativity he fears will come with the years. Hitch takes an enormous bet, but we all know the results. Psycho as well as his next film The Birds are the two peaks of a fascinating filmography.

 

(video source The JoBlo Movie Network)

 

The cast is fabulous, but here in my view lies also the weaker point of the film (all relative, of course). I was not thrilled by Anthony Hopkins‘ rendition of Hitch. One of the actors I always thought can do no wrong is over-exaggerating in this film the physical dimensions of the character. 17 years ago he succeeded to be more Nixon than Nixon himself in Nixon, and one year later he repeated the performance in Surviving Picasso. In both movies he played the characters from inside, understood and lived them. In this Hitchcock his act has a dose of unexpected artificiality. This only makes even more blatant the superb acting of Helen Mirren, radiating inner strength and intelligence in one of the best roles of her career (and what a career she has!). Scarlett Johansson is what we expect in the juicy role of Vivian Leigh, Hitchcock’s blonde du jour in Psycho. The biggest surprise comes however from James D’Arcy who is such a perfect clone of Anthony Perkins that I suspected for a few seconds that some special effects were used to built a computerized image of the late actor. The Hitchcock wrapping imagined by Sacha Gervasi for the whole film works quite well. The personal troubles of the character are not completed elucidated, this film is not a deep analysis of the creative processes of the great director, but the film is overall fun, and this is the essence of the work of Hitchcock – challenging the viewers but eventually delivering entertainment, not cinema theory. Hitchcock is fun.

What a difference three years make when it comes to telling stories and newspapers and journalist. By the time it was made State of the Play took the plot of a BBC series and carried it over the Ocean melding the story of a newspaper team with big corporate and government conspiracy and congressional corruption, all in a well-paced thriller wrapping. Today it looks more like an elegy to the profession of investigative reporter, to the good old methods of traditional journalism. If the film was made today not only many of the technical details would have been different, but also the focus may not have been that much on the printed press. It may have been the journalist helping the blogger and not the other way. Almost as director Kevin Macdonald after having made a movie about The Last King of Scotland made afterwards a movie about the last great investigative journalist. State of Play is not a bad film, but it does not raise to hights either, and the good parts end by being not exactly the ones planned by the director and producers.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0473705/

 

The story starts with a double murder and an apparent accident that seem unconnected excepting the fact that they are reported by the same newspaper (a reverence to and quotation of the Washington Post of the 70s, actually the Watergate hotel is one of the settings in the film), although we well know things will change soon. They do indeed, as the subway accident which leads to the death of a Congressman’s assistant and the street shooting that opens the film get together in an intrigue that seems to implicate the politician (Ben Affleck) who is investigating a big corporation involved in the private security services oversees while managing an affair with his assistant. While the corruption and sex scandal story develop the focus shifts to the investigation of the news team and especially to the people behind it.

 

(video source blacktreemedia)

 

The thriller part of the story is reasonably well written, but brings really nothing new. It is more the characters in the newspaper redaction that catch the attention, their methods, the way they balance the duty to expose the truth with their personal feelings, the attitude towards their profession. Russell Crowe is quite convincing as the investigative reporter whose actions walk on the thin line between professional duty and personal feelings like friendship and emotional involvement. He is also a low-tech guy, slightly out of touch not only with the technology but mostly with the morals of the day. Rachel McAdams supports well Crowe as the young blogger who grows with the case, while Helen Mirren as the Chief Editor is as royal as ever and made me regret that her role was not more consistent. I never was a fan of Ben Affleck‘s acting skills and I did not become one after seeing this film.

When actors who played spies in action movies get older they have an option. They can start playing roles of retired spies in action movies. At least the best and the luckiest of them. Same is true for westerns or for science-fiction movies, BTW.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1245526/

 

Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman are all among the good and lucky one. Some of them may have not even crossed the legal age of retirement in these times when the governments push the pensions limit higher for reasons I would not detail here. What counts is that all the members of this carre of aces are in good shape and have fun making us have fun in this story where the renegade and rogue agents are the active ones the the institution one should trust less than any other around is the government. Conspiracy is not a theory, it’s a fact of life whose credibility is not placed under question for one second in the script of the film directed by Robert Schwentke. who film after film builds to himself a name of one of the best action film directors in Hollywood and I expect him being trusted with one of more of the never-ending James Bond series entries sometimes in the future.

 

(video source trailers)

 

Did I forget somebody? Oh, yes – I should mention Richard Dreyfuss, one of the actors I mostly admired about three decades ago and who seemed to get lost into politics, to the point that I almost did not recognize him here in the retired villain role (sure, villains also retire). One could comment that only Willis is within his usual casting limits, while actors like Malkovich, Mirren, Freeman, or Dreyfuss could do more interesting things and certainly no Oscar was waiting for them behind the corner for the roles in RED, but, hey, this is entertainment, this is an action comedy, one of the genres Hollywood knows how to do well, the guys and the gal are having fun doing it, so get your popcorn and have some fun yourselves watching it.