Entries tagged with “Judy Dench”.


It’s not easy to adapt Agatha Christie to screen in 2017, and it is even more difficult to take upon ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ which already had a fabulous and stars-blessed version made in 1974 by . The queen of the detective novel created superb mysteries, but there are challenges in bringing them to screen, as her characters are quite theatrical, always hide and seem to be something else that they really are, and the confined enclosure where most of her stories take place does not fit the requirements of dynamics in modern action cinema. It’s a challenge to turn the bright mental exercises in her novels into screen action, especially as most of the viewers would know the ending. A challenge that can be compared with bringing to the cinema screens the text and characters of Shakespeare. So, maybe it takes a director and an actor that already brought to screen the plays of Shakespeare to assume the challenge and the risks. The name of this director is, of course, .

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3402236/mediaviewer/rm274931968

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3402236/mediaviewer/rm274931968

 

The approach chosen by the director for this version of Murder on the Orient Express does not try to ‘actualize’ the intrigue into the present time, but does the contrary – it is very specific about the exact year of the plot, 1934, exactly the year when Agatha Christie’s book was published. While keeping the structure of the intrigue and the format of the ‘train story’ it invests much of the writing and acting efforts into developing the characters. First of all it’s Hercule Poirot’s life itself which is enhanced with the memory of a lost love, although more details may have been left for the following episodes. himself assumes the role of Poirot, with , , , , and a wonderful supporting cast providing color and personality to each one of the characters, whatever time they catch on the screen.

 

(video source 20th Century Fox)

 

I enjoyed the experience of watching this version of the classical murder story, even if the solution of the mystery was known to me from the beginning. I believe that succeeded to find the right balance between the old good way of making films with a good story combined with nuanced acting, and the modern visual techniques that place the action in a spectacular landscape adding an aura of fairy tale. The ending alludes to the next episode in what may become a series, and I am looking forward to it.

Films about film making, about famous actors and directors were very much en vogue a few years ago, and “My Week with Marilyn” belongs to this wave. About that time two (good) movies about the master of suspense were made, one came from Hollywood – Hitchcock -, the other from the BBC – The Girl. ‘My Week with Marilyn’ combines The Forces,being a coproduction of Hollywood (Weinstein) and BBC, about another Anglo-American film making experience. This time it’s not about a great English director getting to the peak of fame on the shores of the Pacific, but about the ultimate American star and sex symbol, Marylin Monroe landing in 1957 the UK to make ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’.  That was from a certain point of view a stellar encounter of the third degree, between the comet of Hollywood and the star of the English stage and screen Laurence Olivier. On the sides it was also the story of the encounter of a young ‘third’ (number is important) studios assistant with the woman of any man’s dream in the epoch. Colin Clark was the name of the character, he wrote a book of memories about the experience, and the film extends the subject to a romantic story – carrying into the film the ups and downs of adaptations of memoirs or ‘true stories’.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1655420/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1655420/

 

The question one asks himself when seeing this film is ‘was Marilyn Monroe really the awful actress that is described here?’ I probably need to watch the 1957 film (it is available for free on the Internet) to have an answer. The closing text run on screen before credits tells us that the next film of Marilyn was to be ‘Some Like It Hot’ – the most famous film she ever made. Maybe the problem was her uprooting from Hollywood to the British Pinewood studios? ‘My Week with Marilyn’ does not explore this track. Was she also the terribly insecure and unhappy human being that is described here, too beautiful to be ever loved for anything but her physical appearance? This seems more plausible, especially because we know the end of her life. Did she really get comfort and moral support in the relation with a young and anonymous assistant, one of the tens of figures in the shadows in any film production, as the script claims? Were there ever buddies of a love story in this relation? Probably only in the mind of the memoirs writer, but who really cares? The character played by Eddie Redmayne is so unconvincing that I was wondering if his lack of charisma was the result of masterful acting or directing or of lack of talent and … well .. charisma.

 

(video source BTSmovies)

 

With quite a thin story, and with a BBC style of directing that avoids too thick an intervention in the story telling, much of the film relies on acting and actors. Talking about acting let me start with the supporting roles. The list is really impressive, having on-screen Judy Dench or Emma Watson is a pleasure, although for each of them I have wished the roles were more consistent. If anybody was concerned that Kenneth Branagh will approach the role of Olivier with too much deference to make it real, he can rest quite – Branach constructs a real life Olivier, infuriated by the lack of talent and professional ethics of the American star, but also a middle aged man fascinated by the beauty and by the romance of the superb blonde with the camera. In the lead role Michelle Williams creates a Marilyn that risks to replace the real Monroe in the minds of those who see this film. Her Academy Awards nomination was highly deserved.

It’s one of those films made with love for cinema, one of the cases when superb acting overcomes the lack of consistency of the story that is being brought to screen.

The name of J. Edgar Hoover not only marks half of century of the history of defending the law and making justice in the United States, but still raises passions until today. The developments after the terror attacks on 9/11 have brought back to the front stage of the public debate the balance between rights of the the citizens to be protected and the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and about the role of the federal government and its agencies in protecting freedom for the many while respecting the rights of the few. ‘J.Edgar’ the movie clearly belongs to the genre of the biographical documentary, and according to your beliefs you may get out of this film liking or hating it. There is one thing that is hard to deny in my opinion – this film has passion too, same as the character it describes. One may admire J.Edgar for his dedication to the ideals of making out of America a country of law and order according to his own vision or for building out of nothing one of the best government agencies in the US and the world, or one may hate him because of his obsessional search for a no. 1 enemy, or for the methods he put in the service of the cause.  One cannot deny reading the biography or watching this film that he was a man of passion.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1616195/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1616195/

 

There are things that I loved and things that I hated in the way this film was written (by ) and directed by . The parallel running of the auto-biography of the character as dictated 40 years later to a young colleague is smartly run in parallel with the ‘present’ of his late age career at the time of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. One character is already old, the other ages and the story advances. I should actually say one triplet of character, as the extraordinary  (whom I do not like, but I cannot prevent myself to admire) is very well supported by  as the never consumed lover who turns into the eternal secretary of Hoover and  as the eternal friends who also figures up – as rumored by history – as potential lover. All are supported by a  as Hoover’s pious mother, as splendid as you expect. What I liked less is the ex-screen off-screen story telling, hard to digest even under the pretext of Hoover dictating his memoirs at the sunset of his life, or the schematic sound of some of the dialogs – even bad guys seldom speak on cliches as some of the characters here do. Overall the excellent acting and the well kept pace overwhelm the dark sides of the production.

 

(video source Clevver Movies)

 

At the end of the day we get another story big as a cinemascope screen of an American hero. Or anti-hero. Depending of course on your beliefs and on the way you relate to the character and the different threads of the story.   Hoover appears as a historic character who had to be obsessed with a Public Enemy no. 1 be they real or imaginary. In parallel he lived his personal drama of (historically alleged) homosexuality, the dark secret of the blackmailer who could so easily be blackmailed. One cannot deny that he built a fabulous crime fighting institution which definitely remains his principal legacy. However, Hoover was also for almost half a century a Gatekeeper, even one who loved to present himself as a popular hero, in comics or movies. Here is a very different kind of movie about him. One which leads the viewer at the end to ask the question of what was The Gatekeeper defending his country against.

There are many ways one can dislike Nine . For example trying to compare it with the films of Frederico Fellini, on whose figure the main character in the movie is based on. Or trying to compare it with Broadway musicals, as the one from the 80s on which the film is based upon. Fellini’s films are unique, and by the time the great Italian director was making 8 1/2 Rob Marshall, the director of Nine was just born. Broadway musicals have their own laws of casting, of staging, of telling the story. The screen adaptation of a musical about the making of a film by Fellini is not a film of Fellini and not a Broadway musical. I liked Nine the movie, and here are my arguments.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0875034/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0875034/

 

Nine is a musical about a film in a film. We are from the start introduced in the atmosphere with an opening song where the theme and the stars of the show are paraded on the kind of music that builds the entertaining score of the show. The sets are the ones in the Cinecita studios where the famous director Guido Contini prepares his next film. It is just that his film is not at all ready as the producer expects. The director’s style of life is as chaotic as his manner of making movies. The personal history is a series of relations with women – from his mother (Sophia Loren, back on the big screens after many years of absence, still glamorous) to his wife, his lover, his inspiring actress, admirers, etc. Can he put all these relations together and make sense of his private life in order to focus on his art? Or maybe he is just destroying himself, and the people around him, especially the women he is involved with? I will just say that the result is entertaining and in my opinion does not make a bad service at all to the image of Fellini.

 

(video source HQTrailers1)

 

I started by listing the reasons one can dislike Nine, but there are many reasons to like it as well. These include the presence on screen of stars like Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Judy Dench. They all look beautiful, they all act, sing, dance and create characters that are distinct and expressive and find their right places in the story. But before all we have Daniel Day-Lewis. Let me say that Day-Lewis is an actor I admire but I do not necessarily love. Well, I may be starting the process of falling for him – as I absolutely adored his performance here. He is passionate, he is troubled, he fights with his past and Catholic upraising, he loves and sins, he is credible. However, my ultimate criteria of liking or disliking a film is whether it succeeds to create emotion. And yes, Nine succeeded to make me care for its heroes, made me remember Fellini and wish to see again his films, and it entertained me. On the IMDB scale it’s a NINE.