Posts tagged ‘Derek Jacobi’

July 24, 2012

Anonymous (2011 – Blu-Ray)

“All art is political, Jonson, otherwise it would just be decoration… and all artists have something to say, otherwise they’d make shoes… and you are not a cobbler, are you Jonson”

The idea of making a movie positing the idea that it wasn’t really Shakespeare that wrote all those plays was a fun idea. But somehow it never quite tempted me to catch 2011’s ‘Anonymous’ at the cinema but during bouts of watching the Beeb’s superb new ‘The Hollow Crown’ Shakespeare film quartet I fancied giving it a go.

First off here’s the negatives; The whole film was shot 90% green-screen à la George Lucas and despite ebullient comments by Director Roland Emmerich on the Blu-Ray extras, you can tell a mile off. Some of the illusions to Shakespeare are a bit clunking, such as having the pale-faced baddie walk around dressed in black sporting a hunch simply so when ‘Richard III’ ‘Drops’ it can be framed as immediate political satire. This also leads onto the chief problem, that the idea that the plays are being released to stir up a revolution being barely credible.

On the plus side; Emmerich made the wise choice to have the great Sir Derek Jacobi book end the film with a Shakespeare style address to the audience, giving everything in between an RSC air of authority. Star Rhys Ifans gives a powerful performance as the troubled Earl of Oxford, the supposed true author of the plays.  The best thing though is the staging of the plays’ key scenes being some of the most visceral, full-blooded performances of the bard’s work ever committed to the screen.  These qualities make ‘Anonymous’ well worth catching despite its many flaws.

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February 19, 2012

The King’s Speech (2010 – Blu-Ray)

In the past, all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse!”

In a contrary way I’ve probably avoided watching ‘The King’s Speech’ until now just because it’s had so, so many awards and so much effusive praise heaped on it, when I thought it looked a little bit over rated from the trailer.  After viewing it I find that my suspicions were bang on.  It’s a film heaving with many flaws yet is a pleasant enough watch and not at all a waste of 2 hrs.

First to the flaws; The usually reliable Timothy Spall is awful as Churchill when there are so many stocky British thesps that could have taken the part (Albert Finney anyone?).  Also Churchill seems awkwardly shoehorned into a number of scenes about the pre-WWII plot even though he isn’t actually Prime Minister at the time the film takes place. Colin Firth looks far older than George VI was at the time, indeed at 50 he is between 10 and 20 years too old depending on the point in the plot.  The cinematography is dreadful featuring garish Digital colour correction (A particular irritant of mine) rendering some shots in cartoonish colours.  The film “Climaxes” with a similarly colour drenched CGI crowd shot from the Royal balcony which betrays its limited budget.  There is a massive plot hole caused by an early scene where the prince instantly pre-records a perfect speech, which leads to questions of why he spends the rest of the film stuttering through a series of needlessly stressful live broadcasts. But, the chief problem I found was that I’d already seen the movie before in 1994 and it was called ‘The Madness of King George’.  The plot is essentially identical, Royal has problems that none of the regular quacks can cure then in walks impudent new physician with quirky ideas who proceeds to cure said Royal and in doing so metaphorically heals the nation.  That Alan Bennett written movie cast a large shadow over almost every moment of ‘The King’s Speech’.

Now to the films good parts; Firth while too old gives one of his finest ever performances as a proud Prince crushed by duty, responsibility and fear.  Guy Pierce’s portrayal of the foppish Edward VIII is so spot on that in some shots it’s almost spooky.  Michael Gambon’s brief cameo as George V is magnificent, Derek Jacobi is excellent (If underused) and Geoffrey Rush is of course brilliant as the Prince’s quirky voice coach.  In the end despite the infuriating mix of faults and virtues it’s a rollicking good watch but hardly worth 7 Baftas.