Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
It Was and It Wasn't
Being an American rather new to Shakespeare, I have come to discover that Hamlet is my favorite play, and as of today the David Tennant and Patrick Stewart version provides the breakthrough to understanding this complicated play. I have watched all versions of Hamlet available and was quick to check out the newest one; however, Patrick Stewart was the only familiar actor to me. I have not a clue who Dr. Who might be. Just as well, as that might have tainted my view of Mr. Tennant's acting. Most contemporary productions of Shakespeare border on silly (Leonardo D's version of Romeo and Juliet) to ridiculous (Ethan Hawke's Hamlet), but this version rocks, to use an overused phrase.
I thought the juxtaposition of Shakespeare Old English in a Modern Setting worked amazingly well. The talents of the cast came together superbly (wished for a different Ophelia though). Polonius reminded me of a more dignified version of Bill Murray's treatment, but still caught the pompous drift of the character. Horatio played the devoted and loyal friend to great satisfaction. His Roman to the death speech had me crying all three times I watched the dramatization. I thought Tennant's version of Hamlet contained a measured lunacy, the intelligent fool who had mostly everyone fooled. The To Be soliloquy had the right intensity and then in a moment Tennant switches to Guarded Lover with Ophelia and Knave of Fools to Polonius.
I'm up for another view after writing this. Three hours spin by as I absorb new nuances and understanding. What a marvelous way to spend the afternoon.
The Diary of a Nobody (2007)
understated peek into Victorian life
If it's got Andrew Davies on the screenplay it's certainly worth watching. I picked this one up at our local library, and though I had my reservations at first, each episode grew on me. Not being familiar with the book and other adaptations, I took this version at face value and was charmed. Understated humor and a marvelous peek into Victorian life filled my evening. Many of Charles Pooter's concerns, friendships, his job security, tiffs with the wife, and his son's inability to focus, are relevant to today. The mock seriousness, the light parody of taking oneself much too seriously certainly added to the performance. Hugh Bonneville, gave a nicely rounded performance, and reminded me of John Cleese at times. Another quality BBC presentation.
The 39 Steps (2008)
39 Stepping Out
Watching this at face value as a Masterpiece production, it was quite enjoyable. Rich production, lovely looking actors, and enough suspense and drama, with a bit of humor to pass a pleasant evening. Not having watched the previous versions, I didn't know what to expect and didn't have any expectations. I was looking for ninety minutes of entertainment and intrigue, and found it. If it had been called anything else besides the classic 39 Steps maybe there wouldn't be such a fuss. Sit back and enjoy, and stop comparing to what's been done. It's rare that a Masterpiece production is not worth watching. I'll check out the other versions eventually, but this one decidedly was more than watchable.
The Virgin Queen (2005)
Not the best of Bess
Priming up to teach Renaissance history I've looked into just about every Elizabeth I movie around--from Bette Davis to Helen Mirren. I endured the dry Glenda Jackson series for its historical perspective, enjoyed the brief comedic overacting of Dame Dench in Shakespeare in Love, totally skipped Cate Blanchett's version due to the reviews openly praising this Hollywood take on known history.
As to this newer version, I couldn't bear to finish it, and I usually don't quit movies. The editing seemed to delight in snatches, rendering this as apatched together series of Elizabeth commercials. The lighting was dark, which didn't help. Robert Dudley was portrayed as being way too young. He should have been reserved for the Earl of Essex part. There were other aspects I didn't care for, but the Robert Dudley part needed to be more nailed down seeing how important he was to Elizabeth's reign.
Helen Mirren's version to me presents the most personable, the one that really brings out the personage of the queen. The politics in that version were more defined as well. I don't understand why the BBC thought to try and trot out another version of Elizabeth I when so many exist already. Aren't there any other monarchs worth looking into?
Miss Austen Regrets (2008)
Not Much Regret
I won't bother comparing Miss Austen Regrets to Becoming Jane. I will simply say: skip the latter and turn to the former if truly interested in the life of Jane Austen and not the fictional speculation. One is BBC and the other Hollywood. Enough said.
The only possible criticism of Miss Austen Regrets is how it starts off at such a startlingly quick pace, so much so that if the credits hadn't run I would have thought I'd come in on a good third of the production already gone. Allthe speculation of Jane Austen never having been in love, or having a chance at marriage (especially an advantageous one) is dashed in the first few minutes. From there the audience is left to wonder at the title--is it a what or who she regrets?
The biopic focuses on Jane Austen's latter years, and uses her relationship with her niece Fanny as a means of exploring her past relationships. We come to see financial security was of paramount concern to her, yet that concern was not so much for her sake as it was for her family's. We also see that her freedom to write being more important to her than love. Yet, it is all speculation. It isn't really clear that she had regrets at all. She exuded a satisfaction, so the title is a bit misleading.
What this new biopic brings out is the independence Jane enjoyed, and how much she enjoyed writing. The acting is commendable, the factual details admirable, and the rendering of the time satisfactory (although Jane's outfits swung from either being rather matronly to almost brazen). An enjoyable addition to Austen offerings. Yet, maybe it's time to leave off on the conjectures and meddling in her love life and focus on the brilliance of her writing--no speculation there.
The Colt (2005)
The Colt-more than expected
I was leery of the title, as it sounded somewhat sentimental, yet our local librarian recommended my selection. Good call. This movie, unlike some Civil War movies, offers a real look at the humanity behind the soldier. What is mesmerizing is how the birth of a colt to an army mare changed the persona of the unit. The colt has all sorts of symbolism: new life among death; hope; redemption; promise. I hope to find a copy of the short story the film is based on and compare it to this film. One of the best scenes is when Jim, the main character, is sharing a meal with a farm family and as he describes his home state, he breaks down in tears from homesickness and despair. A touching and revealing film. A different look at the Civil War. While the ending is a horrible surprise, it is fitting for the irony portrayed throughout the film.
You're in the Navy Now (1951)
This is a typical Gary Cooper vehicle where he gets placed in a sudden leadership role and has to rally the men who serve him. It's worked well in his other films and does so here. What I really enjoyed is all the actors who would later go on to enjoy their own careers like Eddie Arnold, Charles Bronson, Jack Webb, and even Lee Marvin. A great look at some of the less glorious aspects of navy service during WWII. So many films showcase the expertise or the hardened battle-weary sailors, but this movie showed how many sailors found themselves to be "90 day wonders", meaning they were pulled out from being civilians and trained quickly to serve. This movie showed that the average Joe (and Jill) truly did his or her part in winning the war.
You know if it says PBS it will have quality, as far as documentaries go--but who would have thought an hour's worth of chicken fact, trivia, and homespun truth could be so entertaining! Having grown up around friends and neighbors who raised chickens in their backyards I know how amusing these feathered comedians can be. Yet, there is also something dignified about them as well. This documentary covers the whole scenario of where chickens are in the hearts of Americans. They are livestock, they are pets, they are sideshow wonderment,and they are noisy nuisances. They are also big business. Clever editing, reenactments, and filming techniques make this a keeper. We tend to watch it in winter, right around when the snow is lingering too long on the ground. Watching Cotton the Chicken taking a swim, or the drama of Valerie's rescue is enough to bring anyone out of the winter glums.
The Rare Breed (1966)
This western has much going for it: great stars (Jimmy Stewart, Maureen O'Hara, and Brian Keith), interesting plot twists (is Stewart's character a thief, after all), and some comedic moments (Brian Keith is a hoot as Scottish cattle baron). Take the movie as it is, an old western that is mediocre in script with star power holding it afloat, and you'll enjoy the movie. Start picking it apart for studio shots, etc and of course you'll not enjoy it. The storyline of how Herefords came to replace Texas Longhorns sounds plausible enough. It was cute how Juliet Mills (sister of Hayley) got that Hereford bull to follow her by whistling "God Save the Queen". Juliet added quite a bit to the movie, and she was a good balance to the humorous triangle of Keith, O'Hara, and Stewart. Some reviews are harsh, yet the questions remains--How could anyone not enjoy a movie with Jimmy Stewart in it?
Tell No Secrets
Have you ever had a drink of pop after it's been sitting out too long? That's right, it's flat--all the fizz is gone. Same thing happened to National Treasure's Book of Secrets, the pop, the fizz, the sparkle is not there anymore. It's still a great movie to watch, one the whole family can enjoy, but as with most hits, the sequels don't usually nail it quite the same. The "gee whiz, I didn't know that" about history is still there (3 Liberty Ladies?), along with the likable characters (Riley is the best sidekick, and the main reason I went), and the intelligent plot, as well the stellar performances. Yet, it came off a little flat overall. I still didn't understand Ed Harris's role as a villain. Sean Bean was a great villain, one with ingenuity and cunning. Harris seemed only functionary. The best part of the movie was the Goofy short that came with it.