Archive for September, 2013

“In the past all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse. Now we must invade people’s homes and ingratiate ourselves with them. This family is reduced to those lowest, basest of all creatures, we’ve become actors!”–Michael Gambon as King George V (The King’s Speech)

Quite unintentionally, I recently watched a trio of films all centering around British monarchs. First, if you like me, are late to the coronation, The King’s Speech deserves all the good things that have been written about it. Speaking in public is consistently rated as one of people’s top fears. Now imagine that you have to speak in public as part of your job. And that you have a terrible stammer. And you’re the heir to the British throne, your older brother is slacking his duty, and Britain is facing war with Germany.  And, to top it all off, there’s this new technology–wireless radio broadcasting–that you’re expected to master.

King's Speech Photo

Prince Bertie practices his vowels. Helen Bonham-Carter, Colin Firth, and Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech.

Imagine all that and you’ll have an idea of why Prince Albert finds his speech impediment to be such a handicap. Colin Firth plays the prince trying to find his voice and Geoffrey Rush plays his unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Helena Bonham-Carter has a nice turn as Bertie’s wife, the future Queen Mother, and both Michael Gambon and Guy Pearce are excellent as Bertie’s overbearing father, King George the Fifth, and his dashing, playboy brother, David (King Edward VIII), respectively.

The Queen Movie Photo

Moving forward in time, we come to The Queen with Helen Mirren playing Elizabeth II (Bertie’s daughter) and Michael Sheen playing the newly-elected Tony Blair.  After the sudden death of her ex-daughter-in-law, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II sticks to tradition and refuses to lead the country in modern mourning rituals which results in  an unexpected public outcry. What I took away from this film is the importance of ritual and tradition to people even in a modern age which seems (on the surface) to shun both.

Elizabeth I Bess and Robert Photo

Can any movie that has both Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons in it be bad? Certainly not this HBO mini-series, Elizabeth I. I know, I know. Does the world really need yet another movie about Good Queen Bess? In this case, the answer is a resounding “yes, it does”. Elizabeth I may be the best movie ever made about the Virgin Queen. The HBO mini-series doesn’t attempt to do a cradle-to-grave biopic of Elizabeth Tudor. Instead it concentrates on a few important incidents in her reign and fastens them around two of her relationships–her longtime love affair with Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester (Jeremy Irons) and her almost fatal infatuation with his rash, ambitious step-son, Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex (Hugh Dancy). The movie points out something that the history books usually gloss over–how Elizabeth sacrificed her own chances for love, a husband, and a family for English political stability.  Tom Hopper, who also directed The King’s Speech, helms this film as well.

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Card Catalog Googling

Internet surfing the old-fashioned way. For you young people out there, that’s a card catalog she’s using.

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So, what does the fox say? Actually, foxes have about 40 different vocalizations. The one you’re most likely to hear is a high-pitched bark.

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Shot in just 12 days using his own house as the set and produced by his wife, Kai Cole, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a contemporary re-telling of Shakespeare’s classic play, keeping the Bard’s language, but updating the setting to 21st century Los Angeles. Briefly, Don Pedro has vanquished his rebellious brother, Don Juan, and is returning in triumph with his entourage to visit his good friend, Leonato, governor of Messina. While there, one of Don Pedro’s courtiers, Claudio, falls hard for Leonato’s daughter, Hero, and prevails on Don Pedro to arrange the match. Meanwhile, Don Pedro, Hero, and others conspire to bring together the warring Benedict, another of Pedro’s courtiers, and Beatrice, Leonato’s niece. But the two romances are threatened by the machinations of Pedro’s vindicative brother, Juan, and his flunkies.

Shakespeare’s comedies can tricky because, aside from some witty quips, the humor is strictly in how the actors play their lines and actions. There’s some great physical comedy in “Much Ado” and Amy Acker in particular takes some wonderful pratfalls as Beatrice. I also really liked Nathan Fillion’s performance as Dogberry.

The black and white photography and jazzy soundtrack give the whole film a cool vibe as well. You can check out the official trailer here or if you would prefer to wait for the DVD, you can pre-order it from Amazon  here.

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