The Oscar committee loves this kind of film. After watching The King’s Speech, it’s easy to see why…
The storyline follows King George VI who reluctantly accepts his role as the king after his older brother is unable to step up and assume the role. As you might imagine, this task bears great weight on George who questions himself as a leader. Moreover, the king has a studdering problem which impedes on his communication skills, this is especially impactful since the time period hits during the golden age of radio, before TV. Another factor in here is that Hitler has risen to power and is about to make a mess of things for England.
Since communication is such a crucial component to the country’s confidence in the king, a speech therapist is hired to work with the king on his impediment.
Now, this premise might sound a little boring but due to the excellent writing and performances involved, the movie flows through each moment in a way that is constantly entertaining. Then there’s the visual aspect. Each scene is extremely detailed with the clothing and the environments reflecting the 1930’s to a t.
Going back to the performances. The highlights for me were Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, both at the top of their game. Colin Firth sets the bar as King George with Rush’s speech therapist his equal. The supporters in here are no slouches with Guy Pearce as the king’s brother and Helena Bonham Carter as his wife, both of which are excellent. Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill was a great choice here too. Exceptional casting to say the least.
Tom Hooper directs doing an outstanding job as the storyteller behind this historical piece. Interestingly, Hooper studied English at Oxford University.
The film won 4 Oscars for a reason, take a look and you’ll understand.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Martin Scorsese is one of the reasons I thank God that I’m a filmmaker and that the craft exists. Shine A Light just exemplifies that statement all the more.
This behind-the scenes concert film/documentary gives a look at what goes on behind closed doors leading up to this historic show by the Rolling Stones. You get some candid interviews with the key members: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards (when you can understand what he’s saying, ha!), Ron Wood and even the usually quiet Charlie Watts chimes in a bit. There’s some great moments with Martin Scorsese such as when he’s expressing his frustration about getting a set list in order to figure out how he’s going to shoot. The set list by the way is pain-stakingly crafted by Mick and presented just shortly before the show actually starts, which is a filmmaker’s nightmare.
Some of the insider moments include Mick questioning Martin about the use of the crane camera and how the fans will find that annoying as well as Scorsese’s use of lights to accentuate the film (something that also bothers Mick a bit).
In addition to these private moments, there’s some great vintage footage from “back in the day” with various members of the group discussing different topics as well as current questions and footage such as Keith Richards answering the question: “Who’s a better guitarist? You or Ron Wood?”
Then there’s the performance. Hey, it’s the Rolling Stones, not much to say here other than there’s a good reason why they’re regarded as the greatest rock and roll band. The show is fantastic and looks beautiful thanks to Mr. Scorsese and his crew; that man knows how to make things look amazing.
There’s also some special guests for this intimate show at the Beacon Theater in New York (oh, to have been there in the crowd, damn!). The show was organized by the Clinton Foundation as a fundraiser, so naturally, Bill Clinton and Hillary and their entourage show up and actually appear in the film for a bit. Keep your eye on the crowd for Benicio Del Toro and Bruce Willis (no, I’m not kidding).
The musical guests include Christina Aguilera and Jack White of the White Stripes. The highlight musical guest for me was definitely Buddy Guy who joined the band for an incendiary version of the Stones’ classic “Champagne and Reefer”. They could’ve just kept riffing on that song for another half hour and that would’ve been just fine by me.
If you’re a Rolling Stones fan or even just a music fan, hell, if you don’t even like music but like Martin Scorsese, check out Shine A Light!
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Where to begin your Pulitzer Prize-winning final love sonnet to your beautiful America, eh? In a weepy dream filled with Disneyesque animatronic unicorns and CGI sea otters that talk like Ernest Borgnine? I think not. Why not begin at the end, the end of everything you hold dear? Why not gracefully narrate in an elegiac (as in elegy: a mournful poem, a lament for the dead) fashion a book about the collapse of the very thing you hold closest to your heart? Why not envision the end as a death march for survival during which you shepherd your own sole heir, your son, into a most uncertain future? This is what Cormac McCarthy, author of
Set in London back before the London bridge was finished being built, we find ourselves in the midst of the world of Sherlock Holmes along with his faithful partner Watson already established as crime solvers aiding the London police. The film opens with Holmes and Watson at the end of their latest case and moving into a time between cases where their partnership is starting to dissolve in favor of Watson getting married and trying to live a normal life. Alas, they find their latest case is not quite solved and forces stronger than them pull them back together for another round.
The writing is a classic installation in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes stories, well told, clever dialog and an intriguing storyline that leaves you guessing at times with some pleasent twists and turns. Included are some of the classic Holmes characters along with some new additions that really don’t influence things a whole lot. Suffice it to say that overall it’s a good detective story that’s fun to watch.
Speaking of watching the film – the scenery is very well done as this is a period piece with some impressive CG filling in the landscape and providing an impressive backdrop set with the gritty feel of early London. The design of the clothing and gadgets of the time all blend in seemlessly while still keeping your interest with the technology of the day such as it was. Guy Ritchie and his team do a great job here. Then, there’s also Guy Ritchie’s rewind-and-move-forward style that lends itself nicely to the way Holmes likes to plot things out as he’s executing his master plan to bring the bad guy down and solve the mystery.
The acting is excellent with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law leading the way as Holmes and Watson, both of whom seem born to play these roles. Mark Strong puts in a strong performance as the bad guy as does Rachel McAdams in the role of Holmes on-again-off-again love interest. But the banter between Holmes and Watson is one of the more entertaining aspects of the film as the dialog is cleverly written as I mentioned and very well executed.
I saw this in the theater and while it’s not necessary to do so, the visual appeal of the film is a bit more evident on the big screen so you might want to catch this one out in the theater if you can. If not, definitely check it out when it’s released on PPV or DVD.
reviewed by Sean McKnight