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
I have to say I’ve been looking forward to this film for quite some time once I heard of Tim Burton’s involvement. I’m a big Tim Burton fan and thought he would do a great job with his interpretation of the book, and he didn’t disappoint.
The actors are excellent: Mia Wasikowska plays the role of Alice well as a coming into her own character that’s dealing with a bit of an identity crisis, especially after continually being told she’s the “wrong” Alice which echos sentiments from earlier parts of the film. Helena Bonham Carter plays the Red Queen spot on dialing things up when she should (OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!) and dialing back at the right times. Crispin Glover plays the role of Stayne convincingly as an obnoxious out for himself villain. And Johnny Depp as the hatter – well, he’s Johnny Depp which in itself is a compliment, the guy just can seem to do no wrong in the characters he portrays. The only actor I thought was OK but not great was Anne Hathaway who’s White Queen I felt was a bit stiff and forced. There were also some CG characters in here played by: Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Timothy Spall, and Matt Lucas, all of whom turned in fine performances (especially Alan Rickman as the hookah smoking Blue Catepillar).
If you’re a fan of the story try to catch this in digital 3-D, just try to time your arrival at the theater after the onslaught of commercials so it doesn’t effect your enjoyment of the film (see my rant about AMC). Otherwise be sure to check it out on DVD or PPV.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Gothic is the story behind the birth of 2 classic horror characters – Frankenstein and the Vampire (or Vampyr in it’s original incarnation, which preceded Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Believe it or not, both characters emerged from the same weekend at the same place by 2 writers – Mary Shelly and Dr. John Polidori. The circumstances which led to this were as follows: Lord Byron hosts an overnight party at his house which includes guests such as Mary Shelly, Percy Shelly, John Polidori and Claire Clairmont. All of which are supposedly pretty eccentric people, at least the way the film portrays them. During the course of the party, everyone there ends up tripping on various hallucinogenic substances and during the course of their trips decide to conduct a seance and come up with ghost stories to entertain each other.
The seance goes in a bad direction as do the trips they’re all on with each of them having some horrific moments and very dark, intense personal experiences. Basically they all end up on bad trips with horror as their catalyst which turns out to not be a good way to go. This film dramatizes their experiences and the events that fueled the ideas for the birth of Frankenstein and the Vampire. There’s a lot of personal conjecture engrained in this such as Mary Shelly’s fascination with life and death due to her experience of having a miscarriage and having trouble conceiving. Polidori also has his own personal demons wrapped up in the Vampire character with his own fears of god and fascination with blood. All of this plays out in the film and the ties become more obvious as the story progresses.
The writing is well done with some very well written dialog presented in a old-world classic style incorporating very prim and proper wording. Visually, the movie is presented more like a play on film in terms of how the shots are set up and in the delivery of dialog presented by the actors, which makes this interesting to watch. The way it’s produced makes it feel like it could’ve just as easily taken place on a stage just as effectively as it plays on the screen in the mansion location this was shot in. It is a period piece and does feel dated.
The actors are top notch and include Gabriel Byrne, Natasha Richardson, Julian Sands (Warlock, Boxing Helena) and Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew from The Harry Potter films). All the actors turn in good performances even though at times it’s a bit over the top. But then again, the people they’re portraying are supposed to be pretty over the top anyway so it works. This was released in 1986 so it’s interesting to see how young all these now-established actors looked at the time.
I finished reading Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein right before I watched this movie which tied the whole experience together and made the book and the movie all the more interesting. I would recommend reading Frankenstein or Vampyr and then watching the movie or doing it the other way around as both books and Gothic have interesting links with each other.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
I just caught this again recently and wanted to write it up for the blog, so here we go…
Mark Wahlberg plays Izzy, the singer of a local tribute band that covers his favorite band named Steel Dragon. The story is supposed to be roughly based on Judas Priest, who went through a situation similar with their singer (Rob Halford) when he left the band; they filled the vacated slot with a singer from a Judas Priest tribute band. The story of Rock Star follows the same premise.
Once Wahlberg is in the band, the story turns in more of a sex, drugs and rock and roll direction with a behind the scenes view of the women, the tours and the over the top lifestyle so many people have dreamed of through rock and roll. Of course the ultimate destination of this lifestyle doesn’t turn out so well and drama ensues. The relationship between Wahlberg and his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) is put to the test through the process of them dealing with events that are consequence of the formulaic rock star lifestyle.
All-in-all a pretty well told story and entertaining to watch. It’s a bit typical with no surprises but is still worth checking out. The ending is a bit cliche’ but is pulled off well.
The cast does great in their roles and includes Jennifer Aniston as Izzy’s girlfriend, Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail from the Harry Potter films) and the rest of Steel Dragon including: Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreignor), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy, Black Label Society) and Dominic West (300, HBO’s The Wire), the only other actor in the group next to Wahlberg.
The music is a large part of the experience and includes a healthy dose of heavy metal / hard rock some of it even sung by Mark Wahlberg who does a great job with the vocals surprisingly. I say surprisingly because during some of the behind the scenes footage, Wahlberg complains about metal and mentions how much more he’s about hip-hop. Personally I’d take his vocals in Steel Dragon any day over Marky Mark (seriously dude, Marky Mark? Really? Let it go.).
reviewed by Sean McKnight