Pirates of the Caribbean : On Stranger Tides (2011) Film Review


Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) ends up in a race undertaken by Blackbeard (Ian McShane) with his daughter, Angelica (Penelope Cruz) against, on one hand, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and on the other, the Spanish. Their goal? The fountain of youth.

I loved the first Pirates film. I seem to recall quite enjoying the second film and even the third was okay. And I did also really like this one, but it’s feeling a bit paint-by-numbers. There is the premise, then Jack does a daring escape, then something happens, and then Jack does something else big and dramatic, and then it ends, but not the way that you’d expect. There are twists and turns.

I did enjoy the film, but I feel like I need something new and exciting to keep me wanting more.

The Book Thief (2013) Film Review

The Book Thief

It’s Germany, it’s World War 2. A young girl, Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) is delivered by her mother to a couple, Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) to be kept safe from the Nazis. Then a boy, the son of a friend of Hans, Max (Ben Schnetzer) arrives on the doorstep. Jewish and persecuted, he lives for a time in their basement. Oh, and the whole thing is narrated by Death (Roger Allam).

I finished the book on the edge of a pier in Finland waiting for the ferry to take me to Estonia, very romantic, weeping and loving it. I felt that the film was a very good World War 2 film, emotional, dramatic, with magnificent performances well told. My only issue was that, in the film version, I don’t think it needed the narration from Death. That worked so well in the book, but the story in the film told itself beautifully, so I felt the narration was not needed.

The Book Thief was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (John Williams). It was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture and a BAFTA for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music.

Lantana (2001) Film Review


Based on the play Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell, Lantana is a relationship film that shows a series of couples going through difficulties. To go into more detail would take a lot away from the gradual unwinding of the stories.

The film won a lot of awards at the time, and it’s really not hard to see why. The script is tight in the way of many films based on good plays. The cast of the film is extremely strong – although that’s not hard to tell with these names: Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, Kerry Armstrong and Barbara Hershey. The story unwinds in small grabs and throughout, my mind was twisting and turning, trying to figure out what had happened, or what was happening. It is truly a fabulous film.

The Best Offer (2013) Film Review


Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) is an eccentric auctioneer who commands the highest respect of those in the art world. He is always wearing gloves and is very particular about how he does what he does. When he is commissioned to handle the categorization of the belongings of an elusive woman, Claire (Sylvia Hoeks) his life becomes far more complicated that he ever expected it could.

The character of Oldman is beautifully set up from the start of the film to be a man who is in total control of his life and everything in it. Consequently, it is hard to believe many of the decisions that he makes from here. Even the first few telephone conversations with Claire seem very out-of-character. There are any ways that this film could be spoilt, so I am treading very carefully, but I will say this: it just didn’t work for me. I’d recommend other films that I think work this kind of thing better, but even that could be a spoiler. Go watch it then see what you think.

The Best Offer was part of the selection at MIFF 2013. It has a limited release from August 29, 2013.

The King’s Speech (2010) Film Review


Prior to this film, I knew little to nothing about King George VI of England. I knew he was the current queen’s father and that he took the throne after his younger brother abdicated to marry his love, a twice-divorced American woman. Also, he was very well-loved. That was it. I didn’t know that he grew up with a terrible stutter, and struggled to make it through public speeches. This film tells the story of the time leading up to the abdication, when ‘Bertie’ (Albert, later to become King George, played by Colin Firth) received treatment from an Australian practitioner based in Harley St, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

I have my usual issue with film representations of historical events, that being that I am left wondering how much of it is real, but I really should get over this. I am not intending to write a dissertation on the events of the monarchy in the lead-up to the Second World War. If I did, I’d use more reliable resources than a fictional film, regardless of how much it is based on fact. While this film is not a peer-reviewed document, it’s a darned good film.

The story is compelling and the characters totally engaging; that a grumpy man who sees himself as far above everyone else (after a lifetime of being told so) could possibly make for a compelling protagonist says a lot about the quality of the film. I have no doubt that I will watch this film again, and probably more than once. Not for a while, though.

The King’s Speech won Oscars for Best Achievement in Directing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Colin Firth) and Best Writing, Original screenplay. It was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Geoffrey Rush) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Helena Bonham Carter).

Elizabeth – The Golden Age (2007) Film Review


In Elizabeth, we saw Cate Blanchett play Elizabeth I as she came to the throne and had to battle with those who wanted to take the crown from her. In this sequel, Elizabeth has transformed herself into Elizabeth the Virgin Queen and is leading her people, still avoiding the question of marriage, still battling those who want to take her throne, and still battling her own emotional attraction, this time to Sir Walter Raleigh.

It was made nine years after the first film, which means we can avoid unnecessary aging make-up for the cast. I didn’t enjoy this as much as the previous film. I felt that some of the emotion that Elizabeth struggled with seemed more suited to the younger, more naïve Elizabeth. Perhaps this was an attempt to give the queen a human side, but I felt that it brought little to the character for me. Again, as with the first, I am not sure on the historical accuracy of this film. It is a fascinating time, but I can’t help suspecting that in dramatizing the story for film, that it is entirely possible that the story has been modified in many ways. I would be very interested in watching it again after reading about Elizabeth, or perhaps seeing an interesting and informative documentary. Any suggestions?

Elizabeth (1998) Film Review


The first Queen Elizabeth of England was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boyeln. Her sister, Mary, was queen and a devout Catholic, and she and her supporters wanted to keep Elizabeth, the next successor, from the throne. This film covers Elizabeth’s rise to the throne and dealing with some of those who plotted against her.

It’s always a danger with a historical drama to believe everything that is presented. For example, Elizabeth is known as the virgin queen as she never married or had children. She is known to hold favour with Sir Robert Dudley. However, in the film, it seems that she had a sexual relationship before discovering that he was married. It’s good for the story, but perhaps not so historically accurate.

Whilst I think that the portrayal of Elizabeth by the wonderful Cate Blanchett was extremely well done, it was Christopher Eccleston who stole the show for me. So evil and repulsive – he should be the next Bond villain.  Now, to watch the sequel – Elizbeth: The Golden Years.