His Dark Materials
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If you want action, complex plot and driving narrative with plenty of twists and turns, then maybe, you have to forget this film.
Co-written by director Winterbottom, the facts of this story are fairly straightforward. Widower Joe (Firth), an English academic living in America, loses his wife, Marrianne (Davis), in a car accident. After months of bereavement he sees a chance for some renewal in a teaching contract in Genova, Italy, and takes his daughters Kelly (Holland) and Mary (Haney-Jardine) with him. Here he is shown the ropes by Barbara (Keener), an old university friend who is sweet to him, though he only has eyes for Rosa (Romeo), a student.
In Genova, daughter Kelly rebels and stays out late partying while younger sister Mary deals with her grief wandering the streets, with sadness and constant nightmares about her mother's death. Joe tries to keep what's left of his family together as he rediscovers life and love again in an exotic setting-- Genova, a northern Italian port city that is steeped in history and stunningly beautiful.
With its architectural splendours, the city is itself a wonderful setting. And the performances are solid and nuanced. Colin Firth is an adept actor, if somewhat understated, and both Haney-Jardine and Holland also give performances as his daughters.
The film resonates with emotional truth and is compelling despite the apparent lack of action. This may lead some to ask: so what's it all about? Life, I guess, as simple as that.
A Royal Affair follows the 18th century trials and tribulations of Caroline Mathilde (Alice Vikander), the unfortunate English princess chosen to marry her cousin, King Christian VII of Denmark (Mikkel Folsgaard). Yet, the king, bored by royal life, rebels against it by acting out. The result is the same for Caroline, a spirited young woman who, after delivering the requisite two offsprings, refuses to have anything more to do with the King. He is unperturbed by her behaviour and, keen to taste the joys of Europe, he sets off on a grand tour to engage in all the debauchery he can imagine.
While he travels, it becomes clear that he requires a physician to keep some of his more excessive behaviour in check. So while he takes a break in Germany, Dr Johan Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) is engaged to keep King Christian under his care, to divert the King and to learn the ways in court.
The Queen resents Struensee and his hold over the King, but once she flicks through the doctor's bookcase and finds that he has similar tastes to herself, she is intrigued. As their friendship develops and they swap ideas about the value of Enlightenment, it becomes apparent to others at court, even if not to themselves, that there is a romance developing.
Struensee, albeit not portrayed as a man greedy for power, soon discovers his ability to influence the affairs of states and, given his radical political ideas, he cannot resist using his influence with the unbalanced king to implement them.
Caroline and Struensee persuade the king and in the process create enemies at court. Their affair becomes the talk of the town, and their positions compromised until even the King can't ignore the innuendo. Caroline is protected by the crown, but Struensee has no such protection and as a foreigner he is despised.
It turns out that Dr Struensee and Queen Caroline were ahead of their time, and their ideas were finally implemented during the 55 year reign of Queen Caroline's son, Frederick VI.
The Enchanted April is quirky, full of humour, of misunderstandings, of instances of characters miscommunicating and misjudging one another's intentions. Yet it's also charming and sweet which candidly explores, albeit somewhat lightheartedly, the heartache four women are nursing caused by aging, marital neglect, and the like.
Based on the 1921 novel by Elizabeth von Armin, the film centers on Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence), a shabby middle-class wife, blessed with a self-proclaimed magical ability to see into people. When her eyes catch a newspaper ad for a month in an Italian villa, she immediately thinks of her downtrodden neighbor Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson). To save money, two other eccentric femmes join this couple: the haughty widow Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) and the alluring society lady, Caroline Dester (Polly Walker), who is the opposite of all the others.
When they wake up in their villa after a rainy nighttime arrival (Britain still seems to follow them like a cloud), they open their windows to a sunny spring morning on the Italian coast, the hills exploding in flowers and foliage, the Mediterranean waters a captivating azure catching the sun with white accents. It's a fairy tale awakening for them in every way. "It's this place," says Lawrence's newly recharged character.
Then the film slips into internal monologues to tell us about the transformations the characters are going through and they seem so unnecessary so much of the time, mostly because the observations are already so apparent to the eye.
And when the husbands arrive, the old romances are recharged and relationships rekindled with newfound respect and affection, if not for the commitment and compassion and generosity of Mike Newell's direction. It's not about escape or rebirth, it's about renewal and appreciation, with all the restraint we've come to expect in the oh-so-British manner of period movies, but behind that precious romanticism is a genuine commitment to this emotional renewal. This is an earnest movie about personality transformation, self-renewal and life lessons about female camaraderie.
Man on a Ledge is a crime thriller and it has no pretensions to be anything else. Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is released from prison to attend his father's funeral and at the graveside he escapes. Nick is in prison for the theft of the Monarch Diamond that was owned by David Englander (Ed Harris) and Nick believes Englander framed him for the theft.
Nick's plan to prove his innocence is, like all good movie plans, somewhat convulated and involves "schematics" and plastic explosives and a loyal brother with a feisty girl sidekick. It also involves Nick going out onto the ledge of a hotel in the middle of Manhattan and threatening to jump off. Part of the plan is to make sure there are enough TV cameras on Nick so he can shout his innocence from the rooftops, and point the finger at Englander as the thief.
The NYPD have to try and negotiate Nick off the ledge, because a body splattered on the pavement is not good PR for the city -- What would the tourists think? So Jack Dougherty (Ed Burns) is sent in. However Nick wants Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) and the reason for his choice becomes clearer as the film progresses.
While Nick stands on the ledge, his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) with his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are breaking into the building where the vault holding the Monarch Diamond is housed.
Man on the Ledge is a well paced film that sits comfortably in its genre. Each member of the cast knows why they are there and what is expected of them. So even if there are stereotypes galore, which includes everything from Harris' nasty, rich, real estate developer diamond owner, to the pretty matching underwear on display by Angie as she suits up for the daring final swing into the vault, there is a certain good humoured charm of the flick that retains the audience' interest.