Archive | February, 2013

Quartet

23 Feb

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Synopsis: Directed by Dustin Hoffman in his directorial debut, set at a retirement home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents.

Cast

Maggie Smith……………………………………………Jean Horton

Tom Courtenay………………………………………Reginald Paget

Billy Connelly……………………………………………..Wilf Bond

Pauline Collins……………………………………….Cissy Robson

Michael Gambon………………………………Cedric Livingston.

Sheridan Smith……………………………………..Dr. Lucy Cogan

Andrew Sachs………………………………………Bobby Swanson

Gwyneth Jones………………………………………..Anne Langley

Review: Quartet is a story that is set in an retirement home for aging musicians, on the English country side. The story revolves around two central plot points, one being the annual retirement home fund raising concert, the other being the arrival of Opera star Jean Horton played deliciously by Maggie Smith.

 The cast is rounded out by brilliant English actors, each bring their own eccentricities to the roles they play. As Jean Horton arrives Cedric, played by Michael Gambon, an actor remembered as Dumbledore in most of the Harry Potter movies, is directing the gala event. He decides, she and Reginald, (Tom Courtney), Wilf, (Billy Connelly), and Cissy, (Pauline Collins), should recreate their famous Quartet from Rigoletto.

 Complications set in when we find out that Jean and Reginald where once married. Reginald wants nothing to do with Jean and retreats. Wilf plays mediator between the two, and has all the crass and funny lines. Maggie Smith has all the droll understated lines and her comebacks (see Downton Abbey) are swift and deadly. Smith is an international treasure, she shines in everything she does.

 Pauline Collins has the task of making her character Cissy, a little dotty in the head, obviously very forgetful, perhaps early Alzheimer’s, and she navigates through it all with a sense of irony and comedy. Collins remains indelible as the main character in the film Shirley Valentine, here she is just as delightful.

 Comedian Billy Connelly as Wilf, is a crass womanizing retired Opera star. His comic timing plays counterpoint to Smith’s dry wit. He delivers a multi-layered performance and brings a sparkle to an otherwise dry screenplay. If you are unfamiliar with Connelly, their is plenty of  him and his stand-up on You-Tube. In Scotland, his home of origin. he is known as the Big Yen. There is more on him at http://www.billyconnelly.com.

 Tom Courtney, who first appeared in Dr. Zhivago so many years ago, plays Reginald as a deeply wounded individual. Jane had left him when they were married and hardly said goodbye. The two together Smith and Courtenay, play against each other with compassion. Reginald’s distrust of Jane is juxtaposed with his feelings of love for her, this is where Cortnenay shines.

Michael Gambon as Cedric, puts up with all the backstage drama so that he ultimately gets what he wants. His transition from lack of patience to restraint is apparent. It appears that everyone but the the four leads bend over backwards to make Cedric happy. He delights in the gala more than anyone else involved. Gambon is fun to watch, especially at the times when his plans seem to get foiled.

 The film is is light and plays like a classic chamber comedy. Hoffman chose wisely his directorial debut. The film might appeal to the older demographic and certainly to the those who enjoyed The Marigold Hotel.

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Zero Dark Thirty

23 Feb

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Synopsis: Based on actual events the film chronicles the decade-long hunt for Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011. The film has been nominated for The Academy Award for Best Picture 2012.

Cast

Jessica Chastain…………………………………………………………..Maya

Joel Edgerton…………………………………………………………….Patrick

Kyle Chandler……………………………………………….Joseph Bradley

Jason Clark……………………………………………………………………Dan

Chris Pratt……………………………………………Justin, a US Navy SEAL

Review: Jessica Chaistain, plays Maya, a newbie CIA operative in search of leads to track down and eradicate Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The ten year search after 9/11 is the basis for the events that follow and haunt Maya. There are gruesome scenes of water-boarding, a torture technique used by the American Government under George W. Bush, to extract information from terrorist captives, as to the whereabouts of bin Laden. You do get the sense of how wrong this technique is, how the Bush administration used this more as an excuse to show the world, see we are doing something to get bin-Laden. A case can be made against water-boarding, its use, and the Bush administrations abuse of authority at the time. There are those who agree with its use, and those who don’t. The film has no particular view one way or the other, like with any good work of fiction, it let’s the audience have their own opinions.

It is Maya’s feisty determination, played believably by Chaistain, a new Meryl Streep, yes she is that good, that forces the CIA to follow the hunches and leads she brings to the table. Although we know the outcome, it is the suspense of the build-up that makes this a riveting film. There are those that believe that Maya is being naive in her pursuit of obvious leads. She believes that bin Laden and his operatives are hiding in plain site, living life as an average citizen, more overt than covert. The powers that be are trailing the more covert, it takes Maya’s relentlessness to duty to make them see things the way she does. Was she right about bin Laden living in the big compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, was her leads to the compound a mistake. There are two points of view at odds here, Maya’s and everyone else’s.

The actual raid of the compound brings the action and suspense to its peak. The Navy SEALS, clandestine air craft are brought in and the raid proceeds on Maya’s hunch. The moment is so real, that when bin-Laden is found and shot, Maya’s decompression in the aircraft waiting to take her home brings tears to your eyes. She checks bin-Laden’s body bag as the SEALs are celebrating. They are in awe of bringing bin-Laden down, this is contrasted against Maya’s own personal feelings after ten years of frustrating pursuit. Chaistain alone in the aircraft before she departs home will bring tears to your eyes. You feel through her all the agony she is releasing through her silent yet emotional tears. This film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who directed The Hurt Locker, has the look and feel of a documentary and this plays well especially during the raid sequence. The hand-held camera effectively brings you into the action.

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