Archive | April, 2013

Oblivion

19 Apr

oblivion_ver3

“Are you still an effective team?”

Synopsis: Jack Harper is one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs, Jack’s mission is nearly complete. Living in and patrolling the skies from thousands of feet above, his existence is brought crashing down when he rescues a stranger from a downed spacecraft. Her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he knows and puts the fate of humanity in his hands.

CAST

Tom Cruise…………………………..Commander Jack Harper

Morgan Freeman…………………………………Malcolm Beech

Olga Kurylenko…………………………………..Julia Rusakova

Andrea Riseborough………………………………Victoria Olsen

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau……………………………………..Sykes

Melissa Leo……….….Jack and Victoria’s mission control

Zoë Bell……………………………………………………………Kara

Review:  I will cut to the chase about this high concept, sci-fi, allegory about post apocalyptic earth. It is set in the near future, 2077, the planet earth had been at war with an alien species, the aliens lost the war, planet earth was decimated, and the moon destroyed. The film is directed and co-written by, Joseph Kosinski, the director of TRON LEGACY. This is Kosinski’s second film and is miles above the TRON sequel.

I found the film visual stunning, the concept being reminiscent of the end of the earth movies from the seventies. We see NY city in ruins, the Empire State Building buried up to the radio tower that sits atop it, briefly the torch from a now buried Statue of Liberty, (think Planet of the Apes, original version) and the George Washington bridge all destroyed. These images are only the tip of the ice-berg in a story filled with twists, turns and surprises. The imagery also pays homage to Trek, in its high concept themes of alien technology and to Star Wars.

Tom Cruise at 50, plays mechanic 49, Jack Harper, who has been assigned to fix the drones that protect the giant machines that clean the sea water. The fresh sea-water is made drinkable, and necessary to keep safe, for the surviving humans who relocated to the Saturn’s moon, Titan, to survive from the radiation that has destroyed most of earth. Given Cruise’s box office decline in the past several years, and his quick divorce from Katie Holmes, Cruise needs a hit film; let’s just say this could be the right vehicle and character, to stage a come-back. He is likeable, tough and adaptable as he searches for answers to his recurring dreams of a time, and place in NY, before the war. I enjoyed his performance, it wasn’t Cruise being Cruise, like in most his films, he is very believable in this one.

Andrea Riseborough plays Cruise’s mission partner, and lover, Victoria. This British Actress is a young star on the rise. She is terrific in the film, she navigates through her emotions as she sends Cruise on dangerous mission after dangerous mission.

Morgan Freeman is always a joy to watch no matter what character he plays. Here he plays the leader of the rebels, Malcolm Beech. His group are referred to by Cruise as the Scavs, the remaining alien species that live on the planet.

Olga Kurylenko plays Julia Rusokova a woman who is saved by Cruise when her spaceship crashes on the surface of the earth, brought down by a Scav homing beacon, mounted on the top of the Empire State Building. The ship is carrying a number of sleeping capsules containing human beings in hibernation. Her appearance is a turning point in the film and many surprises and revelations will follow.

Unlike Kosinki’s first film, Tron Legacy, this film is packed with emotion, secrets and riveting revelations about the aliens, the human race and its’ survival. Although there are some unanswered questions, like any good allegory about the human condition, this one examines the exploitation of earth’s natural resources, drone technology and super power demagoguery. In our world these are issues that say, Rod Serling, the creator of the Twilight Zone, would cover in a similar fashion.

Recommended:camera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-icon

Advertisements

Ginger and Rosa

11 Apr

Ginger-and-Rosa-2

Synopsis: A coming of age story about two young girlfriends. Born in England in 1945 the two girlfriends Ginger (Ellie Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) come of age during the cold-war era of the early 1960’s. This is an intimate portrayal of a family torn apart by political ideology, infidelity and passion.

Cast

Elle Fanning………………………………..Ginger

Alice Englert……………………………………Rosa

Christina Hendricks…………………Anoushka

Alessandro Nivola…………………………Roland

Annette Bening……………………….. May Bella

Timothy Spall…………………………. Mark One

Oliver Platt……………..……………….Mark Two

Review: Ginger and Rosa, written and directed by Sally Potter, is a film about two girlfriends Ginger and Rosa who are best friends. The film takes place in the cold-war days of 1962. The ban the bomb movement was in full swing, the Bay of Pigs incident was imminent. Ginger’s father, Roland was a conscientious objector during WWII and spent jail time for being one. Rosa’s father had disappeared long ago and she lives with her mother.

The style of the movie mirrors the “new wave movement” films of the sixties with stark industrial landscapes, dilapidated apartments, hand held camera movements and extreme close-ups. More than just an homage to the films of the era, the film feels as if it were made at that time. The movie has very sparse music and like real life, the music comes and goes organically, either played on a 48rpm record or played from a juke box. The story begins showing the friendship between the two girls, they have their first cigarettes together, they sit in a bathtub together with new jeans on in order to shrink them, they iron each others hair and they share secrets with each other.

As time progresses Ginger who is obsessed with the possibility of dying by nuclear holocaust, becomes both depressed about her life and at the same time becomes part of the Ban the Bomb movement. Ginger listens every night, to news reporte on the radio about the amount of nuclear weapons in England, and the pronouncements from pacifist Bertram Russell, how the bomb will be used to save England against the Russian threat and how the end of the world is drawing near. Needless to say she is petrified and thinking the end is near and joins the ban the bomb political movement.

Rosa is more interested in boys and Ginger puts up with Rosa’s endless flirtations and make-out sessions. The more the two of them are together the more you realize they are moving in opposite directions.

Roland, Ginger’s father, a pacifist who writes articles and journals,and teaches pacifism,  finds himself trapped by his “normal” life style. He starts to have a relationship with one of his students and disappears for days at a time. Anoushka, Ginger’s mother feels neglected, and under-appreciated, and only suspects Roland’s philandering.  Ultimately Roland moves-out.

Roland invites Ginger and Rosa to spend a night on his boat, this is when we learn Rosa has more than a passing interest in Ginger’s dad. Ginger overhears a conversation the two are having and realizes what potentially is going on. Rosa tells Ginger that she understands Roland and she wrote him a note to tell him. Their relationship grows and Ginger is hurt to the core. Not only is she losing her friend and her dad, she feels deeply that the entire world is going end.

Oliver Platt and Timothy Spall play a gay couple, Mark and Mark, who with Annette Bening’s character, May Bella, are friends of Anoushka. May Bella is also a ban the bomb activist. When Rosa becomes pregnant with Roland’s child, it is the three of them who intervene.

The film is powerful and moving. Ellie Fanning, like her sibling Dakota Fanning , is a brilliant young actress who navigates through Ginger’s emotion with the stark realism the story calls for.  Alice Englert, daughter of the Australian director, Jane Campion, also plays her character with realism, you can feel how her actions are dictated by an absent father.

This is a film about a specific time and place in 60’s era England. The film is politically charged with many heady ideologies discussed and debated. The film’s storyline is absorbing as it captures that specific place and time accurately

I walked away thinking about the events that took place at the Bay of Pigs and wonder if the next stand-off is with North Korea.

Recommended: camera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-icon

Bond, James Bond PT 6: Sean Connery

11 Apr

Sean-Connery-as-James-Bond-with-Walther-Air-Pistol

“Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred.”

For many Bond fans there is only one James Bond,  Sir Thomas Sean Connery, Kt, (born August 25th, 1930). Although the first Bond,Connery set the standard for the Bond actors that followed. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Connery was the son of a cleaning woman and factory worker. After a stint as milkman he joined the Royal Navy. By the time he was 23 he had been discharged on medical grounds. Although he was a body builder and loved Football, he decided to become an actor. He felt his football career would be over at 30 and he wanted to have a life long career.

Looking to pick up some extra money, Connery helped out backstage at the King’s Theater in late 1951. He became interested in the proceedings, and a career was launched.

In 1957, Connery played Spike, a minor gangster with a speech impediment in Montgomery Tully’s No Road Back alongside Skip Homeier, Paul Carpenter, Patricia Dainton and Norman Wooland. He then played a rogue lorry driver Johnny Yates in Cy Endfield’s Hell Drivers (1957) alongside Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins and Patrick McGoohan. Later in 1957 Connery appeared in Terence Young’s poorly received MGM action picture Action of the Tiger opposite Van Johnson, Martine Carol, Herbert Lom and Gustavo Rojo; the film was shot on location in southern Spain. He also had a minor role in Gerald Thomas’s thriller Time Lock (1957) as a welder, appearing alongside Robert Beatty, Lee Patterson, Betty McDowall and Vincent Winter, which commenced filming on 1 December 1956 at Beaconsfield Studios.

In 1958 he had a major role in the melodrama Another Time, Another Place (1958) as a British reporter named Mark Trevor, caught in a love affair opposite Lana Turner and Barry Sullivan. During filming, star Lana Turner’s possessive gangster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, who was visiting from Los Angeles, believed she was having an affair with Connery. He stormed onto the set and pointed a gun at Connery, only to have Connery disarm him and knock him flat on his back. Stompanato was banned from the set. Connery later recounted that he had to lie low for a while after receiving threats from men linked to Stompanato’s boss, Mickey Cohen.

In 1959, Connery landed a leading role in Robert Stevenson’s Walt Disney Productions film Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) alongside Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, and Jimmy O’Dea. The film is a tale about a wily Irishman and his battle of wits with leprechauns. Upon the film’s initial release, A. H. Weiler of the New York Times praised the cast (save Connery whom he described as “merely tall, dark, and handsome”) and thought the film an “overpoweringly charming concoction of standard Gaelic tall stories, fantasy and romance.”. In his book The Disney Films, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin stated that, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People is not only one of Disney’s best films, but is certainly one of the best fantasies ever put on film.”

He also had a prominent television role in Rudolph Cartier’s 1961 production of Anna Karenina for BBC Television, in which he co-starred with Claire Bloom.

Connery’s breakthrough came in the role of secret agent James Bond. He was reluctant to commit to a film series, but understood that if the films succeeded his career would greatly benefit. He played the character in the first five Bond films: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thundeball (1965), and You Only Live Twice (1967) then appeared again as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983). All seven films were commercially successful.

Sean Connery’s selection as James Bond owed a lot to Dana Broccoli, wife of Cubby Broccoli, who is reputed to have been instrumental in persuading Cubby that Sean Connery was the right man. James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, originally doubted Connery’s casting, saying, “He’s not what I envisioned of James Bond looks” and “I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stunt-man,” adding that Connery (muscular, 6′ 2″, and a Scot) was unrefined. Fleming’s girlfriend told him Connery had the requisite sexual charisma. Fleming changed his mind after the successful Dr. No première; he was so impressed, he created a half-Scottish, half-Swiss heritage for James Bond in the later novels.

Connery’s portrayal of Bond owes much to stylistic tutelage from director Terence Young, polishing the actor while using his physical grace and presence for the action. Lois Maxwell (the first Miss Moneypenny) claimed that, “Terence took Sean under his wing. He took him to dinner, showed him how to walk, how to talk, even how to eat.” The tutoring was successful; Connery received thousands of fan letters a week, and the actor became one of the great male sex symbols of film.

In 2005, From Russia with Love was adapted by Electronic Arts into a video game, titled James Bond 007: From Russia with Love, which featured all-new voice work by Connery as well as his likeness, and those of several of the film’s supporting cast.

Although Bond had made him a star, Connery eventually tired of the role and the pressure the franchise put on him, saying that he was “fed up to here with the whole Bond bit” While making the Bond films, Connery also starred in other acclaimed films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Apart from The Man Who Would Be King and The Wind and the Lion, both released in 1975, most of Connery’s successes in the next decade were as part of ensemble casts in films such as Murder on the Orient Express (1974) with Vanessa Redgrave and John Gielgud and A Bridge Too Far (1977) co-starring Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Olivier.

In 1981, Connery appeared in the film Time Bandits as Agamemnon. The casting choice derives from a joke Michael Palin included in the script, in which he describes the character removing his mask as being “Sean Connery — or someone of equal but cheaper stature”. When shown the script, Connery was happy to play the supporting role. In 1982, Connery narrated G’olé!, the official film of the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

After his experience with Never Say Never Again in 1983 and the following court case, Connery became unhappy with the major studios and for two years did not make any films. Following the successful European production The Name of the Rose (1986), for which he won a BAFTA award, Connery’s interest in more commercial material was revived. That same year, a supporting role in Highlander showcased his ability to play older mentors to younger leads, which would become a recurring role in many of his later films. The following year, his acclaimed performance as a hard-nosed Irish-American cop in The Untouchables (1987) earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, his sole nomination throughout his career. His subsequent box-office hits included Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), in which he played Henry Jones Sr., the title character’s father, The Hunt for Red October (1990) (where he was reportedly called in at two weeks’ notice), The Russia House (1990), The Rock (1996), and Entrapment (1999). In 1996, he voiced the role of Draco the dragon in the film Dragonheart. In 1998, Sean Connery received a BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award.

In recent years, Connery’s films have included several box office and critical disappointments such as First Knight (1995), The Avengers (1998), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), but he also received positive reviews, including his performance in Finding Forrester (2000). He also later received a Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema.

HITCHCOCK

11 Apr

hitchcock

“Although he never won an Academy Award, in 1979 the American film Institute awarded him their life time achievement award.”

SYNOPSIS: HITCHCOCK is a love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock and his wife and partner Alma Reville. The film takes place during the making of Hitchcock’s seminal movie Psycho.

CAST
Anthony Hopkins……………………..Alfred Hitchcock
Helen Mirren………………………………Alma Reville
Scarlett Johansson……………………………Janet Leigh
Toni Collette………………………………………Peggy
Danny Huston……………………..……..Whitfield Cook
Jessica Biel……………………………………Vera Miles
Michael Stuhlbarg………………………Lew Wasserman
James D’Arcy……………………………Anthony Perkins
Michael Wincott………………………………….Ed Gein
Kurtwood Smith……………………….Geoffrey Shurlock
Richard Portnow…………………………Barney Balaban

Review: Directed by Sacha Gervasi; written by John J. McLaughlin, and based on the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello, the film is a biopic that takes place during the filming of Hitchcock’s Psycho.
The story opens with Hitchcock narrating the events surrounding the arrest of Ed Gein, a real serial killer whom the book Psycho is written. When Hitchcock’s newest picture “North by Northwest” is released it becomes a major success for Paramount studios. Hitchcock is obligated to make one more film for Paramount, Hitchcock wants it to be Psycho. Barney Balaban head of Paramount protests as does Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville. From here on in the story surrounds itself with Hitchcock’s obsessions. The film looks at his loving yet sexless marriage with Alma, realistically played by Helen Mirren. She is delightful and droll and in life is also his writing partner. Alma puts up with Hitchcock’s obsessions with getting Psycho made, and his obsessions with the beautiful blonde leading ladies he has procured over the years as a filmmaker.

Anthony Hopkins is an interesting choice to play “Hitch”. It is easy for an actor to cross the line and make Hitchcock a cartoon; Hopkins captures the essence of Hitchcock’s public persona without going over the line into caricature. Hopkins navigates Hitchcock’s obsession such as his obsession with his blonde leading ladies, his almost paranoid suspicion about his wife Alma’s friendship with writer, Whitfield Cook, and the delusions he has of serial killer Ed Gein as he dreams day and night that Gein is controlling his every action. All his delusions come to a head when he is filming the famous shower scene with Janet Leigh. Hitch berates the stand-in for not stabbing Leigh in a realistic manner; her reactions are superficial not real. As the cameras are rolling, Hitch takes the knife and in a terrifying manner goes after Leigh. She is genuinely terrified as he goes at her with the knife. Hitch is having mental delusions about his wife cheating on him, his obsession with Vera Miles, and the dead bodies found in Ed Gein’s home before his arrest. When Hitch snaps out of it, he prints the take and everything is back to normal. Also quite amazing is a scene at the theater where Psycho premiers. Hitch is under enormous pressure for the film to be a success, he stands to lose everything. Hitch arranged with theater owners around the country not to let anyone in the theater after the movie starts and not to give away the ending. As the now famous eee,eee,eee, shower music is playing, Hitch is standing outside in the lobby conducting the screams he hears, like an orchestra conductor. Needless to say the movie was a huge success.

Helen Mirren plays Alma Reville, Hitch’s wife and writing partner. Alma both loves and reviles Hitch and his obsessions. She becomes close with the writer Whitfield Cook and agrees to help him write a screenplay based on a story he wrote. Hitch keeps ignoring Alma as she asks Hitch to read the story and make a movie out of it. As Alma and Whit get closer, Hitch obsesses with the notion that his wife has taken a lover, after all they sleep in separate beds, have a sexless marriage, and Alma to tune him out wears a mask over her eyes when she goes to bed. As time goes on Hitch becomes more paranoid about the relationship and eats and drinks obsessively. Mirron plays the part with patience, tolerance and understanding.

Scarlett Johansson takes on Janet Leigh. Although physically she is no Janet Leigh, Johansson captures Leigh in subtle ways, the way she walks, the way she speaks, her charm etc. Leigh and Vera Miles become friendly on the set, Miles warns Leigh about the falling out she had with Hitch. Alma is worried that Hitch will obsess about Leigh, Leigh proves her wrong and Alma appreciates Leigh’s professional behavior.

Danny Huston plays the writer Whitfield “Whit” Cook, he befriends Alma, and hopes she will help his career by having Hitch make a movie from a story he wrote. Hitch will have none of it, although Hitch at times tries to placate Alma. Whit in truth is a scoundrel and although he flirts with Alma, she manages to keep him at bay. Their friendship ends when she catches Whit, who is married, fooling around with a young lady when he was supposed to be working on the script. Alma would retreat into working with Whit as an escape from Hitch. Huston does a good job although he has little to do.

James D’Arcy brings Anthony Perkins to life with all his nuance and neurosis. Although the role is small D’Arcy’s Perkins is right on the money.

There are many homage’s to Hitch, such as the device of him narrating the story like he did on his television show, or at the end when he tells us he looking for his next film to direct, a big black crow, ala The Birds, lands on his shoulders. The film was well done with a great cast. Ivan (Animal House) Reitman produced, so you know there was a little tongue in cheek throughout.

The movie is available on Netflix, Amazon and Redbox

Recommended: camera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-icon

Bond, James Bond PT 5: M Bernard Lee, Robert Brown, Dame Judi Dench

9 Apr

images

“He turned me into that unsavory character, M.”

 

M is a fictional character in Ian Fleming’s Bond books  and film franchise; the character is the Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service also known as MI6. Fleming based the character on a number of people he knew who commanded sections of British intelligence. M has appeared in the novels by Fleming and seven continuation authors, as well as appearing in twenty-four films.

In the EON Productions, Albert R. Broccoli produced, Bond films, M has been portrayed by four actors: Bernard Lee, Robert Brown, dame Judi Dench and Ralph Finnes, who is the current incumbent; in two independent productions, M has been played by John Huston and Edward Fox.

Fleming based much of M’s character on Rear Admiral, John Godfrey, who was Fleming’s superior at the Naval Intelligence Division during WWII. After Fleming’s death, Godfrey complained “He turned me into that unsavory character, M.”

Fleming’s third Bond novel, Moonraker, establishes M’s initials as “M**** M*******” and his first name is subsequently revealed to be Miles. In the final novel of the series, The Man with The Golden Gun, M’s full identity is revealed as Vice Admiral Sir Miles Messervy KCMG;Messervy had been appointed to head of MI6 after his predecessor had been assassinated at his desk.

leem

Bernard Lee: 1962–79

M was played by Bernard Lee from the first Bond film, Dr. No, until Moonraker, (1979). In Dr. No, M refers to his record of reducing the number of operative casualties since taking the job, implying someone else held the job recently before him. The film also saw M refer to himself as head of MI7; Lee had originally said MI6, but was overdubbed with the name MI7 prior to the film’s release. Earlier in the film, the department had been referred to as MI6 by a radio operator.

A number of Bond scholars have noted the Lee’s interpretation of the character was in line with the original literary representation; John Cork and Collin Stutz observed that Lee was “very close to Fleming’s version of the character”, whilst Steven Jay Rubin commented on the serious, efficient, no-nonsense authority figure. Smith and Lavington, meanwhile, remarked that Lee was “the very incarnation of Fleming’s crusty admiral.”

Lee died of cancer in January 1981, four months into the filming of For Your eyes Only and before any of his scene s could be filmed. Out of respect, no new actor was hired to assume the role and, instead, the script was re-written so that the character is said to be on leave, with his lines given to either his Chief of Staff Bill Tanner or the Minister of Defence, Sir Fredrick Gray. Later films referred to Lee’s tenure as head of the service, with a painting of him as M in MI6’s Scottish headquarters during the 1999 installment, The World Is Not Enough.

 

brown m

 

Robert Brown: 1983–89

After Lee’s death in 1981, the producers hired actor Robert Brown to play M in Octopussy. Brown had previously played Admiral Hargreaves, in the 1977 film, The Spy Who Loved Me. Bond scholars Rubin,  Cork, and  Stutz all consider Admiral Hargreaves would have been promoted to the role of M, rather than Brown playing a different character as M.

Pfeiffer and Worrall considered that whilst Brown looks perfect, the role had been softened from that of Lee; they also considered him “far too avuncular”, although in License to Kill they remarked that he came across as being very effective as he removed Bond’s double o license. Bond book series continuation author Raymond Benson agrees, noting that the M role was “once again under written, and Brown is not allowed the opportunity to explore and reveal his character traits”; Benson also considered the character to be “too nice”.

Judi-Dench-as-M-the-head--001

Dame Judi Dench: 1995–2012

After the long period between Licence to Kill and Goldeneye, the producers brought in Dame Judi Dench to take over as the new M. The character is based on Stella Rimington, the real-life head of MI5 between 1992 and 1996. For GoldenEye, M is cold, blunt and unabashedly dislikes Bond, whom she calls a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.” Tanner, her Chief of Staff, refers to her during the film as “the Evil Queen of Numbers”, given her reputation at that stage for relying on statistics and analysis rather than impulse and initiative.

Dench continued playing M for the 2006 film Casino Royale, which rebooted the series with Daniel Craig playing Bond. In this new continuity, M has worked for MI6 for some time, at one point muttering, “Christ, I miss the Cold War”. Her ability to run the Secret Service has been questioned several times; in Casino Royale, she was the subject of a review when Bond was caught shooting an unarmed prisoner on camera; in Quantum of Solace, the Foreign Secretary ordered her to personally withdraw Bond from the field in Bolivia and to stop any investigations into Dominic Greene, the villain of the film; and in Skyfall, she is the subject of a public inquiry when MI6 loses a computer hard drive containing the identities of undercover agents around the world. Skyfall marks Dench’s final appearance as M. Her character becomes the target of the film’s villain, Raoul Silva, over a perceived betrayal. She is shot and killed during the climax of the film, making Judi Dench’s M the only M to be killed in the Eon Bond films.

There have also been brief references to M’s family: in GoldenEye, she responds to Tanner’s “Evil Queen of Numbers” jibe by telling him that when she wants to hear sarcasm she will listen to her children. Quantum of Solace director Marc Forter suggested that Dench’s casting gave the character maternal overtones in her relationship with Bond, overtones made overt in Skyfall, in which Silva repeatedly refers to her as “Mother” and “Mommy”. In Skyfall she is also revealed to be a widow.

Unlike the other actors to play M, Dench’s character was never referred to by name on-screen. However, a prop from the final scene of Skyfall, where M bequeaths some of her possessions to Bond following her death, revealed that her character was given the name “Olivia Mansfield”. As the character was never directly referred to by this name, it still may be a mystery.

Bond, James Bond Pt4: Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell

8 Apr

maxwell01

“I always said I’d have Roger (Moore) for a husband, but Sean (Connery) for a weekend lover.”

Everyone knows (or should know) Lois Maxwell as the one and only “Miss Moneypenny”, but there’s much more to her acting career than that. She started out against her parents’ will, and without their knowledge, in a Canadian children’s radio program, credited as “Robin Wells”. Before the age of 15 she left for England with the Canadian army’s Entertainment Corps and managed (after her age had been discovered) to get herself enrolled in The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she met and became friends with Roger Moore.

Her movie career started with a Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger production, Stairway to Heaven (1946). After having won The Most Promising Newcomer Golden Globe Award in 1947, she went to Hollywood and made six films before she decided to try her luck in Italy. She ha to leave Italy to go to England when her husband became ill, and since then she has had roles in a number of movies besides the first 14 Bond movies. In 1989 she retired.

Maxwell lobbied for the role in the James Bond film Dr. No, as her husband had had a heart attack and they needed the money. Director Terence Young, who once had turned her down on the grounds that she looked like she “smelled of soap”, offered her either Moneypenny or the recurring Bond girlfriend, Sylvia Trench, but she was uncomfortable with a revealing scene in the screenplay. The role as M’s secretary guaranteed just two days’ work at £100 a day; Maxwell supplied her own clothes. The Trench character, however, was eliminated after From Russia with Love.

In 1967, Maxwell angered Sean Connery for a time by appearing in the Italian spy spoof Operation Kid Brother, with the star’s brother Neil Connery and Benard Lee. In 1971, Maxwell was nearly replaced for Diamonds are Forever after demanding a pay raise; her policewoman’s cap disguises hair she had already dyed for another role. However she continued in the role, as her former classmate Roger Moore took over the part of 007. In 1975, she played Moneypenny weeping for the death of James Bond in a short scene with Bernard Lee as M in the French comedy Bons baisers de Hong. For the filming of A View to Kill (1985), her final appearance, Bond producer Cubby Broccoli told her that the two of them were the only ones from Dr. No still working on the series. Maxwell asked that her character be killed off, but Broccoli recast the role instead. Her final Bond film was also Moore’s last outing, and she was succeeded by Caroline Bliss during Timothy Dalton’s tenure and later by Samantha Bond in the Pierce Brosnan films.

As Moneypenny, according to author Tom Lisanti, she was seen as an “anchor”, with her flirtatious repartee with Bond lending the films realism and humanism. For Moneypenny, Bond was “unobtainable”, freeing the characters to make outrageous sexual double entendures. At the same time, her character did little to imbue the series with changing feminist ideals. While still acting in the Bond films during the 80s Lois also became a regular columnist for the Toronto Sun newspaper. She purchased a cottage in northern Ontario and would often share stories about her experiences on the movie set, her co-stars, life in Italy, her experiences growing up in Canada and about her present life in general. As well as commenting on topics of the day. Her feature was a favorite for many and she was sorely missed when she finally retired from writing for the Toronto Sun.

She was the first actress to play the role of MissMoneypenny in the Bond Films, playing the character from Dr. No, in 1962 until her final performance of the character in the 1985 film A View to Kill. Is second only to Desmond Llewelyn for the number of appearances in James Bond movies. She was in 14 and he was in 18.

As Maxwell’s career declined, she lived in Canada, Switzerland, and England, until she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2001. She moved to Perth, Western Australia, where she lived with her son until her death in 2007, at the age of eighty

Anna Karenina (Blu-ray) DVD

7 Apr

Anna-Karenina-Movie-Wallpapers-3-1024x768

Synopsis: Director Joe Wright and writer Tom Stoppard’s visually  stunning telling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Featuring Keira Knightley as Anna and Jude Law as Karenin, the story speaks of love, infidelity and consequences in the Imperial age of Russia in the late 1900’s.

Cast

Keira Knightley …………………………………………Anna Karenina

 Jude Law………………………………………………………………Karenin

Aaron Taylor-Johnson…..…………………………………….Vronsky

Kelly Macdonald………….……………….…………………………..Dolly

 Matthew Macfadyen………………………………………………Oblonsky

Domhnall Gleeson………………………………..…………………….Levin

Ruth Wilson Princess Betsy…….……………..………………Tverskoy

Alicia Vikander………………………………..………………………….Kitty

 Olivia Williams……………………….…………………Countess Vronsky

 Emily Watson…………………………..…………………….Countess Lydia

Review: Directed by Joe Wright and written by Tom Stoppard, this version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is both lavish and well acted. Here within lies the conundrum, the film makers can’t seem to decide whether this is an experiment in cinema or an experiment in filmed theatrics.

The story unfolds inside a large theater that through a variety of both synchronized choreography and camera movement becomes Russia in the Imperial era of the mid 1900s.. For example the stage has lavish stage backdrops that depict various landscapes and cities, trains literally go in and out of the theater as it is transformed into a lavish looking train station, then like magic it transforms through rapid set changes into a seat of government or the home of Anna Karenina and her husband Karenin. It seems as each character appears and goes through a stage door some new set is waiting behind it. This experiment in cinema is very distracting when you are trying to understand who each new character is and how they are related to each other.

The time is 1874. Vibrant and beautiful, Anna Karenina has what any of her contemporaries would aspire to; she is the wife of Karenin a high-ranking government official to whom she has borne a son, and her social standing in St. Petersburg could scarcely be higher. She journeys to Moscow after a letter from her philandering brother Oblonsky arrives, asking for Anna to come and help save his marriage to Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). En route, Anna makes the acquaintance of Countess Vronsky, who is then met at the train station by her son, the dashing cavalry officer Vronsky. When Anna is introduced to Vronsky, there is a mutual spark of instant attraction that cannot – and will not – be ignored.

The Moscow household is also visited by Oblonsky’s best friend Levin, an overly sensitive and compassionate landowner. Levin is in love with Dolly’s younger sister Kitty. Inopportunely, he proposes to Kitty but she is infatuated with Vronsky. Devastated, Levin returns to his Pokrovskoe estate and throws himself into farm work. Kitty herself is heartbroken when, at a grand ball, Vronsky only has eyes for Anna and the married woman reciprocates the younger man’s interest.

Anna struggles to regain her equilibrium by rushing home to St. Petersburg, where Vronsky follows her. She attempts to resume her familial routine, but is consumed by thoughts of Vronsky. A passionate affair ensues, which scandalizes St. Petersburg society. Karenin is placed in an untenable position and is forced to give his wife an ultimatum. In attempting to attain happiness, the decisions Anna makes pierce the veneer of an image-obsessed society, reverberating with romantic and tragic consequences that dramatically change her and the lives of all around her.

Tolstoy wrote about Russian society, I think most people want Gone with the Wind romance. But why this was so deeply clever was that it cut to the real story which is NOT about a fallen woman, or love. It’s about how lust almost incidentally is the backdrop for the question between whether what is right is good, and in those days that meant religion and society. Keira being so exquisitely beautiful, all the more perfect for the imperfect eye teeth, brought a brittle doll like quality which, just like the sparten but beautiful set, underscored that this is NOT a story about a deep love and sensuality. It’s a story about right and wrong, spirituality, the soul and the meaning of life! Anna feels that lust is the answer to an existentially empty life, but she needs the theatre of society. The battle for her is the social v. lust. We can’t help but understand her plight. Brittle Keira makes the social dominate at the beginning and shatter like a china doll.

It is the acting that in fact redeems this movie. Jude law is steadfast as he battles with God’s law and the laws that society demand of him. He is never angry but never at real peace. There are a few familiar faces in the cast such as Emily Watson of Downton Abbey who plays Countess Lydia, and Domhnall Gleeson as Levin, who you may remember as Bill Weasley in the Potter movies.

Stoppard’s screenplay covers all the bases of Tolstoy’s vision of love, hate, sacrifice and remorse. What was missing for me in all the eye candy, was a real depth of emotion. Was this a masterpiece of cinema risk taking leaving behind the language of cinema story telling or was this a filmed theatrical with over the top melodrama? Don’t get me wrong there are genuine moments of brilliant acting and emotion, the problem is that the design and grandeur of the sets soon become a distraction.

The Blu-ray format enhances a textural movie such as this, the lush seems more luxurious, the colors are so vivid you feel you there watching the story unfold before your eyes.  Available on Netflix, Amazon and at the Red Box.

Recommended: camera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-icon