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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

THE IRON LADY

By D.E.Levine

Meryl Streep does an amazing job of turning herself into Margaret Thatcher, the first and only female prime minister of The United Kingdom, earned herself the name of "The Iron Lady."

With strong convictions regarding balancing the budget, international relations and a variety of other areas, Thatcher took her country from a depressed economy to a flourishing one, survived IRA terrorist bombings and successfully fought to retain control of the Falkland Islands, but not without controversy and dissension.

This film presents an intimate portrait of Thatcher, showing how despite a loving, patient and supportive husband Denis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent) her marriage suffered because of her dedication to her political career.

For those who are old enough to remember Mrs. Thatcher or who watch the numerous news clips available, it is uncanny at how Streep has managed to transform herself into the character. It's more than the excellent makeup provided. Streep has captured the walk, the nuances of Thatcher's voice, the tilt of her head and all the small familiar actions that made her distinctive.

The Iron Lady seems almost like a documentary at times as it shows very clearly the making of a "winner". Her political advisers taught Thatcher how to dress, how to color and cut her hair, how to modulate and use her shrill voice - in short, they taught her how to present herself. Remember, some of the most successful leaders like Presidents Reagan and Kennedy had acting experience and/or lessons. Even Hitler studied with an acting teacher before he turned his unacceptable speeches into mesmerizing oration.

Thatcher had the brains and the gumption to lead the country. Her advisers and counselors groomed Margaret Thatcher to be a presentable candidate and in doing so they created her image. But, she created her leadership style, which was strong and stubborn and would eventually lead to her resignation. However, she served for 12 years before being forced out.

The sad part is that we're shown her decline in later years when her husband dies and she continues to converse with him, and when Alzheimer sets in robbing her of her memory and her freedom.

Streep's portrayal can only be classified as amazing and may cause various organizations to take notice of this role as one more exceptional than those in her past and deserving of awards.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL

By D.E.Levine

This is a film that doesn't disappoint. Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back and he's looking better than ever.

When you see this, definitely see it in Imax, because even though this is the best Mission Impossible film since the first, Imax makes it even better.

This time, the Impossible Mission Force is implicated in a global terrorist bombing and is literally shut down. Of course, the audience knows that IMF has been framed, but how will they prove it?

With Ghost Protocol initiated, Hunt and his new rogue team must work off the grid to clear the IMF name.

Ghost Protocol is definitely the most action-packed of the MI films. With Tom Cruise willing to hang off the sides of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, (he's still doing his own stunts at age 50), there are unbelievable stunts and action.

While Simon Pegg, as the computer expert, adds to the film, Jeremy Renner is the inquisitive member, questioning Hunt about the outcome of their exploits. One has to wonder whether, with the IMF franchise being so lucrative, and with Cruise already entering his 50s, could Renner be on the verge of being groomed for an ongoing and larger role?

Of course, in the opening scenes, Ethan is in a Russian prison and another IMF agent, working with a technical expert has to break him out. Teaming up with Hunt and his own team, the composite group travel where needed to follow leads and set the record straight.

While they may be on their own, the IMF team has lots of trendy gadgets with which to work.

In short, this is a film for pure entertainment. You don't have to think deep thoughts or figure out anything complex. Just enjoy it and have fun.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

By D.E.Levine

For a man who dedicated most of his career to New York films, Woody Allen has been doing a lot of traveling lately.

Over the past few years he's set his films in London, Spain and now Paris. This film, his 41st, is really a love story to Paris, starting with a travelogue of all the major sights.

Gil (Owen Wilson), a screenwriter from Hollywood, goes on a holiday to Paris with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents

Frankly, this is a couple who doesn't have very much in common. He harbors the desire to write a great novel and live in Paris. She wants to live in an upper class suburb in the USA.

While Gil, awe-struck, follows Hemingway's trail of pubs and bistros, Inez goes shopping. At night Gil goes out by himself, gets lost and sits down on some church steps and as the bell rings midnight a Peugeot filled with revelers pulls up.

The revelers include Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and by sticking with them Gil is plunged into the Jazz Age and meets a great many of the famous artists of the time like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Dali and Brunel for example.

Gil is so intrigued with the artists and entranced by the Jazz Age that he keeps going back. Is it all in his imagination or has he really time traveled?

Gil is appealing and sincere, and his relationships with the artists cause him to change the course of his life in and unexpected manner.

Overall, this is just a wonderful, entertaining, feel good film with magnificent cinematography.

Monday, November 7, 2011

THE DESCENDANTS

A NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

By D.E.Levine

Director Alexander Payne brings us a drama/comedy that centers on Matt King (George Clooney) a lawyer, descendant of Hawaiian royalty and an indifferent father of two daughters.

When his wife Elizabeth is injured in a boating accident off Waikiki and lays comatose and dying in the hospital, Matt is forced to re-examine his life.

As he struggles to re-connect with his 10 and 17-year old daughters and assume the active role of father, Matt has to face the reality of his wife's infidelity and also decide whether to sell the land given to his family by Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. His relatives have given him the responsibility, even as different cousins politic for their favorite buyer and deal.

While they say actors should never act with pets or children, Clooney, who is single and has no children, has stepped outside his comfort zone and is totally believable in the role of father and deceived husband.

His co-stars are Shailene Woodle (playing a rebellious 17-year old Alexandra), Amara Miller (playing 10-year old Scottie) and Nick Krause as Alexandra's teenage family friend, with Beau Bridges as Matt's cousin and Judy Greer as the wife of his wife's lover.

It's angry and surly Alexandra who drops the bombshell that her mother was cheating on Matt. Her anger over the affair and the fact that her father is completely unaware explains much of her behavior. Much of the movie is devoted to Matt, an inept stalker if ever there was one, trying to locate the "other man."

There are several plots, and Payne, who also contributed to writing the script, lets things unwind in a leisurely fashion instead of rushing from one plot to the next. The grief and anger on the part of the main characters, and the emotional reactions are complex but completely believable in this outstanding ensemble film.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

THE ARTIST

A NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

By D.E.Levine

Before they had movies with sound or talkies, they had silent movies, and that's exactly what director Michel Hazanavicious has produced in his superb film, The Artist.

Centering on a silent screen star, George Valentine (Jean Dujardin), in 1926, the actor doesn't speak at all. We see him in out takes from his silent films, dancing and singing in personal appearances and rehearsals, but we never hear him or any of the actors, relying on intertitles to let us know what's going on.

Unfortunately, George doesn't transition to talkies. As others rise in the public's popularity, George is reduced to ruin, since he can't adapt. As a result he loses everything.

But this is a Hollywood movie and there has to be a happy ending. Earlier in the film Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a starlet wannabe accidentally bumps into George in a fateful collision of the up-and-coming future colliding with the popular present and soon to be past. George is kind to Peppy and helps her initially getting her work as an extra and then boosting her career. As a result, she has an unflagging interest in him and winds up coming to the rescue.

The film is a loving tribute to many of the existing film classics, and writer/director Hazanavicious borrows from some well known scenes.

The costumes are exquisite and although the film was initially shot by cinematographer Guillame Schiffman in color, it was converted to black and white monochrome in the
laboratory. Without spoken words, the emphasis is on the acting and the continuous score by Ludovic Bourse.

The intertitles are in English and although the stars are French, there are a number of well-known American actors in key roles.

Perhaps because it's such a loving tribute to silent films, The Artist has been on a continual swell of popularity. However, it's doubtful this means silent films are making a comeback.