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Thursday, December 22, 2011

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN

A NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

By D.E.Levine

My Week With Marilyn is a charming film that covers the period when Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) was in the United Kingdom filming The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir. Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh).

Written by Adrian Hodges and adapted from the memoir by Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a 23-year old aristocrat just graduated from Oxford and determined to get into the film business in the summer of 1956, Colin describes how he worked as a lowly go-fer assistant to Olivier on the film and got to personally know Marilyn during one week.

When the film opens during a re-enactment of one of Marilyn's famous musical numbers you can see that padding was necessary to give Michelle's slight figure the voluptuous Monroe curves. The makeup isn't convincing either, but that's just at the beginning of the film.

As it progresses, we see that the aging Olivier is hoping that producing and starring in the film with a hot actress like Marilyn will re-vitalize his career. Marilyn has her own goals since she's recently married to famed playwright Arthur Miller and desperately wants to be accepted as an artistic actress, not just a movie star. By producing and starring in the film, Marilyn hopes that her association with the British theater elite will elevate her status.

The story reveals Marilyn as nervous and unsure, bonded at the hip to acting coach Paula Strasberg, and genuinely surprised when Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) tells her "None of the rest of us know how to act for the camera - but, you do."

Marilyn is depressed, drugged, tardy and sometimes inconsolable. However, she shows brilliance when filming and her transgressions are forgiven. Having taken a shine to you Colin, she goes sightseeing and skinny dipping with him, share confidences with him at her rented home, and invites him to cuddle in her bed.

What we see is that the real Marilyn played the part of the public, movie star Marilyn. In the film at least, we see that Private Marilyn turned public Marilyn on and off at will.

In the end, Marilyn goes home to America and Colin Clark has a long, distinguished career.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WAR HORSE

By D.E.Levine

Steven Spielberg has done it again. Lately Spielberg has primarily been an Executive Producer on his films. But War Horse shows he hasn't lost his touch as a director.

The movie is an epic tale set against the background of rural England (starting in Devon)and Europe during the First World War.

In the beginning, a rural farm boy named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) tames and trains Joey, a horse bought by his father. Despite the fact that the horse is not a plow or farm horse, Albert gets Joey to wear a harness and clear and plow a large field.
When rains destroy the flourishing crops planted on that field, Albert's father cannot pay his debts and is forced to sell Joey to the British army.

Amid devastating war scenes, the film follows Joey as he meets and influences the lives of British cavalry, German soldiers and a French farmer and his granddaughter.

A heart wrenching emotional climax is reached during the war in No Man's Land and viewers are on the edge of their seats as Joey is headed to be put down due to injuries and starvation.

In a story book ending fate intervenes and Joey meets a different end. The emotional feelings are palpable.

While Spielberg yet again shows us the tragedy and waste of war, the photography is startling, as is his ability to direct scenes of huge numbers of actors and animals in battle.

Above all, the film emphasizes the human spirit and the devotion between an human and an animal. There is some dichotomy in the continual survival, against all odds, of Joey, when tens of thousands of men died in battle.

However, the warmth of the relationships both in family and military, as well as the overwhelming "feel good" emotion over the love of an animal, surfaces as the driving force.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

RA-ONE

By D.E.Levine

Out of Bollywood comes a clever and thoroughly enjoyable science fiction/thriller/comedy. In India they've been talking about this film for a long time, since it besides being an extravagant film it also has India's biggest film star.

The story centers on Shekhar Subramanium, a video game designer who lives in London and who is thought by his son, Pratik, to be very "uncool."

Shekjhar designs a game, Ra-One with a villain of the same name, who is almost invincible. Pratik, who plays video games under the name "Lucifer" actually defeats Ra-One on a certain level, causing Ra-One to become so angry that he escapes from the machine and goes in search of Lucifer.

When Shekhar claims that he is Lucifer, in an attempt to save his son's life, Ra-One kills him. Ra-One doesn't stop there. Learning that he didn't kill Lucifer, he assumes the identity of Shekhar's colleague, Akashi (Tom Wu) and goes in search of Paitak.

Pratik goes to his father's office where he and Jenny (Shashana Goswami) decide that the G-One (Good-One) has to be released from the game to bsttle Ra-One.
leave London chased by Ra-One to go to India. They are followed and attacked by Ra-One. After many near misses, the Good-One assumes the identity of Shekhar and battles Ra-One.

The trio, thinking Ra-One defeated, go to India, but the resurrected Ra-One follows them in order to kill both Pratik and the Good-One.

There's lots of action as well as some really great Bollywood musical song and dance numbers.

We know happens but we won't spoil your fun by telling you. Buy s ticket and enjoy an exciting, fun-filled movie

Monday, December 12, 2011

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY

By D.E.Levine

As a great fan of John Le Carre's novel, this film is a reiteration of a story already told successfully in a successful TV mini series, starring Alec Guiness, back in the 20th century.

Based at the height of the Cold War in the mid-20th century, MI6 secretly brings back George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a discredited and disgraced British spy.

Convinced that there's a mole inside, the British Secret Intelligence (known as "The Circus") thinks they've been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviet Union.

Despite a stellar cast of British actors, including Colin Firth, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon McBurney and Mark Strong, Oldman, with his poker-faced portrayal of Smiley, dominates the film.
spoil
In his quiet, precise manner, Smiley must determine which of his former colleagues has been working for the Soviets against them as MI6 tries to win the Cold War. But, Smiley cannot tell anyone except one or two chaps that he trusts to work with him, what he's doing.

Forced out with his boss "Control" (John Hurt) when an unauthorized sting goes bad, Smiley is brought in on the QT because of lingering suspicions of a double agent which originated with Control.

This is a thriller of a different nature. It's very quiet, very controlled, very British.

The outcome is a surprise in several ways. It's true to the book and even if you know the story you'll enjoy the way it plays out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO (COLUMBIA PICTURES VERSION)

By D.E.Levine

I liked the original Swedish version of this film and couldn't understand why a remake was in the works so soon after the Swedish release.

The story in this Columbia Pictures version is fairly true to Stieg Larson's blockbuster but subtitles have been eliminated since Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara speak English instead of Swedish.

Even if you know the story, there is tension and suspense throughout the film, so the viewer's attention is held and there are still some surprises. David Fincher has produced a film that will appeal to the public because it has a stellar and recognizable Hollywood cast including Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stelan Skarsgard and Joely Richardson.

The film has more Hollywood dazzle than the Swedish version. Craig is Mikael Bloomqvist, a journalist ruined by the expose of a corrupt industrialist. But unlike the original where he faced jail, there's no urgency here.

Hired by Henrik Vanger the patriarch of a wealthy Swedish family where everyone is at the other's throat, and the head of a rapidly shrinking industrial empire. To the family Bloomqvist is working on a family history. But the actual reason is Henrik wants to know which one of his family members killed a favorite granddaughter in the 1960s and he wants Bloomqvist to re-open the case and investigate.

In need of expert assistance, Bloomqvist hires a punk researcher/hacker, a very disturbed young woman who lives outside the law, is covered with tattoos and body piercings and steals data by whatever electronic means necessary. A ward of the state, she has to contend with a creepy, blackmailing probation officer and knows Bloomqvist's most hidden secrets since she investigated him prior to his hiring.

It's a good thriller and very entertaining. People who missed the Swedish version when it was in theaters will definitely enjoy this and probably won't know the difference as the changes made in the film will obviously be incorporated into the next two films of the trilogy.