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The King’s Speech (2010)

Because I bloody well stammer!

— King George VI

Colin Firth is coming into his own as an actor with his nuisanced performance in last year’s A Single Man. He is getting more notice for his latest movie, The King’s Speech. Personally, I thought the movie was going to be a boring movie about British people talking for two hours. It’s a lot more than that. Will it win Best Picture of the year? No. That doesn’t mean that the movie was horrible. It’s a solid movie.

Halfway through this movie, I did not realize that the story was about Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI (Firth). It deals with his struggle with a speech impediment that he has dealt with since he was a little boy. The movie starts in 1924 when he had to give a speech to his fellow countrymen. It does not go very well. He is embarrassed about his stuttering.

During the years afterward, Albert, Duke of York, before he was would be king, tried everything under the sun to get rid of his stutter, including smoking and stuffing his mouth with marbles. His wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) goes out to search for the perfect speech therapist to help out her frustrated husband. She thinks that she has found him in Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an over-the-hill Australian theater actor. She has to go under the pseudonym of Johnson to not distract their royalty status.

The Duke is skeptical about the unorthodox methods of Mr. Logue. Their first session together is a disaster when Lionel tried to be on a level playing field with The Duke. They wanted to be on a first name basis with the Duke calling him, “Lionel” and Lionel calling The Duke his family nickname, “Bertie.” Bertie reluctantly agree to one session with him and is surprised about what he could do. As their sessions go on, Lionel tries to pinpoint the exact cause of his stuttering.

I don’t know what it is, but I think I have a bias of British movies. Is it because it deals with the monarchy that I have no knowledge of? Is is the accents? The stuffy attire? Who knows? There were some bring points with the movie. Colin Firth is brining his A game here. I have never seen a photo of King George VI and I have no idea what he sounded like during his speech, but I felt fine that he exposed a flaw in the perfect monarchy. Geoffrey Rush’s quirky performance was the standout for me. I thought Helena Bonham Carter was nice, but her character didn’t have much gravitas. She was the doting wife and that’s it. Lastly, it was hilarious to me that Guy Pearce would be playing Firth’s older brother, David.

Judgment: It’s a solid movie about a part of history that we never knew. It tells the story of the unsung hero, Lionel Logue.

Rating: ****

Layer Cake (2005)

My name? If you knew that, you’d be as clever as me.

— XXXX

Over the years, film geeks have been singing the praises of Matthew Vaughn’s breakout debut film, Layer Cake. It is also ensured Daniel Craig getting a spot as the next James Bond. English gangster films are hit and miss with me. More hit than miss with me. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

J.J. Connolly adapted his book of the same name about his tale of a cocaine dealer known cryptically as XXXX (Daniel Craig) who wants to get out of the game before he gets in too deep. He is not a gangster. He has never first a gun in his time of dealing the coke. His philosophies are keeping a low profile, have a small team of men cutting up the product like Terry and Clarkie (Tamer Hassan, Tom Hardy), never get greedy and always pay your supplier on time. His supplier is Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) who dispatches his right hand man, Gene (Colm Meaney) to transport the drugs and the money.

Price wants to have a private meeting with XXXX to help Price’s friend, Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) find his missing daughter, Charlotte (Nathalie Lunghi) who could be with her junkie boyfriend, Kinky (Marvin Benoit).

To make matters worse for XXXX, a pompous asshole nicknamed The Duke (Jamie Foreman) steals over a million Super E pills from Serbian war criminals with the help of his girlfriend, Slasher (Sally Hawkins) and right hand, Gazza (Burn Gorman). The Duke wants to sell the pills for a ridiculous amount of profit.

XXXX enlists his mates Cody and Tiptoes (Dexter Fletcher, Steve John Shepherd) to deal with the girls as he has a shit storm falling on him. Apparently, The Duke boldly said his name to the Serbs and one of them hires an assassin named Dragan (Dragan Micanovic) to go after XXXX and he associates. XXXX has to find a way to rectify the situation.

The first half of the movie was a lot of exposition that was okay. Not exactly thrilling, but there is a turning point where everything comes together and I was hooked in. There is not like a Guy Ritchie movie. It is not over the top with the characters having weird quirks or having exaggerated accents. It seems grounded in reality. I applaud the film for that.

Judgment: A tight crime caper. What more can you want?

Rating: ****

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Wes Anderson’s foray into animation culminated with the Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the classic book by Roald Dahl. I was hesitant watching this movie from the trailer for it. I was iffy on the animation. This movie came out around Thanksgiving. By Christmas, it was out of theaters. I found the movie at the cheap theater right near me.

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a seasoned thief when it comes to swiping squabs, but in one particular caper, his wife (Meryl Streep) accompanies him to steal chickens for dinner. They are snared in a fox trap and Mrs. Fox announces that she’s pregnant. She wants him to promise if they make it out alive that he would have another profession.

Two years later, he does get out of the profession. He settles down, has a safe job as a columnist He tries to provide a normal life for his oddball son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman). Mr. Fox feels poor that he is living in a hole. He wants to live above ground in the fresh air. Fox’s real estate attorney, Badger (Bill Murray) advices Mr. Fox not to move the family to the new tree, because they cannot afford the tree on his salary.

Ignoring Badger’s advice Mr. Fox moves the family to the glorious tree that overlooks a trio of compounds out in the distance. A family cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) visits the family after his father has fallen ill with double pneumonia. The lanky fox that does yoga and has a certain lilt to his voice threaten Ash.

When Kristofferson settles in, Mr. Fox is getting that itch to pull off one last job. He enlists the help of his possum super, Kiley (Wally Wolodarsky) to be his associate as they try to implement “Mr. Fox’s Master Plan”.

His three phase plans goes as follows: Phase one: infiltrate Boggis’ (Robin Hurlstone) Chicken House, drug the beagles guarding the property with blueberries laced with sleeping powder, make out with the chicken bounty. Phase two: Bunce’s (Hugo Guinness) Refrigerated Smokehouse, repeat process of phase one.

After their heist, the Fox’s pantry is filled with meat. Mrs. Fox is becoming more suspicious about her husband’s nightly duties. When phrase three in put in place: gaining access to Bean’s Secret Cider Cellar. Kristofferson come along to act as that small Asian guy in Ocean’s Eleven. (The parallels between those movies were not lost on me). There is snag in Fox’s Master Plan when the trio meet a Rat (Willem Dafoe) that has watched West Side Story one too many times, guarding the of bottles. They get into a fight and are almost caught be Bean (Michael Gambon) himself getting into his infinite stash of alcoholic cider.

As the trio outsmarted Rat and get away, the three owners have an emergency meeting about Mr. Fox robbing their stocks. They want to kill him. When they fail to do so, they decided to dig them out. Fearing for their lives, the animals decided to dig deeper into the ground. The farmers want to kill the Fox by any means necessary. This threatens the other inhabitants of the land to band together for one common goal to stop the farmers before they destroy all of their homes.

In my opinion, the crude 70s stop motion capture threw me off a little bit. These lanky stick figure miniatures were distracting. The beginning of the movie got off to a rocky start where the characters were overtly quirky to be quirky. When the whole community bands together, that is when the movie was getting real good and I forgot everything about the weird brisk walking, pooling tears in the eyes for a moment. I had a good time with this movie.

Judgment: This movie might not work for kids, but is perfect for adults.

Rating: ****

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