Wednesday, 16 January 2019

January 17th
Mary Queen of Scots

Things are hotting up. More films are being released by the week, and now we've just had the Critics' Choice Awards with some strong films and performances getting the nod.  
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Length: 150 min
Exclusive to ACMI, Lido Hawthorn, Nova
© Love him or hate him, Silvio Berlusconi
is a memorable character!
For anyone who saw The Great Beauty, you know what a marvellous visual directorial sense Sorrentino has. It's all here, leaping off the screen, in this glorious, over-the-top story of infamous Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, impressively portrayed by Toni Servillo. The film follows two threads - Silvio and his decadent lifestyle, and Sergio (Riccardo Scamarcio), a vulgar pimp who'll stop at nothing to get himself noticed by the upper echelons of power. The film is at once satirical, an amazing portrayal of abuses of power and over-indulgence, and a fascinating look at a man who is both to be pitied and despised. There's a lot of flesh and non-PC stuff happening here, but whatever you think of the man and his shenanigans, you won't be bored in this over-the-top portrayal of politically incorrect politics.
4 - highly recommended!

Director: M Knight Shyamalan
Length: 150 min
© Disney - Superheroes, or ordinary folk with
special powers? 
Characters from Shyamalan's previous films Unbreakable and Split come together in this mind-bending finale to the trilogy. The plot features themes of split personality, superheroes, psychiatric institutions, comic books and faith in one's own abilities. A tall order indeed, and perhaps a little over-ambitious, with too many convoluted concepts. Security guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis) views himself as a saviour of those in distress, but after he rescues a quartet of captive girls from serial killer Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) both he and Crumb end up in a psychiatric hospital where Elijah (Samuel L Jackson), known as Mr Glass, is also a patient. There they are treated by Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) who specialises in handling people who perceive themselves as superheroes. Best not to say too much more, for fear of spoilers. Things head in quite an unexpected direction, with a lot of philosophical prognosticating at the end. I'm not too keen on the casting of Paulson, but the three lead men are excellent, especially McAvoy, as he reprises his character who suffers from multiple personality disorder. The critics seem split, with a leaning towards the negative. Glass will never be as good as Shyamalan's first, The Sixth Sense, but it dished up plenty of thrills and entertainment for me (despite several troubling plot holes!).
3.5 - well recommended!

Mary Queen of Scots
Director: Josie Rourke
Length: 124min
© Universal - royal history brought to life
with a feminist perspective
The supposed lack of accuracy in this film's plotline has enraged some critics. Straight upfront - I'm no history buff so have no idea what is and isn't accurate about these depictions of two rival monarchs. Widowed at 18, Mary (Saiorse Ronan) returns to Scotland from a royal life in France, and claims her right to the Scottish throne. But Queen Elizabeth 1 (Margot Robbie)  rules both England and Scotland. This film examines the difficult role both women play, ruling among a sea of power-hungry men, and also the admiration and rivalry between them. There is a welcome modern feminist sensibility to the portrayals of these strong females and Robbie particularly is quite charismatic as Liz 1. The film toggles between the political machinations of both courts and at times it gets a bit bogged down and convoluted. At other moments baffling stylistic pretensions overwhelm (both set-wise and musically), but overall the period is brought to the screen in a way that makes the era believable. Guy Pearce as the wily Cecil is terrific, as are the various suitors sent from Liz to Mary to attempt to broker a controlled peace. For fans of period drama, a worthy watch.
3 - recommended!

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