Tag Archives: Judi Dench

Quick ‘n’ Dirty: January at home

Here’s my second post devoted to speedy reviews of films I watched on my comfy couch at home during the past month. It’s a very eclectic selection that well reflects the wide range of movies I end up seeing.

A.C.A.B (All Cops Are Bastards): tough and unflinching look at the life of four cops in Rome: three veterans and a rookie. They are part of a riot unit, usually deployed for security at the stadium during football matches, and their job ain’t pretty! Stefano Sollima doesn’t spare any detail in showing how these people live, think and react to various situations. The compelling performance of all the cast, especially Pierfrancesco Favino, carries the viewer along and sells the story effectively. Intense —7/10

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Pawn sacrifice: the story of Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire), wunderkind of the chess world, and his epic battle of wits with Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) in 1972 for the title of world champion. Notwithstanding Maguire’s solid performance, this is a run of the mill drama, formulaic and with no bite or surprises. Fisher’s egotism and paranoia make it even harder for the viewer to root for him, which turns the whole story in a rather pointless exercise.  Off-putting —5/10

 

Clueless: Emma meets Mean Girls with a very poor outcome! Popular and beautiful Cher (Alicia Silverstone) decides to help Tai (Brittany Murphy), a new and very naive student, to fit in and navigate the ups and downs of high school life. Her plan is a little too successful and has some unexpected and unwanted results. Of all the high school themed films I’ve seen, this is a real miss: no sass, no heart, no epic or quotable scenes. The characters are neither relatable nor endearing enough, even a very young Paul Rudd. Lame —4/10

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Chasing mavericks: my soft spot for surfing flicks led me to watch this one.  A scruffy-looking Gerard Butler plays Frosty Hesson, Santa Cruz surfing legend, who reluctantly become mentor and father-figure to young Jay Moriarity. The boy is a surf prodigy and wants, more than anything, to ride mavericks: the biggest waves on Earth. What immediately came to mind was this quote from Point Break: “Big-wave riding’s for macho assholes with a death wish.”, however this film is an inspirational tale of giving everything one’s got to realise one’s dreams (based on a true story). The surfing scenes are thrilling and brilliantly shot. Enthralling —6.5/10

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Jane Eyre: to get my regular fix of period drama I’ve re-watched the 2011 adaptation of this classic novel, helmed and beautifully shot by Cary Fukunaga (before he went on and showed the world his mettle with True Detectives). Poor, plain Jane (skillfully played by Mia Wasikowska) finds home and love in the old manor of Mr. Rochester (Fassbender), only to have everything taken away by a cruel destiny and deceit. Fassbender fits well the shoes of the doomed, romantic hero and, of course, we know that there’s a happy ending to warm the cockles of our heart. Soothing —7/10

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Narc: a dark and gritty tale of undercover cops in Detroit; Joe Carnahan does not pull punches and takes the viewer into a harsh world, aptly shot in hues of blue and gray. Jason Patric and Ray Liotta truly inhabit their characters and play off of each other very well. The adrenaline-fueled opening scene is a gem of camera work and perfect introduction to the story, that alone makes worth watching this film. Uncompromising —7.5/10

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Death proof: I have finally sat down and watched the lesser film of Tarantino’s oeuvre from start to finish, having seen bits and pieces throughout the years. What can I say? It’s a self-indulgent homage to B-movie/horror flicks of the seventies, chock-full of pop culture references, muscle cars and foot fetish. As expected, there are some tough-as-nail ladies who will take matters in their own hands and then there’s Kurt Russell…who is having a blast as a sociopathic stuntman who stalks girls and takes them on their last ride. You need to be in the right mood for this one. Crackpot —6/10

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Philomena

Director: Stephen Frears, Main Cast: Judi DenchSteve CooganAnna Maxwell MartinSophie Kennedy Clark

Judi Dence and Steve Coogan in Philomena

Martin Sixsmith (Coogan), former journalist and  “spin-doctor” for the Labour government, doesn’t know what to do with himself after he got the sack. While in this limbo, he stumbles on a good subject for a “human interest” story: Philomena Lee (Dench). Her tale of woes begins in Ireland in the early fifties when she became pregnant. Being a teenager she was shamed and abandoned by her family and forced to live in a convent, you know the go-to-a-nunnery type of thing. She lived there with her son, in rather appalling conditions, for a few years until one faithful day her son is given away to a well-to-do family by the nuns. Philomena keeps the secret for fifty years but, after telling her daughter, she sets out to find her lost son with Martin’s help. The film follows this odd couple of characters in a quest for truth that is also a journey of self-discovery for both. Judi Dench gives an extraordinary portrayal of Philomena: subdue and subtle, never forced or exaggerated; which is the real strong point of the movie and what makes it involving. I guess it is never easy to make a quality film which is based on a book based on a true story… this one feels a bit re-hashed and more focused on the journalist and his achievement, telling a riveting tale and doing something good in the bargain, than on the actual, far more interesting, story of Philomena. Somewhat disappointing, watch Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters instead! —6.5/10

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Director: John Madden, Main Cast:  Judi DenchBill NighyMaggie SmithTom WilkinsonPenelope WiltonDev Patel

Charming and bittersweet “dramedy” in which seven âgée Brits decide, for different reasons, to move to Jaipur, India, and start a new life at the titular hotel. The manager and partial owner is Sonny (Dev Patel), a young Indian with ambitious dreams: outsourcing old age. He wants to cater to the elderly of rich countries and restore his rundown hotel to its former glory. We follow the story of the different characters as they try to adapt (or not) to their new situation and  how they change and learn. The cast is simply amazing and makes a rather linear plot very engaging. I particularly enjoy Maggie Smith’s witticism and banter with Penelope Wilton (just like in Downton Abbey). Life can be an adventure and a discovery at any age. —8.5/10

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Skyfall

Director: Sam Mendes, Main Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench , Javier BardemNaomie HarrisBen WhishawRalph FiennesAlbert Finney

Far better than the last installment of the 007 series but that does not really say much. It brings back a little humor with tongue in cheek references to the golden era of James Bond. Our favorite spy is a little worse for wear due to his hobby and his beloved country is under attack. The villain du jour has a personal grudge and a penchant for computers… he even outwits the new Q (brilliant Ben Whishaw)! But his thirst for vengeance has the better of him and he goes overboard, so our hero saves the day. As action goes the film really delivers and the cinematography is pretty spectacular. Judi Dench is always impeccable as M and Daniel Craig can fight like a pro and wear a Tom Ford suit with style (still, he is not my favorite 007). I’ve enjoyed very much Albert Finney’s part: cantankerous and ironic. All in all, a quality Bond movie. —6.5/10

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