The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale
Director: Kenneth Branagh, Rob Ashford
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Miranda Raison, John Shrapnel, Hadley Fraser, Tom Bateman, Jessie Buckley, Michael Pennington
Seen on: 26.11.2015

Plot:
Leontes (Kenneth Branagh), King of Sicily, is visited by his old friend Polixenes (Hadley Fraser), King of Bohemia. When Polixenes wants to leave, Leontes asks his pregnant wife Hermione (Miranda Raison) to convince him to stay. When she succeeds, Leontes believes it’s because she and Polixenes have an affair. Convinced that the child isn’t his, Leontes tries to poison Polixenes and imprisons Hermione, setting events in motion that will have consequences for years to come.

The Winter’s Tale is a mixed bag of beans. While I enjoyed much about it and it really was a high quality production, there were so many unnecessary things that kept adding length when I was hoping for speed that the overall effect was rather meh.

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Spectre (2015)

Spectre
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
Based on: Ian Fleming‘s James Bond novels
Sequel to: Casino Royal, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Judi Dench
Seen on: 10.11.2015

Plot:
The 00 program is still reeling from recent (forced) restructures. Now M (Ralph Fiennes) has to fight to keep it going at all as C (Andrew Scott) tries to establish a more technological data gathering approach to spying. Meanwhile, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on a mission. A mysterious message from the old M (Judi Dench) reaches him, sending him to a funeral in Italy and with it right in the middle of Spectre – a secret organization that seems to have its hand in every major global event.

I’m not a huge Bond fan – which is probably why I enjoyed the most recent efforts in the franchise (well, apart from Quantom of Solace) as it seemed a step away from the worst of Bond’s inherent sexism. Plus, they were good actions films. Spectre, unfortunately, is a jump back into the 70s and with it, into all the Bond-pitfalls that the Craig-Bond-era has at least partly avoided. I was disappointed.

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker
Sequel to: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Cast: Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Penelope WiltonDiana Hardcastle, Dev Patel, Tena DesaeLillete DubeyVikram Singh, David Strathairn, Tamsin Greig, Richard Gere
Seen on: 9.4.2015

Plot:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is doing well with its permanent senior residents. So well, in fact, that Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Maggie Smith) decide that they want to expand. But for that to work, they need an investor. They travel to the USA to talk to Ty Burley (David Strathairn), CEO of a chain of retirement homes there. Burley announces that he will send somebody to check out the hotel and make his decision based on that. But that’s not the only thing going on in the hotel: Sonny is getting married to Sunaina (Tina Desai), his mother (Lillete Dubey) keeps butting in – or at least that’s what Sonny feels. Two new guests arrive (Richard Gere, Tamsin Greig) and the old ones (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle) all have their own issues to deal with.

Much like the first film, the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was mostly fluff. It was funny, sweet and rather enjoyable, if you don’t expect too much of it and just want to see great actors in an entertaining film.

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Philomena (2013)

Philomena
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
Based on: Martin Sixsmith‘s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee
Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Michelle FairleyAnna Maxwell Martin

Plot:
Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a recently unemployed journalist, looking for a new challenge. When he is approached to write about the story of Philomena (Judi Dench), he is nevertheless hesitant. Philomena, now an old woman, had a child at a very young age (Sophie Kennedy Clark). That son was given away against her will by the nuns she lived with and worked for. And all of Philomena’s attempts to find him again were stonewalled. Since Martin can’t find a better story, he goes along with this one and finds himself very intrigued after a short while.

Philomena’s story is worth telling and the movie is engaging but I did think that it was missing a bit impact. Nevertheless it’s a sweet film with a nice sense of humor and a touching story.

philomena

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Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
Based on: Ian Fleming‘s James Bond novels
Sequel to: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory

Plot:
James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) mission is to protect a computer drive that contains the identities of several agents. But things go very wrong, Bond loses the drive and is shot by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) – at the orders of M (Judi Dench). Believed dead, Bond disappears. But M has to face a lot of criticism for her actions and losing the list. When the MI6 HQ is bombed, Bond returns from his supposed death and he and M both have to face their pasts to clear this matter up.

I had heard only good things about Skyfall before seeing it and that might have made me expect a little too much. It was still a very good film, it just wasn’t as great as I had expected.

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Re-Watch: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace
Director: Marc Forster
Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
Based on: Ian Fleming‘s James Bond novels
Sequel to: Casino Royale
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Jesper Christensen, David Harbour, Rory Kinnear, [and for about 5 seconds Stana Katic]
[Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
Set directly after the events in Casino Royale, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is out for revenge and to understand exactly what happened with Vesper. To that end he kidnaps Mr White (Jesper Christensen) and he and M (Judi Dench) interrogate him. But before White can reveal much more than that he is working for a mysterious organisation, things go south. In the end Bond is left only with one lead that brings him to seemingly squeaky-clean environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). But things are far from being clean.

Watching Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace back to back just makes one thing even clearer: Quantum of Solace really and definitely and fully sucks.

[SPOILERS]

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Re-Watch: Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale
Director: Martin Campbell
Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
Based on: Ian Fleming‘s James Bond novels
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach de Bankolé, Jesper Christensen

Plot:
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is a special agent who just recently graduated to 00-status. And in his first mission, he has to take on Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the upper leagues of terrorism. Le Chiffre is about to play a high-stakes game of poker; and if Bond can beat him and take his money, they will have him cornered. So Bond’s boss M (Judi Dench) sends him and accountant Vesper (Eva Green) to Montenegro to win at poker.

Casino Royale is an extremely satisfying action movie that also holds up to second viewing. Daniel Craig is a cool bond and the whole thing is very entertaining.

[SPOILERS]

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My Week with Marilyn (2011)

My Week with Marilyn
Director: Simon Curtis
Writer: Adrian Hodges
Based on: Colin Clark‘s autobiography The Prince, The Showgirl and Me
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Judi DenchZoë Wanamaker, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Emma Watson, Derek Jacobi

Plot:
Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) dreams of working in the film industry. Since his parents are well connected and know Vivian Leigh (Julia Ormond), and because he’s rather talented, he gets the chance to work with Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) on his newest film, The Prince and the Showgirl. The star of the film is Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Things don’t go too well with her in the film, but Marilyn takes a shine to Colin.

My Week with Marilyn has great, great potential. Unfortunately, it’s also stuck with the most pointless main character. Still, you kind of appreciate the film for what it could have been.

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker
Based on: Deborah Moggach‘s novel These Foolish Things
Cast: Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Tena Desae

Plot:
7 British retirees travel to India where they take up residence in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A hotel they wrongly believe to be freshly restored. Instead they find a crumbling building run by the overwhelmed Sonny (Dev Patel). And generally India brings them nothing they expected. Evelyn (Judi Dench) ends up taking the first job of her life. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is looking for someone from his past. Madge (Celia Imrie) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) are just looking for a connection. Muriel (Maggie Smith) just wants a new hip, even if she has to take it from a brown doctor. While Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) really just can’t afford anything else. But even though all of them might not get what they deserve, they might just get what they need.*

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is fluff. Fluff with a great cast and a nice atmosphere and a whole lot of cultural stereotypes. But it’s entertaining.

*Apologies, Batman.

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J. Edgar (2011)

J. Edgar
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Dustin Lance Black
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Lucas, Zach Grenier, Jeffrey Donovan, Lea Thompson, Ed Westwick, Stephen Root

Plot:
John Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) dreams of a bureau of invesitgations that is based on scientific principles and used against the bolshevik threat he sees for the country. He gets his chance to start such a bureau and with the help of his trusted secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and his soon to be second in command/love of his life Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) he is soon very successful. But once risen to power, Edgar clings to it desperately, not caring much for concerns like legality.

I really liked this movie very much and nobody is as surprised about it as I am. I mean, a Clint Eastwood movie that’s not boring? How did that happen?

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