Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Duchess

Movie name: The Duchess
Year of release: 2008
Director: Saul Dibb
Stars: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell, Simon McBurney, Aidan McArdle, Alistair Petrie
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis:The Duchess follows the life of Georgiana Spencer, who married the Duke of Devonshire at a very early age. There have been comparisons between the life of Georgiana and that of Princess Diana: both were glamorous and adored by everyone (social butterflies also). Saul Dibb's film follows a more traditional approach to the biopic of a woman married into a loveless marriage. Georgiana is naturally flirty and follows the arranged marriage that her mother provides - all in the exchange of a male heir for the much older Duke. The relationship between the two spouses is scarce and the Duke treats it very much like a contract based one. When Georgiana makes a friend with Lady Bess Foster, she brings home the woman that eventually becomes her husband's mistress, much to Georgiana's shock. Her desire to find love of her own leads to a clash with her husband and family life.
The film has a period scenery and attention to detail that reminds the classic Merchant Ivory, but unlike James Ivory's films, there's definitely something missing. Keira Knightley's portrayal of Georgiana doesn't really transcend anything she's ever done - the role needed someone who could make the character more alive, someone that could show the contradictions that a woman trapped in a loveless relationship experiences. Ralph Fiennes is terrific as always - his movements, his cold and reserved stare make his Duke a figure that is both tragic and hateful. The great Charlotte Rampling does a terrific job in her brief role as Georgiana's mother. This is a film worth checking with some reservations.

Monday, October 13, 2008


 Movie name: Blindness
Year of release: 2008
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Stars: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Don McKellar, Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal, Maury Chaykin, Yusuke Iseya, Yoshino Kimura, Mitchell Nye
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:The Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles is one of the most interesting directors working these days. After the success and acclaim of "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener" he chose to tackle and adapt the Portuguese novel "Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira" from Nobel winning author Jose Saramago. The result turns out to be uneven but is nonetheless a very interesting view on how society in general and people in particular react when an event they can't control appears. The film follows the people of a city, who suddenly become afflicted with a blindness epidemic. Afraid that the disease is contagious, the government decides to place everyone afflicted in a run down hospital, with no real support or sanitary conditions. Things get progressively worse, as food is scarce and a particular ward decides to implement their rules over everyone else. The only person aware of everything is a woman, the wife of an ophthalmologist, who isn't blind and watches everything degenerate around her. The film chooses to follow the lives of a few of these inhabitants of the hospital and displays the progressive horrors that happen as the conditions worsen. It's a bleak view of humanity and proves how low and what horrors people will inflict on each other to get power (or at least the illusion of power). The actors are uniformly good, particularly Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo - their weary eyes show the despair and lack of belief in what humanity and life in general has become. The photography is beautiful and Fernando Meirelles' direction is, as usual, focused on detail and always inventive. Worth watching.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Eagle Eye

Movie name: Eagle Eye
Year of release: 2008
Director: DJ Caruso
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ethan Embry, Lynn Cohen, William Sadler, Bill Smitrovich
Genre: Action, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:DJ Caruso who made a splash with "The Salton Sea" and with the surprise hit "Disturbia", reunites with his young star Shia LaBeouf and the great and underrated actress that is Michelle Monaghan. "Eagle Eye" comes in the tradition of such films as "Enemy of the State" and "The Firm", where the young protagonist faces odds that are far superior to himself and that due to his honesty and integrity, manages to defeat his oponents and demonstrate the prevailing sense of justice."Eagle Eye" follows the story of eternal underdog Jerry Shaw, whose twin brother always overshadowed him in everything. When his brother accidentaly dies, Jerry comes back to his apartment to see it covered with arms and enough material to create a lot of destruction. His only indication is a woman's voice on the phone who tells him what to do. At the same time Rachel Holloman is informed her young son is under threat. These two strangers are drawn together over a mysterious caller that propels, threatens and indicates where they should be headed. The film uses conspiracy theories to propel action, and though there's a lot of improbabilities, what really stands out is the craftsmanship of the director and the good performances of it's leads. An entertaining film that doesn't bring anything new, but that serves it's purpose.