Friday, February 23, 2007

The Queen (2006)

***
UK/France/Italy

A disappointingly literal imagining of the conversations between Elizabeth II and the then-recently elected Tony Blair in the aftermath of Princess Diana's death. The intention is to strip the royal family off their regalia and zoom in on their underlying average-ness - they gather around the TV at night and wear frumpy pyjamas together. Unfortunately, in the world of scriptwriter Peter Morgan, average people like Blair, his missus and Her Majesty communicate in lazy exposition.
"Why are you so nervous, darling? You've met her before, haven't you?" "Well, yes, but she is, you know - The Queen." Cue double take.
There is no subtext to the dialogue - which may very well be a blessing since Morgan's idea of subtext in terms of narrative is having Princess Diana symbolically reincarnate into a deer who gets decapitated.
The actors however, know how to mix dignity with absurdity. And Helen Mirren communicates the Queen's devastation at discovering her disconnect from her people through subtle gestures and inflections where Morgan's writing fails to.
dir: Stephen Frears
wr: Peter Morgan
cast: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Alex Jennings, Helen McCrory, Roger Allam, Paul Barrett

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Babel (2006)

**
USA

Writer-director team Guillermo Arriaga and Alejandro González Iñárritu had nowhere to go after this, the climax in their celebrated series of connect-the-dots challenges with a progressively inflated sense of heft. From the get-go the picture takes up a pitch of grandiosely hushed hysteria - children! with guns! - and holds on to it like a destitute mother to her still-born child.
So much happens across the four interconnected stories in this movie - every photogenic kind of pain and suffering - and in the end the feeling is that nothing really happened. All of the various sufferings come off as interchangable - not because of any slap-my-forehead we-are-all-connected epiphany, but because every batch of violent sobbing and high misery is driven by the same person's (or persons') sadistic, self-aggrandising urge to look profound.

dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu
cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Gael García Bernal, Elle Fanning, Nathan Gamble, Koji Yakusho, Mahima Chaudhry, Shilpa Shetty, Said Tarchani

The Wedding Planner

**
USA


One of those generic romantic comedies where the two toned and tanned leads - in this case J-Lo and Matthew McConaughey - appear so resolutely self-involved that it's difficult to buy their attraction to a second human being.
Also worth nothing - getting in the way of their meant-to-be-ness are an uncanny walking and talking Ken and Barbie.

For Your Consideration (2006)

***
USA


Christopher Guest and his troupe abandon the mockumentary angle with this slippery poke at Hollywood’s hype machinery, but their jokes feel more crudely improvised than before. They come up with some pearls – particularly the women – but overall the script reads like a first draft. Everybody’s giddy but not quite committed.

dir: Christopher Guest
cast: Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Christopher Guest, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Ricky Gervais, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley, Sandra Oh