Tag Archives: Judi Dench

Henry V (1989, Kenneth Branagh)

Director (and adapter) Branagh splits Henry V into three sections. They aren’t equal, they don’t match the act changes (usually); Branagh lets photographer Kenneth MacMillan open up the film to (outdoor) light while Patrick Doyle’s score becomes essential. The first outside, daylight sequence–Branagh (as Henry) gives his troops a rousing speech–defines the rest of the film. Even when it gets dark and violent in the subsequent, breathtaking battle sequence, there’s still a lot of light. That light carries over into the finale, which is light comedy featuring Branagh bantering with his betrothed-to-be Emma Thompson.

The problem with that finale is it requires Branagh’s Henry to be a likable character in a way Branagh’s never been concerned about. He’s a king, not a bashful suitor. It’s an odd conclusion, with Thompson not speaking English and coming off like a possession to be had. With Branagh’s strange comedic handling, the whole thing is off.

Until Derek Jacobi, as the modern day chorus, guiding the audience through the film, gets in the last word, Henry is almost in trouble. Not a lot, but more than one would expect given how Branagh goes from being expert to sloppy in one scene.

Branagh’s excellent. Brian Blessed, Ian Holm, Michael Maloney, Christopher Ravenscroft, all astounding. Branagh gets these beautiful performances in long, usually close-up takes. And gives a great one of his own with the same treatment.

The battle scene is an amazing intersection of artifice and reality.

Real good stuff.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Kenneth Branagh; screenplay by Branagh, based on the play by William Shakespeare; director of photography, Kenneth MacMillian; edited by Michael Bradsell; music by Patrick Doyle; production designer, Tim Harvey; produced by Bruce Sharman; released by Curzon Film Distributors.

Starring Kenneth Branagh (King Henry V), Brian Blessed (Duke Thomas Beaufort of Exeter), Paul Gregory (Westmoreland), Nicholas Ferguson (Earl Richard Beauchamp of Warwick), James Larkin (Duke John of Bedford), Simon Shepherd (Duke Humphrey of Gloucester), Charles Kay (Archbishop of Canterbury), Alec McCowen (Bishop of Ely), Fabian Cartwright (Earl Richard of Cambridge), Stephen Simms (Lord Henry Scroop), Jay Villiers (Sir Thomas Grey), James Simmons (Duke Edward of York), Christopher Ravenscroft (Montjoy), Paul Scofield (King Charles VI of France), Michael Maloney (Louis the Dauphin), Emma Thompson (Princess Katherine de Valois), Geraldine McEwan (Alice), Harold Innocent (Duke Philippe of Burgundy), Edward Jewesbury (Sir Thomas Erpingham), Danny Webb (Gower), Ian Holm (Captain Fluellen), John Sessions (Macmorris), Jimmy Yuill (Jamy), Judi Dench (Mistress Nell Quickly), Robert Stephens (Auncient Pistol), Richard Briers (Lieutenant Bardolph), Geoffrey Hutchings (Corporal Nym), Christian Bale (Robin the Luggage-Boy), Michael Williams (Williams), Shaun Prendergast (Bates), Patrick Doyle (Court) and Robbie Coltrane (Sir John Falstaff). Derek Jacobi as Chorus.


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The Importance of Being Earnest (2002, Oliver Parker)

Oliver Parker takes an interesting approach when it comes to adapting The Importance of Being Earnest from play to screen. He doesn’t worry much about opening up the film; at the beginning of the film, he showcases late nineteenth century London and later does quite a bit with Colin Firth’s country estate… but during the lengthy, dialogue-heavy scenes, he just lets the dialogue do its work.

The playfulness of the dialogue, the combination of sincerity and humor the cast imbues in it, makes Earnest seem open even when it’s closed. Tony Pierce-Roberts’s sumptuous photography and Charlie Mole’s playful music help quite a bit–and there are some distinct, memorable outdoor sequences (not to mention a singing montage). It’s quite an interesting adaptation.

Of the two male leads–Firth and Rupert Everett–Everett gets to have more fun. It’s appropriate, because of their love interests–Frances O’Connor for Firth and Reese Witherspoon for Everett–O’Connor gets to have more fun. It all balances out.

The film moves through a few phases, with the focus switching between Everett and Firth, before it becomes their dual effort to win back their love interests. That structure also allows for some nice scenes with O’Connor and Witherspoon. O’Connor and Everett are outstanding.

There’s some nice support from Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Massey and Edward Fox.

As the film winds down and the contrivances stack up, it does appear a little flimsy. Luckily, Parker saves some good jokes for the finale and recovers.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Oliver Parker; screenplay by Parker, based on the play by Oscar Wilde; director of photography, Tony Pierce-Roberts; edited by Guy Bensley; music by Charlie Mole; production designer, Luciana Arrighi; produced by Barnaby Thompson; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Rupert Everett (Algy Moncrieff), Colin Firth (Jack Worthing), Frances O’Connor (Gwendolen Fairfax), Reese Witherspoon (Cecily Cardew), Judi Dench (Lady Augusta Bracknell), Tom Wilkinson (Dr. Chasuble), Anna Massey (Miss Prism) and Edward Fox (Lane).


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GoldenEye (1995, Martin Campbell)

I love Goldeneye’s plotting. It’s clear they plotted the film to be most enjoyed the first time through, but in terms of reveals and action sequences. The opening sequence doesn’t work particularly well in the end, though, a problem I had the last time I watched the film as well. It’s simply not interesting on video—we know James Bond is going to make it and without the spectacle, it doesn’t work.

Goldeneye excels on two levels. Campbell’s direction is magnificent; he’s able to alternate between the grand, third person Panavision action and setup direction, but also some incredibly personal moments. Combined with his ability, Eric Serra’s score just makes Goldeneye an audio-visual delight. Campbell’s an excellent Panavision action director and generally traditional in those scenes. But Serra’s music is very revisionist. It changes the film’s feel, without affecting the tone.

The other level is Pierce Brosnan and Izabella Scorupco. While Brosnan’s great as Bond, it’s not like he’s achieving much. There’s only so much he can do. But Scorupco is able to humanize him. She’s not a damsel in distress, instead she’s an active participant (one wonders if a better film might not have featured her as the lead and a Bond-like character as her sidekick). She’s fantastic.

The supporting cast has highs and lows. Famke Janssen, Robbie Coltrane and Gottfried John are all good, John especially. Sean Bean and Alan Cumming are weak. Judi Dench and Joe Don Baker are in between.

It’s a solid film.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Campbell; screenplay by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein, based on a story by Michael France and characters created by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Terry Rawlings; music by Eric Serra; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson; released by United Artists.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sean Bean (Alec Trevelyan), Izabella Scorupco (Natalya Simonova), Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp), Joe Don Baker (Jack Wade), Judi Dench (M), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky), Gottfried John (General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov), Alan Cumming (Boris Grishenko), Tchéky Karyo (Defense Minister Dmitri Mishkin), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Bill Tanner) and Serena Gordon (Caroline).


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The Third Secret (1964, Charles Crichton)

Between Crichton’s fantastic CinemaScope composition and Douglas Slocombe’s wondrous black and white photography, it’d be hard not admire The Third Secret. It’s an engaging enough thriller, though it does run into the problem of having one ending too many.

Stephen Boyd plays an American television journalist working in London–one of the lovely things about the script is how little is explained, we find out very little about Boyd’s life before the present action of the film–and he investigates the death of his psychologist. Joseph’s script has some problems with that subject, the topic of analysis needing lots of exposition and reminders there’s no shame. It hurts the film at times, but not significantly.

Boyd’s performance is impressive, since he’s adapting a character performance for a lead role. The friendship between him and Pamela Franklin (she plays the dead psychologist’s daughter) is touching and quite well executed. Franklin’s performance is great.

The rest of the supporting cast is solid. Diane Cilento and Paul Rogers are standouts.

A lot of time is spent developing Boyd’s character and the friendship with Franklin so the mystery aspect suffers. The two surprise endings are both pretty boring. The first one seems a little more believable–and there are some hints to a possible third ending they didn’t include.

The film, with Boyd and Franklin’s performances, should be a lot stronger. The mystery isn’t compelling, which seems like a conscious choice. Unfortunately, the attention the wanders, instead of focusing on the film’s successes.

But worth a look.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Charles Crichton; written by Robert L. Joseph; director of photography, Douglas Slocombe; edited by Frederick Wilson; music by Richard Arnell; production designer, Thomas N. Morahan; produced by Joseph and Hugh Perceval; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Stephen Boyd (Alex Stedman), Jack Hawkins (Sir Frederick Belline), Richard Attenborough (Alfred Price-Gorham), Diane Cilento (Anne Tanner), Pamela Franklin (Catherine Whitset), Paul Rogers (Dr. Milton Gillen), Alan Webb (Alden Hoving), Rachel Kempson (Mildred Hoving), Peter Sallis (Lawrence Jacks), Patience Collier (Mrs. Pelton), Freda Jackson (Mrs. Bales), Judi Dench (Miss Humphries), Peter Copley (Dr. Leo Whitset), Nigel Davenport (Lew Harding) and Charles Lloyd Pack (Dermot McHenry).