Archive for the Period Film Category

A League of their Own (1992)

Posted in 1992, Based on True Events, Comedy, Drama, Period Film, Sporting with tags , , , , , , on June 24, 2010 by filmglutton

A League of their Own is based on the first women’s baseball league in America in the 1940s. While the men were at war, somebody had the bright idea of establishing a women’s baseball league. Dotti (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty) are sisters living in rural Oregon. Dotti’s husband (Bill Pullman) is fighting overseas. Dotti is the beautiful one of the family, and younger sister Kit always feels inferior. This feeling extends to baseball; when the league is scouting women, Dotti is the one they want. She encourages them to take on her sister. From here they make their way to Chicago where they try out for the teams. Here they meet some other women and future teammates. Their team is the Peaches, and they play alongside flirty Meg (Madonna), loudmouth Doris (Rosie O’Donnell), and plain Marla (Megan Cavanagh), among others. They are a melting pot of personalities that share a love of baseball. The team is assigned Jimmy (Tom Hanks) as a coach. He is a washed-up star that has spent the past 5 years drinking. He is rude and he can’t believe that he has to be with the women’s team.

 

This film was directed by Penny Marshall, and her husband has a small role as the head of the baseball league. The cast are well-suited, even Madonna. It’s surprising to see her in a film because she has such an enigmatic identity, but she is actually good as May (though it’s probably not too far from her real personality). Tom Hanks has the best part here. His character is angry and moody, so a lot of the laughs come from his over-the-top anger. Some fine comedy work from him here; actually, the movie just generally elicits some good laughs in addition to the more sentimental moments. 

Even though this is a sports movie it also has a strong narrative. I think it struck a good balance between the games, the characters, the humour and the drama. It has a lot of spirit and Marshall is obviously very enamoured by the idea of these strong women in the 40s. The ending is really nice, and the older versions of the characters look impressively similar to their younger counterparts. I may or may not have felt a bit teary at the end (it seems like I’ve been crying in films a fair bit lately), but this has been handled really well. It’s not too sentimental but just has a hint of nostalgia. There is so much to enjoy in this film. The baseball sequences are great and it’s interesting to see the characters’ relationships develop.

 

This is a great one for women of all ages (I remember liking it when I saw it as a child) but I think men will enjoy it too. It’s not too sentimental, and the women are really tough! Nice to see a woman directing this film also.

 My rating:

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Nine (2009)

Posted in 2009, Drama, Musical, Period Film, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2010 by filmglutton

Based on the Broadway musical which was based on Fellini’s 8 1/2, Nine is the story of Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), a big-time movie director struggling with ideas for his next film. He is only 10 days away from starting shooting, yet still he has no script. He desperately searches for answers as he remembers the many women of his life.

I’d heard quite bad reviews for this one but I generally like Rob Marshall’s work, so I went into this with mixed expectations.

Nine is nowhere near as good as Marshall’s previous musical Chicago, but this is mainly because Nine is not a great musical. I felt that when I saw it on stage and I felt it when I saw if on screen. This is as handsome a production as we have come to expect from Marshall, but Nine has a distinct lack of truly great songs. The only showstopper is Be Italian, which is sung by Fergie, who has the smallest role of all the women. So you won’t leave the cinema singing any songs other than that one, unlike so many great musicals.

So, the acting. Daniel Day-Lewis is as convincing as ever, although I don’t think this is a particularly difficult role for him. It doesn’t really require a lot of depth in the performance. Other roles that leave the actors with very little to do include Sohpia Lauren as his mother, Kate Hudson as an American journalist, Nicole Kidman as his muse, and the aforementioned Fergie. Judi Dench has a slightly larger role but again is not required to do anything too difficult.  Penelope Cruz is good as the emotionally fragile mistress, while Marion Cotillard steals the show (in my opinion) as the long-suffering wife. She has a really nice voice, too, and her character has the most depth and humanity of any of the others.

The musical numbers are beautifully choreographed. Marshall was once a choreographer so the musical scenes are always impressive. All of these numbers are enjoyable but ultimately forgettable if not for the dancing and the visual style. I thought it was very well edited, and the cinematography by Dion Beebe (who also collaborated with Marshall on Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha) is as interesting and beautiful as we have come to expect from him. He is a truly great DP.

Other than the lack of great songs, the main problem with Nine is that the story just seems to drift by us. It’s a reasonably interesting storyline but also a bit underwhelming. This is probably why this movie has been getting negative reviews, because it leaves no real impact on the audience. I noted that Marion Cotillard provided some of the only emotional interest in Public Enemies, and I think it’s true here too.

This is not a great film by any means, but definitely worth checking out if it comes on TV or you can see it cheap on DVD.

My Rating:

Braveheart (1995)

Posted in 1995, Action, Based on True Events, Best Film Oscar, Blockbuster, Drama, Epic, Period Film, Romance, War with tags , , on January 15, 2010 by filmglutton

Braveheart, winner of the Best Picture Oscar, tells the story of William Wallace, the legendary hero who fought for Scottish independence in the late 1200s. This film has Mel Gibson in the lead role, a rugged and brave man with a keen intellect and sense of humour. Oh, just so charming. Anyway, as a young boy William has to cope with the death of his father and older brother, killed in a resistance battle. He goes away to live with his uncle, and when he returns he is intent on marrying and making a life for himself on a farm. He wants nothing to do with the violence that took his family away from him. He marries his childhood friend, Murron, in secret, but a tragic event causes him to retaliate against the English, and from here it escalates into full-blown battles led by Wallace and his loyal men.

It’s really strange to think back to the days when Mel Gibson sat on top of the movie making world. Think about it: this was an ACTOR who won best DIRECTOR for the film that won BEST PICTURE. It sounds like something from a screenplay. I do find it hard to believe he directed this, because I always think of him as an actor, but with Braveheart he proved that not only could he direct, but that he was very, very good. Because this is an extremely good film. The cinematography is beautiful, James Horner’s score is fitting, and the direction really is commendable. The battle sequences are amazing, it convincingly looks like there are thousands of men onscreen.

Besides William himself, other characters include love-of-his-life Murron (Catherine McCormack), best friend Hamish (Brendan Gleeson), evil Edward I (Longshanks) of England (Patrick McGoohan), insipid Edward II (Peter Hanley), his French wife Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), and claimant to the Scottish throne Robert Bruce (Angus Macfayden). The actors are all fine, but this is really Mel’s film.

The battle scenes are violent and brutal. Perhaps not as gory as some more recent films, but they certainly have a raw brutality; and do be warned, we do see throats slashed and heads crushed. But Gibson does not dwell on these moments, so anyone who is a bit squeamish (like myself) will be fine!

The film has been criticised for its historical inaccuracies, corny one-liners, obligatory romance, for depicting only one side of the story, for supposedly being homophobic, and Gibson himself has been criticised for being too old (well, yes, especially when they want us to believe that Murron and William are almost the same age – yeah right!)  BUT Braveheart is not pretending to be a true historic account, it is presenting a myth. It is a piece of entertainment, a story of great breadth and excitement.

Braveheart is purely entertainment, a cinematic epic. And if you choose to look at it in this way, instead of an historical travesty, it joins the ranks as one of the great epic war films.
My Rating: 

Bright Star (2009)

Posted in 2009, Australian, Based on True Events, Drama, Period Film, Romance with tags , , , , on January 10, 2010 by filmglutton

Bright Star is about the last three years of John Keats’ life and his relationship with Fanny Brawne, the girl next door. Fanny is a strong-willed young woman with a skill for sewing, and she finds beauty in John’s poetry and personality. As the fall in love, however, we see that his health grows weaker, making for a sparkling yet doomed romance.

Bright Star has been hailed as Jane Campion’s best film since The Piano. I haven’t seen any of Jane Campion’s films other than The Piano, so I can’t really comment on that, but I will say that I think The Piano is the superior film.I think my problem with Bright Star was that it had very little plot. This is not a terrible thing, but it meant that the film felt quite, well, slow at times. I was still very engaged with the characters, but since you will probably know the outcome of the story (as spoiled by every review you read) there are no surprises in this film, nothing to keep you hanging on. And while I think the two leads had good chemistry, there is actually quite a lack of sexual tension (which was so prevalent in The Piano and is something which really draws the viewer in).

Abbie Cornish is really lovely as Fanny, she’s not a character you’ve seen 50 times before in period dramas. She has her own ideas but she’s not as headstrong as an Elizabeth Bennet or Jo March. She is a fantastic seamstress, creating a range of interesting fashions that are looked down upon by stuffy neighbours. Abbie Cornish gives her life and intelligence, I really like some of her work (although Fanny is supposed to be 18 and Cornish is clearly much older). Ben Whishaw as John Keats is suitably poetic and vulnerable…I don’t know much about Keats, so I can’t comment about his characterisation. Paul Schenider as Keat’s friend and fellow poet Brown is suitably irritating, I think he played this role really well (and probably had good fun with it!). Pretty good performance from this American actor in Scottish accent. The other roles are quite small; Edie Martin puts in a natural performance as Fanny’s younger sister Toots. And just excuse the animal lover in me for one second while I say I loved the cat. Cats in films = win.

The cinematography in this film is simply stunning. The locations are beautiful, and there are some shots that film fans will just drink in. At times one could get sick of that dreamy, overexposed look but it is just beautiful. Even if you aren’t interested in the film the cinematography is definitely worth the admission, beautiful photography. Also worth mentioning is the art design. The sets are good, but I really loved some of the costumes.

I want to see more from Jane Campion, I wish some directors wouldn’t take so long to bring out their next project. Bright Star is a lovely film with good performances. I think some people will abolutely love this, and most others will appreciate the talent displayed here.  Keats fans may particularly like it, but it is less about him than about Fanny and their relationship.

Worth watching.

My Rating: