Tag Archives: Helen Mirren

Woman in Gold

In the late 1930’s, life for the Altmann family has its challenges. The rise of anti-Jewish attitudes in the community and the influence of the Nazi regime brings fear and anxiety to many. The Altmann’s live in Vienna in Austria and they do their best to keep their lives as normal as possible. Maria Altmann (played by Tatiana Maslany then Helen Mirren) has a loving family life. Her family shares their home with her Uncle and Aunt. Her Aunt Adele (by Antje Traue) is the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen. Others think so too and when a famous artist paints her portrait, complete with real gold leaf appliqué, it is wonderful and universally applauded. Things in the city become difficult and Maria eventually escapes Vienna and reaches the United States. But she knows the wonderful painting was looted by the Nazis and is now in the hands of the Austrian Government. In one final act of defiance against the oppressive times of her youth, she begins a campaign to return the painting to its rightful owners – her family. 

This story is true, which makes it fascinating from the point of view of Maria Altmann’s strength in being able to face the difficult times of her past. However, I found the production quite pedestrian. There’s just not quite enough in it for me. Helen Mirren is not nearly as vibrant here as she can be, with Ryan Reynolds as the co-lead, being equally bland overall. Katie Holmes adds little and others are unremarkable. However, to be fair, story is still told well. Antje Traue, as Aunt Adele, is a truly stunning woman and she even outshines the fabulous jewellery that features in this story. Vienna looks nice and the flashbacks to Maria’s past are well done. It is good to see Elizabeth McGovern hasn’t been typecast as her “Downton Abbey” television character, Cora Crawley. She does a nice job in her cameo here. Overall though, this movie is only average for me. 

Made in 2015. Directed by Simon Curtis.

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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in Movies


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The Hundred Foot Journey

Hassan Kadam (played by Manish Dayal) has had the best cooking teacher ever, his mother. She has taught him to cook with feeling, to make the spices and flavours speak and to bring dishes to life with soul. Hassan now loves to cook and he’s a natural. The Kadam family run a successful restaurant in Mumbai, but suffer a terrible tragedy and move away from India for good. Papa Kadam (by Om Puri) brings his children to England but they find the produce too bland and can’t live in such a cold climate, so they move further south – to France. Purely by chance, they encounter the village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, where they meet beautiful young French woman Marguerite (by Charlotte Le Bon). Her hospitality is so warm and they find such vibrant fresh produce that Papa decides the family will stay in the area. Soon Papa’s business acumen is sparked when he notices a restaurant sitting empty in the village. Innovative as ever, Papa establishes the first Indian restaurant in the area – much to the chagrin of Maître d’ at the village’s Michelin star French restaurant, Madame Mallory (by Helen Mirren). With Hassan as head chef, the Kadam’s restaurant builds a loyal following in the area and Marguerite helps him develop his skills in French cuisine. A fierce rivalry develops between the two proprietors and they constantly bother the village Mayor (by Michel Blanc) with their feud. One night, the rivalry goes too far and severe consequences ensue. This has gone on long enough … but will these people of such distinct cultures ever find a way to understand each another? … and can their businesses really co-exist successfully in this tiny village?

Given that the plot line is somewhat trite, even cringe-worthy, the director and actors have created a sweet movie here. Of course, there’s no denying that the French countryside is a nice backdrop for anything, but this plot manages to stay on a reasonable course and not meander into total drudgery, or obvious tedious comedy. As Hassan, Manish Dayal is lovely – he portrays the young chef beautifully. I’ve seen Helen Mirren much better than she performs here, but she is fine for this type of movie. Margueritte is played perfectly by Charlotte Le Bon too – she is delicate, but smart – she does well. If you enjoyed “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” you will probably like this too as there are some parallels. The comedy also comes from the sensitive way Papa Kadam is portrayed as so blindly set in his ways that a compromise is out of the question – he’s determined to make the stoic French see things his way. He does a good job at persuading the locals that food is all about feelings, love and soul – not just haute cuisine. It’s a nice movie with several plot lines – it was adapted from Richard C Morais‘ book.

Made in 2014. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Movies


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The Door

In Hungary, it’s the 1960’s and Emerence (by Helen Mirren) is at work outside her house. New neighbours have moved in across the street and the new lady of that house, Magda (by Martina Gedeck) approaches. She speaks to Emerence, but gets no response. Such is the beginnings of the relationship between these two women. Emerence is a poor, stoic, disciplined, working class woman in her sixties who has survived the Second World War and developed hard edges as a result of her life experiences. Magda is the wife of a well-off businessman, Tibor (by Károly Eperjes) – she’s a writer, in her fifties and curious about people. She needs help around the house, to free her time to produce her next novel. She asks Emerence for her help and their unique arrangement begins. The neighbours are all curious about the isolate Emerence – and why won’t she let anyone behind the door and into her house?  This is the story of the developing relationship between Emerence and Magda.

This is a curious movie. It’s the kind of movie you would keep watching just to find out what makes this woman the way she is and what will happen between these two. The mystery about Emerence’s house and the reason for her isolation is not fully explained, but still – the audience is left on tenderhooks to find out whether we see behind “The Door” and if we do, what will be there. I liked it. Helen Mirren and Martina Gedeck balance each other well and Károly Eperjes is a good solid character for each to play off and against as the story unfolds. Helen Mirren is quite luminous as Emerence – in a role similar to that played by Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs” where she appears without makeup and still totally dominates every scene she is in by the pure presence of this curious character. It’s good, yes. The movie was adapted from the semi-autobiographical 1987 Hungarian novel by Magda Szabó,

Made in 2012. Directed by István Szabó

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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Movies


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It is 1959, and Alfred Hitchcock (played by Anthony Hopkins) has already established himself as a reputable Hollywood film director, but his image as an eccentric and somewhat difficult craftsman to work with has started to overshadow his ability to draw crowds to the box office. Desperate to refresh his public notoriety and his relationship with his supporting studio, Hitchcock decides to go out on a limb and create a movie that is far removed from all his previous work. This is the story of the events in the making of “Psycho” and the relationship between Hitchcock and his long-suffering but adoring wife Alma Reville (by Helen Mirren) during the filming.

We view this biography from the perspective of Alma, Hitchcock’s wife. He is portrayed as a dedicated filmmaker who is likely to become infatuated with his current leading lady, but only for as long as each filming lasts. A string of disgruntled femmes litter his life and he tends to disregard this, along with most of the other realities of life (apart from his love for Alma), in favour of his creation process. Scarlett Johansson is lovely as Janet Leigh and a series of other stars such as Toni Collette, Danny Huston, Jessica Biel and Michael Stuhlbarg provide strong support roles. As always, Helen Mirren is marvellous and the “Hitchcock” make up worn by Anthony Hopkins is excellent. It’s not a blockbuster, but it’s fine to pass the time – perhaps when you’re on a long haul flight sometime.

Made in 2012. Directed by Sacha Gervasi

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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Movies


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The Debt

It’s the1960’s and Rachel Singer (by Jessica Chastain) is a Mossad agent. She arrives in post-Wall Berlin to carry out a covert operation with fellow agents David (by Sam Worthington) and Stephan (by Marton Csokas). They plan kidnap Dr Dieter Vogel (by Jesper Christensen), the notorious Butcher of Birkenau, who is known for conducting cruel experiments on human subjects. He has been found in Berlin, practicing as an obstetrician under a false name, so they are to kidnap and transport him to Israel to face trial for his cruelties against Jews. Rachel is the most active in this plot and he is successfully captured. However, the plan doesn’t quite work out as expected and a delay in his transportation means he must be held captive at their hideout in Berlin for a while. During his extended imprisonment with them, he becomes agitated and violent – leading to brutal conflicts between him and his captors. Eventually, transport arrives and the party relocates back to Israel where the threesome are heralded as heroes for the capture of this brutal man. Rachel and her associates are viewed with esteem throughout Israel and the world. Several years later, their notoriety resurfaces when Rachel’s journalist daughter, Sarah (by Romi Aboulafia), decides to retell the story in her first novel. At the book launch, Sarah asks Rachel to read from the book, which causes memories of the time to come flooding back. We learn that Rachel and her fellow agents have a secret – and they will do anything to stop it getting out …

Although this movie has been described as a thriller, there is not quite enough in it for me. The interraction between the three young Mossad agents is laboured and although it is clear there are tensions between them due to developing relationships, their chemistry is not strong. To me, the “current day” portion of the story featuring the more mature threesome has much more depth and interest. It is good to see Helen Mirren in a different type of role than usual. She and Tom Wilkinson always put in strong performances and that is true here. The suspense in the story does not really develop fully for me – the kidnap and capture is laboured and almost clumsy. As a movie, I’d say it is okay – it is an adaptation of the 2007 Israeli film “Ha-Hov”. 

Made in 2010.  Directed by John Madden.

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Movies


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Brighton Rock

This is a good movie. If you feel like a good ol’ “cops’n’robbers” drama, then this is for you.

In 1964, in the English seaside town of Brighton, gang warfare has resulted in the death of Fred Hale under Brighton Pier. The killer is 17-year-old Pinkie Brown (played by Sam Riley), but before his death, Hale was photographed together with Spicer (by Phil Davis) leader of Pinkie’s gang, and waitress Rose (by Andrea Riseborough). Ambitious to lead the gang himself, and realising she could be a danger, Pinkie befriends Rose.

Meanwhile Hale’s old friend, Ida (by Helen Mirren), who owns the cafe where Rose works, becomes increasingly troubled by the sinister events unfolding around her.

This is a remake of the 1947 movie that made Richard Attenborough a star when he played Pinkie. This was the original dramatization of Grahame Greene’s 1938 novel.

The plot is straightforward and easy to watch. These characters have some depth which brings interest and intrigue as the movie develops. Helen Mirren stands out as Ida, but the most interesting character is the young Rose. Give it a try.

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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Movies


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