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Brokeback Mountain

It’s summer in Wyoming in 1963. Two young men are hired as ranch hands to herd the sheep on Brokeback Mountain and bring them down to lowland pastures for the winter. Ennis Del Mar (played by Heath Ledger) is an experienced ranch hand and Jack Twist (by Jake Gyllenhaal) is enchanted by the “legend” of a cowboy lifestyle and is an aspiring rodeo bull rider. They start the job and head up into the mountains on what they expect to be an uneventful, quiet and lonely couple of months. But they soon recognize something in each other and strike up a familiar camaraderie. Over the weeks of the isolated trek, their friendship clumsily develops into a deep and confusing love. Presently, the summer and the job comes to an end and once down from the mountain, Ennis marries his fiance Alma (by Michelle Williams) and settles into married life, while Jack returns to the rodeo and marries Lureen (by Anne Hathaway). A few years later, Jack is restless and he reconnects with Ennis, which rekindles their relationship. Things are still strong between them and although it gets complicated and has its ups and downs, they stay in touch throughout their lives as their marriages change and their worlds intersect. Even though years have passed, their community still holds strong views and this demands that they constantly hide their true feelings from those around them. This enduring love continues though – until it reaches an inevitable and tragic conclusion.

The magnificent vistas of the Wyoming high country provide a jaw-droppingly consistently beautiful backdrop to this beautifully told story. The wonderful connection of these two souls, who both found meaningful, life-long companionship in the most unlikely place is universal. Take out the fact that it is two guys and just think about two people who find deep and enduring love – it’s a very moving tale. The performances are exquisite. Heath Ledger brings such depth to his role as Ennis – with his marvellous and curious speech and his unique mannerisms, he is terse – to say the least. He received a BAFTA for this performance. Contrasted with Jack Twist, the more sensitive, romantic and relationship-focussed of the two. Jake Gyllenhaal is fabulous in this role. Together, their chemistry, balance and complimentarity is sublime. This is a gritty, real story – the wives have tough lives with these two guys and both Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway should take a bow for their work here. Everything about these performances is good. Ang Lee is masterful at getting the best of the people, their dialogue, the surrounding landscape and the cinematography. Together this ensemble is outstanding. No surprise whatsoever then that at the 2006 Academy Awards (Oscars), the movie was awarded with Best Achievement in Directing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Music (Original Score) and Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture (Drama), Director, Screenplay and Original Song and also BAFTAs for Best Lead Actor, Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Cinematography and Editing. A fantastic effort and very well deserved by everyone involved. The movie screenplay was adapted from a short story “Brokeback Mountain” by E Annie Proulx.

Made in 2005. Directed by Ang Lee

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Movies

 

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Incendiary

Lenny (played by Nicholas Greaves) has a very happy life. He loves his football team – Arsenal – loves his best friend, Rabbit, and loves having fun with his Mum and Dad (by Michelle Williams and Ed Hughes). Lenny’s just four years old and the family live a basic existence in an ex-Council flat in a London tower block. One night Lenny’s dad, a policeman, goes out to work – he’s part of Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorist Bomb Disposal squad. As Lenny’s already in bed and sleeping, his Mum goes to the pub for a drink. She meets smart-mouthed young journalist, Jasper Black (by Ewan McGregor) and they get chatting. She ends up going home with him and against her better judgement, she sleeps with him. He’s well off and lives in a very tidy, Georgian terrace right opposite her block of flats. She is racked with guilt, but inexplicably attracted to him. They bump into each other a few times in the neighbourhood and then on May Day Lenny and his dad go to see Arsenal play at home in North London, so they get it together once again. But this time it’s different … a terrorist attack strikes the Arsenal football ground during the game, resulting in hundreds of casualties. Lenny and his dad are never seen again and his mum must try to piece her devastated life back together ….

This is a interesting movie – it puts the viewer right in the midst of this family and their daily challenges, just to live. Their life is tough, they struggle to make ends meet and the only joy in their life comes from their son Lenny. Michelle Williams is excellent as the grief stricken young Mum (we never find out her name) and she really makes you believe she is experiencing the whole range of emotions that come with grief. It’s excellent. Ewan McGregor plays that same real character he does so well – here he is a scruffy, smart, rich guy with a super cool, fast car – so that would have been fun. There are twists and turns, emotional ups and downs and some challenging moral issues to think about as you watch. It’s good. Sharon Maguire has done well – the footage surrounding the terrorist attack would have been difficult, given the recent real life events in London at the time the movie was made. This is a dramatisation of the novel of the same name by Chris Cleave.

Made in 2008. Directed by Sharon Maguire

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Movies

 

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The Station Agent

Fin McBride (played by Peter Dinklage) is a train buff who works in a city-based train hobby store with his friend and boss Henry Styles (by Paul Benjamin). Fin keeps to himself, but as he has dwarfism he is hounded by unwanted attention from the curious and the heartless. Henry suddently dies in the store and he bequeaths to Fin some land and an old abandoned train depot in Newfoundland, New Jersey. As Fin will be left to find another job anyway, he decides to move to Newfoundland and investigate what Henry saw there. Upon his arrival in the little town, Fin begins to explore his new surroundings. Of course, everyone pays attention to him and although he finds this irritating, he tolerates it. One guy, Joe Oramas (by Bobby Cannavale) is particularly persistent – he operates a nearby coffee stop and eagerly wants to be friends with Fin much to Fin’s bewilderment. Another resident, Olivia Harris (by Patricia Clarkson), is distracted by her own deep emotional stress and accidentally encounters Fin several times. Emily (by Michelle Williams) is the sweet young local librarian and Cleo (by Raven Goodwin) is a schoolgirl neighbour who is a fellow train lover and accepts Fin without question. This collection of people all feature far more often in Fin’s life than he would prefer, but somehow they each permeate his thick skin and some meaningful friendships develop in the small weird community.

I like this movie. Although he is not very sociable, Fin seems like a nice guy and Peter Drinklage beautifully portrays the hard edges of Fin accompanied later by his more sensitive side. You can really empathise with his preference for solitude in his life. Joe is totally unaware of the irritation he causes in his earnest attempts at friendship, but he’s a sincere fellow with good intentions and Bobby Cannavale is perfect as Joe. Olivia Harris is played well by Patricia Clarkson – she is first presented to us as a flighty, clumsy woman – but we learn that there is a lot more to her situation. Michelle Williams is lovely as Emily and Raven Goodwin is also great as the innocent Cleo. My favourite part of this series of encounters and the building relationship between these people is that they are all so honest and just being themselves – “warts and all”. This is nice and it means the relationships develop almost by accident as each person (apart from Joe) is not really focussed on being friends with anyone. The characters all strike a chord in their own way and become endearing.  It’s a nice movie – it is well made and tells the unfolding and curious story very well. 

Made 2003: Directed by Thomas McCarthy

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Movies

 

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Deception

Jonathan McQuarry (played by Ewan McGregor) is a mild-mannered accountant who audits the books of big companies in New York. He is a “numbers man” who leads a relatively solitary personal life with few friends and fewer female companions. One day at work he meets a smooth and charming corporate lawyer Wyatt Bose (by Hugh Jackman). He is instantly fascinated by him because he’s so different and they start to hang out together. Wyatt leaves for a London trip and in the last minute scramble to prepare he accidentally exchanges mobile phones with Jonathan. By chance, Jonathan discovers more about Wyatt’s personal life – he is a member of a sex club (The List) where all the members are nameless busy executives, arrangements are made by the women and liaisons are conducted in hotel rooms with no time for dinner, conversation and foreplay. After his initial shock, Jonathan willingly takes part and he meets S, (by Michelle Williams) – who is the same girl he’d seen on the subway some weeks before. After one liaison with S, she goes missing and Jonathan is desperate to find her. He soon realises that the world Wyatt has exposed him to is not quite as it seems and Jonathan is faced with opposing demands on his loyalty, courage and honesty.

I liked this movie. It offers a very intriguing start and the audience immediately wonders about the two key characters Jonathan and Wyatt. Hugh Jackman is excellent as Wyatt – a charming but highly intelligent, deceptive and evil man, and Ewan McGregor’s nerdy loner Jonathan is just delightful. Michelle Willilams plays the sexy mystery woman very well, with just a hint of innocence. The camerawork and cinematography is interesting.  The first two thirds of the movie are dark, moody and create huge mystery and atmosphere, then in the final third – whilst issues and mysteries are still not resolved, the movie comes into the light. Which is appropriate for the ending – although the concluding scenes do not quite live up to the promise of the earlier parts of the story. One of the very nice revelations is that in an early scene we meet a very senior executive member of The List – Charlotte Rampling – and she plays this part to a tee, very well done!

(Made in 2008)  Directed by Marcel Langenegger

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Movies

 

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My Week with Marilyn

In 1956, Sir Lawrence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh) is directing and starring in the movie “The Prince and the Showgirl”, which is being made in England. Young film buff, Colin Clark (by Eddie Redmayne), manages to secure his first job as third assistant director (message boy) on the film. Olivier’s co-star is Marilyn Monroe (by Michelle Williams), who has travelled from the US with her husband Arthur Miller (by Dougray Scott) and her much depended on acting coach Paula Strasberg (by Zoe Wanamaker) for the duration of the filming. Olivier is in awe of her, but becomes impatient with her acting naivety – but her other co-star Dame Sybil Thorndyke (by Judi Dench) is far more patient and understanding. Occasionally, Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh (by Julia Ormond) attends the production stage to watch progress. Marilyn is clearly struggling with this role and Colin becomes totally smitten by her. He manages to become her favourite after her husband departs for France and as work on the movie continues a friendship blossoms between Marilyn and the love-struck young man.

This is an easy, sweetly told story – Michelle Williams is totally marvellous as Marilyn. She is exactly how I would expect Marilyn to be – sexy, soft, sensuous and flirtatious with just a hint of innocence. She is truly wonderful. Branagh does well as the gruff Olivier and the young Colin is portrayed very realistically by Eddie Redmayne. I really enjoyed Judi Dench’s beautiful and understanding Dame Sybil. Emma Watson also has a small role in this movie. The film is a true story, based on diaries kept by Colin Clark at the time. Overall – Michelle Williams and Judi Dench are fabulous, the rest of it is okay.  It was directed by Simon Curtis.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Ides of March

“The Ides of March” is a political drama, with twists and turns where as each character is revealed, you see they are not quite as they were originally presented.  The story follows the campaign of two competitors in a US Presidential race for nomination – Governor Mike Morris (played by George Clooney) is the candidate. Clooney also wrote, produced and directed this very well made movie, but the film belongs to Ryan Gosling, who plays the campaign’s media manager, Stephen Myers.  Myers is smart, strategic and knows how to get votes.  He deals with media and other campaign participants in a slick and professional manner, to get his way.  The story involves the wheeling-dealing behind the scenes between the two candidates’ camps to secure the Presidential nomination from one state.

The key characters are all very well played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Morris’ Lead Campaign Manager, Paul), Paul Giamatti (the opposing candidate’s campaign Manager, Tom Duffy), young intern Molly (played by Evan Rachel Wood) and Marissa Tomei (playing a leading NY Times political reporter).  The drama delivers betrayal, deception, sex scandal, intrigue, suspense and high drama. 

Many have reviewed this movie with high praise for its story and drama. The movie is excellently made, well directed and cinematography is very effective, but something’s missing for me – I am not sure what it is, perhaps political drama just doesn’t do it for me. However, I would still say that it is worth seeing for the excellent performances of Clooney, Gosling, Seymour-Hoffman and Giamatti.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Movies

 

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Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine” follows the relationship between Dean (played by Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (by Michelle Williams) over a few years.

It starts as current – we see their marriage as quarrels and frustrations, but then we flash back to when they first met. Dean is seen as a likeable guy – a removalist who delivers to the retirement home where Cindy’s grandmother is living. They meet and start their relationship there.

In this movie, both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are fantastic as the totally believable characters in this relationship. It is gritty, realistic and a very good drama. There are ups and downs and this will take you on the journey, but don’t go if you need to see a “feel good” movie.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Movies

 

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