Tag Archives: christopher eccleston

Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

19 Jul

Queen Elizabeth I, also known as the Virgin Queen, was England and Ireland’s monarch from the year 1558 to her death in 1603. Since then, she’s become one of England’s most iconic leaders, which certainly doesn’t mean she was loved by all. In fact, she was a very divisive and often controversial queen. That being said, there’s a lot of material to work with if anyone were to create a big budget movie about her reign. Well, lucky for us we have two. Elizabeth was first released in 1998 and it’s sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, was released in 2007. Now, I’ve been wanting to watch these movies for a long time, and I’ve finally gotten around to it. The question remains, still, on wether or not they’ve lived up to the hype that I’ve built for myself.

Let’s start out in 1998 with Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth.

f336b34034b7d83016e935267e3398f4

When Queen Mary I dies in 1558, the next in line of succession is her half sister, Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), a young woman who is now in way over her head. At her time of coronation, England is in a terrible state. Her army is all but useless, debts plague the entire country, and there’s heated violence between Catholics and Protestants. With Elizabeth being a Protestant, there are many Catholics in her court that want her off the throne. One of these people is the influential Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston), a scheming duke with his ultimate goal of wearing the crown. With everything collapsing, Elizabeth surrounds herself with trusted advisors and defenders like William Cecil (Richard Attenborough) and the cunning Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush). Even with these powerful minds surrounding her, her dedicated and unlawful affair with a member of her court, Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes), might prove to be her ultimate downfall.

I have a weird past with this movie because I remember being young when this movie first came out and thinking it looked pretty cool. I don’t know where I saw advertisements for it, but I was always stricken by the colors, the architecture, and the costumes. Now, all these years later I’ve finally seen it and it’s pretty much exactly what I thought it would be. Elizabeth is a damn fine movie that tells an interesting, albeit fictitious, look at the early days of Queen Elizabeth’s reign before the Golden Age really began, and how the naïve girl who is crowned at the beginning of the movie turns into the rock solid monarch she is known for being. It’s a great story that’s full of political intrigue, war, corruption, and romance. That’s really all you can ask for in a movie like this, and it’s done very well. Never did I feel like I was getting cheated out of something watching this movie. It hits all of the marks splendidly.

There are few elements of the movie I have to especially give more notice to. First of all, Cate Blanchett’s performance is fantastic. This was the movie that really started her career in the way that we know it today. She was acting before Elizabeth, but this is the role that got her noticed. Her arc throughout the story is an expressive one and it’s great to watch all of the changes happening to her and her reactions to them. It’s a very expressive performance that’s worthy of all the attention it receives. The costume design and make up rank up with the best of the best in film history. They are absolutely out of this world, along with the set design which honestly must have been a nightmare. Finally the collaboration of Kapur and cinematographer Remi Adefarasin makes this film truly look as beautiful as it does.

After years of wondering about this movie, it’s a relief to finally see it. Elizabeth is a really good movie about an interesting and violent time in England’s past, and also about the monarch that would come to unite the country. It’s a beautiful film to look at, but also has a great story performed by great actors to back it up. It often feels Shakespearean in it’s scale, and you really can’t go wrong with that.

The sequel didn’t come until nearly 10 years later, with Shekhar Kapur returning as director. This is, of course, Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

2007-elizabeth_the_golden_age-1

While the first film began with the early days of Elizabeth’s reign in 1558, this film starts much later on in 1585. By this point, Elizabeth has established herself as a very firm and respectable leader who isn’t easy to persuade or frighten. She is surrounded by loyal subjects like the ever present Lord Walsingham and her favorite lady-in-waiting Bess Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish). When not being attended to by the people of the court, she s regaled with stories by the explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), who has plans of starting a colony in the New World. While this loyalty makes her stand tall, enemies are still lurking on all sides, with the Spanish led by King Philip II (Jordi Molla) and his Inquisition being the most relevant threat. His plan violence and schemes soon find their way into Britain with his support going to the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton) and an assassination attempt that may be enough to spark a war.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is definitely an impressive sequel, which is a good thing to say since it had the challenge of following up its beloved predecessor while also recreating history using a fair amount of both fact and fiction. There’s a lot of things going for this movie including the return of director Shekhar Kapur and the lead actors Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush. There’s also some excellent additions like Clive Owen, Abbie Cornish, and Samantha Morton. The inclusion of foreign powers like the Spanish and the English spies that supported them also makes for really good intrigue and action to push the movie along, while there’s also the romance that you would come to expect with this kind of movie. The ingredients are all there, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original Elizabeth.

One thing that is missing from The Golden Age is the beautiful set design that the first film had. I understand that Elizabeth is now a completely different monarch than she was in the first film and the set is meant to reflect the personality she puts on as she leads her people, but I really miss the colors and the vastness of some of the room in the palace. There’s also nothing really new added to this movie and it feels like something of a retread in certain ways. By that I mean that I mean all of the same themes of the first film are explored, but in some different ways. I think I just wanted more from this one in the ways that the first film succeeded.

Still and all, Blanchett returns with another powerful performance and the costume design are all on par with the original. It’s important to look at sequels as movies in and of themselves and not just follow ups, so in that way Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a very good movie, but compared to Elizabeth it’s a weaker entry. That being said, I still had a good time watching this movie and for fans of the first film, it’s still worth a look.

Watching movies like this are really great at pulling you into a time period and recreating history in the most lavish of ways. Anyone who hasn’t had the chance to watch the Elizabeth movies should really get right on that. They have quite a bit to offer and something in there for everyone.

Advertisements

Shallow Grave – Review

14 Mar

Every great director needs to start somewhere, even Danny Boyle. Believe it or not, he wasn’t just always around making movies that make us all go crazy. Danny Boyle has created a lot of masterful pieces of work, and the movie to put him on the map was his 1994 debut Shallow Grave. Now considered to be “a ’90s classic,” I found this movie to be good and entertaining, but I can’t say it was really anything special. For a debut feature film it still is impressive, but plays it way too safe, and Danny Boyle certainly isn’t a director who’s afraid to take chances.

poster2

Alex (Ewan McGregor), Juliet (Kerry Fox), and David (Christopher Eccleston) are three flatmates and very good friends who are in the process of finding a fourth person to share the place with. They find their man with Hugo (Keith Allen), who ends up dying a few days later of an apparent suicide. Before the police can be called, Alex finds a huge suitcase full of money and convinces the group to use this to their advantage. After disposing of the body, paranoia strikes. Soon, the group of close knit friends can’t even trust each other, and with the police catching their scent and two thugs on a killing spree, their limits are tested and violence soon erupts.

Being Boyle’s first feature film, this is a very interesting watch. It’s also the first film for screenwriter John Hodge, producer Andrew Macdonald, and it’s also the first major role for Ewan McGregor. Boyle and the rest of these names would later collaborate again in 1996 on Trainspotting, which I personally believe is Boyle’s masterpiece. Shallow Grave is nowhere near the same level as Trainspotting, but I can appreciate the sort of Hitchcockian/Coen Brothers kind of feel that the characters and the entire plot has.

2.-Shallow-Grave-1994

 

I really did also enjoy the performances in Shallow Grave. Christopher Eccleston has a really cool part in this movie, and has to pretty much play two different characters over the course of the movie. Ewan McGregor, on the other hand, only has to play one role but it seems like he’s having a helluva time with it. He almost literally bursts with energy in every scene he’s in, and I could really tell he was just having a really good time with the character. The dialogue is especially important in this movie as each of the tenants each have their own distinct personalities, and the writing really helps in differentiating them, personality wise.

What didn’t really work for me is how safe the screenplay plays it, the lack of style that the movie has as it goes on, and the horrendous soundtrack. Let’s look at these one by one. The screenplay doesn’t really dare going places thrillers like this don’t normally go. I feel like I’ve seen this before, and the only thing that keeps this movie at all interesting are the characters and how they change over the course of the plot. The style and the soundtrack kind of go hand in hand. They both start out awesome with kinetic editing and fast paced techno scoring, but both of these disappear. The style becomes pretty average and the soundtrack, with its overdramatic piano chords, is just horrible.

Shallow Grave is a serviceable thriller that doesn’t really lead to anything special. It’s interesting to see because it’s the start of a lot of people’s careers, but it isn’t a movie that you’re bound to remember because of the content. This hearkens back to the days of Hitchcock, but it doesn’t reach the levels that Hitchcock or the Coen Brothers set. Danny Boyle would go on to become one of the most intimidating forces in the film world, but Shallow Grave is only worth watching if you’re interested in seeing the beginnings of people who are now highly successful.

Thor: The Dark World – Review

14 Nov

Ever since The Avengers dropped last year, it seems that everybody is going a little Marvel crazy, and that’s just fine with me. This year alone we’ve already got to see Iron Man 3, a new show on ABC called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and most recently Thor: The Dark WorldWe’re on our way to the next Avengers movie, but for now the cinematic Marvel universe is growing and growing, with The Dark World not only being a very entertaining film, but also an important entry in terms of expanding the universe.

Thor_-_The_Dark_World_poster

Since Bifröst was destroyed and rebuilt, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been traveling through the different worlds in over to restore peace amongst them all, however, a  lurking evil is waiting for its moment to strike. On Earth, Jane Austin (Natalie Portman) uncovers a portal that releases and infects her with the Aether, a powerful substance that was locked away by Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) father Bor. Now that the Aether has been released, the dark elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) come out of hiding to reclaim the Aether and use it to destroy the universe. Facing his most difficult and personal challenges yet, Thor must team up with his brother Loki (Tim Hiddleston) to stop Malekith and save the universe.

Now, let me be there first to say that the original Thor was my least favorite of all of the first Avengers films. I’m sure many will disagree, but in my opinion, once Thor got to Earth in that movie, it slowed down way too much. Kenneth Branagh was s good choice of director and handled the Shakespearean content very well, but it just wasn’t as entertaining as I wanted it to be, which is exactly what I expect from any movie with a Marvel logo attached to it. Luckily, The Dark World fixes all of its entertainment problems, and despite some major ugliness in the plot, beats its predecessor by a mile.

Thor-2_2709663b

Right off the bat, this movie throws action in your face and doesn’t let up until it’s over. I can’t say the same thing about the first one, even though it did have the task of setting up the universe and the characters. This time, we know everyone and we can see exactly what they can do. Idris Elba’s character Heimdall gets more to do in this one and it’s really cool to see him kick some ass. Who really steals the show is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, this time not really playing the villain but still full of wisecracking remarks.

Still, there are some ugly, ugly problems in this movie. For one thing, the whole plot of a powerful villain using a mysterious substance to destroy the earth is a bit old by now. Wasn’t that pretty much the whole thing behind the Tesseract? Now it’s the Aether. Another thing is that there are moments in the plot where everything is solved without any effort. One scene in particular ends before there can even be any suspense at all. And finally, there are moments when the CGI looks pretty bad, especially when it’s from a distance.

51a7ae8850901

 

As for the Thor movies, I can say without question that The Dark World is better than the original Thor and I can also say it’s better than Iron Man 3, in terms of post-Avengers Marvel movies. Though it is not without some major flaws, I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained from the very start to the very finish. Let’s just say the movie was over before I even realized, not because of the run time, but because I just had so much fun with it.