Season of the Witch / The King’s Speech

The King's Speech
The King's Speech

Two films on a Friday – back to a semi-regular way to round off the week with Gillian. We opted for a nicely opposing pairing this weekend. One silly action film and another deemed somewhat of a classic from the previews.

Season of the Witch

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Absconding knights offer to take an alleged witch across country for trial so they don’t get executed. Like a road movie with armour.

Behmen and Felson (Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman) get a little sick of being told to kill innocents in the name of God, so decide to turn their backs on the Crusades. Popping through a small town, they are discovered as deserters and sentenced to death. As luck would have it, the town is suffering a plague brought on by a witch and in exchange for offering to transport her to a monastery to undergo trial, they’re given their freedom.

That pretty much covers the plot. Other than that it’s moderately average action / medieval fare. Cage and Perlman get all the good lines and there is some decent banter. The effects are passable (until the end when there’s some CGI that makes Doctor Who look big-budget) and the acting’s tolerable.

It’s not a classic, but even by Cage’s standards is just not up to par. Certainly, it’s not a complete heap of arse like Ghost Rider (seriously – they’re making a sequel?), but there’s just not a lot to it. By the end, there’s a feel that you’ve watched an over-long TV drama rather than a decent motion picture.

The King’s Speech

“I have a voice!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: true story of a king-to-be who has a speech impediment, and the work done by a therapist to get him through it.

Short review: See this film. See it now.

Longer review: This is a heartwarming tale of royalty meets common-folk set in the 1930s as Britain gears up for war and the royal family goes through some upsets. King George V doesn’t have long to live and his son (the soon-to-be King Edward) is filandering with a twice-divorced American. Marrying her would mean he can’t be king, and his younger brother Bertie would take the reins.

Bertie (better known historically as King George VI, and played magnificently by Colin Firth) has a problem. His job is to be head of state, he need to give speeches… and he has a very pronounced stammer. At the insistence of his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) he does the rounds of speech therapists, eventually ending up with the rather unusual Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Thus begins a story that takes us from Bertie’s small speeches as Duke of York through to his first – and famous – speech as King just as Britain announced that it was to go to war with Germany for a second time.

The film very much focusses on the relationship between  Lionel and Bertie. The Australian voice doctor much preferring to be informal with his patients initially sits very badly with the occasionally bad-tempered King-in-waiting, but the two do gel as time goes on.

The dialogue between the two fizzes, even when Firth is stammering away. One of the therapy sessions includes the funniest swearing sequence I think I’ve seen since Steve Martin’s car hire rant in Planes, Trains and Automobiles – a segment which initially earned the film a 15 rating due to the number of “****”s. It was downgraded to a 12A with the warning that it was “language in the setting of speech therapy”. So remember, kids – it’s acceptable to swear at your doctor.

There isn’t a single bad member of cast in the entire movie. A small surprise for me was seeing Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill. A far cry from the labourer he played all those years ago in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Derek Jacobi is superb as the pompous Archbishop of Canterbury, a man obviously used to getting his own way.

Firth plays the Prince/King very well and the script portrays him as a troubled man who underwent a harsh childhood being by far the second most important behind his elder brother. Despite this, he’s a good father to his two daughters and by all accounts was a popular king before being succeeded by our current monarch.

I’m no royalist, but this is an incredible story and certainly one that deserves two hours of anyone’s time. With some excellent dialogue, funny moments and a story that doesn’t stop with a ton of history and trivia thrown in it’s great value for money.

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Four Film Tuesday

Despite being loaded with cold (by which I mean, being male, that I was DYING) I made it to the cinema to catch four films today: A Single Man, Battle for Terra 3D, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and Valentine’s Day.

A Single Man

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A day in the life of a gay man in the 60’s who’s lover died recently.

Beautifully directed. Artfully shot. Emotionally acted. Utterly boring.

Obvious OSCAR nomination material due to the subject matter and poncy direction, but incredibly dull and boring. To its credit, I can’t believe that this is the same Colin Firth who was in the atrocious St Trinian’s films. OK, this film’s still not exactly great but at least it’s not trash.

Battle for Terra (3D)

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Humanity invades a peace-loving alien world.

I’d not actually heard of this film other than in the cinema listings so I wasn’t expecting much. How wrong I was. This is not the kind of fare one automatically thinks of when you see the words “cartoon” and “computer generated”. Think more The Last Starfighter than Wall-E. I’d go so far as to say it’s not really a kids’ film so much as a young adults’.

First up, there’s no real comedy in it. Neither are their a multitude of background jokes and references. Cute characters or sidekicks? None. OK, so there’s a robot thingy but it’s hardly a comedy character.

It’s hardly original fare. Part of the plot and ideas can be likened to sources such as Avatar, Battlestar Galactica (the way the human ships launch), Planet 51, Independence Day (the ending) and countless others. However, it is so well packaged that it stands very well in its own right.

The story’s fairly run-of-the-mill, but takes the best of many sources and welds things together into a tight little arc that fits snugly into the short running length. The visuals are superb, voice acting top notch (Mark Hamill and James Garner for crying out loud!) and direction pinpoint.

Sure, it’ll never be up there with PIXAR’s finest simply as it’s never going to get the advertising money behind it. This is BandSlam compared to Disney’s High School Musical series. Far superior, but squirrelled away.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Teenage boy finds out he’s a demi-god, quest ensues.

OK, you want a short review? Harry Potter meets The Clash of the Titans. It is such an easy comparison to make because that’s what it is. We’ll see how it fares against the real Clash remake in a few weeks, but in the meantime this is an enjoyable enough ride.

Let’s look at it and I’ll try to be as spoiler-free as possible.

  • Boy has poor, mildly abusive upbringing
  • No real knowledge of parentage (OK, he knows his mum in this film)
  • Ends up at school for children like him when he discovers his “true self”
  • Rails against authority figure at school despite being their favourite
  • Forms little group containing himself, incredibly talented female and token minority character (Jackson: black kid; Potter: ginger kid)

If you’ve seen Clash or have any knowledge of Greek mythology you’ll know how several of the set pieces will go. Medusa to Hydra – it’s just like it was in Harryhausen’s epic.

It’s still not a bad film, though. And it’s great to see Sean Bean as Zeus. Ruler of the gods and he has a Yorkshire accent. I’m assuming this will develop into a series following the books, so it could improve. Harry Potter, in my opinion, did. A decent start, but it really needs some more originality so I hope the later tomes are better.

Valentine’s Day

This will likely be the only mention of this “holiday” on my blog this year as I, personally, hate it. Utterly commercial and not even a proper holiday. Anyway…

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Various people are single or in couples, then they meet up or split up and then it all ends.

This is a US take on the films of Richard Curtis et al who really know how to put one of these together. Plenty of swearing usually helps (Four Weddings, I’m looking at you), and I believe there was one “****” in the entire of Valentine’s Day. Poor showing.

It is not a bad film. There are more plot threads than anything Tarantino’s put together, with the characters interwoven very tightly. A little too much, to be honest, and it pushes coincidence just a little too far. However, the plot doesn’t revolve around this coincidence except for one little piece, so this is forgiveable.

The cast is stellar, though CineWorld’s reason to see the film amounts to the fact that it’s the first one in which Julia Roberts and her niece both star. Erm. Big whoop.

If you know your multi-threaded rom-coms this is nothing new. It’s one full valentine’s day of some indeterminate year (not this year as it’s on a Monday in the film) and… things happen. As a general rule, people who are together split up. Those who aren’t, get together.

There are a couple of little surprise moment, especially towards the end.

Now, I’m a jaded old fart. But there were two moments in particular that had me – and the entire audience – going “aaaaah” and/or reaching tissue-wards. I won’t spoil them other than to say they both involved the young boy.

This isn’t the laugh-fest promised by the trailer. In fact most of the biggest giggles are in the trailer itself. There’s a fair bit going for it, though, and it’s worth seeing. It could have stood beig maybe 15 minutes shorter, but other than that it’s not bad.

An easy pigeon hole to put it in, but it’d be a good date movie.

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St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold

Scented poo
A real stinker

This won’t be so much as a review as a warning. Don’t, for the sake of anything you deem holy, waste your money on St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Who cares? Really? I don’t.

I gave this film a chance and it bit me on the nads. The cast are awful. The girls aren’t even hot. The script’s pants. Even the make-up is rubbish – you can see that some of the younger girls have blacked-out, rather than missing, teeth.

The whole thing simply stinks.

Whereas ex-Dr Who Christopher Ecclestone was awful in the otherwise entertaining G.I Joe, soon-to-be-ex-Dr Who David Tennant is one of the few saving graces… no. The only saving grace in this otherwise atrocious waste of celluloid.

When the “funniest” moment in a film is Colin Firth‘s leg being humped by a small dog, you know a film doesn’t have a hope in Hell. Especially when the exact same joke (I believe) was used in the first film.

Utter, utter, utter, utter, utter crap.

St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold

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