Monday, July 17, 2006

Ladies in Lavender (2004)

Charles Dance’s gentle drama is a fine showcase for two of the world’s best actresses – Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. It is the dames that make this a film worth watching.

The film tells s the tale of two sisters living in 1930’s Cornwall, who discover a young man washed up on the beach. They nurse him back to health and discover he has a talent for playing the violin. The story is thin and so it takes until half-way through the film for it to become truly engaging. Despite this, the strong performances keep us interested during the film’s duller moments.

Judi Dench and Maggie Smith both shine in their roles. Dame Judi gets the meatier of the roles, as the sister who is most affected by the stranger’s arrival. Daniel Brühl is charming as the stranger and equally strong support is provided by Miriam Margoyles as the sisters’ maid.

The direction is at times a little jarring – some strange use of slow motion, for example, but overall it’s a strong first effort from Charles Dance. Dance makes the best of the lush scenery, which adds greatly to the film’s look and feel.

Naturally, music features heavily in the film and the violin pieces chosen are beautiful. They’re masterfully played by Joshua Bell on the soundtrack, while Daniel Brühl plays along perfectly on film.

This film is perfect viewing for a lazy Sunday afternoon - not too exciting and not too taxing on the grey matter, but enjoyable nonetheless.

6/10

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was a massive success which has managed to spawn two sequels, no doubt in order to make as much money as possible from a very popular character.

Overall, the look of the film is fantastic. There are some darker moments, which better portray the harsh nature of life at sea compared to The Curse of the Black Pearl. Gore Verbrinski handles the direction particularly well during the film’s many action sequences.

The film’s main problem is that it is just too long. Dead Man’s Chest proves that Captain Jack Sparrow is indeed the soul of this franchise. It is Jack that drives the film, Jack that keeps the viewer engaged. Dead Man’s Chest suffers, because, at 2.5 hours long, too much time is spent on other characters. Some characters are brought back from the first to good effect, whilst others make you wonder why they bothered. The fact that the film feels far too drawn out and over-long is a shame, because it taints some of the better moments that are had at the end of the film.

Despite this, there’s no denying that the film is very funny. Johnny Depp yet again pulls off the comedy with ease, seemingly even more at home with his character. Keira Knightley plays a good straight man (or rather woman), even though I’m still not particularly fond of her character. Orlando Bloom was distractingly wooden at times, but what else is to be expected?

Some of the action sequences I felt tried too hard to be bigger and better than the ones in the previous film, only to their own detriment. Naturally, sequences of their nature need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but some required a handful.

The music to the film was this time in the hands of the master, Hans Zimmer, having been in the capable hands of his protégé, Klaus Bladelt, for The Curse of the Black Pearl. The highly memorable themes by Bladelt are used again to good effect. There are times when the score does feel like Zimmer-does-Shore, but nonetheless the music flows well with the film.

The film’s ending makes for a wonderful cliffhanger and introduced a turn of events that I am most pleased with. Overall, the film is one worth seeing, but suffers in part because of its length. Hopefully, the third installment in the series will improve on this.

7/10