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Non-Review Review: Hope Springs

Hope Springs is a fairly unambitious romantic comedy that is very clearly chasing the silver dollar. Featuring two veteran performers playing a couple struggling through a mid-life crisis, Hope Springs feels like an attempt to demonstrate that the careers of romantic leads don’t necessarily end at forty. It is, on that level, quite pleasing to watch – there’s a proud sense that David Frankel is refusing to leave hum-drum romantic comedy to young actors who seem barely out of puberty. However, the problem is inherent in the premise. Hope Springsproves that romantic comedies aren’t exclusive to younger casts, but it also demonstrates tat very few of the familiar quirks, conceits and plot devices are that much more endearing when delivered by actors old enough to remember a world before mobile telephones.

Well, they’ve made their bed…

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To Play the King (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. Read my thoughts on the service here, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

You’ve got the King against the Prime Minister, the Lords against the Commons. The bishops are in now, you’ve got “don’t blame the royals”, and – in particular – you’ve got Urquhart’s plan to bring down the monarchy for good and all. And they’ve all played the personal morality card. Every one of them. Which means, in my book, that everybody’s private life is now up for grabs. And I mean everybody’s!

– Sir Bruce Bullerby sums it up

The second part of the House of Cards trilogy has some fairly interesting subject matter. While Francis Urquharts Machiavellian rise to power was enough to ground the first four-part serial, it does occasionally feel like To Play The King has just a bit too much going on. Of course, Andrew Davies’ tight scripting ensures that all the necessary subplots are tidied up before we reach the end credits of the final episode, but things do occasionally feel just a little bit too packed. Still, it’s hard to blame a television show for having too much substance, and there’s a compelling issue at the heart of To Play The King, as novelist Michael Dodds takes the opportunity to explore Britain’s constitutional monarchy, and the possibility of friction that a proactive King might present.

A crowning accomplishment for the BBC?

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Academy Awards 2012: The Insiders’ Oscars…

That was… underwhelming. I mean, I think I’m relatively happy with most of the nominees, and there’s very little I can vehemently object to as completely unworthy in yesterday’s Oscar nominations, but still… Yesterday’s Oscar nominations felt decidedly insular, as if the Academy had taken a complete U-turn on any of the amendments that had recently been made in an attempt to broaden the Academy’s horizons. The Oscars have always been a party thrown by the movie industry to celebrate themselves, but this year’s nominations feel increasingly isolated, with nominations and lists populated with the safest and most predictable choices. This is the first year in quite some time that there hasn’t been anything as pleasantly refreshing as the Best Picture nomination for District 9 or Toy Story 3.

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Does Anybody Actually Take the Oscars Seriously These Days?

And people complain that Christmas starts too early! It’s still 2011 and we’re already in the heart of what might be termed “Oscar season”, the spiritual counterpart to the equally expansive “blockbuster season.” Both have very different measures of success. Success in blockbuster season is measured in the words “record-breaking” and “box office” along with various other aggressive adjectives like “smashing”, “breaking”, “crushing” or “dominating.” The winners get their choices of big budgets and high-profile roles and franchises, or the opportunity to risk it all and play again during Oscar season. The rewards at the end of Oscar season are a little gold statue and something like “artistic credibility”, along with the right to stick “Oscar-winner” in front of your name. I’d swear Meryl Streep’s mail is addressed to “Oscar-winner Meryl Streep.”

I might Doubt their credibility...

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To The Devil His Due: Why I Don’t Begrudge Classic Actors “Selling Out”…

I happened to catch a few minutes of Anger Management on television last night. Not enough that I’d feel comfortable reviewing it, but enough to remember most of what I needed to about the movie – which was a perfectly standard Adam Sandler comedy notable for affording the comedian the opportunity to play opposite Jack Nicholson. Nicholson who was an autopilot for the most of the film, but managed to deliver one of the most awkwardly creepy-and-hilarious moments in recent cinematic history as his eyebrows urge Sandler’s character to deliver the line, “I’m sorry I was so rude before… but… it’s difficult for me… to… express myself… when I am on the verge of… exploding in my pants.” Aside from that surreal perv-y old man moment, Nicholson seemed to be in the film mostly for the pay check, which seems to be a recurring trend these days for all manner of respected veteran actors. It’s easy to label performances by Al Pacino in Righteous Kill and 88 Minutes or Robert DeNiro in Little Fockers as classic actors “selling out”, but is it really that big a deal? Is it something we can begrudge these one-time icons?

Most of his paychecks get made out to "Jack Nicholson's eybrows"...

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Non-Review Review: Morning Glory

Early in Morning Glory, our plucky female lead (TM) is interviewing for a position at a major morning show. Asked to outline her vision, she states that “no story is too high or too low” for the show to tackle. Unfortunately, the film makes it clear that the emphasis on that last part. Because this is exactly what we need – a movie about how morning shows aren’t dumb enough.

It's a news day...

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Swanky Lady: Spare a Thought for Hilary Swank…

I feel sorry for Hilary Swank right now, but also a little hurt and confused. Swank should be a respected character actor at the very least, and I’d argue that she has the potential for a distinguished and competent leading lady. After all, the woman has two Oscars on her shelves and she’s not even forty (for Million Dollar Baby and Boys Don’t Cry). That’s some kind of spectacular acting accomplishment right there. We should be looking at the next Meryl Streep, a woman who can grow old with dignity and remain a well-respected and admired performer. So, I am quite surprised to find that Swank is starring in a direct-to-video Hammer horror film, The Resident.

And I’m trying to understand how that can happen.

I thought an Oscar was supposed to open doors...

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