I just saw the sad news that actor Albert Finney has passed away at the age of 82. One of cinema’s original angry young men, he went on to have an illustrious and variety filled career, highlighted by work in ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ and ‘Tom Jones’. I always found him to be a fine presence on screen and the news of his death saddens me. May the great Albert Finney rest in peace.
- Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich
- Albert Finney as Ed Masry
- Aaron Eckhart as George
- Marg Helgenberger as Donna Jensen
Based on a true story, Erin Brockovich is a warm and uplifting crowd pleaser that doesn’t feel mawkish for a second. Bolstered by the Oscar-winning performance of Julia Roberts and competently directed by Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich makes for emotionally involving and compulsive viewing of the underdog taking on the hierarchy of corruption.
Erin Brockovich is an unemployed single mother of three young children, who has recently been injured in a road accident. Her lawyer, the wise Ed Masry, hopes to win the case in suing the doctor who caused the crash. Erin’s brassy behaviour and use of profane language does little to endear her to the court and she loses the case. At the end of her tether struggling to provide for her family, she talks her way into a job at Ed’s law firm. An unconventional presence among straight-laced staff, Erin’s take no prisoners attitude and revealing wardrobe constantly test Ed’s patience. Whilst looking through the real-estate files of Pacific Gas and Electric who are planning to purchase the house of a woman in Hinkley, California she finds medical records and blood samples. Curious, she checks out the intriguing oddity. Speaking to Donna, the woman whose file she found it in, she discovers the unusual correspondence between the company and the family’s in the area. Plus, many of the residents in the area have become sick with various and dangerous medical conditions. Continuing to dig up details in the complicated but little-known case, Erin unearths a cover up as the company has been poisoning the water supply within the area. Erin pursues the case, revealing the warmth behind her streetwise exterior, and begins to form a case against Pacific Gas and Electric in order to help the community. Prepare for a funny, dramatic and moving take on the David and Goliath story as the excellent direction of Steven Soderbergh,a witty yet insightful script and strong performances from Roberts and Finney add to the overall charm and emotionally drive of Erin Brockovich.
The screenplay for this movie manages to balance humour and pathos in equal measure, and although you may guess the outcome, still keeps you wondering whether Erin’s case will win. It also manages to flesh out the interesting investigation of the cover-up and how Erin’s good heart and brash demeanor aid her in her quest for justice. Steven Soderbergh’s direction gives the piece a naturalness that allows the actors to embody their roles effectively whilst also giving us a touching story of an unconventional woman using her smarts and big heart to help others. The cinematography captures a hazy glow of California as Erin works her way towards answers. The actors in the cast are all convincing in their roles. Julia Roberts delivers a strong, Oscar-winning performance as the eponymous Erin. Roberts embodies the tough, brassy attitude, foul mouth, heart of gold and a deep empathy to give us a woman who will stop at nothing when it comes to the case. It really is a joy to watch this tenacious character prove her intelligence and strength in the face of corporate big wigs trying to avoid a lawsuit. She is ably supported by Albert Finney as Ed, who is initially unsure about Erin but comes to see the intelligence and caring side that have long been underestimated in Erin. Finney has an excellent camaraderie with Roberts, as we watch two stark opposites learn to respect one another. Aaron Eckhart manages to create an interesting character in the role of George, a biker who takes a shine to Erin but begins to worry when the case begins to overtake her. Marg Helgenberger shines in a touching role as a woman who has suffered with illness because of the cover-up.
Emotionally rich, involving and well-performed, Erin Brockovich provides laughs, cries and above all praise.
1970's, Agatha Christie, Albert Finney, Anthony Perkins, Colin Blakely, Denis Quilley, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, John Gielgud, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Michael York, Murder Mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Sean Connery, Sidney Lumet, Vanessa Redgrave, Wendy Hiller
Murder on the Orient Express
- Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot
- Lauren Bacall as Mrs. Hubbard
- Martin Balsam as Bianchi
- Ingrid Bergman as Greta Ohlsson
- Jacqueline Bisset as Countess Andrenyi
- Michael York as Count Andrenyi
- Jean-Pierre Cassel as Pierre Michel
- Sean Connery as Colonel Arbuthnott
- John Gielgud as Beddoes
- Wendy Hiller as Princess Dragomiroff
- Anthony Perkins as Hector McQueen
- Vanessa Redgrave as Mary Debenham
- Rachel Roberts as Hildegarde Schmidt
- Richard Widmark as Ratchett
- Denis Quilley as Antonio Foscarelli
- Colin Blakely as Hardman
Surely one of the best adaptations of an Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express is a splendid, stylish and sensational murder mystery boasting what has to be one of the most star-studded casts ever assembled on film. Elegantly directed by Sidney Lumet and with a sumptuous recreation of the elite of the 30’s in costume and decor, Murder on the Orient Express is not to be missed for fans of movies that are often referred to as ‘films they just don’t just make like this anymore’.
Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective is travelling aboard the eponymous train from Istanbul to Paris, then he will travel to England to attend important business. The train is unusually crowded but the eccentric Poirot has managed to find a cabin by way of his friend Bianchi, who is also travelling on the same journey. Poirot is approached by a secretive businessman named Ratchett, who offers him a large sum of money if he can find out who has been sending him threatening letters. The detective has no interest in the case and turns it down. The next morning, Ratchett is found dead, stabbed a dozen times in his bed. It is then up to Poirot to investigate the case as the train has been caught in a snow drift somewhere in the Balkan Regions on the night of the murder. He is surrounded by a rich array of suspects including; the loquacious and obnoxious Mrs. Hubbard, the simple-minded Swedish missionary Greta Ohlsson, the icy and glamorous Count and Countess Andrenyi, the quiet conductor on the train Pierre Michel, Colonel Arbuthnott, an officer in the British Indian Army, the buttoned up valet of the deceased, Beddoes, the ageing Russian royal Princess Dragomiroff, Hildegarde Schmidt, her personal maid, Hector McQueen, the secretary to the deceased, Mary Debenham, a teacher and paramour of Colonel Arbuthnott, Foscarelli, an Italian-American car salesman and Hardman, a secretive agent for a detective service. As he investigates, Poirot deduces that Ratchett was really a gangster, who played his part in the notorious kidnapping and murder of Daisy Armstrong, a prominent aviator’s daughter, many years before. Through interrogation and the exercise of his ‘little grey cells’ Poirot tries to figure out this bizarre case filled with secrecy and enshrouded with shocks and red herrings. So sit back and enjoy as the detective makes his way through the case in which nothing is as it seems.
Sidney Lumet keeps the atmosphere of the time and gradual deducing of the crime through employing a brisk pace to the film and making exceptional use of the camera. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Poirot’s excellent denouement in which he paces up and down the carriage and recounts his findings. The way the camera captures the faces of the guests, filled with anxiety, astonishment and shock as they silently listen, is quite masterful as the complex case is laid bare in front of them. The opening sequence in which the history of the Armstrong Case is shown whilst intercut with newspapers clippings, is another highlight of lighting and atmosphere, getting the film off to a suspenseful and haunting start. The magnificent score exudes suspense and glamour and is a great attribute to the film.
The star-studded cast is almost certainly the biggest draw in the film, even if some actors are underused in the process. Albert Finney is particularly eccentric and witty as Poirot, stealing the show as he delves into one of the most complex cases in his illustrious career. Lauren Bacall is acerbically funny as the chatty Mrs. Hubbard, her fussy outbursts masking her quiet intelligence. Martin Balsam has some great scenes with Albert Finney as the panicking Bianchi, who is the one who entrusts the case with Poirot. In a small but well-played part that won her an Oscar, Ingrid Bergman is luminous and touching as the missionary with poor command of English. Jacqueline Bisset and Michael York are icily impressive as the wealthy count and his beautiful bride. Jean-Pierre Cassel exudes a quiet intensity and shyness as the conductor Pierre, who is still a suspect despite helping out in the case. John Gielgud relishes the witty lines as the buttoned-up and knowledgable butler Beddoes. Wendy Hiller shines as the evasive member Russian royalty, along with Rachel Roberts as the terse German maid. Vanessa Redgrave glows in her role of the English teacher who doesn’t take kindly to Poirot’s questioning about her relationship with the colonel. In the brief but important role of Ratchett, Richard Widmark is sly and disagreeable even though he knows it’s only a matter of time before something happens to him. On the underused side, unfortunately is Sean Connery who has nothing much to do in the film except vehemently disagree with Poirot. Anthony Perkins could have been used better, instead of him turning in another variation on Norman Bates. Denis Quilley and Colin Blakely are also not used to any real effect.
Despite the wasting of certain actors talents and the pace lulling at various points, Murder on the Orient is none the less a distinguished and thrilling adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, presided over by the excellent direction of Sidney Lumet.
007, 2010's, 50th Anniversary, Action, Adele, Adventure, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Berenice Marlohe, Daniel Craig, James Bond, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ola Rapace, Ralph Fiennes, Roger Deakins, Sam Mendes, Skyfall, Spy
- Daniel Craig as James Bond
- Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva
- Judi Dench as M
- Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory
- Naomie Harris as Eve
- Berenice Marlohe as Severine
- Ben Whishaw as Q
- Ola Rapace as Patrice
- Albert Finney as Kincade
Skyfall is the 23rd entry into the James Bond series and this year celebrates the 50 years 007 has been on our screens. As many of my followers will know I’m a huge fan of the James Bond series, but I promise I’ll try to make this review as objective as possible. But even if you are not a fan, you can’t ignore the staggering success that the series has attained over it’s 50 year run. Over these years the films have showcased many exciting missions, amazingly beautiful women and maniacal villains, many of which have become a part of popular culture. If there was any doubt that the series couldn’t recover after the underwhelming Quantum Of Solace, then look no further than Skyfall that makes a spectacular return to form on the 50th Anniversary. Anyway, back to my review of the film.
The film starts with Bond and a sexy field agent named Eve, pursuing a mercenary in Istanbul who has a device that contains the identity of NATO agents. Right from the start, the atmosphere is thrilling and gripping, as the chase moves from cars to foot and eventually the top of a train. It is the perfect way to start the film. On the command of M, Eve armed with a sniper shoots intending to hit the target who is grappling with Bond. Instead she hits 007, who in turn falls into the river and is presumed dead. The scene is rounded of as Bond falls into an atmospheric title sequence accompanied by the sound of Adele’s title song, which harks back to the early Bond songs.
As a result of her judgment and command, M is pressured to resign by Government chairman Mallory. Then, MI6 is hacked and a bomb is set off at the headquarters, killing many of the workers. Meanwhile, Bond is “enjoying death” in some corner of the globe, a shadow of his old self. When he hears of the attack, he returns to duty to uncover the source of terror on M. It appears that M made an enemy of a former agent, Raoul Silva, who in turn wants personal and sadistic revenge on his former boss. What ensures is a thrilling, action packed and character driven film that firmly establishes Bond as a force that is here to stay.
What is great upon viewing the film is its neat balance of action and character development. Sam Mendes, best known for directing American Beauty, makes an assured entry into the Bond canon. All of the leading players involved in the film deserve some credit. Daniel Craig’s third movie features a great performance that shows both the vulnerable and tough sides to James Bond.As the flamboyant, sadistic and utterly menacing Silva, Javier Bardem is outstanding in a role that fits him like a glove. In my book, he is sure to go down as a memorable adversary for Bond. Judi Dench gives a commanding performance as M, as she is pivotal to the story and Dench rises to the challenge of having a larger role with ease. We finally get an insight into this commanding woman, both as a person and as the boss. No Bond film would be complete without the women. Naomie Harris provides a sexy presence as a field agent who playfully spars with Bond. Die hard fans should watch for a neat twist involving her character. The other girl, Berenice Marlohe has the smaller role but is equally as sexy and adds mystery to her character of Severine. My only quibble with her character is that it would have been better if her role had been expanded a little more. Sterling support is provided by Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw, who makes an amusing and geeky young Q for this generation of fans. Albert Finney also appears as someone from Bond’s past and steals the scenes that he has.
The cinematography by Roger Deakins is exemplary in the way it captures the mood of the film and accentuates emotions with his use of colour. The locations and set pieces used are also amazing to the eye, such as the scene of Bond grappling with an enemy against a back drop of electric blue jellyfish and an exotic casino equipped with deadly Komodo dragons.
All that I have left to say is this, Skyfall is an exciting, gripping and action packed film with all the right ingredients and references to the early Bond movies. Even if you are not a fan of the series, see it as soon as you can as you won’t regret it.