Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Week with Marilyn

I thought this movie was going to be going over muchly rehashed material about how difficult Marilyn was to work with, etc. I mean, we've had numerous books by Tony Curtis, remembrances re: Some Like It Hot (which was shot right after The Prince and the Showgirl), ad infinitum. And we do get that. But what we also get is a close, personal look into the turmoil that not only was Marilyn, but also Lord Laurence Olivier. And that I find fascinating.

The story is based on a tell-all of a short encounter of a stagehand and the famous Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, which was to be Lord Olivier's triumph. However, Marilyn famously kept the entire company waiting, over and over, and it was said that the two really never connected. No wonder, as this film points out. He was trying to be a film star, and she wanted to be a stage actor, good at her craft. Neither met that goal in this disaster.

Michelle Williams doesn't, to my liking, look much like Marilyn at all. Except that sometimes there's a camera angle that really captures MM's spirit, or her coquettishness. Williams rightly gets it that Marilyn was an act for the woman, and that sometimes it was hard to slither into. She does, indeed, slither in this role, and gets all the moves right. If she doesn't quite look like her in the face, we can forgive that.

I was never bored throughout even though I had a perfect right to be. I mean, you pretty much know what will happen almost each step of the way. But the actors are superb, even in the small parts, and it's just a joy to be on set with them all.

It's truly amazing to me that Kenneth Branagh didn't gain at least an academy award nomination for this role. He is exacting; every word is precise as might have been spoken by the great Olivier. Olivier knew he was great when he was great, but, as all actors do, he had nagging doubts, great fears each night before he performed. And on film, he tended to be over-the-top rather than subtle. Having his famous wife, Vivian Leigh (played so nicely by Julia Ormond) , play the level-headed woman in the background is almost laughable if it weren't tragic; her schizophrenia, which, at her age, was just beginning to bust out. The two together were the British Empire's true king and queen of theatre, yet living in complete chaos.

It's a fascinating look at different styles, of famous lives about which we romanticize so much. Thumb's up.

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Mr. Popper's Penguins

When Tom Popper was growing up, his Arctic explorer father paid very little attention to him, except for messages on the radio. When Tom grows up, he's exactly the same towards his children, and the divorced dad tries sporadically to get their attention. Everything changes when he receives a gift from his dad after his death: six penguins.

I'm assuming that, in many of the takes, the penguins were CGI-created. Because there's no way to get an animal, no less a penguin, to do some of those stunts. Whatever the case, the penguins we see are very lifelike, have a lot of personality, and it's a seamless production.

Carrey, on the other hand, portrays a very unlikeable character. Even at the end, when he mends his ways due to what the penguins have taught him, he's not much of a catch. Grumpy is his middle name.

I enjoyed seeing Angela Lansbury, who was somehow channeling Katherine Hepburn, as the owner of an old-time restaurant that Carrey is trying to buy. And it's always great seeing Carla Gugino, who is charmed by this weird man who is actually making a home for his penguins in his New York apartment.

The visual stuff is sweet, that's for sure, in Mr. Popper's Penguins, but there's no real charm or heart in this movie. But kids will love the penguins, each of which has a name which suits him. Or, as it turns out, her.

Thumb's up minimally, especially for adults.