Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Shekhar Kapur, 2007)

It's that time again, Oscar-bait season. This weekend, three movies opened in wide release that could all conceivably get nominations, We Own the Night (which I have no real interest in), Michael Clayton (which I will probably rent because I have a soft spot for Mr. Charming, George Clooney, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, the sequel to 1998's Elizabeth, which was Cate Blanchett's breakout role. This movie has all the elements to be another award-worthy film: cast of well-respected actors (Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen), a period drama about one of history's most intriguing leaders, and the same director (Shekhar Kapur) as the first film. But even the most well-intentioned of movies can sometimes go awry, and something to that effect certainly happened here.

First, the good; Blanchett is the complete center of attention every time she is onscreen, something to be completely expected when playing Elizabeth I. She is the saving grace of this movie. Some of the lavish visuals are breathtaking, especially the scenes near the end of the movie where there is a gigantic battle at sea; the fire imagery contrasted with the clear blue sea makes for some amazing eye fodder. The scale of the movie is really big and beautiful, and you have to give Kapur credit for trying ideas that are actually pretty outlandish.

Now, the bad: everyone but Blanchett is either mis- or under-used. Geoffrey Rush basically has three scenes, and Clive Owen (my favorite actor) as Sir Walter Raleigh, on whom the queen basically has a crush, has a lot of really silly lines. He delivers them with as much grace as possible, but when your character has the most important leader in the world at the time screaming over you like a fourteen year-old girl, there's only so much you can do. Abbie Cornish, who I rather liked in Candy, does nothing here but offer some pretty hot cleavage. Samantha Morton is good as Mary, Queen of Scots, but has no interaction with Elizabeth, something that could have benefitted the movie greatly. They have strong feelings toward each other, but in theory only. Between Elizabeth acting like a pre-pubescent girl over her crush on Raleigh and a hormonal ruler screaming at the Spanish ambassador (don't get me started on the ridiculous portrayal of the Spanish leaders), she's almost completely unbelievable.

Sure, Kapure was trying to juxtapose the emptiness of Elizabeth's personal life with the tumult of her political career, but did he have to use so many spinning-around-the-subject shots? And so many awkward visual metahphors equating Elizabeth with some kind of messiah figure? Apparently this movie was way more Hollywood than history, but since I'm not up on my British history, that didn't bother me as much. What did bother me was the wasted potential of a great cast, great story, and great set pieces.


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