Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch
High praise for ‘The King’s Speech,’ ‘127 Hours,’ cast of ‘The Fighter’; ‘The Tourist,’ not so much

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Jan. 13, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

At a recent showing of the film The King’s Speech in Spokane I was surprised that the fairly full theater erupted in applause as the film ended. I don’t recall ever experiencing such a reaction locally.

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed The King’s Speech. It is the story of George VI, king of England, who had a severe problem of speaking with a stutter, especially in front of a crowd. As the Duke of York (Colin Firth) he becomes the king when his brother (Guy Pearce) in the late 1930s abdicates the throne “for the woman I love.”

It is the Duke’s wife (Helena Bonham Carter) early on who seeks out a speech therapist after so many have failed to help her husband’s stutter. The Australian speech teacher and failed Shakespearean actor Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) very slowly is able to help the king-to-be sort through the psychological reasons for his stuttering.

There are breaks in the relationship when Lionel becomes too friendly with the royal whom he calls by his family name, Bertie.

The movie leads up to a famed speech that the new king gave at the beginning of World War II in 1939. Along the way there is lots of humor. Lionel seeks to loosen up the very serious Bertie. The reason for the R-rating is that one of Lionel’s therapies is to get the future king to use lots of cuss words to loosen him up and lose his stutter.

For me personally, this was the most enjoyable film of the year. Colin Firth could not be better. He deserves the Best Actor Award that he may receive. It is great to have an old-fashioned historical film that reaches into the human weakness we all have. Even a king is broken and needs lots of help to be who he can be.

Helena Bonham Carter is perfect as the King’s wife and mother of Elizabeth and Margaret. The real Queen Mother before she died some years ago asked that the film not be made until after her death. I can’t help but think she would have enjoyed this film very much. At the time she said this period of her life was too painful.

Geoffrey Rush is great as the speech teacher with no diplomas. He gives the film its great humor.

Director Tom Hooper gives the film the period feel and shows us the importance of the new technical way of reaching millions, the radio.

Do not miss this life-affirming film. It is memorable.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates this film R-Restricted because of language. (Editor's note: after publication, Catholic News Service rated the film A-III - for adults.)

*****

The ensemble cast of David O. Russell’s film The Fighter is terrific. Years ago I saw Russell’s I Heart Huckabees. I thought it was one of the worst films I have ever seen. But The Fighter certainly redeems this well-known director in my eyes.

It is true we are familiar with the sport’s film where a main character overcomes all odds and succeeds in an impossible situation. But The Fighter takes a familiar genre and infuses it with style and great acting to bring about a wonderful movie.

Again we have a film based on a true story. This time it is the story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) in an against-all-odds boxing comeback. The story is complicated by Micky’s incredibly dysfunctional family. He has his mother (Melissa Leo) as his manager and his half-brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale) as his trainer. Dickie is a drug addict and a real con artist. To top it off there are seven or eight sisters who appear to come from the witches section of a Shakespearean play.

In the midst of his attempt to comeback in the field of boxing, Micky falls for Charlene (Amy Adams) as his girlfriend. She plays a tough bartender who is more than willing to take on Micky’s family and do what she thinks is right for Micky.

Mark Wahlberg, who for years has sought to have this story made into a movie, is the most subdued of all the characters in the story. He helps the film to have a center as the other actors chew up the scenery. Christian Bale will certainly get a best supporting nomination from the Academy. He is superb. Melissa Leo continues her string of outstanding acting roles as the mother for whom the word manipulation is part of her nature. Amy Adams plays against her nice-girl image with a tough gutsy style. Director Russell should get lots of credit for making The Fighter into such a well-made film. He lets all of his actors stand out.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film R-Restricted because of language, violence, and drugs. The Catholic News Service rates the film L-Limited adult audience – the film has problematic content that many adults would find troubling.

*****

James Franco has teamed up with director Danny Boyle, who gave us Slumdog Millionaire, in the new film 127 Hours. The film tells the true story of Aron Ralston who in April of 2003 cut off his arm when trapped by a large bolder in a narrow crevice in the Canyonlands area of Utah.

I first must admit I closed my eyes in the roughly two minutes when Aron cut his right arm off so that he could escape his impossible situation. The film is extraordinary for making a story of one man trapped for 127 hours interesting by use of flashbacks and special techniques of filming. The acting by James Franco is top notch and he should get a best actor’s nomination from the Academy Awards.

The film teaches us to be connected to family and friends by telling them where we are going when we are hiking. It is a meditation on the important realities of life as a self-confident young man faces death.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film R-Restricted because of language and some disturbing images. The Catholic News Service has not yet rated the film.

*****

One of the most powerful movies of the last decade was German director Florian Henckel von Oonnersmarck’s The Lives of Others. It is a movie where scenes stay with you years later.

Von Oonnersmarck has now directed the new Hollywood-financed film The Tourist with the great stars Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. The film must cost millions upon millions when compared with The Lives of Others. And other than beautiful scenes of the fabled city of Venice there is not much to remember.

Both Jolie and Depp dominate the screen with their beautiful looks, but they seem to be walking through the film with great posture and wooden acting.

The Tourist is a failed attempt to try to combine a thriller with comedy in the style of Alfred Hitchcock. The story as we roll into it has Elise (Jolie) pick out a stranger on the Paris-to-Venice fast-train to confuse trailing spies from the world of crime and Scotland Yard. The supposed American who is a teacher from Madison, Wis., is the Johnny Depp character, named Frank.

So we are drawn into boat chases through Venice to a hotel suite none of us would ever be able to even see in the real world. And then we have all kinds of people trying to catch Frank and evidently kill him.

The end of the film is a surprise and you may find yourself groaning “You’ve got to be kidding.”

You also may want to go back to the DVD version of Benny and Joon which was made right here in River City and is one of Depp’s first films.

One can only hope that von Oonnersmarck can take the millions he may have gotten for directing this disaster and make a couple of independent films that would show us he is not a one-film wonder.

The Tourist is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) because of language and Hollywood violence by the Motion Picture Association of America. Catholic News Service rates the film A-III – for adults.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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