Category Archives: Movie Review

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Movie Review – Paper Moon

Category : Movie Review

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal

Year: 1973

In the early 90s, and if your family didn’t have a lot of money, the best way to see a movie was to borrow one from the local library.  Especially in the summer, my sister and I would choose from limited titles on the small shelves to entertain ourselves with while our parents were at work, or for times when the kids in the neighborhood weren’t free to play.  We’d pick classics like Abbott and Costello, Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan, or sometimes a newer release like Memphis Belle.  And the library seemed to have a lot from the 70s as well: The Sting, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Paper Moon.  After all these years, I never revisited Paper Moon, until now, and I’ve got to say, it still holds the same magic as it did was I was ten.

Driving through the dust bowl during the Great Depression, trying to make a quick buck, is Moses Pray, a rambling con artist who sells Bibles, swindles money, and does just about whatever it takes to survive in this upside-down world.  Mos makes a quick stop at a funeral, where a women he once knew fondly has died, leaving behind a lone child.  The girl needs to get to her aunt’s in Missouri and for someone to take her there, a task Mos is only willing to undertake if there’s a profit in it for him.  The girl’s name is Addie, she looks more like a boy, and she’s convinced that this man is her father.  Together, they head cross-country to deposit Addie in her aunt’s arms, but find along the way that they actually make one hell of a team.

Magic; I’m not sure what other word would apply.  Perhaps you have to already love 70s films, that unique vibe they were created in, that era of experimentation that made them special, and how they can still speak to us today.  Even done in black & white and set in the 30s, that 70s mood comes through, and I can’t get enough of it.  But putting that aside, this is one fine film, from the music to the scenery, from the road trip mentality to the cast of recognizable faces that pop up unexpectedly.  Madeline Kahn, John Hillerman, even  Randy Quaid; it’s an enjoyable who’s who.  Real father/daughter pair Ryan & Tatum O’Neal create the spark though, and keep the film burning from start to finish.  They are hilarious, heart-breaking, and ultra-realistic, weaving a tale that could be transported to any time and would speak just as loudly.  If you’ve never watched Paper Moon, please give it a shot; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Operator

Category : Movie Review

Director: Logan Kibens

Starring: Martin Starr, Mae Whitman, Nat Faxon

Year: 2016

For those of you who don’t know, Mae Whitman is the voice of Tinkerbell in the Pixie Hollow universe, as well as the voice of many other characters on TV and in video games, including DC stuff and TMNT.  Incidentally, she was also the President’s daughter in Independence Day, so she’s been around for years, has a ton of work under her belt, and has built a career out of being a voice-over star.  But that’s about where her fame ends.  She’d like to be a serious actress, has tried to branch out into films, but hasn’t quite stuck as a leading lady quite yet.  She doesn’t look like a star, if we’re being honest, and may not have the exact talent level we’re looking for either, which becomes disappointing apparent in Operator, a film I had high hopes for but one that didn’t live up to them.

Joe Larsen is the creator of an interactive help line for a healthcare company, a voice that can walk you through the prompts and get you the help you need.  But the computer program doesn’t come across to the customers exactly as was intended, sounding high-handed and callow, setting executives on edge.  So Joe redesigns the interface, this time using his wife Emily’s voice and personality as the makeup for the character.  Emily is a concierge with big dreams, a women who hates her job but is excellent at it.  Her voice and manner sooth upset patrons, a perfect vehicle for Joe’s company.  But when Joe begins to become obsessed with the fake Emily, preferring her to his real partner, the flaws of humanity step right into the spotlight.

It’s good to see Martin Starr in a lead role, he’s got a cool quirkiness that I dig.  And it’s great to see Mae Whitman in front of the camera, taking a break from the voice-over stuff but in a film that uses her talents in a very clever way.  Unfortunately, that’s about where the positives end.  The movie is clever, there’s a message here, and they were very smart to use Mae’s voice as a driving force behind the plot.  But no one involved had the talent to take Operator to the next level, to make it anything more than a cheap, indie copy of Her and a bit of a dud overall.  Nat Faxon steps in as comic relief, but the guy’s not a solid actor, and the writing handed to these characters wasn’t strong enough to give them a leg up.  The film is quick and simple, but not excellent, instead settling into an undesirable state of “OK” that can’t be what anyone was shooting for.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Kong: Skull Island

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson

John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz

Year: 2017

If it hadn’t have been for the wonderful John C. Reilly (his beard, his humor, that adorable crease between his eye sockets), Kong: Skull Island would have gone the way of nearly every character on its convoluted storyboard; it would have died a horrible and embarrassing death.  I guess what also saved it was our commitment to enjoying this franchise, something we’ve proven as audiences, that no matter what kind of Kong movie is released, we will most assuredly sit down in front of a screen to watch it and we will find entertainment in a giant ape, even if the actually product should lead us to a different reaction.  In that sense, Skull Island is no different than the rest; an action movie with Kong as an odd sort of hero and a film we want to watch despite its poorer properties.

As the Vietnam conflict ends, the United States looks to step away from armed affairs and risky missions, so if Bill Randa wants one more funded adventure, it’s now or never.  He and his team have located a previously uncharted island that they would like to explore, for geological purposes, or so they tell the brass, but for far more dangerous reasons in reality.  They put together a team, fight their way through storms in attack helicopters to reach the island, and proceed to blast charges throughout the jungle to see what info they can dig up.  Well, a giant gorilla answers the call, much to the astonishment of the party, destroying everything in his path.  Now the soldiers and scientists will have to find their way to a rally point on foot in order to be extracted, but first they’ll have to face the inhabitants of this hellish place, natives who are large, lizardy, and like to be left alone.

JCR really was the highlight of the film, and perhaps the only actor who wasn’t 100% replaceable.  He brought comedy and charisma to a story that desperately needed it, arriving at just the right time to save the day.  In the movie’s defense, it did start with a bang, Kong making an appearance earlier than I thought he would and the indiscriminate killing beginning right away.  They didn’t play around with fans, at least, they gave us the gorilla and his giant power early and often, allowing pure size to awe us when very little else would.  And the cinematography to go along with the creature was actually awesome, wicked visuals popping out around every corner.  So Skull Island had one great actor, multiple colossal monsters, and some eye-candy shots, but, unfortunately, what it lacked might be what sticks with us the longest.

Every single character, apart from JCR’s downed pilot, was absolutely interchangeable and replaceable.  They could have made any role the lead one, any dude the tough one, any broad the quick one, and I doubt we would have noticed.  Bad writing plagued the film throughout, never more apparent in how it made a wonderful actress like Brie Larson unnecessary or an iconic figure like Samuel L. Jackson horribly one-note.  Any paid professional could have stepped in, rattled off the lines, stood still in front of a green screen, and delivered us the same product; basically, there was nothing original to grasp when the story started to stumble and fall.  I was impressed by the visuals, and, more than that, I was satisfied by them.  I was satisfied in my desire to see Kong, to be entertained by fantasy/horror action, so I didn’t leave disappointed.  But, as a critic, I needed a little more, and it just wasn’t there.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Category : Movie Review

Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

Year: 2017

The 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast is almost as good as the 1991 version, and I say that as a self-proclaimed Disney fan, a movie buff from a young age who grew up directly in the heart of the 90s animation phenomenon.  The original film was definitely that, a blockbuster for all ages that succeeded in a way that I doubt anyone could have seen coming.  To remake it was a daring venture, even with audiences already showing that they support the repurposing of their childhood.  Maleficent, Cinderella, Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon; these live action alternates/copies have gone over well enough, have made money (which may be more to the point), and have inspired directors to keep on doing Disney as long as the money keeps rolling in.  But I didn’t watch this film with capitalistic cynicism, I watched it as a fan, and I think it’s the best we’ve seen from this blossoming “genre”.

In the French countryside lives a beautiful young woman named Belle, the envy of all for her face and figure, but a puzzlement to the locals as well, on account of her desire to read, imagine, and make decisions for herself.  Odd, I know, and even the town hunk Gaston notices Belle’s peculiarities, though he’s willing to look past them so that she might bear him a brood of handsome children.  Belle wants nothing of the sort, and when her father makes his yearly journey to the market, all she asks for is a single rose, proving her grace and unselfishness.  However, Maurice gets lost along the way, finding himself in a strange castle with no inhabitants.  When he tries to leave with a rose, he is imprisoned by an awful Beast, a creature under a spell that only true love can break.  Is Belle the answer to the enchantment, or are all the inhabitants of the cursed palace doomed to an unspeakable fate?

I don’t think we should forget about the new version of Cinderella, because it’s surprisingly good and almost as strong as this film, if done in a decidedly different style, but Beauty and the Beast is the best Disney remake so far, and I see a hundred more coming down the pipeline in the very near future.  First, it is a wonderful homage to the original without stepping on its toes.  Call it a carbon copy if you like, but I’m glad they didn’t change much; the animated version is near-perfect.  This remake feels like a film version of the play, which is itself a copy of the original, so it’s complicated perhaps, but not offensive to those who love the version from their childhood.  There was respect shown to what came before, even letting a few famous lines slide by without emphasis, almost as if there was some reverence to our memories, something I deeply appreciated.  But at the same time, they took time to explain a few hiccups that always bothered me, something I found to be funny and quite smart.  Why it’s snowing in summer, how the Beast got on Phillipe, where books come from in a village where no one reads; someone was paying extremely close attention to detail.

The animation was full of details as well, the most minute and wonderful visuals popping up in every scene.  I was blown away by the complicated artistry, by the vast amount of work that was put into each moment and sparkle.  The Beast could have been done better perhaps, he looked a little photoshopped over the background at times, but that can be forgiven; there’s only so much you can do.  What can’t be forgiven is Emma Watson though, and I’m sorry to say that this is where I find great fault.  She’s not a good actress, we need to start understanding that.  She’s beyond lovely and likeable, but she has exactly one face, and it turns out that she also can’t sing.  Her voice was unforgivably auto-tuned, while those around her soared, pointing her out like a rotten apple in a barrel full of gold.  That can’t be ignored, but it also shouldn’t be allowed to ruin the rest of the experience for you.  Dan Stevens was great as a voice and as a singer, his original song becoming the highlight of the entire movie to me.  Luke Evans was a solid Gaston, Gad an expectedly silly LaFou, Kline surprisingly strong, and the castle crew wonderfully unique; Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci.  Don’t let Belle’s voice destroy a beautiful thing, because there is so much here to love if you let it in, so much that went well in a risky venture that could have fallen flat on its face.  Beauty and the Beast both exceeded my expectations and entertained my entire family for two hours with its delightful music and fanfare; allow it to do the same to you.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Review – Black Swan

Category : Movie Review

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis

Year: 2010

Along with Interstellar, Black Swan may be the best film I’ve seen this decade.  It absolutely blew me away when I saw it in the theatre; I don’t think I had any idea what I was about to experience.  Aronofsky is renowned for his dark, twisted, original interpretation of, well, life I guess, and he brings that stunning viewpoint to the screen every time he directs a film, but Black Swan has to be the highlight of a great career.  What he was able to breathe life into to create this movie is unbelievable, and what the actors were able to harvest from whatever depths they had to reach into is truly amazing.  I don’t rate many films 10/10, especially not something I didn’t grow up loving and that will hold a place in my heart despite whatever flaws it might have.  But this movie is special, it’s a masterpiece of the screen, and it really is practically perfect.

Ballet dance Nina is tired of being just another member of the company, she’s ready for her moment in the spotlight, a moment that needs to come along before she gets any older and heads down the same path as her controlling, living-vicariously mother.  Nina is a talented dancer, but her perfectionism fuels her neurotic behavior, keeping her from letting go in the way she would need to in order to transcend the performance.  The company is putting on Swan Lake, a classic but with a dark take this time, and the Swan Queen is a role Nina desperately wants.  But as she begins to tap into her Black Swan side, a vicious animal that she doesn’t let loose very often, she begins to lose control, misplacing the line she once held so firmly between what you should do and what you can.

One of the themes of this film is perfection, how sometimes you have to let go completely, forget the rules, in order to achieve true beauty.  Well, Aronofsky was able to do just that, releasing this story from its theatrical tether so that it could reach higher than would ever have been expected.  Black Swan is basically perfect, from the haunting music to the wonderful performances, from the frightening mind games to the realistic pressures of the arts.  Watching these characters, you just understand, even if you don’t want to, you understand their evil sides and intentions, the forces that drive them toward success.  Portman was the right choice for Nina, as she’s able to give everything to the role, and Cassel could not have been better as the director of the ballet.  Even Mila Kunis is surprising excellent, or else Aronofsky just knew exactly what to ask from her.  And with an ending that will stun you, Black Swan should go down as one of the best movies of the last twenty years, something that will shock you into giving it all the credit it deserves.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Good Morning, Vietnam

Category : Movie Review

Director: Barry Levinson

Starring: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby

Year: 1987

The death of Robin Williams was an American tragedy, both because our love for him was so strong and because the cause was so preventable.  I say that as a counselor’s husband, as someone who understands the depth of mental illness and the difficulty in addressing it.  So I don’t take Williams’ problems lightly, I just believe that there were therapies, medications, and professionals out there who could have helped him, and I’m sure some them tried, I just wish it had been enough.  He was our great comedian, a once-in-a-lifetime talent who could do it all, who could make anyone laugh, and who simply had a natural gift for acting.  He was funny beyond description, but could also turn that and his own demons into something stronger still.  Mrs. Doubtfire may be the perfect example of that, a film that is wondrously entertaining but also showcases great heart.  And six years earlier, Williams gave us Good Morning, Vietnam, one of his earliest films, and definitely one of his finest.

Wacky and wild DJ Adrian Cronauer, also an airman in the United States Air Force, is transferred from Crete to Vietnam, where his unorthodox yet hilarious radio programming has been noticed and demanded.  Cronauer was one of the most popular DJs in the military, alleviating the stress of the troops, bringing original content to the air, and cracking jokes like a man born to the craft.  Vietnam was an escalating war zone, and tensions were rising every day, with promises of increased troop movements on the horizon.  Cronauer started a cult following of his morning show, though army brass wasn’t so hot on his irreverent style and frequent rule-breaking.  Falling in love with the country and its people, Cronauer began to find it difficult to draw the line between soldier and human, between job and passion, and as real war broke out, he found himself dangerously close to its middle.

Robin Williams is a magician, a miracle worker, with his voice as his wand.  The number of personalities he can invent on the spot, the characters he can bring to life spontaneously, the wit he can weave without becoming tongue-tied or breaking a sweat; it’s something that we’ll never see the equal of, which makes his passing all the more tragic.  This film was the first time we were able to see that talent, but it wouldn’t be the last, Williams bringing the heat in film after film going forward, from Aladdin to Patch Adams, from Death to Smoochy to Good Will Hunting.  It was his ability to layer jokes on top of real drama that was truly remarkable, and this film is a great example of just that.  It may be a little dated now, but Williams is in his prime, and Forest Whitaker is a wonderful sidekick.  The army antics are delightful, while the setting is so vibrant and true, creating a sense of something special, even after all these years.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Logan

Category : Movie Review

Director: James Mangold

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

Year: 2017

The newest addition to the X-Men galaxy of the Marvel universe is Logan, a darker take on the comic book genre and the latest of these films to seek out an R-rating.  Deadpool went the same route, aiming at an adult audience who could appreciate a violent, vulgar action film, instead of the younger crowd who might enjoy things a bit on the lighter side.  But while Deadpool went comedic, Logan goes completely black, leaving behind any vestige of the silly antics we’ve seen before from this style.  We knew exactly what this film would be, based on the trailers and the stills, and it will not disappoint those looking for a bleaker, more desperate take on the story, or those ready to see adamantium back in action in the bloodiest way possible.

In the near future, mutants have ceased to exist.  Those who haven’t died already are aging in hiding, while no new mutant children are born any longer.  It’s as if the population has been culled of the gene, perhaps even naturally, and Professor X’s vision of an advanced race of heroes has evaporated.  Charles is unwell, is losing control of his mind, and is being kept half prisoner, half patient by Wolverine.  Logan is just trying to raise enough money so that he and the Professor can leave the desert, live out the rest of their short lives in peace, and try to forget the painful past.  But a woman who claims that she has a mutant child is insistent that Logan help them reach safety, ahead of a group of sinister thugs who want the girl for their own evil purposes.

Violent, check.  Gory, check.  Worthy of its R-rating, check.  This is the edgy X-men film we’ve been waiting for, and while Deadpool opened the door, Logan comes crashing through the frame with its claws ripping.  Those who have grown accustomed to typical comic book fare will be in for a bit of a shock if they didn’t prepare themselves before sitting down to watch; this movie is more Terminator than X-Men really, more Western than action/adventure.  Some are calling it a pure Western, but I wouldn’t go that far.  It really is much more similar to Terminator 2: Judgement Day than anything else, and that’s not a knock, that’s just calling a spade a spade.  Logan is a bleak look at our future, a film laden with metaphor, and an enjoyable comic book film to boot.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are retiring from their roles after this movie, so enjoy them while you can.  They are the perfect pair to play the juxtaposing personalities of Charles and Logan, two high-quality actors who may not be perennial Oscar-contenders, but have more than enough ability to elevate action roles into something more meaningful.  And the addition of a few fascinating characters was appreciated as well: Boyd Holbrook, who I love, as Pierce, Stephen Merchant as Caliban, Dafne Keen as little Laura.  Everyone came together to form a solid feature, something that innovates while still harking back, a movie that should please a large audience and make us thirsty for more.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Review – American Honey

Category : Movie Review

Director: Andrea Arnold

Starring: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough

Year: 2016

Too often we skip right past the leading ladies in the cast & crew, heading straight toward the starring dudes, which is both too easy and incredibly unfair.  Hollywood hunks and lead male roles have dominated for most of the history of cinema, but trends can change, and perhaps even now women have the confidence & support that they have never had, enough to nudge the men over a bit so that both sexes are sitting equally at the table.  I bring this up now because I almost went straight to Shia to open up my critique of this film.  He is the biggest name, he does shine here, I do love the kid, but there are four names written above, three of them are female, and that deserves mentioning before I review this fine film, an incredible achievement for all involved.

Star leads a life that many of us can understand, if not exactly relate to; poor, unloved, lonely, loaded with responsibilities and children that are not hers, hounded by a man who is a rotten excuse for a father figure.  And so when the chance comes for this young lady to take off on an adventure that she can completely call her own, Star takes it.  A group of misfits are hitting the road to sell magazines door to door, semi to semi, heading where the wind blows with no real reason to ever come home.  They are outcasts and rebels, those who don’t fit in, but they have found a wild family in the group in a van that covers the country state by state.  Star begins to fall for the lead salesman, Jake, though he’s in the pocket (and the pants) of the boss lady, Krystal.  It’s an uneven romance and an abstract American tale, but it’s all young life on display with no apologies made.

Credit to filmmaker Andrea Arnold, who directed & wrote this film, for so precisely capturing not the common adolescent experience perhaps, but one that is happening all around us, even if we choose not to see it.  For some kids, home life is worth abandoning, finding new friends can be the difference between trying and giving up, bad choices seem like good choices when all you’ve ever experienced is poverty.  It’s a compelling story told with a semblance of romance and drama, brought to life wonderfully by these crooked characters.  Lane is a newcomer and she did fine, though her “realness” is what held her up.  Shia, who I greatly admire for his determination to be different, is spectacular as Jake, and really steals the show.  There’s something oddly special about this movie, something that’s hard to define and definitely harder to harness but appears as if by magic if you have the patience and the positivity to see it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Enemy at the Gates

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Starring: Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz

Year: 2001

In my recent review of Cold Mountain, I talked about the glory years of Jude Law’s career, from 1999-2004, a time Enemy at the Gates falls neatly into, a fact that prompted me to rewatch one of my old favorites, a film I watched in the theatre when I was 17 and one that has always stayed with me.  Law was in his prime, as was Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) and Weisz (The Mummy).  When this movie was released, those three were a formidable trio, and they came together for an epic war tale at just the right time.  This film still holds sway over my heart, for some reasons that I’m sure I won’t be able to explain, but for a few that I’ll hope to over the next two paragraphs, even if no words of mine can accurately describe it.

Based on the true story of one of Russia’s greatest war heroes, Enemy at the Gates is a piece of history brought to life for our entertainment and our awe.  As Hitler took control of Europe and the west during WWII, he turned his sites to the east, to Asia and its rich oil fields.  Beginning a battle of two fronts, the Nazis advanced to Stalingrad, a city in which the Russian army would plant its feet in the ground and refuse to move.  A young sharpshooter named Vassili Zaitsev would rise in the ranks to become a lethal killing machine and one of the strongest pieces of propaganda available.  But when a German sniper was called to Stalingrad to kill Vassili, a standoff would begin that could turn the tide of the entire war, a match between experts set upon a backdrop of blood, love, and the fate of the world.

If you didn’t fully experience it, you’ll never quite understand; Jude Law was a force of nature around the turn of the century.  He was a star, it’s that simple, a star who worked magic with an unbelievable ease.  Brits playing Russians in a world of brown rubble and gore-filled sinkholes?  That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, but Law made it so.  He & Fiennes, yin & yang in this film, played together perfectly, with the wonderful Rachel Weisz as Vassili’s reason for living.  Add in Ed Harris, Bob Hoskins, & Ron Perlman and you’ve got yourself an ultra-stellar cast.  Then there’s the music, which James Horner composed perfectly, and has since reused far too often, in my opinion.  This is a war/drama/romance/epic for the ages, something that didn’t get the same attention as Braveheart, but is nearly as deserving.  Don’t forget to give credit to Annaud, a director who was coming off of Seven Years in Tibet, another gem of the era.  Enemy at the Gates is an example of more elements coming together and working than you would imagine possible, a well-crafted and stunningly (yet simply) acted masterpiece that every movie buff should see at least thrice.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Shakespeare in Love

Category : Movie Review

Director: John Madden

Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck

Year: 1998

It’s been almost twenty years and perhaps we’ve started to forget a little, but Shakespeare in Love is one of the most awarded/nominated films of all-time.  At the Academy Awards alone, it was nominated in thirteen different categories, winning in seven of them.  Here’s the full list, and it’s pretty impressive: Picture, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design, Music, Supporting Actor, Director, Cinematography, Sound, Editing, Makeup.  That’s no small deal, and even considering that not all “awards movies” are worthy, a film that makes this bold a statement is one that’s at least worth a glance.  And in this case, the product actually lives up to the hype.

Shakespeare as a young man, as an unsuccessful poet, as an artist in search of a muse.  Will works for one of two competing theatres in London, the broke one actually, and seems destined to have his words & talent wasted by an unappreciative world and an inability to stay inspired.  He’s writing a throwaway play about a boy named Romeo and a pirate’s daughter, a comedy that he knows is drivel.  But then a meeting takes place, an encounter that will change his life.  Will meets the Lady Viola and falls hopelessly in love, beginning an affair that breaks all the rules of English society.  It also inspires him to write like he has never written before, to change his play into a story of star-crossed love, and to ultimately create one of the greatest pieces of literature in history, all while living the plot firsthand.

Though the beginning of the film is both choppy and full of way too many characters, the action soon settles down into what makes the movie magical; a great love story that inspired the greatest love story.  Yes, it’s all made up, this isn’t how it actually happened, but where’s the fun in history when there’s a romance to be told?!  In all seriousness, this is a fictional drama, don’t get hung up in the details.  Instead, enjoy the amazing performances all around, from the three huge names mentioned above to the multitude of side characters who make the cast sing: Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Judy Dench, Colin Firth, Jim Carter.  These roles, combined with perfect costumes, set against a lavish background, create an unbelievable Elizabethan atmosphere that was made to be brought to the screen.  This film deserved its nominations and its wins, it really is that good, and you really should see it right away if somehow you missed it in the 90s.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆