FILM REVIEWS A tarnished historical epic
Cate Blanchett returns as Elizabeth I, but thanks to liberties taken with history, her reign is less than golden
ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
THE SEQUEL strikes back. But in this opulent but dramatically anaemic, historically dubious biopic, all that glisters is not golden.
Cate Blanchett, returns as Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, the role that earned her an Oscar nomination for 1998’s Elizabeth. Here she is beset by intrigue and Catholic assassination plots and is romantically tempted by Walter Raleigh. Ultimately, she rises above the distractions to rally her fighting men against the invading Spanish Armada.
The year is 1585. Elizabeth was then 52, but no-one put Blanchett, exquisitely made up, beautifully gowned and radiant under a series of impressive wigs, as any older than mid-thirties.
History is further molested by screenwriters William Nicholson and Michael Hirst who have invented a romantic triangle involving the Queen, beautiful lady-in-waiting Bess (Abbie Cornish) and Clive Owen’s dashing Walter Raleigh.
Factual accuracy is traduced even more by the invention of a brand-new speech, delivered, Henry V-style, by Elizabeth to replace her famous real life oration to her troops.
No matter — director Shekar Kaphur’s lavishly costumed, superbly photographedpageantisclearlyaimed at spectacle-seeking movie-goers, and on that level, complemented by Blanchett’s fine, if rather over-theatrical, performance, it succeeds.
SCREENWRITER SCOTT Frank makes an impressive directorial debut with this gripping, character-led thriller.
Former ice-hockey ace Chris (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has been left with only shreds of memory after a fatal car crash and reduced to working as a night janitor in a Kansas City bank and living with his blind mentor Lewis (Jeff Daniels). The action is sparked when he meets former school friend-turnedcriminal Spargo (Matthew Goode) who draws him into a bank robbery.
Gordon-Levitt is magnificent as the intellectually-damaged young man, bringing depth and conviction into a role that could easily have ended up as a cipher. The supporting performances also hit home as suspense and thrills build up to a memorable climax.
DEATH AT A FUNERAL
THE ANIMATED coffin making its way through the opening credits sets the unashamedly no-taste tone of this entertaining farce that follows the members of a deeply dysfunctional family assembling for their patriarch’s funeral.
Dean Craig’s ingenious screenplay piles up a series of lunatic events, including people suffering the effects of an illegal hallucinogen, the unveiling of a shocking secret from the dead man’s past and a blackmailing midget.
Director Frank Oz briskly controls an excellent British cast, headed by Andy Nyman and Matthew Macfadyen and extracts plenty of laughs from an enjoyably vulgar show.
30 DAYS OF NIGHT
HALLOWEEN IS appropriately hallowed by this addition to celluloid vampire mythology. The setting is small-town Alaska where, during the eponymous 30 days when the sun does not shine, a band of grisly vampires led by Danny Huston’s Marlow, descend on the luckless townspeople who fight back led by sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett).
Director David Slade enters into the bloody spirit of things, often ignoring narrative logic in favour of genuinely scary set pieces and all-too-realistic beheading.
And praise is due to Huston who gives the most entertaining display of undead-lumbering since Boris Karloff played Frankenstein’s monster.
THE SUBTITLE How to Get Married and Stay Single neatly sums up Eric Lartigau’s entertaining French-language romantic comedy which finds happily single 43-year-old Luis (Alain Chabat) paying Emmanuelle (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to pose as his fiancée in order to end his family’s unending demands for him to marry.
If the ending is hardly unpredictable, getting there is considerable fun thanks to a witty screenplay which recalls all those classic Rock HudsonDoris Day comedies, and perfectly judged leading performances.
MANOF THE YEAR
(12A) BARRY LEVINSON has a rare miss as writer and director of a depressingly unfunny comedy. Robin Williams plays satirical American TV newsman, Tom Dobbs whose unlikely election as US President because of a computer-voting-system glitch pitches the comedy into a highly unconvincing thriller. Disappointing.
Virgin Queen Cate Blanchett with courtiers Laurence Fox ( left) and Geoffrey Rush in Elizabeth: The Golden Age