The latest bit of historical bio-pic entertainment from Kapur (dir. of Bandit Queen, ugh). And it’s not great. One huge weakness is the writing. The writer of the original was here joined (very unsurprisingly) by the writer of Gladiator, so we’ve got very fakey-Hollywood-period-pic dialogue. Katy says this movie defeats the ending of part one, which showed Elizabeth’s transformation into the powerful virgin queen, by having her act all girlish and weak and man-crazy over the (admittedly dreamy) Clive Owen. Owen plays Sir Walter Raleigh, and Abbie Cornish (Stop-Loss) is a lady of the court who ends up with Owen after being practically thrown towards him by the Queen who wants to vicariously experience love, but the queen flies into a rage when Raleigh and the court girl marry. Most of the movie is concerned with this love triangle, but Spain also forms their Armada and attempts to conquer England before being singlehandedly defeated by Clive Owen. We also get a miniature version of the Mary Queen of Scots story (first filmed in 1895, updated in ’71 with Vanessa Redgrave, soon to be updated again by Phillip Noyce & Scarlett Johansson), played here by the great Samantha Morton.

So yeah, we’ve got Clive Owen, but all he does is look dreamy and act cool, even during battle scenes. We’ve got generic loud symphonic music, some bad CG effects and some confusing storytelling. But there are also very good performances (Blanchett, Morton) and some plain-good ones (Geoffrey Rush, Spanish ambassador William Houston), awesome (oscar-winning) costumes, great set design, but nothing tying it all together. Katy didn’t like it either, so I’m free to complain all I like.

Apparently the same love-triangle story was previously filmed as 1955’s The Virgin Queen with Bette Davis and Joan Collins.

A pretty well-composed movie, not bad overall. The artistic look, good framing, lavish sets & costumes all put indie-hack fare like “last king of scotland” to shame, so it’s a fine movie to watch, if nothing great is playing. No doubt that this one isn’t “great”… it’s too even, regular, plain… nothing daring, original or transcendent, just a big pretty movie. Director Forman only pops up every 4-7 years to make another biopic (amadeus, larry flynt, andy kaufman). IMDB says he’s working on another one already.

First, to get it out of the way, the bad. It’s one of those movies where you can play “spot the reshoots”, as newly-dubbed lines show up when characters’ backs are turned and they weren’t supposed to be speaking, or during another actor’s reaction shot, then they’ll cut back to the speaker (in long shot, preferably) and his lips don’t match up. It’s not like I’ve read that this was a troubled production that required reshoots… they’re right up there on the screen. That, and our theater smelled like Windex.

Then the good. I told Katy I hadn’t seen Javier Bardem since Before Night Falls (2000) but I forgot his small part in Collateral (and I missed Live Flesh at the Almodovar retrospective). Fun to watch him croak out his lines with that serious look on his face, but even more exciting is Michael Lonsdale (THOMAS from Out 1) as Bardem’s superior. That shouldn’t be so thrilling, since he’s in Munich and Ronin and other stuff, but maybe that should tell me something about “goya’s ghosts”, that the most engrossing moments were when I was imagining scenes from “out 1” instead.

Funny thing about Randy Quaid (played the king). He’s in nothing but the dumbest movies for twenty-five years, then he gets cast in Brokeback and now suddenly he’s “and featuring academy-award nominee randy quaid” in studio prestige pictures. the Oscar nom was from 1974, not from Brokeback. Heh, from Pioneer Press: “Swedish Stellan Skarsgard plays Spanish painter Goya and where a key theme is that the Spanish people hate their new king because he’s from France. Which is weird, because he’s played by Randy Quaid, whose accent evokes not Baroque Spain or France, but Houston, circa today.”

Yeah, uneven accents and just a not very great movie full of tragedy with sad ending, but there’s even more Natalie Portman torture/imprisonment than in “V For Vendetta”, so if that’s your thing, here’s your movie.

Starts with the end. All movies start with the end now.

Kind of a disappointment. Not just that expectations were high, just that they were so high for so long and movie kept playing and finally I saw it in closing week and by then I knew it’d be a depressing fascist struggle film with metaphorical special effects and had already seen the monster with eyes in its hands a million times in promo photos. Had few delightful surprises to offer, just a good movie.

Let’s see… fascist Spain 1944, little Ofelia’s dad is dead and mom is marrying a psycho captain who moves them into the country to fight rebel forces who camp in the woods. Housekeeper Mercedes is in love with lead rebel and smuggles out food, supplies and information. A showdown ensues, rebels win the battle but not the war.

Oh also Ofelia finds an underground fantasyland where she tries to escape the pain of reality and eventually succeeds by getting shot to death by the captain and reuniting with her dead parents, now king and queen of Pan’s realm. A happy ending, not really.

Katy liked it I think.

Penelope Cruz (All About My Mother, Sahara) is RAIMUNDA. Carmen Maura (star of Women on the Verge) is her dead mother. Lola Dueñas (one of the nurses in Talk To Her) is her divorced sister. Yohana Cobo is her daughter. Chus Lampreave (Leo’s mother in Flower of My Secret) is her aunt who lives “alone” in their home town. Blanca Portillo (the queen of Spain in Milos Forman’s next movie) is an old friend who checks up on the aunt every day, has a missing mother, and develops cancer.

Tons of plot, as usual. Cruz’s husband tries to rape his daughter, is killed. Cruz buries him by the river with prostitute neighbor’s help. Cruz’s dark secret is that daughter’s real father is Cruz’s own father, who was killed in a fire by his wife while cheating with Blanca’s mother… so Cruz’s mother not really dead but hiding with the aunt. Cruz takes over neighbor’s restaurant, runs it for a film crew and gets it back on its feet. Sister hangs out with mom, talks about family, runs illicit hairdressing business from home.

Similarities with All About My Mother are many. Theme of returning home, theme of motherhood and “us women gotta stick together”, taking care of each other and helping raise kids. Everyone’s involved in illegal businesses, friends with prostitutes, drug use (Blanca grows+smokes weed). Secret pasts and secret pregnancies. Men are barely present. No transexuals in this one. Good music scene, not as nice as the Caetano Veloso scene in Talk To Her but close. Funeral scenes, film crews and television appearances. Feels like an Almodovar movie. Imagine that.

Neat scene: sister goes to aunt’s funeral, accidentally walks into the meeting room for men instead of women. More men than we’ve ever seen in one place (including the film wrap party at the restaurant)! Feels not just like the wrong room, but the wrong movie… everyone stares uncomfortably and she’s quickly ushered back into the world of women. Cruz is great, expressive, with her lipsynched song a highlight. Opening scene with all the town’s residents cleaning off their parents’ graves. The mom hiding all over the place. Touching ending, Cruz’s mom thanks Blanca for not mentioning her on television (when searching for her own mother), and comes to stay with her “until the end”.

Katy liked it too.

Katy didn’t watch this one. I don’t know if she would’ve liked it. I guess if she likes children and good photography, it’s a sure thing. Also, Jerri and Jimmy and I liked it, so it has proven widespread appeal among the 25-35 urban-hipster set.

Travelling movie show comes to town with Frankenstein, and two impressionable young girls watch it. Ana and Isabel have spooky eyes and active fantasy lives, but not as visually crazily active as in Heavenly Creatures. The younger (Ana) runs away, gives her father’s coat and some food to a criminal (who is later discovered and killed), eats hallucinogenic mushrooms, dreams her father as Frankenstein, and is eventually found and brought home. She’s been tricked and lied to and condescended to and has grown and gained a healthy distrust of authority. Apparently there’s a lot of political commentary about Spain in here.