Archives for posts with tag: ioan gruffudd

It’s good that Dakota Blue Richards has figured out what to do with her life and has a solid gig on “Endeavour,” because the beginning of her career was a series of bad fantasy movies in which she was an irritating child, first Golden Compass and then this, and Secret of Moonacre is even worse than Golden Compass. I’m guessing the original book wasn’t much cop, either.

Maria Merryweather (Richards) is a Victorian orphan, and her father left her debts and a magic book. Her governess, Miss Heliotrope (Juliet Stevenson), takes her to live with her uncle Benjamin (Ioan Gruffudd) in the country. He has an enormous and beautiful house, bad manners, and unexplained misery. Maria is obnoxious and inevitably gets lost in the great big forest where Uncle Benjamin has expressly forbidden her to go.

MV5BMjIzMTM3MjY0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTA0MzQ4Mw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_The magic book tells Maria about a longstanding curse on the area, which is called Moonacre. Some witch (Natasha McElhone) had some magic pearls, and the two families (the De Noirs, which I am not making up, and the Merryweathers) want control of them, so there are five hundred years of Capulet-Montague nonsense and when the next moon rises the whole place will fall in the sea, I think. Tim Curry is the current head De Noir, and his minions or possibly sons are emo steampunk morons. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but also some things are over-explained. And there’s a big dog that sometimes turns into a black lion.

There are a lot of tiny dumb things–how Maria’s bustle and train are just the frame with no fabric, how Juliet Stevenson is ludicrously under- and mis-used, the possible love story of Maria with a De Noir son/minion–but they get lost under the giant pile of stupidity.

Director: Gabor Csupo
Rating: PG & PG-13
Length: 103 minutes
Score: 1/5

This is a family movie, and is therefore sort of terrible. I guess? We seem to cut “family” movies a lot of slack because ostensibly they are made for children, and children lack critical reasoning skills. This is the standard explanation, but I submit that the real lack of critical reasoning skills betrayed by this movie is evenly divided between the studio and the lead actors. I have no idea why either Ioan Gruffudd or Toni Collette agreed to be in this, and I know Mr. Gruffudd makes a lot of terrible movies, but Ms. Collette is definitely a real actress who can turn rôles down. Also Richard E. Grant! What the hell!

Apparently, this was originally called Foster, which is more mysterious but also less cloyingly terrible, so I wish they had stuck with that. Alec (Mr. Gruffudd) and Zooey (Ms. Collette) Morrison are married, work in absurdly cutesy jobs (Alec owns a toy factory and Zooey has a book shop), have a beautiful house somewhere in Britain where it’s always sunny, but are not happy. This is because their son died in an accident some years back, and they have not managed to have another child.

That is an unbelievably sad thing to happen to someone, but this movie addresses it in a way that will make children go “huh?” and adults puke. When the Morrisons consider fostering a child, one arrives on their doorstep: a preternaturally calm and well-informed being called Eli (Maurice Cole), who wears a suit and a fedora and prefers CNN to cartoons. He teaches them many lessons about…something, bails out Alec’s failing toy manufacturer with a laughably awful suggestion, gets Alec and Zooey to reconnect at LegoLand, befriends Richard E. Grant the homeless man, and then disappears without a trace, leaving Zooey being sick on Christmas morning. Show me a child that can grasp what’s happening, or care. Once you have any capacity for comprehending what the stakes are, the facile, saccharine response is almost insulting. Is it religious? It has some stabs at it, but never commits.

“Embarrassing” is the first adjective that comes to mind.

Stray observations:

  •  Why is Richard E. Grant here? Why is he homeless? Why does he believe in fairies?
  • Seriously, where do these people live? And how do they afford that beautiful house near those beautiful gardens?
  • The child is adorable on his own merits, but his world-wise schtick gets old quickly.

Director: Jonathan Newman, who also directed The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, and I think I just figured some things out
Rating: PG
Length: 90 minutes
Score: 2/5

This movie is definitely shading into “old favorite” territory, but I’m not sure it’s there yet. And I’m quite aware that the 4/5 rating is going to be controversial, because even I can’t really allege in good faith that this movie is actually a fine piece of cinematic art. It is probably, however, the best existing movie about Roman Britain (compare Centurion, or The Eagle, or The Last Legion, all of which are…desperate). And it might have been better if it had just been a movie about Roman Britain, instead of trying to shoe-horn it into an Arthurian mold. But again, it does that wayyy better than The Last Legion did.

It is around 450 CE. The Empire, in the west, is teetering or has teetered its last, depending on whom you ask. Christianity is doing some weird stuff. It still gets super cold in the British Isles. Arthur (Clive Owen) is a battle-hardened Roman soldier, who grew up in Britain and has served there all his life; his mother was a Briton. He leads a band of famous knights from Sarmatia on the Black Sea: Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Bors (Ray Winstone), and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson). They spend most of their time keeping blue-painted, trousered people firmly on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall. They want to go home.

But they can’t go home, until they go on One Last Mission. Beyond The Wall.

Complicating matters is an army of invading Saxons, led with hilarious menace by Stellan Skarsgård and Til Schweiger (I have no idea what their characters’ names are). Also then Guinevere (Keira Knightley) shows up with a bow and a shirt made of a surprisingly small amount of string. She lectures Arthur about his loyalties and makes Lancelot feel things. It’s not really clear what, though, because what Lancelot mostly does is stare awkwardly.

And here’s my biggest problem with the movie. If you name people “Arthur,” “Guinevere,” and “Lancelot,” you have to commit to the love triangle. Especially if they’re all stupid hot. That’s one of the key things about Arthur. If you don’t want to do that, name them something else. You had to explain how this dude was Arthur anyway; why not just spend that time telling us about someone entirely new?

Stray observations:

  • Clive Owen was 40 when this came out and Keira Knightley was 19, which is surprising and possibly weird.
  • Lancelot’s two knives are just as hot as Legolas’s two knives, which is very.
  • For some reason this movie commits to caring about the Pelagian heresy, which seems like a weird thing to care about.

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes
Score: 4/5

Boy howdy. When Galsworthy calls something a saga, he is not funning. I know this, because the miniseries takes many, many hours, and also because I read the immense book. It tells the story of a rich London family of solicitors (unsurprisingly, the Forsytes) from the late Victorian era through the early 1920s.

Broadly, there are three intertwining strands of this story. Strand 1 concerns Soames Forsyte (Damian Lewis), solicitor and control freak. Strand 2 is composed of his uncle, Old Jolyon Forsyte (Corin Redgrave), and his cousin, Young Jolyon Forsyte (Rupert Graves, in perhaps the only sympathetic part he has played since he hit 30), who are less conventional–Young Jolyon paints and leaves his wife and small daughter June (eventually Gillian Kearney) for the French governess. Strand 3 belongs to Irene Heron (Gina McKee), a very beautiful and serene and impoverished but also shockingly destructive woman, whom Soames marries. The marriage emphatically does not work out, and the circumstances of their separation drive forward the remainder of the main plot, which works itself out (very eventually) in the lives of their children from second marriages.

Galsworthy was careful to flesh out the Forsytes with both particular and family idiosyncrasies, and the series admirably follows his lead: Winifred (Amanda Root), Soames’s sister, impetuously marries the penniless but charming Montague Dartie (Ben Miles, in a really great part for him); their son Val (Julian Ovenden, very young and dashing) is an interesting study in the son who is always vaguely and sometimes acutely embarrassed by his father (their daughter Imogen is a non-entity); George Forsyte (Alistair Petrie), everybody’s cousin, is engagingly detached but somewhat spiderlike in the enjoyment he takes from observing everybody’s insecurities; Philip Bosinney (Ioan Gruffudd), an architect and June’s fiancé, wreaks truly astounding havoc, for entirely plausible reasons; a dozen others round out the splendid tableau.

Perhaps because most of the actions taken are those that human beings might take, it’s sometimes (though very much not always) hard to take sides. One is never bored. Everyone is well-cast, and, while some of the younger actors sometimes seem a bit tedious and melodramatic, that might really be how they’re supposed be.

The production is gorgeous throughout, in interiors particularly, and most especially with the house that Soames has built, designed by Bosinney. It is a triumph of Arts and Crafts: light, airy, and eminently livable. But the real visual interest of the series is in the clothes. We begin in frock coats and huge skirts, meander through bustles and Edwardian suits, and end in drapey post-war dresses with ankle-skimming hems. Irene wears the most beautiful red dress; all the artistic men wear colored shirts with soft neckties. Soames’s daughter gets him into a blazer, boater, and flannels! It is glorious.

Stray observations:

  • I lied: the real visual interest is the amazing proliferation of good-looking dudes. It’s a pity that Christian Coulson isn’t around for longer.
  • This has to be the only thing written in Britain in the first half of the 20th century that hardly deals with the Great War. No Forsyte serves (all too young or too old), though two went out as soldiers and two as nurses to South Africa in the Boer War. We do encounter a Belgian arms dealer and one young ex-officer.

Directors: Christopher Menaul, David Moore, Andy Wilson
Rating: TV, but PG-13ish
Length: 700 minutes
Score: 5/5

Um.

The rundown: London, 1885. Charity (Michael Sheen) arrives, wounded, at the British Museum, spinning a tale to Mr. and Mrs. Mundi (Ioan Gruffudd and Keeley Hawes) and their children Mariah (Aneurin Barnard, yes, a boy) and Felix about a box that turns stuff into gold. Otto Luger (Sam Neill) is evil and on the hunt for it. Mr. and Mrs. Mundi belong to some sort of bureau that protects such things. So the Mundis are kidnapped, then Felix and Mariah are sent to some sort of workhouse, then Felix disappears, then Charity gets Mariah a job at a hotel that Luger owns somewhere in the in the middle of the North Sea where they’re digging for the Midas Box. Mariah meets a girl, hijinks ensue. Lena Headey runs the staff at the hotel, and is Luger’s henchman. She looks great but is mostly pointless.

Did you want that to make sense? Me too.

Everyone’s capable, and the Lord knows I’ve seen worse stuff starring Ioan Gruffudd, but this movie is offensively stupid. The ending even tries to set up a sequel! Laughable. LAUGHABLE. You don’t care about any of the people, there’s way too much going on, and–even though Michael Sheen really tries to sell it–you don’t really feel like the stakes are remotely important.

Stray notes:

  • Mariah is a crappy older brother. He’s always promising not to lose Felix, and then invariably losing him.
  • The hotel is attractively Art Nouveau. If there were fewer shenanigans, I’d stay there.
  • To prove that Mr. Mundi is some kind of antiquities person, the movie more or less starts with a slightly fictionalized defense of having the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum (but here they’re the Someone-else Marbles in the London Museum). A little odd.

Director: Jonathan Newman
Rating: PG
Length: 100 min.
Score: 1/5.