Archives for posts with tag: paul bettany

The current trend of biography is lengthy and complicated (see “The Crown,” or “Victoria”), which is possibly admirable. If, however, you are looking for the film biography equivalent of a chocolate soufflé, look no further than The Young Victoria.

As the title suggests, this film deals only with the early, Cinderella-type years of Victoria’s life, when she falls in love and is kind of bad at being the queen, and before she gets jowly and depressing. Helpfully, Victoria’s life was peopled with engagingly cartoonish heroes and villains, and they find excellent avatars here. Victoria (Emily Blunt) is so young, and slightly too pretty, and she is liable to listen to Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) because he is handsome and she is frighteningly sheltered. Her mother (Miranda Richardson) and Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) would like to control her, and have made a decent go of it for the first 17 years of her life. Sir John is so evil, and so delightful. He wears amazing trousers.

mv5bmtm4mjexmdk3nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtu3otmwmw-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Enter Albert (Rupert Friend), who is also unbelievably young, and unbelievably Romantically German. His hair! His shirtsleeves! His awkward love of Schubert! His hilariously tolerant brother Ernest (Michiel Huisman)! Apparently Ernest was awful in real life, but here he just rolls his eyes when Albert is adorably dumb about Sir Walter Scott.

To be sure, the most interesting thing about Victoria was not her romantic life, but it makes a good feature film. She and Albert are so young, and so silly, and so in love, and so well dressed. They care just enough about the poor and about progress that you aren’t grossed out by their fake problems. You’re sad when they fight and pleased when they make up, and why can’t some dreamy moron come visit me with a pair of giant dogs?

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Rating: PG
Length: 105 minutes
Score: 5/5

The internet, I’m sure, has a lot of feelings about this movie, relating to how it works with the comic books and general questions of diversity and gender and whether or not Emily VanCamp is physically capable of expressing an emotion with her face. That’s a little deeper than I care to go, and also when I saw it I was under the influence of too many Skittles and a truly staggering amount of popcorn.

Civil War suffered from one of the problems that Age of Ultron had, namely that it had way too much going on. But it did not suffer from some of the other problems, like making no sense or being exactly the same as the previous movie or taking itself way too seriously. Sure, no one needs another Iron Man movie (and there’s no reason this couldn’t be called Iron Man: Civil War, except probably contractual stuff you can explain to me), and Scarlet Witch is boring, and Black Widow is supposed to be unreadable but is actually just flat, and the Winter Soldier needs a haircut, and Hawkeye continues to be pointless….

But! Though I didn’t fully buy some of the motivations in this movie, they didn’t make me spitting mad, as they did in Age of Ultron. In Civil War, the world’s governments are rather cross about the catastrophe in Sokovia (which you’ll remember from Age of Ultron, if you remember anything about Age of Ultron), and want the Avengers to have some oversight. Captain America is so sure that he’ll be right in every future situation that he resents this (to be fair, his track record is pretty solid). Tony, in a sudden access of righteous guilt, misses the point of self-flagellation and spreads it around. Thus battle lines are drawn.

The film sells this opposition as much as it can. That’s not very much, since Tony and Steve have been roughly this annoyed with each other from the get-go, and the stakes don’t seem that much higher than in every previous iteration. The only thing that really gets my goat is that Tony is 100 percent completely responsible for Sokovia because he made a decision so asinine and rapid that a backward hummingbird would probably have balked at it. That was my main problem with Age of Ultron, and I resent that it is allowed to spill over into what is, in defiance of probability, a moderately whimsical and rather enjoyable two and a half hours.

There are still too many people in this movie, but since they’re put onto teams, it doesn’t always feel like they’re jostling for your attention. Perhaps more importantly, the film is usefully split into acts, so characters flow into and out of the action smoothly and it doesn’t seem interminable. All in all, this ends up being the best installment in this corner of Marvel since the first Avengers movie. That may have been only four years ago, but there’s been a lot of crap produced since then. Possibly it’s top three overall, and more likely so if you didn’t like Thor or the first Cap movie very much.

Stray observations:

  • Anthony Mackie (Sam/Falcon) is a delight. He has two of the best comic beats in the film, including a VW Beetle gag. He and Sebastian Stan (Bucky/Soviet Winter Soldier Nonsense) have a surprisingly excellent comedic rapport.
  • New Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is the BEST. I was surprised that the film didn’t follow the new comics and have Peter be black, but this kid is so great. It makes you resent Tobey Maguire even more.
  • If he’s not kissing Peggy, Cap should be kissing Tommy Lee Jones. Full stop, end of story.
  • His jeans can stay, though.

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Rating: PG-13
Length: 147 minutes
Score: 4/5

I remember kind of wanting to see Mortdecai when it came out, because I figured there was no chance it was as bad as everyone seemed to think. But, while I’m not sure it’s as bad as everyone thinks, it is pretty bad.

Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is a dopey upper-class art thief, probably. But he’s in debt, so he and his valet/bodyguard (Paul Bettany) end up being strong-armed into recovering a lost Goya painting to thwart terrorism. That doesn’t make sense, no, but nevertheless this is what we are given. Mortdecai’s wife Joanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) hates his new mustache, his MI-5 contact (Ewan McGregor) loves Joanna, an American (Jeff Goldblum) wants to buy Mortdecai’s Rolls-Royce, and his nymphomaniac daughter (Olivia Munn) is in cahoots with the painting-stealing terrorist. Also there are Russians. And schemes.

It’s really not very good. The plot doesn’t hang together (in a careless way, not a humorously madcap way), Johnny Depp is exhausted- and exhaustingly mincing, and the movie relies far too heavily on your finding him charming. Joanna’s fine (her clothes are delightful; few people can wear jodhpurs as well as Gwyneth Paltrow), and Ewan McGregor is actually engagingly uptight and useless, but he isn’t given enough to do. The only real enjoyment is Paul Bettany playing completely against type as a scarred, womanizing tough guy with a staunchly working-class accent. He’s surprisingly good at it, and his doglike devotion to Mortdecai gets a bigger laugh every time he declares it a pleasure to be wounded in his master’s service.

That’s it, though.

Director: David Koepp
Rating: R
Length: 107 minutes
Score: 2/5

Do you remember the strange several years when everyone was convinced that Russell Crowe was both good-looking and a good actor? Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary on both fronts? We gave this man an Academy Award!

Just…wow.

Anyway, Master and Commander is probably my favorite Russell Crowe movie, and that’s mostly in spite of him, and in spite of its…not really being all that good. When I saw it the first time, I hadn’t read any of the Aubrey-Maturin novels on which it is ostensibly based, and I rather liked it. Now I have read fourteen of the Aubrey-Maturin novels on which it is ostensibly based, and I like it no less.  This movie follows the plot of no single O’Brian novel, neither the one called Master and Commander nor the one called The Far Side of the World. Nor of any other. Which is fine, really; those novels succeed better at atmosphere than at plot. I have heard on good authority that this is a fairly verisimilitudinous reflection of naval life. The film also aims for atmosphere, sketching your favorite characters from the books in a pastiche of more or less plausible events that take place near the Galapagos and involve fighting the French navy.

Jack Aubrey (Crowe), the titular master and commander, is blond, sanguine, and incipiently fat. He’s smirkingly terrible and his accent is worse. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) is as unattractive as they can make him as the doctor and naturalist who spends most of his time kvetching that a warship is not his private exploratory vessel. He has no Irish accent and is not a spy, so devotés of the books may resent it; I enjoy that he can walk in a straight line and probably add. James D’Arcy plays the good-looking lieutenant Tom Pullings, and I love him. That’s all Tom Pullings ever does–be good-looking and lieutenant as well as he bloody can. Billy Boyd is awful as the boatswain Bonden, but they don’t give Bonden a damn thing to do, so that’s the real problem.

Max Pirkis is an amalgam of various tiny midshipmen, including one named Reade and one named Blakeney, and he, as also playing Octavian in HBO’s Rome, is a revelatory, heartbreaking gem. Early on he loses an arm, and Aubrey gives him a biography of Lord Nelson, and I cry. So much. Later on, he squeakingly collects beetles for Maturin, still later he squeakingly helps decide the course of a battle with the French vessel Acheron. He’s wonderful.

This film’s chief failure is that it captures neither the unremitting navy-ness of the books nor the rather charming blink-and-you-missed-it humor. In addition it’s scattershot, trying to cobble together one full plot from a dozen loosely connected episodes. But, if you like movies about old boats and aren’t terrifically particular, you’ll love this. If not, you’ll be annoyed by the winking in-jokes, the borderline incoherence, and Russell Crowe.

Stray observations:

  • This film makes heavy, heavy use of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” and, while I deeply love that piece of music in all its forms, the anachronism makes me insane.
  • I really wish there had been more of these movies, as it clearly looked like they were planned, and I would eat them up like candy. However, I also see why there weren’t more–the movie strikes a bad balance between pleasing lovers of the books and pleasing neophytes, and ends up pleasing no-one. Also it made $50 million less than it cost.

Director: Peter Weir
Rating: PG-13
Length: 138 minutes
Score: 4/5

Heap big sigh.

Though I appreciate watching Cap chop wood in some 501s, I think I’m over comic book movies. Or perhaps: precisely because I appreciate watching Cap chop wood in some 501s, I’m definitely over Avengers movies. I can only deal with so many insane global threats thwarted by a rag-tag, internally-divided, ceaselessly-quipping band of misfits. I prefer the limited scope of the single-hero movies. Partly because they can engage in character development beyond thirty seconds of troubling and clumsy exposition. Even at nearly two and a half hours, this was rushed and did not engage my emotions at all. More is not always better.

Stray notes:

  • This is the second movie in which I’ve seen Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but the first was Anna Karenina, so I think this was a lot more jarring for me than for everyone else.
  • I want Hayley Atwell’s dress and hair.
  • Still just want Cobie Smulders to go away.

Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: PG-13
Length: 141 min.
Score: 2/5.