Queens of France and England

Why are we so interested in royals and Royalty? Is it their power, prestige or inbreeding? Certainly they live in a different world from the rest of us, and a couple of recent films make this point quite well.

The Queen

A watchable new take on the death of Diana.

This fictionalised biopic shows the early weeks of Tony Blair’s government in the U.K. and the development of his relationship with Queen Elizabeth II in the context of the death of Lady Di. The events of this film date back to 1997, so we’re talking almost 10 years ago now, but the impact still resonates today.

There are still unresolved conspiracy theories around Diana Spencer’s death. Blair is still in power and his government has led significant changes in the U.K. and on the world stage. The health of the monarchy in the U.K. continues to be debated. All of this stretches back to the material in this film, that weaves together fact and fiction seamlessly. We can really believe in this version of the characters.

The film also presents the massive contrast between the worlds of the U.K. Prime Minister and the U.K. Head of State. However, this is done with balance and a respectful touch. Both royalists and republicans will find something to enjoy in this.

I was surpised to find myself feeling considerable sympathy for Queen Elizabeth by the end of it all. Credit for this has to go in large part to Helen Mirren who carries the title role admirably.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Marie Antoinette

Cinematic but slow.

Sofia Coppola casts Kirsten Dunst as the last Queen of France before the revolution. No, really. However, it’s quite clever, and together with a modern soundtrack lifts the historical Marie Antoinette character out of mythology (“let them eat cake!”) into a place where we can relate and almost empathise with her. This is the principle achievement in this period drama filmed entirely on location in France.

Coppola has based the movie on a book, but it could have been a picture book. There is little dialogue, but an emphasis on stunning visuals. Initially, I found this helpful to maintain the same sense of wonder than Marie Antoinette was clearly feeling at the same time. But as the film wore on, this feeling wore out. It all became rather dull.

Lost in Translation, Coppola’s previous film, has a similar feel, but it wasn’t as sparse and not as long. Marie Antoinette runs for two hours, and I was fidgeting a bit by the end. I think I would’ve preferred to flick through a coffee table book with photos of Versailles, clothing, shoes and food, rather than sit through a showing of the same images at the chosen pace.

My rating: 2.0 stars

Benno at CES

A friend of mine, Benno, is in Las Vegas at the CES conference this week. He works for Bluebox Devices and they’re launching their new media gizmo this week. After all the years of effort he’s put into it, it must be great to be there at CES showing and telling everyone about it.

Ron, David and Benno at CESHere’s a picture showing how excited they all are.

Well, maybe they are just tired. It’s from Graeme Thickins’ blog, where he covered several of the Australian contingent that’s over there at the moment.

Good luck guys, and hope you make lots of deals!

Bond Begins

I’ve read Ian Fleming’s original story, and I’ve seen the (really, really bad) Peter Sellers film version, so I was keen to cleanse my memory of that by watching the most recent movie adaptation.

Casino Royale

A bad Bond at his best.

This is not like most other film Bonds. Bond is less gentleman and more psycho, and the plot has definite “love story” overtones. It’s a bit of a re-imagining of the Bond film, rather like Batman Begins gave us a new take on the Batman film. And also like Batman Begins, it gives us an insight into the origins of the main character.

However, this results in some strange “series” continuity issues, with this film set after the Cold War, but a prequel to the other Bond films that clearly occurred during the Cold War. This is made light of in the film, but requires a bit more of belief suspension that in your usual Bond film, particularly if you’ve seen most of them.

On the other hand, there’s a fantastic Parkour running-and-leaping sequence near the start. It seems pretty unbelievable, but it’s performed by Sebastien Foucan, so it’s probably real. Daniel Craig, who plays Bond for his first time, has a fair go at some Parkour moves as well. It’s very cool.

Craig (I can sympathise with someone having a first name as a last name) is a rugged, and not traditionally handsome, Bond. He’s as different from Pierce Brosnan as you can get without having a Scottish accent. Given the richness of his version of Bond, I think we’re going to consider it one of the classic ones.

My rating: 4.0 stars