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Review – My Week With Marilyn (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

Upon seeing the title My Week With Marilyn, one would think it was about a week that an individual spent alone with the mother of all blondes. Yet, the title, like Marilyn Monroe herself, is deceiving. The film is interestingly about Marilyn, and the person behind the icon who, in her day, took Hollywood by storm.

Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) taking Lucy (Emma Watson) on a date. Soon Lucy has to compete for Colin’s affection with someone far more glamorous.

The movie is based on true events and on the diary that a twenty-three year man wrote about his week-long affair with Marilyn when she came to England to shoot the film The Prince & The Showgirl in 1957. Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne – The Other Boleyn Girl, Black Death, Les Misérables) is an Eton-educated young adult, who wants to make his living as a film director, despite his parents’ disapproval. Shortly after moving to London, he gets a job as a third-assistant director, otherwise known as a ‘go-getter’, to Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh – Henry V, Valkyrie, Wallander) as the latter acts and shoots the film, The Prince & The Showgirl. The movie stars Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams – Brokeback Mountain, Shutter Island, Oz: The Great & The Powerful) as Elsie.

Marilyn is problematical on set, which tries Olivier’s patience considerably. As she is frequently late for filming, Olivier regularly sends Colin to find out if she is ill or not. It is from this that a week long relationship develops between an awe-struck Colin and Marilyn.

The plot for My Week With Marilyn is straightforward. The pace of the film moves surprisingly quickly, as the scenes change one after the one rapidly. Yet, the storyline doesn’t really go anywhere. Consequently, the movie fast becomes tedious, making the ninety-nine minutes appear (aggravatingly) longer. That the dialogue, for the most part, is quite contrived does not aid the film either.

Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) impatiently waiting for the perennially late Marilyn Monroe before he can begin filming. Frustration frequently gets the better of him.

Nevertheless, there are some strong performances in My Week With Marilyn, such as Judi Dench (Shakespeare In Love, Notes On A Scandal, Skyfall), Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh. Whilst Dench, as ever, plays her standard M-/Queen Elizabeth-type role with authority, Williams captures Marilyn Monroe brilliantly, highlighting her character’s insecurities, her alcohol and drug addictions, and her unhappy marriage with the author, Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott – Deep Impact, Mission: Impossible II, Last Passenger). Yet, at the same time, Williams also shows Marilyn to be witty, intelligent and encapsulating. From Williams’ performance, one can easily see why Marilyn was the sex-object of her day, captivating to watch and far from dumb.

In a similarly decent display, Branagh illustrates the reasons for why Olivier made the movie, The Prince & The Showgirl in 1957. Fearing that the British film industry was falling behind Hollywood (and trying to revive his own acting career), bringing in Marilyn was his way of trying to deal with the problem. Olivier’s apparent exasperation with Marilyn was not born out of her tardiness on set, but rather by his own fears that he was ‘past it’ (and that Marilyn was the glamorous future). Again, Branagh portrays all of this solidly, if not with excellence.

However, whilst the acting from those three characters is worth watching, the same cannot be said for Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson (Harry Potter I-VII(ii), The Perks Of Being A Wallflower) and Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Devil’s Double, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).  As the central character, Redmayne gives a weak performance. One does not believe that Colin is in awe of Marilyn throughout the film (much less that he’d worship the ground she walks on), which is a terrible failure on Redmayne’s behalf considering what the movie’s supposed to be about.

Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) playing up to her English audience by doing her trademark pose. No doubt, her fans were dumbstruck by it.

Likewise, Watson (again) flatters to deceive. Her character in the film may not be the inflexible rod that is Hermione Grainger in the Harry Potter series; nevertheless, Watson still comes across as uptight and two-dimensional. (Although, the lack of depth could be attributed more to director Simon Curtis than her.) As for Cooper, his performance as Marilyn’s aid is a great dip in comparison to his displays in The Devil’s Double. In that movie, there was intensity and consistency to his performances as Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia, not least in the Arabic accent. In My Week With Marilyn, Cooper’s character is pathetically shallow and his American accent is poor, often reverting to his normal English, south-London accent.

The acting may vary in quality, but one aspect of the film that cannot be questioned is the character’s 1950s-style clothing, hairstyles and gear. Nothing looks out of place, especially the ridiculously large cameras that the journalists carry. (Whether movie stars were harassed by the populous and the media in the 1950s like they are today is dubious. Then again, Marilyn was not the average celebrity either.)

Over-all, My Week With Marilyn is oddly fast-moving but dull; boring even. The bright spot for the film is undoubtedly Michelle Williams’s reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe. Williams brings forth all the troubles and qualities that her character possessed, illustrating that those who thought (or still think) that Marilyn was nothing more than an air-headed blonde were the real fools.

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Review – Transformers III: Dark of the Moon (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

In a recent Daily Mail article, Brian Clark Howard accuses Transformers director, Michael Bay (Transformers I & II, Armageddon, The Rock), of using footage from his previous films, Pearl Harbour and The Island, in the latest Transformers movie. Of course, Transformers III: Dark of the Moon is not entirely made of recycled parts of other films. Then again, whilst watching the last volume of the Transformers saga (although, one can never rule out a fourth instalment these days), one does get the impression that he/she has seen it all before, much to the film’s detriment.

Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), the leader of the Autobots, fighting to defend the city of Chicago from the Decepticons.

Dark of the Moon begins with America launching the first shuttle into space in 1961, and continues with the first man landing on the moon in 1969. It is on the moon that a party of astronauts discover the ruins of a lost Autobot space shuttle, called the Ark. Inside the remains of the Ark are the Pillars, energy fuel in a cylindrical containing the power to open a bridge to Cybertron, the Transformers’ lost-world; and Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy – Star Trek), the lost leader of the Autobots.

After finding out about the mission, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen – Transfomers I & II), the leader of the Autobots in the absence of Sentinel, leads an expedition to rescue his wise master. Only Sentinel understands how to manipulate the Pillars to forge the bridge between Earth and Cybertron. (The bridge can travel through time too.) Optimus hopes to use Sentinel to bring good to Earth and, perhaps, force the victorious Decepticons out of Cybertron. However, Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving – The Matrix I-III, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit I), the leader of the Decepticons, has other ideas. He intends to use Sentinel to his own advantage.

Meanwhile, Sam Whitwicky (Shia Labeouf – Transformers I & II, Disturbia, Fury) has finished college and is unemployed. As he looks for a job, he finds himself embroiled once more in the war between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons.

A mean-looking Decepticon flying through Chicago as the bridge to Cybertron is being activated.

Whilst the film’s plot may appear decent, the pace is slow and quite dull. It is strange to think that a film with loud booms, explosions and a super-gorgeous girl would be tedious. But Transformers III is tedious! That the storyline loses its way less than half way through the film (some would say twenty minutes) and the movie is two and a half hours long, may have something to do with it.

But what is more surprising is that the film’s second-half descent into a chaotic over-indulgence of action and destruction seems quite ordinary. The music is epic and up-lifting, and the CGI is undoubtedly awesome. Yet, those are things that viewers of Transformers III have heard and seen in volumes I & II. (In addition, the mass assault of the Decepticons upon the city of Chicago looks like scenes from the recent far-from-spectacular alien invasion movies, Battle: Los Angeles and Skyline.)

Nevertheless, the action scenes in Dark of the Moon have not been done well at all. The scenes are badly choreographed and don’t follow on from one another, leaving gaping holes in the storyline. (How Steven Spielberg, one of the film’s executive producers, did not notice this is remarkable.)

Sam’s stunning new girlfriend, Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), stepping out of an expensive Mercedes.

The structure of the film is not the worst part of Dark of the Moon by a long stretch. That award goes to, once again in the Transformers saga, the dialogue and the acting. The former is laughably appalling and the latter, almost as a consequence, is pathetic. If a brilliant actor like John Malkovich is made to look poor (and he did not even achieve such a feat in the disaster movie Eragon), then there is virtually no hope for the rest of the cast, such as Shia Leboeuf and Megan Fox’s replacement, Rosie Huntigton-Whiteley. (And yes, Bay can’t help but take a not-so-subtle swipe at Fox for comparing him to Hitler.)

So Dark of the Moon has dreadful acting and dialogue; the same old war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and the usual inspiring music to go with it; as well as exceptional CGI. Does that mean one has seen it all before in the Transformers franchise? The tedium would suggest so, but with one difference: a sexy brunette bimbo has been replaced by a sexy blonde bimbo.

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