And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: The Dig

I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea where Sutton Hoo was or that it was the site of one of the great archeological finds of the 20th century. But watching The Dig certainly placed it in my lexicon. Cary Mulligan stars in this “based on a true story” period drama. She’s Edith Pretty, a young widow with a young son who lives on an estate near a village called Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, England. It’s 1939 and Britain is just being drawn into the war when she hires Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter, The Grand Budapest Hotel) to excavate some ancient burial mounds on her property. He’s a local man, self-taught, but very knowledgable about archeology. He thinks the mounds could be Anglo-Saxon, but the local museum experts laugh at the idea. They don’t laugh for long.

Review: Rebecca

If you haven’t seen the classic version of Rebecca, you might be entertained by this latest melodramatic take. But that 1940 film starred Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and it won an Oscar for Best Picture. This new version won’t be up for any awards. It stars Lily James (Baby Driver, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) as the young wife who is never named and Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name, On the Basis of Sex) as her husband Maxim, the haunted widower-owner of the storied Manderley estate. Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Gosford Park) takes on the role of the sinister Mrs. Danvers. And it’s a fairly plodding take on what should be an absorbing psychological drama.

Review: Yesterday

Quick – try and recite the lyrics to Eleanor Rigby (“picks up the rice in the church…”) Not so easy, is it? Imagine having to recount the music and lyrics to all the Beatles classics – or risk having them gone forever? That’s a dilemma central to the premise of Yesterday, a somewhat bland yet charming cinematic tribute to the Beatles – and to love, love, love.

Won’t you please, please help me… stop singing so I can tell you about the movie? Don’t let me down. Here goes:

Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.

The story may be lame as heck, but who cares? Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again delivers exactly what I expected: a groovy movie musical with a simple plot built around lyrics to ABBA songs — just like the first Mamma Mia! nearly a decade ago. In some ways, the sequel is even better, thanks to the singing, dancing and acting chops of Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) as a younger version of free-spirited Donna Sheridan, the role inhabited by Meryl Streep in 2008. Streep is back for the sequel, but only for a brief yet poignant scene in the final minutes of the film (no spoilers). And oh yeah, Cher pops in too – as Donna’s showstopper (and scene-stealer) of a Mom.

Baby Driver Review

Wow, what a ride. Baby Driver is one of those movies that truly defies description and genre pigeonholing. It’s a pulsating, frenetic, stylish, clever, violent, romantic, heartbreaking, hopeful, tense, and witty action-drama-crime-heist movie with car chases, crashes, gunfights, double-crosses, stellar performances, and a soundtrack that is a character in and of itself. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baby Driver rev a few engines when the next awards-season rolls around – for editing, direction, cinematography, and possibly even for lead actor Ansel Elgort, best known among the YA crowd for his roles in The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series. Elgort nails it as Baby, an innocent-looking getaway driver eager to pay off a debt and get out of the crime business – especially after he meets his soulmate, Debora (Lily James, Downton Abbey, Cinderella) a waitress in the local diner where his mother used to work.

Cinderella

“Have courage, and be kind” and you might (spoiler alert!) live happily ever after. That’s the gist of this perfectly pleasant, Disney-meets-Downton adaptation of the fairy-tale classic, directed by Kenneth Branagh. I suppose if Hollywood can keep re-making Spiderman, then Cinderella might as well pop into the picture every couple of decades as well. Even if it’s not exactly necessary. For fans of the musical versions, be advised that this one has little more than the occasional bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. But what it lacks in music and drama (most people are familiar with the key plot points), it makes up for in message. That would be the aforementioned “have courage, and be kind.”