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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Goode’

“DOWNTON ABBEY” My rating: B+ 

122 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Feature film spinoffs of successful TV series have an iffy track record (“Sex and the City,” “Entourage,” “Absolutely Fabulous”), but the folks at “Downton Abbey” have done it right.

The new “Downton Abbey” movie is an astonishingly effective piece of work, one that hits all the notes that made the TV show so successful and then adds a couple of new ones.

Will the movie make sense to anyone who wasn’t glued to PBS on Sunday nights?  Well, maybe, but the real pleasure here comes from continuing our relationships with characters we already know inside out.  It’s like a family reunion…only you actually like hanging with this family.

Writer Julian Fellowes, who created the series and scripted most of its episodes, provides a screenplay that gives almost every member of the huge cast at least one memorable moment and effortlessly balances multiple story threads.

Director Michael Engler deftly handles the pacing and the impressive technical production (he’s in charge of the actors, too but since most of these players have been doing their characters for the better part of a decade, how much coaching could they have required?).

The plot? Well, there are a dozen of them, but the overriding one has the King and Queen visiting Downton. It’s like when the FBI takes over a local murder investigation…Their Majesties’ arrogant retainers invade the Abbey, relegating the resident staff to observer status.  But not for long, thanks to machinations that come off as a more genteel iteration of “Revenge of the Nerds.”

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Keira Knightley

“OFFICIAL SECRETS” My rating: B- 

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There are moments when “Official Secrets” doesn’t seem to know just whose story it is telling; others when the dialogue sounds more like speechifying than regular conversation.

Still, there’s something so vital about the material it covers — the British government’s complicity in the Bush White House’s half-assed plan to invade Iraq — that Gavin Hood’s fact-based docudrama demands to be seen.

In 2003 Katharine Gun, an analyst with Her Majesty’s spy service, received an unexpected email.  In this message — also received by all of her co-workers — the American CIA urged everyone to be on the lookout for dirt that could be used to force recalcitrant members of the United Nations Security Council into voting for a US/British invasion of Iraq.

Gun was both surprised that she received the email — her regular gig was translating intercepted Chinese telephone communications — and appalled that the Yanks and her own people were so nonchalantly encouraging the entire apparatus of British intelligence to participate in a blackmail scheme for the purpose of rushing into an unjust war.

So she surreptitiously copied the email and gave it to an anti-war activist friend, who passed it on to a newspaper reporter, who with his colleagues spent months verifying the truth of the communication.

Eventually the story was published, but not without some unexpected blowback.  Before it hit the printed page, an unsuspecting editor ran the copy through Spell Check, which changed all the American spellings in the CIA email to British, thus leading to accusations that this was a British-generated fake document.

Spell Check strikes again.

As scripted by Hood, Gregory Bernstein and Sara Bernstein (from Marcia Mitchell and Thomas  Mitchell’s book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War), “Official Secrets” is essentially a procedural docudrama populated by an A-list British cast.

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Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode

Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode

“STOKER” My rating: B- (Opens March 22 at the Glenwood Arts and Tivoli)

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Stoker” represents an extraordinary level of film craftsmanship.

Every shot, every color choice, every cut and transition, the soundtrack – even  the opening credits –suggest an almost obsessive determination to get all the details exactly right. On so many levels the movie is breathtaking.

Given this, why isn’t Korean director Park Chan-wook‘s first English-language film more satisfying?

I think it’s because in trying to give us a classic Hitchcock-style suspense film he (and his writer, the actor Wentworth Miller) has in fact given us a somewhat academic deconstruction of a Hitchcock-style suspense film.

Big difference.

 If you’re looking for thesis material “Stoker” is chock full of allusions, references and outright steals.

But for genuine suspense, go elsewhere.  Unlike Hitch, Park (whose best-known film in this country is probably the incest-and-savagery epic “Old Boy”) doesn’t allow us to identify with his characters. They might as well be specimens of exotic insects in glass jars.

Our heroine is high school senior India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), whom we meet at the funeral of her beloved father, who has died in some sort of fiery car crash.

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