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Posts Tagged ‘Simon Callow’

Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens

“THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS” My rating: C

104 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

When it is evoking the spirit of Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol, “The Man Who Invented Christmas” cannot help but worm its way  into a viewer’s heart and mucus centers.

Seriously, for any halfway literate English-speaking person even the mention of Scrooge and the Christmas ghosts sets off mental and emotional detonations. Not only is A Christmas Carol one of the most artful stories ever written, it is credited by historians with triggering Victorian England’s wholehearted embrace of the Yuletide season. (Before the book’s publication, apparently, Christmas was no big deal.)

Adapted from John Stanford’s nonfiction book by Susan Coyne and directed by Bharat Nalluri (a veteran of Brit TV), “The Man Who  Invented Christmas” purports to relate how Charles Dickens came to write the story. Basically it’s Masterpiece Lite.

We first meet the great author (Dan Stevens, minus the facial hair of the older, more familiar  Dickens) in 1842 when he is going through a rough patch.  His last three books have tanked, his household is going through expensive civic improvements, his kids are running amok and the Missus (Morfydd Clark) announces that there’s another on the way.

Then there’s the arrival of Dickens’ father John (Jonathan Pryce), an entertaining/exasperating  bon vivant perennially in debt and congenitally incapable of earning his own living.

Desperate to offer his publishers a new book, Dickens proposes a Christmas story.  The editors are dubious, but Dickens says if necessary he’ll self-finance the volume. All he needs now are characters and a story.

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Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Armstrong

“VICEROY’S HOUSE” My rating: B 

106 minutes | No MPAA rating

Gurinder Chadha’s “Viceroy’s House” is more history lesson than viable drama. But it’s compelling history, told with insight, cinematic savvy and a sense of scale that would make David Lean proud.

The screenplay (by Chadha,  Paul Mayeda Berges and Moira Buffini) concentrates on the last days of British rule in India in 1948, and the efforts of the last Viceroy of that country, the famous Lord Louis Mountbatten, to juggle dozens of competing interests to ensure that the new Indian republic gets off to a good start.

As it turns out, this is a fool’s errand, thanks to the perfidy of Mr. Churchill’s government (represented here by actors like Michael Gambon and Simon Callow). which is pulling strings behind the scenes.

But Mountbatten, a supremely decent man as played by “Downton Abbey’s” Hugh Bonneville, is a hopeful, sincere and largely selfless warrior doing what he thinks will be best for millions of Indians.

The film follows two trajectories.  First there’s the arrival of Mountbatten and his Lady Edwina (Gillian Anderson) and his installation as Viceroy amid all the pomp and ceremony of a royal coronation. Unlike virtually all of the Viceroys who served in India over three centuries,  Mountbatten and his wife are concerned mostly with the common good.

While Lord Mountbatten spars and cajoles with the leaders of various factions — historic figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah — his wife turns to humanitarian concerns. Both work to eliminate the Brit racism that seeped through previous administrations. Both seriously try to understand the culture and ethos of the great continent which they are charged with giving away. (more…)

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