This Week’s Film Releases - 8 February 2012

Friday, 10 Feb 2012, 10:35


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“The Iron Lady”


Meryl Streep                          Margaret Thatcher

Jim Broadbent                      Dennis Thatcher

Anthony Head                      Geoffrey Howe

Olivia Colman                       Carol Thatcher

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Running time: 104 minutes

Biopics, particularly those dealing with persons who are still alive, tend to raise controversy. Phyllida Lloyd’s film “The Iron Lady” that takes a look at some key episodes in the rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher is no exception. Baroness Thatcher, Britain’s first female and longest serving Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, is now 86. She is suffering from dementia, a condition first revealed by her daughter Carol in a memoir published in 2009.  The director introduces Margaret Thatcher in this state, a frail old woman wearing a headscarf and a long overcoat buying a pint of milk from a neighbourhood store.  Back in her Chester Square home in London’s Belgravia she has a secretary and maid to see to her needs though, it seems, these do not include buying milk. In her house, but present only in Mrs Thatcher’s mind, there is also Dennis, her husband for 52 years until his death in 2003. She still keeps all his suits, shirts and shoes, she pretends to share breakfast with him, they talk and reminisce about certain episodes they shared in her public and private lives.

One of the tasks her secretary lays for the day is the signing of a pile of her memoir “The Downing Street Years”. Her signatures on the first three books are steady and correct. The fourth book she signs as Margaret Roberts, her maiden name. This is when Phyllida Lloyd kicks in a series of flashbacks. She shows us Margaret, her sister and their parents at home taking shelter under a table during an air-raid in London’s WWII blitz. We see Margaret, the brave teenage daughter of a small grocer who ventures out of safety just to cover a slab of butter, a priceless commodity at the time. What follows is a steady flow of episodes from Baroness Thatcher’s present state to her past; from her academic career at Oxford, meeting and falling in love with Dennis, her first experience in politics when she listens to her father, a local Conservative politician, giving a fiery speech, her decision to enter the male dominated political fray and going on to etch her name in British history.

“The Iron Lady” is the product of the collective talents of four gifted women. With a great economic use of 104 minutes of film, Phyllida Lloyd, who had already directed Meryl Streep in the box office hit “Mamma Mia”, traces Margaret Thatcher’s controversial premiership during which she had to handle the Irish problem, bombings, the war with Argentina over the Falklands, the showdown with Arthur Scargill’s striking miners, riots and public unrest.  This she did with an authoritarian and at times humiliating treatment of her cabinet to push home her ultra conservative policies, an attitude that sparked off a serious challenge to her leadership that led to her resignation as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party in 1990. Ms Lloyd works on a script by Abi Morgan, who was also on board for “Mamma Mia” that refers to some of the names Margaret Thatcher was given during her premiership. The opening sequence of old Baroness Thatcher buying milk at the store and her  references to the price of milk are linked to the label “Margaret Thatcher – the milk snatcher” that earned when as Education Secretary she stopped free milk for schoolchildren.  She was also called “Mother of the Nation”. In a meeting with US Secretary of State Alexander Hague over the Falklands, after cutting him down to size by comparing America’s distant interests over Pearl Harbour in Hawaii and British interests in the faraway Falklands she tells him “Let me now be the mother and offer you some tea Al” Ms Morgan’s script under Phyllida Lloyd’s direction comes neatly wrapped up by Justine Wright’s exceptional work in the editing department. Her intelligent and perfectly timed changes between Margaret Thatcher’s past and present include carefully inserted news reels of the related events. Perhaps there could have been a little more of her close political relationship with Ronald Reagan than just seeing them doing a few steps on the dance floor and her strong presence in international affairs. But the leader of this talented female team is Ms Meryl Streep. This great actress who has earned a record of 17 Academy Award nominations but took home only two wins: for Best Supporting Actress in Kramer vs Kramer (1979) and Best Actress in Leading Role in Sophie’s Choice (1982) gives an impeccable portrayal of a great political figure in her strong and frail moments.  In her strongest moments Meryl Streep, already a winner of a Golden Globe Award for this film, is brilliant in scenes like when she screams down the Opposition in Parliament and when, with cynical coldness, she humiliates her ministers by treating them like schoolchildren, correcting their spelling mistakes on a written report and sending them packing for coming unprepared to an important cabinet meeting. She is impressive in her mannerisms and speech as the old Baroness Thatcher afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Prostethic designer Mark Coulier and make up artist/hairstylist were nominated for an Achievement in Make-Up Academy Award for their work in transforming Meryl Streep This is Margaret Thatcher and her times seen through the eyes of an intelligent filmmaker and interpreted by one of the greatest actors of our times who would probably be collecting her fourth Oscar come Sunday 24 February.

Going back to the controversies mentioned earlier, Cynthia Crawford who has worked with Mrs Thatcher since 1978 and still visits her criticised the scenes in Baroness Thatcher’s home where Jim Broadbent gives a very good interpretation as Dennis Thatcher, the man who strongly supported and sometimes guided his wife. Ms Crawford told BBC “I can assure you that the domestic scenes, and in fact all the domestic scenes in the film are just absolutely inconceivable... They're just not right and totally unrelated to the truth." 

The truth is that, controversies apart “The Iron Lady” is an enjoyable, well made and wonderfully acted piece of quality cinema not to be missed by discerning film lovers.

 Watch trailer:



“The Vow”


Rachel McAdams    Paige Thronton

Channing Tatum    Leo

Jessica Lange        Mother- Rita Thornton

Sam Neill               Father - Bill Thornton

Scott Speedman       Jeremy

Directed by Michael Sucsy

Running time: 104 minutes

Rachel McAdams is one of the busiest actresses around. In the space of one month she was seen playing leading roles in two successful films. She was Inez in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and Irene Adler in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”. Here she plays Paige, an art student happily married to Leo (Channing Tatum) who had just set up his own recording studio. Driving home at night on a very icy road a runaway truck bumps into their car and Paige is thrown flying through the windscreen.

They both survive the accident but Paige comes out of a short coma with partial amnesia. She recognises everyone except Leo. Five years of married life are blotted from her memory although Leo tries very hard to help her regain her memory. Her parents Rita (Jessica Lange) and Bill (Sam Neill) who had been absent from her life since she had moved to Chicago to live with Leo, persuade her to move back with them rather than stay with a man she could not remember being married to. Leo now must embark on the near impossible task to make his wife fall in love with him.

This film belongs to Rachel McAdams. She plays two completely different characters, the successful  bohemian artist and affectionate wife well integrated in Leo’s life and circle of friends in Chicago and the law student she was five years before, sharing a conservative family home with a loving sister.  There is a strong chemistry between her  and current heartthrob Chaning Tatum as  the suffering husband whose love for  his wife  makes him go through painful discoveries such as her rekindled interest in former fiancé Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) and  the family secret that sparked Paige’s departure from home.

Michael Sucsy’ film is marked by an intelligent use of flashbacks  that  develop a heart-warming  love story based on true facts and his use of  Chicago’s landmarks, such as the Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, as back drops for his story.

Just a hint for a treat for the ladies, The Vow is being released on Friday 10 February and it would still be showing on Valentine’s Day.  They would love it.

Watch trailer



“Underworld: Awakening” (In 3D)


Kate Beckinsale                     Selene

India Eisley                             Eve

Stephen Rea                           Dr Jacob Lane

Directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein

Running time 88 minutes

The eternal war between vampires and werewolves has been practically milked dry in the Underworld and Twighlight film franchises hardly leaving any room for originality in new editions.  Underworld: Awakening offers little or nothing that was not already seen in its  three previous instalments or in other films of the same genre.

Kate Beckinsale is back as Selene, the Vampire hired gun  who had been kept in deep freeze and out of action for twelve years by the evil scientist Dr Jacob Lane (Stephen Rea). She cannot find the man she loved but discovers that she had given birth to his vampire love child Eve (India Eisley) Selene also finds a world in which her sworn enemies are not only the Lycans/werewolves but also the humans who, having discovered the existence of both vampires and werewolves, have launched a massive campaign to exterminate both.

Suffering from a severe lack of original ideas, all “Underworld: Awakening” has to offer is a series of repetitive sequences in which Selene, dressed in black tight fitting latex corset, tights and ground length flowing overcoat – a poor imitation of Carrie- Anne Moss as Trinity in The Matrix- blasting her way with a pistol in each hand through labyrinths of corridors killing soldiers and vampires. She jumps from roof to roof, from the tops of skyscrapers and performs  a number  flips and acrobatic turns thrown in to pump up the action.

Mercifully this chaotic piece of work put together by two directors is nothing more than a PSP game heavily enhanced by computer generated imaging  and filmed in 3D for the big screen stops at 88 minutes. Unfortunately, before it stops we get the clear feeling that the stage is  already set for round 5.

 Watch trailer


Top Ten Films in Malta

1 - 5 February 2012






With acknowledgements to KRS Film Distributors Ltd.

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