Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Now, I watched Shekhar Kapur’s previous Bess movie in the palace of dreams when first it came out in 1998. In fact, I saw it on my birthday. I enjoyed it. Cate Blanchett fair nailed it, and you also had Geoffrey Rush as man-of-the-shadows Walsingham, plus Daniel Craig as relentless Jesuit assassin John Ballard, Kathy Burke as thwarted Catholic queen Mary, Joseph Fiennes as Elizabeth’s crush Dudley, Dickie Attenborough as elder statesman Cecil, Chris Eccleston as moody courtier Howard, plus Emily Mortimer, Kelly Macdonald, James Frain, and odd turns by the likes of Vincent Cassel, Angus Deayton and Eric Cantona.
Fast-forward a decade, and we have Blanchett nine years older but playing a woman-prince nigh thirty years on from the events of the first film. We also have Geoffrey Rush as man-of-the-shadows Walsingham, plus Rhys Ifans as relentless Jesuit assassin Robert Reston, Samantha Morton as thwarted Catholic queen Mary, Clive Owen as Elizabeth’s crush Walter Raleigh, John Shrapnel as elder statesman Howard, plus Susan Lynch, Abbie Cornish, Tom Hollander, and an odd turn by David Threlfall as an astrologer.
Basically it’s a jumble of bad history, pointless retreads and bare-remembered history lesson tropes (I bring potatoes, baccy and Injuns from the New World! Here, let me cover that puddle with my cloak! Oh my – it’s a Spanish Armada!) – and worst of all, it’s just not much fun. Oh Well.
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt (2009)
Pretty crappy remake of a hokey sub-noir thriller from the fifties, about a reporter who comes to suspect that a popular DA with a high conviction rate has been manufacturing evidence. Obviously the best way for the reporter to expose this is by fitting himself up for a murder and then revealing how he left a trail of fabricated clues.
Michael Douglas as the lizard-eyed prosecutor is – and it pains one to say this – the best thing about the whole film. Jesse Metcalfe is way out of his depth as the tabloid TV hack. Definitely from the ‘In Decline’ years of director Peter Hyams.
This, on the other hand, is how you should handle a courtroom melodrama-slash-thriller: Peter Yates has a strong cast (Cher as a tired, at times jaded public defender, Dennis Quaid as a smart Capitol Hill lobbyist who masks his intelligence with professional cynicism and hokey charm, Liam Neeson as an indigent war vet in the frame for murder) and the energy to turn a run-of-the-mill plot into something that zips along.
More Liam Neeson (is it wrong to notice that since ‘that bad thing’ he’s been a lot more in demand?), this time as a depressed oil worker in Alaska. After a plane crash, he steps up to try and get a small group of survivors to safety, all whilst a rather fearsome pack of wolves tracks their every mood. After a bumpy start it really grabbed my attention. Joe Carnahan showed that he’s more than just flashy action.