A Good Woman

The Oscar Wilde play ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ forms the basis of this light comedy/drama set on the Italian coast in the 1930’s. The story begins as we see Mrs Erlynne (Helen Hunt), flee New York after being run out of town by the wives of the men she’s slept with. She decides to travel to Italy to ‘insert herself’ into Italian high society, in particular in the lives of newlywed couple, Meg Windamere (Scarlett Johansson), and her husband, Robert (Mark Umbers). Mrs Erlynne gets ‘involved’ with Robert, and one of his friends, Lord Darlington, makes a beeline for Meg’s affections. As this goes on, Lord Darlington’s brother, Lord Tuppy, falls in love with Mrs Erlynne, as dark secrets and scandal threaten to engulf the ’social darlings’ of Italy.Oscar Wilde’s plays have proved very popular in films for many years, and this is one of the better adaptations. Helen Hunt as the ’scarlett woman’, Mrs Erlynne, gives it her best shot. She brings an air of sympathy to her role, although doesn’t bring enough ‘bite’. Hunt has been very good in other roles which have been more suited to her talents, and doesn’t quite grasp the range that this role requires. An actress such as Helen Mirren would have been perfect for the part - she would have given it a more ‘dangerous’ edge.

Scarlett Johansson is very good as Meg Windamere, displaying a woman who is just getting used to being in the new social arena and the people who accompany it. Mark Umbers as her husband is reasonably ok, although he does seem a bit wooden at times. Stephen Campbell Moore as Lord Darlington is the most successful actor in the film, as he seems to know what his character’s motivations are, and displays an unpredictable side to the character, which keeps audiences on their toes. Tom Wilkinson is excellent as Lord Tuppy, as he falls for Mrs Erlynne. Wilkinson makes him a charming rouge of a character and scenes always come alive whenever he appears in them. The three other actors who play his gossipy friends are very good as well, as they manage to keep the one-liners coming without being too over the top.

The costuming and Italian scenery are very nice to look at, with some very good photography throughout. The film is a very simple update of a classic play, and for the most part, is quite well acted. It doesn’t demand too much concentration and the easy to follow plot moves at a steady pace thru its 90 minutes running time. A very charming, witty story from an excellent story teller.

Rating out of 10: 7

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Batman Begins

This film breathes new life into the Batman series, by going back to its roots. The story shows how a young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), is affected by his parents murder, and how this drives him to avenge their deaths and to protect the citizens of Gotham City. He embarks upon a quest to learn how criminals behave and how to install fear into them, while at the same time, confronting his own. In this, he is help initially by a mysterious cult member Ducard (Liam Neeson), whose leader is the powerful Ra’s Al Guhl. Eventually he comes back to Gotham to create his Batman persona, with the help of the family butler Alfred. As Batman, he battles various evil criminals such as mob boss Falcone, and also The Scarecrow. While he is engaged in a fight with these two men, Bruce Wayne/Batman finds that while he’s trying to deal with his own past, that the past can come back to haunt him in a sudden and strange way.Director Christopher Nolan, with the Batman legend, has decided to get underneath the costume and to focus on the person inside. Indeed, we don’t actually see him in full Batman gear until well into halfway thru the film. By doing this, Nolan has allowed the audience to invest more emotional attachment to the Bruce Wayne character, so that when he does finally become Batman, we get a good sense of why he says and does certain things. This makes the fight and action scenes that much more enjoyable, as everyone knows that there is a human being under the mask, and not some one dimensional action hero.

Christian Bale is excellent in the role, giving it a genuine humanity, and he makes the part a multi faceted one. The scenes where he trains with Ducard show a man who is desperate to conquer his fear and to learn, and Bale certainly makes these scenes gripping as the one where he is in costume as Batman. He is one of the best actors to have played the character, and his interaction with the rest of the cast, makes the relationships between them very believable.

Michael Caine is wonderful as Alfred the butler, making him a father figure to Bruce and a confidant in times of need. Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman are on hand as policeman James Gordon, and fellow co-worker, Lucius Fox respectively, who help Batman/Bruce in his quest - both give their usual great performances. Gillian Murphy as The Scarecrow, gives his role a very creepy element, and you can feel a genuine threat from his character, even when he’s out of costume. Tom Wilkinson as mob boss Falcone also makes his role a menacing one. Katie Holmes as Bruce’s childhood friend is better than expected, her role does have a bit of the ‘token female’ about it, but she equips herself very well among the veterans in the cast.

Even though ‘Batman Begins’ is more of an exploration of the man underneath, it doesn’t forget to include lots of action and excitement, which it does in spades. These scenes are the more enjoyable as by this time, everyone has invested in the character more. It is a long film, but the story is very fast paced and has a definite goal that it wants to reach.

This is one of the best films in the comic book genre that has been made, as everyone involved has produced a film with a well structured story, excellent acting and pacing. This film has built a solid foundation on which future sequels can be made, and hopefully further adventures can be as great as this one. Truly fantastic.

Rating out of 10: 10

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