It was another special 90-minute episode of “Sons of Anarchy” tonight, but I honestly didn’t expect any less from the season finale, which opened with the typical montage, this time scored to an upbeat pop song while the club enjoyed a cheerful breakfast feast at the clubhouse. The festivities didn’t last long, however, as Gemma is becoming increasingly worried about Jax’s deal with Stahl after discovering a case file on the IRA council in his cut.
She’s still staying mum on the subject, but after Clay tells her about their expanding business relationship with the Irish, Gemma decides to try and save Jax’s skin before any more harm is done by turning herself in. Not that it will do her any good. Stahl has already exonerated Gemma of all the charges (apart from fleeing custody, which has landed her a few months under house arrest), so there’s really nothing she can do. Nevertheless, Gemma promises Stahl that deals like the one she made with Jax never work out because there’s no trust, and it’s going to end badly for one of the parties involved. If only Gemma knew just how right she would be…
With the hours ticking away until Jimmy is out of SAMCRO’s reach for good, Clay visits Otto at Stockton to set up a meet between him and Lenny the Pimp. Lenny agrees to reach out to his Russian contacts, but warns Otto that while they’re certainly not loyal to Jimmy, it’s going to take a hefty sum for them to flip on him. And as Clay soon learns, he wasn’t kidding, as the Russians ask for $2 million in exchange for Jimmy – money that the club simply doesn’t have. Thankfully, those boxes that Chucky has been trying to show someone for days just so happens to contain $5 million in counterfeit bills. It’s apparently from his time working for Henry Lin, and though he was supposed to destroy it, he decided to keep it instead.
Running just over four hours in length, Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 production of “Hamlet” isn’t exactly the kind of film that the casual moviegoer pops in on a rainy day, but is instead tailored almost exclusively to cinephiles and diehard fans of Shakespeare. That’s because unlike previous film adaptations of the famous play, Branagh’s version is the first (and probably the last) to utilize the full text, resulting not only in one of the most ambitious studio movies of the last 15 years, but also the most complete film adaptation to ever be made. It just so happens to be one of the best, too, thanks in part to Branagh’s skillful direction, a treasure trove of fantastic performances (including Derek Jacobi as Claudius and Julie Christie as Gertrude), and gorgeous cinematography that benefits from Branagh’s decision to shoot the movie in 70 mm.
It’s completely coincidental that “Hamlet” was released around the same time as the formative years of my literary studies, but although I was already quite taken with Shakespeare’s play by the time I stumbled onto Branagh’s film, it only further deepened my appreciation for the work. And once you see his version of “Hamlet,” it’s really difficult to accept any other. I’m certainly not alone, either, as many people had been clamoring for the film to be released on DVD for years before Warner Bros. caved in with a belated 10th anniversary special edition. (And on my birthday, no less.)
Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait nearly as long for the Blu-ray, and the fact that it’s being released the week after my birthday makes me believe that, in some cosmic way, I’m somewhat responsible. So if you’ve been counting down the days until you could experience Branagh’s “Hamlet” in high definition, you’re welcome. Unfortunately, while the film looks brilliant in HD, there are no new special features to speak of. Granted, the ones that appeared on the two-disc DVD were already pretty good – the commentary by Branagh and Shakespeare scholar Russell Jackson is entertaining and insightful, and the making-of documentary “To Be on Camera,” although a bit dated, features some nice interviews with the cast – but surely they could have dug up something from the archives. Not that it will matter. Anyone that owns the DVD will want to pick up the Blu-ray strictly for the technical upgrades. And when you’re dealing with a movie with such lush production values, it’s more of a necessity than a luxury.
Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.
Outstanding Comedy Series:
* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)
My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.
As a self-professed fan of all things “Hamlet,” my interest was immediately piqued when the BBC announced that they would be producing a modern day update of the Shakespearean classic with “Doctor Who” star David Tennant in the title role. Everyone knows the story of “Hamlet,” but if you don’t, this isn’t a bad place to start as it’s a pretty faithful adaptation with some strong performances from its cast. Tennant played the Danish prince in the most recent staging of the play by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and though it isn’t the best Hamlet to date, he brings a whimsical madness to the role that injects some much-needed energy into the story. Unlike previous incarnations, Tennant’s Hamlet is crazy from the start – a victim of paranoia who believes he’s being spied on by his murderous uncle via the CCTV cameras installed throughout the castle.
And indeed, there’s a bit of truth behind his madness, as the newly anointed King Claudius (Patrick Stewart, also reprising his role from the RSC production, and who recently spoke with our own Will Harris about the film) keeps a watchful eye on his nephew. But while Claudius initially comes off looking more like a worried patriarch than an evil stepdad, he eventually reveals himself to be the villain he truly is in subtle moments of guile and wickedness that capitalize on the veteran actor’s commanding screen presence. The rest of the cast pales in comparison (particularly Peter De Jersey, who is horribly miscast as Horatio), although Mariah Gale does get to chew some scenery once Ophelia loses her marbles (and her clothes).
Despite setting the story in present day, the film feels very much like a period piece. Director Gregory Dorn is careful to update the material without changing the meaning, and though it’s been filmed on a movie set, there’s an air of theatricality to the production that proves why “Hamlet” is better told on stage than in film. All in all, it’s one of the finer adaptations in recent memory. It still doesn’t come close to besting the Kenneth Branagh-directed version, but then again, there’s a good chance nothing ever will.
Tonight’s quickie movie news notes have been called off in commemoration of the fact that this is Akira Kurosawa‘s 100th birthday.
What follows, then, is a fairly random assortment of trailers and scenes from key films, some personal favorites, and a couple of lesser known films by the Emperor. If you’re not familiar with the great Japanese director, one of the movies’ strongest storytellers and masters of imagery who was also the first Asian director to become widely known in the west, you might start with that Wikipedia entry I linked to above. Or, simply take a look at what follows. Pay just a little attention and I think you may be intrigued.
We’ll start with the worldwide art-house hit that made first made Mr. Kurosawa’s name outside of Japan way back in 1950.
If things had gone a bit differently, she might well have been as huge a superstar as such contemporaries as Audrey Hepburn or Natalie Wood — she certainly had the talent and screen presence to do so. However, as I’m reminded by her New York Times obituary, an ugly situation involving a sexual proposition the married actress got from Howard Hughes may have prevented Jean Simmons from reaching the super-stardom she deserved as much as anyone. The vindictive aviation and filmmaking magnate may have deliberately put her in films he thought were inferior and refused to allow his film studio to lend her out for the lead in “Roman Holiday,” the role that deservedly made Audrey Hepburn a more or less instant star.
Nevertheless, Ms. Simmons, who sadly passed on yesterday at age 80 from lung cancer, outlasted her Hughes contract and gave witty and altogether enchanting performances in numerous and diverse films, ranging from break-out teenage performances as the young Estella in David Lean’s still-definitive 1946 version of “Great Expectations” (she’d eventually play Mrs. Havisham in a TV production) and as Ophelia in Laurence Olivier’s 1948 “Hamlet.” As a puckishly beautiful adult actress who pretty much owned the word “luminous,” she had no problem quietly stealing scenes on an epic scale from the likes of Kirk Douglas in “Spartacus,” Burt Lancaster in “Elmer Gantry,” Gregory Peck in William Wyler’s underrated “The Big Country,” and, most famously these days, Marlon Brando in her only musical appearance, “Guys and Dolls.” Brando was easy to outshine musically though she was also easily his acting equal or superior, but here she shows she would have had to chops to almost hold her own musically with with costar Frank Sinatra, if only the script had called for it. What she lacks in polish, she more than makes up for in sheer commitment.
An admitted survivor of alcoholism, Simmons was a class act on every level who famously complimented Hepburn on her great “Roman Holiday” performance, as painful as it must have been to watch and even though it’s not clear that she wouldn’t have been just as good in the role. She kept working through most of her life — her last significant role was her voice work in the English-language version of “Howl’s Moving Castle” — and her loss to the world of entertainment is not a small one. She was often low-key, but she was never dull.
Although Campbell Scott is one of those actors who’s been happily flying under Hollywood’s radar for the past several years (he estimates the time frame as somewhere between eight and ten), his appearance within the ensemble of the buzz-heavy indie flick, “Phoebe in Wonderland,” may change that. And if it doesn’t…well, as he reveals in his interview with Bullz-Eye.com, it’s not like he doesn’t enjoy being able to ride the subway in relative anonymity.
Campbell Scott on “Singles”:
“I’m 47, I have gray hair, and yet people still come up to me on the street who are in their twenties, who weren’t even born when ‘Singles’ was made…well, they were pretty tiny, anyway…and they say, ‘Oh, I love that movie.’ And I always say, ‘How OLD are you?”
Campbell Scott on “Phoebe in Wonderland”:
“When you go and watch it, even if you’re thinking about being a parent or if you have a little sister, anything like that, it becomes this little journey. And people either go for it or not. It ain’t ‘Die Hard,’ let’s face it! But it’s very, very provocative, I think.”
Campbell Scott on “The Spanish Prisoner”:
“Steve (Martin) is fascinating. I really like that guy. He’s really smart. You know, the thing I always think about Steve is that, like most really, really brilliant comedians, he’s a very serious dude. People who are funny in a profound way, when you meet them, they are totally serious. I don’t mean they’re severe or boring or unfunny to be with – they’re hysterical – but they are definitive in their work habits.”
Check out the entire interview by clicking right here…or, of course, you could always just click on this big ol’ image below: