Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bringing divaliciousness to set

Have we had enough Jennifer Ehle quotage this week? I think not. Let's have some more. First, Brightcove have another red carpet video from the New York premiere of Pride and Glory. Jennifer Ehle appears twice, responding to questions about the Glory boys and divaliciousness.

Second is some Rains multimedia from AVS (unfindable but possibly an oldie from the first half of 08). In it, Ms Ehle again appears twice, talking about why the film reminds her of film noir and Hitchcock. Lastly, Starpulse have an interview (minus Ms Ehle) that we appear to have missed from the TIFF.

The remaining hickeldy pickle of relevancies follow.
  • Following the Pride and Glory hype in South Africa, the Times speak to Colin Farrell about the film and being a father.

  • The South African approach coverage of the film from a slightly different angle, saying:
[...] Pride and Glory pumps out so much testosterone that audience members of all genders will leave with hairier chests. But this gritty police saga is masterfully made, and cleverly told, so it might well be worth the cost of a wax. [...]
Another yay comes from The Hollywood News, which goes so far as to say 'this is probably 2008's strongest ensemble outside of The Dark Knight', considering its rich performances to 'more than make up' for its lack of originality. Reviewer Adam Mast goes on to explain:
[...] What really gives this film an emotional wallop is it's attention to character detail. Each character in Pride and Glory has something to lose, particularly Emmerich's Francis Tierney, a man who not only stands to lose credibility and respect, but also his sickly wife (played brilliantly by an effective Jennifer Ehle). [...]
Also receiving the thumbs up is the oft-criticised ending:
[...] Pride and Glory took a good thirty minutes to really get going, but once it did, I was completely sucked in. This is a testament to the stellar performances and Gavin O'Connor's strong direction. Even a somewhat unexpected brawl scene in the final act of the movie manages to work. It's silly and not entirely realistic, but it lends a certain Irish charm to the proceedings. Pride and Glory is solid entertainment, with much to recommend it. [...]
  • On the flipside, blogger The Mad Hatter was about as happy with the film as his name suggests, while The Film Street Journal have more harsh words. Avion Newspaper's James Willingham goes for some rhyming ('Pride and Glory is very gory') and despite not considering the film anything special, he does identify 'some rather brilliant acting':
[...] Under Gavin O'Conner's (sic) direction the film has several scenes where emotional trauma is prevalent and causes the audience to understand just what's at stake: the reputation of the glorious NYPD. [...]
  • Ben Johnson at Artipot makes some neutral observations about the film, only moving away from this to predict that Pride and Glory 'should catch the public mood and draw the audience'.

  • Movie Waffle evidently got bored with ordinary yay/nay comments and twice ponder the subject of Jennifer Ehle's head. They say:
[...] Yes, there will be women in this movie. One of them will even have cancer. But this is a man’s film. If men are at home with their wives it’s because the bars are closed. If a woman gets a line it’s because the man needs to be reminded of something. Witness Jennifer Ehle – shaving her head for what she doubtless thought would be more than a two scene role – telling Noah Emmerich: “I need you to be that man”, and Emmerich nodding, thinking perhaps: “She shaved her head for this?” [...]
Then later:
[...] It may be me, but I could swear (Norton) looks envious when he hugs Jennifer Ehle at the family Christmas, thinking perhaps: 'Why didn’t I get to shave my head?' [...]
While we're on the subject, Glory release dates are now up (on IMDb) for Germany, Austria, Brazil, Australia, Sweden and Norway.
  • Elsewhere regarding reviews, Zola's Movie Pics gave Before the Rains 3 stars, and justifies that score thus:
[...] The story and location were equally magical. ... I think Rahul Bose gives the strongest performance as he tries to obey his people yet still hang on to his dream of modern prosperity. The soundtrack is very soothing and aids in setting the stage. [...]
  • After a far lengthier evaluation, CHUD give a (very precise) 7.3 out of 10, explaining how the film successfully demolished their preconceptions, but without also (seemingly) swaying too far into 'yay' territory. The thoughts given are honest and to the point:

[...] Before the Rains is not a great movie, but it is definitely a good movie, one that uses its budget and its cast well, and one that has a solid, if strangely old-fashioned, script. ...

[The film] has no big flaws. It gets in there, tells a story, then gets out of the way. It’s not sappy, long, or “pretentious.” On the other hand, it’s nothing uniquely moving, either. ... If you have an interest in period films or in India, definitely check this out; if not, well, see it anyway, but there’s no need to hurry. [...]

The reviewers also include an honest (and somewhat amusing) note about what the extras consist of:

[...] There’s a feature-length commentary with Roache and director Santosh Sivan, who cover such groundbreaking topics as what filming was like that day, how much they enjoyed working with each other, and what an honor it was to finally meet John Standing.

It’s not bad, and if you like the film enough to buy it, you’ll definitely like the commentary enough to hear it. The commentary is the only real feature, but that’s no big deal. The DVD has everything it needs, and the movie looks and sounds quite good. [...]

Disagreeing with the above is The Oxford Times, which makes numerous not-so-nice lexical choices despite calling the film 'worthy' and mentioning 'a willing cast and breathtaking locale'. Lastly, a note to Brits that Amazon is releasing Before the Rains in Region 2 on December 26.
  • For members of Coast of Utopia Anonymous, the New York Observer talk to a blonde Mia Barron about her current role as Hillary Clinton, and about how to convince people called Jack to let you be part of their nine-hour productions:
[...] Bent on joining the cast, she implored director Jack O'Brien to consider casting her. "When I heard they were doing that, I thought, oh my God, I would do anything to be in that in any capacity," she said. "I was actually doing a play at the time that overlapped a little with the Utopia rehearsals. I just wrote Jack O'Brien a letter and I explained how much I wanted to be involved and sort of begged him to work around me." Mr. O'Brien did, assigning Ms. Barron small parts throughout the trilogy and as Martha Plimpton's understudy. [...]
  • Related to that, as we haven't had a Stoppardian-related piece for a while, About Last Night have written a medium-sized report relating to Sir Tom.

  • In the realm of newspapers, the Scotsman theorise on how the current economic crisis is causing people to watch chihuahuas instead of cops on film, while the Guardian exhume a short piece about Uncle Vanya from 1963, making reference to someone beginning with R.

  • Next, if you're wondering what a less angry/scary version of Pride and Glory might look like, see the Italian trailer. Finally, if the upcoming festive season is making anyone want to throw some roubles at worthy causes, among BC/EFA's featured selection this month is The PLAYBILL® Broadway Yearbook 2006-2007. Judging by the product description, the hardcover book should include among its delights a chapter on The Coast of Utopia and a headshot of Jennifer Ehle.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A very special treat

Hello all, sincere apologies, and apologies the apologies are becoming more regular than posts at the moment! Rest assured that the posterly irregularity is only temporary and due to unavoidable hecticity which we will try and work through as soon as possible.

We'll have a general round up later in the week, but for now (thanks to a kind and observant reader) we have a little gem which passed us by earlier in the month. It is a piece from the Sunday Telegraph's Seven magazine from November 9, in which Ms Ehle describes - with characteristic loveliness - what her perfect Sunday would consist of. We don't yet have the link but will of course let you know if we locate it. Enjoy!

My Perfect Sunday - Jennifer Ehle (actress)

[...] I’d get up between six and seven, which is when my son George (who's five-and-a-half) normally wakes me. We'd go downstairs together, before anyone else was up. We have seven hens, so we'd go and let the girls out. They have a big run which they can walk around in, but we try to give them complete freedom in the field while we're out there with them. We live in the country, two hours outside Manhattan. New York is a great place, but I couldn't live in a city full-time now. When you find your natural habitat in life it's really hard to leave it.

At the weekend we often have friends and my parents to stay. It's our best way of seeing them all. Generally, people don't seem to rouse themselves until mid-morning, and my friend Martha and I have fallen into a routine where she makes them all breakfast. If it's winter, we have a fire going in the kitchen and one in the living-room, and everyone drinks coffee and chats. I get filled in on what happened the night before, after I went to bed.

I have these fantasies of having a big Sunday lunch, so on an ideal day I'd roast a couple of chickens for us. Usually, though, everyone has eaten breakfast not too long ago and so instead, I try to do a meal on Friday night when they all arrive. This summer we had friends staying in tents on our field, which was really lovely. On 4 July, we all went for an after-lunch walk, down to a river we have below our house. Our friend Pedro had us all swimming in it, which was wonderful because we've lived there for seven years and have never done that before. It was like he'd built us a pool. The day was incredibly hot, so it was heavenly.

In the evening, it's that delicious thing of having the place back to ourselves. I like to go outside with my son and put the chickens to bed and look at the shape of the moon. When he was younger, he used to play what he called 'chicken piano'. He'd stand by the roost and touch each hen in turn, they'd all be sleepy, and each one would make a different sound.

When George is in bed, it's lovely to sit with my husband and watch nonsense on the television, or sit by the fire and play cards and backgammon. I'd probably go up to bed around 9.30. If it really was my ideal Sunday, we would have woken up in the spring, had autumn for the morning (with its crisp air), summer for the afternoon and winter in the evening. [...]

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Has but four scenes

Greetings all!

Just before we get stuck into today's Pride and Glory bundle, a quick hope that you are all having a pleasant Sunday (or Monday) and a jubilatory bon anniversaire to Martha Plimpton, who is very very young today.

Now, on with the latest:

Refusing to budge from the do-you-mind-if-we-don't-watch-it category today (to put it mildly!) we have Ireland's The Munster Express, America's A Fort Made of Books, India's the Hindustan Times, and Rediff, also from India (who despite believing in the artistic excellence of the film's actors still refer to it as 'Fake and Gory').

Moving along the spectrum and bridging the gap between the nays and the yays is The Sakaal Times, or more specifically Jennifer Ehle. After listing a number of negatives, the publication concedes that 'Abby Tierney (Jennifer Ehle) ... draws our sympathy to a certain extent.'

Even further up, there are some good-quality yays to counteract the nays. Johnson Thomas at DNA India says Jennifer Ehle (as Abby) is 'heart-wrenchingly sincere', while Cosmic Film Trigger refuses to be swayed by many of the shots hitherto fired in the film's direction:
[...] In this film, it's true that nothing presented is particularly original and much of it has been seen many times before. Having said that, there is something undeniably poignant about this production and all the formulaic measures lose out to a gripping, intense cop drama that shows the perils of institutionalized violence and how easily corruption can come to the fore. [...]
The actors are also championed:
[...] The performances in this film are all uniformly excellent. Jennifer Ehle has but four scenes but she demonstrates a resolve that is as refreshing as it is difficult to contemplate. [...]
Elsewhere, the UK reviews are continuing to battle it out for most bizarre way of voicing a nay. The Sun (predicting the confusion that will arise from the pieces of Spanish dialogue) is alone in using simple language to explain its position. Others go for food analogies (The Daily Telegraph finding the film 'lumpy', The FT 'overcooked'), while the Daily Mail likens the film (in one of its nicer comments) to 'a peculiarly accident-prone building site'.

All is not lost however. Indicating the existence of some all-important public yays is Suze from Derbyshire, who politely takes on one of the tabloids above by responding thus:

[...] I went to see this film today with some trepidation due to many pretty negative reviews, both from UK and US critics. I thoroughly enjoyed it - it didn't seem like a 2 hour+ film in length to me. I agree that Colin Farrell unfortunately came over as pretty one dimensional - his reason for going bad was fairly unconvincing but I thought both Edward Norton and Noah Emmerich were outstanding. Critics seem to forget that we mere cinema goers don't walk in with an encyclopaedic knowledge of films, preparing to compare every film in the same genre. I enjoyed this film for itself - not in comparison to anything else remotely similar. I just hope people aren't put off from going to see it and giving it a chance. [...]

Thankfully, some reviewers are also as happy as Suze. In a refreshing bout of positivity, the North Wales Pioneer use the words 'powerhouse', 'example', 'acting' and 'of' in the same sentence, and conclude that Pride and Glory is 'certainly one of the most engaging performance movies to come out this year'.

Still more lay a few nice comments, but leave their harsh ones poking through. The Times Online talks of 'gritty' performances, but then claims the film comes 'from the “tough cops shouting at each other” school of drama', thus leaving the page's only redeeming quality to be the picture of Colin Firth sitting alongside the review.

Restoring the equilibrium again is blogger John at Cultural Affairs. Like an American Suze, he acknowledges the nays with the yays - but urges us to take our behinds off to view Pride and Glory anyway:
[...] I enjoyed it but it has this 'you seen it before' feeling while watching it. It's loaded with cliches that you see on TV cop shows but I think this movie rises above them. ...

There are better cop movies but you won't go wrong if you like this cast that includes Jennifer Ehle (of Pride & Prejudice fame) in a brief but touching performance as Noah's dying wife urging him to do the right thing. [...]
The next scheduled releases are in Iceland (November 21) and the Netherlands, Belgium and France in the first week of December.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Catch up

Many apologies for last week's last of posticity, everyone! The blog was forced to take an unintended vacation due to blogger time issues. A couple of important events took place in the meantime.

On Monday evening (Nov 10), Jennifer Ehle was one of the presenters at the 24th Annual Artios Awards, a ceremony which honors excellence in casting. She can be seen (looking lovely in red) at WireImage and GettyImages, and, if you have a magnifying glass, at (Search for "Jennifer Ehle" in all cases.) This last site has photos from previous events that I don't recall seeing before, so be sure to check those out as well.

The other newsworthy event is that Pride and Glory made its way to the UK on November 7. According to The Guardian, the film did well at the box office during its opening weekend:
[...] In fact, the prize went to New York cop thriller Pride and Glory, starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, which debuted at No 5 with £396,691 from 258 screens. [...]

What follows is an Ehle-centric sample of the UK reviews, which (you'll notice) bear many striking similarities to the US reviews:
  • Anthony Quinn of The Independent feels that the movie is on the hackneyed side, but the acting sets it apart. Moreover, he says Norton and Farrell are “fine,” but he asserts that “Emmerich and his ailing wife (a shaven-headed Jennifer Ehle) are considerably more than that.”
  • The Evening Standard's Derek Malcolm basically concurs and notes:
    [...] O’Connor paints a dark, dank and gloom-ridden view of New York and his actors, who include the excellent Jennifer Ehle, notable as Francis’s cancer-stricken wife, are certainly no slouches. [...]
  • In a discussion of the film's tragic flaw, Stella Papamichael of Digital Spy comments on the underutilization of Ms Ehle's talent:
    [...] Arguably, the fatal flaw is that O'Connor doesn't stick closely enough with Jimmy, to let the story unravel through his eyes and give us the luxury of a few surprises along the way. Instead there are dead-end detours into All The President's Men territory as the editor of The New York Post gets a whiff of the stink, a maudlin sub-plot involving Jennifer Ehle (wasted) as Tierney's cancer-ridden sister, and scenes of a loopy Colin Farrell threatening to iron a baby's face. [...]

Even more catching up

Last week, Michael Kabel reviewed the film for BlueMovieReviews. Like many others, he thought Noah Emmerich and Jennifer Ehle's scenes brought the movie a much-needed breath of fresh (acting) air:

[...] One thin sliver of beauty arrives about halfway through, when Francis presents his dying wife with a Gaelic band promising “love eternal.” It’s a sweet scene, played expertly and without bathos by Emmerich and actress Jennifer Ehle, that detracts from the rote events happening elsewhere in the plot. In fact, coupled with a later scene of Francis defusing a hostage situation, you might wish the movie was about Francis and starred Emmerich’s perfectly-tuned performance, instead of Norton’s and Farrell’s faux macho histrionics. Emmerich (The Truman Show, Beautiful Girls) has made a career of playing non confrontational beta male types; his performance here is a revealing breath of fresh, unmannered air. [...]

Be sure to check out the comments after the review.

Finally, The Optimist at the Two Gays and a Movie blog is also quite complimentary of Jennifer Ehle's performance:

[...] Ehle is exceptionally moving as the dying mother undergoing chemotherapy, who remains strong for her husband, but shows in a poignant scene how devastating it is for her to have to be taken from her child. [...]

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pick 'n' Mix!

We start with a more manageable number of Pride and Glory reviews this week, and while not quite all of them make an appearance below, points raised are largely representative of the remainder. According to IMDb, the film is now out in Greece, Israel and Italy and is scheduled for release in the UK on Friday. Enjoy!

Scrumptious centre, unscrumptious coating
  • John M. Urbancich of the The Plain Dealer laments that Pride and Glory's cast - including a 'superb Jennifer Ehle' and an 'always terrific Jon Voight' - cannot rescue the film from 'guilt by familiarity'.

  • Gary Thompson from the Philadelphia Daily News considers the iron scene to be one step too far. However, despite claiming that other members of the genre outweigh the film, Thompson admits there is 'nothing wrong' with Pride and Glory's performances.

  • The Scotsman wins the award for most hilarious partial nay, likening Pride and Glory (on account of its apparent superfluity) to 'a sixth toe or another Madonna tour'. But after an even ouchier moment - 'it's just The Departed without the Oscar winners' - some plus points are mentioned, with the film being considered 'watchable', the actors hailed as well-suited, and Ms Ehle being described as 'bald but improbably radiant'.

  • Paralleling this in places, Carol Cling at Lonokenews thinks the film barely keeps its head above water. But, after diagnosing 'a serious case of subplot-itis', Cling praises actor John Ortiz and a 'wonderful [Jennifer] Ehle, almost unrecognizable from her days in...Pride and Prejudice' who 'delivers a few wrenching moments'.

  • Over at Greenville News, the reader reviews are as mixed as those from the professionals, with comments ranging from 'an entertaining and worthy view' on the one hand to a one-starred suggestion of a not-so-nice name change on the other.

  • More substantive thoughts return with Matthew Fox at the Paso Robles Press, who despite giving his fair share of harsh comments notes that 'the scenes between Emmerich and Ehle serve as the most heartfelt in the film'. He also gives high marks to both Jon Voight and John Ortiz.

  • Describing the film as 'a textbook example of what a movie looks like when it is made up of an A+ cast and a D+ script', Chester Carson of the Juneau Empire airs most succintly this frequently raised point. He goes on to give several (non Ehle-related) reasons to warrant his opinion of excellent acting and not-so-excellent writing.

  • At GT Weekly, Lisa Jensen's title instantly reveals her nay stance, but she does refer to 'the lovely Jennifer Ehle' and, echoing the above article, talks of 'an excellent cast who deserved so much more.'

  • It's the same story again from the Newsleader, who say the following:
[...] Acting is the true shining star in this otherwise pedestrian film, with Edward Norton and Jon Voight turning in strong performances, buoyed by a group of minor roles that are handled with skill, regardless of how small. Standouts among them are the relative unknowns John Ortiz as Sandy, one of the crooked cops, and Jennifer Ehle as Francis' wife, Abby. [...]
  • Cut somewhat from the same cloth is The Ithacan Online. After speaking positively about the leads, Hannah Agatston goes on to say:
[...] The other actors in 'Pride and Glory' do a mediocre job of holding the audience’s interest, except for Frannie’s wife, played by Jennifer Ehle, who evokes emotion as she battles with cancer. [...]
It looked delicious...but wasn't
  • Alone in this group is David Adams at 360 Entertaiment, who gives Pride and Glory several hints of praise, before suggesting we rent The Departed instead.

The sour laces

  • There's always one, and this week it is Matt Soergel of The Times-Union, who proves in just two sentences why the 'nay' crown should go to him. Directly behind him however is Alexa Santoro of the Daily Collegian, who ends up bestowing a C+ despite an unutterably scorching first sentence.

That nice one you didn't realise was left

  • In other news, Broadway World reveals that in just a week's time, Jennifer Ehle will be utilising her presenting skills again! She will be one of several guest presenters at the New York part of the 24th Annual Artios Awards, which honour excellence in casting. Exciting stuff! As the website explains:

[...] The awards will be presented at coast-to-coast ceremonies on Monday, November 10th, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and Caroline’s on Broadway in New York. Guest presenters in New York will include Bryan Batt, Jason Biggs, Robert Buckey, Danny Burstein, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Ehle, John Gallagher, Gavin Lee, Norm Lewis, Rebecca Luker, Alan Menkin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hunter Parrish, Kristen Schall, Sherie Renee Scott, and Michael Urie, among others. [...]