People’s Princess v. The Queen

 DATELINE: Ten Years Later

Queen & Country

As docudramas go, Helen Mirren’s movie about Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana is among the best.

Now ten years later, we took another peek at the film called merely The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Morgan. It has that wry detail of Diana looking back at the Queen with an accusing stare.

We don’t know how the creators know what tears, angst, and emotions, were expressed when the Queen was alone.  Mirren provides all this and more. Yes, it surely makes an exciting and intimate film performance.

This is the best of Mirren’s many queen roles, and this is the best of Michael Sheen’s many Tony Blair roles. Blair has to save the Queen from herself and her noblesse oblige family. Mirren’s Queen is witty and ultimately practical, whether this is true of the real people in the movie or not.

Actors re-enacting surely provides powerful insights into the tragic event of Princess Di’s death and the reaction of Her Royal Pains in the afterlife.

We recognized an impressive Roger Allam this time, from his Endeavour TV series, playing the Queen’s personal assistant. James Cromwell is his usual acerbic character as Prince Philip.

Mirren has many stunning moments, such as her shock when the public applauds Di’s brother after giving her eulogy. The Queen’s speech left more to be desired, even with a great actress delivering the same words.

Sleeping Beauties Among Passengers

 DATELINE:  Going Down with the Spaceship


Beware of starships where the crew is asleep at the switch for 100 years.

Passengers is an intelligent futuristic science-fiction thriller that brings us the torments of automated voices, automatons, and obtuse robots, which actually sounds much like the present.

The stars couldn’t be more beautiful or appealing. They are both Sleeping Beauties, though only one is Aurora—and played that part in a Disney movie too. We speak of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence who could carry any film on their personalities and looks—and do just that.

When a malfunction awakens Chris Pratt about 90 years before they reach their destination in outer space, he is alone on a massive space odyssey. Few young actors can play the surreality for laughs quite like Pratt who has an easy style that makes him appealing in adventure tales.

His costar is Jennifer Lawrence, also stunning and down-to-earth. They are thrown together like Adam and Eve on a voyage that looks a trip to Gilligan’s Island as told by Stanley Kubrick. Their ship is an intergalactic Titanic.

Their situation and moral decisions of Pratt’s character may be dubious, but seem valid. Also along for the ride as a Greek Chorus is Michael Sheen as an android on wheels behind a bar right out of the Overlook Hotel.

Clever references and parallels fit the story and compel its suspense. Only Laurence Fishburne in a valid cameo—and Andy Garcia in a walk-on are the other big names in the cast. Everyone else is a hologram for a few moments.

The film recalls many other spaceship tales, from Star Trek movies to the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey or even The Shining. The director Morten Tyldum appears to have studied Kubrick.

Charming actors and intelligent scripts tend to overcome most every movie issue. They don’t have to worry about this story; it’s delightful.

How Special, Another Tony Blair Movie


 ImageDid the GOP National Committee cast Hope Davis as Hillary Clinton? As Mrs. Tony Blair, Helen McCrory does it again.

Michael Sheen has made a cottage industry out of playing Tony Blair on the screen. The man who puts words in his mouth is Peter Morgan, the brilliant playwright and scriptwriter.

As long ago as 2003 in The Deal, he traced novice Blair as a youthful ruthless politician. Then, Sheen/Blair faced The Queen with an intimidating Helen Mirren buckling under his charms. And, at last that brings us to The Special Relationship in which Sheen plays opposite his American counterpart, Bill Clinton in the personality of Dennis Quaid.

Helen McCrory is around again as Mrs. Blair, caustic and perfect, but her counterpart is Hope Davis, playing Hillary Clinton as if the GOP National Committee had produced the movie.

Dennis Quaid is utterly delightful in his mimicry, downright charming in his downhome honeysuckle. As the Clintons, the Republican Party must be happy to have the Clintoons writ big.

If Mrs. Clinton reaches the White House, perhaps Mrs. Blair can return to Downing Street, and Morgan can give us another movie.

All the imitations are brilliant, but we maintain a soft spot for Sheen’s affable Blair impersonation. We don’t know that there will be another, with Morgan having covered all the ground without a sinkhole.

Sheen took time off from playing Blair to play David Frost in mortal friendship with Richard Nixon in the delightful Frost/Nixon. So, we know what we’re getting in these Morgan historical epics. It’s Beckett without the Murder in the Cathedral.

The idea that important and powerful people are just like us is comforting, though a bit unbelievable. As Scott Fitzgerald often said, the only thing different about the rich is their money.

Not quite, but Peter Morgan certainly goes as far as the man who created Gatsby.

If you like movies, try the reviews and previews of MOVIE MASHUP and MOVIES TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE. Both volumes are available in softcover and ebook from