I’ve been remiss in commenting on our recent Netflix viewings. To catch up, here are some random, “lightning round” thoughts on each film:
American Gangster. This is an excellent companion piece to Sidney Lumet’s “Prince of the City,” which was also set in New York City in the early 1970s and depicted the police corruption of that time. Not surprisingly given its title, this one adds the bad guys’ point of view, although after a while it’s difficult to tell some of the good guys from the bad guys. In the acting battle between Oscar winners, I give the nod to Denzel Washington over Russell Crowe, but only because he has the more interesting part. Flamboyant gangster vs. earnest, dedicated policeman? Not much of a decision to make there. Knowing that Crowe’s character defended and became friends with Washington’s later on, it would have been interesting if the film had explored in greater detail the things that the two had in common – even if that might have taken dramatic license with how real life panned out. Also, more kudos to Josh Brolin, who plays perfectly the role of one of the corrupt cops.
Mrs. Brown. A well-acted, engaging depiction of the friendship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench, great as always) and Scottish highlander John Brown (brilliantly played by Billy Connolly). It’s always amusing to watch the dichotomy between stuffy British royalty and their commoner counterparts, and this one is no exception. Brown manages to get the Queen out of her shell of mourning, and then sees his influence grow to a point that probably surprises even him. Needless to say, the “stuffy Brit” types have a problem with this, and go out of their way to make his life difficult. Being the somewhat simple, roguish man that he is, he doesn’t exactly make life easy for himself.
Shakespeare in Love. We saw this when it first came out, and it remains now what it was then: very well-made, well-acted, somewhat light entertainment, but succeeding in what it set out to accomplish. Academy Award winner? I’m not sure it was that good.
The Queen. OK, so Judi Dench now has a rival for best actress to portray a Queen of England. Helen Mirren is awesome, and James Cromwell is almost as good as the very stuffy Prince Philip. I thought Michael Sheen playing Tony Blair in this was a lot better than he was playing David Frost in “Frost/Nixon,” and the rest of the cast is first-rate. The film feels more like an extended episode of “Masterpiece Theater” than it does a feature film, but that doesn’t lessen its quality.
Next up: “There Will Be Blood”