REVIEW: ANNA KARENINA (2012)


CAST

Keira Knightley (Pirates of The Caribbean)
Jude Law (Spy)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla)
Matthew Macfadyen (Enigma)
Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
Alicia Vikander (Jason Bourne)
Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Olivia Williams (Dollhouse)
Ruth Wilson (The Lone Ranger)
Emily Watson (The Theory of Everything)
Michelle Dockery (Hanna)
Raphaël Personnaz (Three Words)
Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad)
Bill Skarsgård (Allegiant)
Alexander Roach (The Huntsman)
Hera Hilmar (Mortal Engines)
John Bradley (Game of Thrones)

In 1874 Imperial Russia, Prince Stephan “Stiva” Oblonsky’s wife, Princess Daria “Dolly”, banishes her husband from their home due to his infidelity. Stiva’s sister, Anna Karenina, a well off and liked socialite living in St. Petersburg with her older husband, Count Alexei Karenin, and their son, Seryozha, travels to Moscow to persuade Dolly to forgive Stiva. Meanwhile, Stiva meets his old friend Konstantin Levin, a wealthy land owner and aristocrat who is looked down upon by Moscow’s elite for preferring country life to city life. Levin professes his love for Stiva’s sister-in-law, Princess Katerina “Kitty” Alexandrovna, and Stiva encourages him to propose. However, Kitty declines as she hopes to marry Count Alexei Vronsky. Later, Levin meets with his elder brother Nikolai, who has given up his inheritance and taken a prostitute named Masha as his wife. Nikolai suggests that Levin marry one of the peasants on his estate. On the train to Moscow, Anna meets Vronsky’s mother, Countess Vronskaya, and once there Anna meets Vronsky himself, and they have immediate mutual attraction. When a railway worker is killed in an accident at the station, Vronsky is seen by Anna, Stiva, and the Countess giving a large sum of money to the worker’s family. Anna convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At a ball that night, Kitty attempts to dance with Vronsky, but he dances with Anna, attracting the attention of everyone in attendance and leaving Kitty heartbroken. Anna boards a train to St. Petersburg, but at a rest stop notices Vronsky, who declares that he must be wherever she goes. She tells him to go back to Moscow, but he refuses.
In St. Petersburg, Vronsky visits his cousin Princess Betsy Tverskaya, a friend of the Kareninas, and begins to show up at all the places Anna and Betsy visit. Vronsky flirts openly with Anna at a party, which catches Karenin’s attention. He suggests they go home, but Anna chooses to stay. Vronsky tells her of his intention to take a promotion in another city but Anna persuades him to stay and the next day they meet at a hotel and make love.
Stiva visits Levin at his country estate and informs Levin that Kitty and Vronsky are no longer to be married. Levin focuses on living an authentic country life, working in his fields with his workers and contemplating taking one of their daughters as his wife, as his brother had suggested.
Karenin hears that his wife and Vronsky are in the country estate and surprises them there, after she reveals to Vronsky that she is pregnant. Later she encounters Karenin who suggests he join them for the horse races that evening. The races begin, and Anna betrays her feelings for Vronsky as his horse falls and injures him. On their way home Anna admits to Karenin that she is Vronsky’s mistress and wishes to divorce him. Karenin refuses and instead confines her to home. Levin sees Kitty in a passing carriage and realises that he still loves her. Anna receives Vronsky at her house in St. Petersburg and as she complains about why he failed to come earlier, he tells her that his duties as an officer have delayed his visit. Karenin comes back home to find out that Vronsky was visiting Anna, as seen from the love letters found in her desk. Meanwhile, Levin and Kitty are reunited at Stiva’s house, and Karenin announces he is divorcing Anna, who begs him to forgive her, which he refuses. After dinner, Levin and Kitty announce their love to each other and decide to marry. Anna goes into premature labour. With Vronsky at her side, she berates him, saying that he could never be the man Karenin is. Karenin comes back knowing that she is going to die and forgives her. Anna survives and initially decides to stay with her husband. Princess Betsy calls on Anna to discuss what will happen with Vronsky now that he is back in Moscow. Anna suggests that Betsy better discuss it with Karenin, who believes that they will be reunited as a family. However, upon Anna’s recovery, she chooses to be with Vronsky. Karenin refuses to grant her a divorce, but releases Anna from her confinement. She and Vronsky soon leave for Italy with Anya.
Levin and Kitty return to his country estate, where the sickly Nikolai and Masha have been given a storeroom to live there. Levin tells Kitty that she doesn’t have to live under the same roof as the former prostitute, but the newly matured Kitty ignores social norms and assists Masha in nursing Nikolai.
Anna returns to St. Petersburg to see Seryozha on his birthday, but Karenin makes her leave after a short time. Anna now begins to suspect Vronsky of unfaithfulness. She attends the opera where the upper class audience regard her with disdain as someone who “has broken the rules”. Though humiliated, she retains her poise, only to break down once back at her hotel. The next day, Anna has lunch at a restaurant where the society women avoid her. Dolly, however, joins her and tells her that Kitty is in Moscow to have her first child. Dolly says that Stiva’s behavior has not changed, but she has come to accept and love him for who he is. Later, Vronsky informs Anna that he has to meet his mother to settle some accounts, but there Anna sees Princess Sorokina picking him up. Anna becomes upset, and takes the train to see if Vronsky is truly with his mother. On the way, she has hallucinations of Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love and laughing at her. Arriving at Moscow station, Anna says to herself, “Oh God… ” and jumps under an oncoming train that kills her. The scene then flashes to Vronsky who has a shocked face as if knowing his true love has died. Levin returns home from working in the fields to find Kitty bathing their child. Stiva and his family eat with Levin and Kitty. Karenin, retired by then from serving his country, is seen in his estate, with Seryozha and young Anya playing nearby.Although I sympathise with those who may find the director Joe Wright’s approach too contrived, this film held my interest, and gives scope for a good deal of discussion.

REVIEW: GOSFORD PARK

CAST
Maggie Smith (Clash of The Titans)
Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission Impossible)
Camilla Rutherford (Rome)
Charles Dance (Game of Thrones)
Clive Owen (Sin City)
Helen Mirren (Red)
Geraldine Somerville (Harry Potter)
Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions)
Emily Watson (Red Dragon)
Tom Hollander (Valkyrie)
Stephen Fry (Bones)
Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
Natasha Wightman (V For Vendetta)
Jeremy Northan (The Net)
Bob Balaban (The Monuments Men)
Trent Ford (The Vampire Diaries)
Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood)
Alan Bates (The Sum of All Fears)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Richard E. Grant (Dracula)
Ryan Phillippe and Kristin Scott Thomas in Gosford Park (2001)
In November 1932, Constance, Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith), and her lady’s maid, Mary MacEachran (Kelly Macdonald) travel to Gosford Park for the weekend. On the way, they encounter actor Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam), American film producer Morris Weissman (Bob Balaban) and Weissman’s valet, Henry Denton (Ryan Phillippe). At the house, they are greeted by Lady Trentham’s niece Lady Sylvia McCordle (Kristin Scott Thomas), her husband Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), and their daughter, Isobel (Camilla Rutherford). The other guests include Lady Sylvia’s sisters, Louisa, Lady Stockbridge (Geraldine Somerville) and Lady Lavinia Meredith (Natasha Wightman) and their husbands, Raymond, Lord Stockbridge (Charles Dance) and Commander Anthony Meredith (Tom Hollander). Also in attendance are the Honourable Freddie Nesbitt (James Wilby) and his wife, Mabel (Claudie Blakley); Isobel’s suitor, Lord Rupert Standish (Laurence Fox) and his friend Jeremy Blond (Trent Ford).
Commander Meredith is in financial difficulty and brings up the matter with Sir William, who reveals that he is rescinding his investment in Meredith’s new business scheme. Sir William also reveals privately to Lady Sylvia that he may stop paying Lady Trentham’s allowance. Mary and Lord Stockbridge’s valet, Parks (Clive Owen), are attracted to one another and exchange pleasantries. Denton asks a number of questions about life in service and Parks reveals that he was brought up in an orphanage. Denton meets Lady Sylvia and during the night, he goes to her room.
The next morning the men go out early on a pheasant shoot, and Sir William is slightly injured by a low shot. Later, the ladies join the gentlemen for an outdoor luncheon on the estate grounds, where Commander Meredith pleads with Sir William to not back out of the investment, breaking decorum by grabbing Sir William’s arm and causing him to shatter his cocktail glass on the ground. While dressing for dinner, Lady Trentham and Mary are visited by Lady Sylvia, who reveals that Sir William is in a terrible mood with all of his guests after the events of the weekend and that he may stop paying his wife’s aunt her allowance. Lady Trentham is upset by this, and tersely tells Mary to be discreet about this unwelcome news (after having encouraged her to share downstairs gossip about the other guests).
Dinner that evening is tense and sombre, with the announcement that Commander Meredith will be leaving in the morning and that he now must prepare for bankruptcy thanks in part to Sir William’s withdrawal of his investment—news to which Sir William reacts with callous indifference. As the conversation progresses, tempers flare and Lady Sylvia attacks Sir William, implying that he was a First World War profiteer. The head housemaid, Elsie (Emily Watson), rises to his defence, breaking the class barrier, and thus revealing her affair with Sir William to everyone at the table. Everyone watches in shocked silence at this indiscretion, and Elsie hurries from the room—knowing that she will be dismissed.  Sir William abruptly storms away from the dinner table and goes to the library, where the housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren) brings him coffee. He demands a glass of whisky instead.
Kristin Scott Thomas and Stephen Fry in Gosford Park (2001)
Lady Sylvia asks Mr. Novello to entertain the guests. George (Richard E. Grant, first footman), Parks, Mr. Nesbitt and Commander Meredith disappear and an unknown person goes to the library and stabs Sir William as he sits slumped in his chair. Minutes later, Lady Stockbridge goes to the library to entice Sir William to return to the party and her screams bring everyone to the room. Commander Meredith and Mr. Nesbitt do not offer an explanation of their disappearances, while George says he was fetching milk for the coffee service and Parks claims to have been fetching hot water bottles. Inspector Thompson (Stephen Fry) and Constable Dexter (Ron Webster) arrive to investigate the murder. Dexter suggests that Sir William was already dead when he was stabbed. It is eventually surmised that Sir William was poisoned before being stabbed. Denton confesses to Jennings (Alan Bates), the butler, that he is not a valet but an American actor preparing for a film role. The next morning, Lady Sylvia goes for her usual morning ride, which surprises Inspector Thompson. Barnes (Adrian Scarborough) overhears Commander Meredith tell Lady Lavinia that Sir William’s death was lucky for them, as the investment is now secure. Barnes tells Inspector Thompson, who interrogates Meredith.
Mrs. Croft (Eileen Atkins) tells the kitchen maid, Bertha (Teresa Churcher), that Sir William was known for seducing the women working in his factories. If a woman became pregnant, Sir William offered two choices: keep the baby and lose your job, or give the baby up and keep your job. Those who gave up their babies were told that the adoptions were being arranged with good families. In reality, Sir William paid squalid orphanages to take the children. Mary goes to Parks’ room and tells him that she knows he is the murderer. Parks tells her that he discovered Sir William was his father, entered service and attempted to gain employment with someone in his circle. Parks tells Mary that he did not poison Sir William and Mary is relieved, as Parks only stabbed the corpse. Mary listens to Lady Sylvia and Lady Constance discussing why Mrs. Croft and Mrs. Wilson are enemies. Lady Sylvia believes that the tension between them stems from the fact that Mrs. Wilson now outranks Mrs. Croft. Lady Constance asks if Mrs. Wilson was ever married and Lady Sylvia replies that her name was once Parks or Parker. Mary goes to Mrs. Wilson and the older woman reveals that she poisoned Sir William to protect her son, because she knew that Parks was there to kill Sir William. She also reveals that she and Mrs. Croft are sisters. After talking to Dorothy (Sophie Thompson), Mrs. Wilson goes to her room distraught and is comforted by Mrs. Croft.
The guests drive away with the dismissed Elsie joining them, though she has taken an unusual souvenir from the house — Sir William’s pet dog. Lady Sylvia waves good-bye to her guests and re-enters Gosford Park, while Jennings closes the doors.
Superbly written with a twist in the tale well worth two hours of anyones time hugely entertaining

REVIEW: THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005)

CAST

Martin Freeman (The Hobbit)
Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2)
Mos Def (Monster’s Ball)
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Warwick Davis (Leprechaun)
Bill Nighy (Underworld)
Anna Chancellor (The Vice)
John Malkovich (Red)
Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
Jason Schwartzman (Bewitched)
Edgar Wright (Shaun of The Dead)
Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta)
Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Ian McNeice (Dune)
Helen Mirren (Red)
Alan Rickman (Dogma)

The film begins with a Broadway-style number “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”, sung by the dolphins of the world, who are aware of the Earth’s impending doom. At the end, they all jump out of the oceans and into space, leaving Earth for good. One Thursday morning, Arthur Dent discovers that his house is to be immediately demolished to make way for a bypass. He tries delaying the bulldozers by lying down in front of them. Ford Prefect, a friend of Arthur’s, convinces him to go to the pub with him. Over a pint of beer (as “muscle relaxant”), Ford explains that he is an alien from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and a journalist working on the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a universal guide book, and that the Earth is to be demolished later that day by a race called Vogons, to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Suddenly, a Vogon Constructor Fleet appears in the sky and destroys the planet. Ford saves himself and Arthur by hitching a ride on a Vogon ship. The two are found and forced to listen to poetry. They are then thrown out of an airlock, but are picked up by the starship Heart of Gold. They find Ford’s “semi-cousin” Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Galaxy. He has stolen the ship along with Tricia “Trillian” McMillan, an Earth woman whom Arthur had met previously, and Marvin the Paranoid Android, a clinically depressed robot that constantly complains about life.
Zaphod explains that he is seeking the planet Magrathea, where he believes he can discover the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything to match with the answer “42” given by the supercomputer Deep Thought. Zaphod stole the Heart of Gold to use its improbability drive to get to Magrathea through trial and error. During one of these attempts, they end up on the planet Viltvodle VI. Zaphod decides to visit Humma Kavula, his opponent from the election. Upon learning of Zaphod’s plan, Kavula announces that he has the coordinates to Magrathea. He takes one of Zaphod’s two heads hostage and demands they bring him the Point-of-view gun created by Deep Thought, which allows the target to understand the shooter’s point of view. As they are leaving the planet, Trillian is captured by Vogons. The others travel to rescue her from the Vogon home world bureaucracy, facing long lines and frustrating form processing. Trillian is outraged to learn that Zaphod signed the authorisation for the destruction of Earth thinking it was a request for an autograph.
The Heart of Gold is chased by the Vogons, led by Galactic Vice-President Questular Rontok, who is attempting to rescue Zaphod from himself, after an incident in which Zaphod kidnapped himself in order to forgo presidential duties. As the Heart of Gold arrives in orbit above Magrathea, Arthur triggers the improbability drive to avoid the automated missile defence systems. The missiles transform into a bowl of petunias and a sperm whale.
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On the planet, Zaphod, Ford, and Trillian take a portal to Deep Thought. When they ask the computer whether it has calculated the ultimate question, it reveals that it designed another supercomputer to do so—Earth. When the trio finds the Point-of-View gun, Trillian shoots Zaphod, making him understand how she feels about the destruction of Earth. She also finds out how much she loves Arthur. Arthur and Marvin miss the portal and encounter a Magrathean called Slartibartfast, who takes Arthur on a tour of the construction floor where Earth Mark II is being built. Slartibartfast takes Arthur home, where the others are enjoying a feast provided by pan-dimensional beings who resemble a pair of mice. Arthur realises he has fallen into a trap. The mice, who constructed Deep Thought, used the supercomputer to build an even larger supercomputer, the planet Earth, to determine the Ultimate Question. Believing Arthur, the last remaining supercomputer component, may hold the Ultimate Question, the mice attempt to remove his brain. Arthur kills the mice.
As the crew regroup outside the house they are surrounded by Vogons and take shelter in a caravan as the Vogons open fire. Marvin is left outside and shot in the back of the head, and uses the Point-of-View gun on the Vogons, causing them to become depressed and unable to fight. As the Vogons are taken away and Questular rejoins with Zaphod, Arthur chooses to explore the galaxy with Trillian and lets Slartibartfast finalise the new Earth without him. The Heart of Gold crew decide to visit the Restaurant at the End of the Universe while Marvin points out they are going the wrong way.
 This film is fantastic – but one must have a warped sense of humour to appreciate it. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched it & I still laugh out loud. (I was almost crying with laughter in the cinema). The casting is great – I love Marvin voiced by the wonderful Alan Rickman. And the Vogons are great – just how I imagined them. Stephen Fry as the narrator is an inspiration.