Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Review - Cromwell, plan for the rescoring of old movies and the importance of being brown

I've decided to abandon the quote titles. It's a waste of time, no one answers because no one reads and basically it's shouting down a deep dark well in the hope that there's someone at the bottom who'll reply. So far, only echoes.

This lunch time I saw a cracking film! Yes, enthusiasm! When was the last time you saw me enthusiastic? Not recently I'll warrant. Here we go!

But first, a word of warning. Below, there is one absolutely massive spoiler which will be crushingly revealing to anybody who doesn’t know anything about English history. If you are blissfully unaware of who wins and what happens to the loser, then this is your

Plot synopsis: a gentleman farmer gradually becomes disillusioned and...hell, you know the story of the English Civil War, right?

What was good:
This is the most fun I’ve had in front of a TV screen for a long time. I adore the Civil War, I was positively obsessed when we did it at school. My friends and I recreated the battle of Nasbey with our toys on “Tutor a Teddy” day (my polar bear, Snowy, was one of the cardinals). I am, by the by, a vicious royalist and let me first say I was overjoyed with the very sympathetic portrayal of the King himself. One of those wonderful performances governed in twitches, he brimmed with a kind of trembling insanity but also radiated nobility. Hats off to Sir Alec.

Of course, he only seemed to steal the show because the show officially belonged to someone else, Mr Cromwell. Historically speaking, I despise the Parlimentarians and think Cromwell is a bloody minded dictator. To overcome that in my mind is a feat indeed. Though the loud speeches get predictable after a while, they never fail to be stirring in this other stella performance. You truly feel his pain. He starts out loyal enough, but betrayal after betrayal makes his own principles fall by the wayside as he turns into that which he sought to remove.
These two wonderful characters lead to an electric stand off between the two powerful men. Without that, it would have been just another “aye in good faith sir” period drama, with stagy sets and dodgy music. The battle of strong wills lifted it to an entire new level.

The entire cast seemed to be plucked from the Royal Shakespeare Company, occasionally making it seem like the production of Hamlet the studio forgot. The words “I swear” and “in the name of God” were used about once every 10 minutes. That got me pretty excited too…
Honourable mention must go to Prince Rupert. Returning to my schooldays, I adored Prince Rupert. I had a picture of him in my locker, attempted to read a weighty military history and cheered him on in the various battles. Yes, my first teen crush was on a very long dead guy, who in real life was probably as evil as the rest of them. Whatever! I’m still a bit in love…he positively sparkles – the dashing, foreign foppish nephew of the king, very fond on fighting. I was especially pleased to see his dog – you see, he always took his dog with him to battles, and the Puritans claimed it was the devil in animal form. And I absolutely melted during his last scene.

In fact, for a period flick the history seemed pretty accurate to me. Granted I only ever learnt it from a yr 8 level of complexity, but I didn’t notice any glaring errors.

What was bad:
I take it back, there were a fair few. Oliver Cromwell, to my memory, escaped the chamber with the rest of his friends but I’m glad they squidged history because it makes for excellent drama (see best scene). I also noticed some ridiculous charges from the cavalry, but it wasn’t that important.

Indeed they didn’t squidge enough history. It would have made a better story, I think, if Charles had won (or at any rate, lived) and hung every single one of them!

I also wish it had carried on in the tone of the first few minutes. The opening shots are lovely, and it almost felt like the director was ticking boxes. He’d done beauty, now he didn’t need to worry about it any more. Which is a great pity because although mentally I know it is not true, and morally I know it is a wrong belief, in my heart I deeply feel that all films should be beautiful. I certainly prefer them if they are. For me above anything else, it’s about the colours and shadows. This is probably why I didn’t enjoy Vertigo (other than the fact I watched it at four in the morning). This is also probably why I preferred the first Godfather film - more brown than blue. It shouldn’t be important, but to me it is…if you look at my top 10, The Godfather, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Fellowship of the Ring (primarily the Shire scenes) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead all have one vital little thing in common. And that thing is brown.

Final anti-kudos goes to the music which, like all old-movie music, was discordiant and out of place, distracting, melodramatic and generally irritating. It would be nice to start a project whereby these old films are given new music. Now, in an age where the orchestra is not the only musical tool. For example, Howard Shore used lots of weird instruments to create the different Middle Earth feels. Percussion for the ents, a Norwegan violin (hardinger, I think it was called) for Rohan. Way back when that sort of thing was unthinkable. Music makes a movie. Think of Top Gun without that infectious rock soundtrack - trash, right? One of my favorite films is Lost Boys. It's about biker vampires. Yeh, I know, but it's lifted from being total rubbish by an awsome theme tune. Our good movie oldies only feel old because the music is so drastically wrong. I'm not suggesting we rescore them with 50 Cent tunes. We hire professional composers to treat them as if they were any modern film, don't play them the old soundtrack, and see what they come up with. I guarentee you it would resurrect many ancient films and turn them into minor classics. But I very seriously digress...

Best Scene: Look forward to Cromwell’s speech to the King when he visits him after the blindfold game with his children. That’s for patriotic people. I loved Rupert’s last scene best. Oooh, and I forgot to mention the time Charles visits the Parliament with his soldiers. That’s great also.

Was it good? The acting was superb, and that’s a compliment coming from someone who generally despises actors.
Did I like it? Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Recommended for: Anyone who appreciates brilliant performances; students too lazy to revise properly; any of Prince Rupert’s other teen fangirls (don’t laugh, there must be some somewhere!); Royalists or Parliamentarians keen to cheer on their side; patriotic Brits or anyone who has ever silently mumbled the words “this sceptred isle…” in awe and love.

Don’t watch if you: are a military historian and have issues when movie tactics are way off; are a really sensitive Catholic (and I mean really sensitive. Hey, you could be offended by the whole pro-Puritan slant!); are prone to numb-bum syndrome (this one clocks in at two and a half hours)

I looked at my bumper list this morning and noticed how many four star movies were on there. Perhaps it's just because I've had a sheltered upbringing and never seen the crap? Whatever. Anyway, I decided to be stricter - less 4 star movies. More 3s. In my rating system, 3 is a good movie, 4 is exceptional, 5 is celluloid immortality - this is a movie that will never die. In all my years of watching, I have only ever awarded two five star films. Why do I seem to have a problem with the 4s? I don't know...all I can say is my resolution failed. Super Size Me, 4/5. Cromwell, 4/5.


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