Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
For a film that involves a love triangle, mental illness, a Bohemian colony of free-spirits, an impending war and several important historical figures, the most exciting elements of Summer in February are the stunning shots of the English country and Cornish seaside. The rest of the film never quite lives up to the crashing waves and sun-dappled meadows that are used to bookend the scenes, as the entertaining opening never manages to coalesce into a story that lives up the the cinematography, let alone the lives of the people that inspired it.
Set in an Edwardian artist’s colony in Cornwall, Summer in February tells the story of A.J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper), who went on to become one of the most famous painters of his day and head of the Royal Academy of Art, his best friend, estate agent and part-time soldier Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens), and the woman whom they both loved, aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning). Her marriage to Munnings was an extremely unhappy one, and she attempted suicide on their honeymoon, before killing herself in 1914. According to his journals, Gilbert and Florence were madly in love, although her marriage and his service in the army kept them apart.
When the film begins, Munnings is the center of attention in the Lamorna Artist's Colony, dramatically reciting poetry at parties and charming his way out of his bar tab while everyone around him proclaims him to be a genius. When he’s not drinking or painting, he’s riding horses with Gilbert, who has the relatively thankless task of keeping this group of Bohemians in line. Their idyllic existence is disrupted by the arrival of Florence, who has run away from her overbearing father and the fiancé he had picked out for her in order to become a painter.
Stevens and Browning both start the film solidly, with enough chemistry between them to make their infatuation interesting. He manages to give Gilbert enough dependable charm to win over both Florence and the audience, and she presents Florence as someone with enough spunk and self-possession to go after what she wants. Browning’s scenes with Munnings are equally entertaining in the first third of the film, as she can clearly see straight through all of his bravado and he is intrigued by her and how difficult she is to impress. Unfortunately, while the basis of the love triangle is well-established and entertaining, it takes a sudden turn into nothing with a surprise proposal from Munnings.
Neither the film nor Browning ever make it clear why Florence accepts his proposal, especially when they have both taken great pains to establish that she doesn’t care much for him. But once she does, the films stalls, and both Stevens and Browning spend the rest of the film doing little more than staring moodily and longingly at the people around them. The real-life Florence was plagued by depression and mental instability, but neither the film nor Browning’s performance ever manage to do more than give the subtlest hint at that darkness. On a few occasions, Browning does manage to portray a genuine anguish, but rather than producing any sympathy from the audience, it simply conjures up images of a different film, one that focused more on Florence, and the difficulties of being a woman with a mental illness at a time when both were ignored or misunderstood.
Stevens is fine, and Gilbert starts out with the same kind of good-guy appeal the won the heart of Mary Crawley and Downton Abbey fans the world over. However, once the film stalls, so does his performance, and he quickly drops everything that made the character attractive or interesting in favor of longing looks and long stretches of inactivity. He does portray a convincing amount of adoration for Florence, although that's about the only real emotion that Gilbert expresses for the vast majority of the film, and even during his love scene, he never manages to give him any amount of passion.
Cooper does his best with what he’s given, and tries his hardest to imbue the film with some substance and drama. His Munnings is by turns charming, brash, and brooding, the kind of person who has been told all of their life that they are special, and believes it. He even manages to give the character some depth, and even though he and Browning have very little chemistry, he manages to convey a genuine affection for her. It’s a shame that Munnings becomes such a deeply unlikable character, because Cooper is the only thing giving Summer in February a jolt of life – even if it comes via bursts of thinly-explained hostility. It's hard to watch just how hard he's working to connect with his co-stars and add some excitement to a lifeless script and not wish that he had a better film to show off his talents in.
Unfortunately, by the time Florence and Gilbert are finally spurred into activity, the film has dragged on for so long that you’re no longer invested in the characters, their pain, or their love story, even if you want to be. Which is the real disappointment of Summer in February; underneath the stalled plot and the relatively one-note acting, there are glimmers of a fascinating and compelling story that’s never allowed to come to the forefront.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Emma Thompson has broken her silence on her one-time love rival Helena Bonham Carter, insisting she forgives the actress for embarking on an affair with her ex-husband Kenneth Branagh. The actor/director enjoyed a fling with Bonham Carter during their time filming 1994's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the romance led to the end of Branagh's six-year union to Thompson in 1995.
The Love Actually actress has remained quiet on the matter for almost two decades, but she now admits there is no bad feeling between her and Bonham Carter.
Speaking to Britain's The Sunday Times Style magazine, she says, "That is... blood under the bridge. You can't hold on to anything like that, I just think... pfft. It's pointless. I haven't got the energy for it. Helena and I made our peace years and years ago."
And Thompson jokes that her similarities to the younger star may have sparked Branagh's interest in Bonham Carter: "Oh, we are (similar). Being slightly mad and a bit fashion-challenged. Perhaps that's why Ken loved us both? She's a wonderful woman, Helena."
The trio have since appeared together in the Harry Potter film franchise.
Thompson is now married to Greg Wise, while Bonham Carter has two children with director Tim Burton. Branagh, who dated Bonham Carter for several years after his divorce, is now wed to art director Lindsay Brunnock.
It's not hard to find a Halloween movie playing on television during October, but if you're looking to throw back this month, check out these five '90s flicks. Be warned: some of the outfits may be scarier than the actual movie.DisneyHalloweentownThere's not much that people get more excited for this time of year than this 1998 classic. Not only is Marnie (Kimberly Brown) a witch but she manages to follow her grandmother into another dimension where people have pumpkins for heads,werewolves walk around on two legs and gremlins aren't ridiculed. Living in Halloweentown, you have to admit, would be even cooler than residing in Harry Potter's wizarding world. Check out sequels Return to Halloweentown and Halloweentown High if one just isn't enough.The Addams FamilyNo one is creepier than stone-faced Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) as she continuously tortures everyone around her. A few guys trying to swindle the family have no idea what they're in for when they impersonate Uncle Fester and step into that cob-webby house. It's pretty entertaining to watch them try, though.BeetlejuiceOkay, Tim Burton's Beetlejuice isn't a '90s movie, but it's on the brink. Turning the tables around on the usual exorcism, a ghost couple needs to remove the new, living tenants from their house so they can peacefully live their after-life. You'll be sure to see at least a few trick-or-treaters dressed in the black and white striped outfit this Halloween.Double, Double, Toil and TroubleBack when Mary Kate and Ashley weren't fashion moguls or dating people twice their age, they put out this Halloween film. Follow the twins as they race to defeat their evil aunt (Cloris Leachman) and save their family's house from foreclosure.Hocus PocusOh, those three crazy witches! As we reported last week, help celebrate Hocus Pocus' 20th anniversary and watch it every day up until Halloween.
Dear Helena Bonham Carter,
We love you. We loved you in the '90s, and still remember everything you taught us in Fight Club. We loved you in that one Tim Burton movie you did – just kidding. We loved you in the many, many, many Tim Burton movies you did...though nobody haunts our dreams like your Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The truth is, from The King’s Speech to Les Misérables, we’ve loved you in pretty much everything. And as we mentally prepare to watch your undoubtedly amazing performance as Elizabeth Taylor in the upcoming Burton and Taylor television movie, we celebrate just a handful of your best on-screen moments. Because we love you HBC. We absolutely love you.
Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter Series
Seriously? Could anyone else pull off that laugh? We think not.
Marla, Fight Club
Although our favorite line is a little too R-rated to actually share (it involved some mention of grade school and…er…sexual experiences therein), we all know and remember how awesome HBC was as Marla Singer.
Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
It’s okay -- you know you want to be Mrs. Lovett for Halloween this year. There simply is nothing more frightening than a woman who decides to make people pies for a living.
Queen Elizabeth, The King’s Speech
Only a brilliant thespian could take on the role of Mrs. Lovett, and then move on to play Queen Elizabeth in the Academy Award winner for Best Picture of the Year, The King’s Speech. Carter was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her amazing performance.
Red Queen, Alice In Wonderland
Almost unrecognizable at first, Carter’s turn as the Red Queen in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland was just…dope. People may have had mixed feelings about the adaptation, but few of us could get this image of the pinch-faced, screeching, evil Queen out of our heads. Plus…those eyebrows!
Some celebrities take time out of their busy schedules of being famous to do charity work and take part in social causes. In the United States, the highest honor that a civilian can get is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, while in England, people are knighted and officially called “Sir” or “Dame.” Lucky for them, knighted celebs don’t have to go jousting or hang out in crusades, but they do get pretty awesome bragging rights. Of course, none of the following celebrities are “Sir” enough to match the one and only Sir Mix-A-Lot, but then again, who can?
Bow down, children – these 7 celebrities are recognized royalty in their home countries.
Elton John Elton John’s real name is Sir Elton Hercules John (actually it used to be Reginald Dwight, but we don’t need to go there). Knighted in 1998 for his charitable work and for being, well, Elton f**kng John, the Rocket Man has done a great deal for both music and charities, including campaigning hard for AIDS awareness since the 1980s.
Helen Mirren Helen Mirren may have pretended to be the Queen of England, but she is a genuine Dame. In 1996, Mirren was offered appointment as Commander of the British Order in 1996, but she declined, instead accepting damehood for her contributions to the performing arts in 2003. Her full title is Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire – with a title like that, it’s understandable why she held out. Really, though, Mirren should’ve received damehood just for those famously smoking hot bikini pictures.
Mick Jagger Fellow Rolling Stoner Keith Richards has been vocal about his disdain for knighthood, calling it a “paltry honor” that wasn’t true to what the Stones are about. In true Richards style, he said all this after once self-proclaimed “anarchist” Mick Jagger had already accepted his knighthood, which, by the way, was given rather dubiously. Reportedly, the Queen of England didn’t have “the stomach” to award gyrating Jagger with the honor, leaving it up to the Prince of Wales to do the dirty work.
Loretta Lynn Loretta Lynn is the Queen of Country for a reason – she is hands-down the most awarded woman in country music. Lynn has won numerous industry awards, and in 1995, was also the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors award, a distinction given to performers that have made significant contributions to American culture. Just last month, President Obama announced Lynn will be awarded with the Medal of Freedom, calling her a “country legend.”
Bob Dylan He may have made a living singing anti-establishment songs for decades, but Bob Dylan had no problem being awarded the Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2012. Obama said of Dylan that there was no “bigger giant in the history of American music” and commended him for his messages of freedom, while Dylan, in proper Dylan style, attended the ceremony looking like a lost Tim Burton character.
Oprah It’s no surprise that Oprah will be the owner of a Medal of Honor since Oprah owns pretty much everything. Along with Loretta Lynn, Oprah is also being awarded the prestigious honor for her long-standing philanthropy charity work this year.
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Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West have won a round of five-star reviews for their performances in Burton And Taylor. The Harry Potter star plays late acting legend Dame Elizabeth Taylor in the British TV drama opposite West as her on/off husband Richard Burton, and the small screen movie impressed the U.K.'s critics after its premiere on Monday night (22Jul13).
The feature, which focuses on the stars in 1983 as they appeared on stage together in Noel Coward's Private Lives, was given full marks of five stars by The Times' critic Alex Hardy, who branded the drama "perfect" and added of Carter's performance as Taylor, "(She) conducted the world around her in a sing-song voice that moved octaves within one phrase, the fragile sliding into the manipulative".
Chris Hardy of The Daily Telegraph was full of praise for Carter, insisting she "went for broke" with her portrayal of Taylor and "got away with it" while he conceded West "seemed to be having some trouble" with Burton's Welsh accent.
The Guardian's Sam Wollaston writes, "Bonham Carter and West are excellent. There's a crackle between them... They become two people who clearly are and always will be in love, but can never be together, for reasons of health and safety. It is another very good double act", and Geoffrey McNab of The Independent concludes the drama is "affecting and well observed".
A U.S. TV movie about the couple, Liz & Dick starring Lindsay Lohan as the late actress, was mauled by critics following its broadcast in 2012, with one writer comparing the movie to a "high school play".
Director Tim Burton was so sick of his partner Helena Bonham Carter staying in character as Dame Elizabeth Taylor at home, he adopted the voice of Richard Burton as revenge. The Harry Potter star plays the Hollywood legend in a new British TV movie, Burton and Taylor, featuring Dominic West as her famously fiery husband.
Bonham Carter became so engrossed with her portrayal of the Cleopatra star, she struggled to let go after leaving the set - much to the chagrin of her own Burton at home.
She says, "(Taylor) stuck, she's very contagious, she's like a disease. (So) I'd be sounding like this drawl all the time and squeaky. But then Tim Burton, the other Burton that I live with, he worked out his revenge was to become Richard Burton himself.
"So there were two Richard Burtons, it was very confusing. And then I'd get this strange Richard Burton at home, who didn't say very much. He'd say a word every minute - it was very funny."
Burton and Taylor will air in the U.K. on Monday (22Jul13) and in the U.S. in the autumn.
Kooky actress Helena Bonham Carter consulted an astrologer before playing late Hollywood icon Dame Elizabeth Taylor. The Harry Potter star steps into the Oscar winner's shoes in new British TV movie Burton & Taylor, opposite The Wire's Dominic West as the star's on/off husband Richard Burton.
Carter admits she turned to a stargazing pal for some spiritual tips on how to portray Taylor.
Carter tells British newspaper The Guardian, "I went to an astrologer... I've got a really good friend called Darby Costello. If I can't make a decision, I go to Darby and... she won't tell me what to do, but she can distil characters.
"She knew Elizabeth. She'd not actually met her, but she'd distilled her. She said that Elizabeth was a big Pisces, and was often attracted to people who were broken - she needed to heal them. This was her take on Burton: when she got down, she always had the capacity to get up, whereas he was laden with guilt, and obsessed with death... I said to Darby, 'Can you just see if we would have got on?' And the first thing she said about me and her was that she would have felt very safe with me."
Carter also took samples of both Taylor and Burton's handwriting to an aunt who specialises in graphology, adding, "My aunt said he was more of an academic than an actor. He should have been an academic."
British actress Helena Bonham Carter is dedicating all her time to researching Dame Elizabeth Taylor as she prepares to play the late superstar in a new U.K. TV drama. Carter will play the actress in upcoming mini-series Burton and Taylor opposite The Wire's Dominic West as the star's on/off husband Richard Burton, and the Harry Potter regular admits she is enjoying learning all she can about the screen icon.
She tells Britain's Vogue magazine, "The research is what I get off on. My mum is a psychologist and I'm very similar to her. I love the challenge of working a character out. Ultimately, I don't agree to do a film because I think it's going to be a success. I do it because I think I'm going to learn something from the character I'm playing. I'm not sure what yet, but I know I am going to learn something from Elizabeth. I know that, somehow, I'm going to grow as a soul from playing her."
Carter goes on to insist she has learned to be less critical of her work and enjoy her job as an actress, adding, "There's less pressure on it. Which, of course, means I do it better. But I also find it's less important to me now whether I'm c**p or good. I take myself so much less seriously than I used to. I used to be so self-critical, it was painful. Now I think, 'OK, so I acted badly today. I'll try and act better tomorrow.' I mean, for God's sake, it's not like I'm a surgeon or anything. It doesn't really matter, does it?"
Burton and Taylor will air in the U.K. later this year (13).