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Phyllida Lloyd’s
The Iron Lady

Written by Abi Morgan.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Olivia Coleman.

The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Much has been written about Meryl Streep’s triumphant performance in The Iron Lady, for which she justly won her long-overdue third Academy Award. And, after seeing it a third time, via Blu-Ray, there aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe this passionate, nuanced interpretation of one of the most significant figures of the 20th century, Margaret Thatcher.

Streep effortlessly captures Thatcher as a ruthless, driven, stubborn, willful leader who must prove herself in a lions den of men and, despite decisions that made her terribly unpopular with many, does what she feels is best for her beloved country. Love her or loathe her, she is a patriot first.

The film itself is a meticulously crafted chronicle of a steely woman who has not only lost her tremendous power but is also losing her mind.

Director Plyllida Law (Mamma Mia) has created an oddball biopic that soars or crashes on the talents of its star. Luckily she is working with the best. Streep is onscreen for almost all of the film's running time, making every frame mesmerizing.

While lavishing praise on Dame Meryl, critics dissed the film because it wasn't the portrait expected--detailing Thatcher's controversial reign and providing a sharp criticism of her policies. And while certain incidents do get decent treatment (the Falklands War), others are ridiculously short-shrifted (the IRA).

I actually felt similarly when I first saw the film but watching it again on Blu-Ray and making the concentrated choice to not force my own expectations on the work, I was able to appreciate what and who Lloyd, Streep and screenwriter Abi Morgan were trying to portray: a Titan in her twilight, haunted by the harsh realities of age, forced to reflect on her life and career, regretting nothing and wishing she was still in that coveted and reviled position of power. For Maggie, in the end, is just like everyone else in decrepitude--helpless, longing...done.

The Blu-Ray 1080p HD transfer is visually stunning boasting sharp colors and a stirring sense of depth. The pomp of the successful years bursts on the small screen.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is crisp and so intense that a bomb blast sent my receiver into safety mode blowing the sound!

All this makes the paltry supplemental features all the more disappointing.

Besides a stingy 12-minute Making-of featurette that whets our whistle there are 4 mini-docus that run under 3 minutes each!!! And no Deleted Scenes are provided nor is there a commentary! You have one of the greatest actresses of all-time starring in a film that brings her her third Oscar and you don't deliver more Meryl? More content? Shame! I can only hope this means a deluxe edition is being planned.

Simon Curtis's
My Week With Marilyn

Blu Ray Review

Starring: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson, Julia Ormond, Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Judi Dench, Dougray Scott, Derek Jacobi, Zoe Wanamaker

Written by Adrian Hodges.

The Weinstein Company

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

My Week With Marilyn is a motion picture that can be more appreciated on Blu-Ray and DVD. This love letter to one of the most iconic movie stars to ever grace the silver screen has a warm coziness that can be lost on the big screen.

Sure the obvious and cliché-ridden script by Adrian Hodges remains the chief problem with the movie but the cast and production team more than make up for that shortcoming.

In the summer of 1956, the most famous woman in the world, Marilyn Monroe, landed in England for the very first time to begin principle photography on The Prince and the Showgirl, a film that would co-star and be directed by the most celebrated stage actor of his time, Sir Laurence Olivier. It was a monumental pairing of an aging, but brilliant, egotist with an erratic, needy and neurotic Hollywood star. Talk about olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Simultaneously, 23-year old Colin Clark, an aspiring filmmaker, got his first job as the third assistant director on that very set. Forty years later he would write a detailed account of the six-month shoot titled, The Prince, the Showgirl and Me. He would then write a follow-up memoir titled, My Week With Marilyn, which chronicled a fantastical weekend he spent with Monroe during that time. The film is based on both books. Basically Clark becomes Monroe’s go-to boy once hubby Arthur Miller flees her side.

Simon Curtis, responsible for Cranford and many other terrific Brit TV dramas, does a fabulous job of capturing the period and getting the movie-set look perfect.

The actors seem to be thoroughly immersed in their characterizations.

Eddie Redmayne is a delight as Colin and, since he isn’t saddled with playing someone we know, etches a splendidly sweet portrayal of a boy completely transfixed by a goddess but also horny for a girl (and they happen to come in the same sexy package).

Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier is a masterful impersonation and yet he gives us deep insight into a man who longs to be more famous than he already is while trying to remain an artist. Most of his best moments involve little dialogue—Branagh’s face simply says it all.

Dame Judi Dench in the tiny role of Sybil Thorndike enlivens every moment she is in. And Dougray Scott is Arthur Miller to a frightening T.

Oscar nominee Michelle Williams has the greatest challenge on her hands with Monroe and mostly triumphs. She has the pouty look, the sexy movements, the charm, the insecurities, the sweetness and when she isn’t forced to utter obvious lines like: “Please don’t forget me,” she is magnificent. It’s more than impersonation; it’s the best embodiment possible given the limitations.

Williams won me over even more the second time. She charms in unexpectedly spectacular and sublimely subtle ways--as I’m certain the real Marilyn did. It’s a fitting tribute, indeed.

The 1080p video transfer is clear and gorgeous with colors popping. The visuals are simply stunning and exemplify the terrific work of the design team.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is crisp and clean. The dialogue is clear and the music simply enhances the overall experience.

There are only two Special Features: a fascinating audio commentary by director Simon Curtis where he basically discusses all aspects of the experience as well as a cast/crew puff piece titled ‘The Untold Story of an American Icon,’ which runs 19- minutes. While I enjoyed the docu, it coulda/shoulda been much longer and much more insightful—especially since everyone involved contributed.

Regardless, the film is what matters and, Hodges biopic-trapped screenplay notwithstanding, the Blu-Ray of My Week With Marilyn is a high-def triumph.






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