John Stephenson

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Interlude In Prague Review

Good

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is enjoyable for its witty performances and sexy intrigue. It's never as sharp as the screenwriters clearly intended it to be, and its tone veers wildly in operatic fashion from cute comedy to lusty romance to very dark violence. But the actors are terrific, and the film catches a clever sense of both the history and the music.

It opens in 1786, as Prague's opera patron Baron Saloka (James Purefoy) begrudgingly agrees to provide the funds to bring Mozart (Aneurin Barnard) to town to conduct the final performance of The Marriage of Figaro. A rampant womaniser who doesn't want competition from the composer, Saloka currently has his eyes on virginal soprano Zuzanna (Morfydd Clark), who has just joined the cast. And he watches in a jealous rage as the married Mozart flirts shamelessly with her, egged on by his friend, the star diva Josefa (Samantha Barks). In response, Saloka arranges a marriage with Zuzanna's parents (Adrian Edmondson and Dervla Kerwin), who are so taken with the baron's wealth and social standing that they ignore the persistent rumours about his violent abuse of every woman he knows.

There's nothing remotely subtle about this film. Saloka's servants visibly quake in his presence, while every woman in town bats her eyelashes at the hot, charismatic Mozart. The dialogue shifts clunkily from witty banter to gloomy foreboding as the plot turns increasingly creepy and menacing. And Saloka's manipulative nastiness can't help but bring to mind Salieri in Milos Forman's 1984 masterpiece Amadeus. This film of course pales in comparison, although it's silly enough to keep us entertained. This is largely due to Barnard's fizzy, energetic performance, which is nicely balanced by the lively charms of both Barks and Clark, whose scenes with Barnard overflow with lusty glee. By contrast, Purefoy is a snarling villain who hates everyone and everything.

Continue reading: Interlude In Prague Review

The Hobbit Review


Weak
Given the ability of cinema to ruin almost any book, it has always been comforting that a few books were considered unfilmable. Until recently, The Lord of the Rings was apparently one of those books. Two animated versions for children were produced in the late 1970s, but both were unsuccessful and ignored even by the legions of fanatics. In spite of the new trilogy's blockbuster potential, filmmakers forbore to make a Lord of the Rings movie for decades, until finally emboldened by recent technology.

Regardless of whether the upcoming Lord of the Rings turns out to be a cinematic milestone, the point is that there are probably some books, whether unfilmable or not, which should remain un-filmed. Even the inoffensive animated version of The Hobbit by Rankin/Bass, which was a lot easier to produce than the forthcoming live-action trilogy will be, illustrates why adapting popular books to movies is rarely successful. The storyline of The Hobbit (Bilbo Baggins goes on trip, finds ring, kills dragons, etc.) is not so powerful that it demands to be retold. And in spite of a good cast of voices and decent animation, the animated film adds nothing to the book. This is usually the case, because the best qualities of books are not the best qualities of movies.

Continue reading: The Hobbit Review

John Stephenson

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Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

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