A Royal Night Out

Posted on December 3, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Copyright Atlas Distribution 2015
Copyright Atlas Distribution 2015

The fantasy of royalty mingling among the commoners goes back as far as royalty itself, turning up in classic stories from the Arabian nights to Mark Twain’s Prince and The Pauper to Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-winning Roman Holiday, and in civilian form, the many runaway heiress films like It Happened One Night.  An urban myth that Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret celebrated VE Day, the end of the WWII battles in Europe and the surrender of the Nazi forces, by mingling with the crowd, has been turned into a fantasy that the then-teenage princesses had a wild night out on the town. It’s sort of Cinderella in reverse.

King George (played by Rupert Everett and yes, the one from The King’s Speech) and his wife, also called Elizabeth (Emily Watson) are preparing for various ceremonies to recognize the end of the war, including a speech the King is to give on the radio just before the official end of hostilities at midnight. His daughters are the future queen Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon, with an endearing freshness and just a hint of steel), called Lilibet by her family, and the fun-loving Margaret (Bel Powley of “Diary of a Teenage Girl”). Although their father relies on them to be with him when he speaks on the radio, still a very difficult challenge for the man whose stutter was the theme of “The King’s Speech,” they persuade their parents to let them out just once, so they can mingle among the “ordinary people.” Elizabeth has never made a pot of tea, visited a public ladies’ room, or had a drink in a pub, all of which she will get to experience. She has never been spoken to in a familiar manner, and had to be reminded to remove her tiara by a footman who suggests it might rather give her away.

The king and queen think they have outsmarted their daughters by assigning them a military escort and arranging that their outing will be confined to a closed room with carefully selected guests. But the girls escape and are quickly separated. Margaret spends the rest of the night going from one wildly improbable situation to another (including a brothel) while Lilibet searches for her with the help of an RAF airman named Jack (the very appealing Jack Reynor from “Sing Street”), who does not think much of the military or posh people.

Even the most Masterpiece-loving American Anglophiles will find this story lightweight and inside, with some of the accents hard to parse and some of the references obscure. But Gadon, especially in the last half of the movie, is lovely as the girl who grows to enjoy being called Lizzie, and it is satisfying to see her interest in learning about the people who will be her subjects and growing into her power as a woman and a monarch.

Parents should know that this film has drinking, some drug use, some scuffles and fights, sexual references and situations (including prostitutes and a threesome), references to wartime casualties, and some strong language.

Family discussion: If you were a prince or princess, what would you most want to see and experience? Why didn’t Jack want the help of the royal family?

If you like this, try: “Roman Holiday”

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Epic/Historical Inspired by a true story

Exclusive Clip: Justin and the Knights of Valour

Posted on July 16, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Freddie Highmore and Antonio Banderas star in the animated adventure Justin & The Knights of Valour, along with Charles Dance, Rupert Everett, Barry Humphries, Alfred Molina, Mark Strong, Julie Walters, Olivia Williams and Saoirse Ronan. I’m delighted to share an exclusive clip.  The DVD and Blu-Ray will be available July 22, 2014.

Justin-_0051The story: Young Justin dreams of following in his grandfather Sir Roland’s footsteps and becoming one of the legendary Knights of Valor. Along his quest, he encounters a slew of quirky characters, including the beautiful Talia and handsome Sir Clorex, who try to teach Justin the skills he needs to become a mighty knight. Justin is put to the test when he is forced to face a power-hungry army of thugs, led by the mighty Sota, but soon learns that true strength comes from the heart.

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Action/Adventure Epic/Historical Fantasy For the Whole Family Trailers, Previews, and Clips

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Four couples sort out their romantic entanglements in Shakespeare’s most magical love story. Hermia and Lysander love each other, but her father wants her to marry Demetrius. Demetrius loves Hermia, but is loved by her friend Helena. When Hermia and Lysander run off together, Helena tells Demetrius, and he chases after them, with Helena chasing him. Meanwhile, as the four lovers wander in an enchanted forest, the fairy queen and king argue over custody of a changeling child. The local Duke prepares for his marriage to a woman who seems not entirely sure she wants to marry him, and a group of workmen rehearse a play to perform at the wedding celebration.

With the help of his mischevious companion, the fairy king obtains the juice of a magical flower that causes people to fall in love with whomever they first see after they wake up to his queen and to Lysander and Demetrius. The queen falls in love with a man who has a donkey’s head. Lysander and Demetrius both fall in love with the neglected Helena, forgetting all about Hermia. But by morning, everything is sorted out, and the wedding festivities end with the workmen’s remarkable play.

Filmed several times before, most famously with James Cagney as Bottom and Mickey Rooney as the Puck, this sumptuous version manages to be both earthy and enchanted. The cast includes Hollywood royalty (Michelle Pfeiffer as Fairy Queen Titania, theater-trained performers (including Ally McBeal’s Calista Flockhart and and Kevin Kline, magnificent as Bottom the would-be actor), international stars Sophie Marceau and Rupert Everett, and “new vaudevillian” and MacArthur genius grant award-winner Bill Irwin. The resulting mix of acting styles clashes at times, as does the mix of music and the switch of setting from ancient Athens to 19th century Tuscany, arias and all. Ultimately, though, it is charming, an accessible introduction to the works of that guy in the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Parents should know that there is some earthiness (including an inexplicit scene of Puck relieving himself, some brief nudity, and Hermia’s firm resolve not to have sex with Lysander until they are married).

Kids will enjoy the movie more if they have some basic introduction to the plot. They may want to talk about an era in which a father could order his child to marry the person he chose, about “the course of true love,” and how people work out the problems in relationships. Older kids may like to talk about the metaphor of an enchanted forest as a place to find self-knowledge and to resolve issues.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton version of “Taming of the Shrew” and the Franco Zeffirelli version of “Romeo and Juliet.”

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Based on a play Drama Romance
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