The media was all agog in 1956 when screen siren Marilyn Monroe was sensationally paired with theatre giant Laurence Olivier in British movie The Prince And The Showgirl.
But MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (15: Entertainment In Video) shows the drama that unfolded backstage was even more intriguing.
This adaptation of a memoir by Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne), who was a production runner on the film and became a confidante and companion to the isolated movie star during her stay in England, is delightfully evocative of a bygone era of film-making.
Michelle Williams (Best Actress) and Kenneth Branagh (Best Supporting Actor) were nominated for Oscars, but lost out to Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Christopher Plummer (Beginners).
Branagh was probably unlucky as his Olivier, always ready with a scathing one-liner, is hilarious. But while Williams is captivating enough as blonde bombshell Marilyn, she didn’t feel quite right in the role.
The film’s tone is light, bordering on fluffy, as director Simon Curtis focuses on Clark’s growing pains and the actress’s childlike lust for life, more so than her darker, destructive nature.
Emily Watson, Julia Ormond and Dominic Cooper add to the buoyant mood and Judi Dench offers her usual standout turn, playing Dame Sybil Thorndike like a fussy old aunt.
> A deadly virus sweeps across the globe and an international team of boffins struggle to find a vaccine to prevent it spreading further in taut medical drama CONTAGION (12: Warner).
Gwyneth Paltrow is an early victim and her Hong Kong business trip appears to be the key to the virus’s path.
Eco-scientists Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle battle to identify, contain and combat the bug to prevent millions from becoming infected. But their efforts are hampered by a sensationalist conspiracy theory blogger (Jude Law).
Matt Damon is excellent as Paltrow’s seemingly immune husband, although the scenes of widespread panic and looting appear at odds with the otherwise wordy storyline.
Director Steven Soderbergh’s subplot-hopping ensemble piece is reminiscent of his Oscar-winning Traffic, yet never quite delivers the same level of drama or tension as that drugs saga.
> Was it really more than 40 years ago that I saw the original Straw Dogs at the old Union Cinema in Dunstable and was shocked by the Susan George rape scene?
If you still remember Sam Peckinpah’s controversial original and didn’t rate it, then the slick remake STRAW DOGS (18: Sony) is adequate enough.
The action moves from rural England to redneck America as newlyweds David (James Marsden) and Amy (Kate Bosworth) move to her Mississippi hometown.
He’s a screenwriter and she’s a moderately successful TV actress whose return puts her back on the radar of a former boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard) and his buddies.
The scenes of rape and violence may offend, but mostly because this is one of those rehashes that feels like the product of lazy thinking.
The acting is OK and if the content doesn’t have the same impact as in 1971, that may be a reflection of how viewers have become accustomed to such things.
> At the heart of meticulous period drama ANONYMOUS (12: Sony) is the question of who really wrote William Shakespeare’s works.
A clever opening monologue from Derek Jacobi guides us into an Elizabethan world of intrigue and danger in a film that boasts amazing production values.
Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) is portrayed as an imbecilic actor, while the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) is shown to be the man really holding the quill. But the Bard’s popular plays cause unrest and Queen Elizabeth (beautifully played by both Joely Richardson and her mother, Vanessa Redgrave) struggles to quash her rivals while striving for personal happiness.
The derring-do is easy to follow, even as it grows more complicated and dark, leading to several astonishing revelations.
Certainly a change of direction for Roland Emmerich, best known for special effects blockbusters like Independence Day.
> Loaded with CGI and cloned from 300 and Clash Of The Titans, exceptionally silly Greek fantasy IMMORTALS (15: Universal) takes itself too seriously, although it will give lovers of expertly faked beefcake action their sword-and-sandal fix.
Mickey Rourke camps it up in a lobster-claw helmet as King Hyperion, who’s searching for a mythical bow to unleash caged immortal warriors capable of destroying the Gods. Can peasant Theseus, mentored by Zeus and aided by virgin oracle Phaedra, save humanity from Hyperion’s bloodlust?
Striking visuals soon flatline into bland elongated battle scenes crammed with mindless slow-motion splatter.