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MIRAMAX

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Stephen Frears
Cast:
Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Alex Jennings, Helen McCrory, Roger Allam, Tim McMullan
Writing Credits:
Peter Morgan

Tagline:
Tradition Prepared Her. Change Will Define Her.

Synopsis:
A revealing, witty portrait of the British royal family in crisis immediately following the death of Princess Diana. The setting for this fictional account of real events is no less than the private chambers of the Royal Family and the British government in the wake of the sudden death of Princess Diana in August of 1997.

In the immediate aftermath of the Princess' passing, the tightly contained, tradition-bound world of The Queen of England clashes with the slick modernity of the country's brand new, image-conscious Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The result is an intimate, yet thematically epic, battle between private and public, responsibility and emotion, custom and action - as a grieving nation waits to see what its leaders will do.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$122.014 thousand on 3 screens.
Domestic Gross
$56.109 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/24/2007

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Stephen Frears and Writer Peter Morgan
• Audio Commentary with Royal Historian
• “The Making of The Queen” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Queen (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 9, 2007)

Like so many others, I rooted for Martin Scorsese to finally win an Oscar this year, but I can’t say that I did so because I really liked The Departed. While decent, I thought it was mediocre for Scorsese. If I “voted” for the 2006 Best Picture nominee I actually liked the best, I’d choose The Queen.

Set in 1997, The Queen looks at events that affected the British royal family. In May, youthful new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) takes office but undergoes an unexpected challenge a few months later when Princess Diana gets killed in a car wreck. This creates greater involvement with the royals as all involved try to figure out the best ways to address the public grief. We focus on Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren), Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) and the rest as the events gradually unfold.

Whether one should actually consider The Queen to be the best of the five Oscar nominees remains in doubt. Some have pooh-poohed it as being a little too much like a TV drama, and I guess I can understand those concerns. Unlike something such as The Departed or Letters from Iwo Jima, The Queen doesn’t present a particularly cinematic experience. It’s a decidedly low-key tale that sticks with the “stiff upper lip” attitude typical of highbrow Brit fare.

For me, that doesn’t make The Queen less of a quality production than its more cinematic and ambitious competitors. It brings a period of recent history to life and gives us an intriguing glimpse behind some of the most closed doors one can imagine. The flick uses Blair as the viewer’s proxy as it depicts the battle between modernization and tradition. At the start, Blair represents a force for change and updating institutions. He maintains some respect for the monarchy – much more than his wife Cherie (Helen McCrory) – but seems disenchanted with the crown at best and antagonistic toward it at worst. He doesn’t understand the Queen’s thoughts or processes and becomes frustrated.

However, as the story progresses, Blair becomes much more sympathetic toward the Queen and what she represents. He grows to see her point of view and defends her occasionally perplexing decisions. With Blair, the audience comes along, as we also better understand the viewpoint of this unusual personality. None of us can ever truly put ourselves in the Queen’s shoes, but the film humanizes her and lets us better comprehend her ways.

I must admit I’ve never quite understood the public fascination with the royals, especially in America. They don’t really do anything, so what’s all the fuss? Indeed, when Diana died, I came to the startling realization that although she was arguably the most famous woman in the world, I didn’t know the sound of her voice. She was well-known more as a figure and a personality than an actual person who did much to earn her notoriety.

Even with my disinterest in the royals, I found myself caught up in the drama of that week in 1997. I happened to be watching TV as the events unfolded and I felt much more involved in the matters than I would’ve expected given my lack of investment in Diana and the royals. The Queen captures the tone of the period quite well, as it shows reactions and the overall impact. It manages to evoke the era in a dynamic manner.

Perhaps this will sound perverse since I felt The Queen was the strongest of 2006’s Best Picture nominees, but I wouldn’t have granted it the one Oscar it nabbed. Mirren earned a Best Actress prize for her turn as the title character, but I don’t think she gave the top performance of the five nominees. Don’t get me wrong – Mirren does very well in the role, and she opens up the character in significant ways. It would be easy to stick with a flat, one-dimensional view of this sort of personality, but Mirren gives the Queen greater depth. This never feels inconsistent, as Mirren certainly doesn’t break the boundaries of what we’d expect from such a character, but Mirren makes sure that there’s more to her Elizabeth than just a cartoon impersonation.

That said, I don’t think she gave the best work of her peers. I really liked what Meryl Streep did in The Devil Wears Prada. Other than Anne Hathaway’s wonderful breasts, Streep was the only aspect of the flick that made it watchable. She probably should have been nominated as a supporting performer, but nonetheless, Streep carried Prada completely on her own and deserved an Oscar for her delightful work.

This award quibble aside, Mirren provides strong work, and the rest of the cast follow her lead. Really, there’s not a true nit I can pick about The Queen. A good human portrait of the Queen and her society, it presents an intriguing view of a dramatic period.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

The Queen appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer offered decent but flawed visuals.

Some of the concerns stemmed from definition. Sharpness usually seemed good, but more than a few exceptions occurred. Some shots came across as a bit soft and without great clarity. Still, most of the movie was fine, and I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering – at least not in elements filmed for this project. I didn’t consider archival video footage when I graded the transfer, and I included material intended to match those elements in that consideration; it used some shots meant to simulate videotapes and tried to fit it into real historical shots.

Edge haloes created some distractions. These weren’t especially heavy, but they seemed more noticeable than I’d like. Outside of some light grain, no source issues materialized through the film.

In terms of colors, The Queen went with a decidedly low-key presentation. The hues tended to seem somewhat pale and a little blown-out, though they manifested good delineation at times. Much of this stemmed from the visual design, though I thought the tones tended to be a bit less vivid than anticipated. Blacks were deep and firm, and shadows were fairly clear, though a few shots appeared somewhat dense. Overall, the image looked good enough for a “B-“, but it wasn’t a memorable presentation.

Similar thoughts greeted the restrained Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Queen. Given the chatty nature of the flick, I didn’t anticipate a lively soundfield, and the movie delivered the expected subdued affair. Dialogue and score dominated the mix, with effects in a passive role. Those offered a moderate sense of atmosphere with little more on display. A couple of scenes – like the recreation of the chase through the streets of Paris – opened up a bit more, but usually the music became the main element in spots other than the center speaker. This was fine for the material, though it didn’t make for a memorable impression.

Audio quality was perfectly satisfactory. Speech sounded distinctive and concise, with no problems connected to the lines. Effects didn’t challenge my system, but they seemed appropriately full and well-defined given their low-key parameters. Music was rich and lush throughout the flick, as the score appeared well-rendered. This was an appropriate mix for a character-driven flick.

In terms of extras, the DVD includes two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Stephen Frears and writer Peter Morgan. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track – this very screen-specific track, I might add. The men chat about the script and changes made for the final flick, sets and locations, research, facts and liberties, and a few general production topics.

Don’t anticipate a great amount of insight during this fairly slow-paced chat. We get a fair amount of dead air, and the remarks tend to be superficial. These don’t give us a particularly good look at the flick, as the commentary fails to cover the production in a rich manner. A few decent facts emerge along with a smattering of amusingly acerbic remarks, but overall, the commentary doesn’t tell us much.

For the second track, we hear from British historian and royal expert Robert Lacey. He also offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Lacey looks at facts and liberties in the movie. He gets into research, background for some elements, and issues that impacted the production. Since he also worked as a consultant on The Queen, he can throw in his perspective on his involvement as well.

Lacey’s chat seems more satisfying than the first one. He tells us a lot of notes that prove useful for those of us without much knowledge of the royals, and he offers a decent glimpse of some production issues as well. This isn’t a great piece, but it’s informative and enjoyable.

The Making of The Queen lasts 19 minutes and 29 seconds. It mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We get remarks from Frears, Morgan, producer Andy Harries, production designer Alan MacDonald, costume designer Consolata Boyle, and actors Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam and Sylvia Syms. The program looks at cast and performances, set and costume design, and thoughts about the film’s subject matter.

Though “Making” doesn’t provide a remotely comprehensive view of the production, it does offer some nice details. I especially like the aspects that look at the actors and their work. We get good notes about the challenges they faced and how they reacted. This turns into a surprisingly tight and useful program.

The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Miramax, Ratatouille, Kyle XY and Becoming Jane. These also appear in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks area along with clips for Déjŕ Vu, the Roger Corman Collection and Soap.net.

My favorite of the 2006 Oscar nominees, The Queen gives us a revealing and insightful look at recent history. We get a good feel for the inside perspective of these events and find a consistently interesting and intriguing take on the participants. The DVD presents fairly lackluster picture and audio along with some decent extras. While I can’t call this an exceptional DVD, I like the movie very much and give it my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2 Stars Number of Votes: 10
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main