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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > Biography > Autobiography > Poetry > Literature > Gay > Filmmaking > Acting > Stardom > Briti > The Broken Tower (2011/E1 DVD)/My Week With Marilyn (2011/Weinstein/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)

The Broken Tower (2011/E1 DVD)/My Week With Marilyn (2011/Weinstein/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)


Picture: C/B- & C†††† Sound: C+/B- & C+†††† Extras: B-†††† Films: C+/B-



The following films fall into the biopic category, even if they both are not exactly the usual biography work.



James Franco is back playing another tortured artist, this time it is yet another poet in The Broken Tower (2011) which he directs, write and stars as its subject, Hart Crane.The son of a wealthy businessman whom he has serious conflicts with, Crane wanted to pursue writing poetry and live a life that means something more to him than just having wealthy, owning things and having it easy.He is also openly gay, something that bothers the people around him, especially being it is the 1920s in the film and he wants his own life.


As in Howl, Franco once again turns in a split performance, doing a good job of playing the person part of the time, then becoming too much himself (those Franco-isms as I explained in the Howl review on this site) too often that it throws the film and performance.The film itself has more issues and the low budget is not the problem, but instead the overall result does not add up and trying to give back stories to all the poetry (often shown in graphic print on screen) shorts the audience and the potential overall of this work.He has talent, great ideas and is not dumb by any means, but he is taking on more than he should and the results are not what they could have been.His younger brother Dave plays Crane at a younger age and we get other solid performances, including another bold turn by Michael Shannon.


Extras include Franco interviewing some Crane scholars and a feature length audio commentary track with Franco, Producer Vince Jolivette and Director of Photography Christina Voros, who shot almost the entire film in black and white that tell us more than the film.



Simon Curtisí My Week With Marilyn (2011) takes on the interesting circumstances in which international cinema sensation Marilyn Monroe made a film with top international actor Sir Lawrence Olivier called The Prince & The Showgirl.For this production, Monroe was funding it through her production company and left Fox to go with Warner Bros. on this, but the whole thing was shot in England and directed by Olivier.Though the results were not spectacular, it is an unusual film for both and this film shows how the production moved along.


Michele Williams is amazing as Monroe in one the few portrayals that I have ever seen really work, playing an ever-insecure woman who has amazing talents, understands her popularity, is forever looking for personal happiness she is not finding (even married at this point to Arthur Miller (an amazing turn by Dougray Scott) does not help) and she takes a role Olivierís wife Vivian Leigh (Julia Ormond) is too old to take on as her career is generally in unfortunate decline.Kenneth Branagh is Olivier and is pretty good in the role.


An assistant named Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne, playing the man who wrote the books this is film is based on) finally lands work with Oliverís company and eventually becomes unexpected friends with Monroe, especially when Miller heads back to the U.S. and becomes a motivator for her to continue.She has also brought acting coach Paula Strasberg (ZoŽ Wanamaker) for acting help, but she is still having her perpetual personal issues.


I liked the film, yet I wanted to know a little more about what was going on and the film goes more for drama and comedy than maybe a rich sense of the time and place that would have made it a little more cinematic for me.There are also minor details that are a sort of miss, but this is still well done and very much wroth your time.Judy Dench, Toby Jones, Michael Kitchen, Emma Watson, Philip Jackson, Dominic Cooper and Derek Jacobi also star.Extras include a feature length audio commentary track with Curtis and the featurette The Untold Of An American Icon.



The anamorphically enhanced DVDs in both cases are softer than I would have liked them to be, with the 1.78 on Tower and 2.35 X 1 on Marilyn just not delivering on the lower definition format.On the other hand, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Marilyn may be stylized to look like the period (ands was shot in the Super 35mm film format) but maybe the style was done more than expected at the detriment of detail and depth.The result does not always ring true, though the locales are great.The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Marilyn Blu-ray is also the best sound mix here, though it can have its sound towards the front speakers and is dialogue-based, so that is to be expected.The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on both DVDs are weaker and have weak soundfields.Wonder how Tower would be on Blu-ray?



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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