Posts Tagged ‘Period Piece’

“Sunset” A Period Piece Mystery

May 2nd, 2019 No comments





Review by John Delia

With a huge cast of fine actors, nice cinematography, amazing period costumes, perfect locations and dynamic direction the drama Sunset enters this weekend’s theatrical releases. Although a bit long and drawn out, the movie, laced with history that complements the storyline, becomes a showy drama that plays out seamlessly for lovers of mystery period pieces. Read more…

“The Chaperone” An Alluring Period Piece

April 17th, 2019 No comments





Review by John Delia

An alluring period piece, the biography/drama The Chaperone makes for good viewing for its target audience females 35 plus. It’s just a snippet on the seductive actress Louise Brooks with the real story going to her companion Norma Carlisle. The film has some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in a drama in recent past and combined with perfect retro costume, sets, locations and make-up the film’s a winner. Read more…

Effie Gray, Not Dakota Fanning’s Cup of Tea

April 3rd, 2015 No comments




Review by John Delia

Dreary and unemotional the true story of Effie Gray with a script by Emma Thompson plays out on the big screen this weekend. Terribly miscast, hollow and not quite as realistic as other films of its ilk, the Victorian period piece falls short of any real praise. The camera work does create a spark of artistic applause and the scenic shots are a treat. Performances by its honorable cast while admirable, get wasted with very little character development. Read more…

“Belle” a Wonderful Period Film (Movie Review)

May 23rd, 2014 No comments




Review by Alyn Darnay
Directed by: Amma Asante
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode, and Miranda Richardson
I know it sounds funny but if ‘Jane Austin’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ had a mixed-race child out of wedlock, this film would be that child.  BELLE is a film in it’s own class, not a drawing room tale but rather you’ll find it to be an exceptional movie experience at the hands of some great filmmakers.
BELLE is the true tale of an illegitimate ‘daughter/slave’ female in the mid-1700’s England, who is taken in by the upper crust family of her father and the subsequent consequences of that action. It’s a touching, often infuriating, and entertainingly intellectual telling of the slave experience during the height of the slave trade in a country whose economy at the time depended upon that business.


Gugu Mbatha-Raw is Dido Elizabeth Belle

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is Dido Elizabeth Belle

Here’s the storyline:
Inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Mbatha-Raw), the film charts the life of the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral John Lindsay. Being raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Wilkinson) and his wife, Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status and color prevents her from enjoying the traditions of a noble social standing. While her cousin Elizabeth (Gadon) chases suitors for marriage, Belle is left on the sidelines wondering if she will ever find love. After meeting an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on changing society, he and Belle try to influence Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. [Fox Searchlight]
What makes this story so compelling, aside from the fact that it’ true, is that we’ve never seen a story quite like it before. Yes, there have been tales about women held almost captive by their upper class families, but never one where the female was held captive by her color and the people who try to understand the meaning of it, set against the rest of their society. It is a fresh telling of the story, and it works on all levels.


Sam Reid as John Davinier and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido

Sam Reid as John Davinier and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido

The performances are all first rate, and the film itself has a look you would generally expect from a Merchant Ivory film (Howard’s End, The Remains of the Day).  The Oxford born lead actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a wonder, becoming Dido instead of just playing her. Every emotion, raw or otherwise, even when there’s not supposed to be one, is always present on her face or in her beautifully questioning eyes. It’s surely the sign of a brilliant performance. The film however, takes its strength from Tom Wilkinson, whose gruff and stiff lipped upper-class performance is another masterpiece to be added to his already sterling resume.
So, my take on the film; If you like English period pieces blended with fresh and important historical information, brought to you in a beautiful wrapper with great acting, this is definitely your film. It looks great on the big screen and should be seen in that medium. Don’t miss the BELLE!
Rating: 4-1/2 Stars (out of 5) 

“BELLE” is rated PG.  Running Time: 104 minutes


August 4th, 2011 No comments

The film is performed

in Chinese and English

with Subtitles when necessary



Cast: Ji-hyeon, Li Bingbing, and Vivian Wu, with Hugh Jackman

Directed by: Wayne Wang

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexuality, violence/disturbing images and drug use

Genre: Art/Foreign, Drama, English Subtitles

Running Time: 2hrs

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures



By John Delia


Beautifully photographed the drama Snow Flower and the Secret Fan provides a stunning window into the lives of four women.  Although the film is a bit long, I found the journey well worth taking. Although a major chick flick, the film still plays well to older males.

Snow Flower and Lilly become laotung


The film features the custom of laotung a binding of friends for life as soul mates.  The tradition comforts the main characters Snow Flower (Ji-hyeon) and Lilly (Li Bingbing) through the best of times and then the toughest tests of their lives.

Nina and Sofia have tea together in Shanghi


In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong’s descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai.  Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever.


Director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) pulls excellent performances from his cast although I found myself struggling at times to separate the modern day female pair from their ancestors because he used the same actors.  Even with the make up and costume differences, the ploy just doesn’t work for me.  That said, Ji-hyeon as Snow Flower/Sofia and Li Bingbing as Nina/Lilly are brilliant in their roles portraying the delicate women who have to live through some very hard times. 


The film does have some drawbacks however; the transitions between the modern day laotung women to their 1800’s counterparts happen a little too frequently, which causes a disjointing of the storyline.  Although director Wang found it a necessary bridge between eras, larger spans of each couples lives would have made the film more compelling.  Continuity suffered from a possible shorting of some scenes, especially the invasion of the Chinese rebels that displace a whole village only to find them returned in such a short span of time.

Snow Flower reads Lilly's fan


The customs of the early Chinese involve foot binding whereby the parents of young girls wrap their feet tightly so they will not grow.  Since most high-class suitors like women with small feet it becomes a way for most families to increase their station in life. Nicely inserted this binding process generates empathy and sadness for Sunflower and Lilly adding to the emotional charged film.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence/disturbing images and drug use. Be cautions on dragging along immature pre-teens due to the subject matter. English subtitles are used during Chinese dialog.


FINAL ANALYSIS: A challenging film for viewers and the filmmaker. (B-) 



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JANE EYRE review by John Delia

March 31st, 2011 No comments





Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins and Amelia Clarkson

Directed by: Cary Fukunaga

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content.

Genre: Drama, Romance and Adaptation

Running Time: 2hrs

Distributed by: Focus Features


By John Delia

Captivating and as the British would say utterly romantic, the movie version of the Charlotte Bronte novel Jane Eyre moves into theaters this weekend. I enjoyed the acting, the amazing landscapes and period costumes.  If you like the book, enjoy period piece films, dream about those who live in huge estates, then wake up and go see Jane Eyre.

Wasikowska as Jane and Fassbender as Edward

At the center of the plot is a young Jane Eyre (Amelia Clarkson) who finds herself living with her aunt after her parents die.  At odds with her male cousin, her aunt feels that Jane should be put in a private school.  Fast-forward to the 17 years of age Jane (Mia Wasikowska) who escapes the confines of her dull life and finds her way to the home of the wealthy Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender) where she takes on the job of governess.  When a romance starts between Jane and Edward, her life starts to change in a direction she did not anticipate.

Even though the age differences between Jane and Edward are distances apart, the actors are able to show the fire that burns between them.  You can see the change on Wasikowska’s innocent face when she realizes that Edward can be hers. The chemistry between the two burns a hole in the screen.

Mrs. Reed's Costume

Period costumes

Riding outfit


The costuming and sets are a major part of the story and here no expense has been spared to provide the look and flavor of the early English period.  The camera captures every bit of the countryside, the worn English manor and the clothes that are as important to the entertainment as the actors.  The camera lens even instills a cold damp feeling during Jane’s trek through an unforgiving forest during a horrendous rainstorm.  Jane Eyre is a feeling and director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) provides the complete experience from script to actor to the big screen.

Jane Eyre has been produced some seventeen times on television and film starting as far back as 1914 according to the International Movie Data Base.  But with today’s technology, special cameras and creative sets, I found this Jane Eyre to be the amazingly good.

The film is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image in a painting and brief violent content.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A classy look at an old plot. (A-)

HEMINGWAY’S GARDEN OF EDEN review by Alyn Darnay

December 10th, 2010 No comments

gardenofeden_smallposterReview by Alyn Darnay

Directed by:  John Irvin

Staring: Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), Mena Suvari (American Beauty), Caterina Murino (Casino Royale), Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park), Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket)

Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway wrote the story that this movie is based upon early in his career, but it wasn’t published until 1986, twenty years after his death. The speculation is that the manuscript was cut to pieces by the editors, I presume, to try to save what they thought was not his best work, however, we’ll never know because we’ll never see the original. Perhaps it would have been best to just let it fade into one of those “missing author manuscript” mysteries that abound from time to time, because this is surely not Hemingway’s better work.

Again, I presume, that it is loosely based on his early life and the lives of his somewhat on again off again friend F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Most surely the main female in this script represents Zelda’s madness and control over her husband and his writing.

Catherine (Mena Suvari) and David Bourne (Jack Huston)

Catherine (Mena Suvari) and David Bourne (Jack Huston)

It’s a story of “The Lost Generation”, set in the Jazz Age shortly after WWI. It relates the tale of a young ex-pat American writer, David Bourne (JACK HUSTON), who falls instantly in love with a rich but restless beauty, Catherine (MENA SUVARI). He immediately marries her and they take an extended honeymoon to the Cote d’Azur in a spiffy blue Bugatti she buys for him. Moving from small towns to big cities in search of some vague state of enjoyment, they eventually wind up in an isolated oceanfront Hotel for the summer, which is opened just for them alone. David tries to write, Catherine constantly tries to find ways to distract him from it, mostly erotic ways. Her games climax when she brings home a sultry Italian heiress, Marita (CATERINA MURINO). The rest of the story revolves around David’s struggle to write about an African childhood adventure he had with his big-game hunter father (MATTHEW MODINE) and his escalating use as a pawn between the two manipulative women.

Garden of Eden’s” release was delayed two years, there’s a reason for it. It’s not a great film. Perhaps it would have been best to just let it fade into one of those “direct to video” films, because this is surely not director John Irvin’s better work. He had the actors to pull it off well, the casting is good, but the film itself is rather slow, meandering, and in the end, meaningless.

There are of course some very redeeming elements to the film, the authentic period feel of cinematography, locations, set design, and costuming are all superb. Jack Huston is an up and coming actor who is interesting to watch and totally believable in the role of David, as is Catherine Murino who provides some great moments as the darkly sexual woman standing between the young couple.

Unfortunately though, Matthew Modine, normally a good actor, is wasted in the contrived and poorly executed African segments and Mena Suvari just seems to be drowning in the thinly written part she’s trying valiantly to make come alive.

I tried to love this film because I love the elegance and romance of the period, but in the end I couldn’t. Ultimately, the film bored me. There was little or no chemistry between the two lead characters, perhaps the most important element of all, and their encounters added up to nothing more than foreplay, as a matter of fact the whole film added up to nothing more than foreplay.

Rating (2 ½ of  5)

Running Time: 111 min

Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and some language.

PRINCESS KAIULANI written review

June 9th, 2010 No comments


Kaiulani posterStarring:  Q’Orianka Kilcher, Shaun Evans, Barry Pepper, Will Patton, and Tamzin Merchant

Directed by: Marc Forby

MPAA Rating: PG for some violence and thematic material, and for brief language, sensuality and smoking.

Genres: Drama and Romance

Running Time: 1hr 40 min

Studio: Roadside Attractions

By John Delia

Historical, romantic and enlightening the true story of Princess Kaiulani inspires while it entertains.  Marc Forby who writes and first time directs this wonderful period piece provides a canvas on which he paints a fight for honor, dignity and survival.  If you enjoy 19th century romance like Room With a View or Howard’s End and historical period pieces such as The Dutchess you should enjoy Princess Kaiulani.

Q'Orianka Kilcher as Princess Kaiulani

Q'Orianka Kilcher as Princess Kaiulani

The film centers on the life of Princess Kaiulani (Kilcher) 1875 to 1899.  Taken to Victorian England as a thirteen-year-old in an attempt to avoid a harm that may come to her, over several years Kaiulani learns the ways of the upper crust including a her private school education and absentee rise to Princess.  When a takeover from the United States threatens her Hawaiian kingdom, Princess Kaiulani returns to her island nation in an attempt to curtail the imperialistic overthrow of her government.

Shaun Evans and Q'Orianka Kilcher kiss on a Hawaiian beach

Shaun Evans and Q'Orianka Kilcher kiss on a Hawaiian beach

Entwined in all this is a teenage romance between Kaiulani and a young Englishman Clive Davies (Shaun Evans).  Although the intimacy of the romance is not stressed, I could still feel the passion between the two young people amidst the dealing with British family standards.

What makes the film enjoyable comes with the superb acting by the main cast, a storyline that gets played out seamlessly and remarkable cinematography showing the beauty of both Hawaii and Victorian England.  The characters are very real and their costumes representative of the period.

I enjoyed the performance by Kilcher as the frightened child who gets ripped from her country and has to contend with a life she did not choose.  Kilcher makes her character grow to a strong willed person showing the pride and strength of the Hawaiian people.  But the standout performance comes from Barry Pepper as the cunning and power driven Lorrin Thursten who helps to bring down the Hawaiian government only to fail at his own greedy goal.   The intensity at which Pepper portrays the disturbed activist should earn him acting award recognition.

Princess Kaiulani (Kilcher) in Victorian England

Princess Kaiulani (Kilcher) in Victorian England

Cinematography by Gabriel Beristain of locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands and within Honolulu’s ‘Iolani Palace is very exciting.  Turning halfway around the world Beristain films the lush English landscapes using lenses that give the feel of Victorian times.

The film is rated PG for some violence and thematic material, and for brief language, sensuality and smoking.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A cool historical piece with terrific acting. (4 of 5 Palm Trees)

THE LAST STATION Written Review John Delia

February 22nd, 2010 No comments


thelaststation_smallposterStarring: Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff, Kerry Condon and James Mcavoy

Directed/Written by: Michael Hoffman

MPAA Rating: R for scene of sexuality/nudity.

Genre: Art/Foreign, Adaptation and Biopic

Release Date: February 2010 (Wide)

By John Delia

The period piece The Last Station has garnered accolades by the Academy of Arts of Sciences with Oscar nominations for Helen Mirren and Christopher Plumber and rightly so.  Their performances in this film make it more than worthwhile to see.  If you like a good story of romance, beauty and great costumes, then run to catch The Last Station.

Tolstoy (Plummer) and his wife (Mirren) romance in bed

Tolstoy (Plummer) and his wife (Mirren) romance in bed

The Last Station follows the last months of Leo Tolstoy’s life and centers on his relationship with his wife, followers and ideals.  A man who believed in equality in Russia, Tolstoy championed for a society that would not be ruled by the rich.

In this snippet of the man’s life we see his undying love for his wife Sofya, a deep passionate one that could not be broken by outsiders who would want the two separated for their own ill gotten gain.  It also shows how he had to deal with her desire to keep the wealth that he had acquired and pass it along to the children.  It becomes a task that would make an attempt to break Tolstoy’s will to spread it out amongst the Russian people.  In the mix, his top disciple Valdimir Cherkov tries to keep Sofya away from her husband using trickery and deceit so he can control the Tolstoy’s destiny for greatness.

Valentin (McAvoy) and Masha (Duff) share a tender moment

Valentin (McAvoy) and Masha (Duff) share a tender moment

The film also infuses a love story between Tolstoy’s assistant Valentin Bulgakov and the free spirited Masha.  The two find each other at a commune where sex, love and life are as passionate as the work they are doing to further Tolstoy’s work. I liked the sweetness of this story and the chemistry between the actors, Anne-Marie Duff and James Mcavoy who add a little excitement to the otherwise cheerless storyline.

Hoffman directs a scene from the movie

Hoffman directs a scene from the movie

The directing by Hoffman is very good, providing scene after scene of tableaus that could be hung in art galleries.  His depiction of the era comes off the screen with wondrous excitement and beauty.  Tolstoy’s estate and the train station where the story ends are magnificent canvases on which he paints his luminous film.

The film is rated R for scene of sexuality/nudity.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A tableau of historical significance and beauty. (4 of 5 Palm Trees)


James McAvoy headshot

James McAvoy

JAMES McAVOY: Was born in Scotland in 1979 and lived with his grandparents most of his life.  He graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2000.  His start in film and TV was a film called The Near Room a thriller starring Adrian Dunbar.  This lead to a television career with some film in between until he landed a role in the acclaimed Bright Young Things along side Emily Mortimer playing a support role as Simon Balcaim.  From there he played key roles in several television productions finally getting picked for films like Wimbledon, Atonement, The Last King of Scotland, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Penelope, and Wanted. He was one of Stephen Spielberg’s soldiers in the hit HBO series Band of Brothers.

McAvoy has been honored during his career getting nominations for many awards including a Golden Globe nom for Atonement, a Best Actor win at the BAFTA awards for The Last King of Scotland, and winning an Empire and London Critic’s Circle award for Atonement.  And ladies, he was nominated for an MTV Award for ‘Best Kiss’ that he shared with Angelina Jolie in Wanted. But before you swoon too much, McAvoy is married to his co-star in The Last Station, Anne-Marie Duff.  (Hmmm, so that’s why the sex scene is so realistic.)


December 12th, 2009 No comments


meandorsonwelles_smallposterStarring: Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Ben Chaplin, Claire Danes and Kelly Reilly

Directed by: Richard Linklater

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references and smoking.

Genre: Art, Drama, Romance, Adaptation and Teen

Release Date: December 2009

By John Delia

Cast Zac Efron (High School Musical) for the teens, an Orson Welles look alike to add some awe, throw in an A list actor and you have a hit.  Well, that was my impression from the trailer of Me and Orson Welles, and after seeing the period drama there wasn’t much more.  If you like impressions of famous people, with an above average storyline from the 1930’s, then this is you ticket to nostalgia.

Richard meets Welles

Richard meets Welles

It’s 1937 and the town is buzzing with new productions opening on New York’s great white way.  One such play, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, is in production with upstart Orson Welles (McKay) at the Mercury Theatre Company.  Coincidently, clever high school student and aspiring actor Richard (Efron) passes by that very theatre just when Wells has fired a member of the cast.  The boisterous and arrogant Wells sees the boy and after a quick once over, hires (at no pay) Richard for the vacancy.  So begins a series of relationships between Richard, the cast and Orson Welles that will make him a man.

McKay as Orson Welles

McKay as Orson Welles

I enjoyed the acting in the film and especially Christian McKay as the blustery, confident and arrogant Orson Welles.  For the actor’s first movie role, I am impressed with his pinpoint replication of Wells capturing his haughty attitude yet not letting it get away form him.  Nominated for a Spirit Award, it will be interesting to see the first timer can walk away with Best Supporting Actor.

Zac Efron and Claire Danes

Richard (Efron) and Sonja (Danes) read lines from Julius Caesar

Although Zac Efron does an admirable job in the lead role of Richard, I found him to be more eye candy and window dressing to attract the teens to the film.  Not to take anything away from the upcoming actor, but he was more of a distraction in the role than the anchor he was meant to be.  Having said that, I will have to admit that he nailed the scene with Danes as Sonja James in her apartment.

The film drags a bit, especially involving the rehearsals of Julius Caesar, but director Linklater does redeem himself with a peppy final act.  His wardrobe and set designers were excellent with bringing the period to life.

The film is rated PG-13 for sexual references and smoking in order to depict the flamboyance of Welles.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A good dinner and date film, but don’t look for any desert. (3.5 of 5 Palm Trees)