Rise of The Tudors | British History Challenge: #12-15

Sadly the time has come to wave goodbye to the medieval era in the challenge and now we must move on, quite considerably. Strange to think that I’ve come so far through time and yet three quarters of the challenge remains. It’s time for us to hit the Tudor era: Yes… the age of  Greedy, Fatty, Squeaky, Shorty, Bitchy and Ugly. As nobody has made a film about Greedy, let’s start with Fatty (AKA Henry VIII!) and the worst film of the challenge so far…

#12: A Man For all Seasons

  • General Opinion: A child of two could write a better film.
  • Review: In 1966 this film won the Academy Award for best picture. If this was the best film of 1966, I’d hate to see what the worst one is like. For starters it’s about Thomas Moore, Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and the subsequent break with Rome. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be about. Catherine of Aragon is nowhere in sight. Henry only appears for about five minutes and Anne Boleyn for less than one. Quite frankly, this is a film where nothing happens. Quite literally… Nothing happens for an entire two hours and twenty minutes! Events are simply glossed over. We don’t see them happening, somebody just occasionally mentions them, usually in passing. We don’t see the pope refusing to grant the divorce, we don’t see Parliament debating the act of succession etc. Characters just mention that things have happened. It breaks the cardinal rule of Film/TV/Stage writing: SHOW, DON’T TELL!
  • Whilst we’re on the subject of the script, let me just say that it is dire. The dialogue is stodgy and in places they might as well be speaking gibberish for all the sense they are making. Besides the dialogue, the film just plods along through a series of loosely connected conversations in various different rooms and locations. It is, in short, very poorly written.
  • The acting isn’t much better either. All the characters are wooden, lifeless and would be interchangeable were it not for the fact that it’s based on actual events. Robert Shaw is woefully miscast as Henry VIII (and he got an Oscar nomination for this as well!) Shaw was brilliant as Red Grant in From Russia With Love but his five minutes of Henry just doesn’t feel right. Henry should be a striking, powerful figure whereas Shaw just isn’t. When he’s on screen you don’t get a sense of Henry VIII, more a sense of a man in Tudor dress.
  • To be honest, it’s so dull, poorly acted and dialogue heavy that I’m not even sure how accurate this one is. Quite frankly I gave up caring after the first twenty minutes.
  • How did this film win so many awards? (Six Academy awards and Five BAFTAS) Was it some sort of conspiracy to pick the worst film of the year and try to give it as many awards as possible? It’s not good in any sense of the word. I can’t even think of anything nice to say about it. It certainly doesn’t deserve any of those awards IMHO.
  • Rating: 0/10- This isn’t a film… It’s a pile of horse manure.

#13: HENRY VIII (2003)

  • General Opinion: Not bad, but a little on the heavy side (No pun intended!)
  • Review: We’re covering some of the same ground we saw in A Man For All Seasons here, but this time we actually get to see things happening. Its a huge step up from the previous film.  Ray Winstone makes a much more believable Henry VIII than Robert Shaw, that much is clear from the start. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for Helena Bonham-Carter who’s Anne Boleyn is wooden and soulless. The only good thing about her performance is that we get to see her severed head at the end of the first half. But in that first half she’s still around far too much for my taste. She and Winstone have no chemistry together and it lets the whole thing down immensely. She really isn’t suited to the role of Anne Boleyn.
  • This brings me onto the next thing- The length. In all it’s about three hours long. Fair enough as it has to cover the whole of Henry’s reign, almost, and on the plus side it is split into two 90 minute parts. However, even in two parts its still lengthy and at times it doesn’t quite keep the attention. The second half is better than the first, largely thanks to Emilia Fox as Jane Seymour who has more chemistry with Winstone than her now headless predecessor. She’s short lived though, and the rest of the second half is mainly concerned with Winstone shouting, which is no bad thing as he does it very well, and there’s an increasing amount of head chopping going on as well which is also no bad thing.
  • We also get a bit of Sean Bean, sounding as though he’s drunk might I add. He’s quickly dispatched, however, which is a shame. The same can be said of David Suchet and Emilia Fox. There isn’t enough of them and way too much of Bonham-Carter. We’re also treated to a quick cameo from old Greedy himself (Henry VII) at the beginning, though I’m sure that scene never happened in real life.
  • All in all, it’s good… Not the best or most accurate, but still entertaining.
  • Rating: 6/10- Saved by the second half but let down by Helena Bonham-Carter in the first.

#14 The Prince and The Pauper (1937)

  • General Opinion: Not a bad film despite a few minor irritations
  • Review: The kids in this film annoy me, especially when they’re together and even more so with that god damn awful laugh of theirs. Given that they are the title characters this is a bit of a problem. However, as they’re apart for most of the film I can let this one pass. The other problem I have is that they are quite obviously American and are the only kids in the film who don’t even try to put on a fake cockney accent. Then again, as it is from a story by Mark Twain, an American, we can let this one drop, especially as it wasn’t quite historically accurate in the first place.
  •  It’s more accurate than Braveheart though, and that’s with the rubbish cardboard sets and slightly hammy acting. This isn’t quite up to the standard of other films of around the same time, but its still an awfully good one. That and it has Errol Flynn doing some classic swashbuckling action, which is always a bonus.
  • Yes… The story is twaddle and we’ve been covering old ground again with the death of Henry VIII, but unlike certain films I could mention this isn’t a distraction as it keeps very much to the limits of the period. It doesn’t get incredibly silly with anachronisms or complete and total mucking up of the facts. Credit goes to Mark Twain for actually doing some research when he wrote the story.
  • There isn’t really a lot to say about this film and that’s the major problem with it. It has more substance than A Man for All Seasons and it’s certainly as entertaining as Henry VIII, but it just doesn’t stick in the memory like a good film should. There aren’t any memorable quotes or scenes, or even characters which is all rather a disappointment. A truly great film should stick in the memory long after the final act.
  • Rating: 6/10- Good, but not memorable.

#15: Lady Jane

  • General Opinion: Ok… We’ve seen worse.
  • Review: Eyebrows… Thick, hairy, bushy eyebrows… Ones that will give you nightmares… There are men with full bristling beards in this film that aren’t as hairy as those eyebrows. Yes… Helena Bonham-Carter is back and this time she’s accompanied by a pair of big thick black caterpillars nesting above her eyes.  Following her dire performance as Anne Boleyn earlier in the challenge, you would assume that we might be in for more of the same (A hairy tree suddenly springs to mind). Surprisingly not the case actually. Here Bonham-Carter’s talents are put to good use, though I still think she’s better suited to playing evil old hags than Tudor queens. At least here she’s believable, which gives the film bonus points.
  • As for her opposite number in the film, Guilford Dudley (Yeah… The Tudors were naming their kids after places four hundred years before the Beckhamses… Live with it) His performance is a bit on the flat side to be honest. He does the grumpy, drunk teenager bit at the beginning very well but after that he can’t really stand up to his opposite. He’s a bit monotonous and it’s almost as if they cast him just as someone young teenage girls could oogle for two hours. To be honest, he reminds me a bit of an eighties Justin Bieber equivalent, and he is as equally irritating. You can see at certain points that he’s obviously trying to grow some sort of facial hair and failing miserably. This is more obvious given that most of the time he’s in the same room as the lead actresses eyebrows.
  • The film also has Patrick Stewart in a relatively minor role as Lady Jane’s father. However, the script isn’t brilliant and for once, the captain of the Enterprise fails to leave a mark. The same can be said for the rest of the supporting cast actually. None of them have any real impact.
  • If I’m honest, we’ve seen this before in the challenge, where the support cast are just feeble- EG, Black Death, Tristan and Isolde- This is, overall though, a better film. It’s more realistic, more believable, and in general a lot more accurate in the fine detailing. The script is ok, not the best, but ok. And that sums up this film actually. It’s middle of the road. It’s ok.
  • Rating: 5/10- A little bit underwhelming with some especially poor bits. Oh and eyebrows… The eyebrows make this film.

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