There is a good movie to be made about the remarkable life and career of Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately that film has yet to be made, as “The Iron Lady” certainly isn’t it.
“The Iron Lady” suffers from incompetent direction by Phyllida Lloyd, whose gaudy touch is appropriate when applied to enjoyable trainwrecks like the celebrity karaoke session “Mamma Mia!” but utterly hideous when put towards serious material.
Meryl Streep won the Oscar for one of the absolute worst movies she’s been in. Lloyd directs her impression of Thatcher in a performance that’s as broad as her Abba-crooning role in “Mamma Mia!”
The framing device for the film sees an elderly Thatcher doddering around her apartment beneath a mountain of age make-up and a frightening prosthetic neck, talking with the apparition of her dead husband (Jim Broadbent) in exchanges that build in unnecessary creepiness, before the movie becomes an unintentionally hilarious cousin to “Poltergeist” as the apparition of her husband heads off into a blinding light while Thatcher pleads with him to stay. It’s a lot of time to spend on something completely made-up, unnecessary and inappropriate when exploring a historical figure with dramatic potential for the big screen.
Inserted within this freak show are flashbacks that trace Thatcher’s political career, which is where the real story lies. Seeing Thatcher skillfully navigate the male-dominated world of British politics is where the film is at its best, but Lloyd paints in such broad strokes that no real insight can be gleaned from it.
Once upon a time it would’ve been derided as TV movie quality, but today that would be seen as praise. Once the Falklands War erupts, the movie turns into a strange mix of cliche and cartoon, as Thatcher is seen in the stereotypically thoughtful poses one associates with a leader making tough calls, but is also seen dancing over a montage with other world leaders from the era like Ronald Reagan.
“The Iron Lady” deserves a bit of credit for not being a hit piece, as it does bring up why Thatcher was a great and important leader. But the ugly, unpleasant framing device, and the messy flashback structure is unforgivable. It takes the worst route possible, taking the Iron Lady and transforming her into a cartoon, delivering no discernible insight beneath the obvious surface topics.
Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous
Marvel can’t seem to get its act together when it comes to producing quality direct-to-video animated films. This is a stark contrast to DC, which has been using their stable of superheroes brilliantly, bringing us excellent animated films such as “Batman: Year One.” The animation in these films is serviceable, but the stories are well-told, and utilize exceptional voice actors. Marvel’s animated films, meanwhile, are cheap and disposable, saving as much money as possible in hopes of swiftly exploiting their fan base for a quick, easy buck. “Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous” is the latest, and possibly the most shameful, in this parade of bargain-bin garbage.
I hadn’t seen any animated films under the Marvel Knights label, which gave me a bit of optimism going in, since I typically enjoy the Marvel Knights feature films more so than the prestige offerings from Marvel Studios. The slick packaging by the good people at Shout! Factory certainly didn’t hurt, either. I was instantly brought back to reality the moment the first flicker of what I assume passes for “animation” at Marvel registered with my brain. “Dangerous” isn’t really an animated film, though it’s dishonestly marketed as one. It is, in fact, a “motion comic,” not unlike that worthless “Watchmen” thing that was released direct-to-DVD when the movie adaptation hit theaters.
For those fortunate enough never to have encountered motion comics, they essentially take the panels from a comic book, add a bit of movement and CGI, record some voice acting, and voila, you have a really crappy animated film.
This particular one takes one of the “Astonishing X-Men” stories by Joss Whedon, giving them ample opportunity to slap his name all over this thing to reel hapless Whedonites in. The story involves the Danger Room at Professor Xavier’s academy going rampant and trying to kill everyone. I’d go deeper, but it’s hard to invest in the plot when the people putting this out clearly don’t care. I’m sure it was a better yarn to actually read than it was fed to me with semi-moving images and bad voice acting. They divided it up into 10-minute episodes, which pads the running time out by repeating its awful opening credit sequence and its merciful closing credits.
If you’re an X-Men fan, please don’t bother. Just read the graphic novel it’s based on again instead.
Available on DVD
Other Noteworthy Releases
The Darkest Hour: I was bored stupid just by the trailers. No thank you.
A Trip to The Moon: “Hugo” brought some renewed interest in the pioneering works of Georges Méliès, and this Blu-ray containing his best-known work looks like it has all the film history to go with his seminal silent short a geek could possibly want.
Available on Blu-ray
A Streetcar Named Desire: If you haven’t entered Big Hollywood’s contest yet to win this Blu-ray of Elia Kazan’s classic film yet, be sure to do so. It looks to be one worth owning.
Available on Blu-ray
Sleeping Beauty: Not the Disney classic, but a movie starring Emily Browning that looks … well … really damn creepy and gross.
Into the Abyss: Werner Herzog explores the death penalty in his latest documentary, focusing on a gruesome case of triple-homicide and the men who committed the terrible crime, awaiting their punishment on death row. Unlike, say, Michael Moore, Herzog always explores his subjects with beauty, intelligence and grace.
Kate & Leopold – Director’s Cut: The true vision of this film that no one cares about. I saw it on an airplane once, and quickly forgot about it.
Available on Blu-ray
This post originally appeared over at Parcbench