Where would we be without history?

I watched The Young Victoria over the weekend.  Finally.  I’ve been wanting to see it since I first heard about it.  I was not disappointed.

The Young Victoria is about Queen Victoria of England, in the years before she became queen and the first few years of her reign.  I thought Emily Blunt did a wonderful job as Victoria.  She was able to portray her youth and exuberance, as well as her growth into a good and loved monarch.

Much of the movie is devoted to Victoria’s growing romance with Prince Albert, for whom she had a life-long passion, even after he died.  Rupert Friend did an excellent job of portraying what it would be like to love a woman to whom he could not propose, a woman whom he had to obey.  (And people think they have relationship difficulties today!)

Perhaps the most interesting part of the movie was the image of what it would be like to have politicians trying to influence you and direct you.  The two main ones in this movie are Mark Strong as Sir John Conroy and Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne.  Conroy is the trusted advisor of Victoria’s mother, and they think they can rule her together.  Victoria does not listen to them because Conroy tries to frighten her into submission.  She never forgives him for that, and therefore never listens to him.  She even holds a grudge against her mother.

Lord Melbourne is the exact opposite and, therefore, the more dangerous of the two.  And he does gain too much influence over Victoria.  He does it by telling her what she wants to hear and slowing turning her mind to his way of thinking.  He comes across as much more sinister than Conroy.  Conroy is brusque, rude, and honest.  Melbourne is insinuating, pleasant, and manipulative.

Victoria frees herself from such advisors simply through the passage of time, and because she allows herself to trust Prince Albert to share the burden of her work.  They work together for the good of England and become some of the best-loved monarchs in history.

The Young Victoria is like a breath of fresh air.  It is a movie of understated beauty.  The costumes, set, and scenery are all beautiful.  And yet, the actors are so good that they don’t let the sets dominate.  They move through them as if they really lived there, as if they were who they are pretending to be.  It’s a movie well worth watching.

Since Iron Man was such a hit, Iron Man 2 is bound to be initially popular because it brings back the same main characters.

Many sequels don’t have much to sell, so they jam them full of action and ignore plot holes.  Iron Man 2, however, takes an interesting, contemplative turn.  Of course there’s action!  It wouldn’t be a story about Iron Man without it.  The action and special effects are superbly done.  And of course, Tony Stark still hides his true feelings under his ironically charming glib, narcissistic facade.  Robert Downey, Jr. is again able to bring such a paradox to life.

Also returning in Iron Man 2 is Gwyneth Paltrow as the long-suffering Pepper Potts and, the director Jon Favreau as Hogan, and the voice of Paul Bettany as the voice of Jarvis.  I wish I could say that Terrence Howard returned as Lt. Col. Rhodes, but he was replaced with Don Cheadle.  By the end of the movie, I was reconciled (mostly) to Cheadle as Rhodey, but at first it was rather dissonant.

And then were the new characters, particularly Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman, and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer.  For me, the only one that seemed out of place was Rourke.  Are we really supposed to believe that he’s Russian?  I didn’t buy it.  Rockwell was much more believable as a second-class entrepreneur desperate to prove himself.  But I digress.

Anyone and everyone who enjoyed Iron Man should enjoy Iron Man 2.  It has the same type of witty dialog, excellent action scenes, and interesting (if muddled) relationships.  I certainly enjoyed it!  And yes, they did leave it sufficiently open for another movie…