Stardust

  • Directors: Matthew Vaughn
  • Producers:
  • Writers: Novel, Neil Gaiman, Screenplay, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
  • Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
  • Actors: Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Ricky Gervais, Rupert Everett, Jason Flemyng, David Walliams, Mark Strong, Special Appearance by, Peter O Toole, with Michelle Pfeiffer, and Robert De Niro

On April 17, 1839, in the village of Wall (so called because of the stone wall that is a border with another world), Dunstan Thorn (Ben Barnes) sneaks past the guard at a hole in the wall. On the other side he meets a witch’s slave (Kate Magowan) for one night. Nine months later the wall guard arrives at Dunstan’s door with a baby named Tristan.

Eighteen years later, Tristan (Charlie Cox) is infatuated with Victoria (Sienna Miller). He invites her to a night time picnic.

On the other side of the wall in Stormhold, the king (Peter O’Toole) is on his deathbed, in the company of his sons. The king throws the Power of Stormhold, a large ruby, into the night sky, declaring that “he of royal blood” who finds the ruby will succeed him. The stone collides with a star, which falls to Earth.

Tristan vows to bring Victoria the fallen star by her birthday, in exchange for her marrying him. After Tristan fails to slip past the guard at the wall, his father gives him a Babylon Candle his mother left him. Tristan lights the Babylon Candle to go to her, but accidentally thinks about the star and teleports to the star’s impact area in Stormhold. Tristan learns that the star is a beautiful woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes).

Tristan retrieves the jewel that Yvaine was wearing. Una explains that Tristan is the last male heir of Stormhold. Tristan becomes the new king with Yvaine as his queen. After eighty years of ruling Stormhold, they use a Babylon candle to ascend to the sky, where they become twin stars. Since Yvaine “gave her heart” to Tristan, the two will live forever in the sky.

The Last Emperor

  • Directors: Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Producers: Jeremy Thomas
  • Writers: Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History
  • Actors: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O Toole, Ruocheng Ying, Victor Wong

The film opens in 1950 with PÇ”yí’s re-entry into the just-proclaimed People’s Republic of China as a prisoner and war criminal, having been captured by the Red Army when the Soviet Union entered the Pacific War in 1945 (see Soviet invasion of Manchuria) and put under Soviet custody for five years. Puyi attempts suicide which only renders him unconscious, and in a flashback, apparently triggered as a dream, Puyi relives his first entry, with his nurse, into the Forbidden City.

The next section of the film is a series of chronological flashbacks showing PÇ”yí’s early life: from his royal upbringing, to the tumultuous period of the early Chinese Republic, to his subsequent exile, his Japanese supported puppet reign of Manchukuo, and then his capture by the Russian army – all of which are intermixed with flash-forwards portraying his prison life. There, Puyi is shown newsreels of Japanese war crimes in Manchuria and the defeat of Japan, and he realizes his need to assume responsibility for his complicity in Japanese atrocities.

The concluding section of the film ends with a flash-forward to the mid-1960s during the Mao cult and the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Released from prison as a “reformed citizen”, PÇ”yí has become a gardener who lives a proletarian existence. On his way home from work, he happens upon a Mao parade, complete with children playing pentatonic music on accordions en masse and dancers who dance the rejection of landlordism by the masses, aroused by rectified Mao thought. His prison camp commander is one of the “dunces” punished as insufficiently revolutionary in the parade. In a deliberately ironic scene, the last Emperor makes imperial remonstrance to the Red Guard students.

With just a small shift of the camera we are brought to a more modern day, after China had opened to the West, where a tour guide’s klaxon (ironically emitting the tune of “Yankee Doodle”) calls American tourists together in front of the throne. The guide encapsulates PÇ”yí’s life in a few sentences and informs us of his date of death.

Becket

  • Directors: Peter Glenville
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Edward Anhalt, Jean Anouilh
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History
  • Actors: Richard Burton, Peter O Toole, John Gielgud, Donald Wolfit, Martita Hunt, Pamela Brown, Paolo Stoppa

The story line monitors the transformation of Thomas Becket, portrayed, following the play, as a Saxon protege and facilitator to the carousing King Henry, into a man who continually invokes the “honor of God”. Henry appoints Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury in order to have a close confidant in this position that he could completely control. Instead, Becket becomes a major thorn in his side in a jurisdictional dispute. Much of the plot concerns Henry, the “perennial adolescent” as described by the Bishop of London, who finds his duties as king and his stale arranged marriage to be oppressive. Early in the film, we see him escaping them through drunken forays onto the hunting grounds and local brothels. He is increasingly dependent on Becket, a Saxon commoner, who arranges these debaucheries when he is not busy running Henry’s court. This foments great resentment on the part of Henry’s Norman noblemen, who distrust and envy this Saxon upstart, as well as the queen and queen mother, who see Becket as an unnatural and unseemly influence upon the royal personage.

Henry finds himself in continuous conflict with the elderly Archbishop of Canterbury, who opposes the taxation of Church property in order to support Henry’s military campaigns in France (“Bishop, I must hire the Swiss Guards to fight for me – and no one has ever paid them off with good wishes and prayer!”). During one of his campaigns in coastal France, he receives word that the old bishop has “gone to God’s bosom”. In a burst of inspiration, Henry exercises his prerogative to pick the next Archbishop and informs an astonished Becket that he is the royal choice.

The film concludes with Henry, fresh from his whipping, publicly proclaiming Thomas Becket a saint and that the ones who had killed him will be justly punished.

Troy

  • Directors: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Producers: Wolfgang Petersen, Diana Rathbun, Colin Wilson, Brad Pitt
  • Writers: David Benioff
  • Genres: Action, History, Romance
  • Actors: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Peter O Toole, Diane Kruger

King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) of Mycenae is in Thessaly, Greece, with his army looking to expand territory and influence. On the battlefield, Agamemnon’s soldiers prepare to engage in combat against the army under the Thessalonian king, Triopas (Julian Glover). Rather than suffer great losses, Triopas agrees to Agamemnon’s proposal to settle the matter in the traditional way – through a decisive match between the best fighters of the opposing armies. Achilles (Brad Pitt) is summoned by Agamemnon, and after arriving, easily kills the Thessalonian champion Boagrius (Nathan Jones). Accepting defeat, Triopas presents Achilles with a scepter as a token for his king. But Achilles refuses, saying Agamemnon is not his king.

In Sparta, Prince Hector (Eric Bana) and his young brother Paris (Orlando Bloom) negotiate an end to the war between the outlying kingdom of Troy and Sparta. On the last day of a week-long peace festival, Paris manages to smuggle Helen (Diane Kruger), Menelaus’ (Brendan Gleeson) wife, back to Troy with him. Infuriated by Helen’s disappearance, Menelaus vows revenge. Meanwhile, Agamemnon (Menelaus’ brother), who had for years harbored plans for conquering Troy, decides to use his brother’s situation as a justification to invade Troy. He is advised by his general, Nestor (John Shrapnel), to call upon Achilles to fight for the Greeks, ensuring they can rally enough troops to the cause. Agamemnon relishes the prospect of gaining complete control over the Aegean Sea by conquering Troy.

After a last disorganized and futile attempt by surviving Trojan soldiers to repel the invaders, the battle ends and the Greeks storm the inner palace only to find that Achilles has died just a few moments earlier. Funeral rituals are performed for him the next morning. The movie ends with Odysseus delivering the final words: If they ever tell my story, let them say I walked with giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Hector, tamer of horses. Let them say I lived in the time of Achilles.

Ratatouille

  • Directors: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
  • Producers: Brad Lewis, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Galyn Susman
  • Writers: Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Bob Peterson
  • Genres: Animation, Comedy, Family
  • Actors: Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Peter Sohn, Brad Garrett, Ian Holm, Brian Dennehy, Janeane Garofalo, Peter O Toole

Remy is an irregular rat who lives in the attic of a French country home with his brother Emile and a pack led by his father Django. Gifted with a keen sense of smell and taste, Remy aspires to be a gourmet chef, inspired by France’s recently deceased top chef, Auguste Gusteau, but instead he is put to work sniffing for rat poison. When the pack is discovered by the home’s occupant, they flee into the sewers; Remy is separated and ends up aground underneath Gusteau’s restaurant in Paris.

Led by his imagination of Gusteau, Remy goes to the kitchen skylight to watch the kitchen in action during a service. There, he observes Alfredo Linguini, the son of Gusteau’s former lover, being hired as a janitor by Skinner, the restaurant’s current owner and Gusteau’s former sous-chef. When Linguini spills some of the soup and attempts to recreate it using random ingredients, Remy is horrified and falls into the kitchen; instead of escaping, Remy attempts to correct the soup. Remy is caught by Linguini just as Linguini is caught by Skinner, but before anyone can stop the serving staff, the soup is served and found to be a success. Colette, the staff’s only female chef, convinces Skinner to retain Linguini, believing him to be the success behind the soup. Linguini takes Remy home, realizing he cannot kill him as instructed by Skinner as Remy was the “little chef” that made the soup.

Gusteau’s restaurant is closed a short time later after a health inspector discovered the rats in the kitchen. Though Ego’s reputation is tarnished on reviewing a restaurant plagued with rats, he eagerly funds a popular new bistro, “La Ratatouille”, run by Linguini and Colette, featuring diner areas for both humans and rats and a kitchen designed for Remy to continue to cook in.

Lawrence of Arabia

  • Directors: David Lean
  • Producers: Sam Spiegel
  • Writers: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson
  • Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama, War
  • Actors: Peter O Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains

The film opens with Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) as a civilian, riding his motorcycle down a narrow English country road, only to be killed when he tries to avoid a collision with two boys who are bicycling on the wrong side of the road. At his memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral, reporters try to gain insights into this remarkable, but enigmatic, man from people who knew him, with little success.

The film then flashes back to Cairo during World War I, where Lawrence is a misfit army lieutenant, notable only for his insolence and knowledge of the Bedouin. Over the objections of a sceptical General Murray (Donald Wolfit), he is sent by Mr Dryden (Claude Rains) of the Arab Bureau to assess the prospects of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) in his revolt against the Turks.

On the journey, his Bedouin guide is killed by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) for drinking from a well without permission. Near Feisal’s camp, he encounters his superior officer, Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle), who orders him to keep quiet, make his assessment, and then leave. He promptly ignores these commands when he meets Feisal. His fine intellect and outspokenness pique the prince’s interest.

The Arabs set up a council to administer the city, but they are tribesmen, not a nation. Unable to maintain the electricity, telephones, and waterworks, and clashing constantly with each other, they soon abandon most of Damascus to the British. Lawrence is promoted to colonel and then immediately relieved of his command and sent home, his usefulness at an end. The negotiations are left to Feisal and the British and French diplomats. A dejected Lawrence is driven away in a staff car.