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Tom Hooper
Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall
Writing Credits:
David Seidler

When God couldn't save The King, The Queen turned to someone who could.

After the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the scandalous abdication of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), Bertie (Colin Firth) who has suffered from a debilitating speech impediment all his life, is suddenly crowned King George VI of England. With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). After a rough start, the two delve into an unorthodox course of treatment and eventually form an unbreakable bond. With the support of Logue, his family, his government and Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), the King will overcome his stammer and deliver a radio-address that inspires his people and unites them in battle. Based on the true story of King George VI, The King's Speech follows the Royal Monarch's quest to find his voice.

Box Office:
$15 million.
Opening Weekend
$355.450 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$136.586 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 4/19/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Tom Hooper
• “The King’s Speech: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship” Featurette
• Q&A with the Director and the Cast
• Speeches from the Real King George VI
• “The Real Lionel Logue” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The King's Speech [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 12, 2011)

If one wants evidence that the Oscars have become more progressive over the years, avoid the 2010 Best Picture results. Most people felt the race was between two films: The Social Network and The King’s Speech. Both showed a real contrast: one viewed the changes occurring in today’s society, while the other offered a look back into events that occurred 70-plus years ago. The two films offered contrasting styles, as Network was the hipper, edgier release while Speech seemed more staid effort.

Given Oscar’s past, it came as little surprise that the more traditional film won. Of course, we have no idea how close the results were, but when the trophies went around, Speech emerged victorious.

Prince Albert (Colin Firth) has a problem. Although his “job” as the Duke of York – and son of King George V (Michael Gambon) requires him to speak publicly, he often flops due to a terrible stammer. Attempts to address/fix this speech impediment go nowhere.

Until his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) locates Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist who uses unconventional means to help his patients. She gets Albert to visit and start sessions, though these don’t go smoothly.

Matters become more complicated due to a confluence of events. When George V dies, Albert’s brother Edward (Guy Pearce) ascends to the throne – only to abdicate within a short period of time because of controversy related to his love for Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), an American divorcee. This places Albert – renamed King George VI – on the throne and requires him to play a much bigger public role, especially when World War II forces him to speak to the nation.

Oscar fans love to ponder which years the Academy “got it wrong”. Some mistakes seem more obvious than others – the borderline awful Greatest Show on Earth over High Noon? – but we can find plenty of discussion fodder.

Barely before the telecast ended, fans were eager to proclaim 2010 A Year They Got It Wrong, and I find it hard to argue that. Social Network offered a real “movie’s movie”, an effort that took an inherently uncinematic tale and made it gripping viewing. It reminded us what a unique art form film can be.

King’s Speech? It was pleasant and enjoyable, but at no point does it threaten to innovate or deviate from a very well worn path. While totally professional and reasonably enjoyable, the film lacks anything to allow it to feel like a great cinematic achievement.

When my girlfriend and I emerged from a theatrical screening of Speech, I muttered that it was typical “stiff upper lip” British filmmaking and that it was well made but unexceptional. She came away with the impression that I hated the film, which wasn’t true; I simply didn’t think it was anything especially notable.

That doesn’t make it unenjoyable; it just makes it stale. On the positive side, as I mentioned, Speech offers an eminently competent, professional production. It comes with a stable of excellent actors; none of them break a sweat, but they all make their characters well-rounded and interesting to watch.

Along the same lines, director Tom Hooper delivers a well-crafted tale, and the script keeps us reasonably involved with the characters and narrative. Yeah, it probably shouldn’t grab for two climaxes; it should’ve ended with George’s coronation and not gone for another “big moment to prove he can talk” with the start of WWII. Nonetheless, that’s a minor quibble.

So what is it about Speech that leaves me cold? For me, it loses points mostly due to an extreme Been There, Done That factor. Sure, I can find skillions of movies that fall into the same category; after more than a century of cinema, there’s not a whole lot left under the sun. Nonetheless, Speech still felt like something we’d seen many, many times, and I don’t think it added anything to its genre.

Essentially, Speech takes on the Miracle Worker mindset, though with a) less of a challenge and b) a more notable main subject. It also throws in more than a little Good Will Hunting, as Logue acts as both speech therapist and analyst.

So what does this leave us? A movie about a king with daddy issues who overcomes them so he can sound good on the radio. Speech follows utterly predictable paths to get there, and it doesn’t deliver new twists along the way.

Others have indicated that there’s nothing especially cinematic about Speech, and I agree. The film doesn’t play much differently than something you’d see on Masterpiece Theater, and it never gives us something that screams MOVIE. Not that all big-screen affairs need to dominate and shout, but I’d like something that feels at home in theaters, not something that seems equally well suited for the TV.

In the end, that Been There, Done That factor remains the movie’s biggest problem. At all times, The King’s Speech seems professional and engaging. It’s just not something especially original, creative or impactful, and it certainly didn’t deserve on a list of Oscar Best Picture winners.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

The King’s Speech appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though not stellar, the transfer was usually good.

Some minor issues with sharpness arose. At times, wide shots looked a bit on the soft side and lacked expected delineation. However, those instances were infrequent, so the majority of the movie appeared accurate and concise. I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

Many period pieces opt for subdued palettes, and that was definitely true here. The colors of Speech tended toward gray tones, with virtually no vivid hues on display; we got occasional burgundy reds but nothing particularly memorable. Still, these were fine given the stylistic choices. Blacks seemed dark and right, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. Though this wasn’t a great transfer, it was strong enough for a “B”.

A movie about speech therapy wouldn’t seem to be a candidate for a dynamic soundtrack, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Speech fell into expected realms. This was a chatty flick, though it occasionally displayed lively elements. Outdoor speeches offered reverb around the room, and various vehicles moved across different speakers. These were pretty infrequent, though, as good stereo music and general ambience ruled the day. These gave us a decent sense of place but rarely much more.

Audio quality satisfied. Music was full and rich, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy. Speech – obviously an important factor here – appeared concise and crisp. Nothing here soared, but it all seemed positive.

Though not packed with extras, the disc includes a few components. We open with an audio commentary from director Tom Hooper. He delivers a running, screen-specific take on story, script and history, cast, characters and performances, editing and deleted scenes, music and cinematography, sets and locations, and a few other production areas.

Hooper’s track for Damned United involved others as well. It informed and entertained, and Hooper continues to do so on his own. He covers a good array of topics here and makes the commentary move along well. We learn a lot about the flick in this educational piece.

Next we get a featurette called The King’s Speech: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship. It goes for 23 minutes, one second and features Hooper, producer Iain Canning, screenwriter David Seidler, and actors Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle, and Helena Bonham Carter. The show looks at the story and characters, cast and performances, Hooper’s work on the set, costume and set design, cinematography and music, and research.

With 23 minutes at its disposal, I hoped “Story” would offer more than the standard promotional piece. Alas, it doesn’t. We get basics about the shoot but not much more than that, as we find lots of praise and only a little info. It’s not an unpleasant program, but it won’t educate you much about the production.

More info shows up via a Q&A with the Director and the Cast. Moderated by KCRW Director of Program Development Matt Holzman, it runs 22 minutes, two seconds and provides notes from Hooper, Pearce, Carter, Firth, and actor Claire Bloom. “Q&A” looks at cast and performances, characters, research and history. Given the nature of the participants, acting concerns dominate, and that’s fine with me. Those involved offer solid notes about their work, and we find good humor as well. This is a likable, engaging program.

Two Speeches from the Real King George VI follow. We find “Pre-War Speech (9/3/39)” (5:40) and “Post-War Speech (5/14/45)” (2:28). After so much of Firth’s George, it’s great to hear from the real thing. (Note that the 1939 clip is audio only but the 1945 piece features film of George.)

Finally, we learn about The Real Lionel Logue. In this 10-minute, 34-second featurette, we hear from Logue’s grandson Mark. He tells us a bit about his grandfather’s life and work as well as his own involvement in the film’s creation. This isn’t a great program, but it offers some nice details about one of the movie’s main characters.

The disc opens with ads for Blue Valentine and The Company Men. The Blu-ray also tosses in a PSA for the Stuttering Foundation. No trailer for Speech appears here.

With a Best Picture victory at the Oscars, The King’s Speech achieved an instant form of immortality – an undeserved form of immortality, however. While the movie seems totally professional and reasonably enjoyable, it lacks a real creative spark and never turns into anything especially memorable. The Blu-ray comes with fairly good picture and audio as well as a reasonably useful set of supplements. Speech delivers an interesting enough movie but not one I find to be great.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0526 Stars Number of Votes: 19
2 3:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main