February 21st, 2007

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Amazing Grace" is a peaceful "Braveheart"

With heavy rotation of television spots during the Sunday morning news programs, "Amazing Grace" is being perceived as a costume drama from a long time ago. What the ads omit are the contemporary connection "Amazing Grace" will have by entertaining it's audience. This well acted drama speaks about important issues without being condescending or preachy. There is an ethics lesson that reveal that acts of meekness can transform the world.

"Amazing Grace" opens in the British rain as William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) witnesses two brutes beating a tired horse. His accomplice would like him to not get involved, but Wilberforce confronts the brutes with common sense; the horse beaters would accomplish their long tern goal if they let the horse rest for an hour instead of beating the creature. This opening scene best illustrates the major theme of "Amazing Grace."

 At this point in his career, Wilberforce has low opinion polls due to his moral conviction. Wilberforce opposes slavery. The courage of his convictions has made Wilberforce a sick man who is forced to rely on an opium mixture to ease his pain. During a late night conversation with young Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai), Wilberforce explains his failures in opposing slavery.

The movie flashbacks to Wilberforce’s younger years (he was elected to Parliament at age 21) and explains his friendship with William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch) the youngest ever Prime Minister at age 24. As he learns first hand about the stench of slavery from Thomas Clarkson (Rufus Sewell) Wilberforce forms a political action committee that includes Olaudah Equiano (Youssou N'Dour), a former slave turned best selling author. Providing political pragmatism is Lord Fox (Michael Gambon), a former opponent of Wilberforce. The Wilberforce crusade took twenty five years before Great Britian ended it’s slave trade. Thirty years later President Abraham Lincoln invoked the name of William Wilberforce in a speech and Harriet Beecher Stowe referenced him in her celebrated book, "Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Fortunately, Director Michael Apted focuses on the man and not the myth. The relationship between William and Barbara grows out of mutual respect from an imperfect blind date. The scenes of Parliament politics has the bite and gamesmanship of the Hannity and Colmes on FOX Cable News. The English countryside is enhanced by the gorgeous cinematography of Remi Adefarasin. All these elements come together to create a modern motion picture experience that made audience members laugh and cry.

Ioan Gruffudd confidently takes the lead and invests soulful intelligence to his interpretations of William Wlberforce. Romola Garai brings forth likeable strength as a young girl who matures into a maternal angel. Veteran actors Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell and Ciarán Hinds provide steely support in memorable character roles. "Amazing Grace" is a special motion picture that clocks in under two hours. The storytelling and attention to detail provides an epic feeling for ticket buyers. "Amazing Grace" is a peaceful "Braveheart." the film reveals the historical truth that good ideas eventually trump the preconceived notions of the status quo.  

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

At the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale

During lunch, I took a shuttle to the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. With helicopters flying overhead, the Anna Nicole trial is a local media event. Not many civilians were hanging out.
Howard K. Stern and, a few minutes later, Anna Nicole's mother exited to black SUVs. Both people had stonefaced and stressed expressions.

The most tender moment was seeing Officer William McGarry on duty. Three years ago in a routine investigation during Hurricane Jeanne, Officer McGarry was shot. Officer William McGarry helped keep law and order in the streets of Fort Lauderdale.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

The Amazing, the Fantastic and Titanic Ioan Gruffudd

The actor had been in South Florida a few hours, he had a full day with rush hour traffic while touring Dade, Palm Beach and Broward County for interviews. Ioan Gruffudd strode into Cinema Paradiso Thursday night dressed in black and received loud applause from the full house. Ioan then answered wide ranging questions about his career, historical knowledge, insights to his new "Fantastic Four" movie due for release in June and his current project "Amazing Grace."

Welsh born, Ioan is the son of educators. When asked if his parent's professional background had an influence on his choice of roles, Ioan replied; "My upbringing had an influence in that it exposed me to literature and you appreciate heroic parts. It was not a conscious choice, but these parts come along and the scripts were so good."

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), Ioan credits his training in managing his current success; "There is nothing that I came across in my career that I did not learn at RADA. You gain an incredible amount of confidence through education."

According to Internet Movie Database, Ioan has forty credits to his resume. In his most prolific roles, Ioan invests an honest and sincere quality and has yet to portray a rotten villain;

"That would be a challenge and it would be so much fun. It is hard for executives to see beyond what is presented and I usually get cast as the regular guy who is noble. I enjoy playing the leading man. You do not get the accolades like character actors, but I like being the character who carries the film."

 When not rescuing Kate Winslet from the sinking "Titanic" or circumnavigating the globe as Captain Horatio Hornblower, Ioan returns to the big screen this summer with "The Fantastic four Rise of the Silver Surfer." "I am contracted to do three films. If “The Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer” is successful this Summer, there will be a third movie. As an actor it is rare to have a gurantee of work, but “The Fantastic Four” raised my profile in the United States. It made me more bankable to be accepted to play Wilbur Wilberforce if not for “The Fantastic Four.”

"Amazing Grace" was a labor of love for the British cast. Ioan shares a brief scene with David Hunt, who is also one of the film's producers; "David is great fun . He is a British actor who lives in Hollywood and who is married to Patricia Heaton. He was proud to be involved in “Amazing Grace.” We had lots of banter about soccer (British Football) and he used to play professional soccer."

Of working with his costar and leading lady, Romla Garai; "We never worked together in the past. She was a delight, so young and gaining in confidence. It was a tough shoot for her being surrounded by men, but she held her own and she was feisty!" With two projects set to open, Ioan is awaiting his next business opportunity. He did mention that he would love to play a cowboy someday; "Westerns were a huge influence on me and they don't make them like them like they used to. I did do a whole movie on horseback in "King Arthur." Instead of carrying two guns, I carried two swords!" When pressed to name his favorite western, Ioan thought for a moment and replied, "The Magnificent Seven."