Based on a true story, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is a charming, delightful film from director Stephen Frears about an English aristocrat, Laura Henderson (played deliciously by Judi Dench), who decides to buy a rundown theater after the death of her late husband. London's Windmill Theatre is given new life by Henderson's money and by the artistic vision of Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins), who is hired to manage the theater. The onscreen chemistry between Dench's rather haughty and interfering Laura Henderson and Hoskins's short-tempered and independent Van Damm is wonderful to watch.
At first, Van Damm has great success with the staging of innovative, continuous performances, but he is soon copied by the rest of London's theater world, and the Windmill is back to square one. Laura encourages Van Damm to be different by moving the Windmill in a radically new direction: nude girls! The Windmill is thus transformed into a burlesque house despite the initial objections of the Lord Chamberlain. The nude performances at the Windmill are not at all tawdry, but quite tasteful and become a beacon of hope and a haven of pleasure for Londoners trying to escape the devastating Blitz in 1940.
The stage performances include music and dance numbers from the World War II era, and they are lovingly re-created by a talented cast, including Will Young as Bertie, the theater's choreographer, and Kelly Reilly as Maureen, a rural English girl accidentally discovered by Van Damm. You may remember Reilly as the English student named Wendy from 2002's L'Auberge Espagnole. She has won critical acclaim for her stage work in England and is on the verge of becoming a major star.
If you are tired of the constant stream of dark and depressing movies of recent months, try a stop at the ol' Windmill with Mrs. Henderson -- you'll leave with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
-- Ray Barker, Buffalo
A movie that I truly anticipated seeing this year was "The Chronicles of Narnia." When I finally saw it, I was not disappointed.
The film completely transports you, heart and soul, into this magical land created by C.S. Lewis. It was both poignant and breathtaking, offering a glimpse into Lewis' genius of the written word. This film appealed to human emotion, provoking laughter, thoughtfulness and tears. It was one of the best films of the year in screenplay, direction and content. The refreshing innocence of the whole project left a satisfied feeling in the hearts and minds of its viewers.
-- Samantha Stryker, Alexander