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The Lion in Winter

3.9 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Patrick Stewart, Glenn Close. The strong-willed Queen Eleanor of Aquitane fights a battle of wills for England's future against King Henry II in this classic historical drama. 2003/color/167 min/NR/fullscreen.


Schemes and double-crosses abound in The Lion in Winter, the story of England's King Henry II (Patrick Stewart, Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men) as he manipulates (and is counter-manipulated) by his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons, Fatal Attraction), and their three ambitious sons, each of whom hopes to ascend to the throne. The ghost of the 1968 film version hangs over this 2003 miniseries; Stewart and Close can't match Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn in that classic. Nonetheless this new version is solid work, and though the witty dialogue verges into camp, the script's cunningly orchestrated machinations work like a charm, drawing the viewer in with every fiendish ploy and overturned expectation. Also featuring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Velvet Goldmine, Bend It Like Beckham) as the King of France. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

  • Making-of featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Glenn Close, Andrew Howard, Antal Konrád, John Light, Soma Marko
  • Directors: Andrey Konchalovskiy
  • Writers: James Goldman
  • Producers: Patrick Stewart, Dyson Lovell, Martin Poll, Paul Lowin, Robert Halmi Jr.
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: July 20, 2004
  • Run Time: 167 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000255LIY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,041 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Lion in Winter" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The 1968 screen version of THE LION IN WINTER (Lion1) is the most excellent film I've ever seen, or likely will see in my lifetime. But, I've a lot to say about various aspects of this new version (Lion2), so I'd better get on with it. I'll make an effort to be evenhanded.

First, a concise history lesson in the context of the film.

King Henry II of England is also overlord of Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and half of France. Henry keeps his wife Eleanor, the Duchess of Aquitaine and the former first wife of King Louis VII of France, under house arrest in Salisbury Castle for revolting against him. In better times, Henry and Eleanor had, in addition to three daughters, five sons: (in order of birth) William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, and John. William died at age three. Henry, the anointed heir, died aged 28 in the summer of 1183. It's now the Yuletide season of that year, and Henry II is holding Christmas court at his French stronghold, Castle Chinon. (To be accurate, there's no record of a Christmas court at Chinon in 1183, but that's irrelevant to the essential theme and tone of the story.) Joining him are his surviving sons and, released from confinement for the festive occasion, Queen Eleanor. An aging Henry wishes to cement his succession. His favorite is John. Eleanor's is Richard. Geoffrey, nobody's favorite, maneuvers to get what he can. Complicating the gathering is the presence of Princess Alais and King Phillip II of France. Alais, Louis VII's daughter by his second wife, was betrothed to Richard by treaty between Henry and Louis when she was but a child. Alais has been living at the English court for years, and is Henry's mistress.
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I'm such a big fan of the 1968 version, I was really leery of watching this, but I'm not sorry I did. The costumes and the set of the castle of Chinon are wonderful. I thought Glenn Close was every bit as good as Katherine Hepburn - they are different actresses of course, but I admired Glenn Close's performance just as much. I really liked Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as King Philip -- his performance is excellent. And I appreciated the way all the characters delivered their lines in this teleplay - for the most part, their delivery was natural, and the words flowed like actual conversation; less like a "play", with more reality.

BUT. I had a problem with Patrick Stewart's performance. It's good enough, as far as performances go. I kept trying not to compare it with Peter O'Toole's, but I missed that triumphant bellowing, that presence, the "oomph". I thought Patrick Stewart was a little too down-key - perhaps too reserved. He has such a marvelous voice, I would have liked him to use it to its best effect. In the quiet scenes, he's OK, but he really needed to turn on the juice for the anger, the hurt at John's betrayal, etc.

Unfortunately, I didn't care for the actors who played Richard, Geoffrey and John. None of these performances stood out, except perhaps the Geoffrey character was successful in showing the hurt he suffered from his parents' ignoring him all his life. He was twisted (as he's referred to in the teleplay) by this neglect, and at least a viewer has a sense of that from this performance. But on a whole, the actors who played the sons in the 1968 film gave much better performances.

All in all, I liked this teleplay, but I love the 1968 version. That's the one I have to wholeheartedly recommend.
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Format: DVD
Showtime Television has more sophistication in building films than most commercial movie studios and nowhere is that fact more evident than in the 're-make' of THE LION IN WINTER. Though some would say, "Why make another version of the 1968 Hepburn/O'Toole award winning movie", to those I would ask, "Why continue to reprise the the superb play by James Goldman in theaters around the country?" Simply, the play is just that good - an exciting mix of history as explored through the dysfunctional family syndrome tying it all together.
The photography of France (as viewed through Slovakia and Hungary settings) in the late 12th century is magnificent, both in exteriors ( Eleanor's entrance on the barge is as grand as Cleopatra's any day!) and in the dank and dark interiors that serve the plot so well. Glenn Close is radiant and in pitch perfect form as Eleanor of Aquitane, the Queen of England to Henry II's King (Patrick Stewart is fine fettle) and who has been imprisoned for 10 years for 'treason'. The couple has three sons and one must be named Henry's successor, but which one - Richard (historically to be known as The Lionhearted), the wily Jeffrey, or the buffoon but beloved of Henry, John? (All three of these roles are in capable hands). Eleanor is released from her prison castle for a Christmas Celebration and the entire play takes place during these two stormy days. The struggle of equally powerful wills of Eleanor and Henry are superimposed on the greed of the three sons, and made more pointed by the arrival of the King of France, Philip (played with complete credibility by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Intrigue abounds, secrets long held are made known, and treachery is omnipresent.
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