Vanity and Virtue

Beauty and the Beast

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Hattie Morahan, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack

When Disney does a live action version of a classic animated film, audiences know they are going to do it brilliantly. Beauty and the Beast is absolutely superb and extremely enjoyable viewing.

If audiences are going to pay for one cinema ticket this year, buy a ticket for Beauty and the Beast.

Originally based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, Beauty and the Beast is an extraordinary visual feast.

The first aspect Disney got right was the crucial casting of Beauty and the Beast. With a mostly British cast, Belle is played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) and the Beast played by Dan Stevens who rose to fame in Julian Fellowes BBC hit series Downton Abbey. For the real villain of the piece, Welsh actor Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) is cast as the arrogant Gaston and Josh Gad stars as his sidekick Lefou.

Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish called Wanda) plays Belle’s hapless father Maurice who during a journey to the market is side tracked by vicious wolves and lands up as an unwitting guest of the Beast in his cavernous castle with only talking furniture for company.

The flamboyant candelabra Lumiere is played by Ewan McGregor (Our Kind of Traitor) and the mantel piece clock Cogsworth is wonderfully played by Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters, Mr Holmes) while the teapot Mrs Potts is voiced by Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End). Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion) plays Plumette and Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) voices the maestro Cadenza.

What really makes Beauty and the Beast so lovely is the music, the music and the music. From the director of Dreamgirls and Gods and Monsters Bill Condon delivers a fantastic film retaining the story’s authentic fairy tale which deftly combines romance with action and music. Beauty and the Beast has gorgeous costumes designed by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) accompanying the film’s exceptional production design by Sarah Greenwood.

Both the headstrong Belle and the grumpy Beast form an unlikely romance overcoming vanity and retaining virtue while they have to compete against the duplicitous Gaston and break the immortal spell cast on the Beast and his lively accompaniments.

Highly recommended viewing for all age groups, Beauty and the Beast gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

Although running at over two hours this Disney fantasy musical is worth watching and audiences should stay seated to watch the spectacular end credits.

 

Cerebral Survivors

Ghost in the Shell

Director: Rupert Sanders

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Peter Ferdinado, Daniel Henshall, Yutaka Izumihara, Chin Han

Humanity’s tendency towards self-destruction and rejuvenation is carefully examined in director Rupert Sanders futuristic thriller Ghost in the Shell featuring Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation), Michael Pitt and Danish actor Pilou Asbaek.

Drawing influences from Ridley Scott’s ground breaking film Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell is based on a manga or Japanese comic of the same name by Masamune Shirow .

Johansson plays a cybernetically enhanced soldier with a human brain and a robot body Major who specializes in counter terrorism. Set in an advanced rendition of a nameless Asian city in the future with holographic images projected onto luminous skyscrapers, Major goes into retrieve a cyber geisha who hacks into the augmented brain of a corporate designer who is murdered.

As the backstory of Ghost in the Shell unfolds, Major was designed by Dr Ouerlet played with suitable panache by Oscar winning French actress Juliette Binoche (The English Patient). However when Dr Ouerlet is also targeted by cyber humans Major along with the assistance of Batou played by Danish actor Pilou Asbaek rushes to save her creator.

As Batou and Major trace the hack to a Yakuza nightclub, Batou gets injured in an explosion while Major confronts the source of the hack, the mysterious Kuze awkwardly played by American actor Michael Pitt who first rose to fame by appearing naked alongside Eva Green and Louis Garrel (Saint Laurent) in Bernardo Bertolucci’s ménage-a-trois film The Dreamers set in Paris in 1968.

Major experiences glitches or flashbacks to her former life and embarks on a quest to find out what really happened to her human body before she was cyber enhanced by the mysterious Tanka corporation run by the crazed CEO Cutter played by British character actor Peter Ferdinando (300: Rise of an Empire).

Despite the convoluted plot, is Ghost in the Shell worth watching?

If you are a serious fan of Anime yes. If you enjoyed Blade Runner, this sci-fi film will certainly not live up to expectations and occasionally be lost in translation.

Visually the film is astounding, yet in terms of originality Ghost in the Shell is nothing extraordinary and many of the philosophical reference points will be lost as the narrative descends into another inexplicable action film.

Cinema enthusiasts should note that Masamune Shirow original manga was heavily influenced by the Hungarian philosopher Arthur Koestler non-fiction 1967 publication Ghost in the Machine about humanity’s ability to self-destruct based on the Phenomenological concept of mind body dualism introduced by British behaviourist philosopher Gilbert Ryle in his 1949 book Concept of the Mind.

Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of experiences and consciousness something which director Rupert Sanders attempts to convey in Ghost in the Shell through Johansson’s firm portrayal of Major rediscovering her anatomical past.

Ghost in the Shell gets a rating of 7 out of 10 enhanced by its glossy visual effects although the acting needed serious stimulation and the bizarre characters required an authenticity check.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ghost_in_the_Machine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Koestler#Fiction_.28nove

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manga = Japanese Manga

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anime – Anime = Japanese hand drawn or computer animation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenomenology (philosophy) – Phenomenology = philosophical study of structures and experiences

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_Ryle

Goodbye Moon, Goodbye Stars

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare

What made director Ridley Scott’s The Martian such an enjoyable film was the emotional tension between Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney stuck on Mars and the ground crew desperately trying to return him safely back to earth. This emotional tension is lacking in Safe House director Daniel Espinosa’s sci-fi thriller Life, which has an unimaginative title.

This sci fi thriller Life should not be confused with the 2015 Anton Corijn film Life about James Dean or the earlier film 1999 Eddie Murphy film also called Life. Seriously, couldn’t the screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick think up a more imaginative title?

Except for the onscreen chemistry between Rebecca Ferguson (Florence Foster Jenkins) as Dr Miranda North and Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) playing Dr David Jordan on board the doomed International Space Station circling above Earth, Life relies too heavily on the storyline of Ridley Scott’s Alien film franchise without delivering any of the inherent shock value.

Life centres on a multinational group of astronauts who inexplicably bring back a living organism from Mars which is initially carefully nurtured by Hugh Derry played by Ariyon Bakare. The organism is affectionately nicknamed Calvin and only through a brief sequence shot in Time Square in New York featuring children looking forward to humanity’s future with this alien life form still supposedly being cultivated safely on the space station above our planet.

Soon things go horribly wrong as Calvin turns into a malevolent starfish which transforms into a bloodsucking slimy creature intent on destroying all humans on board the spaceship. As each of the crew members starts dying off, Life tries to keep the visual intensity going with some superb camera work yet fails to deliver an original storyline.

Set almost entirely on board the spaceship, Life is as bland as the visually impressive Morten Tyldum film Passengers. Both films just fail to engage although at least with Passengers the sexy chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence was far more palpable.

Daniel Espinosa’s Life is watchable viewing held together by a brilliant twist at the end but unfortunately the story line is nothing original even lacking in orchestrated suspense. Ultimately, Life suffers from falling under the shadow of a far more superior horror film, Ridley Scott’s 1979 smash hit Alien featuring a breath taking performance by Sigourney Weaver as Ripley.

A watchable but not brilliant film, Life unfortunately succumbs to an overpopulated film genre which has been outstripped by the Alien franchise and more recently Alphonso Cuaron’s Oscar winning Gravity.

Despite the inventive camera work, Espinosa’s Life gets a rating of 6.5 out of 10.

 

 

The Man, the Myth, the Mayhem

John Wick Chapter Two

Director: Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick

The image of the lone survivor battling against a gritty and unrepentant underworld pervades director Chad Stahelski’s operatic sequel to John Wick, simply titled John Wick Chapter Two set in New York and Rome.

Starring action front man Keanu Reeves as John Wick, the second film obviously has a bigger budget and definitely has revitalized Reeves’s career after his millennial peak in The Matrix Trilogy.

Keanu Reeves has a fascinating filmography first spotted as Glenn Close’s young lover in Stephen Frears’s sumptuous film Dangerous Liaisons and then as a King Henry VI type character in Gus van Sant’s landmark film My Own Private Idaho. Reeves then gained studio attention with the success of the action film Speed opposite Sandra Bullock. Keanu Reeves strengthened his position as bankable star in the Wachowski’s global post-apocalyptic phenomenon The Matrix Trilogy.

John Wick Chapter Two follows John Wick’s attempts to retire after he extricates his 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 from a creepy Russian mob boss, a brief appearance by Peter Stormare. The film’s opening sequence features a violent car chase sequence in New York which forcefully grabs audience’s attention immediately and never let’s go.

The plot point of the film comes when John Wick is visited by an Italian mob boss Santino D’Antonio played with psychopathic relish by Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt) who requests Wick, a professional assassin to kill his rival, Santino’s sister Gianna played by Claudia Gerini who has inadvertently inherited the title of becoming the head of an influential Italian crime family much to her brother’s horror. Gianna is protected by another loyal hitman Cassian lethally played by Common as she hosts a decadent party in Rome celebrating her new title.

As John Wick arrives in Rome, the film takes on a hyper-realized style and the consequent shootout in the catacombs below the Italian capital are brilliant in their execution and expedient its violent body count. The action in the Roman sequence is frenzied leaving audiences bloodthirsty like spectators at the Coliseum breathlessly wanting more spectacle.

The third act of the film swiftly moves back to New York where John Wick has to not only battle Santino but also seeks counsel from Winston, an enigmatic performance by Ian McShane, who is head of a covert league of assassins who are all governed by an intricate set of rules which is meant to keep killing down to a sort of stylized etiquette. No one is to be killed inside the Continental, an elegant establishment where assassins can check in and rest in between their lethal assignments. Perhaps even grab a cocktail together at the hotel bar.

With a welcome appearance by Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King who has a network of homeless people protecting him and assisting John Wick, the third act gets propelled into a vicious cycle of retribution.

John Wick Chapter Two delivers on all fronts, from complex fight sequences, to exotic and memorable locations including the elaborate final shootout at the Lincoln Centre amidst an exhibition entitled Reflections of the Soul, which director Stahelski is surely paying homage to the Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

Certainly the mayhem is overkill, yet the man and myth of John Wick Chapter Two lives up to expectations definitely pointing to another bloodthirsty sequel. This film gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Where Myths and Science Meet

Kong: Skull Island

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Richard Jenkins, Thomas Mann

The allusions to Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s novel The Heart of Darkness are rife in newcomer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts action packed seventies set adventure film Kong: Skull Island.

Featuring an international cast including British actor Tom Hiddleston, Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room), John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly and Tian Jing (The Great Wall), Kong: Skull Island wastes no time on characterization or dramatic build up but rushes straight into an adrenaline filled action film set at the end of the Vietnam war in 1973.

With a retro seventies soundtrack to match, Bill Randa played by John Goodman and Houston Brooks played by 24: Legacy’s Corey Hawkins get the go ahead from Senator Willis briefly played by Richard Jenkins (Eat, Pray, Love) to assemble a  military team and journey to a mysterious storm ridden island in the South Pacific on an exploratory mission.

The team consists of soldiers hanging for some more action after the American withdrawal from Vietnam including Preston Packard played by Samuel L. Jackson and Cole played by Shea Whigham (American Hustle) along with anti-war photographer Mason Weaver played by Larson and golden boy James Conrad, played by Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World).

As they approach Skull Island and drop seismic charges on the lush and malignant landscape, the team soon discover that a massive beast is guarding the island from vicious lizards. That beast is King Kong, that giant gorilla last seen on top of the Empire State building with a blond in his palm. Reference Peter Jackson’s 2005 epic King Kong.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cleverly wastes no time in cutting straight to the action as various teams on the island are separated only to be individually preyed upon by a variety of nefarious creatures including giant spiders. While Packard and his band of mercenary soldiers are keen on annihilating Kong, Mason and James stumble upon Hank Marlow, a crazed but good natured World War II pilot who accidentally landed on Skull Island back in 1944 and never left, even befriending the silent locals who worship Kong as their sole protector.

Marlow is superbly played by character actor John C. Reilly, a role clearly referencing Dennis Hopper’s frenetic photojournalist in Apocalypse Now without the looming intensity of a Mister Kurtz watching over his horrific empire. Reilly brings empathy to the role of Marlow, another clear reference to The Heart of Darkness and advises the more sympathetic team that Kong is not that bad. A fact which is vividly illustrated by Mason Weaver’s wonderful encounter with the gigantic beast.

Brie Larson gives a resilient performance as the only strong female lead in a basically all male film and has the best screen time with Kong, realizing that much like those brave soldiers hunting Kong, they are all as confused about this rapid reversal in the environmental food chain.

Kong: Skull Island is unadulterated adventure, punctuated with cool photographic stills of exotic ethnography to capture a unique and terrifying experience where myth and science meet.

With the help of a groovy seventies soundtrack and a stand out performance by John C. Reilly, Kong Skull Island gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing.

 

The Great Western Claw Slinger

Logan

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) has become synonymous with the role of the mutant Wolverine since Bryan Singer’s first film The X Men back in 2000. Now seventeen years later, Jackman reprises his role in director James Mangold’s cleverly titled Logan a sort of follow up to The Wolverine back in 2013.

The year is 2029 and there appears to be an absence of mutants on Earth, an arid planet ravaged by decades of global warming. Mangold who directed the tense Western 3:10 to Yuma seamlessly blends frontier mythology into Logan right from the beginning as audiences first see Logan aka The Wolverine in El Paso, Texas as a washed up middle aged Uber limo driver, all hairy and hard to like.

Logan is taking care of a frail and delusional yet still powerful Charles Xavier, a brilliant performance by Patrick Stewart, who has reprised his role in most of the X-Men movies.

Xavier keeps telling Logan that there is still one more powerful mutant out there. In a desperate call for help, Logan gets called to the shady motel room of Mexican immigrant Gabriela played by Orange is the New Black star Elizabeth Rodriguez who pleads with him to take the mysterious young girl Laura wonderfully played with an immense screen intensity by newcomer Dafne Keen to Canada for safety.

Soon X-Men adversary Donald Pierce and his band of nefarious gang members appear intent on hunting and killing Laura. Pierce, played by Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl, The Skeleton Twins) is actually the henchman of mastermind Dr Rice wonderfully played by Richard E. Grant (Jackie, The Iron Lady) who unbeknownst to anyone has been harvesting mutant children in a dodgy clinic in Mexico City.

As Logan, Laura and Xavier head off across country from El Paso through to Oklahoma City, screenwriters Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green turn Logan into a Neo-Western road film, a more gritty adventure even referencing some classic Western films like director George Stevens 1953 film Shane and unlike the more CGI orientated X-Men films, Logan is more violent, nostalgic and resonates with a more mature audience. That predominately male audience is presumably the same viewers that started following The X-Men films back in 2000.

Jackman is suitably tough, menacing and conflicted as Logan and Dafne Keen who swops between Spanish and English is wonderful as the bratty teenage mutant, but what really gives Logan that gravitas is Patrick Stewart’s superbly dry performance as Xavier, once head of the school for mutants, but now a bitter and twisted old man being hunted by some evil cloners.

Logan is highly enjoyable and delivers on the action front with some stunning and violent action sequences especially in the first half of the film. However, the last quarter of the film could have been edited for dramatic effect despite the surprisingly poignant ending.

Walk the Line director James Mangold’s Logan gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Ultimately, the return of the hairy man aka The Wolverine has past his macho prime, yet his ferocious decline is highly entertaining viewing.

 

History, Identity, Beauty

Jackie

Director: Pablo Larrain

Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt, John Carroll Lynch, Caspar Phillipson, Beth Grant, Max Casella

Producer Darren Aronofsky and Chilean director Pablo Larrain bring an exquisite and heart wrenching portrait of Jackie Kennedy just moments after her husband President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas on the 22nd November 1963 in Jackie.

Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is sublime as Jackie and considering that she is in virtually every frame of the film, shot in mostly extreme close up, Portman delivers a poignant portrait of Jackie as she is suddenly stripped of her position as first lady while also dealing with suddenly becoming a young widow to two small children, John and Caroline Kennedy.

Simultaneously, Larrain explores the mythical concepts of History, Identity and Beauty as Jackie has to boldly deal with the aftermath of an assassination and the claustrophobia of grief intertwined with state politics and diplomacy.

Jackie has to decide what type of funeral she would like for John F. Kennedy and amidst the security concerns following her husband’s dramatic assassination, she opts for a full length funeral parade, which symbolically become the most watched event on American Television in the early 1960’s.

Screenwriter Noah Oppenheimer’s seductive script pulls viewers into the traumatic world of Jackie Kennedy, deconstructing the myth of a debutante stripped of her power, yet ironically her glamour and poise managed to embed itself in the American psyche for decades after her role as the First Lady of the United States.

Jackie is a stunning, visually dazzling historical portrait of a very specific moment in American history, the aftermath of one of the most pivotal assassinations, which irreparably changed the course of American politics and society redefining the 1960’s as a tumultuous decade. Cleverly what the film does not do is delve into any conspiracy theories surrounding the infamous assassination, but exclusively focuses on how Jackie deals with the funeral and subsequent interviews afterwards.

Audiences should look out for strong supporting roles by Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine) as Bobbie Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as loyal assistant Nancy Tuckerman and John Hurt as unnamed priest who Jackie confides in. Incidentally Jackie was one of Hurt’s last films before he died in 2017.

The costumes by Madeline Fontaine, which she won a 2017 BAFTA Award for, are gorgeous clearly recreating the iconic style of Jackie Kennedy and the production design by Jean Rabasse (The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen) is equally fitting.

What makes Jackie so inspiring is the unconventional approach of Larrain’s direction as he inter cuts scenes of the massive funeral march in Washington DC with the graphic violence of the actual assassination in the backseat of a convertible sedan speeding along a Dallas highway, blood stains on Jackie’s pink Chanel suit.

Like director Barry Jenkins’s Oscar winning film Moonlight, Jackie intensely captures the audience’s attention and never let’s go, anchored by a brilliant performance by Natalie Portman who in my opinion should have won the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 2017 Oscars, although perhaps the odds were stacked in favour of Emma Stone winning for La La Land.

Gorgeous, riveting and emotionally draining, Jackie is a vivid and intricate tour de force of an iconic figure who used her widowhood to become more famous, made all the more touching by the scenes with her two very young children.

My film rating for Jackie is 10/10. Having directed an exceptionally vivid film, director Pablo Larrain is a talent to watch out for.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_John_F._Kennedy

 

 

Monsters and Black Powder

The Great Wall

Director: Zhang Yimou

Cast: Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Tian Jing, Lu Han, Eddie Peng, Kenny Lin

Chinese director Zhang Yimou has contributed immensely to Chinese cinema and that of the world. His exceptional films include Curse of the Golden Flower, House of Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern which won the Bafta for Best Foreign Language Film back in 1993. His more recent works include Hero, Flowers of War and more recently Coming Home.

Almost all of Yimou’s films are in Chinese featuring an oriental cast yet after he made Flowers of War with Oscar winner Christian Bale it was only natural that Hollywood would court him with the lucrative offer of making a Big Budget action film. The Great Wall starring Oscar winner Matt Damon and Chilean actor Pedro Pascal recently seen in HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones has been ridiculed for its casting and its implausible plot.

Yet despite all its detractors, Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall, a historical fantasy epic is still breath taking to be hold even if the script and the acting needed some rescuing. Damon and Pascal play European mercenaries who land up at the Great Wall of China only to be imprisoned by Commander Lin played by Tian Jing. The Europeans so oddly out of place in ancient China especially when Pascal’s character Tovar keeps on saying amigo are embroiled in an ancient battle against the Tao Tse, vicious monster like creatures which periodically attack the historic fortification.

Damon stars as William and Pascal plays Spanish mercenary Tovar who join the fight aided by a desire to steal gun powder from the Chinese and take back to Europe to bolster the many continental wars raging far away in England and Spain. Instead they are unwillingly co-opted by The Nameless Order to fight these savage beasts and protect the ancient Chinese city from being invaded and destroyed.

Whilst the battle sequences are breath taking and the fight sequences are watchable, this is by no means Zhang Yimou’s best work. Perhaps he should stick to an all Chinese cast and rather do imperial films about ancient China which he was so brilliant at directing especially the visually spectacular Raise the Red Lantern.

The Westernization of this great Chinese director is not good if The Great Wall is anything to go by. Whilst the action fantasy film is enjoyable it’s by no means brilliant.

And what was Matt Damon thinking? He did The Great Wall after The Martian, which as in both films he is equally out of place in. Even Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Shadow of a Vampire) looks bewildered in The Great Wall playing Ballard, a double crossing European trader who is only after the Black Powder.

Despite all the monsters and lavish battle sequences, director Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall only scores a 6 out of 10 which doesn’t bode well for future Chinese American co-productions especially considering that this film bombed at the North American box office.

On the up side, The Great Wall remained number 2 on the South African box office for a second consecutive week.

Pittsburgh Patriachy

Fences

Director: Denzel Washington

Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson

Viola Davis gives a career defining performance in Fences, the big screen adaptation of the Pulitizer Prize winning play by August Wilson directed and starring Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Training Day, Glory). Davis whose previous credits include The Help, Eat, Pray, Love and Doubt recently won all the major acting awards including the Golden Globe, the Bafta and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the 89th Academy Awards in February 2017.

Her performance in Fences is a testament to her immense talent. Davis plays Rose Maxson opposite Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson, a 1950’s African American garbage collector in Pittsburgh who punishes his sons for his own failed dreams.

Denzel Washington inhabits the screen in his larger than life portrayal of Troy, the Pittsburgh patriarch who is intent on demonstrating how hard he has worked to keep his family together, only to reveal far deeper character flaws and underlying fragility which comes out in the play’s stunning second act.

Troy’s sons Lyons and Cory, played by Russell Hornsby and Jovan Adepo are continually chided for pursuing their own dreams. Lyons, a son from Troy’s first relationship wants to be a jazz musician while the teenage Cory wonderfully played by Adepo is constantly held back from participating in the city’s football league merely because his father’s dreams of becoming a major football player were dashed at a young age.

Wilson carefully scripts the conflict scenes between Troy and Cory as they clash over ambition, careers and what is holding them back. Fences is about a working class African American family held together by Rose, as the mother figure who has to contend with all this male egotism and bravado, only to stoically continue when she is unforgivably betrayed.

Like all films based on plays, the action is limited to the Maxson’s house  and backyard where domestic clashes are played out in brilliant dialogue which requires exceptional acting capabilities. When Rose discovers a serious transgression of Troy, her security is shattered and her devotion to her husband is undoubtedly brought into question, causing a significant rift between Troy and Cory who cannot forgive his father for what he has done to his mother.

Directed by Denzel Washington and featuring brilliant performances by the entire cast, Fences is a superb film adaptation of an American classic elevating the lives of ordinary working class people to extraordinary clarity amidst a time when historically America was transforming through the significant Civil Rights movement. When JFK and Martin Luther King heralded a new decade in American politics defined by radical change and constant upheaval.

When the youth especially Cory and Lyons start questioning the wisdom of their parents decisions and more specifically their spectacular mistakes. Audiences should watch out for a particularly outstanding performance by Mykelti Williamson (Forest Gump, Heat, Con Air) as Troy’s disabled brother Gabriel.

Washington and Davis are electrifying as husband and wife and their screen time is a cinematic gem. Fences is highly recommended viewing, a brilliant film made all the more exceptional by Viola Davis’s unparalleled performance, in which she deserved every award bestowed upon her. Fences gets 9 out of 10.

89th Academy Awards

The 89th Academy Awards / The Oscars

Sunday 26th February 2017

OSCAR WINNERS AT THE 89TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS

Best Picture: Moonlight

Best Director: Damien Chazelle La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Best Actress: Emma Stone – La La Land

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis – Fences

Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney – Moonlight

Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren  – La La Land

Best Costume Design: Colleen AtwoodFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Make up & Hairstyling: Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher NelsonSuicide Squad

Best Visual Effects: Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan LemmonThe Jungle Book

Best Sound Editing: Sylvain BellemareArrival

Best Sound Mixing: Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter GraceHacksaw Ridge

Best Film Editing: John Gilbert – Hacksaw Ridge

Best Production DesignDavid Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-WascoLa La Land

Best Documentary Feature:  O. J. Made in America directed by Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman directed by Asghar Farhadi (Iran)

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/89th_Academy_Awards

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
  • Robyn Hitchcock Remembers Jonathan Demme: ‘He Was the Anti-Video-Generation Director’
    "He’s the only person I know who’d seen both John Lennon and Syd Barrett in the flesh."
    Jem Aswad
  • Tribeca Film Festival: ‘Keep the Change,’ ‘Bobbi Jene’ Win Top Awards
    Rachel Israel’s romantic comedy “Keep the Change” and Elvira Lind’s documentary “Bobbi Jene” were among the top award winners in the juried competitions at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, with “Keep the Change” taking the prize for U.S. narrative feature and “Bobbi Jene” snagging the documentary honor. Elina Psykous’ fairy-tale-infused family drama “Son of Sofia”... […]
    Gordon Cox
  • Writer and ‘Philbert’ Actor Trustin Howard Dies
    Writer and actor Trustin Howard, also known as Slick Slavin, died on April 20 after complications from a fall. Born to poverty-stricken teenage parents in the slums of Chicago, Howard helped support his family from the age of 9 by performing on stage. By 15 years old, Howard’s career took off when he regularly performed at the... […]
    sarahahern95
  • ‘Little Fockers’ Screenwriter John Hamburg Buys Windsor Square Home (EXCLUSIVE)
    BUYER: John Hamburg SELLERS: Barbie and Justin Adler LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA PRICE: $4,350,000 SIZE: 3,539 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms YOUR MAMA’S NOTES: Married sitcom writer/producers Justin and Barbie Adler — his credits include creating the critically acclaimed series “Life in Pieces” and hers include writing and producing for the cult-favorite hit “Arrested... […]
    Mark David
  • Federal Probe Into Fox News Channel May Be Widening (Report)
    A federal investigation into corporate practices at Fox News Channel may be widening, according to a report by CNN. Federal prosecutors have for weeks been looking into whether or not past payments made to former female employees fox Fox News were properly disclosed or accounted for by the unit and its parent corporation,  21st Century... […]
    Brian Steinberg