Vice and Virtue

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

whiskey_tango_foxtrot_ver2

Directed by: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Christopher Abbott, Alfred Molina, Stephen Peacocke, Cherry Jones, Josh Charles

From the directing team that brought audiences, I Love You Philip Morris and Focus, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa bring the Afghan war drama Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which is military jargon for WTF!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot focuses on the experiences of journalist Kim Baker who swops the tedious life of a New York media office for the dangerous life of a war correspondent in Afghanistan, from 2004 onwards based on her own novel, “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

30 Rock TV star and veteran comedian Tina Fey takes the title role and impressively turns in a nuanced, vaguely dramatic performance as Kim Baker ably assisted by a superb ensemble cast including Margot Robbie as a hard drinking cut-throat journalist Tanya van der Poel, Martin Freeman as a snarky Scottish reporter Iain McKelpie and best of all Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton as the no-nonsense American general Hollanek.

whiskey_tango_foxtrot

Tina Fey who to date has largely appeared in comic roles alongside Amy Poehler is brilliant as Kim Baker and gives audience a chance to witness her dramatic side. As the emotional and physical strain of remaining in Afghanistan takes its toll, along with media colleagues who double cross her, Baker manages to resist the temptations of falling for her own hunky security detail, the gorgeous Nic, wonderfully played by Stephen Peacocke (Hercules) whilst forming a bond with her Afghani translator and guide, Fahim Ahmadzai brilliantly played by American actor Christopher Abbott last seen in J. C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year.

Character actor Alfred Molina also makes a hilarious turn as a Westernized Afghani government official Ali Massoud Sadiq who becomes besotted with Tina Fey’s hardnosed journalist.

Besides the decadent partying which occurs in the Ka-Bubble, as the foreigners nickname Kabul, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot highlights with dashes of humour, the difficulties invading Western forces face when dealing with a foreign country and culture so alien to their own, in this case Afghanistan.

What could be gleaned from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, besides the atrocities involved, is that war is almost like a decadent excursion into a completely different world. The scene in the film where Baker discovers the real reason a watering well is constantly being blown up in an Afghani village points to the larger gender inequalities inherent in war especially when the country being invaded is deeply patriarchal. War itself is demonstrated to be a man’s game and what makes the women in the film so fascinating especially Baker and Van der poel is their fleeting exotic beauty in a country in which the women are entirely covered up, a point so brilliantly made in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

catch_twenty_two

Whilst Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not going to win any awards cinematically, it is nevertheless a humourous and mostly farcical take on the absurdities of war, in the vein of Robert Altman’s classic film M. A. S. H. and Mike Nichol’s 1970 film Catch 22 based upon the Joseph Heller novel. What is notable is the media stance on war, whereby despite the annihilation around them, they refuse to take sides but merely show a mirror up to the brutal horrors of this contemporary man-made conflict in a hostile environment characterized by ample vice and little virtue or trust.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Zero Dark Thirty and David O. Russell’s Three Kings.

Maternal Unity

Mother’s Day

mothers_day

Director: Garry Marshall

Cast: Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, Timothy Olyphant, Shay Mitchell, Jason Sudeikis, Julia Roberts, Hector Elizondo, Aasif Mandvi, Robert Pine, Margo Martindale.

Unlike Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, previous Garry Marshall films which featured massive casts and a diverse series of interlinking stories, his third film Mother’s Day is confined by a much smaller cast and a group of actors who really should have been in a better film.

Golden Globe winner Kate Hudson (Almost Famous), Oscar Winner Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) are joined by Horrible Bosses co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis in Mother’s Day a structurally unsound portrait of different versions of mother hood with Aniston and Hudson taking the lead as struggling young mothers Sandy and Jesse battling to cope with vain ex-husbands in the form of Timothy Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard) and over bearing mothers in the form of character actress Margo Martindale (August: Osage Country, The Hours).

What really would have worked was if Goldie Hawn was cast as Kate Hudson’s mother in this film, it would have elevated Mother’s Day to an entirely different level of comedy as they are Hollywood mother and daughter.

Garry Marshall also entices his Pretty Woman costars Julia Roberts and Hector Elizondo back on screen together. Roberts plays a Home shopping Network TV Queen, Miranda who doesn’t appear to have children. Jason Sudeikis who was so hilarious in The Hangover trilogy stars as a widower Bradley battling to cope with bringing up two young daughters after his wife and mother of his children, a marine, was inexplicably killed in combat. Jennifer Garner pops up briefly as the dead mother seen through video footage.

Whilst all the characters in Mother’s Day gradually interlink in contemporary Atlanta, the plot of the film is overlong and at times contrived, but nevertheless Mother’s Day is a very light hearted comedy, which will appeal to many an audience who are looking for a cosy and warm cinematic outing with their moms.

Audiences should not expect anything terrific or profound in Mother’s Day, but a really fluffy feel good film without too much depth or substance. Watch out for Aasif Mandvi (The Million Dollar Arm) as Jesse’s closeted Indian husband Russell who also has to deal with his own overbearing mother. British actor Jack Whitehall also makes an impression as Zack, an aspiring stand-up comic in the bars of Buckhead, Atlanta.

Mother’s Day is a fun film, but nothing more than a whimsical take on motherhood from a truly American perspective without the added bonus of having some real star power. This is no August: Osage County or Terms of Endearment but then it was never intended to be.

 

Clash of the Superheroes

Captain America: Civil War

captain_america_civil_war_ver2

Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, William Hurt, Paul Bettany, Martin Freeman, Tom Holland, Alfre Woodard, Frank Grillo, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Paul Rudd, Emily Van Camp, John Kani, Marisa Tomei

I was never a fan of superhero comics as a kid, but as an adult, the superhero films have captured my imagination. Who can forget The Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan who reinvented Batman? Or the recent Batman v Superman blockbuster by Zack Snyder, a sure precursor to the Justice League films set for release in 2017 and 2018?

Moving away from DC comics, their direct rival Marvel has expanded their superhero universe exponentially and in the third installment of Captain America: Civil War, a more iconic superhero pops up, Spiderman curtesy of a Marvel and Sony sharing agreement to reinvent Spiderman within The Avengers universe. Smart move on the part of Marvel and especially Sony whose two previous Spiderman reincarnations were faltering: The Amazing Spiderman and its psychedelic sequel.

Captain America: Civil War features a plethora of superheroes, so many in fact that the inevitable showdown which the title refers to is quite spectacular to behold.

captain_america_civil_war_ver39

Captain America leads the one camp as he defends his friend Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan along with the help of Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon played by Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Antman), Antman played by the hilarious Paul Rudd, Hawkeye returning from retirement played by the roguish Jeremy Renner.

captain_america_civil_war_ver38

The other camp is headed up by opinionated tech billionaire Iron Man, wonderfully played again by Robert Downey Jnr, joined by the War Machine played by Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2) and Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. Tony Stark aka Iron Man also enlists the help of a young and precocious Peter Parker, wonderfully played by young British actor Tom Holland (The Impossible) as he reinvents Spiderman promising an energetic reinvention when Holland will appear in his stand alone film called Spiderman: Homecoming.

Adding some much needed diversity to The Avengers universe, Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman (Gods of Egypt), who is also starring in his own origin Black Panther film coming in 2018 also joins team Iron Man as he aggressively fights Bucky Barnes who he believes is responsible for the death of his father, a suitable cameo by South African acting legend John Kani (Coriolanus, The Ghost and the Darkness).

While the Clash of the Superheroes is spectacular and at times appears like a spandex orgy it is really Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as the master villain Zemo who has instigated the division between the Avengers as revenge for what occurred in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron, in which his whole family was killed in a supernatural skirmish in some fictional East European country.

Captain America: Civil War is a superb superhero film as the Russo brothers who direct this third instalment of the Captain America trilogy dexterously managing to combine all these diverse superheroes in a brilliant duel whilst also introducing some new and iconic characters. Fans of Iron Man, Ant Man and all The Avengers films will relish this caper standoff sure to capture the imaginations of many Comic con fans and paving the way for Marvel’s relentless cinematic expansion of all their gang of masked crusaders, a sure rival to DC Comics Justice League, although both superhero franchises will definitely benefit financially at the box office.

Captain America: Civil War is highly recommended viewing especially for some superb cameos by seasoned character actors including William Hurt, Alfre Woodard, Martin Freeman and Marisa Tomei.

 

 

Love is a Tyrant

Queen of the Desert

queen_of_the_desert

Director: Werner Herzog

Cast: Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Robert Pattinson, Damian Lewis, Jenny Agutter, David Calder, Jay Abdo, Mark Lewis Jones

German documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog directs Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours, The Paperboy) in a majestic towering role as Gertrude Bell, a fiercely independent British woman who after escaping the stifling confines of a her wealthy family estate in England travels to Arabia at the turn of the 20th century as the ruling Ottoman Empire is on the verge of collapsing.

The Arabian Peninsula especially modern day Syria and Jordan and into Iraq, 100 years ago was on the point of being carved up by the European powers with England eagerly wanting a slice of Arabia especially with their most prominent colony Egypt right next door.

Gertrude Bell, cartographer, explorer, archaeologist and traveller is first stationed in the British Embassy in Tehran, now contemporary Iran, and there she meets her escort and guardian, a junior diplomatic secretary Henry Cardogan rather underplayed by James Franco (Milk, 127 Hours) who soon declares undying love for her. Bell has to seek permission from her father for the marriage to take place and when her father refuses, Henry promptly dies in mysterious circumstances in Persia.

Bell, wonderfully played by Nicole Kidman returns to Arabia and using Amman and Damascus as a base she wilfully decides to travel through the Arabian peninsula and desert, hoping to get a more comprehensive understanding of the nomadic Bedouin tribes and who the rival Sheiks’ are.

The more Bell travels across the desert the more she realizes how complex the local political situation is. With the assistance of the quick witted and slightly effeminate T. E. Lawrence, superbly played by Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis, Maps to the Stars, Twilight), Bell becomes an expert on the Arab people and complexities of dividing up such a huge area, for geo-political purposes.

From an ethnographic point of view, Herzog’s Queen of the Desert is a fascinating film to watch and purely interesting, especially if viewed through the current political turmoil that is sweeping parts of the Middle East, namely Syria and Iraq.

The best scenes in the film are between Kidman as the fiercely brave Bell, a statuesque blond and commanding woman who swept through Arabia unafraid of the local customs or inherent dangers and the cautious British major Charles Doughty-Wylie played by Damian Lewis of Homeland and Wolf Hall TV fame.

Not to be confused with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which was about Drag Queens in the Australian outback, this Queen of the Desert is a captivating and episodic historical tale of one woman’s brave adventures across the entire Arabian peninsula and her subsequent recommendations on the division of the desert into different self-governing states, namely The Kingdom of Jordan and Iraq.

Best scene in the film is the pompous photo opportunity involving Bell and Colonel T. E. Lawrence with Winston Churchill on top of camels outside the great pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Whilst the men in Gertrude’s life fade away during the First World War, it is really Nicole Kidman’s film which makes her performance as Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert so admirable. Kidman’s ability to hold her own amidst such dramatic and majestic scenery, the windswept sand dunes of Arabia is reminiscent of Debra Winger’s brilliant performance in Bernardo Bertolucci’s handsome film The Sheltering Sky.

Queen of the Desert is highly recommended viewing, slightly long but nevertheless an astonishing historical portrait of a woman who shaped the future of the Arabian Peninsula.

 

Sisters of No Mercy

Huntsman: The Winters War

huntsman_ver12

Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost, Alexandra Roach, Sam Claflin, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith

The evil queen stakes just got higher in the prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, Huntsman: Winter War which is directed by French visual effects supervisor turned director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. His previous visual effects credits include Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Snow White and the Huntsman and Solstice.

huntsman_ver2

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth returns as Erik the Huntsman along with South African Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) as the vicious queen Ravenna.

New to the cast are Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar) as Erik’s estranged wife Sara and an equally evil queen, Ravenna’s sister the Ice Queen Freya wonderfully played by Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods).

Interestingly this is a female action film and that’s why Huntsman: Winters War works so well although it’s not as good as the original 2012 Rupert Sanders film Snow White and the Huntsman.

Visually, Huntsman is quite dazzling especially in the second half of the film, and director Cedric Nicholas-Troyan makes full use of all the latest CGI available especially when the gorgeous Ravenna emerges out of the illustrious gold mirror looking fabulous.

huntsman Winters War

In actual fact Ravenna’s outfit, which Charlize Theron naturally uses to its full potential is sure to inspire many a drag queen in the future, wonderfully emboldened with beautiful eye make-up and a fabulous gold head dress to match, a rival to Angelina Jolie’s outfits in Maleficent. Simply gorgeous. Who cares if she is an evil queen, when she looks so stunning!

huntsman_ver4

Jessica Chastain is suitably bold and kickass as Erik’s opinionated wife who manages to save his life from a collection of hideous goblins which looked as if they escaped from the set of Pan’s Labyrinth.

huntsman_ver3

Emily Blunt is wonderful as Ravenna’s younger sister Queen Freya whose heart has been turned to ice by the sudden and inexplicable death of her baby daughter who she naturally blames her husband for.

Audiences should watch out for British comedian Nick Frost as a smart-mouthed dwarf Nion and Alexandra Roach as Doreena last seen in Cuban Fury and The Iron Lady as well as Sam Claflin as William, Freya’s doomed husband.

Whilst Huntsman: Winters War is wonderful to watch, the dialogue could have been better written, yet the story is pure escapism, fantasy with a large dose of femme fatale and a couple Erik and Sara who eventually put aside their differences to defeat the evil sisters who are entirely without mercy and vicious to the core.

Huntsman: Winters War is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Snow White and the Huntsman and should look forward to the third instalment in a film series which was clearly designed to be part of a fantasy trilogy.

Full of Scorpions is my Mind

Macbeth

macbeth_ver5

Director: Justin Kurzel

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, Elizabeth Debicki, Paddy Considine, Jack Reynor, David Hayman

Australian director Justin Kurzel’s bold and bloody version of Macbeth envisions a bleak and brutal landscape where Scottish noblemen plot against each other all for the right to become King.

macbeth_ver2

Possibly Shakespeare’s most bloodthirsty play about power, vengeance and fealty, Macbeth has proved to be a perennial favourite among film makers and theatre performers alike. In this version, the two pivotal roles are played by Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) and the combination of their immense talent can be relished as they present a complex interpretation of the scheming Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Soon the ambitious couple plot to murder King Duncan of Scotland, played by David Thewlis as he visits their family castle. Macbeth stabs King Duncan multiple times while he is sleeping and promptly dispatches his guards too. Macbeth blames this ungodly crime on the heir apparent, the King’s son Malcolm, played by Jack Reynor, who flees to England to gather an army.

Macbeth claims the Scottish crown for himself but soon absolute power corrupts malignantly and the callous couple plot again to kill Banquo, a friend of Macbeth’s and a rival Scottish nobleman.

During the infamous banquet scene, which is the best in the film, Macbeth in front of his royal retinue is tormented by the images of Banquo’s ghost appearing among the guests to such an extent that he breaks down in front of the Scottish court.

The tyrannical Macbeth wanders into the misty highlands and seeks solace with the three prophetic witches who tell him that his right to be king is threatened by Macduff, “Beware Macduff, Beware the Thane of Fife!”

In the most brutal scene in the film, Macbeth’s soldiers capture Lady Macduff, played by an unrecognizable Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) and her three children, whose fate is sealed upon a fiery pyre.

In the final act, Macduff, played by Sean Harris (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) returns with ten thousand soldiers and storms Macbeth’s castle and in a fiery confrontation, the two enemies seek vengeance amidst a burning and unforgiving battle, when Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane.

Kurzel’s vision of Macbeth is bloody and dark, the production design comprising strong earthy colours like deep reds, browns and shining gold. The costumes are traditional and authentic.

macbeth

Cotillard is brilliant as the deceptively innocent Lady Macbeth, a magnetic and hauntingly beautiful queen who challenges her husband to commit heinous crimes, only to discover that Macbeth is willing to go to unmentionable lengths to retain his crown.

macbeth_ver8

This 21st century film version of Macbeth is heavily influenced by HBO’s Game of Thrones and is as violent, spectacular and riveting as the hit series, making Shakespeare’s Scottish play accessible to a whole new generation of viewers. This is an epic portrayal of twisted fealty, rivalry and horrific ambition, held together by two masterful actors playing iconic characters, imbuing their scenes together with a brilliant Machiavellian mischief, bordering on insanity and unchecked bloodlust.

Visually stunning, violent and superbly atmospheric, this vivid version of Macbeth is one not to be missed by cinema lovers and Shakespeare scholars alike.

 

 

 

 

Dreams of an Olympian

Eddie the Eagle

eddie_the_eagle_ver3

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken, Jim Broadbent, Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Rune Temte, Edvin Endre

Taron Egerton has really grown onscreen after the success of director Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service in 2015.

Now the young British actor, who was also one of the nominees for the 2016 BAFTA rising star awards, has appeared opposite Tom Hardy in Legend and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) in Testament of Youth.

Egerton holds his own as the titular hero in director Dexter Fletcher’s humourous sports comedy, Eddie the Eagle, where he plays the hopeful and slightly gawky Eddie Edwards.

Back in the Eighties, Eddie Edwards was a young British ski jumper, who against all odds and the advice of the British Olympic committee, went on to compete in the 1988 winter Olympics in Calgary and despite the setbacks managed to even garner some Olympic medals by following his constant dream of one day becoming an Olympian.

Actor and director Dexter Fletcher’s film, Eddie the Eagle is a cool, coming of age sports story about the underdog, who despite his parents protests, decides that he is going to Garmisch in Germany to compete in the European ski jumping circuit. Fletcher’s previous efforts as a director have included the heart warming Scottish film, Sunshine on Leith.

In Germany Eddie befriends the rambunctious ex ski-jumper, now snow plougher and heavy drinking Bronson Peary wonderfully played by Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), who soon mentors Eddie into fulfilling his dream.

The majority of Eddie the Eagle is set in the Alpine slopes of Western Europe from Germany to Austria and Switzerland as Eddie and Bronson train to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

However Eddie’s quirky character, which he displays after completing the 70m ski jump, soon catches the attention of the sports press and his antics during competing soon earn him the nickname, Eddie the Eagle, by a sports commentator played by Jim Broadbent.

eddie_the_eagle_ver7

The film belongs to Taron Egerton who superbly inhabits the role of Eddie and the rapport between Egerton and Jackman is delightful. Notable cameo’s include Oscar winner Christopher Walken as the omniscient Warren Sharp, Bronson‘s former coach who has written a bestseller about becoming a successful ski jumper and also Oscar winner Broadbent as the British Olympic sports announcer who spurs Eddie on despite the competition from within his own team.

Eddie the Eagle also stars British actors Keith Allen (Trainspotting) and Jo Hartley as Eddie’s long suffering parents, Terry and Janette. Audiences should watch out for Norwegian actor Rune Temte, last seen in the historical TV series The Last Kingdom as Bjorn the coach of the Norwegian ski jumping team as well as Swedish actor Edvin Endre, last seen in Vikings, playing Matti, The Flying Finn who proves to be Eddie’s inspirational opponent.

Eddie the Eagle is a highly inventive sports comedy, a feel good reach for an Olympic dream sort of tale, which proves that persistence, courage and determination really does pay off. Highly recommended viewing.

Source: The real story of Eddie the Eagle

 

Dancing Zorbas

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

my_big_fat_greek_wedding_two

Director: Kirk Jones

Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, John Stamos, Rita Wilson, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Joey Fatone, Alex Wolff, Elena Kampouris, Andrea Martin

my_big_fat_greek_wedding_two_ver3

Canadian Greek actress Nia Vardalos has made a small dent on contemporary cinema with her range of comedies including the hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Connie and Carla and My Life in Ruins.

Now after an extended break between the first film made in 2002, Vardalos follows up the smash hit with the belated sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 about an extended Greek family set in Chicago and produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.

my_big_fat_greek_wedding_two_ver6

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 follows the raucous family of Toula a retrenched travel agent who has to work in her father’s restaurant Dancing Zorba’s and even gets her pouty teenage daughter Paris played by newcomer Elena Kampouris to assist her. Paris is on the brink of finishing high school and must soon choose a suitable college for her tertiary education.

Naturally Toula’s family all want Paris to remain in Chicago and study at North-Western University, while her hilarious grandfather Gus, wonderfully played by Michael Constantine only wants his granddaughter to marry a Greek boy.

The wedding plot which the title refers to does not involve Paris although initially audiences are led to believe that, but rather Toula’s parents Gus and her mother Maria exuberantly played by Lainie Kazan, who after attending the Greek orthodox church one Sunday discover that they were never officially married when Gus forgot to sign his name on the marriage certificate.

my_big_fat_greek_wedding_two_ver4

Directed by British director Kirk Jones responsible for such hit comedies as Waking Ned Devine and Everybody’s Fine, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a hilarious and fun filled family film with running jokes about the perils of living with an extended family and also about the importance of rekindling love in one’s own marriage, especially between Toula and her Waspish American husband Ian played by John Corbett (Sex and the City 2, The Burning Plain).

my_big_fat_greek_wedding_two_ver5

Look out for a fabulous Andrea Martin (Wag the Dog) as the straight talking Aunt Voula who perceives that Toula’s brother Angelo played by former NSYNC singer Joey Fatone is of a different persuasion.

Nia Vardalos manages to fill the screen with her wide eyed gaze as she continually portrays the overbearing Greek mother Toula trying to help her daughter through the important transition from High School to College, while not making the same mistakes as her own mother Maria. As an inter-generational family comedy, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 hits the mark, especially with a lively collection of supporting actors including John Stamos, Rita Wilson, Joey Fatone and Alex Wolff, but certainly not as funny as the original film.

Audiences expecting a sequel get a funny and warm comedy without too many surprises or originality. Perhaps the gap between the two films is too long but then again, that Greek family needed some time to grow. Recommended viewing for extremely light entertainment.

 

 

Clash of the Icons

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_ver8

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Laurence Fishburne, Callan Mulvey, Kevin Costner

Hollywood studio Warner Brothers had a lot riding on the highly anticipated sequel to the 2013 hit Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but fortunately they followed the golden rule of sequels, always bring in the same cast and director mixed in with a bunch of surprises.

batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_ver4

Fortunately in the hands of Zack Snyder whose visual range is vast, Batman vs Superman comes across as an epic battle between the two infamous superheroes, a monumental gamble on reintroducing Batman back into the mix so soon after the brilliant success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Then why not bring the writer of that trilogy on board, David S. Goyer and use Christopher Nolan’s expertise as executive producer. Then there is the casting which really pays off.

The Social Network’s Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg as the smart and brilliant villain Lex Luthor, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) as Batman’s trusted manservant Alfred and the biggest coup was casting Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo) as Batman which gives this comic book clash of the icons a more edgier hue.

batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_ver5

After all, realistically Batman, aka Bruce Wayne cannot really defeat Superman, an alien man from Krypton with superpowers. All Batman has is cool gadgets, a Batmobile and all that pent-up rage from his childhood trauma of witnessing his parents being murdered on the streets of Gotham.

Amy Adams returns as the adventurous Lois Lane, along with Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, aka Superman along with Diane Lane as his earth mother Martha Kent. If there is one way to make a superhero angry, it’s to mess with his mother!

Whilst Batman v Superman at two and a half hours long could have been edited especially the last hour of the film, visually the film is so impressive as director Zack Snyder artistically pays homage to his filmography which made him famous: 300, Watchman and Suckerpunch, the last one being especially evident in the surprise appearance of Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_ver6

The chemistry between Batman and Wonder Woman is sexually charged, and on screen the duo look impressive. Affleck’s Batman is a brooding, aging wealthy playboy who is hellbent on seeking revenge for the destruction of a Wayne Enterprises skyscraper by alien invaders from Krypton. Blame Superman!

Whilst Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer’s script is not particularly dazzling, the visual effects in Batman v Superman are brilliant, as well as the tone of the film, which Snyder keeps alternating between light bright colours for Superman and dark, cavernous greys for Batman. It also helps that Affleck himself has greying sideburns which realistically makes Batman look older than Cavill’s boyish Superman.

Women in Batman v Superman also have a major role, although clearly the film itself is marketed for a primarily male audience. Lois Lane is feisty and believable, Wonder Woman looks absolutely gorgeous in evening wear and even appears as a suitable femme fatale for Bruce Wayne during a glamourous Lex Luther cocktail event. Even Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s mother Martha gets caught up in the raucous and very loud action sequence.

batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_ver13

It’s really Jesse Eisenberg’s superb and surprising turn as the deranged megalomaniac Lex Luther, a psychotic billionaire tech guru who thinks nothing of killing innocent people during a public gathering or messing with extra-terrestrial DNA from General Zod.

Fans of Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy will certainly appreciate the iconic face-off between Batman v Superman, but be warned the tone of this film is far darker than your average bright and garish superhero caper.

Recommended viewing for all Zach Snyder fans and those that wish to be regular attendees at Comic-Con. This is serious comic book warfare.

 

 

 

 

Escaping Captivity

Room

room_ver2

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson, Cas Anvar

Brie Larson gives an Oscar-winning performance in director Lenny Abrahamson’s claustrophobic film Room about captivity, sexual slavery and the perceptions of children. Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, director Abrahamson whose previous credit includes the bizarre Michael Fassbender film Frank, delves deep into the emotional and psychological trauma of those affected by a harrowing experience set in suburban Akron, Ohio.

This experience is the abduction of Joy Newsome, known as Ma who is sexually abused from the age of 17 and kept in a garden shed, which becomes the room of the title and stays there for seven years. During her incarceration she gives birth to a son Jack who becomes her world. Cleverly Room does not dwell on the horrors of captivity or sexual slavery, but fluidly follows the perceptions of this enclosed world formed by the 5 year old Jack wonderfully played by newcomer Jacob Tremblay, who really is the emotional centre of the film and certainly should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Joy Newsome known as Ma, is superbly played by relative newcomer Brie Larson (The Gambler, Don Jon) in a stunning performance which has scooped every Best Actress award in 2016 from the Golden Globes to the Bafta’s to The Oscars.

The exceptional depth of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s talent is displayed in the first half of Room, which is entirely occupied by Ma and Jack as they eventually hatch a plan to escape when Ma realizes that Old Nick, played by Canadian actor Sean Bridgers, cannot really afford to keep them locked up forever.

That escape and eventual discovery of Joy Newsome is thanks to the bravery of young Jack who must unwittingly go into a world he has never experienced and escape, find the police and alert them of their disappearance and capture. Brilliant shot, Abrahamson keeps the tension of the first half of the film and Brie Larson is extraordinary as she must know convince her young son, Jack that the world comprising Room is not the Real World and he must shift his expectation from fantasy to an altered reality of what the real world actually is.

Audiences expecting a neatly tied up dramatic end to Room will be thoroughly disappointed as the second half of the film after their release dwells more on the emotional and psychological consequences of the mother and son’s shared trauma than on any legal or criminal investigation into their prolonged captivity.

Joy’s estranged parents Nancy and Robert played by Joan Allen (The Contender, The Crucible) and William H. Macy (Fargo, The Sessions) are suitably good in a nuanced underplayed way, especially as Robert cannot bear to look at the product of sexual abuse, his grandson Jack.

Room is essentially a parable about a mother’s bond with her child in a cruel and vicious world where each of them are confined by their own perceptions of the world and the roles they are meant to occupy as parent and child.

Room is a thought-provoking and harrowing tale of survival which will keep audiences talking for years, held together by brilliant performances by Larson and Tremblay. Recommended viewing for those that enjoy an intelligent and emotional family drama.

 

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
May 2016
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  
  • Dylan O’Brien’s ‘Maze Runner: Death Cure’ Release Pushed Back to 2018
    Fox has moved back its release for “The Maze Runner: The Death Cure” by nearly a year to Jan. 12, 2018, as star Dylan O’Brien recovers from his March 17 injuries after an on-set car accident. Fox made the announcement Friday, a month after disclosing that resumption of principal photography on “Maze Runer: The Death... […]
    Dave McNary
  • Bill Wolff Exits ‘Chelsea’ Talk Show As Executive Producer
    Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix talk show, “Chelsea,” has parted ways with its showrunner/executive producer, Bill Wolff, Variety has confirmed. Wolff is not expected to be replaced. Sources tell Variety that Handler, who has always been involved in the show’s creative process, will continue to lead the show. Handler’s show debuted just three weeks ago to mixed reviews, with... […]
    Debra Birnbaum
  • Amber Heard Says Johnny Depp Is ‘Scary,’ Struggles with Drug and Alcohol Abuse
    Amber Heard detailed her husband Johnny Depp’s history of drug and alcohol abuse, saying that she feared for her safety in papers filed during her appearance in Los Angeles County Court early Friday morning. “I am extremely afraid of Johnny and for my safety,” the actress said in her declaration for a restraining order, which was... […]
    Pat Saperstein
  • Callan Mulvey, Tyson Ritter Starring in Dystopian Drama ‘Desolate’
    Callan Mulvey, Tyson Ritter, Mark Kassen and Juston Street are starring in the independent dystopian drama “Desolate,” Variety has learned exclusively. Frederick Cipoletti is directing from a script he co-wrote with Jonathan Rosenthal. The film is produced by Rosenthal, Cipoletti and Jordan Foley. The story is centered around a family of farmers living in a... […]
    Dave McNary
  • Digital Tracking: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Dominating Memorial Day Weekend
    Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success even before awareness turns into intent? Moviepilot – which studies social data and box office trends – analyzes this weekend’s new movies across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google (the methodology behind the numbers is laid out in... […]
    Tobias Bauckhage