Archive for January, 2019

Ahead of the Decision Curve

Incisive Political Drama

Vice

Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Alison Pill, Eddie Marsan, Justin Kirk, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Jesse Plemons, Shea Whigham, Tyler Perry

Thanks to a preview screening organized by United International Pictures at Suncoast Cinecentre, Durban, I was fortunate enough to see director Adam McKay’s highly anticipated biopic Vice about Republican Vice President Dick Cheney featuring an utterly unrecognizable Christian Bale as Cheney and Oscar nominee Amy Adams as his ambitious wife Lynne.

Inventively directed by Adam McKay, Vice does for Republican politics what The Big Short did so brilliantly for the 2008 Financial Meltdown on Wall Street. McKay, besides extracting superb performances out of Christian Bale and Amy Adams, also incisively cuts into the heart of Republican politics especially from George W. H. Bush’s Presidency in 2000 and right through the crucial months which followed the devastating attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in September 2001 to the eventual invasion of Iraq in 2003.

This is 21st century contemporary history which affected the world and writer and director McKay taps into the zeitgeist of those crucial turning points which changed American History and effectively portrays Vice President Dick Cheney to be a ruthless and opportunistic politician who believed in the executive powers theory which basically sees the President and Vice President of a country make executive decisions without any checks or balances from Congress or the U. S. House of Representatives.

Vice is an incisive look at American Politics and is much about how America got Trump into the Oval Office in 2016 as it is about any potential Republican failings in terms of U.S. foreign policy.

At the centre of this comedic biopic are two utterly transformative performances by Oscar winner Christian Bale (The Fighter) and Oscar nominee Amy Adams (The Master, Doubt, American Hustle) as this unassuming Wyoming couple who become the most powerful couple at the White House during the Bush administration from 2000-2008, always staying a step ahead of the decision curve.

Oscar winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri) is equally charismatic as the young George W. Bush who asks Dick Cheney to be his running mate for the 2000 elections.

Director Adam McKay also assembles an excellent supporting cast including Oscar Nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) as Donald Rumsfeld and Tyler Perry as Colin Powell. 

The film’s narrative is incisively told in a cleverly constructed pastiche of dubious politics touching on some controversial subjects like torture and rendition with some extremely graphic images thrown in.  Vice is a fascinating portrait of an unassuming bureaucrat who becomes so powerful that he fabricated reasons to invade a sovereign state and start the American invasion of Iraq, a move which definitely destabilized the Middle East as a whole.

For lovers of excellent political films, then viewers have to see Vice.

It’s an incredibly well researched indictment of the Republican Party made all the more pertinent by the disruptive Trump presidency which is currently dominating global media headlines.

Adam McKay’s Vice is brilliant and thought-provoking making Christian Bale a hot contender for another Oscar win as his transformative performance dazzles in every frame much like Gary Oldman ‘s vivid portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Vice gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and accurately portrays how decisive strategic political actions by a global superpower like America can be indirectly attributed to the rise of global conflict and international terrorism in other regions of the world. Terrifying and fascinating stuff!

The Over the Hill Gang

The Old Man & the Gun

Director: David Lowery

Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, John David Washington, Elisabeth Moss, Keith Carradine

Oscar winners Robert Redford and Casey Affleck unite in a languid and quirky bank robber film entitled The Old Man & the Gun beautifully directed by David Lowery. Possibly Hollywood Legend Robert Redford’s final film who shot to fame with some superb onscreen performances in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Out of Africa and The Sting.

Redford plays compulsive bank robber Forrest Tucker who along with two other crew members Teddy played by Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon, Grand Canyon) and Waller played by Tom Waits (At Play in the Fields of the Lord, The Book of Eli) casually and with an unusual amount of charm rob banks mainly in the American Mid-West and Southern States of Texas, Arkansas and Missouri in the early 1980’s.

What really ignites The Old Man & the Gun is the sophisticated dialogue between Forest and his love interest Jewel wonderfully under played by Oscar winner Sissy Spacek (The Coal Miner’s Daughter) who is fascinated by the handsome and mysterious drifter who is also a thief.

Oscar winner Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea) plays Dallas police detective John Hunt who relentlessly chases Forest Tucker and successfully identifies him as the charming old man who is sticking up unsuspecting bank tellers all over these Southern States.

There is a fantastic scene between Affleck and Redford where they meet by chance in the men’s room of a diner in Dallas and the tension between the young ambitious detective and the old ruthless bank robber is charged with energy and sophisticated bravado.

The Old Man & the Gun is slow moving in parts but those that love seeing acting legend Robert Redford on the Big Screen should definitely see this charming and quirky bank robber tale which does not make the crime melodramatic or too simplistic, but purely unbelievable. As this film shows audiences that Bank Robbing is a compulsion for some people that prefer a dangerous life of crime as opposed to earning an honest living.

Supporting Cast for The Old Man & The Gun include Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington as Lt. Kelley and Tika Sumpter as Detective Hunt’s supportive wife Maureen.

Beautifully acted and superbly directed, The Old Man & the Gun gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing as a classic tale of robbery, romance and rivalry.

76th Golden Globe Awards

Took Place on Sunday the 6th January 2019 in Los Angeles hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – Here are the 2019 Winners in the Film Categories

Best Motion Picture – Drama

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

Best Director – Motion Picture

Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama:

Glenn Close (“The Wife”)

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama:

Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy:

“Green Book”

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy:

Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”)

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy:

Christian Bale (“Vice”)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture:

Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture:

Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)

Best Motion Picture – Animated:

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language Film:

“Roma”

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture:

Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie (“Green Book”)

Best Original Score – Motion Picture:

Justin Hurwitz (“First Man”)

Whimsical Magical Musical

Mary Poppins Returns

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Dick van Dyke, Angela Lansbury

Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha director Rob Marshall returns with another hit musical Mary Poppins Returns featuring Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins immortalized by Julie Andrews in the original 1964 hit film Mary Poppins.

Fortunately Emily Blunt is such an accomplished actress that she nails the part of Mary Poppins to absolute perfection ably assisted by Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack the lamplighter who between the two of them share most of the musical numbers.

Brideshead Revisited and Skyfall star Ben Whishaw plays Michael Banks and his sister Jane Banks is played by Emily Mortimer. The real stars of Mary Poppins Returns are the three Banks children John, Anabel and Georgie wonderfully played by Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies and Joel Dawson respectively.

Mary Poppins Returns is Disney in full swing for the 21st century and the musical numbers are brilliant especially the lamp lighters dance sequence as well as some well-placed cameo’s by Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Sophie’s Choice, Kramer vs Kramer and The Iron Lady) as the garish and outrageous cousin Topsy along with Oscar nominee Angela Lansbury (Gaslight, The Manchurian Candidate, The Picture of Dorian Gray) as the Balloon Lady and Golden Globe nominee Dick van Dyke (Mary Poppins) as Mr Dawes.

Other notable stars are Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) as the evil bank manager Wilkins who is completely unsympathetic to the plight of Michael Banks whose Cherry Tree Lane house in Depression era London is about to be repossessed unless Mr Banks can find share certificates which can prove he has some form of collateral to retain his family home.

Oscar nominee Julie Walters (Billy Elliott, Educating Rita) stars as the housekeeper Ellen who manages to keep the chaotic Banks household in some form of domestic stability.

Cleverly Mary Poppins Returns captures the magic of a whimsical musical for a 21st century audience while paying homage to the original 1964 film which made a star out of Julie Andrews who also won an Oscar for her iconic performance in 1965. Emily Blunt, with her pithy and clipped English accent, is superb as the no nonsense nanny who ignites imagination in the three young Banks children while handling all the brilliant musical numbers.

Highly recommended viewing for the entire family, director Rob Marshall does a brilliant job with Mary Poppins Returns and is definitely worth seeing.

Mary Poppins Returns gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is absolutely brilliant. If Disney is going to do a sequel so long after the original film you can bet that it’s going to be spit spot!

The Tale of a Thief

Robin Hood

Director: Otto Bathurst

Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, Paul Anderson, Tim Minchin, F. Murray Abraham, Scot Greenan

A revisionist retelling of Robin Hood for the Instagram generation gets a thrilling thumbs up.

With the gorgeous Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eddie the Eagle) as Robin, Lord of Loxley teaming up with Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) as Little John, director Otto Bathurst sets Robin Hood at the time of the crusades when Robin Hood is conscripted to fight in the holy wars in Arabia leaving his young girlfriend Marian behind.

Marian is played with panache and feisty femininity by Irish actress Eve Hewson (Bridge of Spies). While Robin is away fighting the crusades Marian meets the equally dashing but politically ambitious Will Scarlet played by Jamie Dornan (The 9th Life of Louis Drax, Fifty Shades of Grey).

Heavily influenced by Little John, Robin of Loxley with assisted training by the hunky Moor is roped into stealing from the rich to give to the poor. In this case the rich are represented by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham played with suitable menace by Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, A Star Wars Story).

The powerful Sheriff answers to an equally corrupt cardinal played with vigour by Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus).

Robin Hood is an ideal escapist action adventure film with some brilliant fight sequences and excellent special effects held together by some incisive editing and a catchy score. Produced by Leonardo di Caprio, this Robin Hood perfectly played by Taron Egerton looks like there could be a franchise in the making.

Peaky Blinders star Paul Anderson plays the ruthless sidekick to the Sheriff, Guy of Gisbourne, who feels nothing at executing prisoners of war or burning down the commoner’s dwellings.

Robin Hood is a fun filled action adventure film quite slim on storyline and historical accuracy but definitely catering for the 21st century audience that is not too worried about authenticity as long as there is sufficient action.

Certainly entertaining, Robin Hood gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and scores an extra point for the really cool graphics that appear in the closing credits. Recommended viewing for light holiday fare.

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