Archive for January, 2020

Blonde Battleground

Bombshell

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell, Josh Lawson, Ben Lawson, Kate McKinnon, Liv Hewson, Rob Delany, Mark Duplass, Stephen Root, Mark Moses, Amy Landecker

Trumbo director Jay Roach tackles the Fox News sexual harassment scandal of 2016 in his latest film Bombshell when blonde TV anchor woman Gretchen Carlson played by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) sues Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes wonderfully played with a creepy sense of self-denial by Oscar nominee John Lithgow (The World According to Garp, Terms of Endearment) for sexual harassment.

Now for viewers that don’t follow American politics or media scandals then do not see Bombshell, this film has a very limited appeal outside of the United States.

The real revelation of Bombshell is the fantastic transformation of another Oscar winner South Africa’s very own Charlize Theron (Monster) as she plays Fox News primetime anchor woman Megyn Kelly thanks to the brilliant work of prosthetic makeup designer Kazu Hiro who won an Oscar for transforming Oscar winner Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Charlize Theron is absolutely brilliant as Megyn Kelly as she navigates her way through a thoroughly conservative and toxic media environment at Fox News as she attempts to cover the controversial presidential campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump who inevitably became the next President of the United States.

Add to the mix of beautiful blondes that work at Fox News, is the newcomer Kayla Prospisil played by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I,Tonya) who experiences sexual harassment first hand when she has a private meeting with Roger Ailes in a cringe worthy scene in which the media executive keeps asking Kayla to lift her skirt higher and higher.

At the times of the Roger Ailes scandal, the conservative Television broadcaster Fox News was owned by the Australian media conglomerate Newscorp which comprised of Rupert Murdoch played in Bombshell by A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell and managed by his two sons Lachlan and James Murdoch played in the film by Australian brothers Ben and Josh Lawson.

Director Jay Roach does not make a brilliant film and Bombshell appears to be extremely confusing for those viewers that are not familiar with this particular conservative American media scandal which occurred in the summer of 2016.

What Bombshell does do is highlight the extent to which women were sexually harassed in the American work place and this happened a year before the Harvey Weinstein scandal shocked Hollywood in 2017 and gave birth to the vociferous and extremely relevant MeToo movement which aims to end sexual harassment in the highly contested American media industry and beyond.

For those interested in American media scandals, Bombshell is recommended viewing and gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

For a flawed film, Bombshell is saved by two phenomenal performances by Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie.

77th Golden Globe Awards

Took Place on Sunday the 5th January 2020 in Los Angeles hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – Here are the 2020 Winners in the Film Categories

Best Film Drama: 1917

Best Film, Musical or Comedy: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Director: Sam Mendes – 1917

Best Actor Drama: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

Best Actress Drama: Renee Zellweger – Judy

Best Actor, M/C: Taron Egerton – Rocketman

Best Actress, M/C: Awkwafina – The Farewell

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern – Marriage Story

Best Foreign Language Film: Parasite directed by Boon Joon Ho (South Korea)

Best Original Screenplay – Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Animated Feature: Missing Link

The Intimacy of War

1917

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George McKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Claire Duburcq, Richard Madden

After being entangled with the Bond franchise and directing two films specifically Skyfall and Spectre, director Sam Mendes returns to a more intimate yet visually astounding portrait of war in the spectacular film 1917.

1917 is a major cinematic achievement as the entire film is done in one shot echoing Joe Wright’s astounding directing achievement in his World War Two drama Atonement. Mendes does something better. He directs 1917 from the point of view of two soldiers Lance Corporal Blake played by Dean-Charles Chapman (Blinded by the Light) and Lance Corporal Schofield played by George Mackay (Captain Fantastic, Pride).

Set in less than a twenty-four hour period on the 6th April 1917, this incredible film follows the terrorizing journey of two young British soldiers who are tasked with delivering a message deep in enemy territory that will prevent 1,600 men from walking into a deadly trapped set by the Germans in Northern France.

What makes 1917 so utterly riveting is not so much the acting as the visual interpretation of this harrowing journey beautifully photographed by Oscar winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner: 2049) with a haunting original score by Thomas Newman.

1917 is the reason to still watch films in the cinema – it is absolutely perfect and as war films go, this is one of the finest multi-layered interpretation of trench warfare ever conceived on film. Sam Mendes does a sterling job in memory of his Grandfather who fought in World War One.

1917 is a masterpiece of film making, poignant, riveting and epic, a massive landscape punctuated by the most intimate and heart wrenching scenes especially the night sequence in a burnt out French Village which has a fiery backdrop or the spectacular river sequence which eventually leads to the final scene which is equally explosive, while portraying all the intimacies and horrors of War.

With brief scenes by supporting actors including Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Oscar Nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), 1917 belongs to the two relatively unknown young actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George Mackay, who betray all the horror, devastation and exhaustion of trench warfare combined with the nonchalance of killing.

1917 is an incisive portrait of courage and bravery and of men finding their compassion while being tested under the most brutal circumstances. Everyone should watch this film. Sam Mendes has achieved his cinematic masterpiece.

Cinematically and historically, 1917 is highly recommended viewing and gets a film rating of 9.5 out of 10. Experience this film in a cinema. It’s breath taking.

The Talk of the Town

Judy

Director: Rupert Goold

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Richard Cordery, Royce Pierreson, Gemma-Leah Devereux, Darci Shaw, Gus Barry

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Based on the Stage play by Peter Quilter, End of the Rainbow, director Rupert Goold’s poignant musical drama Judy features a mesmerising performance by Oscar winner Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain) as Judy Garland in the autumn of her career.

Zellweger transforms herself into Judy Garland as she becomes the film Judy with herself in virtually every scene as she battles with drug addiction and alcoholism in a desperate attempt to revive her flagging musical career in a series of shows in London in the winter of 1968 at a cabaret club in the West End, called The Talk of the Town.

With insightful flashbacks of herself as a young Judy Garland when she became the breakout child star of the 1939 hit Musical The Wizard of Oz for MGM. During this time, the young Judy played by Darci Shaw is under a strict contract by the formidable head of the studio Louis B. Mayer played by Richard Cordery. As a young star she forms an attraction to another young child star Mickey Rooney played Gus Barry. Yet the studio had the young Judy Garland on a stringent diet of appetite suppressants, uppers and downers as she always had to watch her figure, becoming a slave to the merciless studio system which exploited young actors and actresses who were under severe contractual obligations.

Fast forward to 1968, Judy Garland meets the dashing Mickey Deans wonderfully played by Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, The Big Short) at her elder and more famous daughter Liza Minelli’s house party in the Hollywood Hills. Liza is played by Gemma-Leah Devereux.

Judy is having a custody battle over her two younger children with her fourth ex-husband Sid Luft played by Rufus Sewell (Carrington, Gods of Egypt, Hercules). Her financial difficulties force her to take up a Gig in London performing at the glamorous Talk of the Town cabaret venue where she forms a veritable bond with her personal assistant Rosalyn Wilder played by Irish actress Jessie Buckley as Judy belts at some fabulous numbers on a glittering stage.

Psychologically, Judy Garland is dealing with some traumatic emotional issues while always pretending to be a consummate performer. Zellweger expertly gives a nuanced heart-wrenching performance as Judy Garland, a legendary Hollywood star in the autumn of her career who also become a champion for London’s gay community in the 1960’s.

At the centre of Rupert Goold’s film Judy is a staggeringly brilliant performance by Renee Zellweger who definitely deserves another Oscar for her excellent portrayal of a Hollywood icon. In a particularly hilarious scene with a doctor, who asks her what do you take for depression?

Judy candidly replies four ex-husbands!

Judy gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy films about Hollywood Divas. For those that enjoyed My Week with Marilyn, they will love Judy, a gem of a British film featuring a staggering performance by Renee Zellweger.

War in The Pacific

Midway

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Luke Evans, Luke Kleintank, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Keean Johnson, Etushi Toyokawa, Tadanobu Asano, Darren Criss, Brandon Sklenar, Jake Manley

The Battle of Midway was the turning point in the fight between the Americans and the Japanese in the summer of 1942, which followed on from the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

German director Roland Emmerich who brought viewers such films as Anonymous, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day, directs Midway with explosive special effects and excellent sound editing by Peter Bawlec.

Emmerich expertly recreates a good old fashioned war film with Midway aided by a superb ensemble cast who all play real life heroes who participated and survived the epic Battle of Midway.

This cast includes Ed Skrein (Maleficent, Mistress of Evil) who plays maverick pilot Dick Best, Mandy Moore plays his outspoken wife Ann Best, Patrick Wilson as naval intelligence officer Edwin Layton, Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri) plays Chester W. Nimitz, Welsh actor Luke Evans plays Wade McClusky, Dennis Quaid plays William Halsey and Aaron Eckhart plays Jimmy Doolittle.

There are also brief appearances by musician turned actor Nick Jonas as Bruno Gaido and American Crime Story Golden Globe winner Darren Criss as Eugene Lindsay.

What screenwriter Wes Tooke does insightfully is present the battle of Midway from both the American and the Japanese perspectives showing that in every war there are always losses on both side, while highlighting the specific historical landmarks which pinpointed Japanese aggression in the Far East and the Pacific.

The bombing of Pearl Harbour dragged America into the Second World War and caused the Pacific Theatre of War to be fraught with tragedy, aggression and strategic victories on both sides until eventually the Japanese sued for peace in 1945 after the American’s decisive and devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With spectacular visual effects, Midway is highly recommended viewing for fans of genuine historical War films which as a genre Hollywood seems to have disregarded in favour of superhero fantasy franchises.

Midway gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 is definitely worth seeing for the visual effects, the battle sequences and the portrayal of historical events during World War II which pitted two naval world powers against each other: America and the Empire of the Sun.  

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