Archive for the ‘Bill Condon’ Category

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.

 

Several Tricks of the Mind

Mr Holmes

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Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Frances de la Tour, Hiroyuki Sanada, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Patrick Kennedy, Hattie Morahan, Hermione Corfield

Director Bill Condon’s work has included such Oscar winners as Dreamgirls, Kinsey and Gods & Monsters. His nuanced and subtle cinematic adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind featuring Oscar nominee Sir Ian McKellan as the elderly and doddery Mr Holmes is a pleasure to watch if audiences can get through the first half an hour.

McKellan (Gods and Monsters, The Da Vinci Code, Richard III) is brilliant as the aging Mr Holmes who has to grapple not only with old age but all the ghosts of his pasts, primarily two unsolved cases, one involving a Japanese man whose father mysteriously never returned from England during World War II and another involving a husband trying to discover what his wife is involved in.

It is refreshing to see Sir Ian McKellan return to some a more resonant subject in this role, which is ever so complex, fascinating and beautifully told after a decade acting in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and also The X-Men franchise.

Director Bill Condon, with a stroke of genius, casts Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, The Fifth Estate) as the long suffering house keeper Mrs Munro, whose husband was abruptly killed in the Second World War and has only her young son Roger, wonderfully played by Milo Parker to keep her company. As the mother and son look after the aging and infamous Baker Street detective, Mr Holmes must search his ever failing memory to reignite the images of what made these two cases so extraordinary.

In a series of multiple flashbacks, including an entire sequence set in Japan, Hiroshima to be specific just after the atomic bomb has obliterated the city, Mr Holmes visits Tamiki Umezaki gracefully played by Hiroyuki Sanada last seen in the excellent war film, The Railway Man, who continually questions Mr Holmes about the mysterious disappearance of his father in England during the War and the possible reasons for abandoning his young son and wife back in Japan.

In the second more intricate case, the great detective whose cases have been studiously reproduced in literature and on film, a husband approaches him to find out what his wife is really up to. British actor Patrick Kennedy (Atonement) and Hattie Morahan (The Golden Compass) play the estranged Thomas and Anne Kelmot.

It is really the scenes between Laura Linney and Ian McKellan which are priceless as Mrs Munro soon realizes that her son has become attached to the eccentric Mr Holmes and insists on helping him keep an apiary at their home in the Southern coast of England.

Cinematically, Mr Holmes is not everyone’s cup of tea, but is a delicate character study of a famous man who is in the twilight of his years, whilst none of his eccentricities have been lost, despite his self-imposed exile. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Hyde Park on Hudson and lesser known films by Merchant Ivory such as Jefferson in Paris or The Golden Bowl.

Whistle Blowers Anonymous

The Fifth Estate

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Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Dan Stevens, Alicia Vikander, Carice van Houten, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis

Dreamgirls director Bill Condon takes on the murky and explosive world of Wikileaks in the riveting if not slightly convoluted film The Fifth Estate based on the book by Daniel Berg “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website”. Rising British star Benedict Cumberbatch plays the dislikable and dysfunctional Australian cult-born hacker Julian Assange founder of Wikileaks, currently residing in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London much like Edward Snowden was last seen at a Moscow airport.

Daniel Bruhl plays Daniel Berg a tech reporter at German Magazine Der Spiegel who joins forces with Assange in a revolutionary groundbreaking journey of leaking sensitive diplomatic documents online – the core of Wikileaks. Naturally all sources were initially protected but the information was released online on the most sensitive subjects from cellphone recordings of victims of 9/11 to the rogue clients of a influential Swiss bank Julius Baer Group http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Baer_Group .

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At the heart of The Fifth Estate, like in the brilliant Ron Howard film Rush, is a friendship between two men which eventually turns into a bitter rivalry with devastating consequences. Where Assange is reckless and pioneering, notoriously sociopathic, his partner superbly played by Bruhl is conservative, grounded and concerned about the actual consequences of leaking dangerous and sometimes sensitive government information online for the entire world with a laptop to read.

The action starts off with the massive hacking of the NSA (US National Security Agency) diplomatic cables which were leaked online first by deranged US soldier Bradley Manning  now known as Chelsea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Manning   who leaked the information to Julian Assange and then in turn strikes a deal with three influential international newspapers  in New York, London and Berlin to release the sensitive and damaging diplomatic secrets of the world’s most powerful nation as it was involved in ongoing military action in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq back in 2011. All this sensitive information is suddenly available online much to the horror of US under-secretary for the Middle East Sarah Shaw a superb cameo performance by Laura Linney.

Whilst The Fifth Estate’s narrative is an overload of media information which at times detracts from the characters of the story and gives the film its most fundamental flaw. That whilst all this hacking is taking place at conferences in Scandinavia, Iceland and Germany, it detracts from any real character development. Cumberbatch’s Assange comes across as self-absorbed megalomaniac whilst Daniel Bruhl’s character is more rounded by the limited scenes with his long suffering girlfriend Anke Domscheit  played by Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina).

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The Fifth Estate, unlike the brilliant Aaron Sorkin scripted Oscar winning film The Social Network, suffers the fate of a flashy yet interesting film suffering from a poor script and lack of character development. That’s not to say the chain of events is engrossing, which with a figure as controversial as Assange still remains, The Fifth Estate lacks a decent and edited script treatment.

Character actors David Thewlis and Stanley Tucci make the most of their limited screentime as The Guardian editor Nick Davies and US agent James Boswell.  The Fifth Estate suffers too much from contrivance leaving the audience unable to really connect with Assange and Berg who were essentially anti-social hackers out to change the world, but ended up hurting themselves the most.

Ultimately The Fifth Estate is about the viewers own verdict of two whistle blower pioneers who exposed the world’s most intimate secrets using the most powerful and unedited tool of the 21st century: the internet. The film also stars Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones fame and Dan Rivers from Downton Abbey along with Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker).

See it and judge for yourself.

 

2013 Toronto Film Festival

2013 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on among others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Fifth Estate directed by Bill Condon starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and Carice van Houten

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People’s Choice Award: 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Sarah Poulson

Best Canadian Feature Film: When Jews were Funny directed by Alan Zweig (documentary) starring Howie Mandel, Shelley Berman, Norm Crosby, Shecky Greene, Jack Carter, David Steinberg

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Toronto_Film_Festival

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