Archive for the ‘Guy Ritchie’ Category

Courting Princess Jasmine

Aladdin

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Billy Magnussen

Director Guy Ritchie is known for making distinctly quirky British films like Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, so it’s surprising to find that Disney has hired the renegade director to be at the helm of a light and fluffy live action version of Aladdin which is at once glossy and glamorous.

Fortunately, Aladdin is saved by a superb performance by the titular star of the film, Egyptian born actor Mena Massoud who grew up in Canada and nails the role. Massoud’s chemistry especially opposite Hollywood superstar Will Smith (Bad Boys, Wild Wild West) as the Genie is brilliant and although his singing is not as satisfying as his female star Naomi Scott who plays the beautiful Princess Jasmine.

Audiences should not compare this live action version of Aladdin to the 1992 animated film which featured an unforgettable performance by the late comic actor Robin Williams as the Genie. This is a 21st century version of Aladdin and Disney casts the film very cleverly to remake this classic tale.

The evil Jafar played by Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari seeks to oust the street wise thief Aladdin in a bid to steal the magic lamp and court the gorgeous Princess Jasmine wonderfully played by Naomi Scott who is locked up in her palace unable to see the kingdom in which she will one day inherit.

Her protective father, the Sultan played by Navid Negahban (American Assassin, American Sniper) refuses to let his daughter venture out into the city streets so Princess Jasmine is forced to conceal her identity where she first meets Aladdin a street urchin who steals her gold bracelet although he blames it on Abu his faithful monkey.

Channeling his Fresh Prince of Bel Air days, Will Smith does an adequate job as the Genie and Mena Massoud holds his own as Aladdin and many of the well-recognized songs from Aladdin including You Need a Friend like Me will be sure to please younger audiences.

Director Guy Ritchie abandons his usual stylistic flourishes and makes a paint by numbers version of Aladdin in keeping with the Disney tradition which at times is vibrant and exhilarating with flamboyant costumes although he does veer straight into Bollywood territory.

Aladdin is certainly very entertaining, although I did find the middle of the film lacking in a cohesive structure and at times the pacing of the film is off, but director Guy Ritchie delivers a family friendly Disney musical which is rare as it’s not normally where his cinematic talents lie.

Aladdin gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is not brilliant but very entertaining and will certainly appeal to a much younger audience judging by the average age in a Saturday matinee.

Disney once again delivers a hit musical with diversity, vibrancy and a storyline which will have a broad appeal. Recommended viewing for all those that love exotic musicals with a distinctly Eastern flair.

From Brothel to Kingdom

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Aidan Gillen, Freddie Fox, Annabelle Wallis, Craig McKinley, David Beckham

Despite the miserably wet and cold weather, I popped off one Sunday evening to see director Guy Ritchie’s highly anticipated film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword featuring Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam who embodies all the muscular traits of a young would be king who has to fight his tyrannical uncle. That uncle is played by Jude Law (Wilde, Sherlock Holmes) as the vicious Vortigern.

Vortigern who has been seduced by far darker forces betrays his brother King Uther played by Eric Bana (The Other Boleyn Girl) and even murders his own wife. Talk about sibling rivalry.

Arthur who grows up in a pre-medieval London brothel soon learns to fend for himself against unsuspecting invading Vikings and toughens up enough to become a muscular young man who is selected to return to Vortigern’s castle to stand in line with a queue of brawny lads hoping to be able to pull the sword out of the stone.

That legendary sword Excalibur is rightfully pulled out by Arthur and Vortigern identifies his nephew as his true threat and plans to execute him in a spectacular fashion in front of all his ragged followers who out of fear have sworn fealty to a bloodthirsty deranged king.

Fortunately Arthur has some allies who are determined to shape his royal destiny including the sorceress The Mage played by Spanish star Astrid Berges-Frisbey (I, Origins) and Bedivere played by Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) who both assist Arthur in avenging his father’s death and claiming his rightful place at the Table.

In King Arthur, Guy Ritchie employs all his trademark dexterous narrative techniques with lots of witty dialogue that he displayed in the Sherlock Holmes films while deftly maintaining the pace of a legendary action blockbuster, making this one of his biggest studio films.

Hunnam is perfectly cast as the dashing yet brawny King Arthur while Jude Law is suitably vile as Vortigern who believes the only way to quell the masses is through fear.

Whilst King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword could have used a romantic subplot, it remains a mythical and muscular popcorn film which shies away from resorting to loads of gore in order to keep the age restriction fairly low at PG 13.

Audiences should watch out for the deadly archer Bill played by Aiden Gillen last seen as Littlefinger in HBO’s Game of Thrones and the duplicitous maiden Maggie played by British star Annabelle Wallis soon to be seen in the Tom Cruise action remake of The Mummy.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is an enjoyable action film heavily influenced by such hit series as Vikings and Game of Thrones but does not punch above its own weight and Ritchie keeps his quirky directorial style to a minimum unlike his previous spy caper The Man From Uncle.

With Hunnam’s box office star power on the rise and Guy Ritchie set to direct more Arthurian sequels, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Retro Repartee

The Man from UNCLE

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Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris, Luca Calvani

British director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, RocknRolla and Snatch) reinvents the Cold War spy drama while sticking to its original retro chic with The Man from UNCLE.

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Henry Cavill (Superman) plays Napoleon Solo, who after a stunning chase sequence in East Berlin, reluctantly teams up with Russian KGB agent, Illya wonderfully played by Armie Hammer, complete with dodgy accent and a bad temper.

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Swedish actress Alicia Vikander plays Gaby who is gallantly rescued from East Berlin by Solo only to become a pawn in a deadly international game of espionage involving chic Italians who are actually Fascists and a desperate search for a nuclear warhead, which is being developed by a glamorous but lethal Italian couple Alexander, played by Luca Calvani (The International) and his vicious wife, Victoria played by Elizabeth Debicki last seen in The Great Gatsby.

Using cool split screen cinematic techniques and an innovative retro-active editing sequence, Ritchie leads the audience on a brilliant dance between espionage, glamour and intrigue, all the usual tropes associated with the hugely successful spy genre: exotic locations, a nefarious villain and a femme fatale who is not what she seems.

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What makes The Man from UNCLE so watchable, is the brilliant onscreen chemistry between Hammer and Cavill, who constantly outdo each other with brawn and wits and naturally are both competing for the affections of the gorgeous yet bold German femme fatale, a role which Alicia Vikander really takes on as her own after playing minor roles in The Fifth Estate and outshining Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina.

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Watch out for the British charm offensive, Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Waverly who is back on form with such witty lines as “For a Special Agent, you are not having such a special day”. The dialogue, action sequences and narrative in Man from UNCLE are all perfectly matched to that early 1960’s spy film, additionally helped by most of the film being set in Rome and the Italian coastline. Even the soundtrack for Uncle is suitably chic, with a couple of sixties Italian songs playing enlivening the amusing action sequences.

The costumes are fabulous, the stunts are brilliantly choreographed and the dialogue is suitably witty with both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer on top form as the two leading men who are jostling for their own pride, accomplishments and competitive edge. It’s the clashing egos of Napoleon and Illya which are fun to watch and director Ritchie plays on the actors’ ability to maintain that constant jealousy between the two characters, coloured with retro repartee which creates a dynamic fraternal bond.

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Elizabeth Debicki is suitably sinister, as the slinky yet dangerous Italian enemy. With plentiful historical references of lurking fascism, Cold War paranoia and sixties glam thrown in, the plot of The Man from Uncle never falters, especially from a director who is clearly unafraid to take risks.

The Man from Uncle is highly recommended viewing for those that have enjoyed Ritchie’s earlier commercial successes and also love a witty, retro spy film which is not afraid to poke fun at the genre itself.

Quirky Victorian Machismo Reinvented….

SHERLOCK HOLMES

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The Dark and Sexy 1890s….

Picture the Victorian age, and most people imagine a British society  with strict morals and closeted virtues, governed by an immovable Queen, who managed an Empire, whose centre was London and radiated out to the four corners of the globe, from South Africa, to Hong Kong, to New Zealand and Jamaica. But by the 1890s that Victorian society was slowly unravelling by the very constraints that were tying it together. Under that epitome of London fortitude, that epicentre of British colonialism, Oscar Wilde was flouting his homosexuality in the mid 1890s and was soon to be tried for his alleged affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, culminating in one of the most famous trials in British legal history. Jack the Ripper was prowling the East End, slitting the throats of Cockney prostitutes and opium dens were rife in the less savoury parts of the City. Under the veil of conservatism, the late Victorians were a quirky bunch, many sects were popping up exploring the occult and challenging the grip of the Church of England, spiritualism was rife, as was the certainty that Victoria’s steel reign was coming to a rapid and abrupt end. England was emerging from the industrial revolution and slowly entering the edges of the modern era. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, lived at a very interesting junction in history and his most famous literary creation from 1890-1905, Sherlock Holmes was a mixture of bound up fanaticism and heroic individuality, a brilliant mind, a borderline addict and an overwhelming eccentric living in an age well before forensics was perfected…

Ritchie Returned…

No other director but the London born, Guy Ritchie (Rock n Rolla, Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) could have brought a 21st century take on the most filmed literary character, and no better actor than Robert Downey Jnr could have pulled off all the perverse complexities as the Victorian super-sleuth, Sherlock. Downey’s performance was reminiscent of his Oscar nominated role in Richard Attenborough biopic, Chaplin.

Hollywood iconic...

Hollywood iconic…

Jude Law is superbly cast as the unassuming but more stable companion Dr Watson whose repartee with Sherlock is bordering on between British Machismo and pervading homo-eroticism. In this version, Holmes and Watson bicker like an old married couple and Holmes sensing separation anxiety at the thought of Watson leaving London to take his bride to go and live in the country, engages Watson as his ever faithful sidekick to destroy the plans of an occult aristocratic. It’s an enabler-rescuer relationship of note and the male bonding that ensues between them penetrating secret societies and separating the mysticism from the science can be read at deeper levels if a viewer wishes. For besides the central Holmes-Watson relation which is central to the film is a fascinating plot which has the duo pitted against the evil and enigmatic Lord Blackwood, another wonderful role by Mark Strong and his ring of henchmen including a French giant.

A Trio of Triumph….

Sherlock Holmes is at home in the 21st century thanks to the adept eye of Guy Ritchie who steers the plot away from glamorous American commercialism and keeps the film, gritty atmospheric, dark and downright British, even to tea in the afternoon, bulldogs and Big Ben. Judging actors and directors by their personal lives is misleading especially with the private affairs of Ritchie, who was going through a divorce with Madonna, Downey who has had an eventful ride to fame, from the early days of Less than Zero to the brilliant Iron Man and Jude Law himself, whose extra-marital affairs have kept him in the spotlight. This trio of talent is brilliant as a team and Guy Ritchie with the extraordinary power of his leading men, create a muscular, engaging and quirky cinematic Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century, leaving a whole generation to discover the very complex and fascinating era that was Victorianism with a twist.

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