Archive for the ‘Ridley Scott’ Category

Hostages of Fortune

All the Money in the World

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, Timothy Hutton, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Andrew Buchan

Gladiator and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott returns to the big screen with a true life Italian kidnap drama All the Money in the World starring Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners) as oil billionaire J. Paul Getty whose 16 year old grandson J. Paul Getty III expertly played with a nuanced vulnerability by Charlie Plummer, is kidnapped in Rome in the summer of 1973, based on actual events.

Paul Getty III known as Paul whose mother Gail Getty superbly played by Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn) who should have received another Oscar nomination for her role in this film, is caught in a precarious situation when she cannot physically pay the $17 million ransom demanded by the thuggish kidnappers.

Gail Getty desperately pleads with her immensely wealthy father-in-law who categorically refuses to pay the ransom for the reasons that if he had to pay $17 million for every grandchild of his that got kidnapped, it would dent his already vast fortune. Ruthless, selfish and thoroughly frugal, J. Paul Getty made his vast fortune through drilling for oil in Saudi Arabia in the late 1940’s.

Similar to his Oscar nominated performance as Tolstoy in The Last Station, Christopher Plummer adds gravitas and respectability to the role of Oil Tycoon J. Paul Getty who surrounded himself with priceless antiquities and an expensive art collection worth millions on his massive Getty’s estate in England, but did not have the compassion to pay for his grandson’s release which would have secured his safe return from a truly nefarious mafia style gang of kidnappers in Calabria, in Southern Italy.

Gail Getty enlists the help of security broker Fletcher Chace played by Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Departed) as they both along with the Italian police try to expedite the safe return of Paul Getty. What follows is a tense kidnap drama in the style of Daniel Alfredson’s Kidnapping Mr Heinken.

With cinematic panache, director Ridley Scott makes full use of his Italian locations with extensive shots of Rome and its ancient Ruins along with the frenetic buzz of the Italian capital augmented by the ever present paparazzi as they hound the Getty family in what was to become one of the most sensational kidnap dramas of the 1970’s.

Gail Getty’s ex-husband, J. Paul Getty II played by Andrew Buchan, goes from heading up his father’s European oil empire to becoming a heroin addict in Morocco and is virtually out of the entire negotiation. The negotiation is a fiercely contested battle of the wills between Gail Getty and her ruthless father-in-law. She is desperate to get her beloved son Paul back in one piece.

Supporting actors include French actor Romain Duris as a sympathetic kidnapper Cinquanta as well as Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People) as the Getty’s financier Oswald Hinge.

Christopher Plummer and Charlie Plummer (no relation) are both brilliant as grandfather and grandson. Michelle Williams is fantastic as a desperate mother caught in this prolific dynasty but who conveys increasing helplessness in not being able to rescue her resourceful teenage son.

All the Money in the World is a captivating, stylish and gritty kidnap drama expertly directed by Ridley Scott and receives a film rating of 8 out of 10.  

 

 

Man from Mars

The Martian

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Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Donald Glover

Oscar winner Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) takes the lead role in director Ridley Scott’s visually stunning adaptation of the Andy Weir novel, The Martian as he stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut who after a sandstorm on Mars gets stranded on the red planet by his fellow crew members who abandon him unknowingly to head back to earth.

The crew members include Captain Melissa Lewis played by Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Beth Johanssen played by Kate Mara, Chris Beck played by Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Rick Martinez played by Michael Pena (Antman, American Hustle) and Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie (Hercules) as Alex Vogel.

Meanwhile back at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, NASA headquarters, Director Teddy Sanders played by Jeff Daniels channeling his role in Aaron Sorkin’s TV Series, The Newsroom, announces that Watney is dead. Back on Mars, Watney is alive and has to figure out a way to survive on a planet with minimal oxygen and no sustainable ecosystem to grow his own food supply, an obvious metaphor for the dwindling food supply on planet Earth. Watch out for a superb supporting role by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as Vincent Kapoor who firmly believes in finding Watney and bring him back to Earth.

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Luckily Watkins is a trained botanist so with ingenuity and a lot of dry humour, he manages to harvest a small crop of potatoes inside the Mars man-made habitat. This is where Damon really inhabits the role of a lone space colonizer, the only man left on Mars who has to survive and adapt to his hostile and surreal environment, ironically while listening to 70’s disco music. Best line in the film is:

“Neil Armstrong, eat your heart out!”

As the team at NASA scramble to figure out a way to rescue Watney after receiving an encrypted message from him letting them know he is still alive, Watney has to use all his own resources to remain resilient until a rescue mission, however precarious is assembled. Whilst the astrophysics of the rescue mission, will go over the head of most viewers, what makes The Martian such an enlightening cinematic experience are the stunning almost ethereal visual effects, held together by an Oscar worthy performance by Matt Damon as he contemplates that he could perish on this desolate and largely uninhabitable planet, if the rescue mission fails.

The rest of the cast are largely viewed in supporting roles, including Chastain as the steely Captain of the Hermes space craft, they support Damon’s character both psychologically, emotionally and spiritually as Watney gradually learns that back on Earth he is becoming a symbol of a lone survivor who if he manages to return home safely will definitely have a legendary tale to tell.

With breathtaking cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and production design by Arthur Max, The Martian is definitely in the same league as Alphonso Cuaron’s 2013 Oscar winner Gravity and humanizes space travel without delving to deeply into the philosophical elements of the infinite universe as done in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or more recently Christopher Nolan’s visually compelling but laden Interstellar which oddly enough also featured Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon.

With a running time of 141 minutes, The Martian is a superbly told adventure story about one man’s fight to survive and his resilient desire to return to Earth, brilliantly acted by Matt Damon and beautifully directed by Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Gladiator).

Highly recommended viewing especially in a cinema. Do not wait for The Martian to come on TV as the visual and sound effects will certainly be lost.

Packing for the Promised Land

Exodus: Gods and Kings

exodus_gods_and_kings

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Christian Bale, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn, Ewen Bremner, Maria Valverde

After the success of Gladiator and Robin Hood, British director Ridley Scott tackles the Book of Exodus in his ambitious cinematic reworking aptly titled Exodus: Gods and Kings, dedicated to his deceased brother director Tony Scott (True Romance, Top Gun, Man on Fire).

Exodus: Gods and Kings, starts when Moses is a muscular young man taken into the ancient Egyptian court of Seti the supercilious Pharoah played by John Turturro whose son and heir apparent Ramses played by Joel Edgerton becomes like a brother to Moses. All sibling affection soon vanishes, when Moses visits the enslaved Israelites who are forced to build pyramids, sphinxes and tombs to the Egyptian kings.

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Moses played by Oscar winner Christian Bale leaves Egypt and sets off for Midian where he meets his future wife Zipporah played by Spanish actress Maria Valverde. While in Midian, Moses is visited by God in the form of a vengeful boy who promises to free the Israelites from Egypt and set curses upon the ancient land. God makes Moses a leader and instructs him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the promised land of Canaan.

After several years of marital bliss, Moses returns to Egypt to discover that the brutal and vain Ramses has taken power and forced the Israelites into an entrenched and vicious slave labour, while the ancient Egyptians live an idle life.

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Once the ten plagues of Egypt have cursed the land of the Nile completely, Ramses will banish the Israelites from Egypt into the desert of Sinai and cinematically these ten curses upon the House of Ramses are brilliantly recreated from rivers of blood to the seminal deaths of the first born Egyptian sons including that of Ramses heir, whilst the Israelite first born sons are spared during the Passover.

In Exodus: Gods and Kings, naturally the narrative is completely biblical and sure to be controversial depending on which religious context the viewer is watching this film in. Besides the religious and historical aspects, Exodus: Gods and Kings is an ambitious saga which unfortunately suffers from the weight of its own importance along with a poorly written dialogue which makes the character development flimsy and almost predictable.

This is a pity considering the fantastic ensemble cast which Scott commands including Sigourney Weaver whose part as Tuya barely registers in the overall narrative along with Ben Kingsley as Hebrew leader Nunn and an unrecognizable Aaron Paul (The Need for Speed) as Joshua.

Besides the two main leads with Bale going through the motions as Moses and Joel Edgerton is slightly better as the confused and curse stricken Egyptian king Ramses, Ben Mendelsohn shines as a camp Viceroy Hegerop who lives a debauched life away from the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis.

Maria Valverde is convincing as Moses long suffering wife Zipporah who is also basically neglected in an overtly patriarchal narrative which gives little credence to any of the female characters in the story. Sigourney Weaver’s Tuya suffers a similar fate, merely feeling a presence without any significant motivation.

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As a film, Exodus: Gods and Kings could have been so much better, including more lavish cinematography, better acting and a more intelligent handling of the Book of Exodus which is complex enough as a religious text, thus making it even more difficult to translate this biblical story into a relevant 21st century cinematic narrative.

In terms of Ridley Scott’s excellent filmography including A Good Year, Gladiator, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Exodus: Gods and Kings can be considered his least successful film, yet it will be his most provocative and talked about.

Whether it’s a complete disaster of biblical proportions or a genuine retelling of Moses leading the Israelites into the promised land of Canaan, Exodus: Gods and Kings will be judged historically entirely by the viewer’s frame of reference, religious beliefs, gender and socio-political perspective. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, Gladiator or long biblical spectacles such as the 1956 Charlton Heston epic The Ten Commandments.

Origin of the Species

Prometheus

Ridley Scott’s much anticipated prequel to Alien, Prometheus contains astounding visuals and superb special effects and thematically centres on the anthropological term of first contact whereby mankind goes into deep space in search of their mysterious origins and discovers species bent on annihilation. Featuring an all star international cast including Noomi Rapace from the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as the pivotal role of Shaw, Michael Fassbender from Xmen: First Class and Inglorious Basterds as David and South African Hollywood superstar Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers, Prometheus follows the terrifying journey of the Prometheus spaceship into an unchartered planet to discover the origins of mankind.

Whilst the origin of species  remains questionable this film theorises that it is all down to a gradual mutation of DNA and naturally instinctive survival is paramount, in this case one species dominating the others through treachery and deceit. In Greek Mythology Prometheus is a titan who is credited with the creation of man but is also punished by Zeus for the theft of fire for human use – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus. In the sci-fi universe of Prometheus man’s creation and the discovery of something infinitely more powerful than fire is all consuming.

Man’s insatiable quest for knowledge about their origins and his desire for answers that leads the motley crue of the ship to discover not one, but two alien races, one whose DNA feeds off the originator like a parasite and transforms into something purely evil and instantly recognizable. The only answer to creation provided in this film is to the question that the dubious David asks about his maker to Shaw’s love interest the doomed Dr Holloway played by Logan Marshall-Green last seen in 2009’s Brooklyn’s Finest.

As in the visually spectacular Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s iconic dreamlike vision of the future set in Los Angeles in 2019, which now as it happens is not that far off, Prometheus is set in 2095 and predicts humans quest to discover other life forms, a journey, which like most space travel in the 21st century is predominantly sponsored by large commercial corporations represented in this film by the icy crew manager Vickers played by Theron. Prometheus like Blade Runner and Alien is pure sci-fi thriller with some astounding visuals but leaves the audience  slightly lost in space as the elusive narrative drifts towards a rather sudden and unpredictable climax.

Where the plotlines rupture with some fascinating twists, it is the technical superiority of this film which triumphs making Prometheus eclipse Avatar on so many levels and is worth watching on a cinematic widescreen with digitally enhanced surround sound.

Like Alien, Thelma and Louise and GI Jane, Ridley Scott has often relied on strong female leads to carry his films, and Noomi Rapace is brilliantly cast as the gritty Dr Elizabeth Shaw and carries the intensity of such a murky monochromatic  movie. Best scene is Shaw’s speedy self diagnosis and instant electronic caesarian. Prometheus is brilliant as a Sci-Fi film and an enigmatic prequel, but is not Ridley Scott’s best work, yet still thoroughly entertaining but not quite as terrifying as the original Alien movies or the horrific Event Horizon and like Avatar could have been enhanced by a Sigourney Weaver cameo.

Muscular Remake of Robin Longstride….

Robin Hood

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Ridley Scott’s Epic and muscular retelling of Robin Hood is better than expected. With Scott’s usual visual panache, 12th century England gets a grand and lush veneer along with a muscular and slightly jocular Robin Hood, played by Russell Crowe who teams up with an equally feisty Lady Marion, played with all the haughtiness of a woman trapped by her grand situation by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett.

The action is swift, gritty and visually compelling without dwelling on the gore but hinting at the brutality of the times. Robin Hood, which surprisingly opened the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and is devoutly English in its version of the pending invasion by King Philip of the brittle and precarious English realm of King John in 1199.

Supported by a wonderful cast including Mark Strong as yet another evil villian in the role of the allegiance shifting Godfrey, Eileen Atkins as the delicate but influential Eleanor of Aquitaine played by Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley, Robin Hood is Ridley Scott back in the style of Gladiator with similar themes of an empire on the precipice of change, a slightly demented ruler and an anti-hero who leads the battle and starts a myth. Robin Hood also known as Robin Longstride is a brawny and hairy Russell Crowe who is forced to delve into the idealism of his youth where his father prophesied the Magna Carta and the saying Lambs become Lions….

Scott’s trademark elements of water and shadow are skilfully used to enhance a much larger and bolder canvas of a Kingdom ravaged by a ten year crusade to the Holy Land, rebellious noblemen and coffers which are far from full. The ever-menacing relationship with France is tested by the betrayals and ambitions of Godfrey and King Philip along with his niece Queen Isabella who is married to King John, younger brother to King Richard the Lionheart, a brief but great turn by Danny Huston brother of Angelica Huston.

Crowe and Blanchett make a fine team, both experienced actors with the right amount of gravity to pull off these mythic roles with depth and sensitivity without resorting to cliche. Had these roles been cast to lesser known stars the force of the film would have been lost. Robin Hood is an epic Historical tale which hints at the popular story of Robin Hood and his merry men, Friar Tuck and his beekeeping and the Sheriff of Nottingham, gorgeously underplayed by Matthew Macfadyen of Pride and Prejudice fame. William Hurt also makes an appearance as William Marshall to add weight to the already Oscar-laden cast. This film version is certainly not flimsy, but muscular, brawny, dark and partly comical without dwelling too much on the political intrigue, the costumes or the bloodletting of medieval England.

Robin Hood‘s arrow has the perfect shot and Ridley Scott’s film is superb, engaging and visually rewarding more as an historical epic than a special-effects laden blockbuster and will surely be noticed when awards season comes round next year. What would one expect from such an experienced film maker who has brought audiences such classics as Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise and the Oscar Winning Gladiator, which made Russell Crowe an international star.

With a sword he conquored Rome…

As for the French, Robin Hood did open at Festival du Cannes, so perhaps all that cross-channel animosity has slightly cooled! Watch Robin Longstride and his rise to iconic anti-hero and savior of the outcasts and the free…

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