Posts Tagged ‘Abbie Cornish’

The Dutchboy Scenario

Geostorm

Director: Dean Devlin

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Amr Waked, Richard Schiff, Mare Winningham

Scottish actor Gerard Butler (300, Olympus has Fallen) does his I will save the world routine in director Dean Devlin’s fantastic disaster epic Geostorm as Jake Lawson alongside Jim Sturgess (21, Cloud Atlas) as his younger conniving brother Max Lawson and the steely secret service agent Sarah Wilson played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish (Bright Star, Limitless, Robocop).

Romanian/ German actress Alexander Maria Lara (Rush) plays the German astronaut Ute Fassbinder while Cuban actor Andy Gracia (The Untouchables, Night Falls on Manhattan) plays the US president Andrew Palma who is trying to prevent earth from being entirely obliterated by a series of freak weather patterns mainly controlled in space by a massive orbital satellite affectionately known as Dutchboy, named after the fabled hero who stopped the Netherlands from imminent flooding.

Think Firestorms in Hong Kong, Tsunami’s in Dubai, Freezing temperatures on the Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro and Lightning strikes at the Democratic Convention in Orlando, Florida. How ironic considering that the Donald Trump led Republican administration recently pulled America out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Veteran actor Ed Harris (The Abyss, A Beautiful Mind, Pollock) recently seen in the brilliant HBO series Westworld, a remake based on the iconic 1970’s film, plays Leonard Dekkam.

While Geostorm can be seen as a veiled attempt at illustrating Global warming, it is a reminder that no matter how invincible human beings feel, nature is more powerful. Especially considering the recent geological disasters: Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and Florida, the recent devastation in Puerto Rico and the deadly earthquake in Mexico City.

Geostorm is a fun-filled, visually impressive popcorn film with some genuine fraternal conflict between the two brothers Max and Jake, the former being a smooth talking government lobbyist (Jim Sturgess) and the latter a gung-ho action man with anger management issues (Gerard Butler).

Like Moonraker meets Gravity with overtones of An Inconvenient Truth, except Geostorm is no documentary but an epic disaster film neatly packaged for American consumerism.

My only criticism is that in Geostorm, America remains relatively unscathed while Mumbai, India, Hong Kong and Dubai are subjected to severe weather patterns which makes for stunning visuals but questionable cinematic ideology.

Audiences that enjoyed The Day After Tomorrow and Armageddon, will love Geostorm. That being said, it is a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, without seriously contemplating the 21st century phenomenon of climate change coupled with rapidly developing digital technology.

The entertaining Geostorm gets a Film Rating of 7 out of 10. Recommended for audiences that like their global warming glossy and romanticized.

This film was kindly sponsored by Ster Kinekor https://movies.sterkinekor.co.za/browsing/ Musgrave Cinemas, Durban, South Africa.

 

Illusion of Control

RoboCop

robocop_ver2

Director: Jose Padilha

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jennifer Ehle, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Aimee Garcia

Brazilian director Jose Padilha imaginatively captures the essence of Robocop’s moral dilemma in the 21st century reboot of the popular 1987 cult hit Robocop, by blending a human story with that of greedy industrialists, partisan politics and a dash of media saturated parody.

Joel Kinnaman takes on the part of Detroit police Detective Alex Murphy who is blown apart in a car bomb and who is reassembled with the assistance of the sinister Omnicorp robotics corporation, a role that made actor Peter Weller famous in Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s original film. Whilst Kinnaman’s Robocop does not require much acting beyond a couple of confused facial expressions, it’s really the supporting cast of Padilha’s version which do the film justice. Abbie Cornish is oddly cast as the confused yet betrayed wife Clara Murphy, Michael Keaton is brilliant as the greedy industrialist Raymond Sellars who wants to unleash part man part machine cyborgs onto the crime ridden streets of Detroit and then there is Gary Oldman as sympathetic Dr Dennett Norton who reconstructs the almost obliterated Detective Murphy into Robocop who has become more machine than human with the exception of a brain full of fluctuating dopamine levels.

What elevates Robocop from another popcorn sci-fi film are the superb special effects, the crisp editing and Padilha’s emphasis on media parody brilliantly done in the scenes with Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) as the no nonsense TV presenter who frames the narrative in a series of audacious TV interviews in the ultra sophisticated show The Novak Element – a spoof of Piers Morgan Live and Sky News. Pro-robots TV presenter Pat Novak is wonderful  as a mechanism for blending parody and pastiche in a dystopian society where Omnicorp robots will eventually replace the existing police force of all American cities.

For as Robocop opens The Novak Element goes live to the streets of Tehran where robots are policing the local Iranian population but are not allowed onto American soil due to a political decision known as the Dreyfuss Act, banning robots on American streets. What Robocop is incisively commenting on is America’s controversial use of drones in foreign battlegrounds like Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Michael Kenneth Williams plays Murphy’s partner on the corrupt Detroit police force and assists Robocop in tracking down the real criminals behind his attempted assassination. Like the original film, 2014’s Robocop is set in Detroit the home of motor manufacturing but in recent years also one of the only American cities to file for bankruptcy after the 2008 recession due to corruption, maladministration and urban decay. Yet in this version, Detroit looks like a city on the mend especially with the establishment of the Omnicorp headquarters, which become Robocop’s ultimate nemesis.

As with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where the mad scientist creates a monster who in turn, attacks his creator, there is this thematic twist of an illusion of control. In Robocop, the recreated ruthless part man/part machine turns on the company which created him, especially Sellars who only sees the hybrid cyborg as a money making product to be marketed by Omnicorp to other American cities in the proposed interests of crime prevention despite the ethical protests of Dr Norton, a rather softened Gary Oldman (The Fifth Element).

Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) plays Omnicorps muscle Rick Mattox who is eager to test Robocop’s combat abilities in a simulated combat environment. Other stars include Jennifer Ehle (Contagion) Jay Baruchel as Omnicorp relentless marketing man and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secret and Lies) as Police Chief Karen Dean helping rounding off a solid cast to compliment the purposefully wooden Kinnaman.

What makes the 21st century Robocop so stylish, is Padilha’s slick direction from the aerial shots of a Detroit skyline to the mind blowing special effects to the crime reconstruction sequence by Robocop/Alex Murphy in his suburban driveway. Robocop along with some brilliant action sequences, a cool slate grey body armour suit, becomes an antihero and the films chillingly predictive narrative arc is punctuated by some human conflict in terms of his family and loads of media hype with the parody infused TV show The Novak Element.  As a film, Robocop is an entertaining, provocative and enjoyable sci-fi thriller which points to an impressive and marketable finished product, much like its anti-hero.

Romance of the Century

W./E.

Ravishingly told!

Ravishingly told!

Madonna’s directorial debut focuses on the stylish romance and subsequent marriage of King Edward VIII to swanky American divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936 in the period drama W/E sparking the abdication of the King in one of the most scandalous romances of the 20th century. W/E also has a concurrent narrative of a Park Avenue socialite Wally Winthrop who after leaving her job at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York falls into a loveless and cruel marriage with a heavy-drinking and bitter psychiatrist played by Richard Coyle. In both instances Wallis Simpson, played by Andrea Riseborough and the fictional character of New Yorker Wally played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish suffer abuse by their violent  first husbands, Madonna attempts to highlight more the plight of privileged woman physically abused by powerful men.

Not that W/E is just about gender violence, but more about the romance and sacrifice that both King Edward VIII, known as David, played by James D’Arcy and Wallis Simpson enjoyed and endured as their love carried them through the abdication crisis, media scrutiny and lavish exile in France. Not to mention that both Edward and Wallis, who become the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were vilified in the American and British press in the years leading up to the outbreak of World War II for apparently being Nazi sympathizers following a prolific meeting with Hitler in 1937.

Naturally W/E should be seen as a lesser companion piece to the Oscar winning Tom Hooper film The King’s Speech focusing on King George VI also know as Bertie who had to cope with the abdication of his older more articulate brother Edward along with Britain’s eventual entry into World War II in September 1939. The last five years of the 1930’s was an extremely unstable period both politically and socially with many geopolitical changes  occurring rapidly with the military expansion of Nazi Germany in Europe and the impending threat of World War. During the war years the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived in the Bahamas where he was Govenor according to the fascinating life of Wallis Simpson – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallis_Simpson

Benzedrine in the Champagne

Through historical footage, Madonna shows us not only the historical aspects of this period, but of the lavish and all together captivating love affair which occurred between Edward, the then Prince of Wales and the forthright American from Baltimore Wallis Simpson, as the couple become the darlings of the international Mediterranean party scene from Cannes to Portofino. The Prince of Wales offered gorgeous gifts of custom made Cartier crosses to his love, Wallis Simpson as they frolicked in the surf in the French Riviera. The dashing and charming Edward, who felt nothing of popping Benzedrine into guests Champagne glasses at a Belgravia midnight screening and soon got the party started  with Wallis Simpson, doing a particularly zany thirties jive with pearls flying and music blasting. In this fabulous party scene that W/E depicts Wallis and Edward as the epitome of celebrity chic, the opulent couple worshiped by the established international elite made up of wealthy Americans and Britons who made the French Riviera their fashionable playground.

The Sotheby’s Auction in New York

Whilst the second narrative of Wally befriending a Russian immigrant security guard Evgeni played by Oscar Isaac at the 1998 Sotheby’s  Auction of the gorgeous possessions of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in New York that is lovingly fleshed out in the second part of W/E, it is really also just as significant since Wally eventually travels to Paris to fulfil her obsession with Wallis Simpson by requesting to read the Duchess’s private letters held by Mohamed Al Fayed at the Duke and Duchess’s former Parisian chateau near the Bois du Bologne,  father of Dodi who was killed along with Diana, the Princess of Wales in the fatal 1997 car crash in Paris a year before that makes this quest on Wally’s part both liberating and poignant.

Madonna’s real talent lies in her music but her hand as a director of such an interesting subject as the love affair between Wallis and King Edward should not be discounted as she focuses more on their lavish affair which become internationally known as the Romance of the Century.

From a feminist perspective, Madonna’s lavish film W/E is more about style than substance with engaging shots of New York and Paris, yet even the relevant character sketching scenes portray both the affluent Wally in 1998 and the stylish Wallace in 1936 as emblematic of how woman throughout the centuries no matter how gorgeously attired they are, can also become victims of physical violence and social scorn. The film is adequately assisted by a heart rendering musical score by Abel Korzeniowski and stylish costumes by Arianne Phillips and will appeal to all lovers of stylish period dramas.

*

Success is a Loan Shark

Limitless

With innovative direction by Neil Burger who brought the stunning period drama The Illusionist to the screen in 2006, Limitless stars Bradley Cooper as an aimless writer in New York City battling to complete a novel, landing up more at the Bar than at his publishers. Through a dodgy encounter with a shady brother-in-law, Ed Morra (Cooper) discovers the drug NZT which unlocks the potential of the human brain allowing a person to operate with all synapses connected and being fully in control with a super stimulated and alert state of mind, unlocking memories, abilities and hidden talents. Soon Morra in his quest for personal wealth transforms into a stock market trader being wooed by big investors and also chased by a shady Russian loan shark.

Morra played with humility and helped by Cooper’s vulnerable, yet starling blue eyes, is a departure for the actor who was in danger of being stuck in romantic comedy hell. Having instant fame from such hit films as The Hangover and The A-Team, Bradley Cooper holds his own as a flawed hero in Limitless a psychological thriller on the efforts men go to achieve success and power, wealth and wisdom at whatever cost. Unlike Edward Zwick’s raunchy comedy Love and Other Drugs which used sex and nudity to stay clear of the dangers of pharmaceutical medication, Limitless plunges into the murky world of drug addiction, of balancing a mind-unleashing drugs with the after effects of chemicals that can serious alter ones personality and if used correctly one’s path to success. Limitless does not shy away from the notion that all successful and brilliant men, whatever field they achieve their fame, there has been a secret reliance on that all powerful magic pill for success turning mere dreams and ideas into a prominent career and recognition.

Morra shows the effects of the brain boosting drug and the dangers of over reliance on that form of stimulus to achieve a person’s goals. Limitless is an ambivalent take on what drives men to success. Is it their ability to rise above average mediocrity or their reliance on an external booster to achieve fame, fortune and financial superiority in a cut-throat free-market economy, as competitive as that signified by 21st century commercial America and a relentless puritan work ethic?

Limitless is set on the edges of Wall Street, and with a menacing and megalomaniacal performance by Robert de Niro as the financial investor Carl van Loon, Morra is soon drawn into his world of greed, absolute power and a morally devoid fight for survival. Whether Morra transcends van Loon’s world to make his own individual mark on a power hungry society without the aid of questionable narcotics is left up to the audience to ultimately decide. However, the character journey of Morra from a loser unpublished writer, explaining his narrative to bar flys’ in a hazy Manhattan bar at the film’s opening to the confident wealthy and politically ambitious man at the end of the film is remarkable, violent and ethically questionable. If viewers enjoyed The Game, Bad Influence and Wall Street, the original, then Limitless is a film to watch. Lastly as drugs or alcohol is addictive, Limitless shows that the desire for success and wealth in a competitive environment is equally alluring.

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