Posts Tagged ‘Alan Arkin’

The Circus has Come to Town

Dumbo

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Roshan Seth, Lars Eidinger

Director Tim Burton reunites his stars Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito from the 1992 smash hit sequel Batman Returns in Disney’s live action remake of Dumbo also starring Colin Farrell and Eva Green.

The setting is a travelling circus in post-war Missouri where Dumbo is born to a mother elephant and whose long ears enable the baby elephant to fly at the coaxing of a feather with the help of children Milly and Joe Farrier played by Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins.

The children’s father and returning World War I hero Holt Farrier is played by Colin Farrell (Roman J. Israel Esq, The Beguiled, Widows).

Danny DeVito (Big Fish, The War of the Roses, Get Shorty) stars as Max Medici who comically runs the travelling circus. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger does take a while to get the story of Dumbo off the ground and the first half of the film does appear to be slightly unexciting.

Luckily, the moment Michael Keaton and Eva Green appear on screen, Dumbo becomes a fascinating tale of intrigue, dreams dashed, benevolent dictatorships and corporate greed which allows for the wholesale exploitation of animals for circus tricks which naturally is an overarching theme in this Disney tale of reunions, captivity, animal cruelty and entertainment.

In any case, what is a Disney movie without a moral cause and Dumbo is no exception.

Visually, Dumbo is fascinating and the production design and costumes are brilliant and slightly garish which is what to expect in a Tim Burton film who directed such classics as Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Ed Wood, Big Eyes and Alice in Wonderland.

As the action moves swiftly from the Missouri plains to New York where Keaton’s flamboyant entrepreneur V. A. Vandevere played with a chilling panache by Oscar nominee Michael Keaton (Birdman) buys Medici’s circus to be supposedly incorporated into Vandevere’s lavish amusement park Dreamland financed by a ruthless banker J. Griffin Remington played by Oscar winner Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) .

It’s at Dreamland where Dumbo has to perform daring circus tricks which prompts him to fly around the tent with precarious set pieces collapsing all around the poor elephant. It’s also at Dreamland that Vendevere’s wicked intentions are revealed much to the horror of Medici and the one armed Holt Farrier.

Eva Green’s sympathetic Parisian acrobat is a breath of fresh air amidst the CGI heavy retelling of Dumbo which is entertaining and certainly spectacular but does fall short of the mark.

Unfortunately director Tim Burton misses the mark with Dumbo but the gorgeous production design outshines the lacklustre story line which might not produce tears in viewers’ eyes.

Dumbo gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 but as a lavish post-war circus film it could have been absolutely phenomenal but remains adequately entertaining. Ideal viewing for children and is definitely a film worth seeing on the Big Screen.

60th BAFTA Awards

THE  60TH BAFTA AWARDS /

THE BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS

Took place on Sunday 11th February 2007 in London

BAFTA WINNERS IN THE FILM CATEGORY:

The Queen

Best Film: The Queen

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Best Director: Paul Greengrass – United 93

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Best Actor: Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress: Helen Mirren – The Queen

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Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine

dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls

Rising Star Award: Eva Green

Best British Film: The Last King of Scotland

Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine

Best Adapted Screenplay: Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock – The Last King of Scotland

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Best Costume Design: Pan’s Labyrinth

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan’s Labyrinth directed by Guillermo del Toro (Mexico/Spain)

Source: 60th BAFTA Awards

Moscow vs Hollywood

Get Smart

get_smart_ver4

Director: Peter Segal

Cast: Steve Carrell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Terry Crews, Terence Stamp

Review originally published in July 2008

After Anne Hathaway’s wonderful performances in Brokeback Mountain, The Devil Wears Prada and Becoming Jane, I was intrigued to discover her cast opposite comedian Steve Carrell (The 40Year Old Virgin) for the Spy adventure, Get Smart, a big screen adaptation of the 1960’s American comedy TV show.

Get Smart started off as quite an amusing film, more spoof than serious action, but what occurs is that the first half of the film, making excellent use of its initial stylish Moscow and Russian locations, fares better than the second half, set in a tired-seen-it-before downtown Los Angeles. With Mel Brooks famed for such classic comedies as To Be or Not to Be as an executive producer, I was expecting a comedy, however the joke in Get Smart starts running thin to such an extent that by the end of the film, it seems to be more on the audience who actually spent time and effort sitting through a two-hour movie, than on this half-hearted affair comprising of a mismatched pastiche of James Bond and Mission Impossible films, with scenes reminiscent of Octopussy and Entrapment combined with more high-octane car and plane chase sequences certainly suggestive of the Terminator movies.

Steve Carrell is a talented actor as noted in such independent films as Little Miss Sunshine, yet his particular style of comedy is confusing at times, sometimes serious, but capably funny. His lack of desire at playing the character completely straight or inanely goofy, gives the audience a mixed idea of Get Smart’s main protagonist Maxwell Smart, a desk-bound covert analyst who gets the opportunity to experience the long-anticipated thrills of dangerous espionage fieldwork.

Anne Hathaway, who makes the best of the material of this shallow spoof whose greatest flaw is not taking itself too seriously, seems almost lost as to how to play the super-efficient Agent 99, deadpan or with a comedic wit, leaving her floundering as the better half of a miscast screen couple. Either way she is left grappling for a more meaningful character, not to mention storyline, only to be left smirking on the sidelines, almost acknowledging herself that Get Smart falls short of the mark, which is clearly a waste for such a talented actress.

In the hands of a more astute director such as the brilliantly comic Blake Edwards, this film could have been a really witty sophisticated and stylish spy-drama in the vein of the classic Pink Panther movies, especially given the talents involved. Director, Peter Segal whose previous Adam Sandler movies, The Longest Yard and Anger Management, fails to pool the adequate acting resources and whilst there are too few genuinely hilarious moments in Get Smart, most notably the lavatory scene in the airplane and the sequences set in Russia, particularly Moscow, while the Hollywood finale leaves one wishing for a more substantial filmic experience.

Such great character actors like Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp are wasted in this poorly directed film, which could have been so much sharper than what it was aiming for. Get Smart saving grace is that it portrays Moscow as smarter than Hollywood, which inevitably is always worth a laugh.

Slumdog Moneyball

Million Dollar Arm

million_dollar_arm

Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Jon Hamm, Alan Arkin, Suraj Sharma, Bill Paxton, Lake Bell, Aashif Mandvi, Maddhur Mittal

Disney’s take on baseball meets Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire comes in the form of the charming sports film, Million Dollar Arm featuring Mad Men’s Jon Hamm teaming up with Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma and Alan Arkin from Argo.

Set in India and Los Angeles, director Craig Gillespie’s Million Dollar Arm premiering at the Durban International Film Festival 2014 – http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ tells the true story of a down on his luck sports agents J. Bernstein, played by Hamm who while channel surfing flicking between Britain’s Got Talent and cricket in India on late night TV, comes up with an epiphany to travel to India to find the next big baseball player.

The only problem is that in India, once the jewel of the British colonial empire, the main sport is cricket as it in the rest of the Commonwealth and the general male population there do not play baseball. With the help of a shady Chinese business investor Chang played by Tzi Ma, J. B. Bernstein travels to chaotic Mumbai to discover a world so alien and different to his lavish and ordered Californian lifestyle, one in which he was a once successful sports agent.

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Spurred on by his tenant, Brenda played by Lake Bell, J. B. Bernstein travels the length and breadth of India in search of a cricket player with a million dollar arm. He is helped by a retired baseball talent spotter Ray wonderfully underplayed by Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) who discover two young men Rinky and Dinesh, played by Suraj Sharma and Maddhur Mittal respectively who each possess a million dollar arm, or an above average ball throwing speed.

Part of the enticement for these two young players is the opportunity of traveling to the United States and play a game that they have never played before. Leaving the rural confines of Lucknow, India, they are suddenly transplanted in University of Southern California’s baseball fields where they are coached by the cautious yet optimistic coach Tom House played by Bill Paxton.

Naturally as a Disney film, director Gillespie in Million Dollar Arm aims for a general feel good sports film while making insightful observations about the massive cultural differences between India and America and highlighting each society’s similarities.

Jon Hamm is excellent as the exasperated JB Bernstein supported by a great cast especially Oscar winner Arkin and the always amiable Lake Bell, along with Aashif Mandvi as Aash while Suraj Sharma and Maddhur Mittal make the most of their roles as young Indian boys caught up in an essentially American sporting dilemma. Watch out for a superb musical score by A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire).

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Unlike the very specific baseball films Moneyball or Field of Dreams, Million Dollar Arm is enjoyable family viewing and will appeal to sporting enthusiasts both in America and the commonwealth highlighting Hollywood’s increasing desire to deliver more international fare. A thought provoking and fascinating film about the increasing globalization of sport and the desire for all people to achieve seemingly impossible dreams. Like Indian hockey players trying out for the American National Baseball league. Recommended viewing especially as it is a true story.

79th Academy Awards

79th Academy Awards

25th February 2007

Oscar Winners at the 79th Academy Awards

 departed

Best Picture: The Departed

Best Director: Martin Scorsese The Departed

last_king_of_scotland

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland

The Queen

Best Actress: Helen Mirren – The Queen

little_miss_sunshine_ver4

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine

dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls

Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt – Little Miss Sunshine

Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan – The Departed

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Best Foreign Language Film: The Lives of Others directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany)

Best Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth directed by Davis Guggenheim

babel

Best Original Score: Gustavo Santaolalla – Babel

untitled

Best Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro – Pan’s Labyrinth

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Best Costume Design: Milena Canonero – Marie Antoinette

Best Film Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker – The Departed

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Best Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/79th_Academy_Awards

 

Theatre of the Absurd

ARGO

This is a fake film about a real escape

This is a fake film about a real escape

Ben Affleck suitably impressed the Hollywood Foreign Press with the brilliant socio-political thriller Argo which he deservedly  won the 2013 Golden Globe for best director but it was a travesty that he was not nominated for an Oscar for the 85th Academy Awards in the best director category for this tightly woven docu-drama about the Iranian hostage crisis spanning from 1979 to 1980.

Argo starts off with an almost picture book history of Iran up to the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979 and the rise to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini which turned Iran from a Kingdom into an Islamic Republic. Amidst this cultural and fundamental Islamic revolution is a diplomatic crisis which stems from the Iranian revolutionaries storming the American Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 in reaction to the Shah seeking political asylum in the USA. Whilst the majority of the US citizens remain hostage, six escape and seek refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s house in suburban Tehran at the height of the Iranian Revolution

Back at CIA headquarters in Langley Virginia, Brian Cranston as Jack O’Donnell pulls in Tony Mendez played with a subtle strength by Affleck as an extraction specialist who comes up with a hair-brained scheme to rescue the six hostages in Tehran using the cover of a Canadian crew shooting a fake science fiction film in Iran. Enter Hollywood, where Mendez soon flies to L.A. and in a surprisingly limited time enlists the help of prosthetics expert John Chambers played by John Goodman and disgruntled and cynical veteran film director Lester Siegel superbly played by Alan Arkin to set up and promote the non-existent film Argo, taken from a trashy Sci-Fi script with a faintly Middle Eastern setting, almost like the planet Tattoine in Star Wars.

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Where Affleck as director excels so powerfully is his skilful cinematic combination of the ludicrous wealth and theatricality of Hollywood, especially presented in the wonderful Comicon press launch scene at the Beverley Hills Hilton  intercut with the real brutality and turmoil of the Islamic revolution where Tehran and Iran as a country in 1979 were experiencing a major political and socioeconomic coup aided by a vengeful revolutionary guard.

Escape from Tehran

It’s really the second half of Argo which is terrific entertainment and is a tense escape tale whereby Affleck’s character Mendez not willing to show the real strain he is under flies first to Istanbul and then into Tehran and with the assistance of the Canadian Ambassador skilfully extricates the six American hostages out of Tehran through a terrifying airport passport control sequence which for any international traveler is sure to bring back vivid memories. Along with a classified CIA mission, a bizarre ploy about shooting a sci-fi film in and around Tehran, Argo is a thought-provoking portrait of two vastly different societies connected only through a shared mesmerizing interest in a fake narrative in which they don’t fully grasp the realities yet, but recognize the antagonism associated with conflicting cultural ideologies. Much like earthlings sent to a distant planet!

Affleck’s triumph as director is that he never vilifies the Iranians and also does not succumb to much American glossy patriotism but accurately presents a bizarre tale of courage, tenacity and duplicity of international proportions and of the extraordinary lengths governments will go to protecting their own citizens in foreign diplomatic missions. Argo is helped by an excellent script by Chris Terrio and a suitably nerve-wracking original score by Alexandre Desplat who makes sure the pace of the film is maintained somewhere between terror and absurdity.

Argo is an engaging declassified tale of one man’s courage to protect his fellow countrymen in a hostile environment whilst maintaining an almost definitive sense of calm and fortitude. Kyle Chandler, Tate Donovan and Philip Baker Hall also star rounding off this highly recommended slice of late 1970’s historical drama in a similar and less violent vein than the German film The Baader Meinhof Complex.

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