Posts Tagged ‘Angela Bassett’

Of Your Best Intentions

Mission Impossible: Fallout

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Sean Harris, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Wes Bentley, Michelle Monaghan, Angela Bassett, Frederick Schmidt

If the formula works, stick to it. Better yet, embellish on it and make it superb. If this is the maxim that brought superstar Tom Cruise to work again with writer director of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, then it proves that it works in the highly thrilling adrenaline fuelled sequel Mission Impossible: Fallout set mainly in London and Paris.

Cleverly bringing elements of the original 1996 Mission Impossible, the tightly controlled script adds some new characters in the form of the gorgeous blond femme fatale White Widow wonderfully played with suitable panache by The Crown star Vanessa Kirby who plays the daughter of the elusive espionage facilitator Max, played by Vanessa Redgrave in the original Mission Impossible.

Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Michelle Monaghan reunite with Tom Cruise once again reprising his role as the IMF agent Ethan Hunt in a convoluted double crossing narrative in which arch enemy Solomon Lane played by Sean Harris is extracted in a daring sequence on the Parisian streets.

Newcomer to the franchise is Henry Cavill (The Man from U.N.C.L.E) as CIA assassin August Walker who brings a whole new level of male rivalry in the testosterone fueled action sequences containing Walker and Hunt.

Rebecca Ferguson returns as the lethal Ilsa Faust who is moonlighting as a Mi6 agent but secretly helping Ethan Hunt and his team.

From a spectacular rave sequence in Paris to the exteriors of The Tate Modern in London, Mission Impossible Fallout is a brilliant, gritty action film which proves that the combination of McQuarrie as writer and director and Tom Cruise as star is a winning formula.

Unbelievable helicopter stunts over Kashmir and a chase sequence in Paris, makes Mission Impossible: Fallout a must see action films especially recommended for fans of Rogue Nation and Ghost Protocol.

Ethan Hunt’s best intentions fallout as everything goes south literally in this superb sixth installment of the hugely successfully spy series.

Highly recommended viewing and possibly one of the best so far, Mission Impossible Fallout gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

 

 

The Wakanda Usurper

Black Panther

Director: Ryan Coogler

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Sterling K. Brown, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, John Kani

Marvel successfully diversifies its Avengers universe with an inventive self-sustaining Black Panther film. The Black Panther aka T’Challa who becomes king of the technologically advanced yet exclusive central African kingdom of Wakanda after his father T’Chaka played by South Africa’s John Kani is killed in an assassination.

Creed director, Ryan Coogler assembles an all-star cast for Black Panther including Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) as Black Panther’s love interest, the beautiful and noble Nakia as well as Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Zuri along with Angela Bassett as Black Panther’s regal mother and Queen of Wakanda, Ramonda.

Black Panther has to fight off the likes of a crazy South African mercenary Ulysses Klaue dubiously played with a terrible accent by Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes) attempting to steal smuggled vibranium from Wakanda at a buying exchange in Busan, South Korea, a scene in the film which is both brilliantly shot and innovatively orchestrated with a virtual reality car chase sequence.

Back on African soil, T’Challa soon realizes that the real enemy is the American born Erik Killmonger wonderfully played by Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic Four). With the able assistance of his cheeky sister Shuri fantastically played by British-Guyanese star Letitia Wright, Black Panther manages to fight Killmonger in a noble duel about the paternal claim to be the future King of Wakanda.

Director Ryan Coogler ingenuously incorporates lots of African tribalism and cool technology into Black Panther however he does take the superhero genre too seriously by unashamedly politicizing it. This is the Avengers after all, which Spiderman has just joined. Superhero movies are meant to be pure escapism, which is precisely why director Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnorak was such a refreshingly funny movie.

What remains to be seen is how effectively Black Panther will be blended into the mainstream Avengers films with the new Avengers: Infinity War opening soon. Chadwick Boseman is not as convincing as the main hero, Black Panther as his counterpart Michael B. Jordan who relishes playing the ruthless villain.

Lupita Nyong’o holds her own and kicks some butt in Black Panther as does rising star Letitia Wright who is an actress to watch out for. Golden Globe winner Sterling K. Brown has a minor role while Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) is suitably untrustworthy as Black Panther’s best friend and Wakanda protector W’Kabi.

Whether the much hyped Black Panther’s initial success in African cinemas is translated commercially to international audiences globally remains to be seen, yet the effort and rejuvenation of the highly anticipated Black superhero genre is applauded and provides starring roles for a host of African-American stars who have been clamouring for their own identifiable superhero film.

Marvel fans that enjoyed Captain America: Civil War and The Avengers franchise will certainly appreciate Black Panther, despite some uneven performances. At least now there is a guaranteed diversity of fans attending Comic-Con especially since its coming to Johannesburg in late 2018.

For all its vibrant celebrations of African culture, Black Panther gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

 

Barbarians at the Gate

London has Fallen

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Director: Babak Najafi

Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Patrick Kennedy, Colin Salmon, Charlotte Riley, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Alon Aboutboul, Waleed Zuaiter

Iranian director Babak Najafi follows up the 2013 action film Olympus has Fallen with the more obvious title of London has Fallen.

This time Washington D. C. is the safe zone but London comes under attack by a Pakistani arms dealer Aamir Bakawi who is wreaking havoc on the West for a drone attack which killed his daughter during her wedding back in Pakistan. Bakawi is helped by his vengeful son Kamran played by Waleed Zuiater (The Visitor).

Two years later, after the sudden death of the British prime minister, the entire group of G8 leaders plan on assembling in London for the state funeral at Westminster Abbey.

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No London landmark is safe as the Houses of Parliament, the Abbey, Chelsea Bridge all come under attack but fear not the American president Benjamin Asher played again by Aaron Eckhart is protected by macho bodyguard Mike Banning wonderfully played to form by Gerard Butler, both of whom were in the first film.

This time Banning has more to fight for including getting back to his expectant wife Leah played by Radha Mitchell. As the situation deteriorates in London, and the security forces cannot be trusted as many of whom are employed by the elusive arms dealer, Bakawi who is gleefully watching the destruction of the British capital from a café in Yemen.

Whilst director Najafi does not concentrate on a complex political backstory, his main focus is on delivering a fast paced action thriller filled with brilliant stunts, classic one liners mainly uttered by Gerard Butler, London has Fallen, despite the unlikely plot, is sure to satisfy action fans.

With a great supporting cast including Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) as the vice-president Trumbull who is directing the presidential extraction from the Washington situation room along with Robert Forster and Jackie Earle Haley, London has Fallen is similar to Olympus has Fallen but lacks originality although is sure to raise more security questions considering how the enemy is portrayed as infiltrated British police officers.

In light of the Paris attacks in November 2015, London has Fallen is gripping but the explosive action does little to actually make the narrative seem more credible. Like the first film, audiences should expect a high body count, a couple of twists and turns and Gerard Butler saving the day.

As the mysterious mole in British intelligence says, the barbarians are at the gates, London has Fallen raises more questions about which city would be under attack next, especially considering the current state of geo-political affairs and more significantly the rapidly growing migrant influx into Western Europe.

London has Fallen is a real action film, short on plot but big on visuals and explosions. Fans of Olympus has Fallen will enjoy this interesting sequel. A third film is sure to follow to make up an explosive trilogy.

 

Uber Cool Eighties Mystery

White Bird in a Blizzard

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Director: Gregg Araki

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Shiloh Fernandez, Thomas Jane, Angela Bassett, Christopher Meloni, Gabourey Sidibe, Dale Dickey

The Descendants star Shailene Woodley gives an impressive performance as a sexually charged teenage girl, Kat Connors who discovers her blossoming confidence just as her gorgeous yet unstable mother, Eve, wonderfully played by French actress Eva Green, (The Dreamers, Casino Royale) mysteriously disappears.

Mysterious Skin director Gregg Araki’s startling yet uber cool Eighties drama White Bird in a Blizzard is a bit like Whatever happened to Baby Jane? with a massive twist at the end. So audiences should expect the unexpected.

Assembling a rock star cast including Christopher Meloni as the clueless father, the sumptuous Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood) as the sexy boy next door, Phil, Gabourey Sidibe star of Precious as Kat Conner’s best friend Beth along with Angela Bassett and Thomas Jane as the grizzled yet carefree police detective. Watch out for a cameo by Sheryl Lee star of the hit TV series Twin Peaks.

White Bird in a Blizzard as seen at the 36th Durban International Film Festival DIFF subverts everything seemingly domestic about the average American life and turns a seemingly mysterious occurrence in suburban California into something far more sinister and ripe with Freudian references.

On every level, this is a bizarre yet highly amusing film, superbly cast with excellent performances by Woodley and Green as they embark on a tortuous mother-daughter relationship which ignores what is primarily occurring under their noses, undermining their own vanities and exploring hidden agendas from all involved. Eva Green is fabulous as the hip mother who receives little attention from her absent-minded husband while envying the sexual exploits of her beautiful teenage daughter, brilliantly played by Shailene Woodley, who proves she is an actress to watch.

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Woodley’s distinct ability to hold her own throughout such a bizarre film is testament to her ever expanding talent which is sure to flourish in years to come. Araki’s frames each shot in the film with an ironic pathos assisted by a nostalgic and cool Eighties soundtrack which includes Depeche Mode.

Everything about White Bird in a Blizzard is wrong in a seriously dysfunctional way. This is a highly entertaining family drama about one young girls’ slow realization that those people surrounding her are certainly not what they claim to be.

Araki’s film is perverse, fabulous and definitely recommended viewing for those audiences which like their narratives as twisted as the intricacies of the most complex of human relationships.

White Bird in a Blizzard is like a Patricia Highsmith novel on acid with a retro Eighties soundtrack. 

 

Taking of the Capitol

Olympus Has Fallen

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Aaron Eckhart, Robert Foster, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser

Whilst it is not about the Greek financial crisis, Olympus Has Fallen, is a gripping, albeit unsubtle hostage drama involving  a vicious attack on the White House by a Korean paramilitary group who is seeking vengeance on America for the Korean War. Featuring Gerard Butler (Machine Gun Preacher, 300) as the original action hero, Mike Banning who is first introduced as a secret service aide to the youngish gung-ho American President Benjamin Asher played by Aaron Eckhart and the gorgeous First Lady briefly played by Ashley Judd at the Presidential retreat at Camp David where on a routine presidential outing a terrible car crash occurs on an icy bridge during a blizzard.

The action swiftly moves 18 months later to the White House and Capitol Hill where the rest of the cast is introduced including Oscar winners Morgan Freeman as the Secretary of State Trumbull and Melissa Leo as the tough Secretary of Defence Ruth McMillan along with Oscar nominees Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs and Robert Forster as General Edward Clegg. Director of the Oscar winning film Training Day, Antoine Fugua throws caution to the wind and without much intrigue depicts a full scale assault on the White House by a group of rogue Korean operatives, lead by Kang played by Rick Yune of Die Another Day fame,  who attack a key meeting  between the American and South Korean presidents and literally annihilate half of Washington DC including the famed Washington Monument.

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Fuque as director excels in his trademark bloody action style, and Olympus Has Fallen is no different and whilst the audience will be gripped in the midst of a Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 type hostage crisis, whereby the President is held captive by the villainous Kang with the assistance of some unlikely traitors, as a film it certainly does not leave much to the imagination.

The film’s action and violence is fast and thick which does little for any sense of diplomacy or pay tribute to the more complex political dynamic that America has with the 21st Century Korean peninsula, along with the current intricate relations Washington DC has with both Seoul and Pyongyang, the film only serves to bolster American patriotism at the hands of a foreign enemy invasion.

Whilst the action sequences are brutal and spectacular the remaining characterization in the film lies too thin to make this outlandish plot entirely plausible, although it is gripping entertainment but not nearly as good as Fugua’s all American crime dramas like Brooklyn’s Finest and Shooter. Watch out for particularly good performances by Dylan McDermott as Secret Agent Forbes and Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) as the tortured hostage and resilient Washington politician, whilst the rest of the cast including Radha Mitchell as Banning’s wife Leah and Cole Hauser have minimal screen time.

Olympus has Fallen is an intense action thriller with a vaguely political narrative serving to bolster American propaganda, but subtlety is not its strong suit, nor was it meant to be plausible or intriguing, just downright entertaining. Recommended viewing but not in the cinematic league of Enemy of the State, Spy Games or the brilliant Zero Dark Thirty.

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