Posts Tagged ‘Armie Hammer’

The Nonchalance of Youth

Call Me by Your Name

Director:  Luca Guadagnino

Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victorie du Bois

Andre Aciman’s sensuous 1988 debut novel Call Me by Your Name is skilfully adapted into a superb screenplay by James Ivory of Merchant Ivory fame and beautifully brought to the big screen by Italian director Luca Guadagnino.

Call Me by Your Name centres on the erotic summer romance of Elio, a young Jewish Italian boy discovering the essence of his sexuality and his parents American house guest, a 24 year old American classics student Oliver wonderfully played by Armie Hammer (The Man from Uncle) in possibly his best on screen role yet, who is staying with the family in the summer of 1983 as a cultural exchange.

It is the break out performance of star Timothee Chalamet as the restless Elio which is the cinematic revelation and as he deftly centres the film in all its beauty skillfully conveying the nonchalance of youth and his perpetual desire for self-discovery.

Elio’s parents Mr Perlman played by Michael Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water) and Annella played by Amira Casar who are a liberal and fairly affluent Italian couple who allow their only son, young Elio all the indulgences of youth.

Director Luca Guadagnino sumptuously captures the Italian country summer creating a gorgeous landscape for Elio and Oliver to indulge in an intimate and erotic affair which is tenderly portrayed without moral judgement or vulgarity, a beautiful depiction of sexual discovery and emotional resonance made poignant by the brevity of their idyllic romance.

In a particularly insightful scene between Elio and his compassionate father, Mr Perlman utters the significant line: “Nature has a cunning way of finding our weakest spot.”

Timothee Chalamet captures all the confusion and emotional insecurity of his various sexual encounters with a luminosity seldom seen in cinema today. Chalamet is indeed a star to watch out for. The luxuriant and lingering tone of the film transports audiences into a languid Italian summer, a beautiful sensuous stupor which they will find difficult to relinquish even as the closing credits appear on the screen.

Call Me by Your Name is beautifully acted particularly by its two male leads and superbly shot, making the film a mesmerizing cinematic experience. There are very few films being produced like this today and Luca Guadagnino captures that visual rarity of a first love on screen with a tenderness and beauty which is reminiscent of the Roman statue from antiquity emerging from Lake Garda.

Audiences that enjoyed the early Merchant Ivory films like Maurice and A Room with a View will love Call Me by Your Name.

This evocative film gets a rating of 9.5 out of 10 and is one of the most exquisite films I have seen aided by an equally brilliant soundtrack.

 

 

 

 

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.

Celebrity Style Bromance

Entourage

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Director: Doug Ellin

Cast: Jeremy Piven, Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrera, Adrian Grenier, Mark Wahlberg, Billy Bob Thornton, Debi Mazar, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Armie Hammer, Ronda Rousey, Haley Joel Osment

It’s not always easy to translate a 30 minute HBO series into a full length feature film but the producers of the hit HBO series Entourage do that with a certain degree of success. For those oblivious to the carousing of the gang in the original series, Entourage focused on four friends in Hollywood, Eric, Vince, Johnny Drama and Turtle as they navigate their way through scoring girls, attending wild parties and the intricacies of the entertainment industry. Naturally it’s Hollywood on steroids.

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Produced by Mark Wahlberg and Doug Ellin, the latter of whom directs the film version, Entourage the film is like a watered down version of Robert Altman’s scathing diatribe on Hollywood, The Player and also uses a similar self-reflexive technique of blending actors playing onscreen characters with real film stars which include Liam Neeson, Armie Hammer and Mark Wahlberg.

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Most of the action of this celebrity style Bromance takes place in Los Angeles with a brief opening sequence on a yacht in Ibiza, which looks like an offcut from Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

As the brat pack make their way to stardom through a series of parties, optimal seductions and behind the scenes Hollywood dealings, Entourage has some extremely funny moments, mostly littered with foul language, less glamour and lots of stuff guys obsess about: sex, money and girls.

entourage_ver7Jeremy Piven as the angry and hilarious film producer Ari Gold, lifts Entourage out of a banal narrative which does not really go anywhere and his brilliant performance is counterpointed by that of Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade) as a Texan film investor, Larsen McCreadle along with his buffoon of a son, Travis wonderfully played by Sixth Sense star Haley Joel Osment.

entourage_ver4Entourage is in fact saved by Piven whose unbelievably energetic performance as Gold makes the film worth watching while the rest of the cast drift through the film in a sort of narcissistic American machismo unique to Hollywood, where the only thing that matters besides their egos is their sex lives.

entourage_ver5Audiences should watch out for some fabulous cameo appearances including singer Pharrell Williams, Armie Hammer, Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba, Piers Morgan and Billionaire Warren Buffett playing themselves. Kevin Dillon, younger brother of Matt Dillon and Jerry Ferrara provide the laughs as Johnny Drama and Turtle while Piven’s character of Ari Gold makes the film thoroughly enjoyable.

entourage_ver6Entourage is a B grade film about Hollywood with appearances by some A grade actors as themselves, with a cast that does not have to do much but just be the annoying yet lovable guys they were in the original series, cruising around Sunset Boulevard living the dream. Recommended for viewers who followed the HBO series and natural fans of the immensely talented Jeremy Piven.

However, this film version of Entourage is a far cry from the more subtle Hollywood parody expertly done by Robert Altman in The Player back in 1992, but worth watch purely for the entertainment value.

 

Masking the Silver Trail

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The Lone Ranger

Director: Gore Verbinski

Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, William Fichtner

Hi Ho Silver the Lone Ranger is back! But who can take Armie Hammer seriously after appearing as the hapless Prince in Mirror Mirror? The only time he was brilliant was playing the identical blue blood Winklevoss twins in David Fincher’s superb Oscar winning film The Social Network.

In Disney’s wisdom they have cast Armie Hammer alongside Johnny Depp in a Jerry Bruckheimer produced Gore Verbinski film, the much anticipated The Lone Ranger. Of course Depp channeling his more successful screen character of Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, is less convincing as Tonto, the lone Cormanche Red Indian who betrays his tribe for the lure of silver.

Unlike the brilliant Coen brothers rendition of True Grit or director James Mangold fierce Western 3:10 to Yuma, The Lone Ranger feels too much like a ride at a Disney theme park, whether it be in Orlando or Anaheim. Fortunately for The Lone Ranger, director Gore Verbinski saves the film from being a complete farce with a striking balance of visuals, great cinematography evoking the mythic Wild West and a bizarre mixture of cowboy brutality and dazzling action sequences mostly to do with the Transcontinental Railway expansion towards California.

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Hammer plays Texas Ranger, John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger who arrives in a spectacular fashion in the town of Colby, Texas in 1869 at the height of the American-Indian wars over land, expansion and minerals. The unwitting Reid soon teams up with the resourcefully quirky Tonto and in a particularly bizarre sequence discover his pristine white horse aptly named Silver in a desert plateau. The unlikely duo go on a quest to stop the vicious outlaw Butch Cavendish, played with particular relish by William Fichtner, from the hit series Prison Break and the expansionist railway magnate Cole played by British actor Tom Wilkinson who both plan to mine the silver trial.

Dodging scorpions, arrows, the relentless great desert, reckless trains, the Lone Ranger and Tonto soon find themselves embroiled in a plot by the chairman of the Transcontinental Railway Company to enrich himself through the transportation of discovered silver across the Wild West to San Francisco. Historically placing The Lone Ranger, in the height of the late 19th century industrial revolution, the film veers between comic farce and historical diatribe about the destruction of the indigenous Indian tribes of the Wild West by the evil expansionist Americans at the prospect of mineral wealth and deadly industrial progress.

Whilst the slaughtering of the Comanche at the hands of the better equipped American Cavalry, is vividly contextualized in the broader vision of civilizing the Wild Wild West of the latter 19th century, it does little to elevate the plot out of comic action. The Lone Ranger is unevenly told, with the second half of the film far outweighing the sketchy narrative of the first, and at over two and a half hours long, this feature could have done with some seriously crisp editing.

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There is a great supporting cast to help prop up the unlikely onscreen paring of Hammer and Depp, with the likes of Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Red Harrington, Barry Pepper as the confused Cavalry officer Fuller along with blockbuster newcomer James Badge Dale as Dan Reid and British actress Ruth Wilson (last seen as Princess Betsy in Anna Karenina) playing his ill-destined wife Rebecca.

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The Lone Ranger is fun entertainment and purely fictionalized Western with lots of scraggly Cowboys and noble Indians fighting it out amidst the gorgeous scenery of the great untamed plains of Texas, Utah and Nevada.  The downside is that the comic element does not quite sustain itself in the midst of director Verbinski and the trio of screenwriters attempting a more historically correct statement of how the White Man’s progress across America was through the destruction of the continent’s indigenous Indian tribes. Recommended for a fun Western romp, but The Lone Ranger should stick to being a superficial action comedy about Cowboys and Indians without the political relevance thrown in and is definitely not in the same blockbuster category as The Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Evil Queen Stakes

Snow White and the Huntsman

Vicious Vanity takes no prisoners

Director Rupert Sanders visually stunning Gothic Snow White and the Huntsman channels Gullermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and the hit HBO Feudal Fantasy series Game of Thrones and ain’t no fairytale although all the elements of fantasy are evident from Trolls to Dwarves, to Knights and Fairies. The real winner of Snow White and the Huntsman is the Evil Queen Ravena played beautifully with a seriously unhinged quality by Oscar winner Benoni superstar Charlize Theron, referencing her earlier role in Monster. In Snow White and the Huntsman, Charlize steals the show and is the backbone to this dark fantasy epic featuring Kirsten Stewart as the meek and anaemic Snow White and Thor’s hairy and gruff Chris Hemsworth as the sword wielding Huntsman sent to rescue the damsel trapped in the dark forest…

Mirror Mirror

This Queen ain’t no Bad Apple

Where the frivolous and occasionally funny Mirror Mirror spectacularly fails is the casting of goodie-two-shoes actress Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen in director of The Immortals Tarsem Singh’s frothy and glossy retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in Mirror Mirror, which as a comedy is fun in parts namely due to the casting of genuine dwarves, along with Nathan Lane and Lily Collins, daughter of singer Phil Collins as the sweet and innocent Snow White, but the casting of Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen?Really?

Joan Rivers, Rupaul  or Kim Catrall could do a better job especially in this semi-Bollywood fantasy featuring  the buff Armie Hammer as the hapless but entirely vacant Prince. Wait for the end of Mirror Mirror to see the Dance number and the redeeming aspect is the fabulous costumes at the Queens Ball with Snow White as a Swan…

Unlike Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman is pure feudal old world action with a dash of macabre incest, vanity and vicious magic realism. Charlize Theron steals the show as the completely off kilter pyschopathic Evil Queen who bathes in milk and whose gold mirror comes to life. Twilight star Kirsten Stewart only really comes into her role as the grubby Snow White in the second part of the film, but alas there is no chemistry between her and the Huntsman, played with less enthusiasm by Chris Hemsworth who really made an impact with Kenneth Branagh’s Thor.

Mirror Mirror is suitable for pretty little girls and Snow White and the Huntsman is more closer to malignant  witchcraft appealing to a more jaded generation complete with a sinister Evil Queen hell bent in her quest for the heart of a virgin at the expense of the seven dwarfs, the occasional fairy and a hapless Troll. Charlize Theron is just that much more menacing in the evil Queen stakes and film’s final show down is visually stimulating.

 

 

Harvard Harassment to Global Phenomenon

The Social Network

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 Canadian director David Fincher’s latest film The Social Network could fit more comfortably in the made for TV film category, but is nevertheless a fascinating examination of how one idea can affect the world.

The Social Network traces the rise of the Facebook phenomenon from the frat houses of Harvard to going global, the lawsuits that ensued and how the lives of over 500 million users have been transformed by using of Facebook from Silicon Valley to Henley-on-Thames, from Brazil to Cape Town, from Sydney to Toronto.

Harvard Harassment

Jesse Eisenberg makes a superb entrance in a major role as Mark Zuckerberg the genius behind linking the Ivy League American University social networks from Harvard to Stamford and supersedes any former attempts by creating a user-friendly interface for virtual network, sharing photos and updating one’s relationship status, now known universally as Facebook. Love it or hate it, the rise of Facebook is now a commercially viable form of communication, which has taken the digital world by storm. Fincher’s film shows the rise of the Facebook phenomenon from Zuckerberg’s cocky online response on his blog after being spurned by Erica, a lovely cameo by Rooney Mara at Harvard to his rise through several collaborations firstly with Eduardo Saverin, a diversely perceptive performance by Andrew Garfield, and then with Napster founder Sean Parker, the colourful and confident character suitably played by Justin Timberlake, proving that his acting abilities are certainly maturing.

Fincher responsible for some high end thrillers including Seven, The Game, Fight Club and Oscar nominated Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a prolific choice for a film which if left in the hands of a lesser director, could have become a slightly drawn out geek match about intellectual property rights, failed love affairs and immense wealth bestowed on a set of twenty-something’s who surely were given an added advantage already being at Harvard in the first place. The Social Network is an engrossing look at a very recent digital phenomenon and the ingenuity, entrepreneurial savvy  and success of three men who clearly realized that they had discovered a gaping hole in the social fabric of Anglo-American society and filled that void with a network which combines privacy with a sense of community.

Global Phenomenon

Facebook, like the invention of the light bulb, the car, and most obviously the internet is here to stay and will definitely grow, transform and has embraced the real 21st century notion of a global digital village. Watch out for a wonderful performance by Armie Hammer playing both the affluent, rowing crazy twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and of course the cleverest part of The Social Network is the poster, – You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies, reminding the viewer of a similar poster?

Every face tells a story…

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