Posts Tagged ‘B. D. Wong’

Origin of Several Species

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Director: J. A. Bayona

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Geraldine Chaplin, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon, Justice Smith

Spanish director J. A. Bayona brings an impressive sense of Gothic Horror to the sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World, in the his latest film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which is both riveting and tantalizingly watchable without reverting completely into blockbuster CGI overload. Although that said, the volcanic sequence on Isla Nuba off the coast of Costa Rica is brilliantly staged.

Familiar cast members return including Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dering who teams up with macho dinosaur wrangler Owen Grady wonderfully played by Chris Pratt whose phenomenal career path as rocketed since his casting as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in Marvel’s The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) plays the villainous Eli Mills assistant to the immensely wealthy Benjamin Lockwood, played by James Cromwell (The Queen). Audiences should look out for a stand out performance by Isabella Sermon as Lockwood’s tenacious granddaughter Maisie who has to eventually contend with some monsters in her own childhood bedroom.

Watching over young Maisie is her guardian Iris played by the daughter of silent screen star Charlie Chaplin, Geraldine Chaplin (The Impossible, The Wolfman, The Age of Innocence) whom it is so refreshing to see on the big screen again.

As the dinosaurs of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are consequently rescued just as the volcano at Isla Nuba threatens to make these ancient creatures extinct, a new threat develops on the massive Lockwood country estate in Northern California whereby director J. A. Bayona skillfully uses all the traits of Gothic Horror to add a fascinating twist to a blockbuster sequel with enough suspense to keep audiences entertained while also emphasizing the perennial issue of endangered species, something which endangered wildlife are constantly at risk of becoming in the increasingly technological 21st century.

Audiences that enjoyed the 2015 Jurassic World, will undoubtedly love this authentic and imaginative sequel.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and recommended for audiences that harbour an abiding fascination for dinosaurs.

 

Ascending The Food Chain

Jurassic World

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Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, Jake Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio, B. D. Wong, Judy Greer

After the phenomenal success of the Jurassic Park trilogy, Hollywood was bound to make a sequel and Jurassic World lives up to all expectations, smashing all box office records in its opening weekend. Let’s face it, Dinosaurs sell!

Rising star Chris Pratt who was so brilliant as the comic hero in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy plays Raptor Animal trainer Owen while Bryce Dallas Howard (Terminator: Salvation) plays Jurassic World’s sophisticated and slick Vice-President Claire who is so into the selling points of the magnificent Jurassic World, a mega-theme park in Costa Rica, that she forgets about the imminent dangers of genetically reproducing more dangerous dinosaurs.

Not to mention that Claire has been given the task of looking after her nephews, Zach and Gray wonderfully played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins who are eventually caught up in the mayhem of Jurassic World after their gyrosphere ride goes haywire. The brothers, Zach and Gray firmly place Jurassic World’s target audience as males between the ages of 10 and 16, but the film is so visually spectacular that anyone would find Jurassic World irresistible in terms of special effects.

Audiences that enjoyed the original trilogy should definitely make an effort to see Jurassic World as besides the quirky onscreen chemistry between Pratt (who modelled his character on another Steven Spielberg creation, Indiana Jones) and the hapless Bryce Dallas Howard whose efficiency does not prevent an aggressive genetically modified dinosaur to escape captivity and wreak havoc in the theme park.

Slumdog Millionaire’s Irrfan Khan plays the reckless billionaire Masrani, new owner of Jurassic World while Vincent D’Onofrio (The Cell, Thumbsucker) plays a gung-ho military veteran Hoskins who only sees the dinosaurs as potential killing machines for combat warfare.

As the potential threat to Jurassic World, viciously ascends the food chain, the moral of the narrative soon becomes clear: never mess with what you cannot control and in scientific terms an extinction event occurs of mammoth proportions which involves humans and dinosaurs.

Jurassic World has stunning visual effects, a relatable storyline and loads of action. Highly recommended viewing and as blockbusters go, extremely entertaining thanks to a wonderful onscreen chemistry between Pratt and Howard.

 

 

From the Big Easy to Buenos Aires

FOCUS

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Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro, Brennan Brown, Adrian Martinez, Dominic Fumusa

The writing and directing team of I Love You Philip Morris, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa recreate a similar glossier con film teaming up Will Smith (Bad Boys) and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) in Focus.

Con artists, petty thieves, grifters all unite in this amusing if slightly drawn out tale of Nicky who first meets the flirtatious Jess beautifully played by Robbie in a swanky New York Hotel bar. The chemistry between the two onscreen are palpable and soon the action or lack thereof, moves from icy New York to sultry New Orleans during the SuperBowl weekend.

As the crowds flock to the Big Easy to watch the Superbowl or known as the National Finals of the American Football, the con is on as Nicky with a band of thieves and light fingered crew rob the unsuspecting crowds of their watches, jewellery, wallets and even luggage in the infamous French Quarter or one of New Orleans swanky hotels.

As Nicky and Jess procure tickets to the Superbowl finals, his proclivity for gambling becomes evident as he delves into sports betting against a notorious Chinese gambler, Liyuan flamboyantly played by B. D. Wong (The Normal Heart).

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As the stakes get higher Jess soon realizes that the number 55 chosen by the gambler is part of a larger con to extract more cash out of him. After doubling their money in New Orleans, a crime partnership seems imminent put then Nicky does the unexpected U-turn and dumps Jess in the Big Easy much to her horror.

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The action moves forward three years to the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires to the racy and glamourous world of Formula One racing driving where Nicky is employed by a wealthy Argentinian playboy Garriga wonderfully played by Rodrigo Santoro who incidentally also appeared in I Love you Philip Morris to con a rival Australian team out of a special racing gadget. As Nicky told Jess back in New York when the con is on, one needs to always maintain focus.

Things in Buenos Aires get murkier when Jess appears on the scene looking absolutely gorgeous in a red dress at an Argentine nightclub. Margot Robbie who excelled as the wife of Jordan Belfort in Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street excels in this role making the screen sizzle with her beauty and naughty naivety. Viewers should also watch out for a great character role of Owens superbly played by Gerald McRaney recently seen in the brilliant Netflix series House of Cards.

Without giving away more of the plot, Focus does actually lose some of its focus especially in some of the scenes between Smith and Robbie, and the narrative does appear disjointed and is nowhere near as compact or sinister as Stephen Frears classic, The Grifters, but then that was on an entirely more sophisticated film. Although Focus by writing and directing team Ficarra and Requa is not the first film of theirs that I have compared to The Grifters, Stephen Frears’s film noir classic, it is certainly the benchmark to set all con films by.

Focus is a fun filled if slightly drawn out con movie, with lots of glamour, a lot less action but nevertheless it’s beautiful to watch, yet the filmmakers fail to draw the audience in too deeply into the characters misfortunes. Recommended for those that enjoyed Now You See Me and I Love You Philip Morris.

 

 

 

Death of Fire Island

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The Normal Heart

NB: This is a made for TV film

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Stephen Spinella, Alfred Molina, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons

HBO’s The Normal Heart directed by Glee and Eat, Pray, Love director Ryan Murphy is a startling and heart wrenching tale of the outbreak of AIDS in New York’s gay community in the early 1980’s. Mark Ruffalo plays a middle aged openly gay man, Ned Weeks who gives one of the best performances of his career as he becomes the outspoken champion of gay rights and one who urges the American government to do more to fight the stigmatisation of AIDS as it ravaged the homosexual community in the mid 1980’s.

This film is set at a similar time as Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, but unlike this Oscar winning film, is a made for Television, bravely done by HBO featuring some exceptional performances besides Ruffalo that includes Matt Bomer as his lover, Felix Turner, a young, handsome New York society journalist dying of AIDS related illnesses along with Julia Roberts as Dr Emma Brockner a wheel-chaired bound no nonsense doctor who is adamant that the American gay community need to be sufficiently educated about this disease. She goes onto advocate that the New York gay community need to immediately curb their promiscuous lifestyle, so lavishly explored in the film’s opening scenes on Fire Island, in upstate New York, the gay resort famous in the 1980’s for White Parties, wild sex and unabashed homosexual hedonism.

Audiences watching The Normal Heart should be warned this is a sad, graphic and dramatic tale of a community ravaged by an illness which they were not equipped to handle, both physically and emotionally. Remember that this is set at least 30 years ago before all the medical advances in ARV treatment globally and when AIDS research was in its infancy. Without the sufficient funding from the American government, those that suffered at the forefront of the epidemic, was an already marginalized community known only for their lascivious and risky sexual behaviour.

What director Ryan Murphy does so brilliantly is remind the audience that despite all the stigma and the prejudice, these were real professional people dying of a yet unquantified illness with a virtually non-existent health care regime and support structure.

At the core of The Normal Heart based upon a play by Larry Kramer is the remarkable performance by Mark Ruffalo who certainly has proved his worth as a serious actor in recent years especially after his recent Oscar nomination for The Kids Are Alright.

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The Normal Heart as a mainstream film, like Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra would have a fairly limited appeal, but it is comforting that HBO takes a bold leading in making these films and even attracting such A list talent like Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

Watch out for an unrecognizable Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Lone Survivor) as Bruce Niles a young, arrogant and gorgeous gay man who appears to be immune to all the community activism and terrible threat affecting his friends along with The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parson’s in a brilliant and touching performance as Tommy Boatwright who counts the dead on his Rolladex.

This drama is brutal, heart wrenching and truly inspiring film making even if it only was made as a TV film, but really should be seen by everyone gay or straight especially in the wake of the recent commercialization of gay culture in Western mainstream media along with the associated rights and civil liberties which the gay and lesbian community have been granted in Europe and America recently, viewed within the 21st century progress made in transforming HIV into a manageable disease through a strict regime of medication controls.

The Normal Heart is highly recommended viewing, boosted by superb performances all round which should go a long way in deconstructing the stigma surrounding marginalized communities especially at the outbreak of an initially incomprehensible disease.

 

 

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