Posts Tagged ‘Ben Affleck’

Steppenwolf’s Revenge

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, David Thewlis, Billy Crudup, Ciaran Hinds

Uniformity of vision is key to director Zack Snyder’s films from his earlier films including 300, Suckerpunch and Watchmen to his onscreen tackling of the DC Comics universe starting with Man of Steel (2013) Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice (2016) and now with the latest Superhero extravaganza Justice League.

Batman aka Bruce Wayne played with a deadpan sense of humour by Ben Affleck has to assemble a team to fight the inexplicable and mythical power of Steppenwolf voiced by Ciaran Hinds as the evil underworld monster plans on destroying the Earth with enough energy to wipe out Wonder Woman’s secret Island and Aquaman’s Atlantic underwater liar.

Speaking of which Israeli actress Gal Gadot reprises her role of Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince following the hugely successful standalone film earlier in 2017 by Monster director Patty Jenkins.

New to the cast is Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa who plays Aquaman aka Arthur Curry who besides being able to control the oceans has some serious authority issues along with Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as The Flash aka Barry Alan and Ray Fisher as Cyborg aka Victor Stone.

The best scenes in Justice League are when the superheroes come together especially Batman and Aquaman who naturally have a healthy distrust for each other. The dialogue is peppered with some great lines like “Cool, like a bat, I dig it!” or when The Flash asks Batman what his superpowers are, he simply replies “I am rich”.

The good news is that Warner Brothers is set to release stand-alone films of Batman, Aquaman and Cyborg within the next three years, so fans can have a favourite superhero to themselves. Let’s hope these films do as well as director Patty Jenkins remarkable all female superhero film Wonder Woman which smashed all box office records.

Director Zack Snyder’s Justice League is slick, fast, action-packed and filled with quirky interactions between all the world’s favourite superheroes without being puerile or garish. With suitably Gothic production design by Patrick Tatopoulos, Justice League cleverly hints at the upcoming Aquaman and The Batman films. Audiences should look out for Oscar winner J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.

With a funny screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Justice League is sure to entertain audiences that loved the previous Zack Snyder superhero films and will possibly get a glimpse of the Man of Steel.

Justice League gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and is thoroughly entertaining, visually rewarding and definitely worth seeing. As the tagline goes: You Can’t Save the World alone. Even Batman.

 

A Fallen World

Live By Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Sienna Miller, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Remo Girone, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Clark Gregg, Anthony Michael Hall

Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo, Good Will Hunting) approaches another passion project with the cinematic adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s riveting gangster novel Live By Night about the rise of Irish mobster Joe Coughlin.

Set in Prohibition era America in the mid 1920’s, Live By Night features Affleck as the main character as well as him adapting the screenplay and directing the film version. To his credit, Affleck assembles a fine cast including an unrecognizable Sienna Miller as the gangster’s moll with a strong Irish accent, Emma Gould who Coughlin first meets in Boston.

Also in the cast are Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) as Coughlin’s father Thomas who happens to be Boston police chief, Oscar winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation) as Tampa police chief Figgis, Elle Fanning (Trumbo, Maleficent) in a stand out role as a recovering heroin addict Loretta Figgis and Zoe Saldana as Cuban beauty Graciela whom Coughlin eventually falls in love with after he moves to Tampa, Florida after fleeing Boston.

If viewers have not read Lehane’s book they might find the film version of Live By Night drawn out with a screenplay which delivers but doesn’t elevate the film to such genre classics as The Untouchables, Casino or even Goodfella’s.

Whilst the gorgeous period production design of Live By Night can be applauded as well as some stunning sequences in Florida, where after the initial gloom of Boston, the film definitely brightens to show a much more diverse and fascinating world in the deep South, the overall effect of Live By Night is laboured but not exhilarating.

Personally I loved the film, but I had read the novel so knew ahead what was install.

Ben Affleck’s ambitious plans to write, direct and star in a big screen adaptation of the novel might fall short, although his effort in doing so is admirable. What does elevate Live By Night are the superb supporting cast including Sienna Miller who after Burnt and Foxcatcher has an ability to disappear into any screen role and certainly is one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood. Fanning as a bible preaching morally conflicted young woman comes across as sacrificial, yet her performance is brilliant despite the minimal screen time.

The best scenes in the film are between Affleck and Chris Messina who is wonderful as Coughlin’s best friend and crime partner, the wise cracking Dion Bartolo, a role which he played against type. It is refreshing to watch Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) play in a period film as the gorgeous Cuban business woman Graciela although her role in the film is not as detailed as it is in the novel.

What Affleck does successfully is portraying America as a Fallen World, where as prohibition ends, there is nothing left except repression, bigotry and violence. Live By Night is a gritty, stylish and violent gangster film similar to Gangster Squad but not as brilliant as Bugsy or Public Enemies.

Audiences should only see Live By Night if they are ardent fans of gangster films, a genre which is difficult to get right at the best of times. Despite Affleck’s talent as a director, he is no Martin Scorsese or Brian de Palma. Although his evocative visual efforts should be commended.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Gangster Squad.

 

Solving the Jigsaw Puzzle

The Accountant

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Director: Gavin O’Connor

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jean Smart, Alex Collins

American director Gavin O’Connor likes to show the sources of fraternal fiction in his films. His most notable film Warrior was about two estranged brothers who reconnect over their hapless and heavy drinking father, in an Oscar nominated performance by Nick Nolte, who trains both his sons in a mixed martial arts tournament in New Jersey.

Now with a bigger budget and sleek production design, O’Connor teams up with A-List star Ben Affleck in the tense action thriller The Accountant set in Chicago enhanced by crisp cinematography by Seamus McGarvey.

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Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo, Good Will Hunting) plays the autistic and highly efficient Christian Wolfe, a maths savant who is hired by a shady Robotics company to do their books. While accounting does not sound sexy, The Accountant makes spreadsheets lethal and thrilling as he soon uncovers massive discrepancies in the company’s financials with the assistance of Dana Cummings played by Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air).

Meanwhile, Treasurer Financial crimes investigator Ray King superbly played by Oscar winner J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) enlists the help of Marybeth Medina played by British actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Colombiana) to investigate the mysterious maths savant who has a perfect shot.

Medina soon uncovers who the real Christian Wolfe is, a money launderer and racketeer to some of the most dangerous organised crime syndicates internationally, the real reason why some of Wolfe’s clients can pay him in original paintings by Renoir and Jackson Pollock.

Through a series of flashbacks, O’Connor takes audiences into the troubled childhood of Wolfe who was brought up by his military trained father in a variety of exotic cities and teaches Christian and his younger brother Braxton how to survive in a hostile world.

The Accountant is a revealing action thriller held together by a tightly wound performance by Affleck as he battles not only the demons in his past but the current enemies in the shady corporate world, who will stop at nothing to silence the financial intrigue and cover up involved in taking a robotics company onto the New York stock exchange as a lucrative initial public offering.

Audiences should watch out for inventive cameo’s by Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor as Francis Silverberg and Fargo star Jean Smart as Rita Blackburn.

This is an engaging thriller which never loses hold of its numerous plot twists. The Accountant is an edge of your seat action movie in which all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle finally fit together at the end. An absorbing and gripping film with excellent sound effects.

 

Clash of the Icons

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Laurence Fishburne, Callan Mulvey, Kevin Costner, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa

Hollywood studio Warner Brothers had a lot riding on the highly anticipated sequel to the 2013 hit Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but fortunately they followed the golden rule of sequels, always bring in the same cast and director mixed in with a bunch of surprises.

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Fortunately in the hands of Zack Snyder whose visual range is vast, Batman vs Superman comes across as an epic battle between the two infamous superheroes, a monumental gamble on reintroducing Batman back into the mix so soon after the brilliant success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Then why not bring the writer of that trilogy on board, David S. Goyer and use Christopher Nolan’s expertise as executive producer. Then there is the casting which really pays off.

The Social Network’s Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg as the smart and brilliant villain Lex Luthor, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) as Batman’s trusted manservant Alfred and the biggest coup was casting Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo) as Batman which gives this comic book clash of the icons a more edgier hue.

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After all, realistically Batman, aka Bruce Wayne cannot really defeat Superman, an alien man from Krypton with superpowers. All Batman has is cool gadgets, a Batmobile and all that pent-up rage from his childhood trauma of witnessing his parents being murdered on the streets of Gotham.

Amy Adams returns as the adventurous Lois Lane, along with Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, aka Superman along with Diane Lane as his earth mother Martha Kent. If there is one way to make a superhero angry, it’s to mess with his mother!

Whilst Batman v Superman at two and a half hours long could have been edited especially the last hour of the film, visually the film is so impressive as director Zack Snyder artistically pays homage to his filmography which made him famous: 300, Watchman and Suckerpunch, the last one being especially evident in the surprise appearance of Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

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The chemistry between Batman and Wonder Woman is sexually charged, and on screen the duo look impressive. Affleck’s Batman is a brooding, aging wealthy playboy who is hellbent on seeking revenge for the destruction of a Wayne Enterprises skyscraper by alien invaders from Krypton. Blame Superman!

Whilst Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer’s script is not particularly dazzling, the visual effects in Batman v Superman are brilliant, as well as the tone of the film, which Snyder keeps alternating between light bright colours for Superman and dark, cavernous greys for Batman. It also helps that Affleck himself has greying sideburns which realistically makes Batman look older than Cavill’s boyish Superman.

Women in Batman v Superman also have a major role, although clearly the film itself is marketed for a primarily male audience. Lois Lane is feisty and believable, Wonder Woman looks absolutely gorgeous in evening wear and even appears as a suitable femme fatale for Bruce Wayne during a glamourous Lex Luther cocktail event. Even Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s mother Martha gets caught up in the raucous and very loud action sequence.

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It’s really Jesse Eisenberg’s superb and surprising turn as the deranged megalomaniac Lex Luther, a psychotic billionaire tech guru who thinks nothing of killing innocent people during a public gathering or messing with extra-terrestrial DNA from General Zod.

Fans of Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy will certainly appreciate the iconic face-off between Batman v Superman, but be warned the tone of this film is far darker than your average bright and garish superhero caper.

Recommended viewing for all Zach Snyder fans and those that wish to be regular attendees at Comic-Con. This is serious comic book warfare.

 

 

 

 

Amazing Amy…

Gone Girl

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Director: David Fincher

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Scoot McNairy, Missi Pyle, Lisa Banes, Patrick Fugit, Sela Ward, Lola Kirke

Zodiac, Seven and The Social Network director David Fincher brings to cinematic life the Gillian Flynn novel Gone Girl in an intoxicating style with superb performances by Ben Affleck (Argo, Hollywoodland) and Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, Pride and Prejudice) as Nick and Amy Dunne.

The Dunne’s seemingly perfect American suburban marriage is deconstructed under acute media scrutiny when Amy Dunne goes missing from their home in North Carthage, Missouri on their fifth wedding anniversary. Initially a break in is suspected. Then possibly a murder…

As the town of North Carthage gathers around to search for the elusive Amy, Fincher in a series of flashbacks gives a deceptive back story to the Dunne’s marriage, an American relationship come undone by the effects of the 2008 financial recession. As the couple leave their hip lifestyles in New York and move back to the Mid-West, it is revealed that Amy was the source of a series of children’s books Amazing Amy which her parents profited hugely off, making her the enviable product of a million dollar trust fund.

Amy Dunne is beautiful, gorgeous and has a range of creepy admirers. Being an only child, and now a missing woman, Amy is an enigma and her husband Nick Dunne, the suave charming fortyish hunk naturally becomes the main suspect.

Gone Girl in the tradition of The Jagged Edge is a manipulative and expertly directed thriller with Fincher extracting the most he can from his two leading performers, whilst simultaneously commenting on the current invasive trend of intense media scrutiny which defines American culture, made worse by reality TV, the internet and the cult of celebrity.

This form of media scrutiny has permeated all aspects of American culture and indeed influenced the contemporary world. Just analyze the media circus surrounding the current trials of Oscar Pistorius and Shrien Dewani in South Africa as an example.

Gone Girl is as much an indictment of the current state of news media, as a stylish and slightly comical look at a disappearance which begs more questions than answers, a story of a couple whose lives are torn apart by the media due to an event which is as deceptive as it is real.

Fincher assembles an eclectic supporting cast including comedian Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt a notorious defence attorney, Sela Ward as an investigative talk show host Sharon Schieber along with Kim Dickens as a small town detective Rhonda Baney who is trying to make a break in an extremely puzzling case. Then there is also Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings a suitably creepy school friend of Amy’s.

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What makes Gone Girl so utterly superb is the extraordinary talents of Rosamund Pike, who really sinks her teeth into the complex role of Amy Dunne. That’s another of Fincher’s directorial gifts, he always gets the lead actress to deliver exceptional performances like what Rooney Mara did in the Oscar Nominated Swedish thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

This is by far Rosamund Pike’s best screen performance and will certainly elevate her onto the A-List of Hollywood actresses. She sizzles in this role and along with a duplicitous performance by Ben Affleck, who both make Gone Girl a truly superior adult thriller, whose narrative tension and plot twists rests solely on the acting of these two brilliant stars.

Gone Girl is must see viewing, a provocative thriller, a deconstruction of a marriage, an indictment of the ever widening dichotomy between truth and fabrication. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

2006 Venice Film Festival

2006 Venice International Film Festival Winners

Venice International Film Festival, known as the Biennale di Venezia takes place annually
in late August, early September and is the oldest Film Festival in the World.

Winners of the 2006 Venice International Film Festival are as follows: –

StillLifePoster

Golden Lion (Best Film): Still Life directed by Jia Zhangke

Coeurs

Silver Lion (Best Director): Alain Resnais for Coeurs (also known as Private Fears in Public Places)

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Best Actor: Ben Affleck – Hollywoodland

 The Queen

Best Actress: Helen Mirren – The Queen

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venice_International_Film_Festival

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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