Posts Tagged ‘Benicio del Toro’

Strengthening the Universe

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyongo’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Maria Tran

Looper director Rian Johnson draws significant parallels between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back even including such iconic characters as Yoda and featuring a substantial role for Luke Skywalker played again by Mark Hamill.

At two hours and 32 minutes Star Wars: The Last Jedi could have been cut by half an hour. Which is my only criticism. After all The Empire Strikes Back made in 1980 was just over two hours long.

While the second half of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is absolutely thrilling particularly the final battle sequence on a white salted mining planet complete with red earth reminiscent of the battle between the Empire and the rebels on the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.

The first half drags a little, particularly the Jedi scenes between the reclusive Luke Skywalker and Rey wonderfully played by Daisy Ridley, who is battling to grasp the extent of the force.

John Boyega reprises his role of Finn with the help of a feisty newcomer Rose wonderfully played by Kelly Maria Tran which should appeal  to a diverse audience which is exactly Disney’s cleverest marketing ploy since buying the rights to George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise and effectively reinventing the Galaxy and strengthening this cinematic universe.

Notable cameo’s include a superb performance by Oscar winner Benicio del Toro (Traffic) as DJ who certainly injects some life into the extremely long narrative especially when Finn and Grace meet him when they go in search of the elusive Master code breaker, a briefly glimpsed Justin Theroux, safely ensconced on a decadent casino resort planet, a vibrant episode in the film.

Another notable scene stealer is Oscar nominee Laura Dern (Rambling Rose) as Vice Admiral Holdo who frequently clashes with the bravado of flyboy Rebel poster pilot Poe Dameron wonderfully played again by Oscar Isaac.

The most poignant scenes are played by the late Carrie Fisher reprising her role for the last time as the iconic Princess Leia just wiser and with a more sensible hairstyle, guiding the resistance like a faded debutante. Look out for a nostalgic reunion scene between Skywalker and Princess Leia.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi delivers remarkably on the action front and director Rian Johnson should be particularly commended for also writing the screenplay, no easy feat considering the weight of the franchise and the expectations of the fans.

Yet despite the length, Johnson rises to the challenge and delivers an absorbing sci-fi epic which will satisfy the legions of Star Wars fans globally, judging by the record breaking opening weekend internationally of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is highly recommended viewing best to be experienced in true cinematic splendour with surround sound and some like minded companions. The film gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

 

The Golden Fang

Inherent Vice

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There will be Blood, The Master, Boogie Nights)

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Eric Roberts, Jena Malone, Michael Kenneth Williams, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, Martin Donovan, Maya Rudolph, Serena Scott Thomas

In the spirit of Magnolia and Boogie Nights, director Paul Thomas Anderson assembles an eclectic cast of stars for his cinematic adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice with Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, Gladiator) as stoner private detective Larry Doc Sportello who goes on a labyrinthine search for his ex-girlfriend Shasta Hepworth played by Katherine Waterston (Michael Clayton, Taking Woodstock).

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Set in 1971, during the Nixon administration, in California, Inherent Vice is a rambling and extended tour de force of the hippie’s drug culture of Southern California involving kinky and corrupt cops especially Lt Detective Christian “BigFoot” Bjornsen wonderfully played by the orally fixated Josh Brolin, straight laced deputy district attorneyPenny Kimball played by Reese Witherspoon and an elusive government informant Coy Harlingen played by Owen Wilson.

Oscar winner for director Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic Benicio del Toro also makes a brief appearance as Doc’s legal adviser Sauncho Smilax Esq, but this is very much Phoenix’s film and he inhabits every frame with a sort of woozy ease that is at times prolonged and other times fascinating. This is by no means Phoenix’s best performance and does not match his brilliant portrayal of the boozy drifter Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson’s superb critically acclaimed film The Master.

At a running time of just over two and a half hours, one cannot blame the viewer for getting slightly confused and bored. Inherent Vice has an intricate plot with lots of subtexts, subplots and quirky visual references but only serious fans of Paul Thomas Anderson will appreciate his laboured approach in adapting this contemporary novel to the big screen.

The best scenes are actually between Phoenix and Witherspoon who reunite after the success of the Oscar winning James Mangold film Walk the Line. Several of the other quite bizarre sequences are truly amazing to watch but the entire story could have done with some efficient editing.

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Audiences should also watch out for cameos by Eric Roberts, Martin Donovan and a crazed Martin Short. While the costumes and production design for Inherent Vice is spot on capturing the origins of the drug fueled and nefarious 1970’s, Paul Thomas Anderson film could have used some serious editing as this languid narrative tends to bewilder and obfuscate the viewer, which the point of the story.

Inherent Vice refers to possible drugs being smuggled into America on a mysterious vessel known as The Golden Fang from Indo-China or modern day Vietnam. This film is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Magnolia and Robert Altman’s far superior film Short Cuts. Not sure if Inherent Vice will quite make it to the cult status of The Master.

54th BAFTA Awards

The  54th BAFTA Awards /

The British Academy Film Awards

Took place on the 25th February 2001 in London

BAFTA Winners in the Film Category:

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Best Film: Gladiator

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Best Director: Ang Lee – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

billy_elliot_ver1Best Actor: Jamie Bell – Billy Elliot

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Best Actress: Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich

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Best Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro – Traffic

Best Supporting Actress: Julie Walters – Billy Elliot

Best British Film: Billy Elliott

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Best Original Screenplay: Cameron CroweAlmost Famous 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan Traffic

Best Foreign Language Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/54th_British_Academy_Film_Awards

 

 

 

58th Golden Globe Awards

The 58th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 21st January 2001 by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

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Best Film Drama: Gladiator

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Best Actor Drama: Tom Hanks – Cast Away

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Best Actress Drama: Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich

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Best Director: Ang Lee – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

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Best Supporting Actor – Benicio del Toro – Traffic

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Best Supporting Actress – Kate Hudson – Almost Famous

Best Film Musical/Comedy: Almost Famous

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Best Actor Musical/ Comedy: George Clooney – O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Best Actress Musical / Comedy – Renee Zellweger – Nurse Betty

Best Foreign Language Film – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan)

Gamora and the Infinity Stones

Guardians of the Galaxy

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Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio del Toro, Lee Pace, Brad Cooper, Dave Bautista, John C. Reilly

Marvel’s sci fi action adventure Guardians of the Galaxy is like Star Wars on acid with an exceptionally cool soundtrack, featuring some 70’s and 80’s classics. Part comedy, part adventure, director James Gunn successfully mixes comic adventure with intergalactic chaos and mischief.

Featuring a suitably toned down Chris Pratt (Zero Dark Thirty) superbly cast as rebel Starlord, Peter Quinn who while rummaging on an abandoned planet discovers a mysterious orb which soon elicits a whole bunch of ragtag and riotious characters from all corners of the Galaxy as they race to claim the orb for themselves. The Guardians of the Galaxy featuring the amiable and funny Peter Quinn with some serious mommy issues, along with green skinned Gamora, played by Avatar star Zoe Saldana along with a talking racoon (yes you read that right) voiced by Bradley Cooper and a walking tree, with a severely limited vocabulary, voiced by Vin Diesel.

Guardians of the Galaxy is psychedelic sci-fi and not visionary like Elysium or Blade Runner, making no attempts to conceal its main target audience – teenage boys who have followed the comic book series of the same name. The film even retains a comic book feel and with some exceptionally interesting visual effects, Guardians certainly does make use of its 3D appeal.

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This is like Star Wars on LSD for a younger generation, but hugely enjoyable, thanks to the casting of comic actor Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldanha as Gamora, who are both after the powerful and illustrious infinity stones, which they soon hand over to the Collector, a wonderful cameo by Benicio del Toro, who was also seen in the closing credits of Thor: The Dark World.

Veteran actress Glenn Close (101 Dalmations) makes a camped up appearance as Prime Nova, a cipher of her Cruella de Ville character along with John C. Reilly and Djimon Hounsou of Blood Diamond fame.

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Lee Pace plays the evil Ronan who with his extraordinary makeup and pharaoh like costume is hellbent on destroying the Universe along with his adopted daughter Nebula played by Karen Gillian. Naturally the ragtag bunch of Guardians band together and fight the onslaught of the Kree against the fabulous planet Xander, which looks like Dubai on steroids.

Guardians of the Galaxy must have been a massive hit at San Diego’s Comicon and it’s not difficult to see why, humour mixed with romance, good versus evil all enveloped in a wildly over the top action adventure which makes the first Star Wars positively tame. Except that Star Wars was a classic and this sci-fi is not aiming to be anything more than merely fun and amusing much like the comics the story is based on. Marvel definitely got the concept right.

Recommended viewing for geek freaks and not to serious sci-fi fans, making Guardians definitely fall into the frivolous popcorn fodder category. Hugely enjoyable, with lots of implied moral messages, but this film does not aspire to be Alphonso Cuaron’s Gravity, this is Guardians of the Galaxy featuring Gamora and the infinity stones! Besides who can take this film seriously when there is a talking racoon and a tree in it?

 

2001 Berlin Film Festival

2001 Berlin International Film Festival Winners

The Berlin International Film Festival known as the Berlinale takes places annually in February and is regarded
as one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.

2001 BIFF

Winners of the four main prizes at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival were as follows: –

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Golden Bear (Best Film) – Intimacy directed by Patrice Cheraeu

Silver Bear (Best Director) – Lin Cheng-sheng for Betelnut Beauty

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Best Actor – Benicio del Toro – Traffic

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Best Actress – Kerry Fox – Intimacy

2008 Cannes Film Festival

2008 Cannes Film Festival Winners

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Winners of the five main prizes at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival were as follows:-

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Palm d’Or: The Class (Entre les murs) directed by Laurent Cantet

Three Monkeys

Best Director:  Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Three Monkeys (Üç Maymun)

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Best Actor: Benicio del Toro for Che

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Best Actress: Sandra Corveloni in Linha de Passe

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Best Screenplay: Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne for Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Cannes_Film_Festival

73rd Academy Awards

73rd Academy Awards

25th March 2001

Oscar Winners at the 73rd Academy Awards

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Best Film: Gladiator

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Best Director: Steven SoderberghTraffic

Best Actor: Russell Crowe – Gladiator

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Best Actress: Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich

Best Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro – Traffic

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Best Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden – Pollock

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Best Original Screenplay: Cameron Crowe – Almost Famous

Best Adapted Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan – Traffic

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Best Foreign Language Film: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon directed by Ang Lee (Taiwan)

Best Documentary Feature: Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport  directed by Mark Jonathan Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer

Best Original Score: Tan Dun – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Best Cinematography: Peter Pau – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Best Costume Design: Janty Yates – Gladiator

Best Film Editing: Stephen Mirrione – Traffic

Best Visual Effects: Gladiator

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/73rd_Academy_Awards

 

Vicious Laguna Lunacy

SAVAGES

Acclaimed director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July) paints a lush, brutal and stylistically rich portrait of drug running along the Californian and Mexican border in his latest film  Savages  set between Laguna, California and Tijuana in Mexico and is almost Shakespearean in tone and plot. Savages assembles a fabulous cast including Taylor Kitsch last seen in Battleship and John Carter and Aaron Johnson, soon to be seen in the new version of Anna Karenina along with the blonde beauty Blake Lively (The Green Lantern) and a ludicrously well-cast group of veteran and independent actors including Academy Award winner Benicio del Toro, Academy Award nominees Salma Hayek, John Travolta and Demian Bechir.

Savage Shakespeare Surfer Style

While the vibrant poster for Savages suggests an intricate web of characters dealing in a Mexican-Californian trade-off, Oliver Stone imbues this complex plot of brutal treachery, violence, drug smuggling, sex and murder with an array of visual flourishes which makes Savages stand out as a unique and twisted drug running thriller making the most of the beautiful surfing paradise of Laguna, California while brilliantly contrasting that with all the devotional religious iconography so often associated with Catholic Mexico embodied in Tijuana and the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead

Oliver Stone, clearly influenced by his contemporaries Baz Luhrmann (Romeo and Juliet) and Steven Soderbergh  (Traffic) and not one to edit his narrative gives each of his main cast members enough screen time to flex their acting muscles interspersed with some exceptionally violent and brutal images of decapitation, torture and murder all adding to the central theme of beautiful savages.

Savages focuses on best friends Chon and Ben who not only share the same girlfriend Ophelia but also run a profitable and successful dope peddling operation in Southern California with the muscular Chon played by Taylor Kitsch as an aggressive Gung-Ho war veteran fresh from the horrors of Afghan conflicts and also exposed to one of the largest  opium growing region in the world. Buddhist leaning Botanist Ben comes up with a brilliant plan of producing the best cannabis in California and teams up with Chon to make sure the operation is successful with Ben as the brains and Chon as the brawn of the lucrative yet illicit narcotics operation.

Enter the Mexicans from Baja California headed by the flamboyant yet ruthless matriarch of a Tijuana drug cartel Elena played with relish by Salma Hayek with that flair which she so deftly illustrated in the remarkable film Frida. Supported by Lado,  a demonically mean killer and her trusted enforcer played with ambivalent psychopathic menace by Benicio del Toro and Demian Bichir (Che and A Better Life) as Alex the front man for the Mexicans in Laguna who are keen to infiltrate Chon and Ben’s mellow yet sophisticated dope peddling enterprise in the Surfer’s Paradise of Laguna.

What follows is an intricately plotted yet violent narrative of kidnapping, extortion, murder and vengeance which begs the question is humankind’s innate savagery endemic in a population in which survival of the species is paramount at whatever the cost? Given the right circumstances and in this film these are ruthless, every characters inner savagery is revealed in one form or another.

Savages is not for sensitive viewers and whilst Oliver Stone could have edited parts of the film one gets the visual impression that he was so caught up in the brutal Shakespearan tragedy of the entire narrative of Californian-Mexican drug running that too cut a scene would be murder. Watch out for some particularly brilliant scenes between  Lively and del Toro as captive and torturer and between Lively and the ever beautiful Salma Hayek. John Travolta’s turn as Dennis a middle income DEA officer playing both sides of the vicious Laguna turf war proves that he is still a brilliant actor.  While the ever versatile Emile Hirsch makes a small appearance as the Californian’s money launderer aptly named Spin.

As for the conclusion of Savages, its best expressed in Spanish, todo es posible – anything is possible….

Gothic Horror at its Bloodiest….

The Wolfman

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Beware The Wolfman, Director Joe Johnstone’s retelling of this classic horror transformation is not for the faint-hearted.

Featuring an all star cast including Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro, The Wolfman is a 21st century Gothic Horror at its gripping edge of your seat best. Set in the exquisite ancestral location of Blackmoor in Victorian England, this Gothic tale of murder, intrigue and horrifying destiny is more horror than action and del Toro is perfectly cast as Lawrence Talbot aka The Wolfman with Hopkins playing his ruthless father Sir John Talbot.

Watch out for the particularly scary transformation scene at Lambeth Asylum with a guest appearance by Anthony Sher… dark, hairy and sinister! Not recommended for any viewer that does not like extreme violence or horror films. 

 

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