Posts Tagged ‘Blake Lively’

Love Letter from Rudolf Valentino

Café Society

cafe_society

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Corey Stoll, Blake Lively, Ken Stott, Parker Posey, Sheryl Lee, Jeannie Berlin, Stephen Kunken, Sari Lennick, Anna Camp

Opening the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 in typically whimsical fashion, Woody Allen’s Café Society is set between the golden age of Hollywood and the gangster nightclubs of New York.

Auteur director and veteran screenwriter Woody Allen like many of his previous films, decelebritizes his stars and makes Cafe Society a brilliant ensemble piece. At the centre of the witty comedy are two sterling performances by naïve Bronx youngster Bobby wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and seemingly ordinary yet duplicitous Vonnie, played by Twilight star Kristen Stewart.

Vonnie is the secretary to Bobby’s powerful uncle Marty Dorfman, played by Oscar nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher). The smooth talking Marty introduces Bobby to the Hollywood inset as he hires his nephew to become general gopher and invites him to sumptuous brunches at his Hollywood Hills mansion. There Bobby meets chic New York couple, Rad and Steve, played by Parker Posey (Grace of Monaco) and Paul Schneider (Water for Elephants).

It’s really Vonnie that Bobby is in love with, but Vonnie is dating a powerful married man and as a surprise for her boyfriend’s birthday she buys him a framed love letter from Rudolf Valentino. That love letter becomes the main visual key for Café Society as soon a love triangle emerges which places Bobby in an awkward familial situation.

Meanwhile, back in New York, audiences catch a glimpse of Bobbie Dorfman’s Jewish family, his dotting mother superbly played by Jeannie Berlin and his father played by British actor Ken Stott. It’s really Bobbie’s gangster brother Ben who has gone into the nightclub business who is the centre of the Bronx world. Ben is superbly played by an unrecognizable Corey Stoll who was so tremendous in the Netflix’s series House of Cards.

Bobby is crushed when Vonnie calls off their impending romance on a Malibu beach and soon returns to the glamourous world of nightlife, helping his nefarious brother Ben at one of his dazzling nightclubs. As the action of Café Society shifts seamlessly from Los Angeles back to New York, audiences know that they are back on familiar Woody Allen territory.

Part of the New York set is the fabulous Veronica Hays who Bobbie dutifully falls in love with, played by the gorgeous Blake Lively, even though he secretly pines for the more illusive Vonnie.

Wonderfully irreverent to anything vaguely serious, Café Society is a gorgeously shot comedy with gorgeous costumes and suitably fabulous production design, pointing to the fact it’s one of Woody Allen’s most expensive films.

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With a witty script and outstanding performances by an ensemble cast especially Eisenberg and Stewart, Café Society is recommended viewing in the vein of similar Allen films like Bullets over Broadway. Allen’s faithful recreation of the Hollywood golden age in Café Society certainly signifies that his European phase is over, which did produce some brilliant social comedies including Matchpoint, Vicky Christina Barcelona and his acclaimed Midnight in Paris.

Café Society is a breezy and funny affair, tinged with delightful moments of guilt mixed with old fashioned nostalgia. A refreshingly stylish visual feast especially in this age of CGI and digitally reliant cinema.

Immune to the Ravages of Time

The Age of Adaline

age_of_adaline

Director: Lee Toland Krieger

Cast: Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Baker, Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Crew, Mark Ghanime, Peter J. Gray

Set in San Francisco, The Age of Adaline gives Blake Lively a chance to play her hand at romance after being seen in Oliver Stone’s film Savages. It’s also the first major commercial film for rising Dutch star Michiel Huisman who has become famous for his sexy appearances in HBO’s Game of Thrones and Nashville.

Huisman and Lively make a beautiful couple onscreen even if there is no real tangible chemistry between them. It also does not help that The Age of Adaline is trying to emulate David Fincher’s Oscar nominated film about aging The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which while beautifully shot was really a homage to New Orleans.

age_of_adaline_ver13

In this rather sepia light, director Lee Toland Krieger’s romantic drama The Age of Adaline is a homage to probably the most romantic city in America, San Francisco, as the film beautifully captures some wonderful aerial shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Early on in the film due to a unique scientific accident, the heroine Adaline Bowman discovers quite extraordinarily that she is immune to the ravages of time.

The ageless Adaline due to her gorgeous appearance is forced to change her identity every ten years which is going swimmingly well until she meets a tall dark handsome stranger Ellis Jones, sensitively played by Huisman, who let’s face it, like Lively, looks stunning onscreen.

The determined Ellis Jones encourages Adaline to come home with him one weekend to meet his parents and celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. In an entirely contrived and almost implausible Danielle Steele sort of way, upon their arrival at the upstate home of Ellis’s parents, his father suitably played by Harrison Ford (Regarding Henry, Star Wars) recognizes Adaline as the girl he once fell in love with back in the early 1960’s in England.

In the hands of a more skilled director, The Age of Adaline would have become a very intriguing romantic drama, but unfortunately the central contrivance of the entire narrative is so glaringly obvious that only for the sake of vanity could this film conclude with a happy ending. Vanity and memory are two themes that the film explores in depth.

Nevertheless, despite the plot shortages on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, The Age of Adaline is a stunning film to watch and will appeal to all lovers of romance and those that enjoyed such films as the quirky Richard Curtis comedy About Time and of course The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Unfortunately, such talented actresses as Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Requiem for a Dream) and Kathy Baker (Jacknife, The Cider House Rules, Saving Mr Banks) are wasted in this foggy romantic drama, which is as vague as the sighting of a comet near earth in the distant future.

The Age of Adaline had two gorgeous stars, plus an A-List megastar like Ford but unfortunately while beautiful to watch, lacked a firmer direction, which is a pity since the film did not fulfill its complete potential.

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….

Cheeky Green Superhero

Green Lantern

Bond film director Martin Campbell, who was responsible for the hugely popular Casino Royale and Goldeneye takes a new directorial route with the Sci-fi superhero action film The Green Lantern starring the gorgeous and ever quirky Ryan Reynolds as a hapless Californian pilot first appearing in a pair of tight whiteys, who is accidentally bestowed huge responsibility by a dying purple alien to quell the disruptions facing the galactic status quo caused by the unleashing of Parallax, a menacing evil force which has come back to haunt the realm of the Green Lanterns.

Going Green and Saving the Universe

With the help of a tight-fitting Green costume, cool mask and a rather large green ring, the irresponsible jet pilot Hal Jordan, played with relish by Reynolds is the first human to become a Green Lantern and is able to fly, create objects in space and generally be very malleable with his own willpower.

The only problem with casting Ryan Reynolds as the green clad cheeky superhero was that it was very difficult to take him seriously in this role after he was so brilliant in such comedies as The Proposal but is no stranger to Superhero films as he appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Blake Lively seen briefly in the brilliant film The Town appears as the female lead, Carol Ferris and although there is a great supporting cast including Mark Strong, Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett, The Green Lantern whilst it remains entertaining fails to supercede X-Men: First Class and is not even in the same league as The Dark Knight or the hugely popular Spiderman franchise which were released at the beginning of the 21st century.

Green Lantern firmly rooted in science-fiction remains more comic than action and the film looses its impetus and becomes another superhero film about men who have severe father complexes. Both the Green Lantern, aka, Hal Jordan and the villain Hector Hammond are men who are desperately trying to live up to the legend their fathers were, while Hammond simply takes vengeance, Jordan as the Lantern shows that all the galactic responsibility has proven that he is a man capable of saving the Earth from utter devastation.

What saves The Green Lantern is the quirky acting of Ryan Reynolds and the wonderful onscreen chemistry between him and the rising star Blake Lively. As superhero films go, this Lively Lantern is thrilling but by no means unique. The story line is straight out of superman and lacks the panache or psychological profile which makes some superhero films so utterly compelling such as Batman Begins and Hellboy.

Bruce Wayne the complex Super Hero

Martin Campbell should stick to more gritty action films which are more his style like the Bond films, The Mask of Zorro and the excellent but under rated thriller Edge of Darkness starring Mel Gibson before his spectacular fall from grace.

The overkill of superhero movies only points to a trend in recent big budget studio film making which is taking audience away from the blinding realities of common existence and allowing them to escape into a world  of super egotistical hyper-realized potential where the super hero in everyone is waiting to be unleashed. A concept that America firmly believes in. Watch out for more superhero films being released including the aptly titled Captain America. Escapism at its most comical yet undeniably entertaining!

A Far More Stylish Hero

 

 

 

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