Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Greenwood’

Taking Down the West Wing

Mark Felt:

The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Josh Lucas, Tony Goldwyn, Kate Walsh, Marton Csokas, Tom Sizemore, Eddie Marsan, Ike Barinholtz, Maika Monroe, Michael C. Hall, Bruce Greenwood, Julian Morris

Parkland and Concussion director Peter Landesman takes on another factual drama in his detail heavy fictional account of the Watergate scandal called Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the Whitehouse.

It’s April 1972 and Mark Felt, deputy assistant director of the FBI deftly underplayed by a haggard looking Liam Neeson is hoping to get the job of Director of the FBI after the death of J. Edgar Hoover.

Oscar nominee Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) plays Mark Felt brilliantly, underplaying the amount of stress he is under when Felt is by-passed for the directorship for a Nixon crony Gray played by Hungarian actor Marton Csokas (Noah, The Equalizer).

Felt, who always played his cards very close to his chest, realizes that there is a massive conspiracy within government agencies. These fears are confirmed when the magnitude of the Watergate scandal broke in 1972 in which covert ex-spies where caught red handed breaking into the National Democratic Convention headquarters at the Watergate Hotel just prior to the November elections.

President Nixon got re-elected in November 1972 but Mark Felt soon realizes that a move by the government to capture the integrity and independence of the FBI when the slimy Billy Sullivan is poking around headquarters. Sullivan is suitably played by Tom Sizemore who hasn’t been in many films recently but is most remembered for his roles in Natural Born Killers, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and Heat.

If audiences like detailed political docudrama then Mark Felt is for them.

Don’t expect action in this drama which is saved by memorable scenes between Neeson and his co-star Oscar nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Trumbo) who plays his wife Audrey Felt as the couple also battle with the disappearance of their wayward daughter Joan played by Maika Monroe (Independence Day).

Mark Felt is a fascinating portrayal of one man’s ability to stick to his own ethics at a time when the Nixon administration was beyond reproach as Felt clandestinely feeds classified information to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward played by Julian Morris and Time magazine journalist Sandy Smith played by Bruce Greenwood.

Felt was indeed the man who brought down the White House and in media circles was known only as deepthroat, a rather sexy title for an informant and extremely valuable source to the Fourth Estate which eventually caused the impeachment of President Richard Nixon and his administration.

Despite the intrigue, Mark Felt does get caught up in the details and scores a film rating of 7 out of 10. It is nevertheless a fascinating film for those that enjoy an intriguing docudrama. 

The film does feature a superb supporting cast including Eddie Marsan, Michael C. Hall, Tony Goldwyn and Josh Lucas. Recommended for viewers that enjoyed director Peter Landesman‘s previous American historical drama Parkland about the assassination of JFK.

 

History’s First Draft

The Post

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Michael Stulbarg, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie

Before Julian Assange, before Edward Snowden, there was the Pentagon Papers.

A top level government study on how the Americans had been involved in Vietnam way before the infamous Vietnam War and how during that bloodletting fiasco, the Americans realized that they were losing the war in South East Asia, yet still continued to send troops in to fight the Viet Cong.

The leaking of the Pentagon Papers, firstly by the New York Times and then more pertinently by The Washington Post during the Nixon administration is the source of Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg’s fascinating film The Post starring two Oscar winners, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) as owner of the Post, Katherine Graham and Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) as Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/ who seizes on the story of a decade and pushes for his newspaper to release the classified documents despite the possible legal or financial consequences.

Streep as usual, is superb as the doubtful and affluent socialite Katherine Graham who inherits her father’s newspaper The Washington Post upon her husband’s death and then is forced into an invidious position when she is called upon to make the critical decision on whether to let the newspaper publish the Pentagon Papers at a time when New York investors are eagerly awaiting The Washington Post Company’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) on the American Stock Exchange, which could hugely benefit the fortunes of the struggling newspaper.

Spielberg packs a lot into The Post, and it would be advisable for viewers to read up thoroughly about that crucial historical period in 1971 which was so decisive and widely regarded as the turning point of American press freedom. All these events occurred prior to the Watergate scandal.

The publication of the Pentagon Papers ultimately changed the American public’s sentiment on the viability of troops in Vietnam and the legal outcome after the Supreme Court ruling elevated Katherine Graham to a media doyenne, a feminist and a massively influential woman who changed the business world’s view on how a single woman can influence and transform a media empire.

There is a solid supporting cast of actors in The Post to add gravitas to a riveting tale of journalistic bravery, including Sarah Poulson as Bradlee’s wife Toni who gives her own feminine perspective on why what Katherine Graham was doing was vitally important and brave. Other supporting actors include Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Phys, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons and Tracy Letts.

In the age of the Internet, Fake News and a 24 Hour news cycle, The Post is a critical film to watch and be discussed and is especially relevant in 2018 as back then in 1971, which basically implies that at every historical junction, the media must always hold the country’s government accountable. After all, the news is History’s First Draft.

My only criticism is that screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer should have contextualized the dramatic events more efficiently so that a 21st century audience could appreciate the bravery of publishing critical information without fear or favour.

The Post is brilliant viewing and a highly recommended film about press freedom under a sinister government which makes the film’s ending all the more relevant. The Post receives a film rating of 8.5 out of 10.

Read more on Katherine Grahamhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Graham

Read more on Ben Bradleehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Bradlee

 

 

 

The Doomsday Protocol

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Jeff Bridges, Edward Holcroft, Emily Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Michael Gambon

Director Matthew Vaughn follows up his 2015 comic book spy debut Kingsman: The Secret Service with a more robust and intensely invested sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle with a bigger cast and lavish sets reuniting Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) with his A Single Man co-star fellow Oscar winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice) who plays the delusional and garish villain Poppy.

Hot young star Taron Egerton reprises his role of Eggsy, street boy turned bespoke spy, joined by Mark Strong as Merlin who go on an international mission to discover who is destroying The Kingsman headed up by a briefly glimpsed Michael Gambon.

The Kingsman soon join forces with their American counterparts including Channing Tatum as Tequila and Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall) as Whiskey who make up the Statesmen an independent espionage agency housed in a whiskey distillery in Tennessee who come to their aid in tracking down Poppy and her evil plan of causing all drug users in the world to die through lacing their fix with a lethal concoction which causes purple veins, paralysis and death.

As Kingsman adopt the Doomsday Protocol, Eggsy and Merlin embark on a dangerous mission with the help of Whiskey as they travel to the Italian Alps to retrieve an antidote in an action packed ski cable car sequence which is clearly a skit on the 007 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Even Poppy’s drug liar deep in the Cambodian jungle, aptly named Poppyland is a skit on another Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

While the action in Kingsman: The Golden Circle is clearly hyper-visualized and the plot is completely outlandish, it’s the sort of Saturday afternoon popcorn film which is pure escapism even though its subliminal messages are morally questionable.

With Oscar winner Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) as Statesman tech genius Ginger, The Kingsman: Golden Circle is a clear skit on the 007 franchise with a more lurid twist making our dapper hero Eggsy appealing to the millennial’s and definitely is more successful as a cleverly cast spy caper.

If audiences enjoyed the first Kingsman, then they will enjoy this extravagant and better orchestrated sequel. Kingsman: The Golden Circle gets a Film Rating 7 out of 10.

 

 

Victims and Heroes

The Place Beyond the Pines

place_beyond_the_pines

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Rose Byrne, Dane DeHaan, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Bruce Greenwood, Mahershala Ali, Emory Cohen

Critically acclaimed Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance’s absorbing and poignant three act family drama, The Place Beyond the Pines is almost Shakespearean in nature as the narrative delves into the psyche of contemporary masculinity and the legacy that men leave behind for their sons. That legacy is naturally shaped by the actions and deeds that a man did whose triumphs or sins will haunt the next generation.

The film opens with a motorbike stunt sequence in a metal ball in which three stunt riders’ ride around in a seeming and noisy symmetry. Ryan Gosling (Drive, Gangster Squad) is introduced as Luke who as a down on his luck, tattooed stunt driver earns money at the local fairs in upstate New York, Schenectady to be exact. After a brief one night stand with a local waitress Romina played by Eva Mendes, the itinerant stunt rider Luke returns to the town a year later to discover that he has fathered a one year old son.

Cash-strapped and desperate, he befriends a local two bit mechanic who says that the quickest way to make some serious cash is to rob a couple of local banks using his unique stunt riding skill set. Desperate to offer some form of financial support to Eva and his newborn baby, Gosling soon goes on a Bank robbing spree. After a serious of successful stints, one last job goes horribly wrong and Gosling’s fate as a man and a father gets inextricably tied in with a young and ambitious local cop Avery Cross, superbly played by Bradley Cooper (who really has excelled in the serious acting stakes since his remarkable Oscar nominated performance in Silver Linings Playbook).

The Place Beyond the Pines is an intimately shot and skilfully directed study of masculinity by Derek Cianfrance and the intricate sprawling story line is both riveting and powerful as the actions of both men, Gosling and Cross reverberate for the next two decades.

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This is a brilliant piece of film noir assisted by a remarkable supporting cast including a wonderfully menacing performance by Ray Liotta as a corrupt cop Deluca and Dane DeHaan as Gosling’s confused but vulnerable teenage son Jason. Whilst the female characters are intentionally underwritten, it really is Mendes who excels in a grittier role as a mother who has to bring up a son whilst keeping a secret about his real father’s criminal past.

The Place Beyond the Pines is about legacy, betrayal, corruption, aggression and ambition in a small town American community which sees two men from opposite social spectrums both portrayed alternatively as victim and hero in the narrative who make the wrong choices for all the supposedly right reasons, only to have those choices impact their own son’s destinies.

Cianfrance deserves an Oscar nomination for his gripping direction as he deftly captures the intensity and brooding atmosphere of small town America where every man is angling for a better life despite the consequences and their own circumstances. The Place Beyond the Pines is a highly recommended film which will firmly elevate Oscar Nominees Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper as two of the most promising actors of their generation. This gripping crime drama also stars Rose Byrne as Avery Cross’s wife Jennifer and Bruce Greenwood as District Attorney Bill Kilcullen.

A Dazzling Enterprise

Star Trek: Into Darkness

star_trek_into_darkness_ver4

Director: J. J. Abrams

Cast: Chris Pine, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Alice Eve, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, John Cho, Peter Weller, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Bruce Greenwood

Director J.J. Abrams dazzling reinvention of the Star Trek franchise continues with the glossy sequel to the 2009 smash hit Star Trek with Star Trek: Into Darkness, pulling together the same cast from the original and then adding the amazing talents of big screen-newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch (last seen in the extraordinary Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as the evil villain and celestial terrorist Khan, a reinvented character from the 1982 film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Star Trek: Into Darkness opens with a spectacular volcanic sequence on a primal planet in which Captain Kirk rescues his half Vulcan friend Spock from near extinction to the 23rd century high tech metropolises such as London and San Francisco. Meanwhile back on Earth the sinister superhuman Khan destroys an Enterprise space library in central London and then wages an attack on the commanding officers of the Enterprise fleet at their Californian headquarters before fleeing Earth for a Klingon refuge on a distant planet.

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Captain Kirk played with boisterous heroism by Chris Pine and his team including Zachary Quinto as Spock, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Zoe Saldana as Uhura and ubiquitous Karl Urban as Bones, John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov head to the outer reaches of Klingon galactic territory and capture Khan, whose wily ways are only revealed as they head back towards earth. Cumberbatch is really superb as the sinister villain and far out does any of his co-stars maybe with the exception of Quinto’s slightly robotic yet sensitive Spock.

The unrequited love between Kirk and Spock is highlighted in a particularly touching scene when the dashing Captain appears to be dying in the heart of the Star Trek Enterprise and Chris Pine’s gorgeous blue eyes make the audience feel for his unfulfilled love as he seemingly expires due to radiation exposure under the mournful gaze of Quinto’s Spock.

But never fear Trekkies, Spock takes revenge on Khan and in a brilliantly orchestrated chase sequence through 23rd century San Francisco resulting in an extraordinary fight sequence aboard an industrial spacecraft, not to mention a crashing spacecraft taking out Alcatraz.

Whilst Star Trek: Into Darkness has less characterization as the 2009 Star Trek, it really is Cumberbatch’s film as he makes the villain into a truly deceptive sinister terrorist with some superb dialogue.  The rest of the supporting cast ham it up in their Trekkie uniforms without too much in depth characterization whilst the only subplot to attract minor interest is Alice Eve as the blonde weapons expert Carol channeling the Nicole Kidman look as she reveals her complex relationship with her dubious father veteran Captain Marcus played by Peter Weller from Robocop fame.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is for true sci fi fans and whilst not in the same thought-provoking existential vein as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus or Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion, it is pure glossy sci-fi entertainment and sure to remain an inspiration at future Comicon conventions , not to mention Trekkie conventions from Tokyo to Anaheim.

After all what can audiences expect from the producers of the successful Hawaii 5 0 series, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman but another action-packed brilliant bromance, however this time the visual effects and excellent sound editing triumph over characterization whilst the script retains its mythological narrative that has made the Star Trek franchise so enduring and iconic.

Communist Ballet to a Texan Welcome

Mao’s Last Dancer

Juxtaposing forces combine in the brilliant ballet film Mao’s Last Dancer directed by Australian Bruce Beresford. Dancing under Communism only to be released into the world of Texan Ballet is Li’s story in Mao’s Last Dancer which triumphs as a superb cinematic ballet.

Bruce Beresford’s film of the autobiographical novel Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxan is infused with a passion for dance and immediately sets up the dichotomy of a boy raised under the rigid government of Mao Zedong’s Communist China in the late 60’s and early 70s and the brash Western commercialism of Texas in 1981 the era that the hit TV series Dallas exemplified, a state built on vast oil wealth.

The Original series about Texan wealth and Eighties Decadence

Li develops into a promising ballet dancer at the Beijing Ballet School and is chosen to represent his country as he goes to America and dance with the Houston Ballet, of which the then First Lady Barbara Bush was a patron.

The opening scene is wonderful as Li arrives at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and is greeted by the Houston Ballet choreographer Ben Stevenson played with a joie de vive by Bruce Greenwood, reprising a similar role he played as Truman Capote’s lover in Capote. Li is a citizen of communist China and is soon taken shopping at the vast malls in Houston and overwhelmed by the freedom, choice and brashness of the Texan capital, not to mention the bags of outfits from Armani,  Vuitton and Calvin Klein.

Superb Ballet film about a passion that far outweighs the political restraints of the era

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Mao’s Last Dancer excels in tracking Li’s development as a Ballet Dancer from being the principal dancer in Carmen to the final breathtaking sequence in Rites of Spring. His political status is soon revoked as he refuses to return to communist China after a sensational incident at the Chinese Consulate in Houston. Li’s opportunity at Houston ballet outweigh his desire to return to China but at the cost of not seeing his family for years.

As the Chinese communist regime softens in relations towards the West in the mid-80’s, the film shows Li returning to his home province in a tearful welcome.

This is a ballet film in all its entirety and despite the international political turmoil involved in Li’s journey to freedom, Mao’s Last Dancer will not disappoint any avid Dance fan especially those who appreciate Ballet. The film is very much Li’s story and does not dwell on the residual flamboyance of any international Ballet company and is not nearly as good as Robert Altman’s film, The Company about the Chicago City Ballet.

Another Altman Masterpiece about Ballet

Watch out for a great cameo by Kyle MacLachlan as Li’s International Immigration Lawyer which only makes the viewer wish that MacLachlan who made such cult hits in the 80’s as Dune and Blue Velvet would frequent the Big Screen more and free himself from the set of Desperate Housewives.

Australian born Beresford, director of Driving Miss Daisy and Crimes of the Heart does a fine job marrying a story about two conflicting society’s brought together by Li’s superb talent as a ballet dancer and his eventual triumph. Mao’s Last Dancer won a host of awards at the Australian Film Institutes 2009 Awards including Best Picture, Costume Design and Director.

From Kansas to the Costa Brava

Capote


Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Jr
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Written by: Dan Futterman

Already heaped with critical acclaim from several North American Film Critics Associations, director Bennett Miller’s fascinating film, Capote, tells the story of the American author Truman Capote obsessive struggle in researching and writing a novel on the true story of a horrific crime that happened in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. Philip Seymour Hoffman deservedly won an Oscar for best actor for his stunning, camp and brilliant portrayal of the great American writer Truman Capote. His nuanced, and almost understated performance ranging from mental anguish to drunken witticisms is perfectly balanced against the stark performances of the convicts, especially Clifton Collins, Jr as Perry Smith.

Capote, a respected writer for the New Yorker, first sees an article on the brutal killings of a respected Kansas family, the Clutters, in which the parents and the son and daughter were bound up and shot in their bedrooms. At the time, the crime was so horrific, it shocked the small Kansas farming community. Capote develops a morbid fascination with the case and once the two killers are caught, extends this fascination into an unusual bond with the killers, who have been incarcerated in Kansas City. Catherine Keener plays the author, Harper Lee, whose famous novel To Kill A Mocking Bird is about to be published. Lee and Capote are close friends, and she accompanies him to the stark, flat plains of rural Kansas, providing clear observations of the murder case. Bennett Miller beautifully contrasts the almost debauched world of the New York literary circle, where Capote holds court after many drinks at various social gatherings with the cold landscape of crime scene investigation, incarceration and sentencing of the killers in Kansas City.

Capote’s obsession with the murders and the killers, especially Perry Smith takes its toll on him psychologically and emotionally, and this is where Hoffman’s performance is just superb. At the urging of his lover Jack Dunphy, portrayed by Bruce Greenwood, Capote takes a break in the Costa Brava in Spain to recuperate and write what would become his most famous novel, In Cold Blood, the story of the Clutter murders.

Capote is a heavy going film, yet a fascinating study of a writers research into a shocking crime and the subsequent punishment of the perpetrators. Hoffman deserves the Oscar for his excellent and complex portrayal of Capote, as he certainly carries the movie through the journey of investigation, obsession and deterioration, while producing a seminal novel, which would make him one of the most respected writers in the American literary world. This film is highly recommended, but not for the faint hearted or the uninformed.

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