Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Greenwood’

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.

place_beyond_the_pines_ver3

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.

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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