Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dance’

Heir Apparent

Me Before You

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Director: Thea Sharrock

Cast: Sam Claflin, Emilia Clarke, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Stephen Peacocke, Brendan Coyle, Jenna Coleman, Joanna Lumley, Vanessa Kirby, Matthew Lewis, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Lily Travers

Jojo Moyes’s heart-breaking romantic novel Me Before You was a hit among ladies book clubs around the English speaking world and possibly beyond. So it was inevitable that a big screen version of the celebrated novel should appear. Stage director turned film director Thea Sharrock does a reasonably good job of directing the film version with help from the author who also wrote the screenplay.

It also helps that the two main leads, Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin are so likable in this film, otherwise Me Before You would never have worked. Ironically both actors are known for appearing in big franchise movies and TV shows. Claflin for his role in the Hunger Games trilogy and more surprisingly Emilia Clarke for her portrayal of Queen of Dragons in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.

Joining the cast is another Game of Thrones star, British character actor Charles Dance (White Mischief) who plays Will Traynor’s father Stephen and Oscar nominee Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) as his mother Camilla.

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Me Before You centres on the tragic but fascinating tale of a wealthy corporate raider Will Traynor who is completely paralysed in a freak motorbike accident in central London. The once athletic and daredevil Traynor in the prime of his life has his mobility completed shattered and lands up becoming a quadriplegic. A devastating blow for his upper class affluent parents who see him as eventually inheriting the family estate which includes a castle.

On the other end of the economic scale, is the quirky and fun Louisa Clark who we first glimpse working as a waitress in a tea shop in a small town in England. Clark as she becomes known in the film, is superbly portrayed by Emilia Clarke, a positive and big hearted girl who soon becomes the carer of the selfish and arrogant Will Traynor who is sullen and angry at life’s cruellest blow.

What transpires in Me Before You is a remarkable love story without the desire of two young people who are both caught at pivotal points in their lives. The emotional arc of the film rests on how both Will and Clarke grow through their shared time together despite the dreaded intention of Will to consider euthanasia in a remote Swiss clinic.

Me Before You is a tearjerker of note, a heartfelt romantic drama which will certainly not leave a dry eye in the house. The film is ably assisted by some nuanced turns by a range of supporting actors including Downton Abbey’s Brendan Coyle as Louisa’s father Brendan Clark and the handsome physiotherapist Nathan played by Stephen Peacocke (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot).

Naturally as Will’s parents Camilla and Stephen, Janet McTeer and Charles Dance do a superb job of both conveying emotional support and regret at the terrible fate which has happened to their only son, the heir apparent to the Traynor fortune.

However, Me Before You really belongs to Emilia Clarke who lights up every scene with her delightful sensitivity as she portrays Louisa Clark to perfection, the carer that ultimately falls in love with her patient.

This beautifully shot romance is highly recommended viewing, a lighter more British version of Julian Schnabel’s superb film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Audiences should look out for a brief but amusing cameo by Joanna Lumley as she channels Patsy from Ab Fab in a touching wedding scene.

 

The Lazarus Conversion

Victor Frankenstein

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Director: Paul McGuigan

Cast: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Freddie Fox, Charles Dance, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Bronson Webb, Callum Turner, Daniel Mays

Lovers of the Victorian Gothic should watch the brilliant combination of James McAvoy (Last King of Scotland, Atonement) and Daniel Radcliffe (Kill Your Darlings) as the budding medical duo, Frankenstein and his faithful assistant Igor in Scottish director Paul McGuigan’s period thriller Victor Frankenstein.

The action starts off in the outskirts of 19th century Victorian London at Barnaby’s Circus where Dr Frankenstein first glimpses the nameless hunchback as a circus clown, cruelly treated and vilified, until a moment in the performance when the beautiful trapeze artist Lorelei falls off her swing above a crowd of shocked spectators.  Naturally Frankenstein and the hunchback rush to her rescue.

The delusional Frankenstein assists Igor in escaping the circus and brings him back to his cavernous laboratory where he is hell bent on recreating life from stolen animal parts curtesy of the London Zoo. Frankenstein names the hunchback Igor and after a very muscular scene in which he drains the fluid from Igor back and urges him to wear a brace to straighten his posture. Igor is initially taken in by the passionate Frankenstein although he soon realizes that his new found friend is slightly obsessed, delusional and not to mention reckless.

After a failed experiment at the Chiswick Hospital in which Frankenstein attempts to revive an ape like creature much to everyone’s horror, the potential of what they are trying to achieve is recognized by the wealthy and aristocratic Finnegan played with relish by Freddie Fox (The Riot Club).

Despite being admonished by his father Dr Frankenstein, a brief cameo by Charles Dance, for his reckless medical experiments as well as being chased by a determined God-fearing detective Inspector Turpin played by Andrew Scott (Spectre), Victor Frankenstein proceeds with his determined quest to recreate human life using the Lazarus conversion, an electrical method of reviving a reconstructed being and bringing it to life. This would be the hideous and dreaded monster.

Igor in the meantime is flirting with the gorgeous Lorelei played by Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay, and in a very theatrical scene takes her to a lavish Victorian ball, yet he is drawn back to rescuing Frankenstein from his obsessive and dangerous behaviour.

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The film’s climax moves to a Castle in the dramatic Scottish Highlands, where the final preparations for the revival of Frankenstein’s monster is to take place with much assistance from the creepy Finnegan and huge amounts of electricity.

Victor Frankenstein is not a superb film, but a fun filled revival of the Victorian Gothic genre in the same vein as The Wolfman starring Benicio del Toro and Emily Blunt although not quite as scary.

The costumes designed by Jany Temime who also did Spectre are brilliantly done as well as the inventive production design by Eve Stewart, recreating 19th century London in a similar fashion to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.

The combination of Radcliffe and McAvoy as mad doctors is a stroke of genius and their onscreen adventures make Victor Frankenstein an enjoyable Victorian action thriller. This is recommended viewing for those that like a bit of dark horror, an intriguing tale told from Igor’s perspective which adds sympathy to the overall image of Frankenstein as more than just a deranged doctor with a God complex.

 

A Dazzling Restitution

Woman in Gold

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Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Katie Holmes, Daniel Bruhl, Jonathan Pryce, Frances Fisher, Max Irons, Elizabeth McGovern, Charles Dance, Tatiana Maslany, Moritz Bleibtreu

My Week with Marilyn director Simon Curtis, follows up the success of that film with the brilliant Woman in Gold about art restitution based on a true account of how Maria Altmann an Austrian refugee fought to get Gustav Klimt’s famous and dazzling portrait of her aunt, Woman in Gold restored to her as the rightful owner after it was illegally seized by the Nazi’s in Vienna during the rise of the Third Reich in Europe.

Oscar winner Helen Mirren (The Queen) heads up an eclectic cast as Maria Altmann who approaches a young lawyer also of Austrian descent, Randy Schoenberg wonderfully played by Ryan Reynolds in one of his best screen performances to date to take on the Austrian government in reclaiming the gorgeous painting, which is in fact a family heirloom, now hanging in the Belvedere gallery in Vienna, Austria.

Woman in Gold is set in 1998 in Los Angeles with frequent flashbacks to the late 1930’s in Vienna which also charts the daring escape of young Maria, boldly played by Tatiana Maslany and her fiancé played by Max Irons (The Riot Club) from the Nazi’s who eventually flee to America, leaving her parents and all their wealth and possessions behind.

Director Simon Curtis deals with the thorny and sensitive issue of Art restitution in a nuanced and intelligent way which gives balance to both sides of this deeply complex case. Like George Clooney’s Monument’s Men which dealt also with the Nazi’s sacking Europe of its artistic treasures, Woman in Gold specifically focuses on this case and the exquisite painting Woman in Gold by the illustrious Austrian Cubist artist Gustav Klimt, which is like the Mona Lisa of Austria and a sign of national identity.

The fact that the value of the painting is worth well over R100 million dollars also adds impetus to Randy’s fight but more than that is the emotional toll it takes on both characters as they fight for justice amidst contemporary bigotry and the rightful ownership of a hugely recognizable painting.

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Woman in Gold is ably assisted by a wonderful supporting cast including Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Katie Holmes (Pieces of April), Frances Fisher (The Lincoln Lawyer, Titanic), Charles Dance (White Mischief) and Jonathan Pryce (Carrington, Tomorrow Never Dies) but it is essentially held together by the superb performances of Mirren and Reynolds who despite their age difference make the film a fun, informative and deeply emotional quest to correctly addresses the wrongs of the past, in the name of art restitution and justice.

The fact that the international legal fight goes to the Supreme Court, which takes both Schoenberg and Altmann to Washington DC raises the level of the film along with the apparent assistance of the heir to the Estee Lauder fortune.

Woman in Gold is a fascinating, must see film for art lovers, and lovers of intelligent historical films which addresses a very topical and complex issue of restitution, which in this case dazzles with beauty. Highly recommended viewing.

29 Million Variations

The Imitation Game

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Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Alan Leech, Tom Goodman-Hill, Matthew Beard, James Northcote, Steven Waddington

Based upon the 1983 book by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma and brilliantly adapted into an insightful screenplay by Graham Moore, The Imitation Game is a superb and evocative historical drama about the breaking of the enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum elegantly weaves a very touching and tragic story of espionage, cryptography and sexuality extracting nuanced performances out of Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, an odd couple who make up the mysterious collective which work on and break the seemingly impossible Nazi enigma code at the height of World War II. Using real war footage and blending in a fascinating portrayal of the mathematician Alan Turing whose genius has only recently been acknowledged.

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Set between the years of 1928 and 1951, The Imitation Game paints a moving portrait of a very complicated man, whose brilliance was only threatened by the inherent violence of war which engulfed England during the 1940’s as well as the prejudice which followed regarding his latent homosexuality in the early 1950’s.

Cambridge mathematician graduate whose thesis was entitled the Imitation Game, Alan Turing was socially awkward, shy, bullied at an English prep school but the perfect sort of individual who had the foresight and intelligence to develop a machine which cracked the seemingly unbreakable enigma code, a daily Nazi signal which gave countless GPS co-ordinates of where they would be bombing next during World War II with a minimum of 29 million variations.

Naturally groomed by the newly formed MI6 by Stewart Menzies wonderfully played by Mark Strong, Turing is recognized for his potential and yet later vilified for his own sexuality in a moving portrait of one the 20th century’s biggest injustices, his charge and subsequent punishment of chemical castration for being homosexual in 1952, when it was still criminalized in Great Britain.

This was despite the fact that Turing’s mathematical brilliance was the reason that the complicated machine which he called Christopher named after a schoolboy crush, manages to decipher this seemingly unbreakable code able to break the Nazi code and prevent World War II from continuing beyond 1945.

Historically there were lots of other reasons the War ended when it did, but The Imitation Game focuses on the people behind the scenes, the cryptanalysts and code-breaking who elusively assisted those fighting on the front line.

Widely regarded as the founding father of theoretical computer science Alan Turing’s life story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing has only recently gained prominence following a Royal pardon and a highly publicized internet campaign to clear Turing’s name and bestow upon him the recognition he never received in his own lifetime.

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With a suitably moving musical score by Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game is a poignant and superb historical drama of Turing and his band of men and one woman, Joan Clarke, featuring one of the best performances by Knightley (Atonement, Anna Karenina) in a race against time to save the world from tyranny. Turing’s genius as a mathematician came at a price, his apparent lack of emotional empathy yet despite the enormity of his task, he remained ironically detached from the brutal war which engulfed Europe and the world around him.

The Imitation Game is an intelligent historical drama, with universal themes of injustice and perseverance despite the prejudice and the odds against infuriating bureaucracy and time itself. Highly recommended for those viewers that enjoyed Atonement and Another Country.

 

Vlad the Impaler

Dracula Untold

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Director: Gary Shore

Cast: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Art Parkinson, Noah Huntley

15th Century Transylvanian Prince Vlad is forced to protect his kingdom from the onslaught of the expanding Ottoman Empire as the Turks threaten to invade his lands enslaving teenage boys for forced conscription to the Turkish army. Through many bloody battles, Prince Vlad, suitably played by Luke Evans (The Fast and the Furious 6) gets the nickname of the Impaler who impales invading armies and unfriendly villagers on gruesome stakes.

Dracula Untold starts in 1442, the height of the middle ages, with Prince Vlad and a group of men entering broken tooth mountain, whereby hidden in a dark cave an evil force looms. That force is an immortal vampire who made a pact with a demon for his eternal bloodsucking powers.

As the Turkish forces advance on Transylvania headed by Sultan Mekmet downplayed by the swarthy Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, The Devil’s Double) threatening to enslave the male population of Vlad’s precarious kingdom and also his precious son Prince Ingeras played by Art Parkinson.

Craving supernatural powers, Vlad rushes off into the evil liar and confronts his fears by sipping from the blood of this manipulative master vampire, wonderfully played by Charles Dance (last seen in HBO’s Game of Thrones) in exchange for extraordinary strength and acute nocturnal abilities.

However like all pacts with the devil there is always a catch. If after three days Vlad drinks human blood again then he will be immortalized as a vampire forever and as per his order of the Dragon, will eternally take the title of the infamous Dracula. However Vlad the Vampire in the course of three days shies away from shining silver, sunlight and wooden crosses, revealing his true form to his disconcerted legions.

With all the mythologies and movie histories surrounding Dracula and vampire, director Gary Shore refreshingly decided not to go the gory or sexually explicit route and in turn creates a tame if not entertaining historical version of Dracula in Dracula Untold, assisted by some great visual effects especially the fight sequence between Vlad and Mekmet amongst bags of glittering silver.

Canadian star Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis, Belle) plays Vlad’s voluptuous luckless wife, Mirena who unfortunately has to become the bride of Dracula…

Whilst this film is not Twilight or the elegant Neil Jordan film, Interview with a Vampire, Dracula Untold is a mild yet enjoyable middle of the road historical epic about the origins of this mythical bloodsucker giving more credibility to his alter ego as a merciless Transylvanian Prince Vlad, who was willing to sell his soul to the devil to save his mountainous kingdom.

Unlike Francis Ford Coppola’s 1990’s film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this film is a less ambitious version of the iconic bloodsucker helped by good performances by Evans and Gadon with more seasoned actors like Charles Dance and Dominic Cooper adding some credibility whilst the film focuses more on the historical origins of Dracula than any of the contemporary post-Victorian Gothic reincarnations.

Dracula Untold is recommended viewing for vampire fans and those that like their blood sucking a little light on the veins, moving the film swiftly out of violent epic mode and more into the historical fantasy genre.

2014 Toronto Film Festival

2014 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on amongst others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Judge directed by David Dobkin starring Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio

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People’s Choice Award: The Imitation Game directed by Morten Tyldum starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Tom Goodman-Hill

Best Canadian Feature Film: Bang Bang Baby directed by Jeffrey St. Jules starring Jane Levy, Peter Stormare and Justin Chatwin.

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