Posts Tagged ‘Chiwetel Ejiofor’

Aurora’s Curse

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Director: Joachim Ronning

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sam Riley, Harris Dickinson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Robert Lindsay, Juno Temple

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales director Joachim Ronning directs the highly anticipated lavish sequel to Disney’s 2014 fantasy film Maleficent. Oscar winner Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted) reprises her role of Maleficent the Fey protector of Aurora in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and this time she is up against Queen Ingrith wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (Love Field, Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys).

In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Maleficent and Queen Ingrith first meet at a pre-marital dinner for Aurora played again by Elle Fanning (Mary Shelley, The Beguiled) and her beau Prince Philip played by Harris Dickinson last seen on the small screen as the kidnapped J. Paul Getty III in the excellent TV series Trust directed by Oscar winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire).

Immediately Queen Ingrith and Maleficent do not hit it off, as the vivacious and calculating Queen sets a trap for the fairies at the impending wedding of Aurora and Prince Philip.

Soon Maleficent is sent wounded into the underworld where she is rescued by Conall played by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and the hunky looking Borra played by Ed Skrein (Deadpool, The Transporter Refuelled).

British stars Juno Temple (Atonement, Wonder Wheel, Black Mass), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) and Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) reprise their roles as Thistlewit, Flittle and Knotgrass respectively.

Whilst the plot of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is certainly not as original as the 2014 film, the stunning visual effects and marvellous pace of the film make up for any shortcomings. The best casting choice was Michelle Pfeiffer playing the vicious Mother-in-Law to be much to the consternation of the utterly oblivious son and husband.

Fans of Maleficent will certainly savour this fabulous sequel even if it is to watch the gorgeous Angelina Jolie make her big screen comeback, post her highly publicized divorce from Brad Pitt.

All the secondary characters pale in comparison to the diva rivals onscreen namely Jolie and Pfeiffer as they battle it out in this glittering fantasy adventure to truly claim the nefarious title of Mistress of Evil.

While not as brilliant as the original, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil gets a Film Rating: 7 out of 10 and will surely keep audiences entertained while giving viewers further ideas for future Halloween ensembles.

Mastering your Demons

Doctor Strange

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Director: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stulbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Chris Hemsworth

Marvel is certainly expanding their cinematic universe at a rapid rate. First it was The Avengers and then The Guardians of the Galaxy and now they have turned their attention to the mystical antihero Doctor Strange, transforming the comic book character into a visually dazzling film version by director Scott Derrickson.

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Heavily influenced by Christopher Nolan’s surreal city scape bending visuals in his 2010 blockbuster Inception, Doctor Strange is a spectacular anti-hero film centred on an arrogant neurosurgeon wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).

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As the film begins, audiences catch a glimpse of Doctor Strange medical expertise as well as his supreme arrogance and wealth. However all that suave egotistical bravado comes crashing down when he plunges his sports car off a cliff outside New York City and soon loses all nerve sensations in his hand.

At first he is naturally devastated and despite being comforted by sometime lover and co-worker Dr Christine Palmer, played by Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Doctor Strange sets off for an alternative cure prompted by a meeting with a miracle paraplegic Jonathan Pangborn played by Benjamin Bratt (Love in the Time of Cholera, Traffic).

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Naturally the action shifts to Kathmandu, Nepal, where Doctor Strange is introduced to the mystical arts by the shaven head guru The Ancient One, superbly played by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton). The best dialogue in the film are reserved for Cumberbatch and Swinton as The Ancient One strips Doctor Strange of his arrogance and he discovers a mystical world of parallel universes and scriptures written in ancient languages.

Soon Doctor Strange takes a liking to a flying crimson cape and has sideburns to match Frankenstein. With a new mystical persona, Doctor Strange delves into pure fantasy with brilliant mind bending visual effects to match.

The Visual Effects are so inspiring that they should get an Oscar on their own. In this case Doctor Strange has come up trumps with a perfect cast, most of them Oscar nominees and winners and a strong narrative which establishes more films in the Defenders Universe.

As the action shifts to Hong Kong, Doctor Strange with the help of Mordo played by Oscar Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Wong played by Benedict Wong, this diverse mystical trio must battle the evil and embittered Kaecilius played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) who is intent on unleashing dark forces on planet earth in a bid to achieve immortality.

Doctor Strange is visually brilliant and superbly acted by the cast, due to some clever casting choices by Marvel Studios. The fact that Tilda Swinton, initially known for her art house films like Sally Potter’s Orlando and Benedict Cumberbatch seen in British period films like Atonement and Creation are both in a Marvel’s Anti-Hero movie is testament to how seriously the film studio takes their brand as they continuously expand all the various superhero franchises and even delve into quirky Sci-Fi.

Audiences must stay seated after the credits as Doctor Strange has an unexpected meeting with Asgard’s protector…

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy all of Marvel’s films or would love to visit Comicon.

 

 

Passion Drives Us

Secret in their Eyes

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Director: Billy Ray

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina, Michael Kelly, Dean Norris, Zoe Graham, Joe Cole

Secret in Their Eyes is an American remake of the 2010 Argentinian film “El secreto de sus ojos” which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The director of the Spanish language film  Juan José Campanella co-writes the screenplay with Captain Philips writer Billy Ray and this new version teams up the talents of Oscar winners Nicole Kidman (The Hours) and Julia Roberts  (Erin Brockovich, Charlie Wilson’s War) with Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave).

This three handed complex murder mystery is set in Los Angeles and Ejiofor plays a Counter-Terrorism detective Ray Kasten whose allegiance to an unsolved murder case involving his partners daughter Carolyn Cobb, glimpsed in flashbacks and played by Zoe Graham last seen in Boyhood, leads him and ambitious and beautiful district attorney Claire Sloane, played by Kidman to believe that Carolyn Cobb’s killer is still out there since the case was never technically solved.

Julia Roberts plays a washed out and grim-faced detective Jess Cobb, whose only daughter was the victim of a horrific crime. Secret in Their Eyes is a tense psychological thriller with a brilliant twist at the end, although at times the action could have been more captivating.

Considering the acting talents involved, Secret in Their Eyes tends to disappoint at times as the plot, stumbles along stretched between two time periods 2002 and 2014 which makes following the narrative more difficult.

The best scene in the film is when Kidman’s character Claire is questioning the main suspect Marzin played by Joe Cole with a hint of psycho-sexual paranoia thrown in. Audiences should look out for great performances by supporting actors Alfred Molina (Abduction, Prince of Persia) as Martin Morales and Michael Kelly, last seen in Netflix’s House of Cards as Reg Siefert.

One gets the feeling that the original Argentinian film was far more riveting. Secret in Their Eyes is recommended viewing but nothing spectacular and although Roberts, Kidman and Ejiofor are superb, one gets the sense that a better director would have made this English language version more riveting and less contrived. Viewers can judge for themselves.

 

 

 

67th BAFTA Awards

THE  67th BAFTA AWARDS /

THE BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS

Took place on Sunday 16th February 2014 in London

BAFTA WINNERS IN THE FILM CATEGORY:

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Best Film: 12 Years a Slave

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Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

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Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

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Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

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Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Rising Star Award: Will Poulter

Best British Film: Gravity

Best Original Screenplay: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell – American Hustle

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Best Adapted Screenplay: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope – Philomena

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Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby

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Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty directed by Paolo Sorrento (Italy)

Source: 67th BAFTA AWARDS

 

 

Man from Mars

The Martian

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Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Donald Glover

Oscar winner Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) takes the lead role in director Ridley Scott’s visually stunning adaptation of the Andy Weir novel, The Martian as he stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut who after a sandstorm on Mars gets stranded on the red planet by his fellow crew members who abandon him unknowingly to head back to earth.

The crew members include Captain Melissa Lewis played by Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Beth Johanssen played by Kate Mara, Chris Beck played by Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Rick Martinez played by Michael Pena (Antman, American Hustle) and Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie (Hercules) as Alex Vogel.

Meanwhile back at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, NASA headquarters, Director Teddy Sanders played by Jeff Daniels channeling his role in Aaron Sorkin’s TV Series, The Newsroom, announces that Watney is dead. Back on Mars, Watney is alive and has to figure out a way to survive on a planet with minimal oxygen and no sustainable ecosystem to grow his own food supply, an obvious metaphor for the dwindling food supply on planet Earth. Watch out for a superb supporting role by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as Vincent Kapoor who firmly believes in finding Watney and bring him back to Earth.

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Luckily Watkins is a trained botanist so with ingenuity and a lot of dry humour, he manages to harvest a small crop of potatoes inside the Mars man-made habitat. This is where Damon really inhabits the role of a lone space colonizer, the only man left on Mars who has to survive and adapt to his hostile and surreal environment, ironically while listening to 70’s disco music. Best line in the film is:

“Neil Armstrong, eat your heart out!”

As the team at NASA scramble to figure out a way to rescue Watney after receiving an encrypted message from him letting them know he is still alive, Watney has to use all his own resources to remain resilient until a rescue mission, however precarious is assembled. Whilst the astrophysics of the rescue mission, will go over the head of most viewers, what makes The Martian such an enlightening cinematic experience are the stunning almost ethereal visual effects, held together by an Oscar worthy performance by Matt Damon as he contemplates that he could perish on this desolate and largely uninhabitable planet, if the rescue mission fails.

The rest of the cast are largely viewed in supporting roles, including Chastain as the steely Captain of the Hermes space craft, they support Damon’s character both psychologically, emotionally and spiritually as Watney gradually learns that back on Earth he is becoming a symbol of a lone survivor who if he manages to return home safely will definitely have a legendary tale to tell.

With breathtaking cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and production design by Arthur Max, The Martian is definitely in the same league as Alphonso Cuaron’s 2013 Oscar winner Gravity and humanizes space travel without delving to deeply into the philosophical elements of the infinite universe as done in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or more recently Christopher Nolan’s visually compelling but laden Interstellar which oddly enough also featured Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon.

With a running time of 141 minutes, The Martian is a superbly told adventure story about one man’s fight to survive and his resilient desire to return to Earth, brilliantly acted by Matt Damon and beautifully directed by Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Gladiator).

Highly recommended viewing especially in a cinema. Do not wait for The Martian to come on TV as the visual and sound effects will certainly be lost.

Sold Down the River

12 Years a Slave

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Director: Steve McQueen

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Quvenzhané Wallis, Michael Kenneth Williams

Based upon Solomon Northup’s groundbreaking novel, 12 Years a Slave published in 1853 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Years_a_Slave, British director Steve McQueen brings the critically acclaimed film version to the big screen exposing the cruelty, violence and brutality of the slave trade in the Antebellum Deep South prior to the American Civil War. Audiences have to bear in mind that 12 years a Slave is set in 1841, the first half of the 19th century when America having broken away from Britain was expanding its nation commercially especially in the Southern States like Georgia, Louisiana and basically most South Eastern states below the Mason-Dixon line from Virginia downwards.

Nevertheless, director McQueen emphasizes the emotional and physical imprisonment of both slave and slave owner in a terrifying master servant relationship which is based entirely on commerce and the expansion of agricultural land in the vast cotton-picking states of the American South East where slave owners viewed slaves as their personal property to be bought, sold or exchanged for debts as part of payment for arable land. Despite the commercial exchange and vicious currency of slavery, this does not excuse the devastating effects it had on the African American people who become slaves often ripping families apart as well as being subjected to all sorts of human rights abuses which would be unimaginable in a 21st century America with Barack Obama as president.

Slavery is a tough subject to contextualize onscreen and British director McQueen takes the challenge head on and show through the extraordinarily horrific experience of Solomon Northup (superbly played by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor) who as a free man in Saratoga, New York travels as part of a minstrel band to Washington DC where after a drunken night is drugged and sold into slavery and literally shipped down the Mississippi river to the slave port of New Orleans.

Northup first becomes the property of seemingly benevolent land owner Ford played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate), but after an altercation with the vicious plantation manager Tibeats an excellent cameo by Paul Dano, is transferred as part of a debt owing to the even more sadistic plantation owner Epps brutally played by Michael Fassbender. On Epps’s cotton picking Louisiana plantation, Northup meets the vulnerable but tough Patsey (an excellent performance by screen newcomer and Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o) who becomes the forbidden object of desire by the psychotic, bored and lustful Epps.

It is really Nyong’o’s Patsey who endures rape, torture and a particularly cruel whipping scene which elevates 12 Years a Slave into a shocking and harrowing portrayal of the absolute horrific conditions of 19th century slavery in the deep South, conditions so horrendous that the Northern states eventually intervened in a bid to abolish slavery resulting in the bloody American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War.

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McQueen’s film while at times lacking in narrative structure, is still an absorbing historical portrayal of humanity’s capacity to inflict cruelty and suffering on their fellow humans, a point which Brad Pitt’s character Bass emphasizes and who eventually assists Northup in his bid for emancipation. Shot in the suffocating heat of a Louisiana summer, 12 Years a Slave is atmospheric, brilliantly acted and deeply disturbing and a testament to man’s own ability to survive under vicious circumstances.

Whilst 12 Years a Slave won People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and has nine 2014 Oscar nominations, it is really the breakout performance of Lupita Nyong’o who shines amongst a British American cast including Alfre Woodard, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch and Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild as Northup’s daughter Margaret.

This is recommended viewing for lovers of historical films, but be warned 12 Years a Slave is cruel, violent and shocking, which is exactly McQueen’s intention in showing up Slavery as one of Mankind’s most atrocious historical eras, a completely ruthless and harrowing practice, offering a contemporary cinematic counterpoint to the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind.

 

2013 Toronto Film Festival

2013 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 among others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Fifth Estate directed by Bill Condon starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and Carice van Houten

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People’s Choice Award: 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Sarah Poulson

Best Canadian Feature Film: When Jews were Funny directed by Alan Zweig (documentary) starring Howie Mandel, Shelley Berman, Norm Crosby, Shecky Greene, Jack Carter, David Steinberg

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Toronto_Film_Festival

Mata Hari Jolie Style

Salt

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Salt is a fast paced action thriller which is intriguing and admirable for the wonderful casting of Angelina Jolie as the title character and Liev Schrieber so refreshing in this female version Mission Impossible style thriller set in Washington DC and New York, shot with the same vigour and energy as the Bourne trilogy less the exotic locations.

Australian Director Philip Noyce whose impressive credits include the brilliant Rabbit Proof Fence and The Quiet American directs Salt with panache and a strong control of the pace, plot and environment of shady double agents and counter-intelligence. Noyce has worked with Jolie before on the serial killer thriller The Bone Collector back in 1999, so he returns to familiar territory with the new thriller Salt set in the murky world of US counter-espionage with a superb supporting cast including Liev Schrieber and the hugely underrated Chiwetel Ejiofor of the famed Stephen Frears film, Dirty Pretty Things and Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.

Salt is a combination of the Boys from Brazil and In the Line of Fire with a fast-moving plot and fantastic action sequences reminiscent of Angelina Jolie’s earlier roles in Tomb Raider, Wanted and Mr and Mrs SmithSalt is a riveting thriller and worth the twist in the tale.

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