Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Eccleston’

The Treacherous Twins

Legend

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Director: Brian Helgeland

Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton, Chazz Palminteri, Tara Fitzgerald, Sam Spruell, Christopher Eccleston, Nicholas Farrell, Colin Morgan, Paul Bettany

Tom Hardy delivers a suitably menacing performance playing both the Kray Twins, Ronald and Reggie Kray, the 1960’s gangsters who ruled London nightlife and definitely had links to American organized crime in the violent biopic Legend.

Screenwriter turned director Brian Helgeland (Payback) brings to life the true life account of the Krays based upon the book The Profession of Violence written by John Pearson in Legend and in a stroke of genius has British actor Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, The Drop, Warrior, Mad Max: Fury Road) play both twins, distinguishable only by Ronnie’s thickset glasses, with an equal amount of menace, mayhem and murder.

Hardy’s performance is captivating especially in his portrayal of Ronald Kray who was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, psychopathic gangster with homosexual proclivities. Ronnie liked to organize orgies at his East End flat involving rent boys and prominent British Lords, which naturally led to several political scandals.

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Reggie, on the other hand, initially appears to be the sensible twin, as he courts and marries an East End girl, Frances Shea, wonderfully played by Emily Browning. Reggie will never abandon Ronnie despite his often despicable and unpredictable behaviour which often exploded into bouts of extreme violence in public places, namely the nightclubs and bars that the twins owned.

As The Krays rise in notoriety becomes more noticeable they move from London’s East End to the casinos and nightclubs of the swankier West End, particularly the glamourous Esmeralda’s Barn in Knightsbridge.

In their attempt to attract credibility within upper class British society, their nightclubs soon had politicians rubbing shoulders with film stars such as Joan Collins along with gangsters.

Underneath the veneer of glamour is a more sinister propensity for unrestrained violence, which director Helgeland captures beautifully in the films best scene when Ronnie and Reggie fight each other like brothers, who are bound by blood and loyalty, without matching temperaments. This particular scene is so captivating specifically because it occurs in front of their gang as well as Reggie’s wife Frances, made even more compelling because it is played by one actor making it Hardy’s undisputed Oscar worthy moment.

At times, Legend appears as a parody of the gangster genre, so effectively done by Scorsese in Goodfellas, but in other ways the film is a peculiar love triangle between Frances Shea and the conflicted Reggie Kray which she has to share with his psychotic twin brother, Ronnie.

Best line in the film is when The Kray twins meet the American mob’s representative Angelo Bruno played by Chazz Palminteri who inquires after Ronnie’s sexual preference and Ronnie casually replies:

“I prefer boys, Italians. Sometimes Greeks. I am not prejudiced.”

Legend is a sleazy version of the rise of gangsters in the swinging sixties, and is more a biopic about the treacherous twins that ruled the London underworld until their power engulfed them in a dazzling yet brutal fall from grace. Audiences should look out for superb cameos by Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Shea who is completely opposed to her daughter marrying a gangster. She even wears black to the wedding.

Rising star Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) is cast as the gorgeous Mad Teddy Smith who is Ronnie’s casual boyfriend, although the sexuality is hinted at instead of explicitly portrayed. Christopher Eccleston plays the hapless cop Nipper Read who is both obsessed and entranced by the Krays rise to power.

Legend is highly recommended viewing for those that love factual gangster films such as Goodfellas, Bugsy and Public Enemies, yet has a more British scallywag twist assisted by a phenomenal career best performance by Tom Hardy. This is dazzling, daunting cinema at its best.

A Poisonous Universe

Thor: The Dark World

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From Asgaard to Greenwich, Thor and his hammer are back in the Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World, moving the action from the arid plains of New Mexico to the nine universes along with London and Stonehenge. The immensely successful Thor in 2010 directed by Kenneth Brannagh assembled a fabulously competent cast including Oscar Winners Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) as Thor’s father Odin, King of Asgaard and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) as physicist Jane Foster along with Rene Russo as Thor’s mother Frigga and Shakespearian actor Tom Hiddleston as malevolent and destructive brother Loki.

Thor: The Dark World reassembles this cast along with Kat Dennings of Two Broke Girls TV series fame as the sharp talking Darcy Lewis for some comic relief, Stellan Skarsgaard as the mad scientist Erik Selvig seen running naked around Stonehenge and newcomer Christopher Eccleston as Malekith the evil Dark Elf who is bent on destroying all known universes through an ethereal substance known as Aether which has the power to envelope all worlds in eternal darkness constituting a thoroughly poisonous universe.

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Moving the action from sunny New Mexico in Thor to murky and grey England was a smart move for Thor: The Dark World, however this sequel whilst it has stunning visual effects but not quite to the same level as Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, is certainly entertaining as superhero films go that the rival  Marvel studios are successfully releasing in quick succession after the huge commercial success of The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

Needless to say much of the action of Thor: The Dark World does not take place on earth so the plot is mostly action driven and there is naturally very little new character developments in the various CGI created universes with elegant and glossy Asgaard  taking the centre stage. Chris Hemsworth is naturally good as Thor, a role that will surely become synonymous with his name, but his real acting can be seen in films like Rush. Natalie Portman is fantastic and Anthony Hopkins is going through the character motions. Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as the ambivalently evil Loki set on revenge for his incarceration on Asgaard and look out for rising star Idris Elba as the celestial Asgaard gatekeeper Heimdall.

Basically Thor: The Dark World has stunning visuals, lots of action, a twisted plot without too much characterisation and basically retains its popcorn teenage audience that all the Marvel films are aiming for.

For fans of Thor, this glossy sequel not as tightly directed by Alan Taylor is thin on plot, and will not disappoint fans of the hammer wielding hunk who is part of the Avengers group. Watch out for a brief cameo by Chris Ryan as Captain America. The action is fantastic but not on the level of Pacific Rim or Man of Steel. Also starring Zachary Levi from Chuck fame along with Ray Stevenson and Jaimie Alexander. See Thor: The Dark World in a 3D cinema if possible.

Why District 9 beat GI Joe at the US Box office…

Don’t get me wrong,  both films were worthy of some merit, but what is interesting is why a New Zealand produced, South African set Sci-Fiction Film, District 9 beat GI Joe at the US Box Office – one word – ORIGINALITY!!!

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District 9 directed by Neill Blomkamp was so original in its concept and form and turned the blockbuster Independence Day on its head and reversed all the usual ingredients of a sci-fi Aliens landing film. Brilliantly shot in a dusty, mine-dumped surroundings of the one of the largest African metropolises, Johannesburg, one almost feels that the city is as much a character in the film as the wonderfully funny South African cast who take on the slippery alien Prawns as they are left stranded on earth! Not going to give away too much more, suffice is to say, go and see an original and cleverly shot film! Worth watching for its genre-defying satire.

*****

Rise of Cobra or the Return of the Spies who loved each other...

Rise of Cobra or the Return of the Spies who loved each other…

GI Joe, Rise of Cobra directed by Stephen Sommers follows the classic James Bond narrative of hero’s battling villains with a seemingly dangerous damsel who oscillates between the enemy and the GOOD  side and with an ending out of The Spy Who Loves Me, swopping the Mediterranean for the Polar Ice Caps, it was glossy, slick but nothing exceptionally different. Saving grace of the film was the great chemistry between Channing Tatum’s Duke and Sienna Miller’s sexy Baronness. Great viewing for a Sunday afternoon, but don’t expect anything unusual in terms of plot and storyline, just the establishment of another CGI-filled, location jumping and action-orientated film trilogy based on toys politely following in the Transformers tradition. GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra also stars Dennis Quaid, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as The Doctor and Christopher Eccleston as Destro.

Coincidental Exhibitions

Strange Coincidences

So let me tell you a remarkably strange story about coincidences, clear and imagined. In October 2008, whilst returning from a break in the Drakensberg, I had a two day stay in Durban. The first night, I accompanied a family friend to an Exhibition opening at Kizo Gallery, Umhlanga. Being a Monday evening, it was a fairly sedate but definitely prolific crowd that gathered. The artist was Aparna Swarup and featured a beautiful collection of photographs of Allahabad, a place in India, where there is a confluence of three holy rivers. At the exhibition I met the artist’s husband, an Indian diplomat based in Pretoria, Vikas Swarup. The husband was cordial and polite. A chance encounter I thought nothing of at the time.

Golden Globes

Fours months later in January 2009, I am in Johannesburg, watching the Golden Globe awards and suddenly there is buzz about the new Danny Boyle film Slumdog Millionaire. Of course Slumdog wins countless Golden Globe awards and suddenly there is loads of media attention. Looking up the Golden Globe awards, I found that the film Slumdog Millionaire was based on a book Q & A by Vikas Swarup. I still didn’t make any connection until I returned to Durban and the family friend mentioned that the artist’s husband I met was Vikas Swarup and the book was an Indian version centering on a wonderful story of how a poverty-stricken boy comes to be on the Quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire set in Mumbai.

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From Shallow Grave

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to Slumdog Millionaire

The film rights had been taken up and Q and A was filmed as Slumdog Millionaire tipped for Oscar glory. What better director than Danny Boyle the Manchester bred director who had brought British cinema into limelight again with such films as the Scottish thriller Shallow Grave and Trainspotting and launched the careers of Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox.

Trainspotting was an instant cult hit in the early 1990s and with a superb soundtrack and frenetic direction, filmgoers saw Edinburgh, crack addiction and trains in an entirely different light. Having met the author of Q and A, now suitably piqued by the curiosity of Danny Boyle’s film version, I purchased the novel and devoured it within a week relishing the wonderful way Swarup entwines the stories of his hero, Jamal with how he manages to reach the final and tantalizing finale of the Quiz show and shedding some light on the horrors and joys of contemporary India.

2009 Oscars come and go, Slumdog Millionaire sweeps the board, the soundtrack wins best original score, the film wins best director for Boyle and suddenly the stars Freda Pinto and Dev Patel are appearing on US talk shows, dancing Bollywood style with the likes of Ellen de Generes. The best part about seeing Slumdog Millionaire for me was watching it in the Supernova theatre at Suncoast Coast and experiencing the full brilliance of such a wonderful and frenetic film, a lush and hectic slant on modern day India. Nothing like watching a film on the big screen, the impact of which surely diminishes once a viewer sees it on DVD.

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