Posts Tagged ‘Ciaran Hinds’

To the Moon and Back

First Man

Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Corey Stoll, Ciaran Hinds, Kyle Chandler, Patrick Fugit, Christopher Abbott, Olivia Hamilton, Pablo Schreiber, Shea Whigham, Lukas Haas, Corey Michael Smith

Thanks to a preview screening organized by United International Pictures at Suncoast Cinecentre, Durban, I was fortunate enough to see director Damien Chazelle’s highly anticipated Neil Armstrong biopic First Man starring an excellent Ryan Gosling and Golden Globe winner Claire Foy as his wife Janet Armstrong.

First Man was based on an intelligently written screenplay by Josh Singer based upon the James R. Hansen book First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong.

In the space race between America and the Soviets in the 1960’s, there was a desperate bid to successfully land a man on the moon, a pledge that iconic President John F. Kennedy made to the American public which in turn put pressure on NASA to not only train astronauts but successfully prepare them physically, psychologically and emotionally for a lunar trip.

What the Oscar winning director of La La Land Damien Chazelle does so beautifully is contrast the massive effort and technical implications of sending men to the moon with a complex family drama about Neil and Janet Armstrong as they desperate recover from the death of their young daughter Karen from a Brain Tumour.

Not only does this tragedy pull on the fabric of their marriage, but its Neil Armstrong’s absolute determination that he is going to be the first man on the moon and be the best astronaut America has ever seen. Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling (La La Land, Half Nelson) gives a nuanced performance as Neil Armstrong, a father continually haunted by the death of his young daughter while the moon taunts him every evening, as if to say when are you actually coming to visit me?

Janet Armstrong superbly played by Claire Foy who deserves an Oscar nomination for her performance grows increasingly frantic at the prospect that while she has to be a mother to two young boys, there is a real danger that her husband might not return from a dangerous mission to the moon because of the infinite dangers involved.

In contrast to the familial tension at home, the actual attempts to get to the moon are impressively captured onscreen with mesmerizing sound effects suitably accompanied by an incredible musical score by Oscar winner Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) which truly makes First Man a remarkable and utterly impressionable film – This is truly great cinema held together by cerebral images and perfect on point portrayals of Neil and Janet Armstrong by  Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, who both brilliantly hold the film together emotionally and psychologically.

Audiences should watch out for a superb cameo by Corey Stoll as the outspoken Buzz Aldrin who feels nothing about remarking about an astronaut’s failure at his own funeral or how he was not a good pilot.

First Man is a complex, intelligently directed portrayals of one of the defining moments of the 20th century – Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the Moon and the build up which preceded this significant event.

Highly recommended viewing, First Man receives a film rating of 9.5 out of 10 and is truly a cinematic achievement that will take audiences literally to the moon and back. Utterly superb.

 

 

Raunchy Russians

Red Sparrow

Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthais Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds, Mary-Louise Parker, Joely Richardson, Sakina Jaffrey, Douglas Hodge

Based upon the novel by former CIA Jason Matthews and adapted into a screenplay by Justin Haythe, Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence starts off Red Sparrow promisingly splicing a dodgy spy deal in Gorky Park with a fantastic ballerina sequence clearly inspired by Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

Set in Moscow and Budapest, Red Sparrow has a robust cast which should have delivered a lot more.

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) stars as ballerina turned spy Dominika Egorova who is coerced into joining the SVR (Russian intelligence) by her creepy uncle Vanya played by Matthais Schoenaerts (Far From the Madding Crowd) if she wants to keep looking after her sick mother Nina played by an unrecognizable Joely Richardson.

Dominika is sent to Sparrow school supervised by the manipulative Matron played by Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) where she is vigorously taught the art of seduction and psychological warfare. Joel Edgerton plays Nate Nash an American CIA operative whom Dominika has to get close to.

What follows is a raunchy and long two and 20 minute tale about double crossing spies in Budapest and Moscow, with enough undercurrent tones which makes this film distinctly anti-Russian.

What bothered me is that the Russians actually make brilliant films, see Burnt by the Sun and there are some talented Russian screen actors out there but to populate an entire film about Russians with American, British and Australian actors is always questionable.

Red Sparrow would have been an engrossing spy drama if the script was more illuminating and resorted less to gratuitous sex scenes to spice up a convoluted story line.

The only actor who made a distinct impression, besides the remarkable Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) as the scheming General Korchnoi, was Mary-Louise Parker as the vodka swigging double agent Stephanie Boucher who audiences briefly glimpse in a London hotel room.

Red Sparrow despite some definable onscreen chemistry between Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Lawrence, plays like a bad 1980’s spy drama, without a hint of nuance or narrative thrust. Director Frances Lawrence could have also toned down the torture sequences which were embellished for dramatic effect much like the steamy nudity.

Red Sparrow was entertaining but could have been so much better, but also the timing of this film being released just after the Oscar season is unfortunate marketing.

Red Sparrow gets a Film Rating of 6.5 out of 10 and could have been edited by at least 30 minutes.

Steppenwolf’s Revenge

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, David Thewlis, Billy Crudup, Ciaran Hinds

Uniformity of vision is key to director Zack Snyder’s films from his earlier films including 300, Suckerpunch and Watchmen to his onscreen tackling of the DC Comics universe starting with Man of Steel (2013) Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice (2016) and now with the latest Superhero extravaganza Justice League.

Batman aka Bruce Wayne played with a deadpan sense of humour by Ben Affleck has to assemble a team to fight the inexplicable and mythical power of Steppenwolf voiced by Ciaran Hinds as the evil underworld monster plans on destroying the Earth with enough energy to wipe out Wonder Woman’s secret Island and Aquaman’s Atlantic underwater liar.

Speaking of which Israeli actress Gal Gadot reprises her role of Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince following the hugely successful standalone film earlier in 2017 by Monster director Patty Jenkins.

New to the cast is Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa who plays Aquaman aka Arthur Curry who besides being able to control the oceans has some serious authority issues along with Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as The Flash aka Barry Alan and Ray Fisher as Cyborg aka Victor Stone.

The best scenes in Justice League are when the superheroes come together especially Batman and Aquaman who naturally have a healthy distrust for each other. The dialogue is peppered with some great lines like “Cool, like a bat, I dig it!” or when The Flash asks Batman what his superpowers are, he simply replies “I am rich”.

The good news is that Warner Brothers is set to release stand-alone films of Batman, Aquaman and Cyborg within the next three years, so fans can have a favourite superhero to themselves. Let’s hope these films do as well as director Patty Jenkins remarkable all female superhero film Wonder Woman which smashed all box office records.

Director Zack Snyder’s Justice League is slick, fast, action-packed and filled with quirky interactions between all the world’s favourite superheroes without being puerile or garish. With suitably Gothic production design by Patrick Tatopoulos, Justice League cleverly hints at the upcoming Aquaman and The Batman films. Audiences should look out for Oscar winner J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.

With a funny screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Justice League is sure to entertain audiences that loved the previous Zack Snyder superhero films and will possibly get a glimpse of the Man of Steel.

Justice League gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and is thoroughly entertaining, visually rewarding and definitely worth seeing. As the tagline goes: You Can’t Save the World alone. Even Batman.

 

Gritty and Compelling Spy Drama

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian McKay, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Kathy Burke, Laura Carmichael, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy

The compelling film adaptation of John le Carre’s best selling cold-war espionage novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is superb. Featuring a brilliant British all male cast including Oscar Winner Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and headed up by a solid yet subtle performance by Gary Oldman, who proves in this film that he is a great actor and has always harboured an exceptional talent.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is all about routing out a double agent, a traitor and an adulterer. If viewers have not read le Carre’s novel, they could be forgiven for feeling a bit lost in terms of storyline.

For those that have read the novel, Tinker Tailor follows le Carre’s novel brilliantly and whilst it does not glamorize the spy genre it certainly shows that wisdom and skill triumph over youthful deception and ambition. The film focuses on George Smiley played with subtlety and elegance by Oldman who comes out of retirement to find a mole in the Circus, which is essentially a section of Mi6 in London, to find out which of the handlers which brought over a defector from Hungary during the cold war but turned that defector into a source for trading secrets with the Soviets and reporting on all the intelligence activities that London was carrying out behind the Iron Curtain in Budapest.

Featuring Mark Strong as mysterious agent Jim Prideaux and Tom Hardy as rogue agent Ricki Tarr and Colin Firth as the vain and suave handler Bill Haydon and John Hurt as Control, Smiley skilfully pieces together through these senior espionage characters those behind the elaborate web of intrigue and the man who was responsible for turning the British crown’s espionage secrets over to the Russians after the Hungarian fiasco.

Swedish Director Tomas Alfredson’s gritty and essentially European film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy set mainly in England and Hungary depicts an intellectual tale of deception, espionage, adultery and a testament to one man’s incredible and highly nuanced capability at seeking out the source of the international espionage cover-up. Highly recommend especially for Gary Oldman’s brilliant Oscar worthy performance.

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