Posts Tagged ‘Connie Nielsen’

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.

 

Princess of the Amazons

Wonder Woman

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Elena Anaya

Monster director Patty Jenkins delivers a feminine superhero film with DC’s Wonder Woman featuring the beautiful Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazons.

Gal Gadot first appeared as Wonder Woman in the male-orientated film Batman v Superman and she certainly was no femme fatale, proving a viable counterpoint to Ben Affleck’s Batman.

The first fifteen minutes of Woman Woman, there is no man in sight as the tribe of Amazonian female warriors live blissfully unaware of external strife on an island Themyscira.

As a headstrong young woman, Diana (Wonder Woman) is heavily watched by her protective mother Hippolyta played by Danish beauty Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) while being influenced to train as a Amazonian warrior by her aunt Antiope played by Robin Wright soon to be seen in Blade Runner 2049.

The idyllic exclusion of Themyscira is shattered when the young Diana sees a plane crash into the distant sea and jumps into the ocean saving the bewildered WWI pilot Steve Trevor wonderfully played with bashful humour by Chris Pine (Hell or High Water, Into the Woods).

In an ironic female gaze, director Jenkins turns the camera on a naked Steve as he emerges refreshed from a luxurious infinity pool under the lustful eye of Diana who asks pointedly “Do all men look like that?”

The action moves swiftly to the gritty battle lines of World War 1 as Britain and the allies are about to sign a shaky armistice with Germany. There Diana sees the brutality of man first hand and director Jenkins does not shy away from a valid point that men are the cause of all the wars and the subsequent destruction in the world.

At this point, the audience assumes that the villain of Wonder Woman is the evil German officer Ludendorff played by Danny Huston (Hitchcock, Wrath of the Titans) who is developing chemical weapons with the help of poison specialist Dr Maru played by Elena Anaya.

Diana and Steve form a band of mercenaries set on destroying Ludendorff made up of smooth talking Sameer played by French Moroccan star Said Taghmaoui, Scotsman Charlie played by Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner and Red Indian chief played by Eugene Brave Rock.

Serving as an origins story and since Wonder Woman is immortal, this is a snapshot of bravery at time when the World was fighting the War to end all wars, circa 1918. What Jenkins manages to do so brilliantly is defy the conventional roles woman play in superhero and adventure films by making the heroine the woman that boldly saves the day, instead of just portraying her as a helpless damsel in distress, leaving the men bewildered, confused and looking like idiots.

As a superhero film, Wonder Woman delivers on all fronts, including lots of humour, copious amounts of action, sufficient visual effects and a surprising plot denouement to keep audiences engaged.

The strikingly gorgeous Gal Gadot holds her own in a big budget franchise film opposite a brilliant blue-eyed Chris Pine, while the period costumes by Lindy Hemming add to the effect of a superheroine stuck in the middle of an antiquated man-made war, which only leaves death and devastation in its wake.

Wonder Woman gets a rating of 8 out of 10. Soon audiences will see more of Wonder Woman as Diana, Princess of the Amazons will next be seen in the highly anticipated Justice League opposite Batman and newcomer Aquaman.

 

Love = Lust + Jealousy

Nymphomaniac Vol: 1 and 2

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Director: Lars von Trier

Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe, Connie Nielsen, Jamie Bell, Stacy Martin, Udo Kier

Unlike 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen’s handsome New York set film about sex addiction, the highly acclaimed Shame, starring a gorgeous yet libidinous Michael Fassbender, Danish director and auteur, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 is on an entirely different level.

Explicit, provocative, brutal and shocking, this is von Trier’s seminal work on Freudian psycho-analytic film theory, the nature of sexuality and of society’s views on sexual deviancy and obsession. Warning these two films, making up a total of four hours viewing time is NOT for sensitive or prudish cinema goers.

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Von Trier’s favourite muse Charlotte Gainsbourg (Anti-Christ) stars as Joe, a relentless nymphomaniac who is discovered beaten in a dark city alley way by a seemingly kind mysterious bachelor Seligman played by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, Girl with The Dragon Tattoo). As Joe recovers with copious cups of tea in Seligman’s drab apartment she frankly recounts in episodic form her life thus far as a nymphomaniac and the events leading up to her supposed downfall.

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The younger version of Joe is played by Stacy Martin who as a young licentious teenager seduces all the men on the train in a bet with her friend B, played by Sophie Kennedy Clark. The sex scenes are graphic and unrelenting. Her insatiable sexual appetite is temporarily quelled when she meets Jerome wonderfully played by Shia LaBeouf, who has definitely come a long way from his Transformers movies. LaBeouf proves to be superb as the equally lustful Jerome, who apparently sent a sex tape to von Trier as part of his audition for this part in Nymphomaniac. It proves that Shia LaBeouf is willing to take major risks as an actor and more recently as a notorious performance artist.

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Joe as a young girl displays her close relationship with her father played by Christian Slater (True Romance) and her non-existent relationship with her aloof mother played by Connie Nielsen (Gladiator). As Joe’s sexual awakening becomes more ferocious she ventures into some dark territory particularly as she resumes a relationship with Jerome and attempts to settle down and lead a normal existence. All this is shot in grey colours with lots of graphic nudity and sex, with von Trier intentionally deglamourizing sex and sensuality on screen and deliberately punctuating these pornographic images with bizarre directorial screenshots of fly fishing, predators, sunsets and forests.

In between Joe’s sexual adventures all done in flashbacks, is the frank discussion between the mature Joe a scarred Gainsbourg and the supposedly asexual Seligman, who provides some intellectual insights into her sex addiction along with Freudian psychoanalysis and historical anecdotes. As Seligman explains in Volume 2, that all children are born with polymorphic sexual perversions according to Freud which gradually are repressed or discovered  latently as the child becomes an adult and thus manifests itself in later life. This is classic Freudian psychoanalysis. Even Love is equated to Lust+ Jealousy.

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So despite all the subliminal theory and explicit pornography, is Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 any good? Volume 1 is better than Volume 2, a more superior and controlled film but the entire diatribe about Nymphomania could have been edited into a more concise and elegant film. Then again Von Trier is not one to bow to Western film aesthetics and has never done so. His film 2003 Dogville was shot without sets in a sparse Brechtian style about a close knit community who does not accept outsiders with Nicole Kidman in the lead.

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Nymphomania Volume 1 and 2 is not easy or comfortable viewing, but that its point. Especially Volume 2 where Joe’s sexual addiction takes her into the dangerous world of Sadomasochism, cue a rather sadistic master K played by Jamie Bell of The Eagle and Billy Eliot Fame. There are also brief appearances by Uma Thurman as a wronged wife Mrs H. whose husband has fallen for the nubile, precocious and younger Joe, bravely played by Stacy Martin and Willem Dafoe as Joe’s last employer a shady debt collector.

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What should really be applauded is the bravery that these actors show in starring in such an explicit, unconventional and shocking film including Stacy Martin, Christian Slater, Shia LaBeouf and naturally Charlotte Gainsbourg (Anti-Christ). Audiences might want to walk out in several particularly disturbing scenes, but it’s worth staying until the end of Joe’s confession to Seligman, as all is not what it seems… Those not familiar with Lars von Trier’s previous films should definitely stay away.

Parisian Reunion

3 Days to Kill

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Director: McG

Cast: Kevin Costner, Connie Nielsen, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Tomas Lemarquis, Richard Sammel

French screenwriter and director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) teams up with This Means War, Charlies Angels and action TV series director McG in an uneven tale of a professional CIA hitman, Ethan Renner, expertly played by an aged Kevin Costner who after a botched operation in Belgrade returns to Paris to reunite with his estranged wife and daughter, Christine and Zooey Renner, played by Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) and a brilliant Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). Renner learns that he has a rare form of brain cancer which prompts his sudden and awkward reunion with his Parisian family while discovering that he has really been an absent father to the now teenage and rebellious daughter Zooey.

In the scenes between Costner and Steinfeld, the narrative works beautifully but in between all this familial reunion is a spy plot involving a femme fatale CIA agent Vivi Delay seductively played by Amber Heard (The Rum Diaries) who coerces Renner back into operations as a professional assassin in a bid to discover the whereabouts of The Wolf played by German actor Richard Sammel (Casino Royale, Inglourious Basterds) who is viciously protected by a henchman The Albino, played by crystal clear blue-eyed rogue Icelandic actor Tomas Lemarquis.

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In between the vicious action sequences and Renner’s constant attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter is an elliptical narrative which will often confuse and confound audiences, but nevertheless entertain them. Overall impression of 3 Days to Kill was that is was a typically European action film in the vein of Taken or Unknown, directed by the wrong director. If Luc Besson himself had directed 3 Days to Kill, the uniformity of vision in the films narrative would help bolster the general credibility of the story, that of an aged assassin who wants to reconnect with his family before his dying days commence. As screenwriter Besson as displayed in the Taken franchise definitely has a penchant for setting his stories about tough old fathers reconnecting with their vulnerable daughters.

3 Days to Kill is slick, flashy and generally entertaining especially with such stars as Costner and Steinfeld playing father and daughter in a rather tender scene on the steps of Le Sacre Coquer, but generally the Parisian locations do little to bolster the overall vision of this Nikitaesque type film. Naturally Amber Heard makes the best of her roles as the lethal CIA operative Vivi, complete with dazzling outfits and sleek sportscars. 3 Days to Kill is not a terrible film, but it could have been so much tighter, better plotted and conceptually driven if Besson (The Lady, Leon, The Professional) had taken the reigns as director.

American action director McG (also known as Joseph McGinty Nichol) should stick to the type of comic action films like This Means War and The Charlie Angels franchise and avoid delving into a far more European aesthetic. It simply does not suit his episodic style which he naturally got as TV director for the popular action series Chuck and Nikita. 3 Days to Kill is a fun, but not a provocative or gripping thriller.

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