Posts Tagged ‘David Strathairn’

Victory at Any Cost

Darkest Hour

Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Samuel West, David Schofield, Joe Armstrong, David Strathairn

Oscar nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) gives an Oscar worthy performance in his nuanced portrayal of cantankerous British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill whose face is completely transformed to look like Churchill thanks to the superb makeup and prosthetic by Kazuhiro Tsuji.

Acclaimed director of Atonement Joe Wright is the perfect candidate to steer this compelling political war drama Darkest Hour as the story meticulously tracks the events from Churchill’s inauguration as prime minister, including a particularly refined scene between the PM and King George VI wonderfully played by Ben Mendelsohn to the anxious events leading up to the ingenuous evacuation of British troops from the beaches at Dunkirk, successfully anticipated and engineered by Churchill himself and the British sea going public.

If Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk is a stunning depiction of that crucial maritime military evacuation, then Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is the companion film showing the political and administrative events which lead to that escape from the invading Nazi forces which were aggressively sweeping across the European continent in May 1940.

The fact that both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour are vying for Best Picture at the 90th Oscars is a testament to how exceptional both films are made. Joe Wright should have got an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

At the heart of Darkest Hour is Gary Oldman’s finest onscreen performance, a superb acting tour-de-force in which he completely embodies every aspect of Winston Churchill from his unconventional drinking habits to his affectionate if often tumultuous relationship with his level headed wife Clementine superbly played by Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient).

Oldman’s performance rarely falters and actually improves as Darkest Hour progresses, a performance with such gusto and insight that all audiences will see is Winston Churchill, a seasoned politician, a risk taker and a man who had the entire fate of the British nation in his sometimes shaky hands, yet who realized the gravity of the approaching invasion of the Germans at the beginning of World War II.

Churchill’s doubt about whether the British must fight Hitler to the bitter end or sue for an untrustworthy peace is conveyed in an extremely relevant scene between him and the king who politely suggests that perhaps as prime minister, Churchill should seek advice from the British public, encapsulated in a jingoistic scene whereby he discusses the grave decision with commuters on the London underground before stepping off at Westminster.

Aided by theatrical costumes by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) and a sumptuous production design, Darkest Hour is an epic film made all the more riveting by a staggering performance by Gary Oldman who must surely get the long awaited recognition he deserves for his limitless acting talent and his pivotal contribution to world cinema.

Darkest Hour gets a Film rating: 9.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended for viewers that love historical biographies such as The King’s Speech and The Iron Lady.

A Blissful and Marvellous Reunion

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Director: John Madden

Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, Richard Gere, Ronald Pickup, David Strathairn, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy, Tamsin Greig

After the surprise success of the delightful 2012 film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it is no wonder that director John Madden decided to do a companion film and organize a more extravagant and blissful reunion of the cast of the first film with newcomers Richard Gere, no longer the Gigolo, and David Strathairn to make up the male parts for the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel set in Jaipur, Mumbai and San Diego.

Whilst the original film was a sort of bitter-sweet adventure, the second film is a celebration and continuation of everything so wonderful and colourful about the possibility of spending one’s Twilight years in the exotic location of Jaipur. This is Shady Pines with colour and vibrancy, wit and humour and proves that the older generation of actors can still pull off a charming and marvellous sequel infused with the energetic Sonny wonderfully played again by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) and his impending wedding to Sunaina played by Tina Desai.

In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sonny has big plans for expansion and hopes to acquire another rambling hotel in Jaipur to extend his collection of gorgeous establishments for the aged and semi-retired. The scenes between Patel and veteran actress Maggie Smith are crackling with wit and exuberance especially as they approach a major hotel chain based in San Diego for some much needed venture capital to expand their business enterprise.

Back in India, director John Madden expands his palette from the first film and each shot of The Second Best Marigold Hotel is a simulacrum of all the great films made about that subcontinent from David Lean’s A Passage to India and Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding making for a positively blissful and gorgeous cinematic reunion.

Subtly directed and beautifully acted, although the story is at times whimsical, each of the British actors from Celia Imrie and Diana Hardcastle to Ronald Pickup and Bill Nighy have more scope and depth in this companion piece which will surely delight all audiences who so enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Silver haired Richard Gere’s role as an enigmatic guest Guy Chambers and seducer of Sonny’s mom add to the romance of the Jaipur establishment. The structure of the film is centred around the marriage of Sonny and Sunaina from the lavish engagement party to the actual flamboyant and vibrant wedding. Intertwined with the portrait of young love, is the growing affection between Evelyn and Douglas played with the usual quirkiness by Bill Nighy.

The scenes between Dench and Smith are poignant and nuanced, both Oscar winning accomplished actresses as they give viewers a sense that their imminent cinematic retirement is drawing near, yet their stardom will last forever. Oscar winners Maggie Smith and Judi Dench have had amazing stage and screen careers and it is encouraging to see them still commanding the big screen in an age of the digital blockbuster.

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Whilst The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not as brilliant or as unique as the first film, it still stands on its own as a delightfully fine companion piece. Judging how packed the cinema was, there is a huge market out there for these gorgeous films aimed at retired viewers who are not always willing to sit through some of the Hollywood commercial cinema which makes up the bulk of the studio releases.

The Second Best Marigold Hotel is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the first film, and similar movies like Enchanted April, Tea with Mussolini and Ladies in Lavender.

 

 

Gigantic Nuclear Proportions

Godzilla

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Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn

At the heart of any disaster film, is the struggle of a nuclear family to survive the impending devastation. The brilliant film The Impossible directed by J. A. Bayona about the 2005 Boxing Day Tsunami which wrecked Thailand and beyond proves that.

The Original 1956 Godzilla film

The Original 1956 Godzilla film

In the 2014 remake of the Japanese director Ishiro Honda’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishir%C5%8D_Honda original 1956 classic Godzilla, King of Monsters, director Gareth Edwards retains the Japanese mythology of Godzilla setting the 21st century Godzilla in a range of Asian Pacific rim cities from San Francisco to Honolulu to Tokyo. Assembling an all star and eclectic cast similar to Guillero del Toro’s Pacific Rim, director Edwards adds a global flavour to this ultimate retro Asian inspired disaster movie.

With an international mix of supporting stars like Bryan Cranston (Argo), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Great Expectations), little seen Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) and David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck), Godzilla boasts an impressive cast to support the rising stars Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Anna Karenina, Savages) who star as Elle and Ford Brody who have a young son Sam, played by Carson Bolde.

As the looming threat of nuclear transformed monsters emerging from the depths of the Pacific Ocean looms, it is this nuclear family that Godzilla focuses its narrative on, not that there is much deep characterization necessary or acting to make Godzilla credible. Serving as a historic metaphor for the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending World War II and permanently etched in the Japanese psyche, Godzilla become a symbol of all that was wrong with nuclear energy and its transformative effects on the natural world, creating gigantic monsters as a horrific by product of nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

Director Gareth Edwards as a former visual effects artist for a range of scientific TV series (Perfect Disasters, Space Race), naturally in this version of Godzilla, the monsters and special effects take precedence over the acting, leaving the talented cast literally dwarfed by the sheer scale of Godzilla and its two malignant monsters the Moto. Visually this is where Godzilla excels especially in 3D maybe not to the imaginative scale of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, but definitely in the set design and the sheer scope of this disaster film, as the action moves swiftly from the Philippines to Japan to the Californian Coastline and beyond. Even sin city, Vegas is not spared by the wrath of these  destructive creatures.

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Godzilla will surely impress audiences with all the mayhem, dazzling visual effects and sheer destruction on screen, however the second half of the film is literally overshadowed by utter devastation to such an extent that it does not make the action seem plausible. Whole cities from Honolulu to San Francisco and parts of Tokyo are destroyed inconsequentially as these monsters play havoc with nature and humanity.

Unfortunately the action erases any attempts at credible acting but then again this is a fantasy disaster movie of nuclear proportions. Cranston and Binoche are underutilized and Taylor-Johnson and Olsen are left struggling to survive this horrific assault on themselves and their city, whilst protecting their only son. The action sequences are incredible especially the Hawaii and Honoulu devastation which is like a combination of Jurassic Park and The Impossible on acid.

For viewers that enjoy big budget disaster movies like Pacific Rim, then Godzilla is not to be missed. What is noteworthy is the allusion in Godzilla to the many natural disasters that Japan has suffered recently from the Fukushima nuclear leak in 2011 following the devastating earthquake which destroyed Sendai.

Director Gareth Edwards does his best to maintain a balance between the characters survival narrative, and a visually impressive disaster film which pays homage to its unique Japanese heritage. Its Godzilla which ultimately triumphs leaving the cast a little underutilized and at times superfluous to the incredible spectacle of the King of Monsters battling its alien nuclear usurpers against an obliterated urban landscape.

 

2005 Venice Film Festival

2005 Venice International Film Festival Winners

Venice International Film Festival, known as the Biennale di Venezia takes place annually
in late August, early September and is the oldest Film Festival in the World.

Winners of the 2005 Venice International Film Festival are as follows: –



Golden Lion (Best Film): Brokeback Mountain directed by Ang Lee

Regular Lovers

Silver Lion (Best Director): Philippe Garrel – Regular Lovers (Les Amants Réguliers)

good_night_and_good_luck

Best Actor: David Strathairn – Good Night and Good Luck

Don't Tell

Best Actress: Giovanna Mezzogiorno – The Beast in the Heart (also released as Don’t Tell)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venice_International_Film_Festival

Lethal Legacy Continues

The Bourne Legacy

Director: Tony Gilroy

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Albert Finney, Corey Stoll, Edward Norton, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Stacy Keach, Sam Gilroy, Scott Glenn

Tony Gilroy the screenwriter for the original three Bourne movies takes the director’s chair in the fourth installment of the Bourne movies The Bourne Legacy featuring an all star cast including Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, Rachel Wiesz as Dr Marta Shering. The Bourne Legacy also features Edward Norton as Eric Nyer and Stacy Keach as Mark Turso along with brief appearances by David Strathairn, Joan Allen and Albert Finney. The Bourne Legacy has all the excitement, espionage and action of the first three Bourne movies except for Jason Bourne himself, whose character lurks in the fourth installment as a shadow, with this film’s tag line being suitably appropriate There was never just one.

The Bourne Legacy picks up soon after the third Bourne film ends, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) when Jason Bourne played by Matt Damon deftly vanishes into the Manhattan morning traffic, swopping its urban location for icy Alaska where viewers are introduced to Aaron Cross bringing a muscularity to the role is the superb Jeremy Renner another drug-modified recruit employed by a shady covert agency within the CIA, battling hungry wolves and his own survival in this gorgeous Alaskan wilderness.

Matt Damon in the first two Bourne films always had this stern yet slightly confused look on his face as he was globetrotting across Europe trying to work out who wanted him dead without vocalize his unique dilemma. Jeremy Renner is wonderfully vocal and expressive in his portrayal of Aaron Cross who soon has to flee Alaska and head for Maryland to discover the supplier of the shady drugs he is taking from a less than orthodox Pharmaceutical company in Bethesda, Maryland.

Cross soon teams up with Marta who after surviving a horrific laboratory shooting, trusts in Cross as her number 5 patient and they flee America for the Philippines.  The Bourne Legacy might lack some of the directorial flourishes of the more experienced action directors of the original visceral Bourne Trilogy Doug Liman (Mr and Mrs Smith) and Paul Greengrass (United 93), but retains all the traits of the original movies: exotic locations, shady government agencies and of course a brilliant chase sequence in the overpopulated streets of Manila.

Two particular noteworthy scenes are Cross’s encounter with a wolf in Alaska and the superbly shot motorbike chase sequence in Manila. The chemistry between Wiesz and Renner is genuine and they make a great onscreen couple something which was lacking in the original films especially when Matt Damon’s love interest Franka Potente was eliminated in The Bourne Supremacy.

The Bourne Legacy continues in the tradition of the first three films and viewers who have seen that trilogy will be impressed by Tony Gilroy’s recreation of the Bourne universe complete with physical violence, ruthless assassins and spectacular action sequences complete with some really well timed dialogue especially between Renner and Wiesz. Gilroy as director was also responsible for the superb Michael Clayton and Duplicity and does not disappoint in The Bourne Legacy. The chase sequence in the Philippines deserves an Oscar for Best Sound Editing. Recommended viewing for those who love spy thrillers and enjoy Jeremy Renner’s always unnerving on screen performances as seen in The Hurt Locker and The Town and proves that Renner has what it takes to be a leading man.

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