Posts Tagged ‘Derek Jacobi’

The Croft Legacy

Tomb Raider

Director: Roar Uthaug

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins, Alexandre Willaume, Hannah John-Kamen

Norwegian director Roar Uthaug reinvents the Tomb Raider franchise with Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) as Lara Croft.

Filmed primarily in South Africa, which exotic locations doubled for a mysterious island in the sea of Japan, Tomb Raider moves away from the popcorn CGI laden films of its previous inventions featuring Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003).

While Vikander is not as physically striking as Angelina Jolie, she brings a different more nuanced perception of Lara Croft as a rebellious and fiercely independent young British woman who is reluctant to take over the Croft Legacy until she can solve the mystery of her father Sir Richard Croft’s strange disappearance.

Richard Croft is played by Dominic West and Lara goes in search of her father in a tumultuous adventure which takes her from Hong Kong where she is accompanied by drunken sailor Lu Ren played by Daniel Wu (Warcraft) to a mysterious island housing the tomb of Hirimo, a Japanese death goddess who is fabled to bring destruction on the planet if the tomb is ever opened.

This Tomb Raider which clearly takes inspiration from the Indiana Jones films, mainly features Lara Croft pitted against a vindictive Matthias Vogel played with ruthless intent by Walton Goggins (Django Unchained) who is also planning to unlock the mythical tomb, while reporting to an elusive benefactor.

The emotional arc of the film is sufficiently carried by Alicia Vikander’s sustained acting as she conveys all the determination and intelligence of a brave and fearless heiress who needs to unlock the mystery of her father’s disappearance before rightfully claiming her vast inheritance from Croft Enterprises, which is eagerly guarded by the duplicitous Ana Miller played by Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour, The English Patient, Gosford Park).

While the rest of the cast pales in comparison to Vikander, director Roar Uthuag clearly stays within the confines of an adventure genre and does not rely heavily on CGI to embellish Tomb Raider to unbelievable proportions. Which makes Tomb Raider more a psychological adventure story than a physical one, although Vikander does undergo some gruelling stunts to live up to the Lara Croft reputation.

My only criticism is that George Richmond’s cinematography in Tomb Raider is very dark and could inadvertently lull the audience into boredom, especially the extended tomb sequences, which fortunately does not detract from the circular narrative which sustains the film’s pace if viewers concentrate properly.

Tomb Raider gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that enjoy an old fashioned adventure film with a distinctly feminine edge.

Whether a Tomb Raider sequel will appear, remains to be seen.

 

A Tangle of Strangers

Murder on the Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Lucy Boynton, Olivia Colman, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr. Tom Bateman

Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) both stars as the infamous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot  and directs another remake of the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express featuring a stunning cast including Oscar nominees Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street) and Oscar winners Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love).

Sporting a profoundly massive mustache, Branagh takes Hercule Poirot to new extremes in this 21st century remake which is glossy and possesses sumptuous production design but like all extremely long train journeys is boring in the middle, despite the spectacular scenery.

Murder on the Orient Express is set in 1934 and starts off promisingly with a fantastic opening, attention grabbing scene at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and then moves on to the Orient Express, a luxury train service which travels from the chaotic train station in Istanbul right across Europe to Paris.

As the gangster Edward Ratchett is found murdered in his compartment, stabbed multiple times everybody becomes a suspect on the Orient Express and soon Poirot has to interview all the cast as the train is stuck in an icy tunnel somewhere over Yugoslavia. A tangle of strangers confined to a luxury train which has gone off the rails.

Everybody is not what they seems, which is natural considering this is an Agatha Christie novel and while the cast does an admirable job, it is really Michelle Pfeiffer who wows audiences with her demure yet slightly vicious portrayal of globetrotting husband seeker Caroline Hubbard who stands out among a fairly impressive ensemble cast. Pfeiffer really acts.

Dame Judi Dench’s turn as Princess Dragomiroff is hardly noticeable, while the best scenes in the film are between Pfeiffer and Branagh.

It is refreshing to see Michelle Pfeiffer making such a glorious big screen come back as she truly is a brilliant actress, not to mention singer – for she also sang the film’s original song at the end.

Without revealing who the killer is, needless to say Kenneth Branagh will be returning with another big screen adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, Death on the Nile. Should be fascinating if only he would curb that mustache.

Audiences that enjoyed the original seventies film adaptations of the Agatha Christie novels, will enjoy this ambitious if slightly flawed remake. Think Evil Under the Sun.

Recommended viewing but whether the film will dazzle at the box-office in an increasingly cluttered 21st century CGI film line-up remains to be seen. Murder on the Orient Express gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

 

 

 

When the Glass Slipper Fits…

Cinderella

cinderella_ver2

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgaard, Derek Jacobi, Holliday Grainger, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell

Shakespearean actor and director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, King Henry V) vividly recreates the famous tale of Cinderella in a live action film which despite its sumptuous production design does not match up to other recent onscreen fairy tales most notably the brilliant Snow White and the Huntsman and the equally impressive Maleficent.

Downton Abbey’s Lily James takes on the title role of Cinderella and although she is gorgeous to watch onscreen, the famous narrative arc of her tale is not given any particular depth or subliminal meaning. But then again this is a Disney film and the age restriction is parental guidance, with the target audience being young little girls. Judging by the packed cinema on a Saturday afternoon that target market was spot on.

Branagh’s Cinderella is lush, gorgeous and beautiful to watch with a spectacular production design by Dante Ferreti and fabulous costumes by Sandy Powell, Oscar winner for her costumes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

cinderella_ver3

Oscar winner for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator Cate Blanchett is wonderful as the wicked stepmother and so is Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, The Wings of a Dove) as Cinderella’s quirky fairy godmother who on the evening of the ball given by the crown prince of their kingdom, Cinderella’s dress, transportation and footmen are sorted for her great entrance at the Ball.

The Ballroom scene is simply amazing and is undoubtedly the high point of the film, but in a similar vein to the gorgeous reproduction of Anna Karenina, the script and acting for Cinderella suffers under the weight of its own expectation.

One almost gets the feeling that the actors were slightly bored going through this famous fairy tale with the exception of the brief scenes by Blanchett and the cameo by Helena Bonham Carter, Cinderella fails to lift audiences beyond its very light and fluffy message – which is for all young girls to find prince charming and live happily ever after.

Prince Charming in this case is played by British actor and Game of Thrones star Richard Madden, bulging codpiece and all, and his penetrating blue eyes do the acting. Director Branagh strictly keeps this traditional Cinderella aimed at the young children’s market obviously upon the instruction of parent company Disney.

Nevertheless, the costumes and the production design are superb and should garner some awards in those categories. Whilst Cinderella lacks the edgier darkness of Snow White and the Huntman and Maleficent, it is still fun to watch especially all those character actors making an appearance from Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgaard and Derek Jacobi.

Disney’s Cinderella is recommended viewing for those that loved Mirror Mirror and for all parents who need to take their daughters to see some serious glamour on the big screen. In this case the fabulous glass slipper fits too comfortably and Cinderella and her prince charming do live happily ever after.

 

A Heartless Kingdom

Grace of Monaco

grace_of_monaco_ver2

Director: Olivier Dahan

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Paz Vega, Frank Langella, Robert Lindsay, Parker Posey, Milo Ventimiglia, Derek Jacobi, Robert Lindsay, Roger Asthon-Griffiths, Geraldine Somerville, Nicholas Farrell

French director Olivier Dahan who directed Marion Cotillard to an Oscar win in La Vie en Rose about the life of Edith Piaf, turns his focus on the more glamourous life of Princess Grace of Monaco, better known as Oscar Winner Grace Kelly who at the age of 26 turned her back on Hollywood and married Prince Rainer of Monaco and soon become embroiled in the politics of that luxurious principality on the edge of the French Riveira. Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) returns to a more accessible role as the gorgeous Grace of Monaco after appearing in several darker films including Stoker and Lee Daniel’s The Paperboy. Kidman’s utter versatility as an actress is clearly evident in this fabulous often sensitive portrayal of Grace Kelly in the transitional years soon after her marriage into the House of Grimaldi and her reluctant turn away from lucrative Hollywood roles including the lead in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Marnie, a role which eventually went to Tippi Hedren who starred opposite Sean Connery.

Marnie

Instead in the tumultuous years of the early 1960’s with France threatening Monaco’s sovereignty, Grace Kelly decides to play the more difficult role of a Princess, one who certainly captured the hearts of the French, Americans and the Monagasque. Princess Grace and her erratic Prince Ranier underplayed by Tim Roth, mix with a very wealthy set in the late summer of 1961 including Greek Shipping Tycoon Aristotle Onassis played by Robert Lindsay and his girlfriend opera diva and celebrated Greek soprano Maria Callas, a wonderful turn by Spanish actress Paz Vega (Spanglish), while adjusting to the rigid formality of becoming a European princess. In the especially well-scripted scenes between Grace and her Palace confidant Father Francis Tucker superbly played by Oscar nominee Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) who describes the House of Grimaldi as a heartless kingdom.

Soon Grace Kelly has to transform into the luminous and sumptuous Grace of Monaco a dazzling if heartbreaking transformation which director Olivier Dahan emphasizes in every extreme close up shot of Kidman’s gorgeous yet conflicted face. Her intelligent eyes peaking out from a veneer of diplomacy and unhappiness, conveying the depth of an actress who has traded the thrilling life of a film star for the more elegant yet equally scrutinized life of the Princess of Monaco. Grace of Monaco’s legacy is undeniable and this film is out to prove that especially as it recently opened the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Nicole Kidman’s performance is flawless and while the rest of the tale of Grace of Monaco borders more on sentimentality than substance, it is still a stylish and enjoyable film which carefully blends the glamour of Hollywood with the legacy of old fashioned European tradition.

Grace Kelly's Oscar winning role in The Country Girl

Grace Kelly’s Oscar winning role in The Country Girl

Whilst Monaco now has cemented itself a tax haven for the super rich, a reason why Onassis was initially so interested in maintaining  its sovereignty and the source of the enchanted principality much publicized pending conflict with France, back in the summer of 1961, Grace of Monaco‘s skewers the political agreements reached at that time in favour of the charm of the new and practical American actress who become a princess and her increasing involvement with the International Red Cross.

The politics might be questionable in Grace of Monaco, but Kidman’s superb portrayal of this iconic film star turned princess is pivotal to this charming film’s sumptuous appeal. American indie actress Parker Posey stars as Madge Tivey-Faucon the secretive private secretary to the princess along with Milo Ventimiglia as the dashing press secretary Rupert Alan and Shakespearen actor Derek Jacobi’s flamboyant turn as Count Fernando d’Aillieres, Grace’s etiquette coach.

Audiences that loved films like My Week with Marilyn, The Queen and The Aviator will certainly enjoy Grace of Monaco although this film is by no means in that league in terms of script and overall conception. An enjoyable if not too short cinematic outing nevertheless, Grace of Monaco could have added more substance to the thinly plotted storyline, but that was not Dahan’s intention, which remains an incomparable film to his previous success of La Vie en Rose.

 

 

2010 Toronto Film Festival

2010 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

TIFF 2010

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

Score_A_Hockey_Musical_Poster

Opening Night Film: Score, A Hockey Musical directed by Michael McGowan starring Nelly Furtado, Olivia Newton-John, Stephen McHattie & Noah Reid

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People Choice Award: The King’s Speech directed by Tom Hooper starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pierce, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle

Incendies

Best Canadian Feature Film: Incendies directed by Denis Villeneuve starring , &

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Toronto_International_Film_Festival

 

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