Posts Tagged ‘Diane Lane’

Clash of the Icons

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Laurence Fishburne, Callan Mulvey, Kevin Costner

Hollywood studio Warner Brothers had a lot riding on the highly anticipated sequel to the 2013 hit Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but fortunately they followed the golden rule of sequels, always bring in the same cast and director mixed in with a bunch of surprises.

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Fortunately in the hands of Zack Snyder whose visual range is vast, Batman vs Superman comes across as an epic battle between the two infamous superheroes, a monumental gamble on reintroducing Batman back into the mix so soon after the brilliant success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Then why not bring the writer of that trilogy on board, David S. Goyer and use Christopher Nolan’s expertise as executive producer. Then there is the casting which really pays off.

The Social Network’s Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg as the smart and brilliant villain Lex Luthor, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) as Batman’s trusted manservant Alfred and the biggest coup was casting Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo) as Batman which gives this comic book clash of the icons a more edgier hue.

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After all, realistically Batman, aka Bruce Wayne cannot really defeat Superman, an alien man from Krypton with superpowers. All Batman has is cool gadgets, a Batmobile and all that pent-up rage from his childhood trauma of witnessing his parents being murdered on the streets of Gotham.

Amy Adams returns as the adventurous Lois Lane, along with Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, aka Superman along with Diane Lane as his earth mother Martha Kent. If there is one way to make a superhero angry, it’s to mess with his mother!

Whilst Batman v Superman at two and a half hours long could have been edited especially the last hour of the film, visually the film is so impressive as director Zack Snyder artistically pays homage to his filmography which made him famous: 300, Watchman and Suckerpunch, the last one being especially evident in the surprise appearance of Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

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The chemistry between Batman and Wonder Woman is sexually charged, and on screen the duo look impressive. Affleck’s Batman is a brooding, aging wealthy playboy who is hellbent on seeking revenge for the destruction of a Wayne Enterprises skyscraper by alien invaders from Krypton. Blame Superman!

Whilst Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer’s script is not particularly dazzling, the visual effects in Batman v Superman are brilliant, as well as the tone of the film, which Snyder keeps alternating between light bright colours for Superman and dark, cavernous greys for Batman. It also helps that Affleck himself has greying sideburns which realistically makes Batman look older than Cavill’s boyish Superman.

Women in Batman v Superman also have a major role, although clearly the film itself is marketed for a primarily male audience. Lois Lane is feisty and believable, Wonder Woman looks absolutely gorgeous in evening wear and even appears as a suitable femme fatale for Bruce Wayne during a glamourous Lex Luther cocktail event. Even Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s mother Martha gets caught up in the raucous and very loud action sequence.

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It’s really Jesse Eisenberg’s superb and surprising turn as the deranged megalomaniac Lex Luther, a psychotic billionaire tech guru who thinks nothing of killing innocent people during a public gathering or messing with extra-terrestrial DNA from General Zod.

Fans of Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy will certainly appreciate the iconic face-off between Batman v Superman, but be warned the tone of this film is far darker than your average bright and garish superhero caper.

Recommended viewing for all Zach Snyder fans and those that wish to be regular attendees at Comic-Con. This is serious comic book warfare.

 

 

 

 

Demonizing Dalton

Trumbo

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Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C. K. Michael Stuhlbarg, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Stephen Root, Roger Bart, Dean O’ Gorman, Alan Tudyk, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Director Jay Roach really gives audiences an opportunity to witness Bryan Cranston’s acting talents first hand as Cranston plays the Oscar nominated role of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in California in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950’s.

With the rise of McCarthyism in the early 1950’s and the vindictive Committee on Un-American Activities whose sole aim was to root out the perceived communist threat within Hollywood and many other facets of American society, the anti-communist witch hunt become notorious for ruining reputations and lives of artists, actors, directors and screenwriters. Even the famous playwright Arthur Miller was perceived as a threat and his persecution was illustrated in his classic play The Crucible.

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Dalton Trumbo, wonderfully played by Cranston, is an unconventional yet brilliant screenwriter who becomes one of the Hollywood Ten perceived by the Committee as harbouring Communist sympathies. Trumbo was, as his friend Arlen Hird played by Louis C. K. said, a Socialist with Champagne tastes. His flamboyant cigarette smoking, his unusual method of writing screenplays in the bath, his reliance on Benzedrine were all traits of a fierce creative genius who was ripe for prosecution.

Michael Stuhlbarg also gives an impressive performance as Edward G. Robinson who will do anything to maintain his lavish lifestyle.

In one of the great artistic injustices, Trumbo is found in contempt of the Supreme Court and sentenced to a Kentucky penitentiary for close to 18 months. Upon Trumbo’s release he is faced with the prospect of supporting his wife Cleo played by Diane Lane (Unfaithful) and three growing children, one of which is his feisty daughter Nicola superbly played by Elle Fanning (Maleficent).

Trumbo approaches a B-Grade studio, King pictures and soon does rewrites under a pseudonym under the guidance of the studio boss, Frank King boisterously played by John Goodman (The Gambler, Barton Fink). Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, The Queen) pops up looking suitably glamorous as the Hollywood actress turned gossip columnist Hedda Hopper who ambivalently supports the Communist witch hunt and soon suspects that Trumbo is indeed writing Oscar winning screenplays under another screen writer’s name.

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The Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck romance Roman Holiday was credited to Ian McLellan Hunter, played by Alan Tudyk in Trumbo, but was actually written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo. Roman Holiday won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and went to McLellan Hunter acting as Trumbo’s front.

In steps Kirk Douglas played by Dean O’ Gorman who secretly approaches Trumbo to write a screenplay about a man taking on the world. That film was to become the blockbuster Spartacus.

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Besides the cinematic historical value of Trumbo, the injustices he suffered both personally and artistically, what carries Jay Roach’s film, is Bryan Cranston (Argo) who never falters in his brilliant portrayal of the legendary Dalton Trumbo.

Trumbo is a brilliant film, perhaps slightly uneven at times, but a fascinating portrayal of one man’s quest to get his name cleared and eventually receive the recognition from Hollywood that he deserves, especially for his talented contribution to film.

Trumbo is highly recommended viewing especially for cineastes and film historians, a brilliant portrayal of Hollywood in the 1950’s and the persecution of intellectuals by the American government of the time, whose paranoia concerning the cold war with Russia reached unreasonable proportions.

 

The Genesis Chamber

Man of Steel

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Director Zack Snyder’s ambitious retelling of the origins of Superman in Man of Steel is visually dazzling and grittier than the cheesier Superman movies of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. With Christopher Nolan as the producer and co-writer of Man of Steel, Snyder’s vision of Superman is darker, edgier and more realistic with the occasional humorous nod, but ultimately its firmly rooted in Sci-Fi with Krypton taking a centre stage in the spectacular production design of the opening sequences which shows influences of Snyder’s previous darkly toned blockbusters, 300 and Watchmen.

With newcomer Henry Cavill in the titular role fresh from his role on the TV series The Tudors and relatively unknown outside of the UK, he does a fairly good job of becoming one of America’s iconic figures. In Man of Steel, the comic and sci-fi iconography is rife, with Snyder paying homage to a range of influential Sci-Fi films from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to War of the Worlds, while firmly rooting the narrative in the celestial journey that Kal-El takes from Krypton to Kansas to Superman saving America. There is even a scene of the conflicted Superman in a Kansas church, complete with religious imagery mulling over whether to save his adopted planet Earth from destruction or side with his extraterrestrial origins that of his Kryptonian heritage represented by the ruthless General Zod, expertly played by Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Premium Rush) who after a period of isolation tracks Superman to Earth and soon brings a wake of devastation from Smallville to Metropolis.

The trick which makes Man of Steel so compelling is that along with the dazzling visual effects, the casting was spot on surrounding newcomer young British actor Henry Cavill with a galaxy of veteran Hollywood stars from Russell Crowe as his birth father Jor-El to Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as his adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. Then there is the brilliant Amy Adams (Doubt, Julie and Julia) cast as the adventure seeking tough investigative journalist Lois Lane, who plays the part in stark contrast to the goofy, slightly dizzy take on the role by Margot Kidder in the original Superman movies.

From Krypton to Kansas…

The narrative is deeply rooted in origins mythology and told through a series of expertly crafted flashbacks about how Kal-El was naturally conceived on Krypton by his birth parents without the help of the sinister looking Genesis Chamber on the doomed planet Krypton and shunted off to earth as the last surviving hope for his celestial race. Kal-El, better known in Kansas as Clark Kent soon discovers his extraordinary powers as a growing boy and transforms into the mature, measured and slightly emotionally stunted Man of Steel, complete with X-Ray vision and high-speed atmospheric flight capabilities. The narrative arc closes when Lois Lane discovers Superman’s origins and naturally as most Superheroes do, he must don the fetching red cape and suitable attire, complete with underpants in the right place saving Earth from the Warrior General Zod, whilst balancing his newfound status as an alien with that of being a saviour of mankind.

Man of Steel is a superb cinematic retelling of the original comic book hero, worth watching for the fantastic opening and closing sequences, with Snyder desperate to cram all aspects of the Superman mythology into this slightly long and explosive action-heavy blockbuster. The only criticism is that the penultimate sequence of the film could have been effectively edited for effect, as the action outweighs the narrative and character development and often resembles a CGI-laden video game.

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Snyder’s Superman version in Man of Steel is destined to become a cinematic blockbuster and firmly establish him as a skilled action film director. Whilst not as thrilling or tightly written as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Nolan’s influences are apparent in Snyder’s darker more stylized vision of Superman as another conflicted superhero having to choose between his own dying civilization and becoming the new found saviour of Earth. Recommended viewing for Sci-Fi and Comic book fans, Man of Steel is sure not to disappoint Zack Snyder followers who have eagerly traced his quirky directorial growth from 300 to Watchmen to Suckerpunch and beyond…

Reinvention of Romance

Nights in Rodanthe

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Romance is reinvented in the 2008 screen adaptation of the successful American author Nicholas Sparks novel Nights in Rodanthe, set on an island off the Outer Banks of the spectacular coastline of North Carolina, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. These two accomplished actors were previously seen together in the brilliant film Unfaithful and are now back together demonstrating that mature love stories are an everlasting draw card for audiences. Nights in Rodanthe directed by George C. Wolfe is a beautifully shot film about the turmoil of human emotions that ordinary people suffer from loss, regret, love and the general difficulties of balancing a family with the demands of a stressful career in contemporary society.

Diane Lane plays Adrienne Willis a Carolingian housewife whose husband abandoned her months ago, leaving her to deal with two children whose life is changed forever when she goes to Rodanthe a small coastal community to look after a friend’s gorgeous Bed and Breakfast for a couple of days only to fall in love with the one guest who arrives to solve a crisis of conscience, Dr Paul Flanner, a doctor from the city of Raleigh who is seeking to make amends with a man who blames him for his wife’s death. Both characters have emotional troubles and are certainly at turning points in their lives, when they spend a couple of nights together slowly revealing each other secrets and the tragedies that they have left behind.

Charlotte, North Carolina,

Fall 2005

Admittedly I am at a slight advantage in reviewing this film, because I have had the privilege of meeting the author Nicholas Sparks in Charlotte, North Carolina in the fall of 2005 and also having read some of his other novels, most famously The Rescue and The Notebook, starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams the latter of which was also turned into an historical love story, all set in Sparks home state of North Carolina. All his novels were international bestsellers and as a writer he has found a niche market, well-written romance novels about ordinary characters living under extraordinary circumstances as they deal with themes of love, redemption, loss and eternity.

As a film, Nights in Rodanthe is placed firmly in the tradition of Love Story and will primarily appeal to the female viewer, but what elevates this film is the extraordinary performances by both Gere and Lane who give maturity and significance to their brief affair, made more poignant by love letters written between them after Gere’s character Dr Flanner goes to Ecuador to make amends with his only son. The art of letter-writing so virtually extinguished in this digital age, is cherished here as are the simple pleasures of reflective contemplation, soul-searching and the emotions that accompany those that have discovered true love later in life, beautifully evoked with spectacular scenery of a turbulent coastline and an astonishing setting.

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