Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Debicki’

Dollar Signs and Empty Promises

Widows

Director: Steve McQueen

Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Jacki Weaver, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, Carrie Coon, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Brian Tyree Henry, Garrett Dillahunt, Cynthia Erivo

In a labyrinth tale which at times is difficult to follow, 12 Years a Slave and Shame director Steve McQueen weaves a tangled web in the contemporary Chicago crime drama Widows featuring an outstanding ensemble cast including a brilliant Viola Davis, Oscar winner for Fences, Oscar nominees Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) as a ruthless hitman, Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) as a pushy Polish mother along with Oscar winner Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies) as Colin Farrell’s hectic father Tom Mulligan.

What sets Widows apart is that McQueen frames the film as a gritty more complex version of Oceans 8 with pivotal roles for Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki (The Tale) and Michelle Rodriguez as three widowed woman who decided to band together and conspire to do a heist to rob from alderman Mulligan played by Colin Farrell who is in a turf war with his contestant a rising African-American politician Jamal Manning played by Brian Tyree Henry (Hotel Artemis).

Daniel Kaluuya plays the insanely evil and vindictive younger brother Jatemme Manning who feels nothing as he tortures a snitch in a wheelchair or makes victims sing before executing them at point blank range.

Director Steve McQueen frames every shot with a keen eye for detail especially the excellent scenes with Viola Davis as she comes to terms with her husband and thief Harry Rawlings explosive demise, shot in a series of intimate flashbacks scenes made more poignant that action star Liam Neeson plays the street savvy thief Rawlings.

What Widows does offer is a sophisticated treatment of contemporary American race relations, inner city corruption, poverty and crime of which there is plenty in this film.

McQueen lets certain scenes linger too long while allowing others to be cut so short that their explosive nature is electrifying. Where he is excels is at is controlling this massive and diverse ensemble cast.

Veteran star Robert Duvall has a fairly major role as the paternal Trumpesque figure Tom Mulligan who is trying to retain his family’s supremacy in the political environment despite his son Jack’s dubious double dealing whose only achievement is offering dollar signs and empty promises.

Equally refreshing is to see Fast and Furious star Michelle Rodriguez in a more substantial role as she battles to keep her family together after her Latino husband Carlos, a briefly seen cameo by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo perishes in Rawling’s heist that goes terribly wrong.

Widows gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and has a massive twist which should keep audiences riveted in a sprawling crime drama held together by superb acting. Highly recommended viewing.

Damaging Boundaries

The Tale

Director: Jennifer Fox

Cast: Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Common, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Frances Conroy, Isabelle Nelisse, John Heard

Spoiler Alert Valid until airing on M-Net on Monday 6th August 2018

Please note that this is a Made for TV film and will not be released in commercial cinemas.

Documentary filmmaker Jennifer Fox creates a searing autobiographical film called The Tale which had its South African premiere at the Durban International Film Festival DIFF 2018 https://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/.

The Tale features a superb performance by Emmy and Golden Globe winner Laura Dern (Big Little Lies) who plays a fictionalized version of director Jennifer Fox who has to confront strange and uncomfortable memories of her past as a young girl, when her mother played by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) discovers a story she wrote when she was thirteen about an illicit affair that she had with a creepy gym coach, 40 year old divorcee Bill played with suitably skin-crawling detail by Jason Ritter.

As the narrative of The Tale unwinds through a series of carefully constructed flashbacks, Jennifer is forced to confront the fact that while she was doing horse riding on a farm in the Carolina’s with the strict Mrs G, crisply played by The Night Manager star Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) she was not only groomed for child abuse but becoming the victim.

The Tale confronts in horrific detail the strange and bizarre almost Lolita like affair that Bill initiates  with the young Jennifer expertly played by Isabelle Nelisse in many scenes that would be deeply disturbing to sensitive viewers.

Released by HBO films, The Tale is a made for Television film. Director Jennifer Fox beautifully reveals to audiences the nature of memory and the action taken by the grown-up Jennifer to confront her abuser. This significant film is a harrowing and brave account of child abuse which is especially pertinent in the era of the #MeToo Campaign.

Anchored by nuanced performances by both Dern who is nominated again at the 2018 Emmy Awards and Ellen Burstyn, The Tale is highly recommended viewing and intelligently explores the elusive nature of forgotten childhood memories which frequently blur the lines of morality and shows that any form of abuse damages boundaries both psychologically and sexually.

The Tale won Best Screenplay at DIFF 2018 and is also nominated for Best Limited Series or TV Movie at the Primetime Emmy Awards which is taking place in September 2018. The Tale will be aired on the South African subscription channel M-Net on Monday 6th August 2018.

The Tale gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

 

 

 

Magellan’s Curve

Valerian and

the City of a Thousand Planets

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Rihanna, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Sam Spruell, Rutger Hauer, Kris Wu, Herbie Hancock

French director Luc Besson attempts to re-enact his Sci-Fi success of his hit film The Fifth Element with a sparkling and innovative new space adventure film set in the 28th century Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets starring Dane DeHaan (Life, Kill Your Darlings) as Major Valerian and British fashion model turned actress Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) as his sidekick stroke lover Sergeant Laureline.

After an impressive Virtual Reality sequence in a universal market, Valerian comes face to face with the Pearls a luminescent race whose planet accidentally got obliterated during a celestial conflict.

The Pearls, initially a harmonious alien race soon realize that dark forces are at play in the Universe and seek shelter in an abandoned space ship which is transported to the vast city of a Thousand Planets called Alpha.

The attractive duo Valerian and Laureline play the ever bickering lovers of this bizarre space opera have to report to the crafty Commander Arun Filitt played by Oscar nominee Clive Owen (Closer). As the duo have to discover what is really behind the malignant threat growing within the City, they come into contact with a collection of utterly bizarre CGI creatures and a guest appearance by superstar Rihanna as Bubble who appears in a Cabaret like moment as a glambot nicknamed Bubble.

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Training Day) appears all too briefly as the crazy pimp Jolly in Paradise Alley where he attempts to entice Valerian in all sorts of virtual lascivious entanglements with Bubble.

While the pace of Valerian slackens in the second half of the film, the visual effects are utterly mind-blowing and since the majority of the film’s financing came from BNP Paribas let’s hope director Luc Besson gets a return on his box office both in France and internationally.

With fabulous onscreen chemistry between DeHaan and Delevingne, audiences should completely suspend their disbelief as they watch Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets which will certainly appeal to fans of comic book Sci-Fi. The funky score by Alexander Desplat and the gorgeous cinematography by Thierry Abrogast make Valerian cinematically palatable and infinitely beautiful despite some extremely imaginative sequences.

The voices of Elizabeth Debicki and John Goodman also feature in Valerian.

The story of home planets being destroyed is nothing original and has been done before in Star Trek Beyond and Star Wars, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is recommended viewing for hard core fans of Sci-Fi and gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Audiences should watch out for a cameo by Dutch actor Rutger Hauer as President of the World State Federation who appeared in the original Blade Runner film directed by Ridley Scott in 1982.

 

Starlord’s Genealogy

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn

Director James Gunn’s second foray into the Guardians universe is not as brilliant as his original film, mainly because the quirkiness of the characters of the first Guardians of the Galaxy has worn off slightly. If viewers enjoy psychedelic action with lots of CGI then Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is for you.

All the original cast reprise their roles with a bigger screen time for Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana who both have familial issues to contend with. Pratt’s character Peter “Star Lord” Quill has to contend with unresolved father issues when he meets his dad aptly named Ego charismatically played by Kurt Russell who is definitely having a rejuvenation in his career. While Zoe Saldana’s Gamora has to contend with sibling rivalry with the unexpected arrival of her sister Nebula played by Karen Gillan.

Dave Bautista’s Drax seems to be more contented and has the best lines in the film. While Bradley Cooper who provides the voice of Rocket and Vin Diesel who does the voice of Baby Groot really just had to the star power.

The best scenes in the film are between Kurt Russell and Chris Pratt as Starlord discovers that his biological father is a slight megalomaniac with unresolved desire to consume the universe. Spoiler Alert there!

Sylvester Stallone pops up briefly as Stakar Ogord and unfortunately has too little screen time to give his character any credibility. Chameleon actress Elizabeth Debicki who was so brilliantly in the series The Night Manager and was seen in Macbeth and The Great Gatsby also unfortunately has too little screen time to really give her golden genetically enhanced character Ayesha – Ruler of the Sovereign race any menace although she does look absolutely gorgeous in all that gold.

Elizabeth Debicki should use her remarkable talents as an actress in a far better genre than psychedelic sci-fi  but then again Marvel are calling the shots. Marvel are certainly luring talented stars to play in their films. Just look at the cast of Doctor Strange.

Unlike Doctor Strange which was really well done with awesome special effects, James Gunn’s Guardians 2 with the tag line “Obviously” seems to much of the same and nothing remotely original. Strip away all the CGI and the plot is basically a father and son story about a son who slowly becomes disillusioned with the image of what his father should be, never mind the fatal legacy that Ego has install for Starlord and the rest of the gang.

Fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy will certainly enjoy this hasty sequel but lets face it this version is never as innovative as the original film. Now what remains to be seen is how the Guardians will fare in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity movie scheduled for a 2018 release featuring a combination of all the Avengers, plus Spiderman and the Guardians – Should be fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is a fantastic fun-filled popcorn film but nothing more. Viewers will be dazzled by fantastic CGI that the whole universe will be dripping with neon.  Although, the Guardians films are enjoyable they are not in the league of Star Wars but then again my loyalties lie elsewhere.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 gets a rating of 6.5 out of 10 but is strictly for the fans of the first film. Its quirky, fun, but nothing spectacular despite the presence of Kurt Russell and Elizabeth Debicki both of whom add gravitas to an otherwise skimpy plot line. On the plus side – the music is fantastic and Baby Groot is really cute!

Full of Scorpions is my Mind

Macbeth

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Director: Justin Kurzel

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, Elizabeth Debicki, Paddy Considine, Jack Reynor, David Hayman

Australian director Justin Kurzel’s bold and bloody version of Macbeth envisions a bleak and brutal landscape where Scottish noblemen plot against each other all for the right to become King.

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Possibly Shakespeare’s most bloodthirsty play about power, vengeance and fealty, Macbeth has proved to be a perennial favourite among film makers and theatre performers alike. In this version, the two pivotal roles are played by Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) and the combination of their immense talent can be relished as they present a complex interpretation of the scheming Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Soon the ambitious couple plot to murder King Duncan of Scotland, played by David Thewlis as he visits their family castle. Macbeth stabs King Duncan multiple times while he is sleeping and promptly dispatches his guards too. Macbeth blames this ungodly crime on the heir apparent, the King’s son Malcolm, played by Jack Reynor, who flees to England to gather an army.

Macbeth claims the Scottish crown for himself but soon absolute power corrupts malignantly and the callous couple plot again to kill Banquo, a friend of Macbeth’s and a rival Scottish nobleman.

During the infamous banquet scene, which is the best in the film, Macbeth in front of his royal retinue is tormented by the images of Banquo’s ghost appearing among the guests to such an extent that he breaks down in front of the Scottish court.

The tyrannical Macbeth wanders into the misty highlands and seeks solace with the three prophetic witches who tell him that his right to be king is threatened by Macduff, “Beware Macduff, Beware the Thane of Fife!”

In the most brutal scene in the film, Macbeth’s soldiers capture Lady Macduff, played by an unrecognizable Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) and her three children, whose fate is sealed upon a fiery pyre.

In the final act, Macduff, played by Sean Harris (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) returns with ten thousand soldiers and storms Macbeth’s castle and in a fiery confrontation, the two enemies seek vengeance amidst a burning and unforgiving battle, when Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane.

Kurzel’s vision of Macbeth is bloody and dark, the production design comprising strong earthy colours like deep reds, browns and shining gold. The costumes are traditional and authentic.

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Cotillard is brilliant as the deceptively innocent Lady Macbeth, a magnetic and hauntingly beautiful queen who challenges her husband to commit heinous crimes, only to discover that Macbeth is willing to go to unmentionable lengths to retain his crown.

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This 21st century film version of Macbeth is heavily influenced by HBO’s Game of Thrones and is as violent, spectacular and riveting as the hit series, making Shakespeare’s Scottish play accessible to a whole new generation of viewers. This is an epic portrayal of twisted fealty, rivalry and horrific ambition, held together by two masterful actors playing iconic characters, imbuing their scenes together with a brilliant Machiavellian mischief, bordering on insanity and unchecked bloodlust.

Visually stunning, violent and superbly atmospheric, this vivid version of Macbeth is one not to be missed by cinema lovers and Shakespeare scholars alike.

 

 

 

 

Retro Repartee

The Man from UNCLE

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Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris, Luca Calvani

British director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, RocknRolla and Snatch) reinvents the Cold War spy drama while sticking to its original retro chic with The Man from UNCLE.

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Henry Cavill (Superman) plays Napoleon Solo, who after a stunning chase sequence in East Berlin, reluctantly teams up with Russian KGB agent, Illya wonderfully played by Armie Hammer, complete with dodgy accent and a bad temper.

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Swedish actress Alicia Vikander plays Gaby who is gallantly rescued from East Berlin by Solo only to become a pawn in a deadly international game of espionage involving chic Italians who are actually Fascists and a desperate search for a nuclear warhead, which is being developed by a glamorous but lethal Italian couple Alexander, played by Luca Calvani (The International) and his vicious wife, Victoria played by Elizabeth Debicki last seen in The Great Gatsby.

Using cool split screen cinematic techniques and an innovative retro-active editing sequence, Ritchie leads the audience on a brilliant dance between espionage, glamour and intrigue, all the usual tropes associated with the hugely successful spy genre: exotic locations, a nefarious villain and a femme fatale who is not what she seems.

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What makes The Man from UNCLE so watchable, is the brilliant onscreen chemistry between Hammer and Cavill, who constantly outdo each other with brawn and wits and naturally are both competing for the affections of the gorgeous yet bold German femme fatale, a role which Alicia Vikander really takes on as her own after playing minor roles in The Fifth Estate and outshining Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina.

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Watch out for the British charm offensive, Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Waverly who is back on form with such witty lines as “For a Special Agent, you are not having such a special day”. The dialogue, action sequences and narrative in Man from UNCLE are all perfectly matched to that early 1960’s spy film, additionally helped by most of the film being set in Rome and the Italian coastline. Even the soundtrack for Uncle is suitably chic, with a couple of sixties Italian songs playing enlivening the amusing action sequences.

The costumes are fabulous, the stunts are brilliantly choreographed and the dialogue is suitably witty with both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer on top form as the two leading men who are jostling for their own pride, accomplishments and competitive edge. It’s the clashing egos of Napoleon and Illya which are fun to watch and director Ritchie plays on the actors’ ability to maintain that constant jealousy between the two characters, coloured with retro repartee which creates a dynamic fraternal bond.

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Elizabeth Debicki is suitably sinister, as the slinky yet dangerous Italian enemy. With plentiful historical references of lurking fascism, Cold War paranoia and sixties glam thrown in, the plot of The Man from Uncle never falters, especially from a director who is clearly unafraid to take risks.

The Man from Uncle is highly recommended viewing for those that have enjoyed Ritchie’s earlier commercial successes and also love a witty, retro spy film which is not afraid to poke fun at the genre itself.

Lavish, Lustful Long Island…

The Great Gatsby

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Director:  Baz Luhrmann

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan

The much anticipated glitzy remake of the 1974 film, The Great Gatsby by Australian director, Baz Luhrmann is spectacular to watch, wonderful to marvel at, yet ultimately flawed much like its central character, Jay Gatsby.  Based upon the American classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby published in 1925, chronicling America and specifically New York’s Jazz Age, Prohibition and the excesses of wealth prior to the Great Depression in 1929, Luhrmann expertly captures the era with gorgeous costumes designed by Catherine Martin and supplied by the Italian Luxury Fashion House Prada along with suits by Brooks Brothers, the 21st century film version of Gatsby is brash, excessively long and gorgeous to look at, with fabulous over the top parties, superb music and lots of creative divergence as expected from the director of Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet.

At the centre of the 21st century version of The Great Gatsby are three fine performances and that is the ménage trio of Jay Gatsby, played with a slightly Howard Hawks neurosis by Leonardo di Caprio, (The Aviator, Django Unchained, Romeo and Juliet), the Louisville heiress Daisy Buchanan played with a slight childish melancholy by the ever charming Carey Mulligan (Wall Street 2, Money Never Sleeps) and then her brutish, polo playing husband Tom Buchanan, an outstanding performance by screen newcomer Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Animal Kingdom).

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Luhrmann and costume designer Martin do a superb job of luring the audience into a decadent world of the bootlegging roaring 1920’s New York with the lavish excessive parties, the ensuing deviance that prohibition encouraged and naturally the modern jazz age. The film is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, Daisy’s cousin and neighbour to the initially enigmatic Gatsby, played with the usual awe and wonder of Tobey Maguire, of the original Spiderman Trilogy, who facilitates a meeting between Daisy and Gatsby over tea in one of the film’s more memorable scenes with flowers and decadent cakes at his Long Island cottage.

The Long Island-Manhattan social scene becomes more intricate as Tom’s mistress Myrtle wonderfully played by Isla Fisher and first introduced at in a raucous party at a Manhattan apartment hinting at the excesses which the sexually ambivalent Nick Carraway is seduced by both in terms of drugs, alcohol and loose morals, yet it is really Carraway’s enchantment with Gatsby himself which really plays into the subtext of such a fascinating portrait of lust and decadence, that eventually leads him to later write the story of the huge influence Gatsby had on his now destroyed life. As Carraway is drawn into the opulent world of the super-rich and of the myriad possibilities, betrayals and affairs that this affluent society leads him to witness, it is Gatsby himself who leaves Carraway with an impressionable dream of “You can do anything if you set your mind to it”.

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Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is flawed and uneven, especially noticeable in the second half of the film as he goes beyond the spectacle of the age and grapples with the deceit and lies that his main characters are capable of. The infamous scene at the Plaza Hotel, where all is revealed is really expertly played by Joel Edgerton as the jilted yet scheming playboy husband, who treats all his possessions including his lovely wife with a sort of contemptible jealousy. Luhrmann’s directorial trademarks are evident in The Great Gatsby, but not nearly as tightly pulled together as his brilliant Moulin Rouge which saw stunning performances by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, yet he still manages to recreate The Great Gatsby in a style any other film director could not have imagined.

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The Great Gatsby is recommended for the fantastic costumes and sumptuous production design, but not where literary traditionalists are concerned, the film is clearly aiming at a much younger glitzier and more diverse audience, notably succeeding in its lavish portrayal of excess. The only criticism is that more editing was required to cut The Great Gatsby into a perfect diamond and not as a sparkling flawed gem.  The film is a celebrated depiction and inventive homage to the Jazz Age, without much substance, but loads of style. Personally I would like to see Luhrmann tackle the rather more brilliant novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night, but that would see the director venturing too deeply into the complexity of human relationships without the added glamour.

Recommended for lovers of Gershwin music and for an aesthetic appreciation, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is sure to divide and impress audiences simultaneously, much like he did with revisionist adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in 1997. Also starring Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan as Meyer Wolfsheim.

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