Posts Tagged ‘Emma Watson’

Vanity and Virtue

Beauty and the Beast

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Hattie Morahan, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack

When Disney does a live action version of a classic animated film, audiences know they are going to do it brilliantly. Beauty and the Beast is absolutely superb and extremely enjoyable viewing.

If audiences are going to pay for one cinema ticket this year, buy a ticket for Beauty and the Beast.

Originally based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, Beauty and the Beast is an extraordinary visual feast.

The first aspect Disney got right was the crucial casting of Beauty and the Beast. With a mostly British cast, Belle is played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) and the Beast played by Dan Stevens who rose to fame in Julian Fellowes BBC hit series Downton Abbey. For the real villain of the piece, Welsh actor Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) is cast as the arrogant Gaston and Josh Gad stars as his sidekick Lefou.

Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish called Wanda) plays Belle’s hapless father Maurice who during a journey to the market is side tracked by vicious wolves and lands up as an unwitting guest of the Beast in his cavernous castle with only talking furniture for company.

The flamboyant candelabra Lumiere is played by Ewan McGregor (Our Kind of Traitor) and the mantel piece clock Cogsworth is wonderfully played by Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters, Mr Holmes) while the teapot Mrs Potts is voiced by Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End). Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion) plays Plumette and Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) voices the maestro Cadenza.

What really makes Beauty and the Beast so lovely is the music, the music and the music. From the director of Dreamgirls and Gods and Monsters Bill Condon delivers a fantastic film retaining the story’s authentic fairy tale which deftly combines romance with action and music. Beauty and the Beast has gorgeous costumes designed by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) accompanying the film’s exceptional production design by Sarah Greenwood.

Both the headstrong Belle and the grumpy Beast form an unlikely romance overcoming vanity and retaining virtue while they have to compete against the duplicitous Gaston and break the immortal spell cast on the Beast and his lively accompaniments.

Highly recommended viewing for all age groups, Beauty and the Beast gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

Although running at over two hours this Disney fantasy musical is worth watching and audiences should stay seated to watch the spectacular end credits.

 

The Creator’s Wrath

Noah

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth, Nick Nolte

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Oscar winners Russell Crowe (Gladiator) and Jennifer Connelly team up again after their successful onscreen pairing in Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, in Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky’s allegorical tale Noah, which has less to do with the bible story and more to do with humanity propensity for destroying the planet.

This visually packed tale of Noah, the ark and the great flood which ensues is inventive, patriarchal and slightly disappointing considering Aronofsky’s reputation for turning out shocking, if not provocative films like Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and his most successful film yet Black Swan, which earned Natalie Portman a Best Actress Oscar in 2011.

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Russell Crowe looks increasingly perplexed throughout the film of Noah, almost if he knew this cinematic tale might turn out controversially. The script is stilted and not thrashed out properly and even though the film is in 3D, many of the characters are one dimensional. Which is a pity considering that Aronofsky smaller films do focus on flawed characters trying to grapple with their own success or failure.

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British actor Ray Winstone as Tubal-cain and Logan Lerman as Noah’s son Ham stand out in the acting stakes in this version of Noah, while Crowe, Connelly and even Emma Watson come across as pathetic individuals caught up in an event greater than their own destinies, even though their destinies are tied in with the flood which devastated a ravaged earth, thanks to the descendants of Cain, who have wrecked havoc on the planet’s natural resource.

The whole dynamic of the creation narrative rests on  conflict. Adam and Eve enter the Garden of Eden and are confronted by temptation in the form of a serpent. Their children Cain and Abel battle jealousy and envy with Cain killing Abel, leaving a third brother Seth, of which Noah is descended to recover the familial equilibrium. Then the Creators Wrath returns and after a prophesy from Noah’s Grandfather, a wizened Anthony Hopkins that he should build an ark to survive the impending flood, Noah sets his three sons on a mission to complete a gigantic arc to save themselves and a handful of creatures so that a new population can inhabit a cleansed earth. The irony is that Director Aronofsky should not convince big budget Hollywood to give him free reign on an essentially biblical story.

Purists would not be pleased at the cinematic result which is Noah, not to mention that the narrative does not withstand the special effects and somewhere in between the flood, the entire plot is lost. Noah is an overlong allegorical and patriarchal tale with a hint of biblical connotation but is no cinematic masterpiece. Director Aronofsky should return to making small budget shocking films like the psycho sexual ballet thriller, Black Swan. Even Oscar nominated cinematography Matthew Libatique’s trademark sheen is lost on the 3D version of Noah.

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If Noah had been less about visual effects and more about a conceivable plot, then the film would have been vaguely interesting. Even Emma Watson’s (The Bling Ring) turn as Ila, Noah’s eldest son’s girlfriend and mother-to-be is not nearly as captivating. Where is all the sex, debauchery and shock value normally associated with Aronofsky films?  Noah is fascinating, but not fantastic cinema and would be better if left in 2D with a more fleshed out, stimulating narrative. Noah also stars Douglas Booth and unrecognizable Nick Nolte.

The Selfie Generation

The Bling Ring

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Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Carlos Miranda, Georgia Rock, Taissa Farmiga, Gavin Rossdale

Italian American director Sofia Coppola’s latest film The Bling Ring explores the vacuous obsession with Hollywood celebrities by a group of Los Angeles teenagers whose desire for a trophy of their favourite star leads them to a string of audacious house burglaries of such celebrities as Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Victoria Secret model Miranda Kerr and boyfriend actor Orlando Bloom along with Megan Fox and The Hills TV star Audrina Partridge.

The Bling Ring based on real events that occurred in Los Angeles from 2008 to 2009 follows the drug fuelled gang of privileged teens as they literally raid the glorious closets of these hugely affluent stars, stealing designer purses, jewellery, clothing and accessories worth millions of dollars. These audacious closet raids were documented in an article by Vanity Fair entitled The Suspects Wore Louboutins by Nancy Jo Sales.

This is the selfie generation who boast of their daring exploits by taking selfie pictures on their Smartphone’s with the stolen bling at swish Hollywood nightclubs frequented by the real stars including Kirsten Dunst and Paris Hilton. They take drugs, seem immune to any form of parental guidance and post their fabulous exploits on all social media, which in the digital age leads eventually to their own downfall. In their pursuit of following these celebrities, the Bling Ring spearheaded by the cross dressing Marc played by Israel Broussard and Rebecca played by Katie Chang along with Nicki Moore played by Harry Potter star Emma Watson. Leslie Mann also stars as The Secret inspired home schooling Hollywood mom.

Coppola encapsulates the vanity of their exploits in a perfect shot of the group posing at a nightclub, with fist full of dollars, drugs and champagne, showing a generation that is not only materialistic but completely out of touch with the intrinsic value of money.

Naturally the victimized celebrities including Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton press charges and the Bling Ring are all eventually caught by the LAPD, with the loot discovered in their possession and they too like Lindsay’s glamorous and numerous court appearances have their time in the spotlight where all the main culprits are convicted of residential house burglary.

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As in Coppola’s glorious examination of the excess of wealth in her Oscar winning film Marie Antoinette, as a director she holds a mirror to a celebrity obsessed society which seems destined to crumble, but never does. Even the prison sentences  in The Bling Ring make the juvenile offenders in to minor TMZ stars, showing that the pursuit of celebrity is relentless and is in itself a form of youth culture which will always thrive in an internet driven 21st century Hollywood, where every Award show and contemporary film star is besieged by eager paparazzi both publicly and online.

The Bling Ring is frothy, vacuous and fabulous and audiences shouldn’t expect some sort of moral justification but a nuanced commentary on a celebrity culture that perpetuates its own obsessive and voyeuristic existence. A world that Coppola as daughter of famous film director Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now) must be so used to and has certainly influenced her impressive if slightly nonchalant recent films from Somewhere to The Bling Ring.

Naturally it helps that Sofia Coppola established her credibility early in Hollywood as a film director with the critically acclaimed film Lost in Translation. The Bling Ring does not match up to the initial high standard Coppola set for herself, but is equally relevant in 21st century media frenzied Hollywood where such stars as Lohan and Hilton have become famous for being famous. The Bling Ring is recommended viewing for fashionistas and those who appreciate gorgeous closet raids!

Clashing of Vanities

My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn directed by Simon Curtis is a charming film about the clashing of vanities in a more subtle and polite society following the filming of the musical comedy The Late Prince which would become 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl teaming up the great British Theatre personality Laurence Olivier and 1950’s American screen goddess Marilyn Monroe at Britain’s legendary Pinewood Studios.

Michelle Williams takes the part of Marilyn Monroe and might not be as voluptuous physically, but her brilliant performance of the doomed and fragile screen icon Monroe who was a legendary flirt and a consummate movie star is layered and superb. Kenneth Branagh is equally brilliant as the vain and pompous Laurence Olivier whose  divergence into cinema with the Prince and the Showgirl was beset with problems on the Pinewood studios set especially made more difficult by the pill-popping, temperamental and sultry Monroe.

The clash between Monroe and Olivier went far deeper than vanity or fame, it was also a conflict of their two vastly different styles of acting. Monroe was trained in the Lee Strasberg school of method acting  popular in Hollywood, California originally pioneered by Constantin Stanislavski and refers to the method of actors drawing on their own personal emotions and memories in their onscreen portrayals.  Olivier was a London Shakespearian theatre actor and was quite unused to the medium of film.

Monroe felt and acted in the moment which worked brilliantly on the short takes of cinema, whilst Olivier was trained in the more established tradition of  Classical Theatre where thespians  rehearsed and performed a repertoire of theatre from Greek tragedy to plays by Sheridan, Shakespeare, Chekov and Noel Coward and prepared for their roles by learning their lines down to the last iambic pentameter and essentially being on time and in full costume. Their vastly different styles of acting is exemplified in the original 1957 film, The Prince and the Showgirl.

My week with Marilyn is told through the eyes of a 3rd Assistant Director Colin Clark played with surprising vigour by rising British Star Eddie Redmayne who is smitten by the tantalizing Marilyn Monroe and has a wonderful supporting cast including Zoe Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg, Dominic Cooper as Hollywood agent Milton Greene along with Julia Ormond as Laurence Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh and Dougray Scott as playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s husband at the time of shooting Prince and the Showgirl. Watch out for a great cameo by Dame Judi Dench playing the great Shakespearean actress Dame Sybil Thorndike. Where My Week with Marilyn excels is how beautifully it illustrates how divergent British and American cultures were especially in the 1950’s and how the clashing of vanities between the screen siren Monroe and the theatrical Olivier underlined both these stars own vulnerabilities and their strengthens.

Casting of Williams and Branagh as legendary stars Monroe and Olivier was critical in making My Week with Marilyn a lovely and substantial film about the making of film itself and the insecurities and drama that goes on between a Screen siren who knew how to titillate the public especially men and an aging theatre actor desperate to make his cinematic debut.  Both Williams and Branagh deserved earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor but lost out to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady and Christopher Plummer for Beginners at the 2012 84th Academy Awards.

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