Posts Tagged ‘Ewen Bremner’

Princess of the Amazons

Wonder Woman

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Elena Anaya

Monster director Patty Jenkins delivers a feminine superhero film with DC’s Wonder Woman featuring the beautiful Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazons.

Gal Gadot first appeared as Wonder Woman in the male-orientated film Batman v Superman and she certainly was no femme fatale, proving a viable counterpoint to Ben Affleck’s Batman.

The first fifteen minutes of Woman Woman, there is no man in sight as the tribe of Amazonian female warriors live blissfully unaware of external strife on an island Themyscira.

As a headstrong young woman, Diana (Wonder Woman) is heavily watched by her protective mother Hippolyta played by Danish beauty Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) while being influenced to train as a Amazonian warrior by her aunt Antiope played by Robin Wright soon to be seen in Blade Runner 2049.

The idyllic exclusion of Themyscira is shattered when the young Diana sees a plane crash into the distant sea and jumps into the ocean saving the bewildered WWI pilot Steve Trevor wonderfully played with bashful humour by Chris Pine (Hell or High Water, Into the Woods).

In an ironic female gaze, director Jenkins turns the camera on a naked Steve as he emerges refreshed from a luxurious infinity pool under the lustful eye of Diana who asks pointedly “Do all men look like that?”

The action moves swiftly to the gritty battle lines of World War 1 as Britain and the allies are about to sign a shaky armistice with Germany. There Diana sees the brutality of man first hand and director Jenkins does not shy away from a valid point that men are the cause of all the wars and the subsequent destruction in the world.

At this point, the audience assumes that the villain of Wonder Woman is the evil German officer Ludendorff played by Danny Huston (Hitchcock, Wrath of the Titans) who is developing chemical weapons with the help of poison specialist Dr Maru played by Elena Anaya.

Diana and Steve form a band of mercenaries set on destroying Ludendorff made up of smooth talking Sameer played by French Moroccan star Said Taghmaoui, Scotsman Charlie played by Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner and Red Indian chief played by Eugene Brave Rock.

Serving as an origins story and since Wonder Woman is immortal, this is a snapshot of bravery at time when the World was fighting the War to end all wars, circa 1918. What Jenkins manages to do so brilliantly is defy the conventional roles woman play in superhero and adventure films by making the heroine the woman that boldly saves the day, instead of just portraying her as a helpless damsel in distress, leaving the men bewildered, confused and looking like idiots.

As a superhero film, Wonder Woman delivers on all fronts, including lots of humour, copious amounts of action, sufficient visual effects and a surprising plot denouement to keep audiences engaged.

The strikingly gorgeous Gal Gadot holds her own in a big budget franchise film opposite a brilliant blue-eyed Chris Pine, while the period costumes by Lindy Hemming add to the effect of a superheroine stuck in the middle of an antiquated man-made war, which only leaves death and devastation in its wake.

Wonder Woman gets a rating of 8 out of 10. Soon audiences will see more of Wonder Woman as Diana, Princess of the Amazons will next be seen in the highly anticipated Justice League opposite Batman and newcomer Aquaman.

 

Packing for the Promised Land

Exodus: Gods and Kings

exodus_gods_and_kings

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Christian Bale, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn, Ewen Bremner, Maria Valverde

After the success of Gladiator and Robin Hood, British director Ridley Scott tackles the Book of Exodus in his ambitious cinematic reworking aptly titled Exodus: Gods and Kings, dedicated to his deceased brother director Tony Scott (True Romance, Top Gun, Man on Fire).

Exodus: Gods and Kings, starts when Moses is a muscular young man taken into the ancient Egyptian court of Seti the supercilious Pharoah played by John Turturro whose son and heir apparent Ramses played by Joel Edgerton becomes like a brother to Moses. All sibling affection soon vanishes, when Moses visits the enslaved Israelites who are forced to build pyramids, sphinxes and tombs to the Egyptian kings.

exodus_gods_and_kings_ver6

Moses played by Oscar winner Christian Bale leaves Egypt and sets off for Midian where he meets his future wife Zipporah played by Spanish actress Maria Valverde. While in Midian, Moses is visited by God in the form of a vengeful boy who promises to free the Israelites from Egypt and set curses upon the ancient land. God makes Moses a leader and instructs him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the promised land of Canaan.

After several years of marital bliss, Moses returns to Egypt to discover that the brutal and vain Ramses has taken power and forced the Israelites into an entrenched and vicious slave labour, while the ancient Egyptians live an idle life.

exodus_gods_and_kings_ver3

Once the ten plagues of Egypt have cursed the land of the Nile completely, Ramses will banish the Israelites from Egypt into the desert of Sinai and cinematically these ten curses upon the House of Ramses are brilliantly recreated from rivers of blood to the seminal deaths of the first born Egyptian sons including that of Ramses heir, whilst the Israelite first born sons are spared during the Passover.

In Exodus: Gods and Kings, naturally the narrative is completely biblical and sure to be controversial depending on which religious context the viewer is watching this film in. Besides the religious and historical aspects, Exodus: Gods and Kings is an ambitious saga which unfortunately suffers from the weight of its own importance along with a poorly written dialogue which makes the character development flimsy and almost predictable.

This is a pity considering the fantastic ensemble cast which Scott commands including Sigourney Weaver whose part as Tuya barely registers in the overall narrative along with Ben Kingsley as Hebrew leader Nunn and an unrecognizable Aaron Paul (The Need for Speed) as Joshua.

Besides the two main leads with Bale going through the motions as Moses and Joel Edgerton is slightly better as the confused and curse stricken Egyptian king Ramses, Ben Mendelsohn shines as a camp Viceroy Hegerop who lives a debauched life away from the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis.

Maria Valverde is convincing as Moses long suffering wife Zipporah who is also basically neglected in an overtly patriarchal narrative which gives little credence to any of the female characters in the story. Sigourney Weaver’s Tuya suffers a similar fate, merely feeling a presence without any significant motivation.

exodus_gods_and_kings_ver8

As a film, Exodus: Gods and Kings could have been so much better, including more lavish cinematography, better acting and a more intelligent handling of the Book of Exodus which is complex enough as a religious text, thus making it even more difficult to translate this biblical story into a relevant 21st century cinematic narrative.

In terms of Ridley Scott’s excellent filmography including A Good Year, Gladiator, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Exodus: Gods and Kings can be considered his least successful film, yet it will be his most provocative and talked about.

Whether it’s a complete disaster of biblical proportions or a genuine retelling of Moses leading the Israelites into the promised land of Canaan, Exodus: Gods and Kings will be judged historically entirely by the viewer’s frame of reference, religious beliefs, gender and socio-political perspective. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, Gladiator or long biblical spectacles such as the 1956 Charlton Heston epic The Ten Commandments.

Freeloaders Revolt

Snowpiercer

snowpiercer_ver27

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Cast: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Ewen Bremner, Kang-ho Song, Alison Pill, Luke Pasqualino, Tomas Lemarquis

South Korean director Joon Ho Bong creates an innovative cinematic allegorical thriller Snowpiercer based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige featuring a truly international cast headed by Captain America star Chris Evans along with Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Kang-ho Song, John Hurt and Ewen Bremner.

snowpiercer_ver8

Set in 2031 in a second ice age, a glacial earth has completely frozen over due to an industrial accident in a bid to stop climate change, when industrialists released a chemical CW7 into the planet’s atmosphere. The remaining survivors on earth are bound up and segregated on a fast moving train known as Snowpiercer, a futuristic and brutal version of the Ark, on a circuitous track around frozen waste land.

The train is segregated into first class, economy class and the filthy freeloaders at the tail, squashed into sordid living conditions desperate to survive and are unwittingly fed blocks of protein. Naturally an uprising ensures led by Curtis played by Evans and spurned on by Gilliam to storm the different sections and finally reach the front of the train and confront the enigmatic industrialist Wilford, who built the train prior to the post-apocalyptic freeze.

snowpiercer_ver10

Snowpiercer is brutal, truly inventive cinema, a chilling allegory on the nature of unrelenting climate change and a horrifying indictment on the nature and savagery inherent in humanity. As Curtis and his gang of misfits storm various sections of the train from a hermetic aquarium to a bizarre brainwashing kindergarten to a debauched drug fueled rave, each section unravels and the perfect order of the passengers is permanently disrupted.

snowpiercer_ver9

The direction by Joon Ho Bong is flawless if somewhat stylized and the sound editing is fantastic, but what really makes Snowpiercer so innovative is its unique conceptualization ably assisted by a strong cast helped by a host of best supporting actors including Swinton as the Scottish accented Mason, Octavia Spencer (The Help) as Tanya and capped off by Ed Harris (The Hours, Pollock) as the chillingly demented industrialist Wilford, who is a perfect foil to Curtis’s plan of insurrection.

snowpiercer_ver3

Snowpiercer is unique, violent, bizarre and utterly thought-provoking, a truly original semi apocalyptic thriller with grand Orwellian themes framing the fast speeding narrative. In the tradition of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or more recently the Denzel Washington thriller The Book of Eli, Snowpiercer fits into that strange subgenre of sci-fiction mixed with apocalyptic fantasy. Chris Evans is superb as the brave leader Curtis along with an energetic Jamie Bell as Edgar last seen as an S & M Master in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.

Snowpiercer is riveting, strange and surreal, showing to what bloody depths humans will descend to, when their survival is threatened by a ravaged and inhospitable climate.

Eccentric Lesson in Etiquette

Great Expectations

great_expectations

Director: Mike Newell

Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Holliday Grainger, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Flemyng, Ralph Fiennes, Sally Hawkins

Charles Dickens published Great Expectations in 1860 just ten years before his death in 1870 at the height of his literary fame. Naturally over the past half century there has been several film versions of this classic realist novel, but Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell has captured the essence of Dickens in the new film version of Great Expectations starring Oscar nominated British actors Helen Bonham Carter (Les Miserables, Wings of a Dove) and Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, The Duchess) as Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch respectively.

Newell’s triumph in this version of Great Expectations is capturing the essential British aspect of the story about Pip, a poor orphan who is rescued from the fate of becoming a rural blacksmith and elevated into London’s fashionable high society by a mysterious benefactor whose fate he is inextricably entwined with right from the beginning.

The other great triumph of this version of Great Expectations is the superb casting of energetic young and gorgeous actor Jeremy Irvine as the twenty-something Pip who has to negotiate rite of passage in London’s high society inevitably through his men’s club the Finches with the help of his tutor the practical solicitor Mr Jaggers beautifully played by Robbie Coltrane.

Pip through the eccentric Miss Havisham, eternally bedecked in a spidery wedding gown, wonderfully played by Helena Bonham Carter is first introduced to her ward Estella, who soon grows up into a magnificent young woman, wonderfully played by Holliday Grainger and over the course of the two hour film, Pip and Estella’s lives interlink through past connections and present repercussions.

great_expectations 1998

Besides Alphonso Cuaron’s 1998 version of Great Expectations modernized and set in Florida and New York starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, the previous version of this novel was filmed by the great director David Lean back in 1946. With the current trend for traditionalist entertainment especially in light of the success of British TV series Downton Abbey, director Mike Newell’s significant decision to leave Great Expectations in its rightful Victorian setting is an important and ultimately shrewd choice. From the gorgeous sets to the fantastic male costumes of the young Victorian dandies, enough to inspire a flamboyant range of Vivienne Westwood menswear collection, this version of Great Expectations will make all period purists rejoice at its elegance and simplicity.

great_expectations 1946

Naturally in line with similar Dickens novels Great Expectations is populated with an eccentric and unique range of delightful Victorian characters one of the reasons which have made his novels so evocative and enduring. Pip is surrounded by his simple country Uncle Joe Gargery played by Jason Flemyng and Mrs Joe played by Sally Hawkins and in London is guided by Mr Jaggers’s generous assistant Wemmick played by Ewen Bremner of Trainspotting fame. The alpha male in the young gentleman’s club, the Finches of Avery Square and Pip’s nemesis is the ruthless Bentley Drummle played by Ben Lloyd-Hughes.

Great Expectations like any rags to riches story, similar to Vanity Fair and My Fair Lady places its narrative arc firmly in the tough lessons of Life and Etiquette and is essentially a wonderful coming of age story of a young person who is mysteriously placed in opulent circumstances only to discover the sinister motives behind such an unexpected social elevation. The costumes are superb, the acting brilliant, helped especially by Fiennes and Bonham Carter and made more palatable by the enthusiasm of screen newcomer Jeremy Irvine who embodies everything the hapless handsome hero should be: innocent, impressionable and ultimately fated to discover his true origins.

The only criticism of Great Expectations is that the first part of the film is severely dark and also the editing and cinematography could be better, whilst the narrative and rich characterization makes this version of the English literary classic worth watching on the big screen, hopefully reintroducing 21st century film audiences to the wonder of Dickens as its never seen before.

Slaying Giants

Jack the Giant Slayer

jack_the_giant_killer_ver10

Fantasy tales make a fabulous bedtime story. That quiet half an hour when a parent reads to their anxious child the bedtime story involving a beautiful princess, some fairies and the occasional Giant is hugely significant in the passing down of a culture’s myths and legends. A recent Hollywood trend starting with the visually arresting Snow White and the Huntsman has seen many fairytales and fantasy films like Oz the Great and Powerful being re-imagined. The tale of Jack and the Bean stalk is vividly recreated by X-Men director Bryan Singer in the Feudal Fantasy Jack the Giant Slayer, featuring Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) as the hapless commoner Jack who goes to town to sell his stallion and soon receives some magical beans in payment for the horse from a shady monk.

jack_the_giant_killer_ver13

Whilst the exchange occurs Jack meets the gorgeous Princess Isabelle played by Eleanor Tomlinson who is eager to escape the confines of her father’s kingdom. At King Brahmwell’s insistence Isabelle is destined to marry the scheming Roderick played with evil panache by Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) and assisted by his sidekick Wicke played by Trainspotting star Ewen Bremner. The Kingdom’s protector  brave Elmont played by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Moulin Rouge) has a task on his hand trying to keep track of the illusive princess.

One stormy night upon her escape she comes across Jack in his humble abode and unbeknownst to them one of his magical beans has gotten wet and soon a gigantic beanstalk grows taking the princess up into the heavens and soon to become the mercy of a band of giants which inhabits the heavens and are merciless and forever hungry. Soon the adventure of Jack the Giant Slayer begins as Jack, Elmost and a band of the King’s men climb the treacherous bean stalk in a quest to save the proverbial princess. Bryan Singer brings all the visual dexterity that made the original X-Men trilogy and Valkyrie so dazzling to this cinematic recreation of Jack and the Beanstalk and firmly entrenches Jack the Giant Slayer in the long forgotten realm of British feudal patriarchal society whereby monarchy was supreme and power and royal continuity was enforced through myth and legend. Especially when the Kingdom of Cloisters is being threatened by a band of evil man-eating Giants.

“Be Quiet, I am talking to Giants”

Stanley Tucci is wonderful as slimy Roderick, the facilitator of evil and Giant dealer with his best line being “Be Quiet, I am talking to Giants”. Ewan McGregor is a great supporting actor to the little known Nicholas Hoult as the hero Jack who not only has to slay Giants but also prove his worth to the vain King Brahmwell in order to marry his illusive daughter, the ever resourceful princess. All narrative is tied up in fairytales of some sort and this plot is no different and while the script could have been expanded, Jack the Giant Slayer relies heavily on action and visual effects, which are spellbinding to say the least especially the final medieval battle between knights and Giants at the Cloisters Castle.

Like all battles fought, and all legends lived, many are entwined into narrative and myth to make a wonderful bedtime stories that can be passed down the generations, making it just as valuable as the gorgeous crown jewels which survive in the Tower of London. Jack the Giant Slayer, though thin on character development, relies heavily on the fabulous narrative of a simple farmer Jack slaying Giants to gain the hand of the princess and not much characterization is needed when such dazzling special effects are used to recreate another cinematic fairy tale. Recommended  for definitive and entertaining family viewing!

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
May 2018
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  
  • Cannes Film Review: ‘Murder Me, Monster’
    A flock of sheep, fleeces and faces splattered with blood, mill around the camera in ovine alarm. The source of the blood is revealed: a young farmer standing among them, with an enormous spurting gash across her throat, so deep you can see tendons and perhaps even the white of bone. It’s a shocking image […]
    Jessica Kiang
  • Janet Jackson References #MeToo in Icon Award Speech at Billboard Music Awards
    Superstar and Billboard Icon Award recipient Janet Jackson made her stance on the MeToo movement clear during her acceptance speech at the awards show Sunday night, and thanked God for her artistic career. “I believe that, for all of our challenges, we live at a glorious moment in history,” she began, after performing her 1986 hit […]
    Erin Nyren
  • ‘Westworld’ Recap: Shogun’s Army Comes to Town
    Do not read on unless you’ve seen “Akane No Mai,” the fifth episode of the second season of HBO’s “Westworld.” “This is just the tip of Shogun world’s prick — an experience expressly designed for the guests who find Westworld too tame.” Thus we are introduced, courtesy of Lee Sizemore, to the hotly anticipated Shogun […]
    Daniel Holloway
  • Shawn Mendes, Khalid Joined by Parkland School Choir in Gun Control Statement at Billboard Awards (Watch)
    The Billboard Music Awards worked a delicate balance Sunday night between serious issues like school shootings, mental health and suicide, and the usual “Let me hear you make some noise!” awards-show fare. In the show’s second moment addressing the recent epidemic of school shootings — following Kelly Clarkson’s tearful introduction — Shawn Mendes and Khalid […]
    Jem Aswad
  • Chainsmokers and Halsey Honor Avicii at Billboard Music Awards
    Avicii, the beloved Swedish DJ and producer, was honored at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday night by The Chainsmokers and Halsey. Before presenting the award for Top Hot 100 Song of 2018 to Luis Fonsi for “Despacito,” the Chainsmokers’ Alex Pall and Drew Taggart told the thousands gathered at Las Vegas’ Grand Garden Arena […]
    Shirley Halperin