Posts Tagged ‘Helen Mirren’

Live Fast, Die Harder

Fast and Furious 8

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kristofer Hivuju, Elsa Pataky

As if there weren’t enough Fast and Furious films, there has to be an eighth film less the appearance of actor Paul Walker who tragically died in a car accident in California in 2013, just after filming The Fast and Furious 7.

The Italian Job director F. Gary Gray assembles an international cast featuring most of the actors from the previous films including Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty along with Tyrese Gibson as Roman and Chris Bridges as Tej Parker. This time the chief villain is South African born Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Monster) as ruthless hacker Cipher who entices Dominic into working for him after she approaches him in a Havana Street. Cipher’s hold of Dominic turns to be blackmail and she constantly manipulates his familial duties and his bond to his gang of drivers.

To add some muscle to the cast are Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs and action man Jason Statham as Deckard who are recruited by a covert intelligence officer aptly identified as Mr Nobody played by Kurt Russell who is definitely experience a resurgence in his career. Mr Nobody’s sidekick Little Nobody is played by Scott Eastwood (Fury) son of veteran actor Clint Eastwood.

Let’s face it the screenwriters are not exactly imaginative with character names. Suffice to say is that audiences that enjoyed all the other Fast and Furious films will definitely enjoy this international joyride as the action swiftly moves from Havana, Cuba to New York and then onto an icy showdown in Russia which involves a nuclear submarine among all the fast cars and snowmobiles. The Manhattan action sequence might be implausible but is definitely not an advert for the benefits of self-driving cars which can be remotely hacked. See it to believe it.

Considering that Fast and the Furious 8 was number one at the South African box office for three consecutive weeks since its Easter weekend opening and that the action film has grossed over a $1 billion dollars worldwide there is definitely enough fan support to sustain this fast-paced action franchise for further films to come.

Judging by the packed cinema when I watched the film, Fast and Furious 8 or the Fate of the Furious has the winning combination of fast cars, gadgets, beautiful women and a healthy dose of Hollywood cameos. This is popcorn cinema at its most formulaic and these films certainly keeps many actors employed.

As the characters live fast and some of them die harder, Fast and Furious 8 is a fun-filled action film but don’t expect anything too highbrow. Audiences should look out for Game of Thrones stars Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey and Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivuju as Toretto’s musclebound enemy Rhodes.

Fast and Furious 8 gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. If you enjoyed the other films, then this film will satisfy even the most ardent speed racers who can visually salivate at fast cars and daring stunts.

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.

 

60th BAFTA Awards

THE  60TH BAFTA AWARDS /

THE BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS

Took place on Sunday 11th February 2007 in London

BAFTA WINNERS IN THE FILM CATEGORY:

The Queen

Best Film: The Queen

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Best Director: Paul Greengrass – United 93

last_king_of_scotland

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress: Helen Mirren – The Queen

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Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine

dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls

Best British Film: The Last King of Scotland

Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine

Best Adapted Screenplay: Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock – The Last King of Scotland

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Best Costume Design: Pan’s Labyrinth

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan’s Labyrinth directed by Guillermo del Toro (Mexico/Spain)

Source: 60th BAFTA Awards

A Dazzling Restitution

Woman in Gold

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Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Katie Holmes, Daniel Bruhl, Jonathan Pryce, Frances Fisher, Max Irons, Elizabeth McGovern, Charles Dance, Tatiana Maslany, Moritz Bleibtreu

My Week with Marilyn director Simon Curtis, follows up the success of that film with the brilliant Woman in Gold about art restitution based on a true account of how Maria Altmann an Austrian refugee fought to get Gustav Klimt’s famous and dazzling portrait of her aunt, Woman in Gold restored to her as the rightful owner after it was illegally seized by the Nazi’s in Vienna during the rise of the Third Reich in Europe.

Oscar winner Helen Mirren (The Queen) heads up an eclectic cast as Maria Altmann who approaches a young lawyer also of Austrian descent, Randy Schoenberg wonderfully played by Ryan Reynolds in one of his best screen performances to date to take on the Austrian government in reclaiming the gorgeous painting, which is in fact a family heirloom, now hanging in the Belvedere gallery in Vienna, Austria.

Woman in Gold is set in 1998 in Los Angeles with frequent flashbacks to the late 1930’s in Vienna which also charts the daring escape of young Maria, boldly played by Tatiana Maslany and her fiancé played by Max Irons (The Riot Club) from the Nazi’s who eventually flee to America, leaving her parents and all their wealth and possessions behind.

Director Simon Curtis deals with the thorny and sensitive issue of Art restitution in a nuanced and intelligent way which gives balance to both sides of this deeply complex case. Like George Clooney’s Monument’s Men which dealt also with the Nazi’s sacking Europe of its artistic treasures, Woman in Gold specifically focuses on this case and the exquisite painting Woman in Gold by the illustrious Austrian Cubist artist Gustav Klimt, which is like the Mona Lisa of Austria and a sign of national identity.

The fact that the value of the painting is worth well over R100 million dollars also adds impetus to Randy’s fight but more than that is the emotional toll it takes on both characters as they fight for justice amidst contemporary bigotry and the rightful ownership of a hugely recognizable painting.

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Woman in Gold is ably assisted by a wonderful supporting cast including Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Katie Holmes (Pieces of April), Frances Fisher (The Lincoln Lawyer, Titanic), Charles Dance (White Mischief) and Jonathan Pryce (Carrington, Tomorrow Never Dies) but it is essentially held together by the superb performances of Mirren and Reynolds who despite their age difference make the film a fun, informative and deeply emotional quest to correctly addresses the wrongs of the past, in the name of art restitution and justice.

The fact that the international legal fight goes to the Supreme Court, which takes both Schoenberg and Altmann to Washington DC raises the level of the film along with the apparent assistance of the heir to the Estee Lauder fortune.

Woman in Gold is a fascinating, must see film for art lovers, and lovers of intelligent historical films which addresses a very topical and complex issue of restitution, which in this case dazzles with beauty. Highly recommended viewing.

64th Golden Globe Awards

64th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 15th January 2007 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

babel

Best Film Drama – Babel

departed

Best Director: Martin Scorsese – The Departed

dreamgirls

Best Film Musical or Comedy: Dreamgirls

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Best Actor Drama: Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland

The Queen

Best Actress Drama: Helen Mirren – The Queen

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Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat

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Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Meryl Streep – The Devil Wears Prada

Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy – Dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls

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Best Foreign Language Film: Letters from Iwo Jima (Japan/USA)

Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/64th_Golden_Globe_Awards

Maison Mumbai

The Hundred-Foot Journey

hundredfoot_journey

Director: Lasse Halstrom

Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Charlotte Le Bon, Manish Dayal, Clement Sibony, Amit Shar

Chocolat and The Cider House Rules Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom and scriptwriter Matthew Knight bring the charming and utterly delicious tale, The Hundred-Foot Journey based on the novel by Richard C. Morais to the big screen, a gorgeous film which traces the journey of an Indian family who move from Mumbai to London and then to the Continent.

The Kadam family after a near fatal accident on a French country road, the family headed by the incorrigible Papa played by Om Puri decide to set up roots in a small French town to start an Indian Restaurant and do what they do best – cook. The only problem is that a 100 feet away is a Michelin Star Nouvelle Cuisine restaurant headed by the strict and snobbish, Madame Mallory wonderfully played against type by Oscar Winner Helen Mirren (The Queen, The Madness of King George).

With a flourish the Maison Mumbai is opened in direct competition of this Michelin star restaurant which generates fierce culinary rivalry between the two establishments pointing to a much deeper prejudice about foreigners in Europe exemplified in the xenophobia displayed by Chef Jean-Pierre played by Clement Sibony (The Tourist). Inspired by his mother’s sea urchins, the young Hassan, an aspiring cook soon studies all the bibles of French cuisine and naturally is quite enchanted with the sous chef Maguerite played by French actress Charlotte Le Bon, hinting at a potential romance.

As the characters develop and the story unfolds, Madame Mallory soon entices the young chef Hassan played by Manish Dayal to come and work at the French Restaurant which with a liberal dash of exotic spices soon earns the Restaurant another Michelin star attracting all the Parisian culinary offers. Hassan travels to Paris where he works in a top Nouvelle Cuisine restaurant overlooking the Eiffel Tower creating exotic fusion combinations which soon earns him fame and respect. This is food porn on acid, with some luminous shots of many exotic dishes being prepared in sleek industrial Parisian kitchens, think Babette’s Feast for the 21st century.

With the current trends of TV reality shows like Master Chef sweeping the Global, The Hundred-Foot Journey should definitely find a niche audience and points to a growing hybrid cinematic genre in the tradition of A Million Dollar Arm, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Slumdog Millionaire of Hollywood films with a distinctly Indian influence, adding an exotic tinge to the Western dramas.

With producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, The Hundred-Foot Journey is as delightful as it is sumptuous to watch with glowing cinematography provided by Swede Linus Sandgren (American Hustle) with a narrative beautifully accentuated by a superb on screen chemistry between Madame Mallory and Papa complimented by the developing romance between the young lovers Hassan and Marguerite.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is recommended viewing for foodies, chefs, romantics and lovers of genteel cinema. This is a gorgeous spicy cinematic dish, served with all the necessary garnish and flavour to make it palatable and appreciated.

Project Nightshade

RED 2

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Retired and Extremely Dangerous

Despite the inherent violence in the film’s narrative, Red 2 is an enjoyable yet not particularly lucid sequel to the 2010 hit Red, which stands for Retired and Extremely Dangerous. Both films are inspired by DC Comics so that should give the audience an indication of what to expect: lots of action, globetrotting assassins and a convoluted storyline with a dash of witty one liners.

Considering the calibre of the cast of Red 2, including Oscar Winners Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago), Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) and Helen Mirren (The Queen) along with the main stars, Bruce Willis, the fabulous Oscar nominee John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons) and Mary-Louise Parker (Red Dragon), this sequel’s script could have been sharper. Although thankfully the female stars do elevate the narrative beyond another sort of The Expendables type film, featuring all male action stars over 45 slugging it out with an armoury that could annihilate a small eastern European country. Director Dean Parisot goes for violence over sophisticated repartee, which is a great pity considering the cast he had at his disposal.

Red 2 is hugely entertaining but could have had a less complicated narrative and the action could have been diluted more effectively. There is the perennial car chase scene in Paris (straight out of A View to a Kill), the Kremlin scene in Moscow, straight out of countless spy movies and the more recent A Good Day to Die Hard and an aerial chase sequence across London’s slate grey skyline which is definitely inspired by the Bond franchise.

If audiences have not seen Red, then its best to see that first before seeing Red 2, but the premise is simply about an international group of retired spies and assassins (ex CIA, Mi6, Russian intelligence) who inadvertently stumble on a a plan to activate a so-called forgotten nuclear device in Moscow codenamed Project Nightshade after it was left there during the Cold War by a rogue American spy unit. The globe hopping from suburban America to London, Paris and Moscow is great but comically inspired and nothing as brilliant as the elegant cityscape changes seen in Skyfall.

Red 2 also features Byung-Hun Lee as a knife-wielding assassin last seen in GI Joe, Retaliation along with Neal McDonough as the vicious agent Jack Horton, but it is really Mary-Louise Parker’s performance which lifts Red 2 out of Comic book banality  as the sharp and sassy Sarah, girlfriend to Frank Moses played by Bruce Willis who is always hankering for more adventure and glamour, spicing up their crumbling romance.

Look out for a hilarious scene at the end of the film set in Caracas. Anymore details, then that would give the game away. Also featuring a briefly seen Steven Berkoff and David Thewlis as the Frog, a Wikileaks inspired classified intelligence hacker. Red 2 is fun viewing, heavy on action, light on content and plausibility!

2006 Venice Film Festival

2006 Venice International Film Festival Winners

Venice International Film Festival, known as the Biennale di Venezia takes place annually
in late August, early September and is the oldest Film Festival in the World.

Winners of the 2006 Venice International Film Festival are as follows: –

StillLifePoster

Golden Lion (Best Film): Still Life directed by Jia Zhangke

Coeurs

Silver Lion (Best Director): Alain Resnais for Coeurs (also known as Private Fears in Public Places)

 hollywoodland_ver3

Best Actor: Ben Affleck – Hollywoodland

 The Queen

Best Actress: Helen Mirren – The Queen

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venice_International_Film_Festival

A Psychotic Risk

Hitchcock

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In a similar vein that Simon Curtis’s film My Week with Marilyn  depicted the events surrounding the filming of the Monroe and Olivier 1957 picture The Prince and the Showgirl, Sacha Gervasi’s brilliant film Hitchcock traces the making of Psycho, one of the most pivotal horror films ever made by the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock.

Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins with lots of prosthetic makeup brings the corpulent Alfred Hitchcock to cinematic life, along with Helen Mirren as his brilliant, sharp-witted wife Alma Reville. Hitchcock centres on how the director and Alma embark on making one of the most shocking films of the time, Psycho.

Hitchcock opens with the 1959 premiere of North by Northwest and the legendary director is restless for a departure from the thriller genre, searching for a more captivating project. Soon Hitchcock reads the 1959 novel Psycho by Robert Bloch based on a documented case of a Wisconsin serial killer and grave robber Ed Gein (played by Michael Wincott in Hitchcock) who terrorized the mid-West in the late 1950’s cutting up female corpses in a farmhouse in a serious attempt to deal with his mother issues http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psycho_%281960_film%29.

Alfred Hitchcock is naturally drawn to such a macabre and brutal story and plans to make a shocking film version.

Without the financial backing of Paramount Studios, Hitchcock and Reville put up their own money to finance the picture and the casting begins… Scarlett Johansson (Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Black Dahlia) returns to form as the voluptuous actress Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy (W/E) plays Anthony Perkins along with Jessica Biel (Easy Virtue) as the more conventional actress Vera Miles. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) is Hitchcock’s faithful agent Lew Wasserman and what follows is a fascinating film about the turmoil of making Psycho, but really focusing on the unique collaborative and at times difficult relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and his brisk, intelligent wife Alma Reville superbly played by Mirren.

Reville collaborated with Hitchcock on many of his films, often rewriting the final scenes of some of his films and was a solid supporter of all his trademark direction. Hopkins is wonderful as Hitchcock who plays the portly director subtly balancing caricature and genius, whilst also revealing his flaws as a sixty year old man who fraught with jealous and suspicion makes one of the most shocking films of his career.

psycho

For cinema enthusiasts, Hitchcock whilst skilfully depicting all the stages of film making  from conceptualization and casting, to editing and distribution is a delight as it shows in stylish detail how Psycho despite  all the obstacles ranging from the censorship board to the limited distribution was eventually completed. At the heart of the production was the wonderfully brisk collaboration between Hitchcock and Alma who had to insure that their personal investment in Psycho produced a spine chilling cinematic achievement, one that the audiences would never forget.

A lot of the success of Psycho (1960) was in how the film was edited as Hitchcock returned to a form of American minimalism whilst exploring the murky world of psycho-sexual obsessions from voyeurism to suppression, resulting in absolute rage and brutal murder. The infamous shower scene at the Bates Motel in which Janet Leigh is stabbed by Anthony Perkins is wonderfully recreated and in the editing suite is cut viciously to a horrific musical score after Hitchcock shot the scene from seven different camera angles and not to mention actually physically frightening Leigh himself just to capture the shock factor.

The best line in the film is when Hitchcock is talking to a neurotic screenwriter Joseph Stefano and asks him why he goes to daily psychoanalysis and the answer is

“Oh, the usual reasons: Sex, Rage, My Mother!”

Essentially Hitchcock is a intelligent drama with an edgy script almost comically depicting  how one of the most legendary film directors of that era changed the face of cinema forever with the help of his  quick-witted sophisticated wife Alma Reville. The first time onscreen pairing of Hopkins and Mirren is superb as they portray the intelligent and complex power couple and ably assisted with a great supporting cast, along with Danny Huston as a charming screenwriter Whitfield Cook and Toni Colette as Hitchcock’s loyal secretary Peggy Robertson making Hitchcock a must see for all serious film lovers . Disturbing, quirky and definitely recommended viewing, Hitchcock is a must!

79th Academy Awards

79th Academy Awards

25th February 2007

Oscar Winners at the 79th Academy Awards

 departed

Best Picture: The Departed

Best Director: Martin Scorsese The Departed

last_king_of_scotland

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland

The Queen

Best Actress: Helen Mirren – The Queen

little_miss_sunshine_ver4

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine

dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls

Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt – Little Miss Sunshine

Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan – The Departed

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Best Foreign Language Film: The Lives of Others directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany)

Best Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth directed by Davis Guggenheim

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Best Original Score: Gustavo Santaolalla – Babel

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Best Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro – Pan’s Labyrinth

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Best Costume Design: Milena Canonero – Marie Antoinette

Best Film Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker – The Departed

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Best Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/79th_Academy_Awards

 

Film Directors & Festivals
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