Posts Tagged ‘Holliday Grainger’

Unbridled Extravagance

My Cousin Rachel

Director: Roger Michell

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Pierfrancesco Favino, Andrew Knott, Tim Barlow

South African born British based director Roger Michell has been responsible for such films as Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Morning Glory and Hyde Park on Hudson. Michell returns with a cinematic adaptation of the Victorian Gothic romantic drama by Daphne du Maurier My Cousin Rachel set in the dramatic cliffs of Devon and Cornwall and also in Florence Italy.

My Cousin Rachel is a handsome cinematic production held together by a suitably ambiguous performance by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, Youth) as Rachel Ashley who arrives in England to seduce the impressionably young Philip Ashley wonderfully played with besotted bewilderment by Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Their Finest and The Riot Club) who is proving to be one Britain’s rising young actors.

When young Philip’s legal guardian travels to Tuscany to recuperate and then mysteriously dies, leaving Philip’s claim to his cousin’s massive estate in a precarious position, Philip travels to Italy to uncover the source of the mystery surrounding his new relative the beautiful Rachel. Upon arrival in Italy he does not meet Rachel but the Italian lawyer handling his cousin’s affairs played by Pierfrancesco Favino (Rush, Angels and Demons), who Philip suspects is conniving with Rachel to steal Philip’s rightful inheritance.

Back in England, advised by his godfather Nick Kendall played by Game of Thrones star Iain Glen and his daughter Louisa played by Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, The Finest Hours and Anna Karenina), Philip is initially weary of Rachel as she sets foot on English soil soon to arrive at the family home at dusk.

Incredibly dramatic, the one thing Philip has not had in his life is any female influences so naturally he is completely beguiled by the beautiful and exotic half Italian Rachel who makes such a fashionable entrance in local society, which is enough to cause a mild scandal.

But as family jewels are generously given away and as Philip approaches his 25th birthday upon which he will rightfully inherit his cousin’s massive estate, intrigue within the landed gentry is heightened by the scheming and provocative Rachel who often dressed in mourning is portrayed as a sort of Black Widow, a woman with a rumoured  history of killing off husbands to profit off their inheritances.

My Cousin Rachel is the Victorian femme fatale, a noir female character who is subtly undermining all that the male hero is trying to achieve, which in this case is quenching his unbridled lust matched only by Rachel’s own unbridled extravagance. Sexual tensions simmer as the scheming continues, but as the narrative draws to a dramatic conclusion, My Cousin Rachel leaves audiences with a portrait of a woman with considerably dubious intentions.

My Cousin Rachel gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and will be enjoyed by audiences that love period dramas with a touch of the Victorian Gothic, especially scenes of luminous pearls cascading down darkened candlelit staircases.

Cape Cod Sea Rescue

The Finest Hours

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Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger, John Magaro, Kyle Gallner, John Ortiz, Michael Raymond-James

Million Dollar Arm director Craig Gillespie brings to cinematic life the true story of one of the greatest small boat rescue operations ever attempted by the US Coast Guard in his new film, The Finest Hours featuring a cast of rising Hollywood actors including Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck.

Chris Pine stars as the shy yet brave coast guard officer Bernie Webbers who on the day of asking his commanding officer for permission to marry the gorgeous Miriam Pentinen played by Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations) is sent on a tough mission to save the crew of an oil tanker SS Pendleton which broke in half during a monstrous storm in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Chatham, Massachusetts.

The Finest Hours is based on the The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman and developed into a screenplay by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy. Aboard the SS Pendleton is seaman Ray Sybert, who realizes that after the tanker has been ripped in to two by a massive storm the only way for his crew to survive is if they run the ship aground as using lifeboats during such awful weather would only result in serious loss of life.

Sybert expertly played by Oscar nominee Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) reassures the crew that they have to sit tight on the remaining section of the tanker in the hope that a rescue mission is being sent out for them.

That rescue mission is headed by Webbers with the assistance of seamen Richard Livensey played by Ben Foster last seen in The Program, Andy Fitzgerald played by Kyle Gallner and Ervin Maske played by John Magaro last seen in Carol.

As The Finest Hours is set in February 1952, and the maritime rescue technology then was not quite advanced as it in the 21st century, the feat of this rescue mission is truly inspirational. Viewers could also be forgiven for wondering how such a small rescue boat CG36500 is able to save over twenty men aboard a stranded oil tanker out in the roaring and unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean during a horrendous winter storm.

The Finest Hours is captivating as a historical drama although the palette for the film is a bit dark and indistinguishable, but director Craig Gillespie did this intentionally so to visually submerge the audience in a real life sea rescue mission off the coast of Cape Cod during a winter blizzard.

The visual effects are amazing and those that enjoy historical dramas should definitely see The Finest Hours. The cast is superb given the material they work with and despite a lack of dialogue, the drama of a sea rescue mission is conveyed accurately although not as good as the excellent film Captain Philips.

 

Raising Debauchery to an Art Form

The Riot Club

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Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Matthew Beard, Sam Claflin, Freddie Fox, Holliday Grainger, Natalie Dormer, Samuel West, Tom Hollander, Tony Way, Julian Wadham

Based on Laura Wade’s play Posh and with the skillful direction of Danish film maker Lone Scherfig (An Education), The Riot Club assembles a cast of the next generation of British thespians from Oscar winner Jeremy Iron’s son Max Irons as well as Edward Fox’s son Freddie Fox along with the dashing Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations) in a truly brilliant diatribe about the hidden debauchery of the aristocracy.

What makes The Riot Club even more brilliant is Scherfig’s superb use of tension in the film as the second half really does raise debauchery and menace to an art form, with horrific consequences.

The Riot Club focuses on a privileged group of Oxford freshman who form a secret society, a sort of uninhabited Lord of the Flies style gathering in which the ten member group have to outdo each other in decadence, bravado and more significantly stamina, something most young men are extremely competitive about.

With the taglines of Filthy, Rich, Spoilt, Rotten, The Riot Club truly does show the terrible side of young and obnoxious men behaving extremely badly from trashing University dorm rooms to the disgusting initiation procedures a young man will go through to belong to this elite and secretive club.

This is hazing at its worst along with the cunning and knowing ability which shines through especially in the second half of this film, that no matter how disgusting or debauched their activities get, The Riot Club will manage to get away with it, relatively unscathed. In this privileged aristocratic circle, money truly does buy them everything except in this case decency and consideration for their fellow man.

The Riot Club is disturbing at the best of times, captivating and utterly debauched and aptly directed by Scherfig who as a female director superbly shows how the pack mentality in men can lead to the most heinous of acts. Audiences should watch out for cameo’s from rising Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer as a high class escort as well as an excellent performance by Holliday Grainger as Miles Richards’s (Max Irons) girlfriend Lauren who does not come from the aristocracy and whose merchant background is used as a weapon to humiliate her when she is mistakenly called to the raucous dinner at an old English pub outside Oxford, where literally all hell breaks out.

It’s at this dinner, making up the exceptional second half of the film, that the Riot Club really live up to their horrendous reputation with copious amounts of heavy drinking and drug taking which fuels these aristocrats libido and aggression.

The Riot Club shows off the menacing side of the posh British upper classes and also the exclusivity of the landed gentry who think that despite their actions they are continually above the law because of the vast wealth. Highly recommended viewing but not for those easily offended.

 

 

When the Glass Slipper Fits…

Cinderella

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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgaard, Derek Jacobi, Holliday Grainger, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell

Shakespearean actor and director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, King Henry V) vividly recreates the famous tale of Cinderella in a live action film which despite its sumptuous production design does not match up to other recent onscreen fairy tales most notably the brilliant Snow White and the Huntsman and the equally impressive Maleficent.

Downton Abbey’s Lily James takes on the title role of Cinderella and although she is gorgeous to watch onscreen, the famous narrative arc of her tale is not given any particular depth or subliminal meaning. But then again this is a Disney film and the age restriction is parental guidance, with the target audience being young little girls. Judging by the packed cinema on a Saturday afternoon that target market was spot on.

Branagh’s Cinderella is lush, gorgeous and beautiful to watch with a spectacular production design by Dante Ferreti and fabulous costumes by Sandy Powell, Oscar winner for her costumes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

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Oscar winner for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator Cate Blanchett is wonderful as the wicked stepmother and so is Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, The Wings of a Dove) as Cinderella’s quirky fairy godmother who on the evening of the ball given by the crown prince of their kingdom, Cinderella’s dress, transportation and footmen are sorted for her great entrance at the Ball.

The Ballroom scene is simply amazing and is undoubtedly the high point of the film, but in a similar vein to the gorgeous reproduction of Anna Karenina, the script and acting for Cinderella suffers under the weight of its own expectation.

One almost gets the feeling that the actors were slightly bored going through this famous fairy tale with the exception of the brief scenes by Blanchett and the cameo by Helena Bonham Carter, Cinderella fails to lift audiences beyond its very light and fluffy message – which is for all young girls to find prince charming and live happily ever after.

Prince Charming in this case is played by British actor and Game of Thrones star Richard Madden, bulging codpiece and all, and his penetrating blue eyes do the acting. Director Branagh strictly keeps this traditional Cinderella aimed at the young children’s market obviously upon the instruction of parent company Disney.

Nevertheless, the costumes and the production design are superb and should garner some awards in those categories. Whilst Cinderella lacks the edgier darkness of Snow White and the Huntman and Maleficent, it is still fun to watch especially all those character actors making an appearance from Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgaard and Derek Jacobi.

Disney’s Cinderella is recommended viewing for those that loved Mirror Mirror and for all parents who need to take their daughters to see some serious glamour on the big screen. In this case the fabulous glass slipper fits too comfortably and Cinderella and her prince charming do live happily ever after.

 

Eccentric Lesson in Etiquette

Great Expectations

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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.

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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.

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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.

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