Posts Tagged ‘Ian McKellan’

A Night at the Egyptian

Cats

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Francesca Hayward, Jason Derulo, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Laurie Davidson, Robbie Fairchild, Ray Winstone, Steven McRae, Danny Collins

Based upon Modernist poet T. S. Eliot’s poetry collection, Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats the musical has been a Broadway and West End hit for decades.

The film version of Cats directed by Les Miserables director Tom Hooper is fascinating, surreal but also quite lacklustre and this is due to the uneven casting of the film.

Cats as a film has superb production design with brilliantly realized costumes and sets, but viewers must be familiar with the Theatre production of Cats which was primarily about movement, dancing and singing.

To turn such a successful theatrical production of Cats into a hit film is a daunting task for any director. Despite Tom Hooper’s success with such films as Les Miserables, The Danish Girl and The King’s Speech, he unfortunately misses a golden opportunity to make the cinematic version of Cats absolutely dazzling and that has a lot to do with the strange casting choices for the roles.

While Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) adds gravitas as Old Deuteronomy, Idris Elba’s green eyed Macavity is just plain weird and as for Rebel Wilson and James Corden, they should not have been cast at all as their interpretation of Jennyanydots and Bustopher Jones is utterly cringe worthy.

What saves Cats is Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson’s interpretation of Grizabella as her solo numbers are superb and she really anchors the film with a brilliant onscreen performance and fantastic singing.

All the professional singers cast in Cats are really good, including a mesmerizing performance by Taylor Swift as Bombalurina whose onscreen entrance is clearly inspired by Nicole Kidman’s entrance in Baz Luhrmann’s masterpiece Moulin Rouge. Jason Derulo equally holds his own as Rum Tum Tigger and Laurie Davidson’s interpretation of Mr Mistoffelees is spot on and charming.

The narrative arc of Cats goes completely off track but audiences must remember that the musical was loosely based on a collection of lyrical poems, so there was never a strong story to begin with. The middle of Cats is entertaining especially the tap dance scene performed by Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks. Newcomer Francesca Hayward holds her own as the novice feline Victoria.

Unfortunately the beginning and ending are terrible and audiences get a sense that director Tom Hooper was a bit out of his depth with this film production. But perhaps if Baz Luhrmann had directed it, viewers would have gotten an entirely unique interpretation.

Cats as a film is enjoyable but not brilliant, saved by magnificent soloist performances, solid production design and generally speaking the cinematic effort should be applauded and not so universally mocked as it has been on social media.

Despite the dubious casting choices, Cats only gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is really aimed at ardent fans of the hit musical production.

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.

 

Several Tricks of the Mind

Mr Holmes

mr_holmes_ver2

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Frances de la Tour, Hiroyuki Sanada, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Patrick Kennedy, Hattie Morahan, Hermione Corfield, Frances Barber

Director Bill Condon’s work has included such Oscar winners as Dreamgirls, Kinsey and Gods & Monsters. His nuanced and subtle cinematic adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind featuring Oscar nominee Sir Ian McKellan as the elderly and doddery Mr Holmes is a pleasure to watch if audiences can get through the first half an hour.

McKellan (Gods and Monsters, The Da Vinci Code, Richard III) is brilliant as the aging Mr Holmes who has to grapple not only with old age but all the ghosts of his pasts, primarily two unsolved cases, one involving a Japanese man whose father mysteriously never returned from England during World War II and another involving a husband trying to discover what his wife is involved in.

It is refreshing to see Sir Ian McKellan return to some a more resonant subject in this role, which is ever so complex, fascinating and beautifully told after a decade acting in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and also The X-Men franchise.

Director Bill Condon, with a stroke of genius, casts Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, The Fifth Estate) as the long suffering house keeper Mrs Munro, whose husband was abruptly killed in the Second World War and has only her young son Roger, wonderfully played by Milo Parker to keep her company. As the mother and son look after the aging and infamous Baker Street detective, Mr Holmes must search his ever failing memory to reignite the images of what made these two cases so extraordinary.

In a series of multiple flashbacks, including an entire sequence set in Japan, Hiroshima to be specific just after the atomic bomb has obliterated the city, Mr Holmes visits Tamiki Umezaki gracefully played by Hiroyuki Sanada last seen in the excellent war film, The Railway Man, who continually questions Mr Holmes about the mysterious disappearance of his father in England during the War and the possible reasons for abandoning his young son and wife back in Japan.

In the second more intricate case, the great detective whose cases have been studiously reproduced in literature and on film, a husband approaches him to find out what his wife is really up to. British actor Patrick Kennedy (Atonement) and Hattie Morahan (The Golden Compass) play the estranged Thomas and Anne Kelmot.

It is really the scenes between Laura Linney and Ian McKellan which are priceless as Mrs Munro soon realizes that her son has become attached to the eccentric Mr Holmes and insists on helping him keep an apiary at their home in the Southern coast of England.

Cinematically, Mr Holmes is not everyone’s cup of tea, but is a delicate character study of a famous man who is in the twilight of his years, whilst none of his eccentricities have been lost, despite his self-imposed exile. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Hyde Park on Hudson and lesser known films by Merchant Ivory such as Jefferson in Paris or The Golden Bowl.

The Middle Earth Saga

The Hobbit:

The Battle of the Five Armies

hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_ver2

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman

hobbit_an_unexpected_journey

After the massive success of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, New Zealand director Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures) creates another trilogy out of J. R. R. Tolkien’s first novel The Hobbit with An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and the final film, The Battle of the Five Armies, each film being internationally released sequentially from 2012 to 2014 in time for the Christmas Holidays.

Bilbo Baggins and his gang of dwarves go on a quest to defeat the dreadful dragon Smaug and reclaim the gold hidden in the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. The Battle of The Five Armies is naturally pure fantasy and really has to be seen in conjunction with the first two Hobbit films. With hideous orcs and elves fighting each other along with dwarves and humans, lead by Bard the Dragon Slayer (Luke Evans), this is wonderful CGI action and moments of humour thrown in. Whilst the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was a tad darker in tone, the Hobbit is lighter and aiming for a younger audience, but just as enjoyable.

hobbit_the_desolation_of_smaug

Ably assisted by a great supporting cast including Sir Ian McKellan as Gandolf the Grey, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Luke Evans as Bard, Orlando Bloom as the Elf fighter Legolas, Martin Freeman’s portrayal of the beloved Bilbo Baggins caught up in a war far greater than what his pretty shire existence is used to, is perfect. Freeman’s status as an actor has risen considerably after this franchise and his wonderful portrayal as Lester Nygaard in the hit TV series Fargo.

hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_ver6

The Hobbit Trilogy is a precursor to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy yet naturally all six films should ideally be seen on the big screen in 3D and digital sound. I watched the first two Hobbit films on DVD, and saw The Battle of the Five Armies in a Cinema and the visual effects were spell bounding especially the scenes with the Dragon Smaug obliterating the human’s village and also the fantastic war sequence which takes up pretty much most of the second half of this film.

hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_ver8

There has been criticism that Peter Jackson was milking the Hobbit Story into a multi-million dollar film franchise as the Tolkien’s book is so short, however its quite clear that with the success of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the studios gave him free reign, so yes that is precisely what he did, knowing full well that The Hobbit brand marketability would be huge.

hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies_ver11

Fans of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy will certainly not be complaining. Many battles and legends alluded to in the Hobbit novel are superbly expanded upon and given their full cinematic exploration. Middle Earth never looked this glamorous, spectacular and daunting.

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) assists Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens with screenwriting on the Hobbit movies, so director Peter Jackson can do what he does best – recreating the world of Middle Earth and exploring fantasy in its supreme entirety.

For continuity purposes it also helps having the wonderful Sir Ian McKellan, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and even veteran screen actor Christopher Lee return to the Hobbit films in supporting roles, making this trilogy just as fun and exciting as the brilliant Lord of the Rings franchise which dazzled audiences in the first decade of the 21st century. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the evil dragon Smaug which guards a horde of gold belonging to the Dwarf King.

Now the question remains will Peter Jackson tackle the other J. R. R. Tolkien novel The Silmarillion ?

 

Mutant Time Travel Fantasy

X-Men: Days of Future Past

xmen_days_of_future_past_ver5

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Karine Vanasse, Evan Peters, Josh Helman

Which director could resist bringing such a fabulous a-list cast together in one film?

Naturally the original X-Men director Bryan Singer who takes this huge cinematic opportunity to reboot the X-Men franchise and include the original cast members in a mutant time travel fantasy which sees Wolverine, Storm, Raven and Magneto and Professor Xavier battling literally against time in a war to save the mutants from utter destruction at the hands of evil humans, represented by none other than Dr Bolivar Trask, wonderfully played by Peter Dinklage, whose star is clearly rising after the phenomenal success of the allegorical revenge fantasy series Game of Thrones.

xmen_days_of_future_past_ver6

Set between 1973 and presumably the present day of 2013, so a forty year time span, the original X-Men including Magneto and Professor Xavier played by Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart send Wolverine aka Logan back forty years to confront a younger version of themselves and change a pivotal moment in history, the capture of the uniquely chameleon Raven played by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence from being captured by the duplicitious Trask. Wolverine with all the braun and charm of the original series gamely played by Hugh Jackman confronts a younger Xavier (a wonderful turn by James McAvoy) and convinces him to set Magneto free from a metal less prison in the heart of the Pentagon in Washington D. C.

xmen_days_of_future_past_ver7

In a spell bounding special effects sequence, Xavier, Beast and Wolverine with the able assistance of Quiksilver played with charm by Evan Peters free the unpredictable Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto and together they go in search of Raven/Mystique as she infiltrates a Vietnamese peace signing ceremony in Paris in 1973 in a bid to assassinate the formidable weapons specialist Dr Bolivar Trask who is hellbent on obliterating all mutants with new Transformeresque type machines known as the Sentinels.

xmen_days_of_future_past_ver9

The rest of the action packed hugely spectacular X-Men Days of Future Past is a time travel mutant orgy in the same vein as Marvel’s film The Avengers was with a bunch of superheroes coming together to battle the evil Loki. The cast is just as spectacular and director Singer gives as much screen time as possible to the prolific actors as well as to the lesser cast members but its his lingering cinematic gaze on the gorgeous male cast including Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) as Beast, Michael Fassbender (Shame) as Erik, James McAvoy (Atonement) as a younger Xavier that gives this superhero mutant fantasy a distinctly homoerotic quality seldom seen in other superhero films.

xmen_days_of_future_past_ver8

By their nature superheroes are slightly narcissistic (look at Man of Steel, Batman, Iron Man) but especially so in X-Men Days of Future Past. The female superheroes in this film pale in comparison to their attention grabbing male counterparts with director Singer even giving Wolverine a nude scene as he wakes up in a New York apartment overlooking Time Square in the swinging seventies.

Ultimately, X-Men Days of Future Past is a Hollywood vehicle to reboot the old X-Men franchise and breath fresh life into the cast of the younger selves seen in X-Men: First Class. The film is wonderfully retro in parts and adds to the glamour of recreating the 1970’s on screen with Fassbender and McAvoy looking particularly fetching as the younger Magneto and Xavier. Gone are all the dark overtones of the earlier X-Men films and in this invigorated version, all the mutants look glossy, stylized and supremely accessible. This is a Hollywood blockbuster not just for its multitude of stars but also for the riveting special effects, never mind the convoluted narrative. A must see film for all fans of the X-Men movies and those that follow such commercial gloss with vigour.

 

 

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
January 2020
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
  • ‘Suppressed: The Fight to Vote’: Film Review
    In 2018, Stacey Abrams, having served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 10 years, ran as the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. She was the first African-American woman in the United States to be chosen as a gubernatorial nominee by one of the two major parties. Abrams had tremendous support, and after losing […]
    Owen Gleiberman
  • Apple TV Plus Announces Premiere Dates for Steven Spielberg’s ‘Amazing Stories,’ More
    Apple TV Plus announced the premiere dates for a number of upcoming series, including Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories.” “Amazing Stories,” a reimagining of the original anthology series, will debut five episodes on Mar. 6. One of these is “The Rift,” a first look from which can be seen above, that stars Kerry Lynn Bishe, Whitney […]
    Danielle Turchiano
  • Yeardley Smith, Sebastian Maniscalco on the Future of Podcasting at iHeart Radio Podcast Awards
    The 2020 iHeartRadio Podcast Awards showed the range of people making their way into the booming audio industry as comedians and actors such as Sebastian Maniscalco, Roselyn Sanchez and husband Eric Winter, and Yeardley Smith attended the show, each promoting their own podcast. Smith, the popular voice actor best recognized for her 31-year stint as […]
    bbell96
  • Box Office: ‘Bad Boys for Life’ Crossing $100 Million Worldwide
    Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life,” the third entry in the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led action series, ruled over the global box office and is expected to cross the $100 million mark through the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The threequel, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, scored $38.6 million overseas, along […]
    Rebecca Rubin
  • Singer David Olney Dies During Performance at Florida’s 30A Festival
    Singer-songwriter David Olney has died at age 71, after falling silent and dropping his head in the midst of a performance at the 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida Saturday night. Some news reports said he “collapsed” on stage, but that isn’t quite true: Olney simply became still on his stool, leading some audience members and […]
    chrislwillman
  • Read More
    Different providers offer different cell phones, so take a look at the options from each provider to choose the right one for you. You may also want to look into any promotions that the providers have to offer, such as free cell phones in exchange for signing a contract. Tags: 2gmhass90