Posts Tagged ‘Idris Elba’

Neon Inspired Family Feud

Thor: Ragnarok

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Ray Stevenson, Scarlett Johansson, Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, Taika Waititi

New Zealand director Taika Waititi was Oscar nominated back in 2005 for his Live Action Short film Two Cars, One Night.

Marvel Studios recruited him to inject new life into the Thor films and that he certainly does with Thor: Ragnarok, a neon inspired family feud of mythical proportions featuring Thor played again by hunky Australian actor Chris Hemsworth along with his pesky brother Loki played by Tom Hiddleston and new addition to the family Hela played with vampish delight by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine).

Thor returns to Asgard only to discover that Loki has banished Odin, their father to a virtual retirement home. Upon a brief visit, the brothers discover that Odin, wonderfully played with a sombre delight by Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) has got an elder daughter Hela who was banished from Asgard for being the Goddess of Death and wreaking havoc on the nine realms.

Cate Blanchett relishes her role as Hela, the Goddess of Death, inspired by Maleficent and certainly quite intent on destroying her defiant younger brothers.

Thor and Loki land up on a weird dystopian outer planet overseen by the demonic Grand Master, a superbly camp performance by Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day), who immediately instructs Thor to fight in a massive arena against a formidable beast: The Hulk. Enter Bruce Banner aka The Hulk, played with bewildering amusement by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Foxcatcher, Spotlight).

Eventually Thor gets Loki, The Hulk and a hard-drinking Valkyrie played by Tessa Thompson last seen in the HBO series Westworld, to return to Asgard to defeat the demonic Hela who is assisted by a reluctant henchman Skurge played by Karl Urban (Dredd, Star Trek and The Loft).

The only criticism is that the middle section of Thor: Ragnarok detracts from the film’s central narrative, which is essentially a legendary family conflict.

Thor: Ragnarok is a fun-filled comic book film which thankfully does not take itself or the characters too seriously and is a clear indication that Marvel films are definitely trying to create memorable characters for the lucrative toy manufacturing market just before Christmas.

As with all the latest Marvel films, franchise opportunities abound. Thor: Ragnarok is light-hearted and hellishly entertaining. Audiences should look out for a great cameo by Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role as the illusive Doctor Strange.

If audiences enjoyed The Avengers and the first two Thor films, then they will definitely savour Thor: Ragnarok which is comically inspired from another Marvel hit franchise, The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thor: Ragnarok gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

In the Hands of a Stranger

The Mountain Between Us

Director: Hany Abu-Assad

Cast: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Beau Bridges, Dermot Mulroney

Based upon the novel by Charles Martin, The Mountain Between Us tentatively explores the strained relationship between two strangers who are stranded together on a remote mountain near the Rockies as their two seater plane crashes en route to Denver Colorado from Idaho.

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad who brought such strong films including the Oscar Nominated Foreign Language film Paradise Now and Omar to the international cinema audiences, The Mountain Between Us is held together literally by strong performances by Oscar winner Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Idris Elba (Prometheus, Pacific Rim) who play Alex and Ben.

Alex is trying to get to New York to marry her fiancée Mark briefly played by Dermot Mulroney (Truth, August: Osage County and Stoker), while Ben, a neurosurgeon, is planning on being in New York to perform an operation on a boy with a brain tumour.

As the trailer suggests, things go horribly wrong and Alex and Ben are left stranded on an icy mountain in the Rockies with only themselves to depend upon. At their wits end and with no hint of rescue insight they manage to assist each other in escaping the mountain for safer ground and search for any form of human habitation.

Naturally as their flight to safety becomes increasingly more perilous they began to not only trust each other but also gradually fall in love, despite being complete strangers.

Which goes to show that at the core of human relationships is a basic desire for survival. That desire outstrips any prejudice and preconceived notions of who is best equipped to survive, something which director Abu-Assad took great pains to reveal to the audience.

The Mountain Between Us could have been a brilliant film, but unfortunately it does get weighed down by its own emotional intensity which is a too heavy  and long winded considering that there really are two actors in the entire film.

Swift editing and some effective character backstory would have made Alex and Ben’s fight for survival more fascinating and pertinent. 1 hour and 52 minutes is way too long for two people and a dog to be stranded on a mountain.

The film gets a rating of 7 out of 10 and is recommended for audiences that enjoy romantic disaster films which are rare to say the least.

 

Comic Book Pastiche

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver11

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett, Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgard, Thomas Kretschmann, Julie Delpy, Andy Serkis, Anthony Mackie.

The Avengers are back in director and writer Joss Whedon’s much anticipated sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron featuring all the Marvel superheroes and some new ones in a CGI laden special effects extravaganza, which is at times confusing and other times absolutely fascinating. At a running time of two hours and twenty minutes, director Whedon has sufficient screen time to flesh out all the characters individually as well as give nuance to some of their more complicated relationships.

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver14

Like the relationship between The Hulk, aka Bruce Banner wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) and the Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson who seems to be the only avenger that can calm the Hulk’s penchant for destructive anger.

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver17

The relationship between goodie two shoes Steve Rogers aka Captain America, played by Chris Evans and Nordic God Thor played by the hunky Chris Hemsworth is also subtly explored considering that the former is a World War two hero and the latter from another dimension.

Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as egotistical Billionaire Tony Stark, aka Iron Man and his irrepressible desire to mould any technological discovery, in this case the power artificial intelligence to his own advantage.

The Age of Ultron refers to the ubiquitous Altron a powerful A.I. force which is hell bent on human destruction and vain enough to realize that he can survive the aftermath, beautifully voiced with an underlying menace by James Spader (Bad Influence, more recently in the hit TV show The Black List).

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver18

The sexy Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton aka Hawkeye ‘s character is fleshed out as a devoting family man which is entirely incongruous with his status as a member of the Avengers, but hey who cares?

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver21

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play evil orphaned Eastern European twins Pietro and Maximoff who soon turn on Ultron when they realize his megalomaniac tendencies. Even Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis makes an appearance as a South African mercenary Ulysses Klaue and the Johannesburg downtown sequence is truly phenomenal to watch as is the action scene in Seoul, South Korea.

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver19

If audiences get confused with who all the avengers are, there are ample filmic references to each of their own background stories from Thor: The Dark World, including a brief appearance by Idris Elba and also Captain America’s Agent Carter, played by Hayley Atwell. Marvel is indeed expanding their universe exponentially and if The Avengers: Age of Ultron’s audience figures are anything to go by, this will prove to be another superhero box office smash hit.

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver10

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is fun entertainment and definitely aimed at Iron Man, Thor and Captain America cinema fans especially all the witty references and innuendo’s involving lifting Thor’s hammer which are neatly laced into a script which may seem convoluted but then again when it comes to Artificial Intelligence its more an infinite mess which at some point needs to be reined in.

Audiences should look out for brief cameos by Anthony Mackie, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Delpy, Don Cheadle and Thomas Kretschmann. If The Avengers: Age of Ultron appears to be a pastiche of all the previous Marvel films, then director Joss Whedon has certainly achieved the impossible, not to mention making a narrative out of the dangers of artificial intelligence plausible and entertaining.

It’s best for audiences to suspend their disbelief and enjoy The Avengers: The Age of Ultron for what it is: a comic book orgy with a giant budget and loud, awe-inspiring special effects which will be sure to nurture any young adult’s imagination for awhile.

 

 

 

Calvary Rebounded

The Gunman

gunman

Director: Pierre Morel

Cast: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Mark Rylance, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Jasmine Trinca, Peter Franzen

Taken director Pierre Morel brings to cinematic life an above average thriller The Gunman based upon the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette pairing Oscar winners Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) together for the first time.

Set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, England and Spain, Penn plays an off the books Mercenary who is unwillingly hired to assassinate the Minister of Mines in the DRC after his announcement that the war torn country would be limiting foreign owned mining companies from operating in the ravaged but mineral rich central African country formerly the Belgian Congo.

gunman_ver5Dubbed operation Calvary, once the assassination takes place in 2006 Terrier was to leave the country and the continent and also that of his love interest, NGO worker Annie played by Italian actress Jasmine Trinca.

Fast forward eight years to 2014 and Terrier is targeted back in the DRC by some mean looking machete welding men and soon hightails it back to London after a narrow escape. Back in England, he confronts the mastermind of operation Calvary, the shady British businessman Cox played by Mark Rylance (Anonymous, The Other Boleyn Girl).

Terrier soon realizes that all the men involved in operation Calvary have been killed only leaving himself and boozy Spaniard Felix played by Bardem. The action thankfully moves to the fabulous Catalonian capital of Barcelona where things really heat up as Trinca realizes that her former flame is alive and well. After a very bloody shootout in a Spanish villa, Terrier travels to the British protectorate of Gibraltar to finally confront the real culprit in this scandalous and dangerous international cover up.

Unfortunately director Pierre Morel’s film The Gunman despite having two A list actors in it, suffers from the wait of its own importance and does not nearly come close to such masterpieces as the brilliantly directed Fernando Meirelles thriller The Constant Gardener based on a John le Carre novel.

The Gunman has all the right ingredients including shady Multi-Nationals plundering Africa’s vast mineral wealth, a covert operation which went horribly wrong and a doomed love affair which is finally reconciled.

gunman_ver4Penn gives an impressively muscular performance as the mercenary Terrier but Bardem and even Golden Globe nominee Idris Elba (Mandela, Pacific Rim) are wasted in this overlong meandering thriller which despite the exotic locations could have been neatly edited. The script needed an incisive treatment by Oscar winning scriptwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, Rush).

The Gunman is an average thriller and although at times exhilarating lacks a clear vision and less contrived plot, although the bullfight sequence at the end certainly is inventive. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed The November Man and The Constant Gardener. Look out for cameos by Ray Winstone (Noah, Snow White and the Huntsman) and Finnish actor Peter Franzen as the crazed gun for hire.

Farewell to an Icon

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

 mandela_long_walk_to_freedom

Director: Justin Chadwick

Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto, Riaad Moosa, Jamie Bartlett, Deon Lotz, Seelo Maake, Garth Breytenbach, Kgosi Mongake

British born director of The Other Boleyn Girl Justin Chadwick brings to the big screen Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom with the assistance of Durban based producer Anant Singh and international stars Idris Elba (Pacific Rim) and Naomie Harris (Skyfall). The timing of this film couldn’t have been more perfect or more poignant with the recent death of Nelson Mandela the Leader of the ANC and the first black South African president making international headlines. Mandela’s passing actually occurred during the British premiere of the film in London on the evening of Thursday 5th December 2013.

Leaving politics or current affairs aside, is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom worth watching? The answer is a definitive yes especially so for the generation of young South Africans that will be able to vote in the 2014 national elections. But also for those viewers who didn’t realize just how close South Africa came in the early 1990’s to a fully fledged near civil war as the leaders at the time including Mandela and F.W. de Klerk were negotiating a relatively smooth transition from an authoritarian Apartheid state to a country that South Africa has become today, progressive and internationally hailed and supposedly democratic.

bang_bang_club

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is primarily an historical drama but also a love story between Mandela and his second wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela who is brilliantly played by Naomie Harris. Idris Elba does a superb job portraying such an iconic leader who went from political prisoner to President of a nation. Director Chadwick who also made the superb Kenyan film The First Grader, crafts an ambitious narrative whilst leaving all the burning issues as emotive and significant as ever showing a particular period of South African history that of the 1990’s similar to the 2010 film The Bang Bang Club, which was plagued with optimism, racism, militarism and brutal political violence.

Upon his release from prison in 1990, Mandela choose a path of negotiated discussion with the then nationalist government headed by F. W. de Klerk, which makes that pivotal time in South African history so interesting and integral to the development of the rainbow nation as it is affectionately known today. The film follows Mandela’s early days in Johannesburg in the 1940’s right through the Rivonia trials and to his eventual incarceration on Robben Island and his historic and subsequent release.

Producer Singh has a knack for acquiring high profile stars for his films, so the signing of Elba and Harris in the lead roles of Long Walk to Freedom is crucial to the film’s success. The fact that both stars portray such political leaders so poignantly and powerfully is too their credit and will surely be acknowledged during the 2014 award season. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is long, at times difficult to watch if you are fully versed in South Africa’s turbulent and extraordinary history, but stands on its own as a cinematic tribute to an iconic leader who has now been immortalized in all spheres of South African society from Sport and Commerce to Politics and Art.

This film is probably at times too long but is certainly recommend viewing for superb acting and lovers of historical political dramas. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom also stars South African comedian Riaad Moosa (Material) as Ahmed Kathrada and Terry Pheto of Tsotsi fame as Evelyn Mase.

A Poisonous Universe

Thor: The Dark World

thor_the_dark_world

From Asgaard to Greenwich, Thor and his hammer are back in the Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World, moving the action from the arid plains of New Mexico to the nine universes along with London and Stonehenge. The immensely successful Thor in 2010 directed by Kenneth Brannagh assembled a fabulously competent cast including Oscar Winners Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) as Thor’s father Odin, King of Asgaard and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) as physicist Jane Foster along with Rene Russo as Thor’s mother Frigga and Shakespearian actor Tom Hiddleston as malevolent and destructive brother Loki.

Thor: The Dark World reassembles this cast along with Kat Dennings of Two Broke Girls TV series fame as the sharp talking Darcy Lewis for some comic relief, Stellan Skarsgaard as the mad scientist Erik Selvig seen running naked around Stonehenge and newcomer Christopher Eccleston as Malekith the evil Dark Elf who is bent on destroying all known universes through an ethereal substance known as Aether which has the power to envelope all worlds in eternal darkness constituting a thoroughly poisonous universe.

thor_ver4

Moving the action from sunny New Mexico in Thor to murky and grey England was a smart move for Thor: The Dark World, however this sequel whilst it has stunning visual effects but not quite to the same level as Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, is certainly entertaining as superhero films go that the rival  Marvel studios are successfully releasing in quick succession after the huge commercial success of The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

Needless to say much of the action of Thor: The Dark World does not take place on earth so the plot is mostly action driven and there is naturally very little new character developments in the various CGI created universes with elegant and glossy Asgaard  taking the centre stage. Chris Hemsworth is naturally good as Thor, a role that will surely become synonymous with his name, but his real acting can be seen in films like Rush. Natalie Portman is fantastic and Anthony Hopkins is going through the character motions. Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as the ambivalently evil Loki set on revenge for his incarceration on Asgaard and look out for rising star Idris Elba as the celestial Asgaard gatekeeper Heimdall.

Basically Thor: The Dark World has stunning visuals, lots of action, a twisted plot without too much characterisation and basically retains its popcorn teenage audience that all the Marvel films are aiming for.

For fans of Thor, this glossy sequel not as tightly directed by Alan Taylor is thin on plot, and will not disappoint fans of the hammer wielding hunk who is part of the Avengers group. Watch out for a brief cameo by Chris Ryan as Captain America. The action is fantastic but not on the level of Pacific Rim or Man of Steel. Also starring Zachary Levi from Chuck fame along with Ray Stevenson and Jaimie Alexander. See Thor: The Dark World in a 3D cinema if possible.

The Jaeger Effect…

Pacific Rim

pacific_rim_ver3

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Charlie Day, Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Clifton Collins Jnr, Diego Klattenhoff, Max Martini, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman, Burn Gorman

Acclaimed Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s much anticipated 3D sci-fi film Pacific Rim is imaginative, rich and definitely needs to seen in a 3D cinema with digital surround sound to fully savour the cinematic spectacle.

Moving away from the American-centric location of many recent blockbusters most notably Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel, del Toro firmly aims Pacific Rim at a broader international audience as he centers most of the mind bending action in Hong Kong. Avoiding choosing a purely American cast, del Toro selects a relatively unknown ensemble to head up Pacific Rim, from the buff and gorgeous British actor Charlie Hunnam (looking ever more spectacular in 3D and last seen in Children of Men and Nicholas Nickleby) as the brooding Jaeger fighter pilot Raleigh Beckett and Rinko Kikuchi from Babel fame as Mako, the Japanese love interest who has to come to terms with aliens attacking Tokyo and join humanity to fight the horrific creatures along with Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as Hannibal Chou as a shady Kaiju bones scavenger and British actor Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost the Jaeger central commander. Look out for a humorous performance by Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses) as the geeky scientist Dr Newton Geiszler who has to discover what the Kaijus really want with planet Earth along with Max Martini as Herc Hansen.

pacific_rim_ver15_xlg

Warning to most audiences, that if you don’t like Monsters and Robots, don’t see Pacific Rim. However if you have followed del Toro’s cinematic rise to fame from the imaginatively rich Hellboy franchise to the critically acclaimed Spanish language fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth then fans will not be disappointed.

Pacific Rim is set in a 21st century shattered world where giant descendants of dinosaurs known as Kaijus emerge out of the earth’s core and start attacking all the major cities of the Pacific Rim from Cabo in Mexico to Sydney to Hong Kong. To combat these giant sea beasts hugely inspired by Japanese monster movies and anime, humanity has built these huge robotic war machines known as Jaegers which honestly make Transformers look like Lego pieces. The script and backstory does not deliver too much on motive or plot, but del Toro gets straight to the point – Monsters attacking the World and Humans are fighting back using massive Robots. The result is some fascinating visual effects and superb set designs paying homage to Blade Runner and Total Recall, making Pacific Rim in 3D resemble a mixture of Hellboy and Battleship on acid!

The intricacies of operating the Jaegers involves two fighter pilots mentally connecting in a visual process known as drifting overseen by a frenetic controller, the Elvis inspired central ops Tendo Choi played by Clifton Collins Jnr (Capote) so that they can both symbiotically operate these giant robots (Jaegers) and combat the blue blooded snarling monsters known as Kaiju’s.

Pacific Rim has been hugely popular in the Asian markets and when watching the spectacular Hong Kong harbour battle sequence it’s not difficult to see why. Unfortunately the enormity of both Jaegers and Kaiju’s battling each other using tankers and skyscrapers inevitably dwarfs any real human interactions displaying that del Toro deliberately went for cinematic style over substance in what is imaginatively a hugely impressive cinematic experience but don’t expect the character depth or emotion displayed in Pan’s Labyrinth. This is del Toro on a massive budget appealing to a much larger audience and in this regard, Pacific Rim succeeds on every monstrous level and surely will be in line for a Visual Effects Oscar.

See it to believe it and Pacific Rim is not only big in Japan!

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
December 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
  • Mamoru Hosoda Animation ‘Mirai’ Set for July Release
    Japanese animation maestro, Mamoru Hosoda will release his new feature on July 20, 2018 distributor Toho announced. Titled “Mirai of the Future” (“Mirai no Mirai”,) the film centers on a four-year-old boy who feels his place in his parent’s affections threatened by the arrival of a baby sister, Mirai. Then she reveals herself as a […]
    Patrick Frater
  • Once-Powerful Indie Player Wild Bunch Seeks a White Knight
    Wild Bunch is teetering on the financial brink as it tries to restructure its debt, raise capital, deal with an exodus of high-level executives and shore up its once-promising TV unit and flailing distribution activities, multiple sources say. Over the past couple years, the flamboyant European powerhouse has been able to weather a growing financial […]
    Terry Flores
  • Palestine’s Foreign Oscar Candidate ‘Wajib’ Scores Multiple Sales (EXCLUSIVE)
    French sales company Pyramide International has scored multiple sales on Palestinian auteur Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib,” which is Palestine’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar and just had its Middle East bow at the Dubai Film Festival. The wry comedy toplining prominent Palestinian actors Mohammad Bakri and Saleh Bakri, working together for the first time, has been […]
    nvivarelli
  • How New York Times Reporters Broke Hollywood’s Biggest Sexual Harassment Story
    Want proof that journalism matters? Look no further than Harvey Weinstein. Were it not for The New York Times and The New Yorker, the indie mogul would still be hobnobbing at Oscar parties, attending movie premieres and, if allegations are to be believed, routinely abusing and harassing women. Instead, Weinstein is facing multiple criminal investigations […]
    Alex Stedman
  • Guillaume de Posch Stepping Down as RTL Co-CEO; Bert Habets to Lead European TV Giant
    Guillaume de Posch is leaving his position as co-CEO of RTL, with fellow co-CEO Bert Habets taking sole control of the pan-European TV and media company at the end of the month. De Posch will become a non-executive director at the company. “I had a fantastic time at the helm of RTL Group. Leading this […]
    Stewart Clarke