Posts Tagged ‘James Corden’

Diamonds are A Girl’s Best Friend

Oceans 8

Director: Gary Ross

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Elliott Gould, Richard Armitage, Dakota Fanning, Mindy Kaling

Pleasantville director Gary Ross assembles a truly star studded female cast in the feminine version of Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans 11 starring Oscar winners Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine), Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) alongside Oscar nominated British actress Helena Bonham Carter (The Wings of the Dove), Rihanna and Sarah Paulson (Carol, 12 Years a Slave) as together they pull off a daring jewellery heist during the prestigious Met Gala held annually by Vogue Magazine at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, a newly paroled con artist who teams up with the streetwise New Yorker Lou played by Blanchett as they devise a cunning plan to rob the Met Gala and place the blame on Debbie’s egotistical art dealing ex-boyfriend Claude Becker played by Richard Armitage.

In short, Oceans 8 is a cleverly written revenge flick with lots of diamonds, a fabulous cast and glamorous settings beautifully assisted by comedian James Corden as the extremely thorough insurance investigator John Frazier, who adds some dry British humour to the entirely fashionable affair.

Audiences should watch out for some well-placed cameo’s by veteran Oscar nominated star Elliott Gould (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice) as Reuben and Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, War of the Worlds) as Penelope Stern.

What holds Oceans 8 together is the fantastic onscreen chemistry between Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway, all of whom make this fashionable heist film thoroughly entertaining.

Oceans 8 is an enjoyable con film with a refreshingly female take on the heist genre, proving that women can do it just as brilliantly as men, which is especially pertinent in the wake of the momentous MeToo movement which rocked Hollywood in 2017 amidst a series of sexual abuse scandals.

Definitely a glittering film for the ladies, Oceans 8 is an ideal girls night out adventure heist with beautiful clothes, diamonds to die for and an inside peak at possibly one of the most glamorous events on the American social circuit, the incredibly gorgeous Met Gala.

Oceans 8, with its slick cons and twisting narrative definitely proves the line immortalized by Marilyn Monroe that Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend. The film gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

A Noble Vagabond

The Lady in the Van

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Director: Nicholas Hytner

Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent, Claire Foy, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Stephen Campbell Moore

The Madness of King George director Nicolas Hytner brings to the screen the hilarious and bizarre autobiographical stage play by Alan Bennett, The Lady in The Van about an itinerant and basically transient lady who wilfully parks her colourful van outside Bennett’s smart Victorian townhouse in Gloucester Crescent in Camden Town, North London in the beginning of the 1970’s and then stays for fifteen years.

The Lady in question is Margaret Shepherd, wonderfully played against type by Oscar winner Dame Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, California Suite) who is already garnering critical acclaim for her role. Dame Maggie Smith has more recently been reintroduced to a whole new generation of fans with her portrayal of Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham in the hit BBC TV series by Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey.

In The Lady in the Van, which is semi-autobiographical, the cantankerous and destitute old lady who seems to live her whole life in a van forms an unimaginable bond with famed British playwright, Alan Bennett who incidentally also wrote the screenplay for this film and the Oscar nominated Madness of King George.

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In a typically English way of dealing with the semi-transient, The Lady in the Van self-reflexively explores themes of old age, homelessness and caring whilst giving the destitute a sort of vagabond nobility, whilst Bennett and the actor playing Bennett never morally judges the situation as inexcusable despite what the neighbours think.

British stage and TV actor Alex Jennings (The Queen, Wings of the Dove, Belle) plays Alan Bennett but the film belongs to Dame Maggie whose wonderfully acerbic performance elevates her dire situation as a homeless woman living in a van to that of eternal royalty. Only Dame Maggie can pull off this type of role, with a combination of poignancy, passion and dignity, making The Lady in the Van a delightful treat for all those lovers of British cinema.

All the best lines in The Lady in the Van are naturally reserved for Dame Maggie and whilst the rest of the cast merely contribute as a collage of colourful and eccentric Londoners including cameos by Dominic Cooper, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Frances de la Tour, Roger Allam and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent as a corrupt cop intent on extorting money from the mysterious and often rude Lady in the Van.

Whilst the directorial embellishments of Nicholas Hytner can be forgiven, it is the masterful script by Allan Bennett, which is so witty and droll, that makes The Lady in the Van such a pleasurable cinematic experience. Of course Dame Maggie Smith fires on all cylinders in this critically acclaimed performance by an actress who has given audiences so many memorable performances in such films as A Room with a View, Ladies in Lavender, Gosforth Park, Evil Under the Sun and more recently The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The Lady in the Van is highly recommended viewing for those that love a slightly irreverent British drama, wonderfully acted and beautifully written by the man who had to endure this mysterious woman on his doorstep for almost fifteen years.

Not So Happily Ever After…

Into the Woods

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Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Lucy Punch, Tammy Blanchard, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford, Billy Magnussen, Mackenzie Murzy

Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago director Rob Marshall strikes gold with this cinematic adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical Into The Woods featuring a fabulous ensemble cast made all the better by Meryl Streep playing the meddling Witch.

Imagine Little Red Riding Hood teaming up with Jack the Giant Slayer, Cinderella and a forlorn Rapunzel, that is Into The Woods, a wonderful mixture of all the classic fairy tales thrown together in a delightful musical which is hinged with darkness and loaded with metaphors and familial moral codes about life’s unpredictability.

Director Marshall brings out the best in his cast including a superb performance by Emily Blunt as the barren Bakers Wife along with the irrepressible Meryl Streep as the evil Witch who asks the Baker, played by British actor James Corden to collect Cinderella’s golden slipper, a white cow, a lock of Rapunzel’s hair and a red cape naturally belonging to Red Riding Hood.

Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in The Air) holds her own as the doomed Cinderella who is wooed by a shameless prince played by Chris Pine (Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit, Horrible Bosses 2). Cinderella’s evil stepmother is superbly played by Christine Baranski of The Good Wife fame and The Birdcage. Audiences should also watch out for British comedian Tracey Ullman who plays Jack’s exasperated mother. Child stars Daniel Huttlestone and Lilla Crawford are amazing as Jack the Giant Slayer and Little Red Riding Hood.

Three times Oscar winner Meryl Streep reunites with her Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt, and it is clear that both these actresses keep this wonderful musical firmly rooted in brilliance. Blunt is absolutely amazing, delivering some quick witted lines and belting out some wonderful songs while Streep relishes the chance to play the blue haired vain and selfish Witch who is desperate to reclaim her lost beauty by reversing a curse placed on her. The Witch also incidentally holds her daughter Rapunzel played by Mackenzie Murzy hostage in a tower and much to her horror, has fallen for a young but clumsy prince played by the gorgeous newcomer Billy Magnussen.

Oscar nominee Johnny Depp who was spine chillingly excellent in another Sondheim musical film, Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street makes a brief appearance as the cross dressing wolf who terrorizes Little Red Riding Hood.

Even though Into The Woods is aimed at children, there are certainly slightly darker adult undertones to this extraordinary film as unlike the fairy tales, not everyone lives happily ever after. For those that enjoy expertly directed and acted big screen musicals, like Chicago, Les Miserables and Hairspray, then Into The Woods is definitely recommended viewing.

Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods is a truly imaginative, witty and fabulous fable sure to enchant both adults and children alike and as a stage production it would be equally extraordinary to watch.

Serendipity Sings

Begin Again

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Director: John Carney

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Mos Def, Rob Morrow

Irish director John Carney touches on the contemporary world of music production in the lyrical and whimsical romantic comedy Begin Again featuring Mark Ruffalo as a middle aged music producer Dan who after a bout of heavy drinking lands up meeting British ex-pat and aspiring song writer Gretta, played by Keira Knightley singing a ballad at an open mic night in a chance encounter.

Dan soon imagines the potential in Gretta’s Bohemian voice and convinces her that she could become the next big thing. The film’s title comes after both characters Dan and Gretta are at a crossroads in their lives, with Dan on the verge of losing his reputation as a music producer whilst his non-committal relationship with his daughter Violet, played by Hailee Steinfeld is tenuous at best. There is also Dan’s collapsed relationship with his ex-wife Music Journalist Miriam Hart, played by Indie film expert Catherine Keener (The Oranges, Please Give).

Gretta is about to catch a plane back to the UK leaving behind her shattered dreams in the Big Apple after a terrible split from Rock star boyfriend Dave Kohl ironically played by Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine in his first movie role. The chemistry between Ruffalo and Knightley is undeniable and it’s refreshing to see her in a contemporary role, shedding off those stuffy characters she is famous for playing in such period films as Anna Karenina, Atonement and The Duchess. Ruffalo is at home in this type of film having played similar characters in The Kids are Alright and Rumour has It.

Whilst the script also by John Carney could have been more solid, his direction of Begin Again is more structured, easily showcasing off the mis-en-scene of New York’s music scene and his clever way of making Manhattan a character in the film in a clearly influenced Italian Neo-Realist style.

Carney makes the most of his leading lady, lavishing extra camera time on the beauty of Keira Knightley and leaving Mark Ruffalo more as a middle aged clown who is trying to get his act back together. It’s a pity that the script did not flesh out the development of Violet and Miriam as supporting characters, as Steinfeld (True Grit) and Keener are both superb actors.

Begin Again is a whimsical musical comedy supported by a wonderful cast including Hip Hop artist Mos Def (16 Blocks) and rising British star James Corden as Steve, a bohemian street performer and fringe artist who facilitates the serendipitous meeting between Gretta and Dan. Recommended viewing for those that prefer light musical comedies which is all the more enjoyable when viewers can see that the actors had fun making Begin Again.

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