Posts Tagged ‘James D’Arcy’

Notorious Norway

The Snowman

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chloe Sevigny, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons, James D’Arcy, Toby Jones, Jonas Karlsson, Jakob Oftebro, David Dencik

Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo’s thriller The Snowman is brought to cinematic life by Iranian screenwriter Hossein Amini and co-written by Peter Staughan. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy director Tomas Alfredson brings this bleak Norwegian thriller to the big screen with a constantly icy landscape concerning a ruthless and psychopathic serial killer who kills his victims every time the snow begins falling, which in a Scandinavian winter, would be consistently often.

Assembling an international cast including Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, Steve Jobs) as hard-drinking detective Harry Hole opposite art house actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, the muse of Danish auteur Lars von Trier who starred in such films as Anti-Christ and Nymphomaniac as his ex-girlfriend Rakel, personally I had high hopes for this thriller being a captivating cinematic experience. My criticism is that in The Snowman, the character relationships were not clearly defined, which made navigating this thriller virtually impossible.

Having not read the Jo Nesbo novel, I found this film version slightly lacklustre especially in the slow moving first half. Despite a refreshing change of watching an entire film shot in Norway, The Snowman didn’t quite pack the same verve as David Fincher’s utterly compelling film version of Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Rebecca Ferguson who appeared in Life and Florence Foster Jenkins also stars as co-detective Kathrine Bratt who is harbouring secrets of her own especially as she tries to entice Norwegian businessman Arve Stop played by Oscar winner J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) into a honey trap, since he has a peculiar penchant for photographing beautiful girls. Rarely seen actor Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Heat and Pollock) makes a welcome comeback as Gert Rafto a Bergen based detective following a similar murder case years earlier.

While The Snowman’s narrative visibility is as convoluted as the blurry icy landscape of Oslo and Bergen, the acting comes off as flat and uninspired. Which is a great pity considering the film’s acting talent.

Fassbender does a reasonably good job of bringing some dimension to Harry Hole, the lonely but observant detective, however one gets the sense that he fully was committed to the role as he was in director Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth.

Perhaps the reason for my lukewarm response to this supposedly icy thriller was that I had a nightmarish cinematic experience coupled with expectations that director Tomas Alfredson would make an equally impressive film as his gripping adaptation of John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The Snowman for all its gripping plot-twists, peppered with gruesome murders, gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10.

 

Operation Dynamo

Dunkirk

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Lowden, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, James D’Arcy, Michael Fox, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keogh

Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy director Christopher Nolan achieves a cinematic feat when he authentically tackles the war genre in his brilliant film Dunkirk starring a host of young British actors including One Direction lead singer Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard backed up by some Oscar nominees Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) and Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies).

Dunkirk shot entirely with Imax cameras and with crystal clear cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema who also worked on Interstellar and superb production design by Nathan Crowley is a cinematic experience of unparalleled proportions. Epic, immediate and accessible.

SURVIVAL IS VICTORY

Christopher Nolan keeps his war film as authentic as possible with hardly any use of CGI and using real planes, ships and shot mostly on location at Dunkirk in Northern France, the film immediately positions the viewer in the centre of Operation Dynamo: the forced evacuation by allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk between 26th May and the 4th June 1940 as the allies were hemmed in by the Nazi’s approaching from the Western Front and the Luftwaffe were bombing the evacuees at a rapid rate over the English channel.

With minimal dialogue, Dunkirk brilliantly retells this eventful evacuation from three different geographic perspectives Land, Sea and Air.

While the British soldiers viewed the evacuation as a retreat, the fact that so many of the soldiers were saved by civilian ships, was an absolute miracle: 338 226 mostly British, French and Dutch soldiers were rescued in possibly the biggest military evacuation in human history especially during a World War.

Dunkirk is told from three distinct perspectives, Tommy, the everyday 19 year old British soldier played by Fionn Whitehead, from air force fighter pilot Farrier played by Tom Hardy and also from the perspective of Mr Dawson played with determination by Mark Rylance who takes his civilian fishing boat across the channel to save soldiers aided by his son Peter played by Tom Glynn-Carney and his friend George played by Barry Keogh.

 

The best sequence in Dunkirk is when Collins, played by Jack Lowden (A United Kingdom), another fighter pilot crash lands in the icy channel and is trapped inside the sinking spitfire intercut with Tommy and a gang of young soldiers including Alex played by Harry Styles are trapped inside a precariously berthed ship which is being shot at from an unseen enemy as the tide is coming in on the beach.

Cillian Murphy (Inception, The Wind that Shakes the Barley) gives a harrowing portrayal of a rescued shell shocked soldier who is desperate to leave the slaughterhouse that was Europe during World War II and is horrified when he goes back to the shores of Dunkirk to rescue more soldiers under the stern command of Mr Dawson.

The visceral tension as the evacuation gets more dangerous and urgent aided by a frenetic original score by Hans Zimmer, makes Dunkirk a truly exceptional, economical and sublime war film, authentic and utterly immediate. Christopher Nolan places audiences directly in the centre of Operation Dynamo with ships sinking, aerial battles and underwater sequences which put James Cameron’s Titanic to shame, Dunkirk is a truly exceptional film.

Come Oscars 2018, Dunkirk should be recognized for being a masterful film, in terms of sound editing, cinematography and the sheer scale of the cinematic production.

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece and gets a film rating of 9.5 out 10.

 

Queen of the Universe

Jupiter Ascending

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Director: Andy & Lana Wachovski

Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sean Bean, Tuppence Middleton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, James D’Arcy, Tim Pigott-Smith

Creators of the marvellous Matrix trilogy and the super confusing reincarnation fantasy Cloud Atlas, The Wachowski’s have returned to their Sci-Fi roots in the deeply ambitious yet slightly far-fetched cinematic offering Jupiter Ascending.

Despite the fabulous visuals and assembling a cast of all the latest hot young stars for Jupiter Ascending including Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher) and Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables), the narrative is so crammed with infinite details paying homage to David Lynch’s film Dune as well as Robocop, Star Wars and Signs that it suffers from the weight of its own ambition.

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Jupiter Ascending focuses on a Russian immigrant to America aptly named Jupiter who is first introduced as a charlady cleaning toilets in Chicago and the next minute is being rescued from insidious almost invisible aliens by a hunky skyjacker named Caine Wise, gorgeously played by Channing Tatum who spends most of the film with his shirt off. Wise’s DNA has been spliced with that of a Wolf so he is a Lycantant.

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Jupiter played by the pouty but gorgeous Mila Kunis who soon learns that her DNA is a re-occurrence of a powerful Queen who once headed up a rather enigmatic and powerful space dynasty, known as the Abrasax who destroy planets and suck the lifeblood out of their inhabitants. Charming stuff, not to mention, it is revealed as the story unfolds that humans are only reaching the eve of the genetic revolution.

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The Queen of the Universe who died recently has three rather malevolent offspring the rather camp and wicked Balem, a fabulous turn by Redmayne, his sister Kalique played by Tuppence Middleton who is searching for immortality and the younger brother Titus wonderfully played by Douglas Booth who in a weird Oedipal way wants to marry the reincarnation of his mother, Jupiter Jones so that he can claim his share of the intergalactic inheritance. The wedding sequence between Titus and Jupiter is a production designer’s wet dream, gorgeous, lavish and filled with spectacle.

Naturally chemistry develops between the exotic Lycsantant, Wise and Jupiter Jones who is thrust from her mundane existence of servitude and elevated to the status of a celestial queen who has to wrangle with three devious offspring that are all out to distinguish her existence in various ways. This is like a Space Opera on acid, the visuals are fabulous, the storyline completely illogical, yet Jupiter Ascending is still riveting to watch but is not in the same league of such brilliant Sci-Fi films as Snowpiercer, Star Wars and the Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner.

Jupiter Ascending despite the fantastic special effects suffers the fatal premise that if you are going to introduce viewers to such a gorgeous and extra-terrestrial universe, then the heroine should not be cleaning toilets in downtown Chicago. At least in Star Wars, Princess Leia never had to deal with such lowly tasks and her plight remained infinitely more profound under the threat of Darth Vader’s Deathstar.

As a friend who saw the film with me commented so aptly, Jupiter Ascending should have been broken down into three films with more back story written into the narrative so that at least the plight of this Queen of the Universe could take on a more historic turn especially in her dealings with each of the nefarious Abrasax clan.

That said, Jupiter Ascending is fabulous to watch, but could have been edited better and more coherently written so that at least Jupiter’s circular odyssey to space and back would be plausible especially as the film started off so promisingly in Russia with her father gazing at the planet Jupiter from the banks of the Neva river in St Petersburg.

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Watch out for Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) with big ears as Famulus and an underutilized Sean Bean as Stinger Apini last seen in the Game of Thrones series in brief cameos and Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors) as Jupiter’s mother Aleksa. Jupiter Ascending is recommended viewing only for serious sci-fi fans and those that truly want to escape earth in a steam-punk drug fueled fashion…

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.

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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!

Romance of the Century

W./E.

Ravishingly told!

Ravishingly told!

Madonna’s directorial debut focuses on the stylish romance and subsequent marriage of King Edward VIII to swanky American divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936 in the period drama W/E sparking the abdication of the King in one of the most scandalous romances of the 20th century. W/E also has a concurrent narrative of a Park Avenue socialite Wally Winthrop who after leaving her job at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York falls into a loveless and cruel marriage with a heavy-drinking and bitter psychiatrist played by Richard Coyle. In both instances Wallis Simpson, played by Andrea Riseborough and the fictional character of New Yorker Wally played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish suffer abuse by their violent  first husbands, Madonna attempts to highlight more the plight of privileged woman physically abused by powerful men.

Not that W/E is just about gender violence, but more about the romance and sacrifice that both King Edward VIII, known as David, played by James D’Arcy and Wallis Simpson enjoyed and endured as their love carried them through the abdication crisis, media scrutiny and lavish exile in France. Not to mention that both Edward and Wallis, who become the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were vilified in the American and British press in the years leading up to the outbreak of World War II for apparently being Nazi sympathizers following a prolific meeting with Hitler in 1937.

Naturally W/E should be seen as a lesser companion piece to the Oscar winning Tom Hooper film The King’s Speech focusing on King George VI also know as Bertie who had to cope with the abdication of his older more articulate brother Edward along with Britain’s eventual entry into World War II in September 1939. The last five years of the 1930’s was an extremely unstable period both politically and socially with many geopolitical changes  occurring rapidly with the military expansion of Nazi Germany in Europe and the impending threat of World War. During the war years the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived in the Bahamas where he was Govenor according to the fascinating life of Wallis Simpson – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallis_Simpson

Benzedrine in the Champagne

Through historical footage, Madonna shows us not only the historical aspects of this period, but of the lavish and all together captivating love affair which occurred between Edward, the then Prince of Wales and the forthright American from Baltimore Wallis Simpson, as the couple become the darlings of the international Mediterranean party scene from Cannes to Portofino. The Prince of Wales offered gorgeous gifts of custom made Cartier crosses to his love, Wallis Simpson as they frolicked in the surf in the French Riviera. The dashing and charming Edward, who felt nothing of popping Benzedrine into guests Champagne glasses at a Belgravia midnight screening and soon got the party started  with Wallis Simpson, doing a particularly zany thirties jive with pearls flying and music blasting. In this fabulous party scene that W/E depicts Wallis and Edward as the epitome of celebrity chic, the opulent couple worshiped by the established international elite made up of wealthy Americans and Britons who made the French Riviera their fashionable playground.

The Sotheby’s Auction in New York

Whilst the second narrative of Wally befriending a Russian immigrant security guard Evgeni played by Oscar Isaac at the 1998 Sotheby’s  Auction of the gorgeous possessions of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in New York that is lovingly fleshed out in the second part of W/E, it is really also just as significant since Wally eventually travels to Paris to fulfil her obsession with Wallis Simpson by requesting to read the Duchess’s private letters held by Mohamed Al Fayed at the Duke and Duchess’s former Parisian chateau near the Bois du Bologne,  father of Dodi who was killed along with Diana, the Princess of Wales in the fatal 1997 car crash in Paris a year before that makes this quest on Wally’s part both liberating and poignant.

Madonna’s real talent lies in her music but her hand as a director of such an interesting subject as the love affair between Wallis and King Edward should not be discounted as she focuses more on their lavish affair which become internationally known as the Romance of the Century.

From a feminist perspective, Madonna’s lavish film W/E is more about style than substance with engaging shots of New York and Paris, yet even the relevant character sketching scenes portray both the affluent Wally in 1998 and the stylish Wallace in 1936 as emblematic of how woman throughout the centuries no matter how gorgeously attired they are, can also become victims of physical violence and social scorn. The film is adequately assisted by a heart rendering musical score by Abel Korzeniowski and stylish costumes by Arianne Phillips and will appeal to all lovers of stylish period dramas.

*

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