Posts Tagged ‘James Franco’

75th Golden Globe Awards

75th GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS

Took place on Sunday 7th  January 2018 hosted by

the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in Beverly Hills, California

GOLDEN GLOBE WINNERS IN THE FILM CATEGORIES:

Best Film Drama: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Film Musical or Comedy: Ladybird

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Best Actor Drama: Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

Best Actress Drama: Frances McDormand – Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy: James Franco – The Disaster Artist

Best Actress, Musical or Comedy: Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney – I, Tonya

Best Foreign Language Film: In the Fade directed by Fatih Akin (France/Germany)

Love is a Tyrant

Queen of the Desert

queen_of_the_desert

Director: Werner Herzog

Cast: Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Robert Pattinson, Damian Lewis, Jenny Agutter, David Calder, Jay Abdo, Mark Lewis Jones

German documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog directs Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours, The Paperboy) in a majestic towering role as Gertrude Bell, a fiercely independent British woman who after escaping the stifling confines of a her wealthy family estate in England travels to Arabia at the turn of the 20th century as the ruling Ottoman Empire is on the verge of collapsing.

The Arabian Peninsula especially modern day Syria and Jordan and into Iraq, 100 years ago was on the point of being carved up by the European powers with England eagerly wanting a slice of Arabia especially with their most prominent colony Egypt right next door.

Gertrude Bell, cartographer, explorer, archaeologist and traveller is first stationed in the British Embassy in Tehran, now contemporary Iran, and there she meets her escort and guardian, a junior diplomatic secretary Henry Cardogan rather underplayed by James Franco (Milk, 127 Hours) who soon declares undying love for her. Bell has to seek permission from her father for the marriage to take place and when her father refuses, Henry promptly dies in mysterious circumstances in Persia.

Bell, wonderfully played by Nicole Kidman returns to Arabia and using Amman and Damascus as a base she wilfully decides to travel through the Arabian peninsula and desert, hoping to get a more comprehensive understanding of the nomadic Bedouin tribes and who the rival Sheiks’ are.

The more Bell travels across the desert the more she realizes how complex the local political situation is. With the assistance of the quick witted and slightly effeminate T. E. Lawrence, superbly played by Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis, Maps to the Stars, Twilight), Bell becomes an expert on the Arab people and complexities of dividing up such a huge area, for geo-political purposes.

From an ethnographic point of view, Herzog’s Queen of the Desert is a fascinating film to watch and purely interesting, especially if viewed through the current political turmoil that is sweeping parts of the Middle East, namely Syria and Iraq.

The best scenes in the film are between Kidman as the fiercely brave Bell, a statuesque blond and commanding woman who swept through Arabia unafraid of the local customs or inherent dangers and the cautious British major Charles Doughty-Wylie played by Damian Lewis of Homeland and Wolf Hall TV fame.

Not to be confused with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which was about Drag Queens in the Australian outback, this Queen of the Desert is a captivating and episodic historical tale of one woman’s brave adventures across the entire Arabian peninsula and her subsequent recommendations on the division of the desert into different self-governing states, namely The Kingdom of Jordan and Iraq.

Best scene in the film is the pompous photo opportunity involving Bell and Colonel T. E. Lawrence with Winston Churchill on top of camels outside the great pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Whilst the men in Gertrude’s life fade away during the First World War, it is really Nicole Kidman’s film which makes her performance as Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert so admirable. Kidman’s ability to hold her own amidst such dramatic and majestic scenery, the windswept sand dunes of Arabia is reminiscent of Debra Winger’s brilliant performance in Bernardo Bertolucci’s handsome film The Sheltering Sky.

Queen of the Desert is highly recommended viewing, slightly long but nevertheless an astonishing historical portrait of a woman who shaped the future of the Arabian Peninsula.

 

Blood Money

Good People

good_people_ver2

Director: Henrik Ruben Genz

Cast: Kate Hudson, James Franco, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Spruell, Omar Sy, Anna Friel, Diana Hardcastle, Michael Fox

Golden Globe nominee Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, Reluctant Fundamentalist) and Oscar Nominee James Franco (127 Hours, Milk) play a young American couple, Anna and Tom Wright who have left America behind following the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and have decided to build a new life in London. With a renovation work in progress involving fixing up an old house in Mortlake, West London, their dreams seem to be coming true until they run into more debt.

Luckily or unluckily their basement tenant dies of a drug overdose leaving a bag of cash in the ceiling. The moral dilemma involving a sudden discovery of treasure ensues when Good People turn bad. As Tom Wright says money is not necessarily bad, people are.

Directed by Danish born Henrik Ruben Genz, Good People is a gritty entirely grim and nerve wracking domestic thriller involving the Wrights, a washed up cop Detective John Haden played by Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and a really nasty drug dealer Jack Witkowski who is out to avenge the death of his brother, played by Sam Spruell (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hurt Locker) who is in turn chased by a French drug dealer who models himself on Genghis Khan, played by Omar Sy who was so brilliant in the 2011 French film The Intouchables.

This is a deglamourized thriller with director Genz painting the British capital in an exceedingly grim and dull light. To be frank, never has Kate Hudson looked so washed up in a film as she does in Good People. Normally Kudson is a vivacious blonde actress known for starring in such perky and colourful American romantic comedies as How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Fool’s Gold and Bride Wars.

With a script by Kelly Masterson and based upon a novel by Markus Sakey, Good People is a gripping if slightly depressing violent thriller saved by good performances by Wilkinson and Franco as the morally dubious husband Tom. Anna Friel (Limitless) and Wilkinson’s real life wife Diana Hardcastle (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) also star.

Viewers need not catch Good People on the big screen as seeing it on DVD or TV would be more preferable due to the film’s lack of imaginative scenery and utterly dreary production design.

This Ain’t Kansas Anymore…

Oz, the Great and Powerful

oz_the_great_and_powerful_ver9

Sam Raimi, the director of the original Spiderman trilogy, has reinvented the great tale of the 1939 Judy Garland classic The Wizard of OZ in his unique, but tepid version in Oz, the Great and Powerful starring James Franco (Milk, 127 Hours) as the self-infatuated and egotistical conman wizard Oz. The film’s opening sequence is truly hilarious, shot in black and white and set in a mid-Western state fair in Kansas in 1905, where Oz, also known as Oscar Diggs poses as a Wizard and puts on a less than illustrious show to try and dazzle the conservative rural community of this Mid-Western American state. Assisted with a comic glee by Frank played by the underutilized Zach Braff, Oz is soon wooing audiences into all sorts of illusions and magic tricks, some of which fall short of magnificence.

However in an attempt to escape the county fair strongman, Oz gets caught up on a balloon in a tornado as one does in Kansas and soon finds himself transported to the radiant and colourful land of Oz where he meets the bewitching Theodora, underplayed by the smouldering Mila Kunis (Black Swan) who soon takes Oz on the yellow brick road to meet her supposedly evil sister Evanora, played with malicious panache by Oscar Winner Rachel Weisz (The Fountain, The Constant Gardiner).

Theodora

Theodora

Evanora upon showing Oz the mountains of gold stored in the Emerald city soon cons him into tracking down the Wicked Witch in a bid to steal her magic wand. Oz journeys to the dark forest along with a china girl and a pet flying monkey and tracks down the supposed evil witch who turns out to be Glinda the Good, beautifully played by Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine), who obviously took the role so that her daughter Mathilda could see one of her movies. The rest of Oz, the Great and Powerful is light, candied entertainment with the occasional witty line, but really lacking in the true imaginative retelling found in Tim Burton’s brilliant Alice in Wonderland or in the dark magic realism of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

Glinda complete with shiny heels and a wand!

Glinda complete with shiny heels and a wand!

Even the flying baboons are not that scary. Raimi who is renowned for making brilliant horror films (Drag Me to Hell and The Evil Dead), find himself caught up in the world of Oz without the necessary desire to make the fantasy vaguely fascinatingly edgy, but rather predictable and very tame. The best lines in the film are taken by Williams and Weisz who know how to play sassy witches, trying to compete for the attentions of the goofy Wizard, slightly overplayed by Franco.

Oz the Great and Powerful will definitely appeal to younger viewers and lacks some of the edginess seen in some of the more recent revisionist fairytale cinematic offerings. My only thought throughout this version was where the heck was Dorothy? She was stuck in celluloid legacy as Judy Garland in the MGM original.

Dorothy had a new meaning after this film!

Dorothy had a new meaning after this film!

The only one with sparkling shoes was Glinda the Good, which audiences briefly caught a glimpse in the last few scenes of the film. Fascinating and fabulous as it is, like the Oz’s final projected appearance in the Emerald City, much of the film is filled with hot air, but is nevertheless entertaining in parts.

Eat, Pray, Love and Indulge…

Eat Pray Love

Successful TV series Glee director Ryan Murphy’s big screen adaptation of the Elizabeth Gilbert bestseller Eat Pray Love staring Julia Roberts as a New York writer who decides to embark on a years journey of spiritual discovery is infused with a luminous glow from the opening scene in luscious Bali.

No such thing as a guilty pleasure – just indulge!

Whilst any self-discovery novel is difficult to bring to the big screen especially as Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her own experience on a years trip to Italy, then India and finally Indonesia, Julia Roberts delivers a fine performance as Liz relishing in the exotic locations and a wonderful supporting cast which seems to improve as the 2 and a half hour film progresses.

Eat

The Italy section is superb and the locations especially Rome, the Italian actors and naturally the food are sumptuous and particularly easy on the viewer making the Eat section utterly enchanting.

Pray

Whilst Murphy tried to imitate the opening sequence of Slumdog Millionaire in the India section, the most moving part of the film is a standout character performance by Richard Jenkins as Richard from Texas.

For in the novel, Eat Pray Love, Richard from Texas was a character written with such accuracy and obvious charm that I kept wondering which actor would fill that part. Jenkins does a superb interpretation of a middle-aged American who has literally lost everything landing up at the Ashram to clear his mind and an overwhelming sense of guilt.

Love

The final section of Eat Pray Love, set in Bali was fascinating but after Italy and India, felt a tad faded although the scenery is still ravishing. As far as adaptation goes, the film sticks very close to the novel and Julia Roberts does a hugely impressive task of managing a character that has travelled not only literally across the globe, but also spiritually from a discontented New Yorker escaping an ugly divorce to a woman who has found serenity and peace as she discovers love again in a most unlikely man. Javier Bardem whilst always gripping to watch, gave the impression he was not quite comfortable in such a largely commercial film as Eat Pray Love. Bardem is more at home in edgier roles playing the Spanish seducer in Vicky Cristina Barcelona or the psychopathic killer in No Country for Old Men or the gay Cuban poet in Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls.

Bardem’s role as Felipe the love interest for Liz in the Love act of the journey lacked edge and panache in a role that was as unclear in the novel as it appeared in the film. Although watching Roberts and Bardem together was certainly interesting more for the lack of sparkle than the effort the two actors put in to contrive to make their romance believable.

Best scenes in the film are most certainly in Rome (all the sequences are exquisite) and the delightful meals Roberts character is served puts Babette’s Feast to shame. Worst scene in the film was the ending, but I’ll leave that up to the viewer to decide. Most consistency in Eat Pray Love was the varied choice of actors who played alongside Julia Roberts as her character travels the world, from Billy Crudup to  the shamefully underutilized James Franco to Richard Jenkins and finally to Javier Bardem.

As for it being a woman’s movie, not really as regardless of one’s gender anyone who has ever desired to travel or more importantly decided to take a year off from the monotony of urban living and responsibility and see countless exotic locations could surely identify with Liz’s journey. Eat Pray Love should feature at the Awards season if not for Julia Roberts most certainly for a supporting actor nomination for Richard Jenkins. Whilst it is no Razor’s Edge, Eat Pray Love will find many ardent fans the world over.

A Fine and Fabulous Portrayal

milk

The brilliant film Milk is recommended not so much for its excellent coverage of political mobilization but more for Sean Penn’s superb and heartfelt portrayal of Harvey Milk. Of course there are those seventies fashions, James Franco skinny dipping and the wonderfully coy Emile Hirsh. Well worth the viewing.

If viewers loved director Gus Van Sant’s earlier works including My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy and Elephant, then this film is up there with Gus Van Sant’s original masterpieces.

There is a detailed analysis of Milk under the title Activism and Martyrdom http://www.davidrwalker.co.za/2011/11/milk/ in a comprehensive article praising the merits of this film as a biography and a moving portrait of the Gay Rights Movement in America.

Milk also stars James Franco, Diego Luna, Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill and a fine supporting performance by Josh Brolin as supervisor Dan White.

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