Posts Tagged ‘Jesse Eisenberg’

Love Letter from Rudolf Valentino

Café Society

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Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Corey Stoll, Blake Lively, Ken Stott, Parker Posey, Sheryl Lee, Jeannie Berlin, Stephen Kunken, Sari Lennick, Anna Camp

Opening the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 in typically whimsical fashion, Woody Allen’s Café Society is set between the golden age of Hollywood and the gangster nightclubs of New York.

Auteur director and veteran screenwriter Woody Allen like many of his previous films, decelebritizes his stars and makes Cafe Society a brilliant ensemble piece. At the centre of the witty comedy are two sterling performances by naïve Bronx youngster Bobby wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and seemingly ordinary yet duplicitous Vonnie, played by Twilight star Kristen Stewart.

Vonnie is the secretary to Bobby’s powerful uncle Marty Dorfman, played by Oscar nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher). The smooth talking Marty introduces Bobby to the Hollywood inset as he hires his nephew to become general gopher and invites him to sumptuous brunches at his Hollywood Hills mansion. There Bobby meets chic New York couple, Rad and Steve, played by Parker Posey (Grace of Monaco) and Paul Schneider (Water for Elephants).

It’s really Vonnie that Bobby is in love with, but Vonnie is dating a powerful married man and as a surprise for her boyfriend’s birthday she buys him a framed love letter from Rudolf Valentino. That love letter becomes the main visual key for Café Society as soon a love triangle emerges which places Bobby in an awkward familial situation.

Meanwhile, back in New York, audiences catch a glimpse of Bobbie Dorfman’s Jewish family, his dotting mother superbly played by Jeannie Berlin and his father played by British actor Ken Stott. It’s really Bobbie’s gangster brother Ben who has gone into the nightclub business who is the centre of the Bronx world. Ben is superbly played by an unrecognizable Corey Stoll who was so tremendous in the Netflix’s series House of Cards.

Bobby is crushed when Vonnie calls off their impending romance on a Malibu beach and soon returns to the glamourous world of nightlife, helping his nefarious brother Ben at one of his dazzling nightclubs. As the action of Café Society shifts seamlessly from Los Angeles back to New York, audiences know that they are back on familiar Woody Allen territory.

Part of the New York set is the fabulous Veronica Hays who Bobbie dutifully falls in love with, played by the gorgeous Blake Lively, even though he secretly pines for the more illusive Vonnie.

Wonderfully irreverent to anything vaguely serious, Café Society is a gorgeously shot comedy with gorgeous costumes and suitably fabulous production design, pointing to the fact it’s one of Woody Allen’s most expensive films.

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With a witty script and outstanding performances by an ensemble cast especially Eisenberg and Stewart, Café Society is recommended viewing in the vein of similar Allen films like Bullets over Broadway. Allen’s faithful recreation of the Hollywood golden age in Café Society certainly signifies that his European phase is over, which did produce some brilliant social comedies including Matchpoint, Vicky Christina Barcelona and his acclaimed Midnight in Paris.

Café Society is a breezy and funny affair, tinged with delightful moments of guilt mixed with old fashioned nostalgia. A refreshingly stylish visual feast especially in this age of CGI and digitally reliant cinema.

Digital Illusions

Now You See Me 2

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Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Daniel Radcliffe, Dave Franco, Sanaa Lathan

Following the success of the 2013 magical film Now You See Me, there was definitely a call to make a sequel and reunite the illusive four horsemen.

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In the sequel, Now You See Me 2, G. I. Joe: Retaliation director Jon M. Chu misses the mark in providing a magical follow up to the original film, despite reuniting the same cast including Jesse Eisenberg as Daniel Atlas, Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney who also has a rather irritating identical twin brother in this film, Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes and Dave Franco as Jack Wilder.

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New to the cast is master illusionist Lula played by Lizzy Caplan famous from the raunchy Masters of Sex TV series and the superfluous Daniel Radcliffe as a reclusive tech billionaire Walter Mabry who recruits the magicians to steal back a ubiquitous yet highly guarded computer chip which can hack into anything at an international exchange in the glamorous resort casinos of Macau.

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As the action moves swiftly from New York to Macau and then onto London, the magical tricks and digital illusions even involving numerous card tricks in which the microchip seemingly passes from one horseman to another, Now You See Me 2 appears to be lacking in the essential element of revelation. Something the first film did so brilliantly. For as the optical illusions, card tricks and magic increases, there is less time to provide valuable explanations to the bewildered if slightly amused audience.

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Veteran actors Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles as Arthur Tressler and Thaddeus Bradley respectively whose unholy alliance leads the Four Horseman to play the ultimate trick on the chief villain, a poorly played part by Daniel Radcliffe, who unfortunately appeared to be out of place in this sequel. Perhaps Radcliffe should stick to stronger script material with meatier roles in mind like he did in Victor Frankenstein and Kill Your Darlings.

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Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, Foxcatcher) is plausibly believable as the elusive FBI agent Rhodes despite occasionally giving the impression that he should not have signed on for this sequel. Harrelson is in top form playing twins and the only sparks are provided by Eisenberg and Caplan who seem to be the most energetic and enthusiastic magicians.

Whilst Now You See Me 2 falls short of being as brilliant as the first film, it certainly is a fun film to watch even if the plot is slightly convoluted especially in between the globetrotting disappearing acts that the main actors seem to do quite effortlessly. Now You See Me 2 is an enjoyable film, but nothing as magical or dazzling as the original. Lets hope the third film in this magical trilogy is more impressive.

Clash of the Icons

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Laurence Fishburne, Callan Mulvey, Kevin Costner, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa

Hollywood studio Warner Brothers had a lot riding on the highly anticipated sequel to the 2013 hit Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but fortunately they followed the golden rule of sequels, always bring in the same cast and director mixed in with a bunch of surprises.

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Fortunately in the hands of Zack Snyder whose visual range is vast, Batman vs Superman comes across as an epic battle between the two infamous superheroes, a monumental gamble on reintroducing Batman back into the mix so soon after the brilliant success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Then why not bring the writer of that trilogy on board, David S. Goyer and use Christopher Nolan’s expertise as executive producer. Then there is the casting which really pays off.

The Social Network’s Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg as the smart and brilliant villain Lex Luthor, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) as Batman’s trusted manservant Alfred and the biggest coup was casting Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo) as Batman which gives this comic book clash of the icons a more edgier hue.

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After all, realistically Batman, aka Bruce Wayne cannot really defeat Superman, an alien man from Krypton with superpowers. All Batman has is cool gadgets, a Batmobile and all that pent-up rage from his childhood trauma of witnessing his parents being murdered on the streets of Gotham.

Amy Adams returns as the adventurous Lois Lane, along with Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, aka Superman along with Diane Lane as his earth mother Martha Kent. If there is one way to make a superhero angry, it’s to mess with his mother!

Whilst Batman v Superman at two and a half hours long could have been edited especially the last hour of the film, visually the film is so impressive as director Zack Snyder artistically pays homage to his filmography which made him famous: 300, Watchman and Suckerpunch, the last one being especially evident in the surprise appearance of Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

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The chemistry between Batman and Wonder Woman is sexually charged, and on screen the duo look impressive. Affleck’s Batman is a brooding, aging wealthy playboy who is hellbent on seeking revenge for the destruction of a Wayne Enterprises skyscraper by alien invaders from Krypton. Blame Superman!

Whilst Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer’s script is not particularly dazzling, the visual effects in Batman v Superman are brilliant, as well as the tone of the film, which Snyder keeps alternating between light bright colours for Superman and dark, cavernous greys for Batman. It also helps that Affleck himself has greying sideburns which realistically makes Batman look older than Cavill’s boyish Superman.

Women in Batman v Superman also have a major role, although clearly the film itself is marketed for a primarily male audience. Lois Lane is feisty and believable, Wonder Woman looks absolutely gorgeous in evening wear and even appears as a suitable femme fatale for Bruce Wayne during a glamourous Lex Luther cocktail event. Even Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s mother Martha gets caught up in the raucous and very loud action sequence.

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It’s really Jesse Eisenberg’s superb and surprising turn as the deranged megalomaniac Lex Luther, a psychotic billionaire tech guru who thinks nothing of killing innocent people during a public gathering or messing with extra-terrestrial DNA from General Zod.

Fans of Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy will certainly appreciate the iconic face-off between Batman v Superman, but be warned the tone of this film is far darker than your average bright and garish superhero caper.

Recommended viewing for all Zach Snyder fans and those that wish to be regular attendees at Comic-Con. This is serious comic book warfare.

 

 

 

 

Harvard Harassment to Global Phenomenon

The Social Network

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 Canadian director David Fincher’s latest film The Social Network could fit more comfortably in the made for TV film category, but is nevertheless a fascinating examination of how one idea can affect the world.

The Social Network traces the rise of the Facebook phenomenon from the frat houses of Harvard to going global, the lawsuits that ensued and how the lives of over 500 million users have been transformed by using of Facebook from Silicon Valley to Henley-on-Thames, from Brazil to Cape Town, from Sydney to Toronto.

Harvard Harassment

Jesse Eisenberg makes a superb entrance in a major role as Mark Zuckerberg the genius behind linking the Ivy League American University social networks from Harvard to Stamford and supersedes any former attempts by creating a user-friendly interface for virtual network, sharing photos and updating one’s relationship status, now known universally as Facebook. Love it or hate it, the rise of Facebook is now a commercially viable form of communication, which has taken the digital world by storm. Fincher’s film shows the rise of the Facebook phenomenon from Zuckerberg’s cocky online response on his blog after being spurned by Erica, a lovely cameo by Rooney Mara at Harvard to his rise through several collaborations firstly with Eduardo Saverin, a diversely perceptive performance by Andrew Garfield, and then with Napster founder Sean Parker, the colourful and confident character suitably played by Justin Timberlake, proving that his acting abilities are certainly maturing.

Fincher responsible for some high end thrillers including Seven, The Game, Fight Club and Oscar nominated Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a prolific choice for a film which if left in the hands of a lesser director, could have become a slightly drawn out geek match about intellectual property rights, failed love affairs and immense wealth bestowed on a set of twenty-something’s who surely were given an added advantage already being at Harvard in the first place. The Social Network is an engrossing look at a very recent digital phenomenon and the ingenuity, entrepreneurial savvy  and success of three men who clearly realized that they had discovered a gaping hole in the social fabric of Anglo-American society and filled that void with a network which combines privacy with a sense of community.

Global Phenomenon

Facebook, like the invention of the light bulb, the car, and most obviously the internet is here to stay and will definitely grow, transform and has embraced the real 21st century notion of a global digital village. Watch out for a wonderful performance by Armie Hammer playing both the affluent, rowing crazy twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and of course the cleverest part of The Social Network is the poster, – You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies, reminding the viewer of a similar poster?

Every face tells a story…

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