Posts Tagged ‘John Hurt’

History, Identity, Beauty

Jackie

Director: Pablo Larrain

Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt, John Carroll Lynch, Caspar Phillipson, Beth Grant, Max Casella

Producer Darren Aronofsky and Chilean director Pablo Larrain bring an exquisite and heart wrenching portrait of Jackie Kennedy just moments after her husband President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas on the 22nd November 1963 in Jackie.

Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is sublime as Jackie and considering that she is in virtually every frame of the film, shot in mostly extreme close up, Portman delivers a poignant portrait of Jackie as she is suddenly stripped of her position as first lady while also dealing with suddenly becoming a young widow to two small children, John and Caroline Kennedy.

Simultaneously, Larrain explores the mythical concepts of History, Identity and Beauty as Jackie has to boldly deal with the aftermath of an assassination and the claustrophobia of grief intertwined with state politics and diplomacy.

Jackie has to decide what type of funeral she would like for John F. Kennedy and amidst the security concerns following her husband’s dramatic assassination, she opts for a full length funeral parade, which symbolically become the most watched event on American Television in the early 1960’s.

Screenwriter Noah Oppenheimer’s seductive script pulls viewers into the traumatic world of Jackie Kennedy, deconstructing the myth of a debutante stripped of her power, yet ironically her glamour and poise managed to embed itself in the American psyche for decades after her role as the First Lady of the United States.

Jackie is a stunning, visually dazzling historical portrait of a very specific moment in American history, the aftermath of one of the most pivotal assassinations, which irreparably changed the course of American politics and society redefining the 1960’s as a tumultuous decade. Cleverly what the film does not do is delve into any conspiracy theories surrounding the infamous assassination, but exclusively focuses on how Jackie deals with the funeral and subsequent interviews afterwards.

Audiences should look out for strong supporting roles by Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine) as Bobbie Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as loyal assistant Nancy Tuckerman and John Hurt as unnamed priest who Jackie confides in. Incidentally Jackie was one of Hurt’s last films before he died in 2017.

The costumes by Madeline Fontaine, which she won a 2017 BAFTA Award for, are gorgeous clearly recreating the iconic style of Jackie Kennedy and the production design by Jean Rabasse (The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen) is equally fitting.

What makes Jackie so inspiring is the unconventional approach of Larrain’s direction as he inter cuts scenes of the massive funeral march in Washington DC with the graphic violence of the actual assassination in the backseat of a convertible sedan speeding along a Dallas highway, blood stains on Jackie’s pink Chanel suit.

Like director Barry Jenkins’s Oscar winning film Moonlight, Jackie intensely captures the audience’s attention and never let’s go, anchored by a brilliant performance by Natalie Portman who in my opinion should have won the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 2017 Oscars, although perhaps the odds were stacked in favour of Emma Stone winning for La La Land.

Gorgeous, riveting and emotionally draining, Jackie is a vivid and intricate tour de force of an iconic figure who used her widowhood to become more famous, made all the more touching by the scenes with her two very young children.

My film rating for Jackie is 9.5 out of 10. Having directed an exceptionally vivid film, director Pablo Larrain is a talent to watch out for.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_John_F._Kennedy

 

 

Freeloaders Revolt

Snowpiercer

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Director: Bong Joon Ho

Cast: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Ewen Bremner, Kang-ho Song, Alison Pill, Luke Pasqualino, Tomas Lemarquis

South Korean director Joon Ho Bong creates an innovative cinematic allegorical thriller Snowpiercer based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige featuring a truly international cast headed by Captain America star Chris Evans along with Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Kang-ho Song, John Hurt and Ewen Bremner.

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Set in 2031 in a second ice age, a glacial earth has completely frozen over due to an industrial accident in a bid to stop climate change, when industrialists released a chemical CW7 into the planet’s atmosphere. The remaining survivors on earth are bound up and segregated on a fast moving train known as Snowpiercer, a futuristic and brutal version of the Ark, on a circuitous track around frozen waste land.

The train is segregated into first class, economy class and the filthy freeloaders at the tail, squashed into sordid living conditions desperate to survive and are unwittingly fed blocks of protein. Naturally an uprising ensures led by Curtis played by Evans and spurned on by Gilliam to storm the different sections and finally reach the front of the train and confront the enigmatic industrialist Wilford, who built the train prior to the post-apocalyptic freeze.

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Snowpiercer is brutal, truly inventive cinema, a chilling allegory on the nature of unrelenting climate change and a horrifying indictment on the nature and savagery inherent in humanity. As Curtis and his gang of misfits storm various sections of the train from a hermetic aquarium to a bizarre brainwashing kindergarten to a debauched drug fueled rave, each section unravels and the perfect order of the passengers is permanently disrupted.

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The direction by Joon Ho Bong is flawless if somewhat stylized and the sound editing is fantastic, but what really makes Snowpiercer so innovative is its unique conceptualization ably assisted by a strong cast helped by a host of best supporting actors including Swinton as the Scottish accented Mason, Octavia Spencer (The Help) as Tanya and capped off by Ed Harris (The Hours, Pollock) as the chillingly demented industrialist Wilford, who is a perfect foil to Curtis’s plan of insurrection.

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Snowpiercer is unique, violent, bizarre and utterly thought-provoking, a truly original semi apocalyptic thriller with grand Orwellian themes framing the fast speeding narrative. In the tradition of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or more recently the Denzel Washington thriller The Book of Eli, Snowpiercer fits into that strange subgenre of sci-fiction mixed with apocalyptic fantasy. Chris Evans is superb as the brave leader Curtis along with an energetic Jamie Bell as Edgar last seen as an S & M Master in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.

Snowpiercer is riveting, strange and surreal, showing to what bloody depths humans will descend to, when their survival is threatened by a ravaged and inhospitable climate.

Thracian Turmoil

Hercules

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Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes, Tobias Santelmann, Ingrid Borso Berdal, Rebecca Ferguson, Aksel Hennie

After Hercules completes the 12 labours, the demi-god gets involved with a civil war in Thrace http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrace. Based upon the graphic novel, Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, director Brett Ratner (After the Sunset, Tower Heist, The Rush Hour Trilogy) brings to glossy cinematic life this ancient loincloth adventure which shows Hercules played by Dwayne Johnson (GI Joe, Rise of the Cobra) along with a band of mercenaries including Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Amazon archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and his nephew storyteller Iolaus played by Reece Ritchie in various Thracian turmoils.

Hercules and his bloodthirsty and feral band of misfits are approached by Ergenia played by upcoming Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson on behalf of her father, the duplicitous Lord Cortys played by veteran British actor John Hurt to quell a civil war brewing in Thrace, supposedly led by the gruesome insurrectionist warlord Rheseus played by Norwegian actor Tobias Santelmann.

As the battle ensues it soon emerges that Lord Cortys has a secret alliance with the evil King Eurystheus who is wonderfully played by Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) who tormented Hercules with the notion that he was responsible for the murder of his own wife and children, which resulted in his subsequent exile.

Painted by Pieter Paul Rubens

Painted by Pieter Paul Rubens

With superb cinematography by Dante Spinotti, director Brett Ratner brings a lavish eye to these mythological battles and while Johnson might not be as believable as Hercules, he is in terms of acting, he is so in terms of strength and brute force, quite opposite to the scantily clad Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules.

Viewers shouldn’t expect Game of Thrones or 300 style gore or bloodshed in the battle scenes, as Ratner has deliberately chosen to make Hercules palatable to a teenage audience and has spared scenes of gratuitous nudity and gruesome violence.

Unlike the earlier film The Legend of Hercules, this version of Hercules portrays the man as more mature and hardened warrior famed for completing the 12 labours of Hercules and now embroiled in what is seemingly a Grecian civil strife.

Reece Ritchie 10 000 BC and The Lovely Bones fame does a superb job as the loquacious storyteller Iolaus, nephew of Hercules and the acting stakes are held up by British actor Rufus Sewell (Carrington, Tristan and Isolde) along with Scottish actor Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), who seamlessly blend humour and bravado as they embark on their less than gruesome Thracian battles.

Hercules is a well narrated fun filled mythological adventure film with some stunning action sequences especially the closing battle and the toppling of the massive statue of Hera. Lovers of mythological films such as Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans, will definitely enjoy Hercules, even if Dwayne Johnson’s acting leaves much to be desired.

This version of Hercules is recommended viewing and suitably classical complete with Grecian costumes and fantastic scenery where myth and legend blend to become a more plausible historical reality.

Tapping into Imagined Mythologies

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Director Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Ray Winstone

(Review originally published in June 2008)

Almost twenty years on from the last Indiana Jones film, the fourth installment of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas original blockbuster trilogy, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had its world premiere at the Cannes film festival last month. The latest Indiana Jones marks the beginning of the so-called American Summer Movie Blockbuster season. Naturally many critics and viewers alike were dubious about the 65-year old Harrison Ford reprising his role as the adventurous globetrotting relic hunter and archaeologist. However, fans of the original three enormously successful films all centering on our whip-cracking hero in search of a mythical artifact at odds with a nefariously evil regime in close pursuit, while journeying to exotic locations around the globe, will not be disappointed with this latest installment.

 

Obviously, the creators both Lucas and Spielberg, the men behind such fantastic films as the Star Wars trilogy and War of the Worlds, are confident creators and know their territory well. Combining lots of fast-paced action sequences with some surprisingly consistent characterization and additions of new villains and side-kicks, along with some old-style drama, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a skillful blending of several genres from the cowboy to the science fiction, while tapping into several imagined mythologies from the ancient Inca lost cultures of the Amazon to the urban myth of Hangar 51 and the Roswell incident, involving the American government’s secretive cover-up of an alien space craft that apparently crash landed in the New Mexican desert in 1947.

 

This film is set ten years on and firmly places the period of the action in the late 1950’s a time of the Red Scare, with McCarthyism sweeping America, a daunting decade when Communist infiltration was suspected in every aspect of American life. Into the mythology of the Roswell alien sighting at New Mexico and the lost city of El Dorado, an ancient Amazon city of Gold, which was believed to have existed at the Spanish conquest of South America in the early 1500’s, Spielberg and Lucas add the Stalinist era Soviets as Indiana’s arch enemies, headed by a blue-eyed sword wielding villain Dr Irina Spalko, an energetic performance by the Oscar winning Cate Blanchett (The Aviator).

 

In a rare genius of casting, Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood first seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the hot new Hollywood talent, Shia La Beouf stars as the spunky and wild Mudd, sporting a look reminiscent of the young Marlon Brando from his breakthrough film in The Wild One, kitted out in black leather cap and jacket skillfully riding a Harley Davidson and shattering the tranquility of an American town.

 

Even if you are new to the mythologies of Indiana Jones, this fourth installment is a great piece of entertainment in its own right, with thrilling action sequences, minimal CGI usage and a brilliant storyline tapping into several historical and imagined mythologies, while keeping a sense of humour and retaining a long espoused theory that many of the magnificent architectural wonders of ancient civilizations, from the pyramids of Egypt to the Amazonian Temples are tied into something vastly supernatural and way beyond anything we, as mere mortals, could possibly believe. Whether it’s the quest of infinite knowledge or that promised chalice of immortality, suspend your disbelief and take two hours to see this thrilling, fascinating and much anticipated sequel. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will surely not disappoint and has already proven its worth in international Box office gold.

Gritty and Compelling Spy Drama

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian McKay, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Kathy Burke, Laura Carmichael, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy

The compelling film adaptation of John le Carre’s best selling cold-war espionage novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is superb. Featuring a brilliant British all male cast including Oscar Winner Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and headed up by a solid yet subtle performance by Gary Oldman, who proves in this film that he is a great actor and has always harboured an exceptional talent.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is all about routing out a double agent, a traitor and an adulterer. If viewers have not read le Carre’s novel, they could be forgiven for feeling a bit lost in terms of storyline.

For those that have read the novel, Tinker Tailor follows le Carre’s novel brilliantly and whilst it does not glamorize the spy genre it certainly shows that wisdom and skill triumph over youthful deception and ambition. The film focuses on George Smiley played with subtlety and elegance by Oldman who comes out of retirement to find a mole in the Circus, which is essentially a section of Mi6 in London, to find out which of the handlers which brought over a defector from Hungary during the cold war but turned that defector into a source for trading secrets with the Soviets and reporting on all the intelligence activities that London was carrying out behind the Iron Curtain in Budapest.

Featuring Mark Strong as mysterious agent Jim Prideaux and Tom Hardy as rogue agent Ricki Tarr and Colin Firth as the vain and suave handler Bill Haydon and John Hurt as Control, Smiley skilfully pieces together through these senior espionage characters those behind the elaborate web of intrigue and the man who was responsible for turning the British crown’s espionage secrets over to the Russians after the Hungarian fiasco.

Swedish Director Tomas Alfredson’s gritty and essentially European film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy set mainly in England and Hungary depicts an intellectual tale of deception, espionage, adultery and a testament to one man’s incredible and highly nuanced capability at seeking out the source of the international espionage cover-up. Highly recommend especially for Gary Oldman’s brilliant Oscar worthy performance.

Never Lets the Imagination Perish

Fantasy of a unique kind

Fantasy of a unique kind

Pan’s Labyrinth cemented Guillermo del Toro’s reputation as a magical and visionary filmmaker, the Oscar winning Spanish fantasy film about a girl who discovers a secret world beyond anyone’s imagination in the lush forest while escaping the brutality of the Spanish civil war. The Mexican born film-director Del Toro first attracted attention with his visionary look in Hellboy, released in 2004 starring a relatively unknown cast including Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and the brilliant John Hurt. Hellboy featured a storyline about a Devil-shaped child born during World War II at the height of Nazi power in Europe.

As an adult, Hellboy is confined like most supernatural beings to the Centre for paranormal research in New Jersey, USA and is eventually called upon to combat the forces of darkness as unleashed by a Nazified leader who is part mutant part machine. Hellboy was a secret sensation at the box office and Del Toro would have liked to do a sequel but according to Hollywood legend the studios were initially reluctant to invest so much in a novice director’s wild imagination.

The Spanish language film, Pan’s Labyrinth, changed all that receiving a critical reception on the international film festival circuit from Cannes to Berlin and went on to win several Golden Globes and Oscar awards most notably for make-up and art direction. Now with studio financial backing, Del Toro was able to lavish his attention on Hellboy’s sequel the far superior and hugely fantastical follow-up, which is extremely rare even by Hollywood standards, for most sequels seldom eclipse the original film.

Meet the Golden Army... del Torro's imagination unleashed

Meet the Golden Army… del Torro’s imagination unleashed

Hellboy II: The Golden Army, for any fantasy fan, is a visual feast and a rare glimpse into one man’s extraordinary imagination so skilled and detailed as well as amplified and bold, as to make him a worthy rival of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hellboy, played with absolute relish by Ron Perlman is reunited with fire girl Liz Sherman played by a sexy Selma Blair and Doug Jones makes the most of a much larger role as Abe Sapien, the half-fish, half-man creature who unsuspectingly falls in love with the elf Princess Nuala as they all set out to defeat the Princesses evil twin brother Prince Nuada played by former pop star Luke Goss, who is wildly intent on unleashing the dormant potential of The Golden Army, creatures created by some seriously twisted trolls. The storyline which features a multitude of amazing creatures, most notably in the Troll market sequence and some equally lavish sets at the courts of the Elves, also is a pastiche of scenes from War of the Worlds, Indiana Jones and the Star Wars trilogy, displaying not only Del Toro’s talent as a director but his vast visual and filmic repertoire.

So with all this fantasy, do the characters suffer at the indulgence of breathtaking special effects? Absolutely not. After an initial battle between Hellboy and some ungodly creations from evil tooth fairies to a ferocious fauna-hued monster, there are some solid character building scenes with loads of wit, smart references to the Romantic poetry of Tennyson to music by Vivaldi, while Del Toro allows some ironic allusions to contemporary visual society from the media to Youtube, from the ordinary unbeliever to those that hoard antiquities.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army is confidently rooted in the realms of fantasy and lavish fairytales and would most definitely appeal to anyone who cherishes the imaginative view of society as opposed to a strictly empirical and conventional world. More significantly, this film as I am sure the director believes, reaffirms the vital importance of our own imagination in a world which seems determine to vanquish any real originality.  Visionary, brilliant and thoroughly entertaining, I was equally fortunate to witness such an amazing and technically superior creation on the big screen, as like all great film’s its impact will surely diminish when scene on DVD. Never let your imagination perish and indulge in some spectacular fantasy…

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