Posts Tagged ‘Jon Favreau’

Origins of an Intergalactic Smuggler

Solo: a Star Wars Story

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Erin Kellyman, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt

I have to confess I am a huge Star Wars fan. Ever since the first trilogy I saw when I was a kid, I have been hooked.

Well, when rumours circulated in the film trade press that there was going to be an origins story for Han Solo – it certainly piqued my curiosity. The casting was superb. The boyish charm of Alden Ehrenreich last seen in Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply is perfectly cast as the Young Han Solo, a role made famous by the Hollywood star Harrison Ford.

With steady direction by Ron Howard, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a brilliant prequel recommended especially for fans of the original trilogy, extracting elements out of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.

To add to the continuity, Donald Glover plays the young gambler Lando Calrissian last seen on the Bespin Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back and played back then by Billy Dee Williams. Glover is superb as the young Lando, a carefree gambler who gambles the millennium falcon in a space contest with the equally adventurous Han Solo.

Solo: A Star Wars Story also features Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson as the smuggler Tobais Beckett who teams up with Han Solo on a raid on an icy planet to steal some explosive mineral for the nefarious Dryden Vos, wonderfully played by British star Paul Bettany.

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke plays the intergalactic femme fatale Qi’ra who facilitates between Han Solo and his enemy Vos. As Beckett advises Han solo in the cutthroat world of smuggling and intergalactic piracy, trust no one.

Westworld star Thandie Newton briefly appears as Beckett’s love interest Val, a fearless fellow smuggler.

The magnificent scenes in the film belong to those between Lando and Han, which establishes a friendship based on rivalry and pure competitiveness as each recognize a rogue quality in each other. Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover are cleverly cast as these two iconic space heroes.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is an entertaining hyperspace glimpse into the origins of an infamous intergalactic Smuggler as possibly one of George Lucas’s best loved characters, the charming risk taker pilot Han Solo which both Ford and now Ehrenreich captured so perfectly onscreen.

With stunning production design and beautiful cinematography, Solo: A Star Wars Story gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

Highly recommended viewing for fans that love Star Wars films and fondly remember the original trilogy which shaped their love for sci-fi.

 

 

Rejuvenated Web Slinger

Spiderman Homecoming

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Glover, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Logan Marshall-Green, Jennifer Connelly, Laura Harrier, Angourie Rice, Zendaya

Young British star Tom Holland, who was riveting as Naomi Watt’s son Lucas in director J. A. Bayona’s The Impossible, takes on the iconic superhero role of Spiderman in the Sony Marvel reboot of the webslinger franchise in the captivating Spiderman Homecoming directed by Jon Watts.

Since Marvel entered into a rights partnership agreement to use the Sony copyrighted superhero in Captain America: Civil War when audiences first caught a brief glimpse of Tom Holland as the new Spiderman it was inevitable that he would get a film of his own.

Spiderman Homecoming is thoroughly entertaining augmented by Holland’s spunky performance as the brash young Peter Parker who is struggling to complete High School while also being mentored by Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jnr. The young Spidey has allusions of grandeur of being inducted into the Avengers army but Tony Stark is rather letting him prove his worth first.

In a poignant moment, Stark says to Peter Parker, if you are nothing without this suit then the suit will mean nothing. In other words, the clothes do not maketh the man.

Parker, played with humour and courage by Holland soon proves his worth and apparent screen appeal when while revealing his alter ego to his best friend also has to contend with an evil villain Vulture wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Michael Keaton (Birdman) and his protective aunt May, whom he loves dearly played by another Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny).

While all this parental authority weighs down on the young webslinger he soon finds his own feet as he saves his science group from a diabolical end in the Washington monument whilst on a school trip to Washington D. C. The Washington monument and the action packed ferry sequences are two of the best in Spider Homecoming, both scenes being awash with symbolic American patriotism.

The irony is that Tom Holland is British is not lost on a more erudite viewer of pop culture.

Spider Homecoming has with some great cameo’s including Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Bokeem Woodbine of Fargo TV series fame as Herman Schultz, Vulture’s evil sidekick known as Shocker 2. Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) plays the ill-advised first evil sidekick Shock 1.

Parker’s love interest is high school crush Liz played by Laura Harrier which allows for the narrative to set up an interesting twist towards the end and will definitely satisfy any lack of diversity disclaimers.

Audiences should forget Tobey Maguire as Spiderman in the Sam Raimi Trilogy or the ill-fated Amazing Spiderman films starring Andrew Garfield. Tom Holland presents a revitalized savvy young superhero which will ensure the franchise’s continued survival in the cluttered Marvel universe as he will next be appearing in the anticipated The Avengers: Infinity War.

You never too old to watch Spiderman.

Spiderman Homecoming is blissfully entertaining and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

 

Scorsese’s Satyricon

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Shea Wingham

The much anticipated explosive new film about Wall Street Stock broker Jordan Belfort by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese is an orgy of drugs, hedonism and consumerism held tightly together by one of the best on screen performances that Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby) has ever given. The Wolf of Wall Street can best be described as Oliver Stone’s Wall Street highballing on crack and speed with large amounts of sex, swearing and swindling thrown in.

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The three hour film about the rise and fall of one of Wall Street’s most notoriously decadent stockbrokers is fascinating, bizarre, crude and highly entertaining. The Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese’s sleazy and salacious Satyricon, a drug fuelled  hedonistic journey into the heart of America’s consumerism, while ripping to shreds its number one bastion Rampant Capitalism. For according to Belfort there is no nobility in poverty.

Audiences meet Belfort when he is a young would be stockbroker as he arrives off the bus on Wall Street soon to be taken in by the foul-mouthed cocaine sniffing chest thumping mentor Mark Hanna an expertly played cameo by Matthew McConnaughey.

Belfort after the Stock Exchange crash of 1989, goes into penny shares in a two bit stock brokerage in Long Island, where he revolutionizes the bunch of weirdo pot selling brokers into a serious blue chip Wall Street company rebranding it as Stratton Oakmont. Soon Belfort motivates his entire team to sell penny shares (those companies that cannot afford to be listed on NASDAQ) to the very rich, and after much cavorting and convincing, earns huge amounts of cash where the brokerage becomes a literal madhouse of drugs, greed and absolute debauchery.

With the help of his wing man Donny, a brilliant performance by Jonah Hill of Moneyball fame, Belfort catapults Stratton Oakmont into a serious stock brokerage to rival Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and the late Lehman Brothers in New York whilst at the same time committing serious securities fraud with imaginary IPO’s.

At the heart of The Wolf of Wall Street is a story about corruption, unrelenting drug addiction, rampant sex and partying, a frenetically paced tour de force of the arc of an absolute sinner energetically played by DiCaprio who is in virtually every scene of the film. Memorable scenes include his blond wife Naomi (a wonderful turn by newcomer Margot Robbie of the TV series Pan Am) walking in on a gay orgy in their plush Manhattan apartment, a bizarre incident with Belfort driving his white Ferrari from the Country Club while literally dazed on sleeping pills, a luxury yacht riding massive Mediterranean waves en route to Monaco, a sex-crazed air hostess humping trip in first class to Switzerland and that’s just to name some of the few crazy episodes in The Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese’s film is a sublime Satyricon meshing elements of Casino, Shutter Island and The Departed proving that he is a consummate director and cinematic visionary.

Belfort’s eventual downfall comes at the hand of  conservative securities agent Patrick Denham played by Kyle Chandler (Super 8) but not before he has moved large parts of his vast fortune off shore to a Swiss Bank account with the help of a slimy banker Saurel seductively played by Jean Dujardin of The Artist and Naomi’s British aunt Emma played by Ab Fab star Joanna Lumley who utters the immortal line “I have lived through the Sixties”.

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Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is frenetic, shocking and superbly acted by DiCaprio along with an incisive script by Terence Winter, a tour-de-force of a film, a reason to love the art of cinema. A highly recommended montage on the destructive nature of greed and addiction, The Wolf is not for sensitive viewers, but packs a powerful punch held together by an Oscar worthy performance by DiCaprio whose rousing motivational trading floor speeches are the stuff of cinematic legends. After all if you can sell a pen, then you are a salesman…

Upgrading the DNA

IRON MAN 3

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Director: Shane Black

Cast: Robert Downey Jnr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Miguel Ferrer, Paul Bettany

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black reunites with Robert Downey Jnr in the third instalment of the highly successful Iron Man franchise in Iron Man 3. Whilst the third film lacks the panache of the original Iron Man, Iron Man 3 will definitely appeal to its target male audience and features a bigger role for the superhero sidekick Pepper Potts, played with a muscularity by Gwyneth Paltrow. Don Cheadle returns as the army officer suiting up the Iron Patriot. Iron Man 3, with the exception of a brief prelude in Bern Switzerland, stays firmly within the cultural pastiche of 21st century America from Malibu to Chattanooga to Miami.

Especially relevant now, the enemy in Iron Man 3 is a psychopathic superhuman terrorist, The Mandarin, who is seemingly terrorising key points in the USA from the Graumann Theatre in downtown Hollywood to Air Force One, mid air over Florida with an explosive chemical manipulation of man’s DNA. As a sideline there is the supposedly geeky rival scientist Aldrich Killian first introduced in Bern, played with a marvelous dexterity by Australian actor Guy Pierce, an antithesis of all that Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark represents from boyish charm, sophisticated genius and suave, billionaire industrialist.

Unfortunately unlike Iron Man and Iron Man 2, with the wonderful Mickey Rourke as the villain flinging racing cars through the air at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, the villain in this third installment is not as clearly defined, nor is he as ruthless and cunning yet equally clever and what imbalances appear on screen, is made up for by the witty script and loads of stunning action sequences from the demolition of Tony Stark’s Malibu Mansion, to a unrivaled skydiving sequence.

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Fresh from the attack of Loki’s avenging Nordic demons on the Manhattan skyline in 2012’s smash hit The Avengers, Iron Man is more fragile and less strong as he first appears, suffering from anxiety attacks and insomnia and seeking refuge in his robotic world of remote controlled Iron Men, Tony Stark soon finds the inner parent in him as he befriends Harley a Tennessee tech-savy youngster as he investigates a mysterious explosion in the Southern town close to Chattanooga in a bid to rebuild his Iron Man suit and save Pepper Potts from the clutches of the elusive villain, the internet waging, cultural terrorist The Mandarin…

Whilst there are some fantastic action sequences and Downey as usual embodies all the likable characteristics of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, the third installment of the series lacks a tighter narrative, with many inexplicable plot points not being resolved in favour of big budget action sequences. Iron Man 3, immersed in contemporary cultural references from Joan Rivers to Downton Abbey has some hugely entertaining sequences especially the Malibu and Tennessee sections but lacks some of the inherent style and flamboyance of the first two films, and also points to a rather disturbing subtext that many violent episodes in 21st century American society are at the hands of those from within the nation, and not some foreign malevolent power.

Nevertheless, the action and script makes up for any plot deficiencies and Iron Man 3 is fun for a gang of teenage boys to watch. Also starring the underutilized Rebecca Hall (Vicky Christina Barcelona) and Oscar Winning Ben Kingsley which begs the question what were these fine actors doing in such a comic book sequel?

The Savy Super Anti-Hero

Iron Man

The superbly versatile character actor, Robert Downey Jnr has made a big screen comeback in the summer blockbuster Marvel comics’ film adaptation of Iron Man bringing a fresh twist on the superhero role. In recent years, we have seen numerous film trilogies about super heroes, from the X-Men to Spiderman become box office successes.

Downey returns to form with a Money Spinner

Iron Man opens promisingly with Downey Jnr playing Tony Stark a weapons manufacturer on a visit to Afghanistan. He is chatting boisterously with American soldiers in the back of an armoured vehicle, while sipping on a fine whisky, a decadent contrast to the passing landscape of the bleak Afghan province of Kunar. Stark poses for photographs and does not to take life seriously even though he is responsible for inheriting an empire that builds weapons of apparently mass destruction. Portrayed as somewhat of a playboy, as seen in flashbacks whereby Stark goes from gambling at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas while missing his own awards ceremony to seducing a blonde reporter at his immense Malibu mansion. All the while, drinks in hand, he casually races to his private Californian airstrip to board a luxury jet en route to Afghanistan, where he is due to present the latest product from Stark industries, Jericho, a rocket launcher with magnificent destructive capacities.

The self-indulgent Tony Stark is soon captured by a militant group of rebels, living in the Afghan mountains, certainly suggestive of the Taliban. There he is forced to build another weapon for this guerilla group, but aided by a mysterious fellow prisoner, he builds an iron suit, which is powered by a flashy blue battery that keeps shrapnel from entering his heart. The film follows similar superhero plots whereby the hero returns to his native California after annihilating his captives and finds that his very newly acquired powers are being undermined by those closest to him.

Besides the inconsistencies in storyline, evident of a group of screenwriters marrying diverging plot points, Iron Man follows most superhero storylines, from Spiderman to the more recent Ghost Rider, always ultimately rescuing the female lead, in this case, Stark’s efficient assistant Pepper Pots played with a surprising subtlety by Gwyneth Paltrow. What was so attractive in this film was this standard plot being treated with a subverted and ironically mature undertone, given that the hero is a middle-aged millionaire who draws on his own emotional vulnerabilities to eventually fuel his physical transformation from careless warmonger to conscientious saviour. Iron Man, the super hero, almost is an anti-hero, defeating the villain and saving the distressed damsel, while still retaining his own personal insecurities.

Thus, Downey’s performance fits perfectly with this subversion of a traditional superhero, as he smirks and delights in a clearly comic role, with significantly relevant undertones; especially enhanced by the fact that Iron Man doesn’t actually possess any supernatural powers, his ironclad flying suit is entirely his own creation.

From Flushing Meadows to Monaco

Iron Man 2

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Whilst it banks on the originality of the first Iron Man, the sequel is every bit as quirky, brilliant and action-packed with characters and fantastic settings. Robert Downey Jnr and Mickey Rourke rock!!!

The Monaco Grand Prix Sequence is spectacular and so is the wonderfully ironic script by Justin Theroux and of course a solid performance by Robert Downey Jnr. Watch out for Scarlett Johansson’s great transformation scene at the end – slinky in a catsuit!!! No more demure Girl with a Pearl Earring! There is a wonderful supporting cast including Sam Rockwell and Don Cheadle. If viewers enjoyed Iron Man and loved the anti superhero antics, then Iron Man 2 will definitely not disappoint especially with the ever charismatic Robert Downey Jnr back in the lead role as flamboyant billionaire playboy and arms industrialist Tony Stark taking on Mickey Rourke’s aggressive and slightly unhinged villain Ivan Vanko.

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