Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Gordon-Levitt’

The Radical Left

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Frank Langella, Mark Rylance, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Michael Keaton, Ben Shenkman, Alex Sharp, John Carroll Lynch

Pacifists, Hippies and Black Panthers converge on Chicago in the summer of 1968 during the Democratic National Convention and are confronted by the police and naturally riots break out. Are the police to blame? Are the protesters to blame? It is the summer of love, anti-Vietnam protests and significant social upheaval worldwide.

This is the premise of West Wing and The Social Network Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s new film in which he directed and wrote. The Trail of the Chicago 7 was originally set for a theatrical release in October 2020 but due to the coronavirus pandemic, Paramount sold the rights to the streaming giant Netflix for a cool $56 million dollars. Which explains the reason why this great film can only be found on Netflix when in fact it was best suited to a proper cinematic release.

Especially with Sorkin’s witty dialogue and his fantastic cast that he managed to assemble for The Trial of the Chicago 7.

The cast includes Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) as liberal pacifist and anti-war activist Tom Hayden, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) as defence attorney William Kunstler, Oscar nominee Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) as the non-nonsense but bigoted judge Julius Hoffman, Emmy winner Jeremy Strong (Succession) as hippie Jerry Rubin and a stand out performance by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as the fast talking defiant hippie leader Abbie Hoffman.

Also in the cast are John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Panther leader Bobby Seale who also got charged along with the original seven for incitement to start a riot and public disturbance.

While the first half of Aaron Sorkin’s film is confusing and needs to be anchored, the second half is brilliant as he clearly shows you what actually happens even if as a screenwriter he does get historically creative with the real facts.

Speaking of the real facts, as a viewer it is best to look up the actual story of the Trial of the Chicago 7 and the context in which the riot occurred. As Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Abbie Hofmann so eloquently says, “Everyone was in the Haymarket Tavern at the Chicago Hilton like the Sixties never happened until it came crashing through the window.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a great film, very dialogue heavy but it stands together through some superb ensemble acting especially from Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the prosecuting attorney Richard Schultz and a fine performance by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale who actually lands up getting bound and gagged in an American courtroom.

Nominated for 5 Golden Globes in 2021 including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Song, Best Supporting Actor for Sacha Baron Cohen and Best Screenplay, Catch The Trial of the Chicago 7 now on Netflix. This courtroom drama gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Tightrope between the Twin Towers

The Walk

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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte le Bon, Ben Kingsley, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, James Bade Dale

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts a dubious French accent as Philippe Petit a High Wire Artist who is hell bent on walking across a tightrope between the newly constructed Twin Towers in New York City.

Director of Castaway and Flight, Robert Zemeckis’s film The Walk is both captivating and thrilling as he takes audiences on a journey of Philippe and his outstanding feat of walking a tightrope between the Twin Towers just as they are being completed back in 1974. What is more fascinating is that Zemeckis uses The Walk as a cinematic memorial to the infamous towers which came crashing down in the terrorist attacks in September 2001, without making reference to their eventual downfall twenty seven years later.

Whilst The Walk is set in Paris and New York, Zemeckis does not fall into the trap of ending the film with a line about the devastation of the World Trade Center Towers, but rather uses the film to pay tribute to the fantastic engineering feat of these twin towers during the 1970’s and the inspiration they gave to the crazy, obsessive French man Petit, exuberantly played by Gordon-Levitt who, with the help of a motley crue of accomplices pulls off the illegal stunt of crossing between the iconic skyscrapers one morning in May 1974, despite a multitude of setbacks.

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Unimaginatively titled, The Walk is not a perfect film and the only criticism is that of Petit’s character narrating his story directly to the cinema audience, but the film nevertheless remains light as a crazy and nostalgic look at one man’s determination to follow his dreams, knowing that if he achieves this feat he would become infamous and garner considerable media attention.

Thankfully the rest of the cast are French including Charlotte le Bon as Petit’s patient girlfriend Annie and Clement Sibony, both last seen in the charming film The Hundred Foot Journey as Jean-Louis, Philippe’s photographer friend who is given the task of capturing all of Petit’s tightrope antics including an earlier performance of walking between the towers of the Notre Dame in Paris.

Gordon-Levitt, whose slim build and natural onscreen energy is perfectly cast as the ambitious Philippe Petit and Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Life, Gandhi, Sexy Beast) is cast as the Czech highwire artist Papa Rudy who Petit befriends at the Circus to assist him with some much needed acrobatic training.

For all its daring bravado and not to mention his obvious lack of a fear of heights, Petit’s triumph is of making the performance of being a high wire artist truly spectacular. The Walk is a fun-filled captivating story about one man’s ambition to perform the impossible act, caught at a specific moment in history when skyscrapers were still a novelty on any city’s skyline.

 

Sex and Guilt Jersey Style

Don Jon

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Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza, Julianne Moore, Glenne Headley, Brie Larsen

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut is impressive as he explores the sexual maturity of a young New Jersey barman in the hilariously bold and truthful Don Jon, in which he also wrote and takes the title role. Gordon-Levitt clearly knows he has good screen presence and after a string of appearances in successful films recently from The Dark Knight Rises to Lincoln to Premium Rush, as an actor he has obtained the confidence to write, direct and star in Don Jon, which at times is like a young man’s version of a Woody Allen movie without the Manhattan neuroses.

Gordon-Levitt plays a young narcissist bar tender Joe Martello, who pumps iron at his local gym looking into a mirror, goes to the local nightclub and scores girls frequently with his boyish looks and dim-witted charm. Even after sex with a voluptuous babe, Don Jon sneaks off to his laptop and watches porn. And that’s where the problem lies!

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Don Jon cleverly explores the seldom discussed male obsession with pornography and more incisively the increasing internet driven phenomenon of porn addiction. For Martello’s private vice is never found out until he starts dating the gorgeous yet demanding Barbara Sugarman wonderfully played by Scarlett Johansson (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Hitchcock) who invariably catches him watching online porn.

Interspersed with the relationship with Barbara, is Don Jon’s rival relationship with his overbearing aggressive father in some superb scenes with Tony Danza of the 80’s TV series Who’s The Boss? and Jon’s own relationship with the local Catholic Church, where he attends mass every Sunday and always land up in the confession, revealing to an unforeseen priest his past week’s sexual activities and exploits. As director Gordon-Levitt deftly explore the filmic relationship between sex and guilt as he splices religious iconography with explicit scenes of pornography.

If Don Jon through its humour and boldness touches a nerve with its male audience, then it’s succeeded! Gordon-Levitt ‘s Don Jon is at that tender age in a young man’s life when he has broken away from the family home but not quite settled down with his own family. His mother Angela is all gush and glamour, purposefully overplayed by Glenne Headley (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) while Jon’s sister is silent, sitting at the dining room table texting and observing (a droll cameo by Brie Larsen) offering only one salient observation about her brother’s relationship with the sultry Barbara.

What raises Don Jon from being a crass comedy is Gordon-Levitt’s handling of the delicate subject of porn addiction along with a brilliant performance by Oscar nominee Julianne Moore who plays the free-thinking, pot smoking Esther who befriends Jon in his night college course. Then of course Julianne Moore was in such sexually explicit films as Boogie Nights and Chloe, so that casting was perfect.

Don Jon explores the affect pornography can have on real relationships, while honestly examines the sexual maturity of a young man in the digital age as he balances his sexual urges with guilt and family in contemporary New Jersey. A recommended, thought-provoking and very funny film, Don Jon is recommended viewing, a clever film by new director Gordon-Levitt whose talents now seem limitless.

2012 Toronto Film Festival

2012 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

TIFF2012

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on amongst others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: – Looper directed by Rian Johnson, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt & Bruce Willis

Silver Linings Playbook

People’s Choice Award:Silver Linings Playbook directed by David O. Russell, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert de Niro, Jacki Weaver & Chris Tucker

Laurence Anyways

Best Canadian Feature Film: Laurence Anyways directed by Xavier Dolan, starring ,

Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Toronto_International_Film_Festival

 

Life and Death on a Bicycle

Premium Rush

Cheeky Bike Messenger from Hell

David Koepp’s adrenalin filled action film Premium Rush is an entertaining look at the subculture of bike messengers in New York City. Featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee an energetic and evasive bike messenger who has to deliver a promissory note within 90 minute across downtown Manhattan. Michael Shannon plays the corrupt NYC cop Bobby Monday with a penchant for gambling in Chinatown and is hell bent on getting that promissory note as an exchange for $50 000 to pay off some gambling debts.

Premium Rush signified by the racy poster is a hazardous and wonderfully executed cinematic joyride especially with Koepp’s creative directorial style often using time frame lapses and GPs co-ordinates so that the viewer can get a sense of the dangerous navigation involved in riding as a bike messenger in the Big Apple, the ultimate urban jungle.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt normally cast in supporting roles in big budget movies like Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, has the talent to hold his own as leading man in an action film and is fast becoming a rising star. Gordon-Levitt will next be seen opposite Bruce Willis in Looper.

In Premium Rush  Gordon-Levitt’s cheeky, energetic and daring bike messenger with no brakes Wilee is played to the hilt and with some great editing incorporating all the elements of this dangerous and little known profession in one of the world’s busiest cities. This is a different take on a chase movie as it is about high speed urban cycling and all cyclists should definitely see this film not just for the entertainment value but also for all the cycling skills highlighted in this film which is like a Tour de Manhattan with an angry Michael Shannon helplessly chasing after Levitt who constantly evades him as well as much frustrated NYC bike cop.Dania Ramirez plays Wilee’s love interest, Vanessa, a fellow bike messenger with brakes.

There is not much plot and limited backstory, but Koepp keeps the film firmly in the Manhattan urban jungle highlighting a low-paid, dangerous street profession which is a culture in itself, the adrenalin energetic time driven world of metropolitan bicycle messengers.

Shannon who brings some of his unpredictability to Premium Rush channelling his characters in the series Boardwalk Empire and in Revolutionary Road in which he garnered an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

Premium Rush with all the directorial quirks, fast editing and catchy dialogue is a great way to spend 91 minutes viewing life and death on a bicycle, showing off all the street culture of NYC in mid-summer featuring two highly talented upcoming actors, Gordon-Levitt and Shannon playing a cat and mouse game with a Chinese twist.

A Siege of Elegant Brutality

The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale as Batman

As skilled a director as himself assembles some of his cast from the 2010 hit Inception including the brilliant Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and the formidable Tom Hardy and gives them starring roles in The Dark Knight Rises along with Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway as the elusive and sleek Catwoman.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan clearly has an opera in mind, a three act narrative of epic proportions about characters regaining their honour, losing the shackles of structured employment and giving heroism a whole new twist. Whilst the late Heath Ledger stole the show in The Dark Knight as the clearly unhinged and psychopathic Joker, it is Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Elegant Brutality as the urban warrior Bane who rises from the depths of Gotham to terrorize the city once more as a fitting yet all together different advisory. While The Dark Knight made use of Chicago’s urban landscape, Nolan firmly roots The Dark Knight Rises in the island of Manhattan a grimy 21st century simulacrum of New York known as Gotham.

Tom Hardy as Bane

The Dark Knight Rises visually is outstanding as all the strands of the narrative splinter in act two and then elegantly reconnect in a way in which each character realizes their true potential in the explosive third act, where Nolan weaves themes of heroism, fear, despair and loyalty into a stunning conclusion whilst all the time shaping the appearance of not one but two new superheroes with a sly nuanced touch hinting at a possible fourth film in this hugely successful reboot of the Batman franchise. The screenplay by Nolan and his brother Jonathan is sharp, articulate and beautifully written if the viewer listens for the wise words between the clashing warlords and not too dazzled by the unbelievable action sequences.

Naturally the teaming of such a brilliant cast from Gary Oldman to a brief cameo by Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) gives hefty weight to Nolan’s epic vision of a city under siege assisted by a superb script giving each of the main characters (and there is a lot of them) enough opportunities to develop around the myth of Batman and his superhero status. Bruce Wayne himself has to truly dispel all his demons, face his fears and rise out of the pit of popular heroism to become a true pillar of a man not measured by wealth, his tortured past or fame, but by how far his experiences have taken him.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman

For action fans, this film will not disappoint and whilst the violence is at times seemingly excessive there are moments of clear cinematic pace as only director Christopher Nolan knows how to achieve. Whilst the second act might seem long-winded, it’s the third act which is truly thrilling and if viewers have not seen Batman Begins or The Dark Knight its best to brush up on the fable of Bruce Wayne and his epic transformation as Batman. As for Catwoman and Robin they are truly supportive of Batman’s statue as one of the most iconic superheroes around. Look out for wonderful performances by Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Morgan Freeman and of course Christian Bale, yet it is really Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway who rise superbly in this possible final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s dark sophisticated Gothic superhero trilogy about Batman and the League of Shadows.

Where Dreams merge with Reality

INCEPTION

Often when you awaken from a dream, there is that split second where you are not sure if you are still dreaming or you have in fact come back to reality. Inception explores that split second and makes an ambitious two hour feature out of that very sense of disorientation.

Christopher Nolan’sdreamworld vision amplified in Inception is an impressive film by the sheer scale of invention, the pace of the action and the intricacy of the plot leaving many a viewer to ponder diverse interpretations. Isn’t that what our dreams are about?  Open to diverse interpretations?

Where dreams are shifting landscapes

After the huge success of The Dark Knight featuring the legendary performance by Heath Ledger, Nolan had to follow up that film with an equally brilliant achievement. With a dream cast including a bunch of Oscar nominated actors from Leonardo di Caprio, to Ellen Page from Juno, to Oscar winner Marion Cotillard from La Vie en Rose supported by Michael Caine, the hugely-underrated Joseph Gorden-Levitt to Ken Watanabe, Inception follows a layered structured narrative with simultaneous action sequences occurring weaving in the notion of merging reality with dreams and how the dreamscape can shift unexpectedly. Christopher Nolan debut on the international cinema scene almost 10 years ago with the brilliant 2001 film Memento

Murder can be a series of images

whose central character has to shift through amnesia to discover whether he committed a murder to the more recent The Prestige followed by the phenomenal success of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Nolan inhabits the darker recesses of the human psyche and brings a unique quality to every film he creates.

As for his trademarks as a director, watch out for breathtaking shots of Tokyo and Mombasa and taut sequences with explosions and multiple action sequences in Inception. Now that Nolan commands the respect of Hollywood his budgets are bigger and his vision is uncompromising, he is mainstream filmmaker with a twist, coaxing superb performances out of his lead characters from Heath Ledgers unforgettably dark portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight to Christian Bale’s tortured magician in Victorian England in The Prestige. Here in Inception, Marion Cotillard shines as Mal, Cobb’s long last wife along with Leonardo di Caprio as the central character Cobb using dreams to reconstruct a voyage into his guilt-ridden past.

Inception is a film that will torment the viewer in its post-structural form and psychological interpretations are rampant, demonstrating that Nolan is influenced by some mind-altering science fiction classics like Blade Runner and Solaris, as dreams merge with reality. For the dreamscape is emotional and projections are purely there to torment the dreamer or guide them to the inner depths of an already fragmented subconscious, forcing the characters into deeper levels of their own imagination and ultimately grasping for a reality which is inconceivable. Freud would have had a field day with Inception, as dreams, memories, aging and time is altered beyond recognition into a gripping post-linear filmic structure. Like The Dark Knight, the sound editing on Inception is brilliant and is definitely worth viewing in a large surround sound theatre especially to feel and witness the enormity of the directors vision, pace and peculiarities. In The Dark Knight anarchy reigned supreme, whereas in Inception dreams merge into reality and the spinning top remains symbolic.

Why District 9 beat GI Joe at the US Box office…

Don’t get me wrong,  both films were worthy of some merit, but what is interesting is why a New Zealand produced, South African set Sci-Fiction Film, District 9 beat GI Joe at the US Box Office – one word – ORIGINALITY!!!

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District 9 directed by Neill Blomkamp was so original in its concept and form and turned the blockbuster Independence Day on its head and reversed all the usual ingredients of a sci-fi Aliens landing film. Brilliantly shot in a dusty, mine-dumped surroundings of the one of the largest African metropolises, Johannesburg, one almost feels that the city is as much a character in the film as the wonderfully funny South African cast who take on the slippery alien Prawns as they are left stranded on earth! Not going to give away too much more, suffice is to say, go and see an original and cleverly shot film! Worth watching for its genre-defying satire.

*****

Rise of Cobra or the Return of the Spies who loved each other...

Rise of Cobra or the Return of the Spies who loved each other…

GI Joe, Rise of Cobra directed by Stephen Sommers follows the classic James Bond narrative of hero’s battling villains with a seemingly dangerous damsel who oscillates between the enemy and the GOOD  side and with an ending out of The Spy Who Loves Me, swopping the Mediterranean for the Polar Ice Caps, it was glossy, slick but nothing exceptionally different. Saving grace of the film was the great chemistry between Channing Tatum’s Duke and Sienna Miller’s sexy Baronness. Great viewing for a Sunday afternoon, but don’t expect anything unusual in terms of plot and storyline, just the establishment of another CGI-filled, location jumping and action-orientated film trilogy based on toys politely following in the Transformers tradition. GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra also stars Dennis Quaid, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as The Doctor and Christopher Eccleston as Destro.

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