Posts Tagged ‘Kate Mara’

The Fourth Son of a Political Dynasty

Chappaquiddick

Director: John Curran

Cast: Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Olivia Thirlby, Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Jim Gaffagan, Taylor Nichols, Lexie Roth

Many films have been made about the Kennedys or those related to them, most recently being Pablo Larrain’s beautiful film Jackie featuring an Oscar worthy performance by Natalie Portman.

While The Painted Veil director John Curran’s film Chappaquiddick is no masterpiece and is quite slow moving, it nevertheless remains a fascinating account of one of the Kennedy’s lesser known political scandals.

This involved Senator Edward Kennedy, superbly played by Australian actor Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby), who was the fourth son of the Kennedy clan and the only surviving son after his three older brothers died successively.

Chappaquiddick takes place in Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1969, two days before American astronaut Neil Armstrong successfully landed on the moon. Edward Kennedy and his cousin Joseph Gargan played by The Hangover star Ed Helms host a small decadent party on Chappaquiddick an island off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Among the guests is Mary Jo Kepechne played by former House of Cards star Kate Mara who gets fatally entangled with Senator Edward Kennedy.

As the evening progresses Edward and Mary Jo go on a moonlight drive around the island but this romantic venture turns into tragedy when after becoming intoxicated Edward unknowingly drives the car off a low bridge and it plunges into a river and he escapes the accident unscathed, while poor Mary Jo gets trapped in the drowning automobile and dies. The worst part is that Edward Kennedy walked away from the scene of a fatal accident and then later tried to cover it up using his family’s considerable political influence.

Chappaquiddick deals with the aftermath of the tragic event and the engulfing political scandal it could have for the ambitious Senator Edward Kennedy who is desperate to follow in his two older brothers’ political careers with JFK becoming US president and Robert Kennedy becoming a US senator, both of whom got assassinated during the turbulent 1960’s.

What makes Chappaquiddick so fascinating is the way in which Edward Kennedy, with a cool emotional detachment and often seeking advice from his wheelchair bound father Joseph Kennedy, wonderfully played by veteran actor and Oscar nominee Bruce Dern (Nebraska) whose only word of wisdom is alibi.

The patriarch of the powerful political dynasty which is the Kennedys, based at their family compound in Hyannis port, Massachusetts, is determined to protect the Kennedy legacy, despite numerous tragic events and subsequent scandals.

Chappaquiddick is a riveting historical drama about a political scandal which literally gets eclipsed by the men landing on the moon on the same weekend. As compared to Jackie, Chappaquiddick lacks grandiosity and elegance, but remains relevant as to how political scandals are essentially covered up and the flow of information is conspicuously controlled.

Recommended for viewers that enjoy American historical films, Chappaquiddick gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. My only criticism is that sections of the film could have been edited to avoid repetition and the script required insightful dialogue.

 

Man from Mars

The Martian

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Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Donald Glover

Oscar winner Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) takes the lead role in director Ridley Scott’s visually stunning adaptation of the Andy Weir novel, The Martian as he stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut who after a sandstorm on Mars gets stranded on the red planet by his fellow crew members who abandon him unknowingly to head back to earth.

The crew members include Captain Melissa Lewis played by Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Beth Johanssen played by Kate Mara, Chris Beck played by Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Rick Martinez played by Michael Pena (Antman, American Hustle) and Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie (Hercules) as Alex Vogel.

Meanwhile back at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, NASA headquarters, Director Teddy Sanders played by Jeff Daniels channeling his role in Aaron Sorkin’s TV Series, The Newsroom, announces that Watney is dead. Back on Mars, Watney is alive and has to figure out a way to survive on a planet with minimal oxygen and no sustainable ecosystem to grow his own food supply, an obvious metaphor for the dwindling food supply on planet Earth. Watch out for a superb supporting role by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as Vincent Kapoor who firmly believes in finding Watney and bring him back to Earth.

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Luckily Watkins is a trained botanist so with ingenuity and a lot of dry humour, he manages to harvest a small crop of potatoes inside the Mars man-made habitat. This is where Damon really inhabits the role of a lone space colonizer, the only man left on Mars who has to survive and adapt to his hostile and surreal environment, ironically while listening to 70’s disco music. Best line in the film is:

“Neil Armstrong, eat your heart out!”

As the team at NASA scramble to figure out a way to rescue Watney after receiving an encrypted message from him letting them know he is still alive, Watney has to use all his own resources to remain resilient until a rescue mission, however precarious is assembled. Whilst the astrophysics of the rescue mission, will go over the head of most viewers, what makes The Martian such an enlightening cinematic experience are the stunning almost ethereal visual effects, held together by an Oscar worthy performance by Matt Damon as he contemplates that he could perish on this desolate and largely uninhabitable planet, if the rescue mission fails.

The rest of the cast are largely viewed in supporting roles, including Chastain as the steely Captain of the Hermes space craft, they support Damon’s character both psychologically, emotionally and spiritually as Watney gradually learns that back on Earth he is becoming a symbol of a lone survivor who if he manages to return home safely will definitely have a legendary tale to tell.

With breathtaking cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and production design by Arthur Max, The Martian is definitely in the same league as Alphonso Cuaron’s 2013 Oscar winner Gravity and humanizes space travel without delving to deeply into the philosophical elements of the infinite universe as done in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or more recently Christopher Nolan’s visually compelling but laden Interstellar which oddly enough also featured Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon.

With a running time of 141 minutes, The Martian is a superbly told adventure story about one man’s fight to survive and his resilient desire to return to Earth, brilliantly acted by Matt Damon and beautifully directed by Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Gladiator).

Highly recommended viewing especially in a cinema. Do not wait for The Martian to come on TV as the visual and sound effects will certainly be lost.

Zero Superheros

Fantastic Four

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Director: Josh Trank

Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson

The reboot of Fantastic Four featuring the extras of House of Cards and the stars of That Awkward Moment could have been so much better. Director Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four is stilted, vaguely unimaginative and not even remotely thrilling considering all the acting talent he had at his disposal.

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Miles Teller who was so brilliant in the Oscar winning film Whiplash holds his own as does Kate Mara, but Jamie Bell star of The Eagle and Billy Eliot and last seen in Lars von Triers Nymphomaniac Volume II is lost in this comic book reboot. Frankly Jamie Bell’s unique acting talent is unfortunately wasted.

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Michael B. Jordan as the rebellious Johnny Storm is remarkably better and definitely on the verge of superstardom after his hilarious performance along with Miles Teller and Zac Efron in That Awkward Moment.

Unlike the original more comic Fantastic Four (2005) which clearly did not take itself too seriously, this version is darker more sombre and in parts tries unsuccessfully to emulate Christopher Nolan’s brilliant The Dark Knight Rises.

In this version of Fantastic Four, the superheroes and the actors playing them do not take their powers or their characters seriously enough and that is no fault of the talent involved but rather of a tawdry script, bad directing and general narrative arc which suddenly seems to end too quickly, with a finale that appears rushed and clumsy.

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Unlike the phenomenally clever Antman, which taps into a far broader humour and the Avengers universe, The Fantastic Four seems to be lost which is a pity considering the actors involved. Kate Mara was so exceptional in the Netflix series House of Cards but then again she was acting opposite Kevin Spacey.

Even Dr Doom played by Toby Kebbell is not villainous enough and his main motive for sucking the earth into an intergalactic vortex is not sufficiently illustrated beyond pure jealousy for Susan, played by Kate Mara who is infatuated with Reed Richards, the chief scientist, played by Teller, who continuously looks slightly confused in this role.

Fantastic Four is not a brilliant film, and should actually not have been remade as the original colourful films including the sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer was zany and entertaining, everything that this cinematic reincarnation lacks. Not Recommend Viewing despite the initial part of the film showing promise. Unfortunately these superhero’s have zero appeal in a market saturated with reboots and reinventions of comic book films.

 

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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