Posts Tagged ‘Keira Knightley’

The Quest for Poseidon’s Trident

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Directors: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg

Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, David Wenham, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stephen Graham

Viewers can be forgiven for thinking that they are on a spectacular Disney theme park ride, when watching the highly entertaining opening sequence of Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge co-directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge was released in South Africa, Europe and the UK under this title but is also known as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in America possibly for trademark reasons.

This fifth installment of the hugely successful Pirates franchise which made stars out of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, not to mention cementing Johnny Depp’s status as a massive box office drawcard, is maximum entertainment. Depp’s performance as the wayward pirate Captain Jack Sparrow was Oscar nominated back in 2003 for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

As the film opens we see Australian actor Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, Gods of Egypt) as Henry Turner conversing miraculously underwater with his trapped father Will Turner played again by Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End).

Henry makes a pact to find Poseidon’s Trident which will undo all the curses which have befallen pirates and sailors alike in the turbulent waters of the Caribbean, thus freeing his father from his watery confinement.

Under another such curse is Salazar, the archetypal villain wonderfully played with a Spanish accent by Oscar winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) who is a ghostly pirate trapped for eternity in an unholy state keen on exacting revenge on every pirate and sailor he encounters, more specifically Captain Jack Sparrow who he blames for tricking him into sailing into the Devil’s Triangle, cursing his Spanish crew forever.

After an attention grabbing opening sequence involving a chaotic bank robbery on the British controlled island of Saint Martin, Captain Sparrow reluctantly gathers his crew again including Henry Turner and newcomer Carina Smyth played by Kaya Scodelario as they escape the island and set sail in search of the elusive Poseidon’s trident. The bloodthirsty Salazar has made an unlikely pact with another of Sparrow’s enemies Hector Barbossa wonderfully played by Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine).

While Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is fantastic entertainment with alluring special effects, the plot and direction is occasionally ambivalent lacking a unity of vision in certain sequences.

Besides the swashbuckling, the cameo appearances and a relentlessly fast narrative which taps into a pervasive Pirates mythology which subscribes to the notion that they are outlaws, reckless and merciless, this version of Pirates of the Caribbean is worth seeing especially since it deftly introduces the franchise to a younger audience with the love affair between Carina and Henry, promising of more sequels to come.

Perhaps the action might seem implausible or downright fantastical, but Pirates delivers on its franchise promise and gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Fans of the previous films, will enjoy this version especially the welcome re-appearance of its most notable anti-hero, the rum-sipping, wise-cracking and perverse Jack Sparrow played with suitable delinquency by Johnny Depp.

29 Million Variations

The Imitation Game

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Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Alan Leech, Tom Goodman-Hill, Matthew Beard, James Northcote, Steven Waddington

Based upon the 1983 book by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma and brilliantly adapted into an insightful screenplay by Graham Moore, The Imitation Game is a superb and evocative historical drama about the breaking of the enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum elegantly weaves a very touching and tragic story of espionage, cryptography and sexuality extracting nuanced performances out of Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, an odd couple who make up the mysterious collective which work on and break the seemingly impossible Nazi enigma code at the height of World War II. Using real war footage and blending in a fascinating portrayal of the mathematician Alan Turing whose genius has only recently been acknowledged.

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Set between the years of 1928 and 1951, The Imitation Game paints a moving portrait of a very complicated man, whose brilliance was only threatened by the inherent violence of war which engulfed England during the 1940’s as well as the prejudice which followed regarding his latent homosexuality in the early 1950’s.

Cambridge mathematician graduate whose thesis was entitled the Imitation Game, Alan Turing was socially awkward, shy, bullied at an English prep school but the perfect sort of individual who had the foresight and intelligence to develop a machine which cracked the seemingly unbreakable enigma code, a daily Nazi signal which gave countless GPS co-ordinates of where they would be bombing next during World War II with a minimum of 29 million variations.

Naturally groomed by the newly formed MI6 by Stewart Menzies wonderfully played by Mark Strong, Turing is recognized for his potential and yet later vilified for his own sexuality in a moving portrait of one the 20th century’s biggest injustices, his charge and subsequent punishment of chemical castration for being homosexual in 1952, when it was still criminalized in Great Britain.

This was despite the fact that Turing’s mathematical brilliance was the reason that the complicated machine which he called Christopher named after a schoolboy crush, manages to decipher this seemingly unbreakable code able to break the Nazi code and prevent World War II from continuing beyond 1945.

Historically there were lots of other reasons the War ended when it did, but The Imitation Game focuses on the people behind the scenes, the cryptanalysts and code-breaking who elusively assisted those fighting on the front line.

Widely regarded as the founding father of theoretical computer science Alan Turing’s life story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing has only recently gained prominence following a Royal pardon and a highly publicized internet campaign to clear Turing’s name and bestow upon him the recognition he never received in his own lifetime.

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With a suitably moving musical score by Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game is a poignant and superb historical drama of Turing and his band of men and one woman, Joan Clarke, featuring one of the best performances by Knightley (Atonement, Anna Karenina) in a race against time to save the world from tyranny. Turing’s genius as a mathematician came at a price, his apparent lack of emotional empathy yet despite the enormity of his task, he remained ironically detached from the brutal war which engulfed Europe and the world around him.

The Imitation Game is an intelligent historical drama, with universal themes of injustice and perseverance despite the prejudice and the odds against infuriating bureaucracy and time itself. Highly recommended for those viewers that enjoyed Atonement and Another Country.

 

Serendipity Sings

Begin Again

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Director: John Carney

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Mos Def, Rob Morrow

Irish director John Carney touches on the contemporary world of music production in the lyrical and whimsical romantic comedy Begin Again featuring Mark Ruffalo as a middle aged music producer Dan who after a bout of heavy drinking lands up meeting British ex-pat and aspiring song writer Gretta, played by Keira Knightley singing a ballad at an open mic night in a chance encounter.

Dan soon imagines the potential in Gretta’s Bohemian voice and convinces her that she could become the next big thing. The film’s title comes after both characters Dan and Gretta are at a crossroads in their lives, with Dan on the verge of losing his reputation as a music producer whilst his non-committal relationship with his daughter Violet, played by Hailee Steinfeld is tenuous at best. There is also Dan’s collapsed relationship with his ex-wife Music Journalist Miriam Hart, played by Indie film expert Catherine Keener (The Oranges, Please Give).

Gretta is about to catch a plane back to the UK leaving behind her shattered dreams in the Big Apple after a terrible split from Rock star boyfriend Dave Kohl ironically played by Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine in his first movie role. The chemistry between Ruffalo and Knightley is undeniable and it’s refreshing to see her in a contemporary role, shedding off those stuffy characters she is famous for playing in such period films as Anna Karenina, Atonement and The Duchess. Ruffalo is at home in this type of film having played similar characters in The Kids are Alright and Rumour has It.

Whilst the script also by John Carney could have been more solid, his direction of Begin Again is more structured, easily showcasing off the mis-en-scene of New York’s music scene and his clever way of making Manhattan a character in the film in a clearly influenced Italian Neo-Realist style.

Carney makes the most of his leading lady, lavishing extra camera time on the beauty of Keira Knightley and leaving Mark Ruffalo more as a middle aged clown who is trying to get his act back together. It’s a pity that the script did not flesh out the development of Violet and Miriam as supporting characters, as Steinfeld (True Grit) and Keener are both superb actors.

Begin Again is a whimsical musical comedy supported by a wonderful cast including Hip Hop artist Mos Def (16 Blocks) and rising British star James Corden as Steve, a bohemian street performer and fringe artist who facilitates the serendipitous meeting between Gretta and Dan. Recommended viewing for those that prefer light musical comedies which is all the more enjoyable when viewers can see that the actors had fun making Begin Again.

2014 Toronto Film Festival

2014 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

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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: The Judge directed by David Dobkin starring Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio

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People’s Choice Award: The Imitation Game directed by Morten Tyldum starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Tom Goodman-Hill

Best Canadian Feature Film: Bang Bang Baby directed by Jeffrey St. Jules starring Jane Levy, Peter Stormare and Justin Chatwin.

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Live Without Regrets

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin, Costner

Royal Shakespeare actor turned director Kenneth Branagh teams up with the darling of the reboot franchises, American actor Chris Pine last seen in JJ. Abrams’s Star Trek: Into Darkness to direct and star in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a prequel to such films as Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994) and The Sum of all Fears (2002). Grounding the action back in London where Ryan is studying at the London School of Economics and witnesses 9/11 on British TV, he is soon thrust into mortal combat in Afghanistan in 2003.

After suffering a spinal injury from his tour in Afghanistan, Ryan is back in the States at the Walter Reed Medical Centre where he meets Dr Cathy Muller, played by Keira Knightley, initially an odd casting choice but as the film progresses it is really the chemistry between Knightley and Branagh that sizzle on screen particularly in the witty dialogue in the Moscow restaurant scene discussing living without regrets, which eclipses any plausibility of her character pairing with Pine’s energetic American spy Ryan. Knightley for once has shed her period drama image after such turns in the beautiful yet flawed Anna Karenina and the brilliant Atonement who elevates Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit into a better movie even though her mid-Atlantic accent remains indistinguishable.

Branagh last seen in My Week With Marilyn and who also directed Thor, casts himself as cruel Russian oligarch Viktor Cheverin who has dodgy accounts hiding a range of funds waiting to destabilize the US economy from his swish uber-cool Moscow skyscraper activating a couple of sleeper Russian agents in the American Mid-West.

sorry_wrong_number_ver2The onscreen tension between Branagh, Pine and Knightley is hinted at earlier through clips of the 1948 thriller Sorry Wrong Number starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster which is about a woman who overhears a murder plot on the phone only to realize she is the intended victim.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is packed with some great action sequences both in Moscow and New York while the storyline is fairly formulaic and in no league to the 007 or Bourne Identity franchises, it is still an enjoyable slightly suave thriller, but entertaining nevertheless. Branagh is better at directing with more grandiose films like the original Thor film and naturally his earlier films with Emma Thompson were still the best including Dead Again and King Henry V.

Kevin Costner helps the film as veteran CIA agent Harper who plays mentor to the young spy. Chris Pine makes the best of his version of Ryan with his startling blue eyes, but lacks the grit and maturity that Harrison Ford brought to the character in the nineties films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Shadow Recruit is recommended viewing for a watchable spy thriller which does not dazzle, but just manages to engage the audience’s attention especially with the combined acting calibre of Branagh and Knightley.

A Lost Chance at Amendment

Atonement

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Joe Wright’s sumptious cinematic version of the acclaimed novel Atonement by Ian McEwan is really worth viewing a second time round…

Having read Atonement in 2007 and waited for the big screen version of the tale about real and imagined crimes, war and the devastation of innocence, I was suitably impressed by Wright’s cinematic version of a complex novel by author McEwan. Only on a second viewing do I fully appreciate the intricate variations of a grand tale about innocence, loss and the absolute devastation of World War II on all nations concerned. With a brilliant screenplay by the masterful Christopher Hampton, who brought us Dangerous Liaisons and the elegant film Carrington about the life of Lytton Strachey, Wright propels the viewer into an elegant scene of the snobbish society of English country life that is soon transformed forever at the approaching threat of war… showing both those that profits off war’s destruction and those that lose everything by the infinite devastation of endless violence.

*****

What makes Wright’s film version so brilliant, is his effective use of water as a motif both for purification and as a form of atonement and cleansing, whether its the illicit sexual encounters of a lazy English sultry summer afternoon or the sponging of blood and grime from the wounded soldiers as they return from the Theatre of war, that was France in 1940.  From the retreat at Dunkirk to the blitz of London and the losses suffered by all, Atonement paints a grim and prophetic picture of a world without order, direction or compassion, where many must suffer for the mistakes of the few. Wright’s cinematic achievement is that wonderfully long tracking shot on the beaches of France as the English forces prepare for an initial retreat, and the wake of devastation left behind, as one of the central characters Robbie turns and survey the catastrophe of confusion and anarchy. A society on the brink of collapse, seemingly without redemption.

Atonement focuses also on conflicting narratives, embellishments and the dangers of an imagination too rampant to remain real, only realised through the loss of innocence and that inexhaustible sense of wasted time. Besides alternative settings of elegance and destruction, are poignant performances by a superb cast that tackle the subject matter with an earnest command of look and suspense. The original score by Dario Marinelli is brilliant and exceptionally evocative, and is in line with similar films about war, love and lost chances in the tradition of The English Patient and The Remains of the Day.

Audiences should watch out for a superb performance by Saoirse Ronan as the precocious and prying Briony Tallis, who sets in motion a series of misguided accusations which can never be rectified. Saoirse Ronan deservedly received an Oscar nomination for her role as the imaginative 13 year old girl, who does not fully grasp the motives or desires of adults, particularly those of her sister Cecilia played by Keira Knightley and Robbie Turner played by James McAvoy.

Ian McEwan’s novel, Atonement is a multi-layed superbly descriptive account of the erosion of social stability in the face of a world inevitably altered by the onset of the most dramatic event in the 20th century…

The novel  is a thought-provoking and intelligent study of English society on the brink of a significant historical turning point, the affects of which still resonate today…

Even if you have seen the film,  the novel is worth reading and then set aside a luxurious afternoon to afford yourself a second viewing of Atonement.  Both endeavors are enriching and speculative, not to mention thought-provoking… After all, how is a person to atone for an accusation that irrevocably changes the course of a families history forever…

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