Posts Tagged ‘Kristin Scott Thomas’

The Croft Legacy

Tomb Raider

Director: Roar Uthaug

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins, Alexandre Willaume, Hannah John-Kamen

Norwegian director Roar Uthaug reinvents the Tomb Raider franchise with Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) as Lara Croft.

Filmed primarily in South Africa, which exotic locations doubled for a mysterious island in the sea of Japan, Tomb Raider moves away from the popcorn CGI laden films of its previous inventions featuring Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003).

While Vikander is not as physically striking as Angelina Jolie, she brings a different more nuanced perception of Lara Croft as a rebellious and fiercely independent young British woman who is reluctant to take over the Croft Legacy until she can solve the mystery of her father Sir Richard Croft’s strange disappearance.

Richard Croft is played by Dominic West and Lara goes in search of her father in a tumultuous adventure which takes her from Hong Kong where she is accompanied by drunken sailor Lu Ren played by Daniel Wu (Warcraft) to a mysterious island housing the tomb of Hirimo, a Japanese death goddess who is fabled to bring destruction on the planet if the tomb is ever opened.

This Tomb Raider which clearly takes inspiration from the Indiana Jones films, mainly features Lara Croft pitted against a vindictive Matthias Vogel played with ruthless intent by Walton Goggins (Django Unchained) who is also planning to unlock the mythical tomb, while reporting to an elusive benefactor.

The emotional arc of the film is sufficiently carried by Alicia Vikander’s sustained acting as she conveys all the determination and intelligence of a brave and fearless heiress who needs to unlock the mystery of her father’s disappearance before rightfully claiming her vast inheritance from Croft Enterprises, which is eagerly guarded by the duplicitous Ana Miller played by Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour, The English Patient, Gosford Park).

While the rest of the cast pales in comparison to Vikander, director Roar Uthuag clearly stays within the confines of an adventure genre and does not rely heavily on CGI to embellish Tomb Raider to unbelievable proportions. Which makes Tomb Raider more a psychological adventure story than a physical one, although Vikander does undergo some gruelling stunts to live up to the Lara Croft reputation.

My only criticism is that George Richmond’s cinematography in Tomb Raider is very dark and could inadvertently lull the audience into boredom, especially the extended tomb sequences, which fortunately does not detract from the circular narrative which sustains the film’s pace if viewers concentrate properly.

Tomb Raider gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that enjoy an old fashioned adventure film with a distinctly feminine edge.

Whether a Tomb Raider sequel will appear, remains to be seen.

 

Victory at Any Cost

Darkest Hour

Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Samuel West, David Schofield, Joe Armstrong, David Strathairn

Oscar nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) gives an Oscar worthy performance in his nuanced portrayal of cantankerous British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill whose face is completely transformed to look like Churchill thanks to the superb makeup and prosthetic by Kazuhiro Tsuji.

Acclaimed director of Atonement Joe Wright is the perfect candidate to steer this compelling political war drama Darkest Hour as the story meticulously tracks the events from Churchill’s inauguration as prime minister, including a particularly refined scene between the PM and King George VI wonderfully played by Ben Mendelsohn to the anxious events leading up to the ingenuous evacuation of British troops from the beaches at Dunkirk, successfully anticipated and engineered by Churchill himself and the British sea going public.

If Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk is a stunning depiction of that crucial maritime military evacuation, then Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is the companion film showing the political and administrative events which lead to that escape from the invading Nazi forces which were aggressively sweeping across the European continent in May 1940.

The fact that both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour are vying for Best Picture at the 90th Oscars is a testament to how exceptional both films are made. Joe Wright should have got an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

At the heart of Darkest Hour is Gary Oldman’s finest onscreen performance, a superb acting tour-de-force in which he completely embodies every aspect of Winston Churchill from his unconventional drinking habits to his affectionate if often tumultuous relationship with his level headed wife Clementine superbly played by Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient).

Oldman’s performance rarely falters and actually improves as Darkest Hour progresses, a performance with such gusto and insight that all audiences will see is Winston Churchill, a seasoned politician, a risk taker and a man who had the entire fate of the British nation in his sometimes shaky hands, yet who realized the gravity of the approaching invasion of the Germans at the beginning of World War II.

Churchill’s doubt about whether the British must fight Hitler to the bitter end or sue for an untrustworthy peace is conveyed in an extremely relevant scene between him and the king who politely suggests that perhaps as prime minister, Churchill should seek advice from the British public, encapsulated in a jingoistic scene whereby he discusses the grave decision with commuters on the London underground before stepping off at Westminster.

Aided by theatrical costumes by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) and a sumptuous production design, Darkest Hour is an epic film made all the more riveting by a staggering performance by Gary Oldman who must surely get the long awaited recognition he deserves for his limitless acting talent and his pivotal contribution to world cinema.

Darkest Hour gets a Film rating: 9.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended for viewers that love historical biographies such as The King’s Speech and The Iron Lady.

In The Shadow of a Literary Giant

The Invisible Woman

invisible_woman

Director: Ralph Fiennes

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, Michelle Fairley, Michael Marcus, Joanna Scanlan, Amanda Hale

Oscar nominated actor Ralph Fiennes follows up his first directorial debut Coriolanus with a film adaptation of a novel by Claire Tomlin, The Invisible Woman, which centres on the brief but doomed love affair between celebrated Victorian novelist Charles Dickens and Nelly, known as Ellen Tiernan a young actress half his age, superbly played by Felicity Jones of Hysteria fame.

As a director Ralph Fiennes seems to find his creativity for portraying the Victorians from skilled director Jane Campion with many shots looking like a pastiche of scenes from her hit film The Piano and the later film Bright Star.

bright_star

As an actor Ralph Fiennes who also plays Charles Dickens is naturally brilliant, inhabiting a larger than life famed author who clearly desired literary attention and popularity more than the love of his massive family. Fiennes does not detract from Dickens reputation as one of the greatest Victorian novelists of the 19th century who went to detailed efforts to document through literature the hardships of the British population during the Industrial Revolution especially illustrated in his celebrated novels Oliver Twist, Hard Times and Bleak House.

This period of literature especially during the mid 19th century and which characterized the reign of Queen Victoria was called realism and along with Dickens, spawned a range of brilliant social commentators including George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and Thomas Hardy who all highlighted the plight of the poor especially the appalling conditions of child labour.

The Invisible Woman centres on the period of friendship between Charles Dickens and the novelist and playwright Wilkie Collins, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkie_Collins played by Tom Hollander who wrote The Woman in White in the early 1850s. Here Dickens, aged 45 in rehearsal for The Frozen Deep, a collaborative play written with Collins he meets the gorgeous Nelly (Ellen Tiernan) along with her supportive mother Mrs Frances Tiernan played by Kristin Scott Thomas, ironically Fiennes co star in the Oscar winning film The English Patient.

Despite being married with 10 children, and a 27 year age difference Charles Dickens is scandalously captivated by Nelly who is actually the same age as his oldest son Charles Junior played by Michael Marcus and there is an awkward scene in the film whereby Dickens Sr having resolved to separate from his wife is walking with Nelly through Hampstead and comes across his oldest son Charles, who discover the affair.

Unfortunately as illustrated in The Invisible Woman the love affair between Dickens and Nelly is short lived but she remains the muse for Estella the female character in Dickens most accessible and famous work Great Expectations (published in 1861) who Pip falls in love with.

Felicity Jones adds layers of subtlety and complexity to the character of Nelly a woman who becomes the object of the great novelist’s affection who soon realizes that their affair is ultimately doomed and she will be the one most affected by this relationship. For Dickens, his love of fame and literary greatness trumps any real devotion to Nelly and naturally divorce was out of the question. Nelly realizes that she is living in the shadow of a literary giant and her role in his success will be eclipsed by his fame and popularity.

The Invisible Woman is a thought-provoking and intelligent period piece which at times lacks variety and is slow moving. Fiennes as a director makes a fatal decision not to use much soundtrack in the film, which clearly needs a more suitable musical score. At least The Invisible Woman got nominated for Best Costume Design but lost out to The Great Gatsby at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Viewers get the impression that if Ralph Fiennes had been content on just playing Dickens and letting a more experienced director like Mike Newell or Jane Campion remain behind the camera, The Invisible Woman could be a remarkable film.

This engaging if slightly uneven period piece is saved by the sustaining performance of Felicity Jones who carries the subject matter of the film beautifully. The Invisible Woman is recommended viewing but not absolutely essential and will most likely appeal to literary scholars who are familiar with the writers of Victorian social criticism and ardent Charles Dickens fans.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickens

 

Scandalous Liaisons

Bel Ami

Beautiful Friend

A French Quartet!

Robert Pattinson is desperately attempting to shed his alter cinematic ego Edward Cullen now that the Twilight series has wrapped up and stars as Georges Duroy a manipulative and penniless soldier who returns to Paris in the 1880’s after fighting a colonial war in Algeria and soon rises to the heights of Parisian society through various indiscriminate sexual liaisons in the film adaptation of the 19th century writer Guy de Maupassant’s novel Bel Ami, meaning Beautiful Friend.

Uma Thurman is desperately trying to recapture that Parisian intrigue in Bel Ami starring as Madeliene Foster who soon becomes embroiled in an ill-fated love quadrangle with Georges and two other influential and wealthy woman. Unfortunately for Thurman, Bel Ami is no match to the extraordinary brilliance of Dangerous Liaisons the 1988 hit film starring Thurman along with the brilliant Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer and whilst the latter was skilfully directed by Stephen Frears with a razor-sharp script by Christopher Hampton, Bel Ami lacks the uniformity of vision which Dangerous Liaisons so clearly perfected as a masterpiece in drawing room cinema.

Kristin Scott Thomas is no stranger to scandalous period films and has starred in the Oscar Winning The English Patient along with Up at The Villa and Paul Schrader’s film The Walker and in Bel Ami, Scott Thomas plays Virginie Rousset a pliable 19th century cougar who falls victim to the charms and seduction of Georges played by Pattinson.

Christina Ricci seen in the fabulous retro series Pan Am is most famous for The Adams Family and Monster, stars as Clotilde de Marelle another wealthy Parisian housewife who assists Georges in climbing the social ladder rather rapidly in French Society to such a point where he abandons his former lovers and shocks everyone even his former employer, a newspaper editor Monsieur Rousset oddly played by Colm Meaney.

Bel Ami is a fun foursome period romp with some sultry sex scenes to spice up a rather vacuous tale of ambition, betrayal and seduction in 19th century Paris, but is no match to films in a similar genre most notably the brilliant Dangerous Liaisons and the equally enjoyable Belle Epoque set drawing room drama Cheri also directed by Stephen Frears and starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend and Kathy Bates.

For those who love scandalous liaisons and seduction with Robert Pattinson as the young ruthless seducer, then Bel Ami will most certainly appeal especially the final and rather hilarious wedding scene where Georges takes revenge on all those socialites who scorned him in his ambitious rise to power and wealth, a plot only to be found in a fashionable French novel.

Lacking in singular direction and a brilliant script, Bel Ami directed by Donald Declan and Nick Omerod is entertaining, slightly provocative and relies too heavily on raunchy sex scenes and occasional nudity than on the sophisticated art of seduction.

How to capture a King…

The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl is a faithful and condensed film adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s engrossing novel about Mary and Anne Boleyn, the sisters whose fateful and tragic involvement in King Henry VIII, not only changed the course of the British monarchy, but also established a Tudor dynasty.

In the wake of similar films and series about this fascinating and intriguing period of English history, namely the raunchy TV series The Tudors and the most recent sequel to Elizabeth, Shekhar Kapur’s lavish Elizabeth, the Golden Age, The Other Boleyn Girl, may not appear as spectacular but was certainly as entertaining for anyone who has a keen interest in the historical events of the sixteenth century. The equally talented Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman take the roles of sisters Mary and Anne Boleyn respectively. Johansson reprising her doleful yet stoical performance similar to her earlier role as Vermeer’s muse in Girl with a Pearl Earring, while Portman is splendidly belligerent and regal as Anne Boleyn, capturing the self-important air of an ambitious Queen, reminiscent of her portrayal of the young Queen Amidala in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

While the intrigues of the British monarchy some four hundred years ago, may not appeal to everyone’s taste, first time film director Justin Chadwick swiftly moulds The Other Boleyn Girl into a fast-paced, costume drama, filled with ruthless Dukes, and unforgiving nobility, who centre their power-hungry plans on King Henry VIII, a despotic and fickle monarch, whose attentions dangerously shift from his Queen, to his mistresses and who eventually become notoriously famous for, discarding, wedding and even beheading many of his six wives. Monogamy was never his strongest feature.

King Henry VIII, such a mythical figure in the annuls of British history has been portrayed by many onscreen, so it is with obvious difficulty that the Australian actor, Eric Bana had in capturing the essence of this potent King’s spoilt and almost tyrannical character. His efforts do not go unnoticed, however, Bana fails to reflect the truly conflicted nature of Henry as the complex ruler he was. While the novel of The Other Boleyn Girl fills one with all the intricate details of his splendid court and the complex relations within the Boleyn family, whereby woman were used as pawns to further a family’s status in the Kingdom, the film is given some grounding by a strong performance by Kristin Scott Thomas as the sisters mother, Lady Elizabeth, who is savagely critical of the manipulations of her brother, the sisters’ uncle, the influential Duke of Norfolk.

With the intelligent casting of such rising stars as Johansson and Portman, the film will hopefully appeal to a younger generation of viewers, in an effort to make history and royal courtship so infinitely attractive. After all, both sisters were barely out of their teens when their affairs with King Henry began, and they like everyone else fell prey to the whims of a supremely powerful figure, the equivalent to a modern day tyrant.

Sexy and lush menage a trois

Sexy and lush menage a trois

Eventually both sisters capture the King’s affections and lose them again, with disastrous consequences for one, and fortunate, yet ironic consequences for the other. Both the film and the novel of The Other Boleyn Girl are worth investing some effort in, demonstrating that while society has advanced considerably from the 1500s, we, as human beings are still driven by such forces as greed, ambition, lust and betrayal and unfortunately, even nowadays, tyrants still linger unhindered in forgotten regions of the world.

Naturally it’s Your Name that Counts

The Walker

Everyone loves a Scandal

Everyone loves a Scandal

Paul Schrader’s tale of scandal and sexual intrigue…

The Walker is stylish and superbly written film by Paul Schrader, director of such disturbingly transgressive movies as The Comfort of Strangers and AutoFocus. Like his other films, Schrader’s classic murder mystery focuses on eccentric characters embroiled with dubious sexuality and moral deviancy set in modern day Washington DC. Woody Harrelson takes the role of Southerner Carter Page III, an effeminate companion to the wives of senators and power-hungry politicians escorting them to elegant social occasions in the American Capital’s array of Embassy receptions and Gala Operas.

Vain, witty and immaculately dressed in cufflinks and double breasted suits, Carter Page is a throwback from a more genteel age, playing canasta at a discreet hotel every Wednesday with his close circle of lady friends, played with great luminosity by such talented actresses as the wry Lily Tomlin, the husky-voiced Lauren Bacall and the delicately elusive Kristin Scott Thomas.

When one of these friends is seemingly involved in a murder, scandal is imminent and Carter decides to play devil’s advocate trying to protect his friend, Lynn Lockner, a senator’s wife (Scott Thomas), while attempting to maintain his own social standing in this precariously powerful society, where politicians are out for blood and scandals follow indiscretions and whispering campaigns could ruin reputations.

What Schrader as director and writer of this insightful film does so brilliantly is to create a contrast between the world of Washington’s high society and the more secretive one of the capital’s homosexual community, where relationships are fragile and even under threat. Harrelson is excellent at playing the complex Carter Page, a socialite born and bred of Virginian stock and what is known as a Walker (or companion) of these wealthy ladies, whose husbands are busy with the cut-throat world of American politics, while also trying to maintain a secret relationship with his foreign lover, a news journalist and photographer who’s only dream is to live in a more openly accepted environment like New York’s Soho. With plush interiors of elegant hotels and salons juxtaposed against the harsh bureaucracy of police stations and dim back alley bars, Schrader creates a sense in The Walker that behind the façade of polite society there lurks alternative underworlds of devious deceptions and sinister encounters, especially true in the slippery and dangerous intersecting worlds of politics and sexual encounters.


Besides creating these contrasting settings, the characters in the film ooze wit and sophistication, not to mention an exaggerated opinion of themselves, while also displaying the hypocrisy, greed and ambition which many of the rich and famous for prey to. Schrader also leaves countless clues to the points of reference by which he would like the viewer to see his film, from exquisite art works, to works by Dominick Dunne, the New York social commentator and Truman Capote as well as sharp references to America’s current involvement in Iraq, as the camera picks up on random Television images underlined by the photography that Carter Page’s lover does, photographs of naked men masked and chained up, reminiscent of those tortured Iraqi prisoners held in American foreign custody, which came to the media’s attention recently.

The Walker is an intelligent and witty film, a measured social commentary on the centers of political power, and the people that control a nations destiny, while sacrificing their own. I would recommend it as essential viewing to anyone who appreciates stylish filmmaking and has a sophisticated sense of how intricately woven aspects of politics, sexuality and wealth are to making up a society as powerful and dominant as the USA.


Retail Therapy at its Best!

confessions_of_a_shopaholic1If viewers loved the Devil wears Prada then with a more muted less robust story, go and watch Confessions of a Shopaholic – its like Muriel’s Wedding on acid with costumes by Patricia Field the costume designer for the hit TV series Ugly Betty.

Best Line: You speak Prada?

Best scenes:  The bridesmaid dress and the baglady & the Credit card in the freezer!!!

Confessions of a Shopaholic is an irreverent comedy about one girl’s ability to shop up a storm and also try and deal with climbing the corporate ladder of New York’s publishing industry. Featuring a wonderful performance by Isla Fisher along with Hugh Dancy, John Goodman and Joan Cusack, this film is a light and fun romp about the pleasures associated with retail therapy. Recommended for some light entertainment and loads of fun.

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