Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Chandler’

To the Moon and Back

First Man

Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Corey Stoll, Ciaran Hinds, Kyle Chandler, Patrick Fugit, Christopher Abbott, Olivia Hamilton, Pablo Schreiber, Shea Whigham, Lukas Haas, Corey Michael Smith

Thanks to a preview screening organized by United International Pictures at Suncoast Cinecentre, Durban, I was fortunate enough to see director Damien Chazelle’s highly anticipated Neil Armstrong biopic First Man starring an excellent Ryan Gosling and Golden Globe winner Claire Foy as his wife Janet Armstrong.

First Man was based on an intelligently written screenplay by Josh Singer based upon the James R. Hansen book First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong.

In the space race between America and the Soviets in the 1960’s, there was a desperate bid to successfully land a man on the moon, a pledge that iconic President John F. Kennedy made to the American public which in turn put pressure on NASA to not only train astronauts but successfully prepare them physically, psychologically and emotionally for a lunar trip.

What the Oscar winning director of La La Land Damien Chazelle does so beautifully is contrast the massive effort and technical implications of sending men to the moon with a complex family drama about Neil and Janet Armstrong as they desperate recover from the death of their young daughter Karen from a Brain Tumour.

Not only does this tragedy pull on the fabric of their marriage, but its Neil Armstrong’s absolute determination that he is going to be the first man on the moon and be the best astronaut America has ever seen. Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling (La La Land, Half Nelson) gives a nuanced performance as Neil Armstrong, a father continually haunted by the death of his young daughter while the moon taunts him every evening, as if to say when are you actually coming to visit me?

Janet Armstrong superbly played by Claire Foy who deserves an Oscar nomination for her performance grows increasingly frantic at the prospect that while she has to be a mother to two young boys, there is a real danger that her husband might not return from a dangerous mission to the moon because of the infinite dangers involved.

In contrast to the familial tension at home, the actual attempts to get to the moon are impressively captured onscreen with mesmerizing sound effects suitably accompanied by an incredible musical score by Oscar winner Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) which truly makes First Man a remarkable and utterly impressionable film – This is truly great cinema held together by cerebral images and perfect on point portrayals of Neil and Janet Armstrong by  Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, who both brilliantly hold the film together emotionally and psychologically.

Audiences should watch out for a superb cameo by Corey Stoll as the outspoken Buzz Aldrin who feels nothing about remarking about an astronaut’s failure at his own funeral or how he was not a good pilot.

First Man is a complex, intelligently directed portrayals of one of the defining moments of the 20th century – Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the Moon and the build up which preceded this significant event.

Highly recommended viewing, First Man receives a film rating of 9.5 out of 10 and is truly a cinematic achievement that will take audiences literally to the moon and back. Utterly superb.

 

 

Massachusetts Men

Manchester by the Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Lucas Hedges, Tate Donovan, Matthew Broderick, C. J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton

Oscar nominee Casey Affleck gives a Golden Globe winning performance as the emotionally stunted Lee Chandler in director Kenneth Lonergan’s atmospheric if slightly drawn out family drama Manchester by the Sea.

Affleck first came to critics’ attention in the Western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford opposite Brad Pitt, of which he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Although more reticent than his prolific older brother Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck has built up an impressive body of acting work (Gone Baby Gone, Interstellar, The Finest Hours).

In this moving study of American masculinity set in Massachusetts, playwright turned screenwriter and director Kenneth Lonergan sets the scene for a series of unfortunate events slowly revealing layers of secrets that his characters contain as the plot develops through a series of well executed flashbacks creating an extensive backstory particularly for Lee Chandler and his close relationship with his older brother Joe and nephew Patrick.

When Joe played by Kyle Chandler (Carol, Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf of Wall Street) suddenly dies from congestive heart failure, Lee has to travel upstate to Manchester, Massachusetts to identify his brothers body and deal with the guardianship of Joe’s son Patrick, a precocious outspoken teenager, superbly played by Lucas Hedges (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom).

Patrick’s mother Elise has moved away, a recovering alcoholic played with a brittle intensity by the hugely underrated Gretchen Mol who was so brilliant in the crime series Boardwalk Empire. Elise has set up a new life with boyfriend Jeffrey played by Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Glory, The Producers).

But Lee Chandler, a foul mouthed janitor and handyman has his own demons to grapple with, a sense which Affleck conveys with perfect nuance. In between his mundane existence he suddenly starts bar fights in the local pubs letting violence replace his inner torment about a tragic event that occurred in his past.

As the story progresses, Lonergan does not give the audience all the narrative clues upfront something which adds to the emotional tension of the film. Halfway through we discover that Lee was married to Randi and had three beautiful children but his irresponsible ways destroyed their family forever. Randi is played by Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) who re-enters Lee’s life at the point which he would least like to see her. His brother’s funeral.

While Manchester by the Sea is drawn out, the script is brilliant especially in the tension filled scenes between uncle and nephew as they drive around trying to sort out all the tedious details of Joe’s death including the funeral arrangements and the impact of Patrick’s guardianship. Hedges’ performance as Patrick electrifies the family drama with his back chatting confidence as he proudly tells his uncle that he has two girlfriends and plays in a band.

Manchester by the Sea clearly belongs to Casey Affleck as he is in virtually every scene of the film and is an intimate study of broken masculinity, a portrait of a man battling to deal with his older brother’s death and the terrifying prospect of taking responsibility for his sixteen year old nephew.

Highly recommended viewing for a film with a first rate script and intelligently portrayed characters. Casey Affleck is definitely an actor to watch in future…

Martini’s and Cigarettes

Carol

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Director: Todd Haynes

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Cory Michael Smith

Far From Heaven director Todd Haynes adapts the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt for the big screen in the visually beautiful and meticulously directed film Carol featuring Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine) and Oscar Nominee Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as unlikely lovers in New York during Christmas in 1952.

Similar to Far from Heaven which also featured a love story which was socially prohibited back in the 1950’s, Carol focuses on a love affair between an affluent married woman Carol Aird and a young shop assistant Therese Belivet wonderfully played by Mara. Blanchett brings a nuanced perspective to the role of Carol, a strong willed and affluent woman whose sexual desires for the same sex are severely limited by the narrow social attitudes of the early 1950’s America, particularly mirrored in the attitude of her affronted soon to be ex-husband Harge Aird superbly played by Kyle Chandler, who typically views his wife and daughter as his patriarchal properties which need to be possessed.

Carol has to be viewed through the long struggle for international LGBT rights which is now enjoyed by many but wasn’t the case some sixty years ago. Carol like Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain depicts a socially taboo homosexual love affair which affects not only the lovers involved but also their respective partners or suitors. In this case, it is Therese’s suitor Richard Simco played by Jake Lacy who is mystified as to why Therese is constantly rebuffing his advances.

Carol’s situation is more complex as she is married with a husband and a little daughter, which really speaks to the emotional pull of the entire film. As Carol and Therese embark on a cross-country jaunt from New York to Chicago, their travels reflect their own emotional and sexual journeys as they soon realize how deeply they have fallen for each other despite the consequences.

After their initial encounter in a swanky New York department store whereby shop assistant Therese persuades the chain-smoking and glamourous Carol Aird to rather buy a train set than a doll for her daughter as a Christmas present, Haynes makes a valid point about the perceived gender typical socialization of children and how sexuality itself is in fact a social construct.

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Their scandalous affair is assisted by Carol’s ex-lover Abby Gerhard played by Sarah Paulson and as those they affect soon realize what has occurred, it’s the peripheral characters conservative viewpoints on morality which frames this tender and beautifully constructed love affair characterized by Martini’s and cigarettes.

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Carol has generated a lot of critical acclaim because Blanchett and Mara both have the acting abilities to pull off such nuanced and complex performances especially in the hands of a brilliant director like Todd Haynes who after his stunning mini-series Mildred Pierce and his earlier films Far From Heaven and I’m Not There is an artist at the peak of his creative powers, both in terms of semiotics and visual arts.

Carol is highly recommended viewing, extraordinarily acted, beautifully designed and most notably directed with a flair for detail which is rarely glimpsed in the 21st century’s era of effects laden contemporary cinema.

Viewers that enjoy a mature adult drama, should definitely watch Carol, a film which does not resort to explicit nudity or shock value but critically evaluates an extraordinary love affair taking place in an exceptionally conservative era of American history.

2015 Cannes Film Festival

2015 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL WINNERS

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Winners of the five main prizes at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival were as follows: –

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Palme d’Or– Dheepan directed by Jacques Audiard

The Assassin

Best Director – Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin

The_Measure_of_a_Man_(2015_film)

Best Actor: Vincent Lindon – The Measure of Man

Best Actress: shared between

carol

Rooney Mara – Carol

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Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon roi

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Best Screenplay – Michel Franco for Chronic starring Tim Roth and David Dastmalchian

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Queer Palm Award: Carol directed by Todd Haynes starring Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler

Source: 2015 Cannes Film Festival

 

 

Scorsese’s Satyricon

 wolf_of_wall_street_ver3

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…

Timeline of Terror

Zero Dark Thirty

Superb Tradecraft

Superb Tradecraft

Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliant yet riveting film Zero Dark Thirty is a masterful film, held together by a central performance by Jessica Chastain as CIA Intelligence Operative Maya and a superb script by Mark Boal, who also collaborated with Bigelow on the equally impressive The Hurt Locker.

This complex film opens with the flight recordings of the United 93 plane that crashed in Pennsylvania during the September 2001 US Terror attacks sparking an obsessive and frustrating hunt for the Al Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden by the CIA and specifically Maya initially from the hostile environment of Pakistan then based at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The narrative charts a veritable timeline of terror that has characterized the first decade of the 21st century, from 9/11 to the London Transport bombings in July 2005, to the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad in September 2008 to the suicide bombing at the American military base, Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan in December 2009.

Zero Dark Thirty is a brilliant spy thriller and unlike Argo, is deadly serious in every respect and is grounded in much historical research and investigative journalism, noted in the detailed script by Mark Boal. As in The Hurt Locker, Bigelow once again casts her central character in a completely hostile and extremely dangerous environment and the petite Maya as the tenacious CIA operative who skilfully leads the hunt for and final execution of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind many international terrorist attacks, most notably 9/11 and the 2005 London bombings.

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Bigelow as a director takes on a larger canvas than in the Iraq War in The Hurt Locker and shows that the decade long hunt for America’s most wanted enemy was an international affair from Pakistan to Poland to Kuwait involving CIA black sites, detailed surveillance and lots of political wrangling.

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A notable narrative shift is from the film’s first half set under the Bush administration where torture, rendition and revenge were the CIA’s chief instruments of capturing Al Qaeda terrorists to the second half set after November 2008 under the Obama administration where detailed surveillance, dedication and  almost positive certainty of terrorist tradecraft which ultimately lead to the riveting  elimination of Osama Bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011, Zero Dark Thirty is deadpan in its presentation of one nations hunt for a master terrorist and the extraordinary sacrifice and lengths these CIA operatives went to in finally achieving their goal.

Jessica Chastain performance is simply superb and has already garnered a 2013 Golden Globe Award and truly shows her talent and diversity in the role of Maya but also points to Kathryn Bigelow ability  to bring out the best performance ever in her leading actors, as was the case with Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker. The final sequence involving the storming of the Abbottabad compound, believed to be Bin Ladin’s hideout by elite American soldiers is truly nerve-wracking cinema, shot with Bigelow’s trademark directorial detachment cut through with absolute documentary styled realism.

Zero Dark Thirty has a great supporting cast including Jason Clarke as the CIA torturer Dan, Kyle Chandler as CIA Pakistan operations chief Joseph Bradley along with Mark Strong, Jennifer Ehle and James Gandolfini, but it is really Chastain’s obsessive portrayal of CIA Operative Maya, a woman battling to gain respect in a male dominated espionage arena, that shows her true talent. The pace of Zero Dark Thirty is fast and yet measured enough to show the time involved assisted by an original score by Alexandre Desplat and with cutting edge sound editing, the audience is immediately immersed in a deeply fascinating portrait of America’s covert hunt for that nation’s Enemy Number One. Highly Recommended and definitely Oscar worthy.

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