Posts Tagged ‘Laura Linney’

Heroism on the Hudson

Sully

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Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Valerie Mahaffey, Mike O’Malley, Jamey Sheridan, Anna Gunn, Holt McCallany, Sam Huntington, Max Adler

Clint Eastwood has turned into a brilliant director. At the age of 86 after a successful career in iconic films, Eastwood has shown a deft and experienced hand behind the camera. Just think Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino.

Now Eastwood as director turns in another remarkable cinematic achievement in the riveting retelling of the fateful day on the 15th January 2009 when an experienced airline pilot Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger makes a decision to land an airbus on the icy Hudson River and by doing so avoids an aviation calamity. As a film Sully is helped by the innovative script by Todd Komarnicki, who employs a non-linear approach to the narrative.

Sully is a top notch portrayal of a good news story, a superb retelling of a bizarre incident which caused 30 years of human experience and a huge desire to save everyone on board, into an unrivalled act of heroism. The feat was stunning. In the shadow of 9/11, for once an aircraft disaster did not end in tragedy over the Manhattan skyline.

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Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, Forest Gump) in one of his finest portrayals onscreen since Bridge of Spies, plays Chelsey Sullenberger, or Sully as the film title suggests who despite saving all 155 passengers and crew on board a USAirlines flight from La Guardia to Charlotte, North Carolina, goes horribly wrong when the plane hits a bird strike and both engines are destroyed. Sully has to land the airbus in the Hudson River on a freezing January day.

What Eastwood does so cleverly is he sets up doubt immediately in the audiences mind as Sully opens with potential scenarios of what could have gone wrong, the airbus crashing into a skyscraper or worse.

Then besides the doubt and aviation investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into the cause of the crash and whether as aircraft captain, he made the right judgement call, Sully faithfully recreates all the events of that miraculous day from the plane taking off and its descent into the river separating New York from New Jersey.

Hanks is superb in this role, choosing to downplay all the traumatic emotions which usually spring from such a courageous event and focus on his own conviction that whatever could have been simulated would never have occurred in real life, involving experienced human beings dealing with an exceptional situation. What saved all 155 passengers on board that flight was a confluence of timing, experience and intuition.

For what Sully does point out is that most aircraft water landings end in tragedy or worse absolute disappearance like flight MH370 which vanished into the South Indian Ocean soon after take-off from Kuala Lumpur en-route to Beijing in 2014. The wreckage of that aircraft is still being searched for to this day.

Sully is a genuine rendition of a miraculous and courageous event, a well-crafted and mature film cleverly directed by Clint Eastwood and beautifully acted by Tom Hanks. As Oscar season is on the way, then Sully should be one of its first contenders for Best Director and Best Actor. Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney have supporting roles as loyal co-pilot and anxious wife respectively.

Highly recommended viewing. Sully is a must see film.

Look Homeward, Angel

Genius

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Director: Michael Grandage

Cast: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Guy Pierce, Dominic West, Vanessa Kirby

Jude Law reunites with his Cold Mountain co-star Nicole Kidman and shares the screen with Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) in actor turned director Michael Grandage’s handsome literary film, Genius which premiered at the 37th Durban International Film Festival – http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/

Genius is based upon the biography of Max Perkins written by A. Scott Berg and transformed into an enlightening screenplay by John Logan.

Set in New York in the late 1920’s and on the brink of the Great Depression, Colin Firth gives a measured and subtle performance as the literary editor Max Perkins who has to contend with the overzealous and brilliant Carolingian writer Thomas Wolfe wonderfully played by Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) who has written a masterpiece, Look Homeward, Angel but needs the editing skills of the diligent Max Perkins to edit the text into a readable novel.

Perkins was responsible for editing the literary works of Ernest Hemingway played in this film by Dominic West (Testament of Youth) and F. Scott Fitzgerald post his Parisian phase, played by Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential). Genius is the examination of a male bond and friendship which strikes up between the reserved and slightly conservative Perkins and the wild and exuberant Thomas Wolfe, whose patronage is supported by the jealous and possessive Aline Bernstein superbly played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours).

Genius is about the evolution of a literary text, from creation through editing to publication, and how that process can be fraught with distraction, despair and most importantly passion.

Perkins neglects his long suffering wife Louise played by Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, Mr Holmes) and his family of daughters. Perkins unwittingly and perhaps subconsciously finds solace in the male friendship of the erratic and gifted Thomas Wolfe, although their affection for each other borders upon the homo-erotic, which both Aline and Louise can perceive and are certainly threatened by.

Firth wears a hat for the majority of the film and only at the end of Genius after he admits his true feelings for the incorrigible Wolfe, does he take it off. Perkin’s hat serves as a signifier of conformity in the film, despite the raging modernist and Bloomsbury movement which was engulfing Paris and London at the times. New York was still fairly conservative by European standards especially as the full effects of the Great Depression are realized by American society.

Despite an Oscar worthy cast and ambitious literary intentions, Genius is not a superb film in the same vein that The Hours was or Christopher Hampton’s Carrington, yet it is worth watching and would appeal to audiences who possess sophisticated literary tastes.

Nevertheless with polished production values, and brilliant performances by Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, Genius is an informative portrayal of a hugely talented writer Thomas Wolfe who never quite achieved the same international posthumous recognition as F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway.

Genius is recommended viewing and certainly a reason to rediscover the literary works of Wolfe who wrote Look Homeward, Angel  and Of Time and The River.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wolfe

Several Tricks of the Mind

Mr Holmes

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Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Frances de la Tour, Hiroyuki Sanada, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Patrick Kennedy, Hattie Morahan, Hermione Corfield

Director Bill Condon’s work has included such Oscar winners as Dreamgirls, Kinsey and Gods & Monsters. His nuanced and subtle cinematic adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind featuring Oscar nominee Sir Ian McKellan as the elderly and doddery Mr Holmes is a pleasure to watch if audiences can get through the first half an hour.

McKellan (Gods and Monsters, The Da Vinci Code, Richard III) is brilliant as the aging Mr Holmes who has to grapple not only with old age but all the ghosts of his pasts, primarily two unsolved cases, one involving a Japanese man whose father mysteriously never returned from England during World War II and another involving a husband trying to discover what his wife is involved in.

It is refreshing to see Sir Ian McKellan return to some a more resonant subject in this role, which is ever so complex, fascinating and beautifully told after a decade acting in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and also The X-Men franchise.

Director Bill Condon, with a stroke of genius, casts Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, The Fifth Estate) as the long suffering house keeper Mrs Munro, whose husband was abruptly killed in the Second World War and has only her young son Roger, wonderfully played by Milo Parker to keep her company. As the mother and son look after the aging and infamous Baker Street detective, Mr Holmes must search his ever failing memory to reignite the images of what made these two cases so extraordinary.

In a series of multiple flashbacks, including an entire sequence set in Japan, Hiroshima to be specific just after the atomic bomb has obliterated the city, Mr Holmes visits Tamiki Umezaki gracefully played by Hiroyuki Sanada last seen in the excellent war film, The Railway Man, who continually questions Mr Holmes about the mysterious disappearance of his father in England during the War and the possible reasons for abandoning his young son and wife back in Japan.

In the second more intricate case, the great detective whose cases have been studiously reproduced in literature and on film, a husband approaches him to find out what his wife is really up to. British actor Patrick Kennedy (Atonement) and Hattie Morahan (The Golden Compass) play the estranged Thomas and Anne Kelmot.

It is really the scenes between Laura Linney and Ian McKellan which are priceless as Mrs Munro soon realizes that her son has become attached to the eccentric Mr Holmes and insists on helping him keep an apiary at their home in the Southern coast of England.

Cinematically, Mr Holmes is not everyone’s cup of tea, but is a delicate character study of a famous man who is in the twilight of his years, whilst none of his eccentricities have been lost, despite his self-imposed exile. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Hyde Park on Hudson and lesser known films by Merchant Ivory such as Jefferson in Paris or The Golden Bowl.

Whistle Blowers Anonymous

The Fifth Estate

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Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Dan Stevens, Alicia Vikander, Carice van Houten, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis

Dreamgirls director Bill Condon takes on the murky and explosive world of Wikileaks in the riveting if not slightly convoluted film The Fifth Estate based on the book by Daniel Berg “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website”. Rising British star Benedict Cumberbatch plays the dislikable and dysfunctional Australian cult-born hacker Julian Assange founder of Wikileaks, currently residing in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London much like Edward Snowden was last seen at a Moscow airport.

Daniel Bruhl plays Daniel Berg a tech reporter at German Magazine Der Spiegel who joins forces with Assange in a revolutionary groundbreaking journey of leaking sensitive diplomatic documents online – the core of Wikileaks. Naturally all sources were initially protected but the information was released online on the most sensitive subjects from cellphone recordings of victims of 9/11 to the rogue clients of a influential Swiss bank Julius Baer Group http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Baer_Group .

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At the heart of The Fifth Estate, like in the brilliant Ron Howard film Rush, is a friendship between two men which eventually turns into a bitter rivalry with devastating consequences. Where Assange is reckless and pioneering, notoriously sociopathic, his partner superbly played by Bruhl is conservative, grounded and concerned about the actual consequences of leaking dangerous and sometimes sensitive government information online for the entire world with a laptop to read.

The action starts off with the massive hacking of the NSA (US National Security Agency) diplomatic cables which were leaked online first by deranged US soldier Bradley Manning  now known as Chelsea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Manning   who leaked the information to Julian Assange and then in turn strikes a deal with three influential international newspapers  in New York, London and Berlin to release the sensitive and damaging diplomatic secrets of the world’s most powerful nation as it was involved in ongoing military action in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq back in 2011. All this sensitive information is suddenly available online much to the horror of US under-secretary for the Middle East Sarah Shaw a superb cameo performance by Laura Linney.

Whilst The Fifth Estate’s narrative is an overload of media information which at times detracts from the characters of the story and gives the film its most fundamental flaw. That whilst all this hacking is taking place at conferences in Scandinavia, Iceland and Germany, it detracts from any real character development. Cumberbatch’s Assange comes across as self-absorbed megalomaniac whilst Daniel Bruhl’s character is more rounded by the limited scenes with his long suffering girlfriend Anke Domscheit  played by Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina).

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The Fifth Estate, unlike the brilliant Aaron Sorkin scripted Oscar winning film The Social Network, suffers the fate of a flashy yet interesting film suffering from a poor script and lack of character development. That’s not to say the chain of events is engrossing, which with a figure as controversial as Assange still remains, The Fifth Estate lacks a decent and edited script treatment.

Character actors David Thewlis and Stanley Tucci make the most of their limited screentime as The Guardian editor Nick Davies and US agent James Boswell.  The Fifth Estate suffers too much from contrivance leaving the audience unable to really connect with Assange and Berg who were essentially anti-social hackers out to change the world, but ended up hurting themselves the most.

Ultimately The Fifth Estate is about the viewers own verdict of two whistle blower pioneers who exposed the world’s most intimate secrets using the most powerful and unedited tool of the 21st century: the internet. The film also stars Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones fame and Dan Rivers from Downton Abbey along with Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker).

See it and judge for yourself.

 

2013 Toronto Film Festival

2013 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 among others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Fifth Estate directed by Bill Condon starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and Carice van Houten

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People’s Choice Award: 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Sarah Poulson

Best Canadian Feature Film: When Jews were Funny directed by Alan Zweig (documentary) starring Howie Mandel, Shelley Berman, Norm Crosby, Shecky Greene, Jack Carter, David Steinberg

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Toronto_Film_Festival

Hot Dogs on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson

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Told from the innocent perspective of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s distant cousin Daisy Suckley, Hyde Park on Hudson is a charming film about a collection of fascinating historical figures namely the pivotal meeting between Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and King George VI and should be viewed as a companion piece to The King’s Speech. Veteran American actor Bill Murray takes the part of FDR and Olivia Williams plays his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, and British actor Samuel West (Howards End) takes the part of King George VI. Set in upstate New York, Hyde Park on Hudson tells of a weekend in the summer of 1939 when the recently crowned King George VI and queen Elizabeth, both whom are reeling from the scandal surrounding the 1936 abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in favour of marrying American divorcee Wallis Simpson gorgeously told in Madonna’s companion film W/E.

The visit of the British monarchy to the American president is meant to bolster American support for Great Britain as the threat of World War II looms with Nazi Germany invading most of Europe and in fact World War II did break out three months later.

Besides the international magnitude of the time, the film centres more on the eccentric Franklin D. Roosevelt America’s president during World War II who crippled by polio resorts to having a string of extramarital affairs including one with his distant cousin Daisy and who despite his physical ailments does not let that deter him from enjoying life and running such a powerful country as the USA. Especially pertinent in the film is the after dinner discussion between the King, who suffering from a speech impediment is soon put at ease by the magnanimous and charming FDR. It shows two politically important men that despite their physical and social impediments have more in common and their strategic meeting soon eases any tension between the United States and Great Britain forging the beginning of a special relationship which is still active more than 70 years later.

Director Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson is an intriguing tale of great political leaders who are viewed through the context of their private frailties and how they triumph not just for their own countries sake but that of the enormous publicity which marked such a visit by a British Monarch and his wife on American soil, in the face of a looming World War. Soon his Royal Highness the King of England is munching on a hotdog in an American style Barbecue and is effortlessly drawn into the less stuffy social conventions of Americans on their home turf. Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) is brilliant as the charming and quite naughty FDR (with his cigarette holders and exotic stamp collection) along with Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer) cast as the forthright Eleanor Roosevelt. Laura Linney is perfect as the awe-inspired, slightly naive Daisy who is caught in the middle of such a significant historical event.

Beautifully filmed as a period piece, if a tad dark in some scenes, but a fun and interesting comedy serving as a comparison of the differences between British and American cultures and social customs reminiscent of some of the best Merchant Ivory films which are unfortunately no longer made. Recommended!

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