Posts Tagged ‘Laurence Fishburne’

Malleable Dimensions

Antman and the Wasp

Director: Peyton Reed

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is continually expanding with a sequel to the 2015 film Antman, entitled Antman and the Wasp, reprising the original cast along with some newcomers including Walton Goggins (Tomb raider) as Sonny Burch and Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Liaisons) as Janet van Dyne, long lost wife of Hank Pym played again by veteran Oscar winner Michael Douglas (Wall Street).

Director Peyton Reed returns at the helm with Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Antman and Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne aka the Wasp and while most of the nifty action consisting of shrinking or growing strange objects from cars to Hello Kitty dispensers, at times the storyline would seem puerile, it’s nevertheless fun entertainment for the kids.

Antman and the Wasp’s main storyline consists of the three main characters trying to retrieve a portable laboratory so they can blast themselves into some mystifying quantum realm to retrieve the lost Janet played by Pfeiffer, the narrative is punctuated by some funny scenes provided by Michael Pena who purely shines as Antman’s friend Luis in this otherwise malleable superhero drama without many plot twists or a really definable villain.

Of course, clearly aimed at the Marvel fans who have enjoyed the original Antman, Black Panther and The Avengers: Infinity War, Antman and the Wasp is a fun filled comic caper of seismic proportions held together by the witty charm of Paul Rudd as the reluctant supposedly housebound superhero who is desperately trying to be the coolest Dad in San Francisco.

Personally, I would have liked to see more of the hugely talented Michelle Pfeiffer on screen, who appears to be making a major cinematic comeback, but Antman and The Wasp is worth seeing for its radically disproportionate special effects and a particularly clever car chase sequence along the hilly streets of downtown San Francisco. Take the kids, they will love it!

With malleable dimensions, Antman and The Wasp gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the original film. 

The Man, the Myth, the Mayhem

John Wick Chapter Two

Director: Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick

The image of the lone survivor battling against a gritty and unrepentant underworld pervades director Chad Stahelski’s operatic sequel to John Wick, simply titled John Wick Chapter Two set in New York and Rome.

Starring action front man Keanu Reeves as John Wick, the second film obviously has a bigger budget and definitely has revitalized Reeves’s career after his millennial peak in The Matrix Trilogy.

Keanu Reeves has a fascinating filmography first spotted as Glenn Close’s young lover in Stephen Frears’s sumptuous film Dangerous Liaisons and then as a King Henry VI type character in Gus van Sant’s landmark film My Own Private Idaho. Reeves then gained studio attention with the success of the action film Speed opposite Sandra Bullock. Keanu Reeves strengthened his position as bankable star in the Wachowski’s global post-apocalyptic phenomenon The Matrix Trilogy.

John Wick Chapter Two follows John Wick’s attempts to retire after he extricates his 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 from a creepy Russian mob boss, a brief appearance by Peter Stormare. The film’s opening sequence features a violent car chase sequence in New York which forcefully grabs audience’s attention immediately and never let’s go.

The plot point of the film comes when John Wick is visited by an Italian mob boss Santino D’Antonio played with psychopathic relish by Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt) who requests Wick, a professional assassin to kill his rival, Santino’s sister Gianna played by Claudia Gerini who has inadvertently inherited the title of becoming the head of an influential Italian crime family much to her brother’s horror. Gianna is protected by another loyal hitman Cassian lethally played by Common as she hosts a decadent party in Rome celebrating her new title.

As John Wick arrives in Rome, the film takes on a hyper-realized style and the consequent shootout in the catacombs below the Italian capital are brilliant in their execution and expedient its violent body count. The action in the Roman sequence is frenzied leaving audiences bloodthirsty like spectators at the Coliseum breathlessly wanting more spectacle.

The third act of the film swiftly moves back to New York where John Wick has to not only battle Santino but also seeks counsel from Winston, an enigmatic performance by Ian McShane, who is head of a covert league of assassins who are all governed by an intricate set of rules which is meant to keep killing down to a sort of stylized etiquette. No one is to be killed inside the Continental, an elegant establishment where assassins can check in and rest in between their lethal assignments. Perhaps even grab a cocktail together at the hotel bar.

With a welcome appearance by Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King who has a network of homeless people protecting him and assisting John Wick, the third act gets propelled into a vicious cycle of retribution.

John Wick Chapter Two delivers on all fronts, from complex fight sequences, to exotic and memorable locations including the elaborate final shootout at the Lincoln Centre amidst an exhibition entitled Reflections of the Soul, which director Stahelski is surely paying homage to the Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

Certainly the mayhem is overkill, yet the man and myth of John Wick Chapter Two lives up to expectations definitely pointing to another bloodthirsty sequel. This film gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Discovering Aurora

Passengers

Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia

It’s hard to believe that after the success of the Oscar nominated biographical film about Alan Turing, The Imitation Game, that Norwegian director Morten Tyldum would follow up with a sci-fi metaphorical film Passengers which doesn’t quite elevate to a meaningful story despite its sexy wholesome stars.

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Hollywood’s new kid on the block, Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, The Magnificent Seven) are basically the only two actors in Passengers which focuses on a luxurious space craft heading to a distant colony for space colonization only for the couple to awaken 90 years before their projected arrival at the planet aptly named Homestead.

Pratt who was so humorous in Guardians in the Galaxy, battles to keep a straight face as the mechanic from Colorado Jim Preston who realizes that himself and Aurora Lane, wonderfully played by a gorgeous Blonde Jennifer Lawrence are awake in a vast rotating space cruiser with only a smartly dressed android for company, the eloquent Arthur superbly played by Michael Sheen (The Queen, Midnight in Paris).

What saves Passengers from utter tedium is the brilliant visual effects and pristine cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto along with sleek production design by Guy Hendrix-Dyas who worked on such films as Alejandro Amenabar’s Agora and Christopher Nolan’s visually astounding film Inception.

The best scene in the film is when the space ship suddenly loses gravity and catches Aurora stuck inside a water bubble while she is swimming in an infinity pool which overlooks the infinite galaxy.

Jennifer Lawrence looks suitably panic stricken throughout Passengers mainly because she is so used to working with other actors in ensemble films like American Hustle and Joy. In Passengers, all she has to work with is Pratt who doesn’t yet have the gravitas to pull off a major role on his own with one other actor.

Passengers is gorgeous to look at but the narrative centre of the film does not hold and one would have hoped for a more fascinating turn of events than a spaceship breaking down. Let’s face it that has been done before with more sinister effects. Oscar Nominee Laurence Fishburne plays Gus Mancuso who has such a small part along with Andy Garcia who only briefly appears at the end of the film, without uttering a word.

Unlike Alfonso Cuaron’s brilliant Oscar winning film Gravity, Passengers does not really get off the ground emotionally and whilst any film with only two actors in it is really difficult to pull off, it is even more so when the storyline is so lacklustre. At least Gravity had riveting visual effects and superb acting from both George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

Passengers needed a far more effective twist to elevate the narrative out of a 21st century metaphorical tale about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. One thing is for sure, director Tyldum does make a valid point that humans should not entirely place all their trust in machines. Just look what happened in Terminator. Viewers should judge for themselves.

 

Clash of the Icons

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Laurence Fishburne, Callan Mulvey, Kevin Costner, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa

Hollywood studio Warner Brothers had a lot riding on the highly anticipated sequel to the 2013 hit Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but fortunately they followed the golden rule of sequels, always bring in the same cast and director mixed in with a bunch of surprises.

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Fortunately in the hands of Zack Snyder whose visual range is vast, Batman vs Superman comes across as an epic battle between the two infamous superheroes, a monumental gamble on reintroducing Batman back into the mix so soon after the brilliant success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Then why not bring the writer of that trilogy on board, David S. Goyer and use Christopher Nolan’s expertise as executive producer. Then there is the casting which really pays off.

The Social Network’s Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg as the smart and brilliant villain Lex Luthor, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) as Batman’s trusted manservant Alfred and the biggest coup was casting Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo) as Batman which gives this comic book clash of the icons a more edgier hue.

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After all, realistically Batman, aka Bruce Wayne cannot really defeat Superman, an alien man from Krypton with superpowers. All Batman has is cool gadgets, a Batmobile and all that pent-up rage from his childhood trauma of witnessing his parents being murdered on the streets of Gotham.

Amy Adams returns as the adventurous Lois Lane, along with Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, aka Superman along with Diane Lane as his earth mother Martha Kent. If there is one way to make a superhero angry, it’s to mess with his mother!

Whilst Batman v Superman at two and a half hours long could have been edited especially the last hour of the film, visually the film is so impressive as director Zack Snyder artistically pays homage to his filmography which made him famous: 300, Watchman and Suckerpunch, the last one being especially evident in the surprise appearance of Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

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The chemistry between Batman and Wonder Woman is sexually charged, and on screen the duo look impressive. Affleck’s Batman is a brooding, aging wealthy playboy who is hellbent on seeking revenge for the destruction of a Wayne Enterprises skyscraper by alien invaders from Krypton. Blame Superman!

Whilst Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer’s script is not particularly dazzling, the visual effects in Batman v Superman are brilliant, as well as the tone of the film, which Snyder keeps alternating between light bright colours for Superman and dark, cavernous greys for Batman. It also helps that Affleck himself has greying sideburns which realistically makes Batman look older than Cavill’s boyish Superman.

Women in Batman v Superman also have a major role, although clearly the film itself is marketed for a primarily male audience. Lois Lane is feisty and believable, Wonder Woman looks absolutely gorgeous in evening wear and even appears as a suitable femme fatale for Bruce Wayne during a glamourous Lex Luther cocktail event. Even Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s mother Martha gets caught up in the raucous and very loud action sequence.

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It’s really Jesse Eisenberg’s superb and surprising turn as the deranged megalomaniac Lex Luther, a psychotic billionaire tech guru who thinks nothing of killing innocent people during a public gathering or messing with extra-terrestrial DNA from General Zod.

Fans of Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy will certainly appreciate the iconic face-off between Batman v Superman, but be warned the tone of this film is far darker than your average bright and garish superhero caper.

Recommended viewing for all Zach Snyder fans and those that wish to be regular attendees at Comic-Con. This is serious comic book warfare.

 

 

 

 

The Genesis Chamber

Man of Steel

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Christopher Meloni, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Richard Schiff, Ayelet Zurer

Director Zack Snyder’s ambitious retelling of the origins of Superman in Man of Steel is visually dazzling and grittier than the cheesier Superman movies of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. With Christopher Nolan as the producer and co-writer of Man of Steel, Snyder’s vision of Superman is darker, edgier and more realistic with the occasional humorous nod, but ultimately its firmly rooted in Sci-Fi with Krypton taking a centre stage in the spectacular production design of the opening sequences which shows influences of Snyder’s previous darkly toned blockbusters, 300 and Watchmen.

With newcomer Henry Cavill in the titular role fresh from his role on the TV series The Tudors and relatively unknown outside of the UK, he does a fairly good job of becoming one of America’s iconic figures. In Man of Steel, the comic and sci-fi iconography is rife, with Snyder paying homage to a range of influential Sci-Fi films from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to War of the Worlds, while firmly rooting the narrative in the celestial journey that Kal-El takes from Krypton to Kansas to Superman saving America. There is even a scene of the conflicted Superman in a Kansas church, complete with religious imagery mulling over whether to save his adopted planet Earth from destruction or side with his extraterrestrial origins that of his Kryptonian heritage represented by the ruthless General Zod, expertly played by Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Premium Rush) who after a period of isolation tracks Superman to Earth and soon brings a wake of devastation from Smallville to Metropolis.

The trick which makes Man of Steel so compelling is that along with the dazzling visual effects, the casting was spot on surrounding newcomer young British actor Henry Cavill with a galaxy of veteran Hollywood stars from Russell Crowe as his birth father Jor-El to Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as his adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. Then there is the brilliant Amy Adams (Doubt, Julie and Julia) cast as the adventure seeking tough investigative journalist Lois Lane, who plays the part in stark contrast to the goofy, slightly dizzy take on the role by Margot Kidder in the original Superman movies.

From Krypton to Kansas…

The narrative is deeply rooted in origins mythology and told through a series of expertly crafted flashbacks about how Kal-El was naturally conceived on Krypton by his birth parents without the help of the sinister looking Genesis Chamber on the doomed planet Krypton and shunted off to earth as the last surviving hope for his celestial race. Kal-El, better known in Kansas as Clark Kent soon discovers his extraordinary powers as a growing boy and transforms into the mature, measured and slightly emotionally stunted Man of Steel, complete with X-Ray vision and high-speed atmospheric flight capabilities. The narrative arc closes when Lois Lane discovers Superman’s origins and naturally as most Superheroes do, he must don the fetching red cape and suitable attire, complete with underpants in the right place saving Earth from the Warrior General Zod, whilst balancing his newfound status as an alien with that of being a saviour of mankind.

Man of Steel is a superb cinematic retelling of the original comic book hero, worth watching for the fantastic opening and closing sequences, with Snyder desperate to cram all aspects of the Superman mythology into this slightly long and explosive action-heavy blockbuster. The only criticism is that the penultimate sequence of the film could have been effectively edited for effect, as the action outweighs the narrative and character development and often resembles a CGI-laden video game.

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Snyder’s Superman version in Man of Steel is destined to become a cinematic blockbuster and firmly establish him as a skilled action film director. Whilst not as thrilling or tightly written as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Nolan’s influences are apparent in Snyder’s darker more stylized vision of Superman as another conflicted superhero having to choose between his own dying civilization and becoming the new found saviour of Earth. Recommended viewing for Sci-Fi and Comic book fans, Man of Steel is sure not to disappoint Zack Snyder followers who have eagerly traced his quirky directorial growth from 300 to Watchmen to Suckerpunch and beyond…

Fear as a Virus

Contagion

Contagion

Steven Soderbergh’s gripping medical thriller Contagion follows a similar non-linear structure to his previous Oscar winning film Traffic about the US-Mexican drug trade and features a brilliant cast including Oscar Winners Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Oscar Nominees Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne.

With a fantastic musical score by Cliff Martinez, Contagion is a horrifying look out how a highly contagious immunodefiency-virus spreads like wild fire around the world from Macau to Atlanta, from Hong Kong to London through any form of human contact especially in the ease of frequent international travel.

The deadly effects of the virus and how the world population reacts to the onset of a disease so deadly that it threatens the survival of the human race is at the core of Contagion. While the ensemble cast are superb, it is Jennifer Ehle as Dr Ally Hextall in an unusually prolific role, previously seen in Wilde, Pride and Glory and Possession who shines as a scientist who races to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of the rapidly complex and mutating virus.

The always suave Laurence Fishburne plays Dr Ellis Cheever, Head of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and Jude Law features as a conspiracy theorist Alan Krumweide who while in San Francisco tracks the virus online and also how the pharmaceutical industry makes a fortune once a vaccine is developed.

Contagion is a scary and provocative film and raises serious questions about the survival of the fittest and the ethics of managing disease control in light of a deep preservation for continued existence of the human race. Viewers will definitely be washing their hands several times after seeing this absorbing thriller especially the pivotal and brilliant final scene. Whether it be drugs or a virus, both Traffic and Contagion deal with issues of control and the distribution of power in society and the effects of a debilitating affliction that knows no boundaries. Recommended viewing.

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