Posts Tagged ‘Lee Pace’

Retro Intergalactic Superhero

Captain Marvel

Directors: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Lee Pace, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Djimon Hounson, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Rune Temte

Just before Avengers: Endgame hits theatres, Marvel had to introduce one more superhero to the galaxy of stars. It’s the Retro intergalactic Captain Marvel wonderfully played by Oscar winner Brie Larson also known as Airforce Pilot Carol Danvers who gets whisked into space to become indoctrinated by the Kree Civilization, an advanced alien race headed up by the mysterious Supreme Being icily played by Annette Bening in her Marvel Comics debut.

Audiences can be forgiven for thinking that they had bought cinema tickets to a Star Trek reboot as the first twenty minutes of Captain Marvel is entirely set in space. Until Captain Marvel miraculously escapes an intergalactic feud between the Kree and the Skrull tribes and lands up in Los Angeles in 1995 in a blockbuster video store of all places, the film effortlessly shifts its location from outer space to a particular time and place.

In California, Captain Marvel teams up with a youthful Nick Fury wonderfully played by Samuel L. Jackson whose screen chemistry with Brie Larson is electrifying.   

Like all the other Marvel films and particularly those that loved Avengers: Infinity War, then Captain Marvel is a fun mixture of superhero and Guardians of the Galaxy and fits right in with the current trajectory the Marvel films are going. More significantly it is the first entirely female centred superhero film, with Brie Larson doing a sterling job, although admittedly the film does not quite match up to DC Comics’s brilliant Wonder Woman directed by Patty Jenkins.

There is sufficient plot twists, location changes as Captain Marvel and Nick Fury travel to Louisiana to discover her real human identity as Airforce Pilot Carol Danvers as they team up with fellow co-pilot Maria Rambeau played by rising British star Lashana Lynch.

Oscar nominee Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) plays the arrogant Kree commander Yon Rogg who proves to be a worthy adversary to Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel is a fun filled retro intergalactic romp of a film engagingly written and populated with some witty one liners. Brie Larson pulls off the role of the latest female action superhero with credibility and nuance as she struggles to discover her real identity and where her role as Captain Marvel fits in to the larger Avengers scheme of things.

Flashy visual effects and some great onscreen chemistry save Captain Marvel from being just another superhero film and this gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Audiences should definitely see Captain Marvel before watching Avengers: Endgame. Recommended Viewing for Marvel fans only and regular attendees of Comicon.

Tour de Lance

The Program

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Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Jesse Plemons, Dustin Hoffman, Guillaume Canet, Lee Pace, Bryan Greenberg, Denis Menochet

Acclaimed British directed Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, Philomena) tackles another real life media drama similarly to his Oscar winning film The Queen, in the sports expose of infamous cyclist Lance Armstrong in his new film The Program.

Based upon the novel The Seven Deadly Sins by the sports journalist David Walsh who tracked the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong from the early 1990’s to his public humiliation and eventual stripping of all seven Tour de France medals for admitting to running the most elaborate and sophisticated blood doping system in international cycling. The Program opens with a combative shot of David Walsh and Lance Armstrong playing table hockey in a French resort near the Tour de France route.

American actor Ben Foster (Kill Your Darlings) is terrific as Lance Armstrong, an ambitious cyclist who after battling and overcoming a devastating cancer diagnosis begins a record breaking winning streak by becoming the Tour de France champions seven times.

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Chris O’Dowd plays the sports journalist David Walsh who initially suspects that Armstrong’s winning streak is tainted by performance enhancing drugs and soon it is Armstrong’s own arrogance which confirms Walsh’s suspicions.

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Jesse Plemons (Bridge of Spies, Black Mass) plays the Amish cyclist Floyd Landis who initially joins Armstrong’s US Postal service team and then soon as the years progress gets caught for testing positive for using performance enhancing drugs such as testosterone as well as other barely detectable drugs such as  erythropoietin (EPO) which boost the body’s capacity for oxygen soon after being declared the winner of the 2006 Tour de France.

With the usual efficiency of editing and swift directing by Frears, The Program is an absorbing sports drama in a similar vein to Ron Howard’s Rush. What makes The Program so compelling is the immediacy of the story as the whole Lance Armstrong scandal is still fresh in the current news media, right up to the sensational interview that he gave on the Oprah Winfrey show in January 2013.

Lance Armstrong Interview with Oprah Winfrey

What is even more compelling to watch is Foster’s brilliant portrayal of Armstrong, a man whose initial devastating battle with testicular cancer turned his will to survive into an elaborate and arrogant drive to win at all costs and become an international sports icon and the brand of Lance Armstrong.

Doping scandals in sports are not new media fare but seem to be increasing reoccurring narratives in the media frenzied world of sports, where competitiveness and winning becomes the only method of establishing a celebrity status in the 21st century, which Frears skilfully emphasizes in The Program.

Whilst Frears’ earlier film The Queen about the British monarch’s response to the tragic death of Princess Diana back in 1997 is a far superior film, The Program is worth watching for Foster really inhabits the role of Armstrong, changing his physique and almost chillingly adopting his champion arrogance, which is often reflected in scenes where Armstrong is threatening other cyclists on the highly grueling and competitive Tour de France circuit.

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Audiences should look out for Lee Pace as Armstrong’s sleazy brand manager, Bill Stapleton and a brief cameo by Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (Marathon Man, Rain Man) as the team US Postal Service’s underwriter, Bob Hamman, who was initially responsible for paying out large sums of cash to Armstrong for his successive Tour de France wins. French actor Guillaume Canet plays the shady Italian doctor Michele Ferrari.

The Program is a superb portrait of international sports competitiveness, deception and how the media are implicit in making these cyclists into celebrities then breaking them down when scandal erupts.

Source:Lance Armstrong

The Middle Earth Saga

The Hobbit:

The Battle of the Five Armies

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman

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After the massive success of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, New Zealand director Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures) creates another trilogy out of J. R. R. Tolkien’s first novel The Hobbit with An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and the final film, The Battle of the Five Armies, each film being internationally released sequentially from 2012 to 2014 in time for the Christmas Holidays.

Bilbo Baggins and his gang of dwarves go on a quest to defeat the dreadful dragon Smaug and reclaim the gold hidden in the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. The Battle of The Five Armies is naturally pure fantasy and really has to be seen in conjunction with the first two Hobbit films. With hideous orcs and elves fighting each other along with dwarves and humans, lead by Bard the Dragon Slayer (Luke Evans), this is wonderful CGI action and moments of humour thrown in. Whilst the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was a tad darker in tone, the Hobbit is lighter and aiming for a younger audience, but just as enjoyable.

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Ably assisted by a great supporting cast including Sir Ian McKellan as Gandolf the Grey, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Luke Evans as Bard, Orlando Bloom as the Elf fighter Legolas, Martin Freeman’s portrayal of the beloved Bilbo Baggins caught up in a war far greater than what his pretty shire existence is used to, is perfect. Freeman’s status as an actor has risen considerably after this franchise and his wonderful portrayal as Lester Nygaard in the hit TV series Fargo.

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The Hobbit Trilogy is a precursor to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy yet naturally all six films should ideally be seen on the big screen in 3D and digital sound. I watched the first two Hobbit films on DVD, and saw The Battle of the Five Armies in a Cinema and the visual effects were spell bounding especially the scenes with the Dragon Smaug obliterating the human’s village and also the fantastic war sequence which takes up pretty much most of the second half of this film.

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There has been criticism that Peter Jackson was milking the Hobbit Story into a multi-million dollar film franchise as the Tolkien’s book is so short, however its quite clear that with the success of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the studios gave him free reign, so yes that is precisely what he did, knowing full well that The Hobbit brand marketability would be huge.

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Fans of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy will certainly not be complaining. Many battles and legends alluded to in the Hobbit novel are superbly expanded upon and given their full cinematic exploration. Middle Earth never looked this glamorous, spectacular and daunting.

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) assists Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens with screenwriting on the Hobbit movies, so director Peter Jackson can do what he does best – recreating the world of Middle Earth and exploring fantasy in its supreme entirety.

For continuity purposes it also helps having the wonderful Sir Ian McKellan, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and even veteran screen actor Christopher Lee return to the Hobbit films in supporting roles, making this trilogy just as fun and exciting as the brilliant Lord of the Rings franchise which dazzled audiences in the first decade of the 21st century. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the evil dragon Smaug which guards a horde of gold belonging to the Dwarf King.

Now the question remains will Peter Jackson tackle the other J. R. R. Tolkien novel The Silmarillion ?

 

Gamora and the Infinity Stones

Guardians of the Galaxy

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Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio del Toro, Lee Pace, Brad Cooper, Dave Bautista, John C. Reilly

Marvel’s sci fi action adventure Guardians of the Galaxy is like Star Wars on acid with an exceptionally cool soundtrack, featuring some 70’s and 80’s classics. Part comedy, part adventure, director James Gunn successfully mixes comic adventure with intergalactic chaos and mischief.

Featuring a suitably toned down Chris Pratt (Zero Dark Thirty) superbly cast as rebel Starlord, Peter Quinn who while rummaging on an abandoned planet discovers a mysterious orb which soon elicits a whole bunch of ragtag and riotious characters from all corners of the Galaxy as they race to claim the orb for themselves. The Guardians of the Galaxy featuring the amiable and funny Peter Quinn with some serious mommy issues, along with green skinned Gamora, played by Avatar star Zoe Saldana along with a talking racoon (yes you read that right) voiced by Bradley Cooper and a walking tree, with a severely limited vocabulary, voiced by Vin Diesel.

Guardians of the Galaxy is psychedelic sci-fi and not visionary like Elysium or Blade Runner, making no attempts to conceal its main target audience – teenage boys who have followed the comic book series of the same name. The film even retains a comic book feel and with some exceptionally interesting visual effects, Guardians certainly does make use of its 3D appeal.

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This is like Star Wars on LSD for a younger generation, but hugely enjoyable, thanks to the casting of comic actor Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldanha as Gamora, who are both after the powerful and illustrious infinity stones, which they soon hand over to the Collector, a wonderful cameo by Benicio del Toro, who was also seen in the closing credits of Thor: The Dark World.

Veteran actress Glenn Close (101 Dalmations) makes a camped up appearance as Prime Nova, a cipher of her Cruella de Ville character along with John C. Reilly and Djimon Hounsou of Blood Diamond fame.

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Lee Pace plays the evil Ronan who with his extraordinary makeup and pharaoh like costume is hellbent on destroying the Universe along with his adopted daughter Nebula played by Karen Gillian. Naturally the ragtag bunch of Guardians band together and fight the onslaught of the Kree against the fabulous planet Xander, which looks like Dubai on steroids.

Guardians of the Galaxy must have been a massive hit at San Diego’s Comicon and it’s not difficult to see why, humour mixed with romance, good versus evil all enveloped in a wildly over the top action adventure which makes the first Star Wars positively tame. Except that Star Wars was a classic and this sci-fi is not aiming to be anything more than merely fun and amusing much like the comics the story is based on. Marvel definitely got the concept right.

Recommended viewing for geek freaks and not to serious sci-fi fans, making Guardians definitely fall into the frivolous popcorn fodder category. Hugely enjoyable, with lots of implied moral messages, but this film does not aspire to be Alphonso Cuaron’s Gravity, this is Guardians of the Galaxy featuring Gamora and the infinity stones! Besides who can take this film seriously when there is a talking racoon and a tree in it?

 

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