Posts Tagged ‘Lily James’

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.

The Exiled King

The Exception

Director: David Leveaux

Cast: Jai Courtney, Lily James, Christopher Plummer, Janet McTeer, Eddie Marsan, Ben Daniels, Anton Lesser, Mark Dexter

After its packed South African premiere at the 38th Durban International Film Festival, http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ The Exception is a riveting World War II drama told from the German perspective.

Set in Holland in 1940, German soldier Stefan Brandt played with bravado by Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad, A Good Day to Die Hard) is sent to guard the exiled king Wilhelm II wonderfully played by Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners).

At the end of World War One when the allies defeated Germany, besides the harsh reparations placed on the defeated nation, one of the conditions of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was that the reigning German monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II be stripped of his royal title and sent to live in exile in Utrecht, Holland.

British director David Leveaux assembles a fantastic cast in this interesting film also starring Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) as a sexually provocative Dutch maid Mieke de Jong who quickly falls in love with the handsome and tough Brandt and Oscar nominee Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) as Kaiser Wilhelm’s wife, Princess Hermine who is desperately hoping that her exiled husband will have his monarchy restored even though Germany has entered the Third Reich under the ruthless Nazi’s who have started World War II.

Eddie Marsan (Their Finest, Happy Go Lucky, Concussion) appears as the creepy Head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, in a brief yet comical scene stealer.

As a historical film, The Exception is a watchable tale, filled with intrigue, sexual conquest and lost dreams although its relevance will be lost on a mostly English speaking audience and also because most of the cast are British, Canadian or Australian actors playing German characters. If audiences want authenticity they should watch the excellent 2015 German film, The People vs. Fritz Bauer, which also premiered at #DIFF2017 http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ as part of the German Film Focus.

Nevertheless, as a World War II thriller which deviates from the usual Allied scenario, The Exception is enjoyable in the same vein as director Mark Herman’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

What does stand out in The Exception, are the fine performances of Christopher Plummer and Janet McTeer but sadly their acting will probably be overlooked in the 2018 Oscar race.

Concisely written with an engaging plot, The Exception gets a film rating of 7.5 out 10 and was an impressive film to be screened at the Durban International Film Festival, attracting a full cinema house.

Recommended viewing for audiences that prefer a provocative World War Two thriller from the perspective of the so-called enemy.

 

For the Young and The Fast

Baby Driver

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Lily James, Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal

While the trailer is cool and the cast is hip, Baby Driver delivers some cool stunts as a sequential car chase film with its sweet looking leads Baby played by Ansel Elgort and Debora played by rising British star Lily James.

With a fabulous soundtrack, Edgar Wright’s crime caper Baby Driver, clearly inspired by Pulp Fiction is thrilling to watch, with a great fast-paced narrative, transplanting the action from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Georgia it does get weigh down by its own super-cool importance and could have been edited by at least 20 minutes.

Oscar winner Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects, American Beauty) plays crime boss Doc who hires Baby played by Ansel Elgort as a bank robbery get a way driver because of his fast skills behind the wheel. That and the fact that Baby doesn’t get fazed by the traffic, the cops or his fellow henchman. Baby starts re-evaluating his crime driving does when he meets the sweet Southern diner waitress Debora played by Lily James (Cinderella, Wrath of the Titans).

Soon Baby wants out but has to contend with a new and vicious crew headed by the psychopathic Bats wonderfully played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) and equally threatened by the crazy gun-wielding Buddy played by Mad Men star Jon Hamm (The Town, Million Dollar Arm).

Audiences should expect lots of car chases, a really cool soundtrack and a crime caper with as many twists and turns as a Southern freeway. Despite the hype surrounding Baby Driver and its ode to all things Americana – The Cars, The Diner, the Freeway, director Edgar Wright places too much emphasis on trying to encode the narrative with a moral undertone which doesn’t quite work especially towards the end of the film.

Basically, despite all the violence, money grabbing and loads of action, the end result is crime doesn’t pay – which is ultimately a bizarre sentiment to portray in a film such as Baby Driver which glorifies crime, violence and greed, making all three look hip, cool and attainable especially in a fast car.

Baby Driver is a stylish and entertaining ride, but don’t expect the cinematic journey to live up to the hype. Nevertheless its still a fun way to spend an afternoon at the movies.

For the young and the fast, Baby Driver gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and recommended for audiences that enjoyed Pulp Fiction and all sorts of sleazy, pulpy crime thrillers which the Americans are so fond of making. The irony is that director Edgar Wright is British…

The music is the best thing in this action flick!

 

 

Demons in the Kitchen

Burnt

Burnt ver2

Director: John Wells
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Emma Thompson, Omar Sy, Uma Thurman, Matthew Rhys, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lily James, Sam Keeley

Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper) gives a sterling and frenetic performance as Michelin star chef Adam Jones in the film Burnt, who returns to London from New Orleans, to redeem himself, his reputation and make amendments with the colleagues he upset during his stint in Paris.

Assembling an eclectic cast including Uma Thurman as a Food Critic, Emma Thompson as a Nurse/Social Worker and Daniel Bruhl as the maitre’d Tony. Burnt is a brilliant examination of one man’s attempt to regain his former culinary glory and even surpass it, with a brittle script by Steven Knight.

The film of course is assisted by the two central and brilliant performances by the blue-eyed Bradley Cooper who really excels in the role of the temperamental and arrogant chef Adam Jones who not only is a demon in the kitchen but has to face his own inner demons. Sienna Miller (American Sniper, Foxcatcher) makes up the second superb performance and is fortunately given much more screen time than she had in both her previous films.

Miller plays aspiring Chef Helene who has to juggle bringing up a little girl and working in a hectic kitchen where it’s not only the male egos that threaten her livelihood but their intense competitiveness. Miller is literally surrounded by demons in the kitchen as she has to stand in for Jones after he is beaten up by some nefarious French gangsters for an outstanding drug debt. The scenes between Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper are riveting too watch, clearly signifying an onscreen chemistry which is both comfortable and electric.

August: Osage County director John Wells’s new film Burnt is certainly primed for Oscar season and it’s especially Cooper and Miller which deserve some thespian recognition. Audiences, while not salivating over the nouvelle cuisine served up at London’s posh Langham Hotel in the West End, should look out for Matthew Rhys as rival chef Reece who also turns in a superb performance opposite Cooper. Then again Rhys has really proven himself as an actor after roles on the hit show Brothers and Sisters and the excellent espionage series The Americans.

As culinary dramas go, Burnt is a top notch film, held together by a riveting performance by Bradley Cooper as the prima donna chef who not only throws pots and pans, but also his reputation to chance, in a concerted effort to redeem himself in one of the world’s toughest capital cities, London.

At times Steven Knight’s script leaves more questions than answers, however Burnt is redeemed in the acting department with both Miller and Cooper turning in fiery and intense performances ably assisted by a European supporting cast including Alicia Vikander (Man from Uncle), Lilly James (Cinderella), Omar Sy (Jurassic World, Good People) and of course the Golden Globe nominee Daniel Bruhl whose screen presence has certainly been raised after his superb performance as Nikki Lauder in Rush.

For all the foodies out there, Burnt is a must see film and will positively find an international audience with the proliferation of MasterChef programs gripping TV screens around the globe.

Haute Cuisine

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the superb French film Haute Cuisine and Hundred Foot Journey.

 

When the Glass Slipper Fits…

Cinderella

cinderella_ver2

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgaard, Derek Jacobi, Holliday Grainger, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell

Shakespearean actor and director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, King Henry V) vividly recreates the famous tale of Cinderella in a live action film which despite its sumptuous production design does not match up to other recent onscreen fairy tales most notably the brilliant Snow White and the Huntsman and the equally impressive Maleficent.

Downton Abbey’s Lily James takes on the title role of Cinderella and although she is gorgeous to watch onscreen, the famous narrative arc of her tale is not given any particular depth or subliminal meaning. But then again this is a Disney film and the age restriction is parental guidance, with the target audience being young little girls. Judging by the packed cinema on a Saturday afternoon that target market was spot on.

Branagh’s Cinderella is lush, gorgeous and beautiful to watch with a spectacular production design by Dante Ferreti and fabulous costumes by Sandy Powell, Oscar winner for her costumes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

cinderella_ver3

Oscar winner for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator Cate Blanchett is wonderful as the wicked stepmother and so is Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, The Wings of a Dove) as Cinderella’s quirky fairy godmother who on the evening of the ball given by the crown prince of their kingdom, Cinderella’s dress, transportation and footmen are sorted for her great entrance at the Ball.

The Ballroom scene is simply amazing and is undoubtedly the high point of the film, but in a similar vein to the gorgeous reproduction of Anna Karenina, the script and acting for Cinderella suffers under the weight of its own expectation.

One almost gets the feeling that the actors were slightly bored going through this famous fairy tale with the exception of the brief scenes by Blanchett and the cameo by Helena Bonham Carter, Cinderella fails to lift audiences beyond its very light and fluffy message – which is for all young girls to find prince charming and live happily ever after.

Prince Charming in this case is played by British actor and Game of Thrones star Richard Madden, bulging codpiece and all, and his penetrating blue eyes do the acting. Director Branagh strictly keeps this traditional Cinderella aimed at the young children’s market obviously upon the instruction of parent company Disney.

Nevertheless, the costumes and the production design are superb and should garner some awards in those categories. Whilst Cinderella lacks the edgier darkness of Snow White and the Huntman and Maleficent, it is still fun to watch especially all those character actors making an appearance from Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgaard and Derek Jacobi.

Disney’s Cinderella is recommended viewing for those that loved Mirror Mirror and for all parents who need to take their daughters to see some serious glamour on the big screen. In this case the fabulous glass slipper fits too comfortably and Cinderella and her prince charming do live happily ever after.

 

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