Posts Tagged ‘Lukas Haas’

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.

 

 

The Wild Ones

The Revenant

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Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Lukas Haas, Paul Anderson

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Revenant means a person who has returned supposedly from the dead.

According Oscar winning Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant has a far deeper mythical connotation. After the success of Birdman, Inarritu follows up that whimsical taste of Broadway with a gruelling historical epic, The Revenant casting two of the best leading actors in contemporary cinema: Leonardo di Caprio and Tom Hardy.

The Revenant is a harsh masculine film, set in the American wilderness in 1823, the early years of settler exploration along the Missouri river near the Canadian border. Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant takes on a slightly Terence Malick feel in the first hour, but then the audience is thrust into a bitter tale of survival about a group of men who are not only attacked by roaming Pawnee Indians but by the neighbouring French.

DiCaprio plays a bearded and mostly silent yet skillful tracker Hugh Glass in one of his best performances for years. DiCaprio’s role is so grueling and utterly physical that is completely opposite to anything done by the actor before which makes it all the more engrossing to watch. His previous roles in The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street focused on characters that were debauched and surrounded by lavish wealth and power.

In The Revenant, this is DiCaprio laid bare both physically and psychologically as he battles the most hostile terrain in the icy parts of North America. In probably the best scene of the film, Glass is viciously attacked by a grizzly bear and severely injured, the filming of this scene deserves an Oscar in itself. Glass is left for dead by the half-scalped hunter and dangerous John Fitzgerald, in a career best performance by Tom Hardy who manages to permeate all his scenes with the same chilling sense of menace as he did, playing Bane in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and most recently as both the Kray twins in Legend.

The tension between the two men is palpable although Hardy is the one with the most lines, while Di Caprio expresses his pain with his eyes and body, an entirely physical ordeal, a gut-wrenching soul destroying battle for survival. The environment too has own character as these two men not only battle each other but also have to survive in a semi-explored icy landscape, where settlers and native American Indians are bartering and killing each other in a continuous bloodthirsty war over land, occupation and women.

Ethnographically, The Revenant is an important film, a vivid tale about the early American settlers who encounter the other, or the savages as the French call them. A primal battle which Inarritu elevates to myth, beautifully capturing the essence of the unforgiving yet stunning landscape, while emphasizes the terrain’s nefarious creatures and events, from vicious bears to avalanches.

At two and a half hours long The Revenant is not easy viewing and, the viewer does get a sense that the second act drags a little, yet the performances are so captivating and the sound editing so brilliant, that any minor criticisms can be forgiven. Warning: this is not an easy film to watch.

The Revenant is violent, gory and at times just plain cruel, but also sets the standard high for revenge themed adventure tales. Hardy and DiCaprio are both utterly terrific. The Revenant is a highly recommended and critically acclaimed film sure to attract a cult following.

Cinematically, The Revenant is nothing short of a masterpiece.

What Big Eyes You Have…

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Catherine Hardwicke’s film version of Red Riding Hood remains firmly in the realm of fantasy. With soft focus cinematography, clever use of primary colours, lush woods, breathtaking landscapes and a pale Valerie, donning her red hood, the teenage marketed fantasy tale is as entertaining as it is enduring.

The ever alluring Amanda Seyfried reprises a similar role to that in Diablo Cody’s film Jennifer’s Body as an innocent girl caught up in a community governed by terror. In Red Riding Hood, the village is terrorized by a werewolf whose first victim is Valerie’s sister.

Werewolf hunter Solomon and self proclaimed protector, played with relish by Gary Oldman arrives in the village to hunt the werewolf following the initial attack. Valerie known as Red Riding Hood played by Seyfred is torn between the Woodcutters son Peter played by Shiloh Fernandez and Henry, a nobleman son’s played by Max Irons, son of actor Jeremy Irons. This love triangle so similar to Hardwicke’s previous film Twilight is further complicated by the revelation that the werewolf in its human form is one of the villagers, and more closely hinted that that person comes from Valerie’s lineage. Virginia Madsen plays Valerie’s mother and Twilight saga star Billy Burke reprises a similar role to Bella’s father in the Twilight series and is given much more character development as an actor as Valerie’s uncontrollable father, Cesaire.

Suspicion is cast upon the reclusive Grandmother to Valerie, a wonderful cameo by veteran actress Julie Christie. Solomon uses Valerie who can communicate with the werewolf as bate in a wonderful midnight fire-ringed offering, red cape and all.

All folklore aside, the sacrificial offering of a Virgin to qualm the evil powers that threaten a community’s livelihood is found in many ethnographic communities mythology and in the case of Red Riding Hood, the origins of this Fairytale are grounded in the hapless virgin being ravaged by the brutal force of nature, symbolic in the werewolf or its human male form, with the spilling of first blood thematically tied up with the red cloak of Valerie as a dazzling signifier.

In Red Riding Hood, Hardwicke’s emphasis is firmly placed on the symbolism of the Red hood, looking ever more dazzling against the translucent face of Valerie especially in the scenes shot against the white snow covered slopes and helped by Seyfried’s superb eye popping performance as the only maiden able to lure the werewolf to reveal its human identity.

Hardwicke keeps the action fast paced and there is an economy of dialogue, characterization and setting, which makes Red Riding Hood an entertaining tale all packed into a 90 minute of film.

Fans of Twilight will no doubt love Red Riding Hood, but most notably the tale is brought vividly to the screen by a director who understands the complexities of the teenage film audience, an age group so brilliantly tackled and explored in Catherine Hardwicke’s previous films Lords of Dogtown and the Oscar nominated Thirteen.


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