Posts Tagged ‘Luke Evans’

War in The Pacific

Midway

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Luke Evans, Luke Kleintank, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Keean Johnson, Etushi Toyokawa, Tadanobu Asano, Darren Criss, Brandon Sklenar, Jake Manley

The Battle of Midway was the turning point in the fight between the Americans and the Japanese in the summer of 1942, which followed on from the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

German director Roland Emmerich who brought viewers such films as Anonymous, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day, directs Midway with explosive special effects and excellent sound editing by Peter Bawlec.

Emmerich expertly recreates a good old fashioned war film with Midway aided by a superb ensemble cast who all play real life heroes who participated and survived the epic Battle of Midway.

This cast includes Ed Skrein (Maleficent, Mistress of Evil) who plays maverick pilot Dick Best, Mandy Moore plays his outspoken wife Ann Best, Patrick Wilson as naval intelligence officer Edwin Layton, Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri) plays Chester W. Nimitz, Welsh actor Luke Evans plays Wade McClusky, Dennis Quaid plays William Halsey and Aaron Eckhart plays Jimmy Doolittle.

There are also brief appearances by musician turned actor Nick Jonas as Bruno Gaido and American Crime Story Golden Globe winner Darren Criss as Eugene Lindsay.

What screenwriter Wes Tooke does insightfully is present the battle of Midway from both the American and the Japanese perspectives showing that in every war there are always losses on both side, while highlighting the specific historical landmarks which pinpointed Japanese aggression in the Far East and the Pacific.

The bombing of Pearl Harbour dragged America into the Second World War and caused the Pacific Theatre of War to be fraught with tragedy, aggression and strategic victories on both sides until eventually the Japanese sued for peace in 1945 after the American’s decisive and devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With spectacular visual effects, Midway is highly recommended viewing for fans of genuine historical War films which as a genre Hollywood seems to have disregarded in favour of superhero fantasy franchises.

Midway gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 is definitely worth seeing for the visual effects, the battle sequences and the portrayal of historical events during World War II which pitted two naval world powers against each other: America and the Empire of the Sun.  

Live Fast, Die Harder

Fast and Furious 8

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kristofer Hivuju, Elsa Pataky

As if there weren’t enough Fast and Furious films, there has to be an eighth film less the appearance of actor Paul Walker who tragically died in a car accident in California in 2013, just after filming The Fast and Furious 7.

The Italian Job director F. Gary Gray assembles an international cast featuring most of the actors from the previous films including Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty along with Tyrese Gibson as Roman and Chris Bridges as Tej Parker. This time the chief villain is South African born Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Monster) as ruthless hacker Cipher who entices Dominic into working for him after she approaches him in a Havana Street. Cipher’s hold of Dominic turns to be blackmail and she constantly manipulates his familial duties and his bond to his gang of drivers.

To add some muscle to the cast are Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs and action man Jason Statham as Deckard who are recruited by a covert intelligence officer aptly identified as Mr Nobody played by Kurt Russell who is definitely experience a resurgence in his career. Mr Nobody’s sidekick Little Nobody is played by Scott Eastwood (Fury) son of veteran actor Clint Eastwood.

Let’s face it the screenwriters are not exactly imaginative with character names. Suffice to say is that audiences that enjoyed all the other Fast and Furious films will definitely enjoy this international joyride as the action swiftly moves from Havana, Cuba to New York and then onto an icy showdown in Russia which involves a nuclear submarine among all the fast cars and snowmobiles. The Manhattan action sequence might be implausible but is definitely not an advert for the benefits of self-driving cars which can be remotely hacked. See it to believe it.

Considering that Fast and the Furious 8 was number one at the South African box office for three consecutive weeks since its Easter weekend opening and that the action film has grossed over a $1 billion dollars worldwide there is definitely enough fan support to sustain this fast-paced action franchise for further films to come.

Judging by the packed cinema when I watched the film, Fast and Furious 8 or the Fate of the Furious has the winning combination of fast cars, gadgets, beautiful women and a healthy dose of Hollywood cameos. This is popcorn cinema at its most formulaic and these films certainly keeps many actors employed.

As the characters live fast and some of them die harder, Fast and Furious 8 is a fun-filled action film but don’t expect anything too highbrow. Audiences should look out for Game of Thrones stars Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey and Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivuju as Toretto’s musclebound enemy Rhodes.

Fast and Furious 8 gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. If you enjoyed the other films, then this film will satisfy even the most ardent speed racers who can visually salivate at fast cars and daring stunts.

Vanity and Virtue

Beauty and the Beast

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Hattie Morahan, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack

When Disney does a live action version of a classic animated film, audiences know they are going to do it brilliantly. Beauty and the Beast is absolutely superb and extremely enjoyable viewing.

If audiences are going to pay for one cinema ticket this year, buy a ticket for Beauty and the Beast.

Originally based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, Beauty and the Beast is an extraordinary visual feast.

The first aspect Disney got right was the crucial casting of Beauty and the Beast. With a mostly British cast, Belle is played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) and the Beast played by Dan Stevens who rose to fame in Julian Fellowes BBC hit series Downton Abbey. For the real villain of the piece, Welsh actor Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) is cast as the arrogant Gaston and Josh Gad stars as his sidekick Lefou.

Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish called Wanda) plays Belle’s hapless father Maurice who during a journey to the market is side tracked by vicious wolves and lands up as an unwitting guest of the Beast in his cavernous castle with only talking furniture for company.

The flamboyant candelabra Lumiere is played by Ewan McGregor (Our Kind of Traitor) and the mantel piece clock Cogsworth is wonderfully played by Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters, Mr Holmes) while the teapot Mrs Potts is voiced by Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End). Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion) plays Plumette and Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) voices the maestro Cadenza.

What really makes Beauty and the Beast so lovely is the music, the music and the music. From the director of Dreamgirls and Gods and Monsters Bill Condon delivers a fantastic film retaining the story’s authentic fairy tale which deftly combines romance with action and music. Beauty and the Beast has gorgeous costumes designed by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) accompanying the film’s exceptional production design by Sarah Greenwood.

Both the headstrong Belle and the grumpy Beast form an unlikely romance overcoming vanity and retaining virtue while they have to compete against the duplicitous Gaston and break the immortal spell cast on the Beast and his lively accompaniments.

Highly recommended viewing for all age groups, Beauty and the Beast gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

Although running at over two hours this Disney fantasy musical is worth watching and audiences should stay seated to watch the spectacular end credits.

 

Off the Rails

The Girl on the Train

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Director: Tate Taylor

Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Pepron, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow

The Help director Tate Taylor tackles the cinematic adaptation of Paula Hawkins shocking suburban thriller The Girl on the Train which had book clubs the world over guessing what really occurred.

Golden Globe nominee Emily Blunt plays the prying and lonely Rachel, a boozing thirtysomething woman who is recovering from her failed marriage to the malevolent Tom, played by the rakish Justin Theroux (Mulholland Drive).

As Rachel travels the trains between suburban New York and the city, she watches Megan Hipwell, wonderfully played by the gorgeous rising star Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as she pouts from her sumptuous home while playing coy with her hunky husband, Scott played by Luke Evans.

The action of the novel takes place in suburban Oxford which is Americanized to suburban upstate New York in the film. Soon the plot begins to unravel as Megan through a series of flashbacks is portrayed as a mixed up bored housewife who appears to be having an affair with her dashing psycho therapist, played by Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Zero Dark Thirty).

The manipulative Tom has moved on from the sad and pesky Rachel and is now living with the doll-faced Anna, played with an uncharacteristic blandness by Swedish star Rebecca Ferguson who was so brilliant in Florence Foster Jenkins and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Then the unthinkable happens in a seemingly ordinary suburb: the beautiful Megan goes missing and Rachel for her desire to get involved in a mystery besides the real reason she is sipping martinis all day, is soon embroiled in a dangerous murder where she can’t quite remember what really happened on that fateful night when Megan Hipwell disappeared.

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The Girl on The Train is a book club novel made into a Book club film, with a brilliant performance by Emily Blunt and suitably adequate performances by all three of the hunky male co-stars. However the best performance is certainly by Haley Bennett as the doomed but utterly sultry Megan Hipwell, who is the victim of a terrible crime.

Audiences should watch out for great supporting roles by Allison Janney as a tough cop and Lisa Kudrow as the woman who unlocks the real reason why Rachel and Tom’s marriage went off the rails.

The Girl on the Train is recommended viewing but audiences should be warned this film is not as gripping as the brilliant David Fincher suburban thriller Gone Girl, which featured an Oscar nominated performance by Rosamund Pike. Nevertheless this is an entertaining and watchable thriller saved by excellent performances by Emily Blunt and Haley Bennett.

 

 

A Fraternal Send Off

Fast and Furious 7

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Chris Bridges, Luke Evans, Ronda Rousey, John Brotherton, Ali Fazal

Fast and Furious fans will not be disappointed with the seventh instalment of this hugely successful globetrotting film franchise as almost the entire cast of the previous six films are reunited in a poignant and brash fraternal send off to co-star Paul Walker, who died tragically in a car accident in Santa Clarita, California during the shooting of Fast and Furious 7 on the 30th November 2013.

This time the enemy amongst others is Deckard Shaw played with brawn by action star Jason Statham who after the defeat of his brother in London travels to Los Angeles and vows to hunt down all those responsible which include Hobbs played by Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Dominic Torreto played by Vin Diesel as well as Brian O’Conner played by the late Paul Walker. Even Michelle Rodriguez has a bigger role in this film as Torreto’s kick-ass slightly amnesiac girlfriend Letty.

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This time the enemy amongst others is Deckard Shaw played with brawn by action star Jason Statham who after the defeat of his brother in London travels to Los Angeles and vows to hunt down all those responsible which include Hobbs played by Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Dominic Tureto played by Vin Diesel as well as Brian O’Conner played by the late Paul Walker. Even Michelle Rodriguez has a bigger role in this film as Tureto’s kick-ass slightly amnesiac girlfriend Letty.

Add some new faces such as Kurt Russell as the aptly titled Mr Nobody and Oscar nominee Djimon Hounson (Blood Diamond) as the other more nefarious villain Jakande as well as some familiar faces like Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious), Lucas Black (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift) and this sequel is set to satisfy fans of this adrenalin pumping action series right from the opening fight scenes between Statham (Transporter, Safe) and Johnson (G. I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra).

As the seventh instalment of Fast and Furious was funded by Media Rights Capital, which is based in Abu Dhabi so should the action for a large part of this film. The Abu Dhabi skyscraper sequence in Fast and Furious 7 at a Jordanian billionaire prince’s penthouse party is sure to delight fans the world over and certainly attract new ones in the Middle East, even though the action scenes do mimic that of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol which was set in Dubai.

Although the plot for Fast and Furious 7 may be convoluted and the storyline slightly far-fetched, the action sequences and car chase scenes are amazing from the Azerbaijan mountain sequence to the fabulous Abu Dhabi segment to the final explosive showdown in downtown Los Angeles which tends to drag on a bit but is no less entertaining if slightly implausible.

Most fittingly, the film ends with a poignant and memorable tribute scene on the beach in Malibu to one of its late stars, Paul Walker and it’s for this reason that fans will definitely see this film.

Recommended viewing for adrenalin junkies, petrol heads and fans of The Expendables and Mission Impossible film series, Fast and Furious 7 can be forgiven for being overlong, it’s a fitting fraternal send off to one its own stars. The action and stunt sequences are truly out of this world. See Fast and Furious 7 to believe it!

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 ?

 

Vlad the Impaler

Dracula Untold

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Director: Gary Shore

Cast: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Art Parkinson, Noah Huntley

15th Century Transylvanian Prince Vlad is forced to protect his kingdom from the onslaught of the expanding Ottoman Empire as the Turks threaten to invade his lands enslaving teenage boys for forced conscription to the Turkish army. Through many bloody battles, Prince Vlad, suitably played by Luke Evans (The Fast and the Furious 6) gets the nickname of the Impaler who impales invading armies and unfriendly villagers on gruesome stakes.

Dracula Untold starts in 1442, the height of the middle ages, with Prince Vlad and a group of men entering broken tooth mountain, whereby hidden in a dark cave an evil force looms. That force is an immortal vampire who made a pact with a demon for his eternal bloodsucking powers.

As the Turkish forces advance on Transylvania headed by Sultan Mekmet downplayed by the swarthy Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, The Devil’s Double) threatening to enslave the male population of Vlad’s precarious kingdom and also his precious son Prince Ingeras played by Art Parkinson.

Craving supernatural powers, Vlad rushes off into the evil liar and confronts his fears by sipping from the blood of this manipulative master vampire, wonderfully played by Charles Dance (last seen in HBO’s Game of Thrones) in exchange for extraordinary strength and acute nocturnal abilities.

However like all pacts with the devil there is always a catch. If after three days Vlad drinks human blood again then he will be immortalized as a vampire forever and as per his order of the Dragon, will eternally take the title of the infamous Dracula. However Vlad the Vampire in the course of three days shies away from shining silver, sunlight and wooden crosses, revealing his true form to his disconcerted legions.

With all the mythologies and movie histories surrounding Dracula and vampire, director Gary Shore refreshingly decided not to go the gory or sexually explicit route and in turn creates a tame if not entertaining historical version of Dracula in Dracula Untold, assisted by some great visual effects especially the fight sequence between Vlad and Mekmet amongst bags of glittering silver.

Canadian star Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis, Belle) plays Vlad’s voluptuous luckless wife, Mirena who unfortunately has to become the bride of Dracula…

Whilst this film is not Twilight or the elegant Neil Jordan film, Interview with a Vampire, Dracula Untold is a mild yet enjoyable middle of the road historical epic about the origins of this mythical bloodsucker giving more credibility to his alter ego as a merciless Transylvanian Prince Vlad, who was willing to sell his soul to the devil to save his mountainous kingdom.

Unlike Francis Ford Coppola’s 1990’s film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this film is a less ambitious version of the iconic bloodsucker helped by good performances by Evans and Gadon with more seasoned actors like Charles Dance and Dominic Cooper adding some credibility whilst the film focuses more on the historical origins of Dracula than any of the contemporary post-Victorian Gothic reincarnations.

Dracula Untold is recommended viewing for vampire fans and those that like their blood sucking a little light on the veins, moving the film swiftly out of violent epic mode and more into the historical fantasy genre.

Cars and Girls

Fast and Furious 6

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Director: Justin Lin

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, John Ortiz, Jordana Brewster, Gina Carano, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Shea Whigham, Luke Evans, Gal Gadot

Director Justin Lin’s flashy sixth installment of the now popular and hugely appealing Fast and Furious franchise moves the action away from the Americas and Asia to Europe and the United Kingdom, specifically London and Spain. Reuniting the entire cast of all the previous Fast and Furious movies with the exception of Lucas Black from Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious 6 settles on the successful male orientated formulaic narrative appeal of fast cars, tough girls and furious heroes who drive the host city into a frenzy.

In this case the post-industrial aspect of London’s 21st century image is exploited complete with panoramic views of the British Capital’s unique skyline including The Shard skyscraper and  rounded off with a scene at the Battersea Power Station, between Dominic Toretto coolly played by Vin Diesel and the recently resurrected bad girl Letty played by Michelle Rodriguez.

The villain in this ensemble is international terrorist Owen Shore, ably played by Welsh actor Luke Evans and the cast features Tyrese Gibson as the comic fast talking playboy Roman first introduced in the Miami based 2 Fast 2 Furious along with rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Paul Walker reprises his role as former LA cop turned outlaw Brian O’Conner, Jordana Brewster as his wife Mia (her star rising out of the new Dallas series) and Gina Carano as Riley who was last seen as the kick-ass man eliminating assassin in Steven Soderbergh spy thriller Haywire.

Cars + Girls = Winning Formula

The main star of these Fast and Furious films, besides the sexy girls and speeding cars are the incredibly brilliant action sequences which most of the films have delivered and underpins their continued success. Targeted Male Audience = Cars + Girls = Winning Formula.

Naturally the storyline is secondary in the incredible stunt sequences which in this film are thrilling to say the least especially the chase sequence on a Spanish highway involving a formidable tank. Unlikely yes! But hey this is the movies! Equally influenced by both the success of the latest James Bond film Skyfall and the Expendibles series, Fast and Furious 6 uses the London locations wisely complete with a gritty underground girl on girl fight sequence and a terrific chase sequence through the West End.

Inevitably all these characters are essentially American so they do look incredibly out of place in ever shifting cosmopolitan London and  this film would not have been thrilling without making the City of Westminster look like a NASCAR raceway.

The ridiculously over the top and thrilling climax sequence involving a heavy artillery military aircraft is straight out of an Arnold Schwarzeneggar film, with Dwayne Johnson fulfilling the 21st century version of Arnie’s action hero. Fast and Furious 6 is a no brainer when it comes to dazzling stunts and action sequences, but don’t expect any intricate plot twists or epic characterization. The fact that the film ends with a warning telling viewers not to try and emulate these stunt drivers, points to the essentially massive audience following this franchise has generated internationally from when the first Fast and the Furious was release in 2001, not to mention the inherent testosterone fueled need for speed, by at least three quarters of the younger male population worldwide. See Fast and the Furious 6 for fantastic stunts, cool cars, high action and as a substitute for any pent up fraternal frustrations.

 

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