Posts Tagged ‘Maggie Gyllenhaal’

Bluff City, Kansas

Frank

frank_ver2

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson. Scoot McNairy, Francois Civil, Tess Harper

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s quirky film Frank which premiered at the Durban International Film Festival examines the pressures of belonging to a rock band and the celebrity status attached to its lead singer. The fact that this lead singer Frank wears a giant false head for three quarters of the film is both alienating and annoying and serves its point about the underlying pressures of mounting celebrity facing a bands lead singer or frontman. Take Adam Levine of Maroon 5 or Harry Styles from One Direction for example. Except with these bands unlike Frank’s bands obscure name, at least the music is palatable, not to mention commercially viable.

Frank as a film was so bizarre and utterly random as the narrative follows Jon played by Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina, Dredd, True Grit), son of Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, an aspiring songwriter who becomes the keyboardist and journeys with the band from a remote Irish location to the hippie South by South West music concert in Austin Texas. The band members are all clearly deranged and part of some grand lunatic fringe reinforced by the irrepressible Clara, wonderfully played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (Hysteria) and by the lead singer Frank played by Fassbender, which clearly begs the question what was he thinking after being attached to such prestigious films as 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Jane Eyre.

Although parts of the film are hilarious and very funny, other parts are equally irritating and stupid which just goes to show how Youtube got such a massive following so quickly. Post any ridiculous video online as a social media experiment and there will always be a plethora of bored American teenagers waiting to watch it on Youtube. Then maybe that is the point of this film.

Only towards the films end are explanations given as to why the lead singer is wearing this massive false head as seen in the poster after Jon tracks him down to his parent’s home in Bluff City, Kansas and Frank’s mother played by indie star Tess Harper explains the singers childhood trauma which lead to some deviant form of mental obsession.

this_must_be_the_place_ver4

Frank is well executed as a film about band members on the road, but too bizarre to be taken seriously and lacks the visual punch of Paolo Sorrento’s spectacularly weird road trip film This Must Be the Place. Viewers will differ in opinion regarding Frank, as there was much laughter coming from the cinema auditorium at a DIFF http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ screening.

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank will have a very limited appeal, not helped by the onscreen presence (or lack there of) of Gyllenhaal and Fassbender, whose chemistry together is pointlessly obliterated and nullified by a giant false head. Frank will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but will have comic appeal for those that appreciate deadpan humour and the effortless blending of banal social media.

 

Evading the Threat Matrix

White House Down

white_house_down_ver8

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Jimmi Simpson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nicholas Wright, Richard Jenkins, Lance Reddick, Matt Craven

Historians have concluded that the decline of the Roman Empire happened from within due to the increasing barbarization of the army protecting its vast borders. In Roland Emmerich’s impressive White House Down, the same can be said for the paramilitary group which attack America’s presidential palace with impunity in retaliation for the President pulling out all US armed forces from the Middle East.

Although this Decline of the American Empire is nowhere near as subtle or brilliant as the Canadian film version by Denys Arcand, White House Down is a more intricately plotted action thriller than Antoine Fugua’s thematically similar film Olympus Has Fallen. Both films, have similar plot points and follow an almost identical narrative except that in White House Down, the enemy is not a bunch of gun totting Koreans, but a right wing American paramilitary group who have slipped through the threat matrix.

What makes Emmerich’s White House Down a better picture than Olympus has Fallen, is that there is more background characterization making the motives for such an attack on the White House infinitely more credible thanks to the inventive screenwriting of James Vanderbilt. Whilst Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart do not have as much bonding time in Olympus Has Fallen, the two stars of White House Down, Channing Tatum (Magic Mike, The Vow) as wannabe secret service agent John Cale  and likeable African American president Sawyer, played with a humorous twist by the ever watchable Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained, Collateral), make for the teaming of two brilliant leading men. The rest of the cast consists of the experienced Maggie Gyllenhaal as Finnerty, James Woods as Walker head of the Secret Service and the brilliant Richard Jenkins as the Speaker Raphelson.

Emmerich also manages to capture the historical significance of the White House as Cale and his news savvy daughter are first taken on a tour of the White House, during which the vicious paramilitary group lead by the ubiquitous Australian actor Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty) playing ex-special ops strongman Stengz start planning their Coup d’Etat.  In a precursor of what’s install, there is even a painting showed in one scene of the film, showing the newly built 19th century White House up in flames during the Burning of Washington by the British Army in 1812, the only time a foreign power has ever occupied the American capital – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_of_Washington.

white_house_down_ver3

Whilst the characterization and historical back story of the first half of White House Down make for fascinating viewing, the second half of the film transcends all sense or sensibility as all the American presidential icons from Air Force One to the famed White House are blown to smithereens. The action is nevertheless stimulating whilst the film does appear to veer towards a very unsubtle level of American patriotism not seen on the big screen since Olive Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July. White House Down is sure to keep audiences spellbound by the fantastic special effects and brilliantly orchestrated bid budget action sequences which is expected from the director of such blockbusters as Independence Day, 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

White House Down like Emmerich’s previous films is not without some wonderful comic touches, making the characters human in times of a crisis, despite some of their intentions, from the White House tour guide Donny played by Nicholas Wright to the diabolical techno guru Tyler, played by Jimmi Simpson (Zodiac) hacking into Presidential compound’s mainframe computer whilst listening to Beethoven’s 5th, or the sneaker clad US President Sawyer arming himself with a rocket launcher as they race around the White House’s pristine lawn in one of the film’s best chase sequences. Just imagine Obama doing that?

Recommended viewing for lovers of big budget action films, and unadulterated American patriotism. See White House Down to believe it!

 

Vibrating the Victorians

Hysteria

 

Tantalizing Indeed!

Hysteria is a hilarious romantic comedy set in Victorian London in 1880 about a struggling and well-meaning young Doctor, Dr Mortimer Granville played by the ever dashing Hugh Dancy (Evening)who joins up with a prominent Doctor whose medical practice’s sole aim is to treat bored suburban Victorian housewives of the so-called elusive feminine condition of Hysteria. Dr Granville whose under the patronage of wealthy entrepreneur Lord Edmund St John-Smythe, beautifully down played against type by Rupert Everett (Another Country, An Ideal Husband) and is fascinated by all modern electrical inventions which were increasingly surfacing in Victorian London at the ripening of the Industrial Revolution.

Dr Granville is taken in with board and lodging by an unorthodox Dr Dalrymple who is a widower with two very different daughters, the plain and simple Emily played by Felicity Jones and the hugely volatile and passionate Charlotte wonderfully played by the very talented Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, Crazy Heart).

Hysteria works because of the fantastic on screen chemistry between Dancy and Gyllenhaal and is helped by a superbly witty script which highlights not only the bizarre inventions of late 19th Century England but also the more serious plight of women during the Industrial Revolution. Charlotte Dalrymple is a headstrong nurse and teacher who assist at a community school and shelter in the poorer East End of London, much to her pompous father’s disgust.

Charlotte is deeply involved in the ever growing suffragette movement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragette_movement which aimed to eventually give women in Victorian England the right to vote in a unusually patriarchal society ironically ruled by the steadfast Queen Victoria which left women suppressed by controlling men and often viewed as commodities to be traded in a marriage contract reflected in Dr Robert Dalrymple’s view of his daughters, played with an underlining misogyny by the hugely talented British actor Jonathan Pryce (Carrington, Tomorrow Never Dies).

Hysteria in women, whilst manifesting in a variety of symptoms is according to these Victorian doctors basically caused by a lack of sex. Comic moments abound as while the dashing Dr Granville is relieved to give women a helping hand, he eventually turns to his outrageous patron Lord St John-Smythe and between the two of them they perfect the world’s first mechanical vibrator minus the feathers.

Whilst the subject matter might be provocative, Hysteria manages to be an engaging and often hilarious comedy from a uniquely feminine perspective. The onscreen chemistry is fantastic, the cast top notch and the fashions to die for. Hysteria is recommended for all those lovers of period drama yet has all the proper doses of comedy and romance without descending into farce. Tanya Wexler directs and while the editing is not top notch, the script and story line is truly enlivening and not to mention based on historical fact. Really!

Anarchy Reigns Supreme

The Dark Knight

dark_knight_ver2

Christopher Nolan follows up his 2005 film Batman Begins with a darker, more sinister and entirely gripping sequel, The Dark Knight. At the end of Batman Begins the Gotham City police chief James Gordon played with great subtlety by Gary Oldman hands Bruce Wayne a calling card for the a new breed of criminal. Wayne, or his alter ego Batman flips over the card and all we see is The Joker, a suggestion that a sequel is definitely in the pipeline. With Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman reprising their roles, who was to be cast as the ultimate villain? The role of the Joker, first made famous by a more jovial and naughty Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman in the late 1980’s was reinvented with a more anarchistic alacrity by the hugely talented Heath Ledger, fresh from his Oscar-nominated role in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.

So with the casting of the film pretty much sorted only with the slight change of Maggie Gyllenhaal taking on the role of female lead character Rachel Dawes, played in Batman Begins by the pre-Tom Cruise wedded Katie Holmes, all seemed clear sailing. In January 2008 tragedy struck with the unexpected and premature death of Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight’s main draw card, and an eerie and tragic shadow was cast over the release of the film, for it was to become Heath Ledger’s last completed movie and more significantly his final and most intense cinematic impression ever. So when The Dark Knight was released in July simultaneously in cinemas around the globe, the hype was not only about the best sequel ever, it was largely attributed to Ledger’s brilliant and overtly sinister portrayal of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. Ledger deservedly won the Oscar post-humously for Best Supporting Actor for this film, the second actor in cinema history since Peter Finch won for Network.

So naturally, like any avid cineaste, I couldn’t wait to see the final movie. Having followed Christopher Nolan’s previous works from the bizarre Memento to the excellent 2006 film The Prestige

Magic is an illusion and ambition a killer

I knew that The Dark Knight would be in exceptionally talented hands. The Dark Knight, like the trailer suggests, will literally blow any audience viewer away or transfix them to their seat with visuals and cutting edge sound so spectacular it’s hard to realize that two and a half hours have passed. A high-octane and visually spectacular movie with one great action sequence followed by another, punctuated by superb performances not only by Ledger as the Joker, but by Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart who takes on the wonderfully ambiguous part of District Attorney Harvey Dent. Gotham is a simulacrum of any large American metropolis, a sinister and shadowy mix of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where corporate greed fits like a glove with psychotic criminals, ruthless mobsters and a city whose citizens have clearly lost their souls.

For this Joker, a spine-chillingly brilliant and maniacal performance by Heath Ledger, does not have a goal just as long as he is content with wreaking mass destruction, he is purely doing it so anarchy can reign supreme. Prisoners are not an option and nothing is spared as violent and malignant retribution for all the evil that was inflicted on him as a character. The Joker simply is a delusional psychopath with no particular empathy for any moral order or social consequence, let alone a superior and well-meaning hero like Batman, the once brave and fabulously wealthy Bruce Wayne. The Dark Knight is undeniably the best film in ages, for everything is of vastly superior quality from the superb action sequences, senseless and conniving villains, to the exhilarating aerial shots of Gotham and Hong Kong, combined with the elegance of the ultra wealthy urbanized set contrasted by the violent and devious criminals which seek to undermine all that was once sacred. The technical aspects of the film are brilliant from the sound editing, to the slick pace, insures that at  two and a half hours, one is never bored, one is shocked into a state of frenzied captivation, entranced by a film so expansive and devouring, refined and slick, scary and ultimately very intense. Don’t miss this spectacular sequel on the big screen, it is entirely beyond anything one can even comprehend. As for the late Heath Ledger, one really wonders who is having the last laugh.

The Joker?

Ledgers Iconic final performance

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
September 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  
  • Barbie Unveils Awesome Music-Producer Doll ‘to Highlight the Gender Gap in the Industry’
    Fighting the gender gap in the music industry is not a role that Mattel’s Barbie doll traditionally has taken on, but the company has used the iconic figure for exactly that purpose with its awesome Music-Producer doll, which it announced earlier this week. The company, which partnered with veteran songwriter-producer Ester Dean for the series, […]
    Jem Aswad
  • How Film Festivals Safely Made Their In-Person Return With COVID-19 Precautions
    With all due respect to the streamers who kept us distracted during the pandemic, movies were meant to be seen on the big screen, in the company of others and, ideally, debated and dissected with fellow cinephiles as we exit the theater. Cautiously reopening megaplexes have restored that experience to some degree, although film festivals […]
    Peter Debruge
  • Variety’s 2021 TV Producers Impact Report
    This time last year, Variety’s annual TV Producers Impact Report had a heavy bent on those who successfully and innovatively pivoted their productions post-shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic still raging on, those creating content for traditional broadcast networks, cablers and streaming platforms alike have had to double down on originality of story […]
    Danielle Turchiano
  • Paramount Plus, CBC Team for Medical Rescue Drama ‘Skymed’
    Paramount Plus and CBC have partnered on the drama series “Skymed.” The series is produced by Piazza Entertainment in association with CBC and CBS Studios. It is currently in production in Manitoba and Ontario and will be available to stream on Paramount Plus in 2022. The series follow the triumphs, heartbreaks and tribulations of budding […]
    Joseph Otterson
  • How ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ Costume Designer Channeled Tammy Faye Bakker’s Colorful Signature Style
    How do you make a movie about colorful televangelist and gay icon Tammy Faye Bakker without veering into caricature? That was the challenge for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” costume designer Mitchell Travers and star and producer Jessica Chastain, who were united in their vision for the look of the film. “We never wanted it […]
    jazztangcay
  • Read More
    Different providers offer different cell phones, so take a look at the options from each provider to choose the right one for you. You may also want to look into any promotions that the providers have to offer, such as free cell phones in exchange for signing a contract. Tags: 2gmhass90