Posts Tagged ‘Mark Strong’

The Doomsday Protocol

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Jeff Bridges, Edward Holcroft, Emily Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Michael Gambon

Director Matthew Vaughn follows up his 2015 comic book spy debut Kingsman: The Secret Service with a more robust and intensely invested sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle with a bigger cast and lavish sets reuniting Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) with his A Single Man co-star fellow Oscar winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice) who plays the delusional and garish villain Poppy.

Hot young star Taron Egerton reprises his role of Eggsy, street boy turned bespoke spy, joined by Mark Strong as Merlin who go on an international mission to discover who is destroying The Kingsman headed up by a briefly glimpsed Michael Gambon.

The Kingsman soon join forces with their American counterparts including Channing Tatum as Tequila and Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall) as Whiskey who make up the Statesmen an independent espionage agency housed in a whiskey distillery in Tennessee who come to their aid in tracking down Poppy and her evil plan of causing all drug users in the world to die through lacing their fix with a lethal concoction which causes purple veins, paralysis and death.

As Kingsman adopt the Doomsday Protocol, Eggsy and Merlin embark on a dangerous mission with the help of Whiskey as they travel to the Italian Alps to retrieve an antidote in an action packed ski cable car sequence which is clearly a skit on the 007 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Even Poppy’s drug liar deep in the Cambodian jungle, aptly named Poppyland is a skit on another Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

While the action in Kingsman: The Golden Circle is clearly hyper-visualized and the plot is completely outlandish, it’s the sort of Saturday afternoon popcorn film which is pure escapism even though its subliminal messages are morally questionable.

With Oscar winner Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) as Statesman tech genius Ginger, The Kingsman: Golden Circle is a clear skit on the 007 franchise with a more lurid twist making our dapper hero Eggsy appealing to the millennial’s and definitely is more successful as a cleverly cast spy caper.

If audiences enjoyed the first Kingsman, then they will enjoy this extravagant and better orchestrated sequel. Kingsman: The Golden Circle gets a Film Rating 7 out of 10.

 

 

Comic Book Moonraker

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Jack Davenport, Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamill, Lily Travers, Edward Holcroft

X-Men First Class director Matthew Vaughn’s glossy Kingsman: The Secret Service although has some great finishing touching is certainly no diamond in the rough. Although from the outset, the film inspired by a Comic book series and despite the casting of Oscar winners Michael Caine and Colin Firth fails to successfully make fun of the spy genre and its plot falls flat in the face of some glamorous production design, Kingsman actually is not as good as the trailer makes out to be. Which is a pity.

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Whilst the storyline of a youngster, Eggsy played by Taron Egerton is a sort of male version of Pygmalion as he is plucked out of trouble and brought to the finishing school for spies, The Kingsman: The Secret Service with the elegant assistance of Harry Hart wonderfully played by Colin Firth, the overall effect of the film is absurd to the point of making it nothing more than a comic book version of the Bond classic Moonraker. The eloquent Hart’s best line is manners maketh man, otherwise the plot itself is disjointed coming off as a schizophrenic spoof of the usually intriguing spy genre essentially aimed at the teenage market.

The villain is an American tech giant, Richmond Valentine bizarrely played by Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained) in one of his least compelling roles. Whilst the storyline follows the classic megalomaniac aiming to take over the world and cull the downtrodden, while only saving a few politically connected elite, Kingsman: The Secret Service follows the traditional spy genre but then at some point during the film subverts this venerated genre, probably the moment when bigots are attacking each in a rural church in Kentucky, making the whole storyline utterly farcical.

Given the production values and the casting of such British acting talents as Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules, The Dark Knight) as Arthur a traditional figurehead of The Secret Service and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) as a sort of style master to the fatherless ruffian Eggsy, whose own father codenamed Lancelot met a gory end in a snow villa in Argentina, Kingsman: The Secret Service could have been so much slicker, better edited and infinitely smarter than what the finished product is.

Look out for a guest appearance by reclusive actor Mark Hamill who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars as the mad Professor Arnold.

There are some wonderful moments when Firth takes out a gang of hoodlums in a pub aptly called the Black Prince with a very lethal umbrella, Kingsman: The Secret Service is overly long, with a plot which becomes more ludicrous as the film progresses and eventually does little justice to the original Spy thrillers the film is aiming to emulate: The Bourne Series, the iconic James Bond films and even the action TV show 24.

The action sequences are beyond credible and the first part of the film involving the training of the potential Kingsman has a sort of British upper class Hunger Games feel about it, the rest of the film could have been edited. All the great actors like Caine, Firth and even Mark Strong recently seen in The Imitation Game should stay clear of trying to star in films based on comic books and stick to more serious subject matter where at least their acting talents as actors are properly utilized.

Twenty six year old Welsh actor Taron Egerton is energetic in the role of Gary (Eggsy) Unwin, a juvenile delinquent transformed into a gentleman, yet given a more illuminating script, his true potential as an actor could have shone brighter. Recommended for viewers that enjoyed Get Smart or even some of the earlier X-Men films, but diehard spy fans should keep clear of Kingsman: The Secret Service – as its mainly poppycock!

 

 

 

29 Million Variations

The Imitation Game

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Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Alan Leech, Tom Goodman-Hill, Matthew Beard, James Northcote, Steven Waddington

Based upon the 1983 book by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma and brilliantly adapted into an insightful screenplay by Graham Moore, The Imitation Game is a superb and evocative historical drama about the breaking of the enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum elegantly weaves a very touching and tragic story of espionage, cryptography and sexuality extracting nuanced performances out of Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, an odd couple who make up the mysterious collective which work on and break the seemingly impossible Nazi enigma code at the height of World War II. Using real war footage and blending in a fascinating portrayal of the mathematician Alan Turing whose genius has only recently been acknowledged.

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Set between the years of 1928 and 1951, The Imitation Game paints a moving portrait of a very complicated man, whose brilliance was only threatened by the inherent violence of war which engulfed England during the 1940’s as well as the prejudice which followed regarding his latent homosexuality in the early 1950’s.

Cambridge mathematician graduate whose thesis was entitled the Imitation Game, Alan Turing was socially awkward, shy, bullied at an English prep school but the perfect sort of individual who had the foresight and intelligence to develop a machine which cracked the seemingly unbreakable enigma code, a daily Nazi signal which gave countless GPS co-ordinates of where they would be bombing next during World War II with a minimum of 29 million variations.

Naturally groomed by the newly formed MI6 by Stewart Menzies wonderfully played by Mark Strong, Turing is recognized for his potential and yet later vilified for his own sexuality in a moving portrait of one the 20th century’s biggest injustices, his charge and subsequent punishment of chemical castration for being homosexual in 1952, when it was still criminalized in Great Britain.

This was despite the fact that Turing’s mathematical brilliance was the reason that the complicated machine which he called Christopher named after a schoolboy crush, manages to decipher this seemingly unbreakable code able to break the Nazi code and prevent World War II from continuing beyond 1945.

Historically there were lots of other reasons the War ended when it did, but The Imitation Game focuses on the people behind the scenes, the cryptanalysts and code-breaking who elusively assisted those fighting on the front line.

Widely regarded as the founding father of theoretical computer science Alan Turing’s life story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing has only recently gained prominence following a Royal pardon and a highly publicized internet campaign to clear Turing’s name and bestow upon him the recognition he never received in his own lifetime.

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With a suitably moving musical score by Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game is a poignant and superb historical drama of Turing and his band of men and one woman, Joan Clarke, featuring one of the best performances by Knightley (Atonement, Anna Karenina) in a race against time to save the world from tyranny. Turing’s genius as a mathematician came at a price, his apparent lack of emotional empathy yet despite the enormity of his task, he remained ironically detached from the brutal war which engulfed Europe and the world around him.

The Imitation Game is an intelligent historical drama, with universal themes of injustice and perseverance despite the prejudice and the odds against infuriating bureaucracy and time itself. Highly recommended for those viewers that enjoyed Atonement and Another Country.

 

2014 Toronto Film Festival

2014 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on amongst others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Judge directed by David Dobkin starring Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio

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People’s Choice Award: The Imitation Game directed by Morten Tyldum starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Tom Goodman-Hill

Best Canadian Feature Film: Bang Bang Baby directed by Jeffrey St. Jules starring Jane Levy, Peter Stormare and Justin Chatwin.

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Timeline of Terror

Zero Dark Thirty

Superb Tradecraft

Superb Tradecraft

Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliant yet riveting film Zero Dark Thirty is a masterful film, held together by a central performance by Jessica Chastain as CIA Intelligence Operative Maya and a superb script by Mark Boal, who also collaborated with Bigelow on the equally impressive The Hurt Locker.

This complex film opens with the flight recordings of the United 93 plane that crashed in Pennsylvania during the September 2001 US Terror attacks sparking an obsessive and frustrating hunt for the Al Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden by the CIA and specifically Maya initially from the hostile environment of Pakistan then based at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The narrative charts a veritable timeline of terror that has characterized the first decade of the 21st century, from 9/11 to the London Transport bombings in July 2005, to the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad in September 2008 to the suicide bombing at the American military base, Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan in December 2009.

Zero Dark Thirty is a brilliant spy thriller and unlike Argo, is deadly serious in every respect and is grounded in much historical research and investigative journalism, noted in the detailed script by Mark Boal. As in The Hurt Locker, Bigelow once again casts her central character in a completely hostile and extremely dangerous environment and the petite Maya as the tenacious CIA operative who skilfully leads the hunt for and final execution of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind many international terrorist attacks, most notably 9/11 and the 2005 London bombings.

1 SHEET MASTER

Bigelow as a director takes on a larger canvas than in the Iraq War in The Hurt Locker and shows that the decade long hunt for America’s most wanted enemy was an international affair from Pakistan to Poland to Kuwait involving CIA black sites, detailed surveillance and lots of political wrangling.

Tradecraft

A notable narrative shift is from the film’s first half set under the Bush administration where torture, rendition and revenge were the CIA’s chief instruments of capturing Al Qaeda terrorists to the second half set after November 2008 under the Obama administration where detailed surveillance, dedication and  almost positive certainty of terrorist tradecraft which ultimately lead to the riveting  elimination of Osama Bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011, Zero Dark Thirty is deadpan in its presentation of one nations hunt for a master terrorist and the extraordinary sacrifice and lengths these CIA operatives went to in finally achieving their goal.

Jessica Chastain performance is simply superb and has already garnered a 2013 Golden Globe Award and truly shows her talent and diversity in the role of Maya but also points to Kathryn Bigelow ability  to bring out the best performance ever in her leading actors, as was the case with Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker. The final sequence involving the storming of the Abbottabad compound, believed to be Bin Ladin’s hideout by elite American soldiers is truly nerve-wracking cinema, shot with Bigelow’s trademark directorial detachment cut through with absolute documentary styled realism.

Zero Dark Thirty has a great supporting cast including Jason Clarke as the CIA torturer Dan, Kyle Chandler as CIA Pakistan operations chief Joseph Bradley along with Mark Strong, Jennifer Ehle and James Gandolfini, but it is really Chastain’s obsessive portrayal of CIA Operative Maya, a woman battling to gain respect in a male dominated espionage arena, that shows her true talent. The pace of Zero Dark Thirty is fast and yet measured enough to show the time involved assisted by an original score by Alexandre Desplat and with cutting edge sound editing, the audience is immediately immersed in a deeply fascinating portrait of America’s covert hunt for that nation’s Enemy Number One. Highly Recommended and definitely Oscar worthy.

Gritty and Compelling Spy Drama

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian McKay, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Kathy Burke, Laura Carmichael, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy

The compelling film adaptation of John le Carre’s best selling cold-war espionage novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is superb. Featuring a brilliant British all male cast including Oscar Winner Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and headed up by a solid yet subtle performance by Gary Oldman, who proves in this film that he is a great actor and has always harboured an exceptional talent.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is all about routing out a double agent, a traitor and an adulterer. If viewers have not read le Carre’s novel, they could be forgiven for feeling a bit lost in terms of storyline.

For those that have read the novel, Tinker Tailor follows le Carre’s novel brilliantly and whilst it does not glamorize the spy genre it certainly shows that wisdom and skill triumph over youthful deception and ambition. The film focuses on George Smiley played with subtlety and elegance by Oldman who comes out of retirement to find a mole in the Circus, which is essentially a section of Mi6 in London, to find out which of the handlers which brought over a defector from Hungary during the cold war but turned that defector into a source for trading secrets with the Soviets and reporting on all the intelligence activities that London was carrying out behind the Iron Curtain in Budapest.

Featuring Mark Strong as mysterious agent Jim Prideaux and Tom Hardy as rogue agent Ricki Tarr and Colin Firth as the vain and suave handler Bill Haydon and John Hurt as Control, Smiley skilfully pieces together through these senior espionage characters those behind the elaborate web of intrigue and the man who was responsible for turning the British crown’s espionage secrets over to the Russians after the Hungarian fiasco.

Swedish Director Tomas Alfredson’s gritty and essentially European film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy set mainly in England and Hungary depicts an intellectual tale of deception, espionage, adultery and a testament to one man’s incredible and highly nuanced capability at seeking out the source of the international espionage cover-up. Highly recommend especially for Gary Oldman’s brilliant Oscar worthy performance.

Cheeky Green Superhero

Green Lantern

Bond film director Martin Campbell, who was responsible for the hugely popular Casino Royale and Goldeneye takes a new directorial route with the Sci-fi superhero action film The Green Lantern starring the gorgeous and ever quirky Ryan Reynolds as a hapless Californian pilot first appearing in a pair of tight whiteys, who is accidentally bestowed huge responsibility by a dying purple alien to quell the disruptions facing the galactic status quo caused by the unleashing of Parallax, a menacing evil force which has come back to haunt the realm of the Green Lanterns.

Going Green and Saving the Universe

With the help of a tight-fitting Green costume, cool mask and a rather large green ring, the irresponsible jet pilot Hal Jordan, played with relish by Reynolds is the first human to become a Green Lantern and is able to fly, create objects in space and generally be very malleable with his own willpower.

The only problem with casting Ryan Reynolds as the green clad cheeky superhero was that it was very difficult to take him seriously in this role after he was so brilliant in such comedies as The Proposal but is no stranger to Superhero films as he appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Blake Lively seen briefly in the brilliant film The Town appears as the female lead, Carol Ferris and although there is a great supporting cast including Mark Strong, Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett, The Green Lantern whilst it remains entertaining fails to supercede X-Men: First Class and is not even in the same league as The Dark Knight or the hugely popular Spiderman franchise which were released at the beginning of the 21st century.

Green Lantern firmly rooted in science-fiction remains more comic than action and the film looses its impetus and becomes another superhero film about men who have severe father complexes. Both the Green Lantern, aka, Hal Jordan and the villain Hector Hammond are men who are desperately trying to live up to the legend their fathers were, while Hammond simply takes vengeance, Jordan as the Lantern shows that all the galactic responsibility has proven that he is a man capable of saving the Earth from utter devastation.

What saves The Green Lantern is the quirky acting of Ryan Reynolds and the wonderful onscreen chemistry between him and the rising star Blake Lively. As superhero films go, this Lively Lantern is thrilling but by no means unique. The story line is straight out of superman and lacks the panache or psychological profile which makes some superhero films so utterly compelling such as Batman Begins and Hellboy.

Bruce Wayne the complex Super Hero

Martin Campbell should stick to more gritty action films which are more his style like the Bond films, The Mask of Zorro and the excellent but under rated thriller Edge of Darkness starring Mel Gibson before his spectacular fall from grace.

The overkill of superhero movies only points to a trend in recent big budget studio film making which is taking audience away from the blinding realities of common existence and allowing them to escape into a world  of super egotistical hyper-realized potential where the super hero in everyone is waiting to be unleashed. A concept that America firmly believes in. Watch out for more superhero films being released including the aptly titled Captain America. Escapism at its most comical yet undeniably entertaining!

A Far More Stylish Hero

 

 

 

Honour Beyond Hadrians Wall

The Eagle

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In the 1st Century AD, the Roman Empire extended into southern Britain and up to the borders of Scotland. The Eagle directed by Kevin Macdonald who brought us the impressively brilliant Oscar winning Last King of Scotland, stars a surprisingly capable Channing Tatum along with Jamie Bell is an engaging period tale about this expansionist phase of the Roman Empire and its stronghold in Britain.

Tatum, who has come a long way as an actor from Step Up to play Marcus Aquila, a Roman lieutenant who goes to the then savage lands of Britain and extend the rule of the Roman Empire and regain the lost standard with the assistance of his all too savvy slave Esca. Twenty years earlier a standard, a gold eagle was lost in the Scottish highlands, by a Roman legion said to be slain by the savage tribes that inhabited the north beyond Hadrian’s Wall, a fortification erected in 122 AD along the North of England, also used as a means of taxation for those caught within the realms of the Roman Empire. Hadrian’s Wall was one of the most heavily fortified border in the entire Empire, separating Roman controlled Britain with the wild Scottish Highlands.

That legion was lead by Marcus Aquila’s father and the tale of the lost gold standard has haunted Marcus Aquila and tainted his family’s honour. Marcus after sustaining a leg injury in a battle with local Druids is sent to recover at his Uncle’s villa in Southern Britain, who is guided by his more cautious relative, a wonderful cameo by the veteran actor Donald Sutherland. Near his uncle’s villa, Marcus saves the life of Esca in a primitive battle with a second rate gladiator and Esca, in a superb and wry performance by Jamie Bell who has also filled out considerably since his debut in the hit ballet film Billy Elliot, becomes Marcus’s slave but also his able-bodied companion.

In a bid to search for the lost Eagle, the gold standard, Marcus and Esca embark on a treacherous journey beyond the boundaries of the known world or the Roman world that is and there the colonizer becomes the colonized by the savage and ruthless seal tribe. In order to survive Esca makes Marcus his slave in the face of the savage tribe who have taken the gold standard as their own, a glorified object to be worship in pagan rituals. Although not entirely historically accurate, The Eagle is very engaging ethnographically recreating a world of Britain centuries before William the Conqueror invaded the island in 1066, displaying a barbaric land inhabited by various druid and Celtic tribes who were adverse to their Roman colonizers seizing their land especially those in ancient Scotland.

The Eagle is about men conquering other men through violence and colonization, about honour lost and dignity regained. It’s a male bonding journey about a master and servant who through their journey beyond Hadrian’s Wall help each other gain both honour, respect and freedom.

While all this sounds vaguely homoerotic, it certainly is. Especially with Channing Tatum as the muscular and brawny Marcus being assisted by the instinct driven and supple Esca, as they battle savage tribes, their own repressed longings for each other and their respective dead fathers is played out in a bitterly cold and vicious but breathtaking landscape of Scotland, a land well beyond the borders of the Roman Empire and beautifully captured by director Kevin Macdonald, showing his passion for his native Scotland.

The Eagle does not fare as well as Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Gladiator, but with all the sword fighting, bloodletting and adventure is well worth watching if not for a peek into a little documented epoch of the Roman conquest of Britain before the realm of monarchy and the equally savage rules of subsequent Kings and Queens from the despotic Richard III to Henry VIII, from the victorious Elizabeth I to Victoria. Like all magnificent and faded empires, both Roman and British alike, have suffered their decline by the infiltration of barbarians and the inability to keep such a vast colonial Empire eternally fortified.

Muscular Remake of Robin Longstride….

Robin Hood

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Ridley Scott’s Epic and muscular retelling of Robin Hood is better than expected. With Scott’s usual visual panache, 12th century England gets a grand and lush veneer along with a muscular and slightly jocular Robin Hood, played by Russell Crowe who teams up with an equally feisty Lady Marion, played with all the haughtiness of a woman trapped by her grand situation by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett.

The action is swift, gritty and visually compelling without dwelling on the gore but hinting at the brutality of the times. Robin Hood, which surprisingly opened the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and is devoutly English in its version of the pending invasion by King Philip of the brittle and precarious English realm of King John in 1199.

Supported by a wonderful cast including Mark Strong as yet another evil villian in the role of the allegiance shifting Godfrey, Eileen Atkins as the delicate but influential Eleanor of Aquitaine played by Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley, Robin Hood is Ridley Scott back in the style of Gladiator with similar themes of an empire on the precipice of change, a slightly demented ruler and an anti-hero who leads the battle and starts a myth. Robin Hood also known as Robin Longstride is a brawny and hairy Russell Crowe who is forced to delve into the idealism of his youth where his father prophesied the Magna Carta and the saying Lambs become Lions….

Scott’s trademark elements of water and shadow are skilfully used to enhance a much larger and bolder canvas of a Kingdom ravaged by a ten year crusade to the Holy Land, rebellious noblemen and coffers which are far from full. The ever-menacing relationship with France is tested by the betrayals and ambitions of Godfrey and King Philip along with his niece Queen Isabella who is married to King John, younger brother to King Richard the Lionheart, a brief but great turn by Danny Huston brother of Angelica Huston.

Crowe and Blanchett make a fine team, both experienced actors with the right amount of gravity to pull off these mythic roles with depth and sensitivity without resorting to cliche. Had these roles been cast to lesser known stars the force of the film would have been lost. Robin Hood is an epic Historical tale which hints at the popular story of Robin Hood and his merry men, Friar Tuck and his beekeeping and the Sheriff of Nottingham, gorgeously underplayed by Matthew Macfadyen of Pride and Prejudice fame. William Hurt also makes an appearance as William Marshall to add weight to the already Oscar-laden cast. This film version is certainly not flimsy, but muscular, brawny, dark and partly comical without dwelling too much on the political intrigue, the costumes or the bloodletting of medieval England.

Robin Hood‘s arrow has the perfect shot and Ridley Scott’s film is superb, engaging and visually rewarding more as an historical epic than a special-effects laden blockbuster and will surely be noticed when awards season comes round next year. What would one expect from such an experienced film maker who has brought audiences such classics as Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise and the Oscar Winning Gladiator, which made Russell Crowe an international star.

With a sword he conquored Rome…

As for the French, Robin Hood did open at Festival du Cannes, so perhaps all that cross-channel animosity has slightly cooled! Watch Robin Longstride and his rise to iconic anti-hero and savior of the outcasts and the free…

Quirky Victorian Machismo Reinvented….

SHERLOCK HOLMES

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The Dark and Sexy 1890s….

Picture the Victorian age, and most people imagine a British society  with strict morals and closeted virtues, governed by an immovable Queen, who managed an Empire, whose centre was London and radiated out to the four corners of the globe, from South Africa, to Hong Kong, to New Zealand and Jamaica. But by the 1890s that Victorian society was slowly unravelling by the very constraints that were tying it together. Under that epitome of London fortitude, that epicentre of British colonialism, Oscar Wilde was flouting his homosexuality in the mid 1890s and was soon to be tried for his alleged affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, culminating in one of the most famous trials in British legal history. Jack the Ripper was prowling the East End, slitting the throats of Cockney prostitutes and opium dens were rife in the less savoury parts of the City. Under the veil of conservatism, the late Victorians were a quirky bunch, many sects were popping up exploring the occult and challenging the grip of the Church of England, spiritualism was rife, as was the certainty that Victoria’s steel reign was coming to a rapid and abrupt end. England was emerging from the industrial revolution and slowly entering the edges of the modern era. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, lived at a very interesting junction in history and his most famous literary creation from 1890-1905, Sherlock Holmes was a mixture of bound up fanaticism and heroic individuality, a brilliant mind, a borderline addict and an overwhelming eccentric living in an age well before forensics was perfected…

Ritchie Returned…

No other director but the London born, Guy Ritchie (Rock n Rolla, Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) could have brought a 21st century take on the most filmed literary character, and no better actor than Robert Downey Jnr could have pulled off all the perverse complexities as the Victorian super-sleuth, Sherlock. Downey’s performance was reminiscent of his Oscar nominated role in Richard Attenborough biopic, Chaplin.

Hollywood iconic...

Hollywood iconic…

Jude Law is superbly cast as the unassuming but more stable companion Dr Watson whose repartee with Sherlock is bordering on between British Machismo and pervading homo-eroticism. In this version, Holmes and Watson bicker like an old married couple and Holmes sensing separation anxiety at the thought of Watson leaving London to take his bride to go and live in the country, engages Watson as his ever faithful sidekick to destroy the plans of an occult aristocratic. It’s an enabler-rescuer relationship of note and the male bonding that ensues between them penetrating secret societies and separating the mysticism from the science can be read at deeper levels if a viewer wishes. For besides the central Holmes-Watson relation which is central to the film is a fascinating plot which has the duo pitted against the evil and enigmatic Lord Blackwood, another wonderful role by Mark Strong and his ring of henchmen including a French giant.

A Trio of Triumph….

Sherlock Holmes is at home in the 21st century thanks to the adept eye of Guy Ritchie who steers the plot away from glamorous American commercialism and keeps the film, gritty atmospheric, dark and downright British, even to tea in the afternoon, bulldogs and Big Ben. Judging actors and directors by their personal lives is misleading especially with the private affairs of Ritchie, who was going through a divorce with Madonna, Downey who has had an eventful ride to fame, from the early days of Less than Zero to the brilliant Iron Man and Jude Law himself, whose extra-marital affairs have kept him in the spotlight. This trio of talent is brilliant as a team and Guy Ritchie with the extraordinary power of his leading men, create a muscular, engaging and quirky cinematic Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century, leaving a whole generation to discover the very complex and fascinating era that was Victorianism with a twist.

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