Posts Tagged ‘Martin Donovan’

The Grandfather Paradox

Tenet

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Andrew Howard, Himesh Patel, Jack Cutmore-Scott, Clemence Poesy, Wes Chatham, Martin Donovan

If a man goes back in time and kills his own grandfather then he would never have been born.

That is the Grandfather Paradox and the basic notion of director Christopher Nolan’s stylish and innovative, time-bending espionage action film Tenet set in Kiev, Ukraine, Mumbai and Oslo in Norway.

Besides the mesmerising action sequences, the critical part about Tenet is the clever casting of the son of Denzel Washington, Golden globe nominee John David Washington (BlackKKlansman) as The Protagonist opposite the dashing British actor Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis, Twilight, Queen of the Desert) as Neil.

Tenet is like Inception but set within the rough estimates of a spy genre, superbly written and directed by Christopher Nolan and featuring an outstanding original music score by Swedish film composer Ludwig Goransson who won an Oscar for original score for Black Panther.  

To describe the plot of Tenet as a paradox is an understatement. It is a carefully constructed set of semiotic images punctuated with some astounding action sequences especially on a Norwegian highway and on an opulent skyscraper in Mumbai.

While the protagonist is in Mumbai, he comes across his Tenet contact Mahir wonderfully played by Yesterday star Himesh Patel, which leads him into the murky world of international arms dealing and he discovers a nefarious inversion machine that can alter both the past and devastate the future.

From the eye-catching hostage scene in an Opera house in Kiev, Ukraine to the final time-bending battle sequence spliced with a rather poignant confrontation by the femme fatale Kat superbly played by Elizabeth Debicki (Widows, The Great Gatsby, The Tale) with her vicious misogynistic Russian arms dealing husband Andrei Sator, played with an Oscar worthy performance by Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, My Week with Marilyn, Murder on the Orient Express) aboard a luxury yacht off the coast of Vietnam, Tenet is an exotic, elegant and asymmetrical action film, with an innovative plot that will challenge the viewer to watch carefully.

For sheer originality and perfect casting, Tenet is worth seeing. For incredibly intricate and carefully orchestrated action scenes especially those involving a transport plane crashing into Oslo Airport, Tenet is phenomenal.

After months of being deprived of real original and ground breaking cinema, Tenet is a must see film on the big screen with surround sound and should be a good reason to get back to the auditorium to see this spectacularly complex and clever piece of cinema.

Tenet gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing.

Once again, the multi-talented director of The Batman Trilogy, Dunkirk and Inception, Christopher Nolan does not disappoint.

Size Does Matter

Ant-Man

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Director: Peyton Reed

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Corey Stoll, Martin Donovan, Bobby Cannavale, Hayley Atwell, Anthony Mackie, Judy Greer

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Comedy star Paul Rudd (Our Idiot Brother, Wanderlust) embraces the role of Ant-Man, the latest superhero to join the Marvel Universe. In this case size does matter and Ant-Man’s unique ability to shrink to the size of an ant and evade capture while destroying intricate servers is something to marvel at.

Director Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man is humorous, hilarious and filled with spectacular moments which will find the audience rooting for the diminutive superhero who is desperate to join the Avengers team. Oscar winner Michael Douglas (Wall Street) plays quantum physicist Dr Hank Pym has developed a unique formula which can reduce a man to the size of an ant and cause damage along with his army of assistant ants. For once this is a superhero who is without any angst, but just an average guy who happens to be a convicted felon desperate to see his daughter again.

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Scott Lang, wonderfully played to perfection by Paul Rudd, and for once the casting could not have been better is a down and out cat burglar and at the request of his dumb friends, led by the dim-witted Luis hilariously played by Michael Pena breaks into the San Francisco home of Dr Pym to steal jewels and cash.

Instead, Lang steals an Ant-Man suit and unwittingly shrinks and realizes that this nifty ensemble enables him to escape from most situations, including jail, where he is arrested by his daughter’s stepfather Detective Paxton played by the ubiquitous Bobby Cannavale.

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Soon Lang is rescued by Dr Pym and his gorgeous daughter Hope van Dyne played by Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug) who train Lang to be the elusive Ant-Man.

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The evil villain is the megalomaniac scientist Dr Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll who is keen on developing his own shrinking suit and selling the sought after formula to the sinister Hydra which is out to destroy SHIELD, of whom the Avengers are a part of.

The fact that the final battle between Cross and Ant-Man takes place on top of a Thomas the Tank engine toy in Lang’s daughter’s bedroom is emblematic of who the target audience is. Nevertheless Ant-Man is visually spectacular, comical and often hilarious and a much better film than anticipated.

This is a superhero movie which does not take the entire genre too seriously, but has huge ambitions to join The Avengers. Fans should watch out for cameo appearances by Anthony Mackie as Falcon and Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter.

Ant-Man may not match up to the likes of Captain America or Iron Man but could certainly prove that size does count and in this case being smaller is infinitely better. The 3-D visual effects are amazing and Rudd keeps the entire film light and quirky. Ant-Man is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

The Golden Fang

Inherent Vice

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There will be Blood, The Master, Boogie Nights)

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Eric Roberts, Jena Malone, Michael Kenneth Williams, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, Martin Donovan, Maya Rudolph, Serena Scott Thomas

In the spirit of Magnolia and Boogie Nights, director Paul Thomas Anderson assembles an eclectic cast of stars for his cinematic adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice with Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, Gladiator) as stoner private detective Larry Doc Sportello who goes on a labyrinthine search for his ex-girlfriend Shasta Hepworth played by Katherine Waterston (Michael Clayton, Taking Woodstock).

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Set in 1971, during the Nixon administration, in California, Inherent Vice is a rambling and extended tour de force of the hippie’s drug culture of Southern California involving kinky and corrupt cops especially Lt Detective Christian “BigFoot” Bjornsen wonderfully played by the orally fixated Josh Brolin, straight laced deputy district attorneyPenny Kimball played by Reese Witherspoon and an elusive government informant Coy Harlingen played by Owen Wilson.

Oscar winner for director Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic Benicio del Toro also makes a brief appearance as Doc’s legal adviser Sauncho Smilax Esq, but this is very much Phoenix’s film and he inhabits every frame with a sort of woozy ease that is at times prolonged and other times fascinating. This is by no means Phoenix’s best performance and does not match his brilliant portrayal of the boozy drifter Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson’s superb critically acclaimed film The Master.

At a running time of just over two and a half hours, one cannot blame the viewer for getting slightly confused and bored. Inherent Vice has an intricate plot with lots of subtexts, subplots and quirky visual references but only serious fans of Paul Thomas Anderson will appreciate his laboured approach in adapting this contemporary novel to the big screen.

The best scenes are actually between Phoenix and Witherspoon who reunite after the success of the Oscar winning James Mangold film Walk the Line. Several of the other quite bizarre sequences are truly amazing to watch but the entire story could have done with some efficient editing.

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Audiences should also watch out for cameos by Eric Roberts, Martin Donovan and a crazed Martin Short. While the costumes and production design for Inherent Vice is spot on capturing the origins of the drug fueled and nefarious 1970’s, Paul Thomas Anderson film could have used some serious editing as this languid narrative tends to bewilder and obfuscate the viewer, which the point of the story.

Inherent Vice refers to possible drugs being smuggled into America on a mysterious vessel known as The Golden Fang from Indo-China or modern day Vietnam. This film is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Magnolia and Robert Altman’s far superior film Short Cuts. Not sure if Inherent Vice will quite make it to the cult status of The Master.

Focus on the Fundamentals

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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Director: Mira Nair

Cast: Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, Martin Donovan, Riz Ahmed, Om Puri

Indian director Mira Nair’s elegant and gripping film adaptation of the brilliant Mohsin Hamid novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a riveting tale of cross cultural clashes which occur when a wealthy Pakistani Changez, played by Riz Ahmed goes abroad and studies at Princeton and then pursues a cutthroat career in global economics at a prestige New York firm, Underwood Samson.

Hamid’s novel takes place as a dialogue between Changez confessing his love affair with America  to a yet unidentified man at a cafe in Lahore amidst growing tensions in the wake of 9/11 and America’s war on terror in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. It is an elegant and evocative tale of how Changez, was offered the American dream on a platter and then see it disintegrate before his eyes under the horrific aftermath of the Manhattan terror attacks. In the midst of his shifting view of the American dream, from being strip search at JFK to being humiliated in America’s corporate and artistic worlds, Changez’s embarks on a cross cultural relationship with a liberated Upper East side conceptual artist Erica.

Nair’s well crafted film version of The Reluctant Fundamentalist differs in parts to Hamid’s novel, exploring the inherent dangers of pursuing a Capitalist dream in a Western society which turns its back on you, in the wake of a Terrorist attack and the resulting shifts in American and Pakistani  perspectives. The film delicately portrays the backlash suffered by many American Muslims living and working  in the US, particularly New York in the aftermath of 9/11.

Changez as one of the bright young stars, recruited directly out of Princeton for the international corporate fixer agency Underwood Samson by the sexually ambivalent Jim Cross as his mentor, gorgeously underplayed by Kiefer Sutherland (Flatliners, The Sentinel), is sent on global excursions from Manila to Atlanta to Istanbul to assist companies in downsizing their labour force and maximizing profits with their corporate maxim being focus on the fundamentals.

At the start of his professional Manhattan career, Changez meets the dynamic and liberated Erica and soon embarks in a passionate affair. In Hamid’s novel , this complex romance is evocatively  told as part of Changez’s confessions to a supposed stranger at the Lahore cafe. In Nair’s film version this doomed relationship reaches a climax in a particularly poignant scene at a swish Manhattan gallery opening when Erica’s displays her vision of conceptual art and inspired by her own relationship with Changez through the title: I slept with a Pakistani once.

I slept with a Pakistani once.

Erica, awkwardly played by an auburn haired Kate Hudson (Nine, The Skeleton Key), unburdens her own guilt by embarking on a rebound affair, as a way of dealing with the sudden death of her boyfriend Chris of which she was the supposed cause. While the relationship between Changez and Erica is not as well sketched out in the film, the ambivalent dialogue in the Lahore cafe is fully realized in the scenes between Changez and Bobby Lincoln an experienced CIA operative played by Liev Schrieber (Defiance, Salt and the excellent TV series Ray Donovan) who is trying to get vital information out of him about a suspected Al Qaeda kingpin operating in Pakistan, whilst also suspecting him of masterminding an established or imagined terror network.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist expertly delves into the disillusion of the American dream from a Pakistani perspective. Like other Mira Nair films always with a flair for the dramatic most notably Vanity Fair and the award winning Monsoon Wedding has stunning  production values, compliments this visually rich film with a wonderfully evocative soundtrack.

The film’s script by Ami Boghani intelligently explores the common ties of humanity despite different cultures and the journeys of self discovery required to fully appreciate the fundamentals of a fulfilled existence. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a an ultimately flawed but brilliantly told international thriller which is better appreciated if viewers have first read the novel. Recommended viewing.

 

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