Posts Tagged ‘Martin Freeman’

The Wakanda Usurper

Black Panther

Director: Ryan Coogler

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Sterling K. Brown, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, John Kani

Marvel successfully diversifies its Avengers universe with an inventive self-sustaining Black Panther film. The Black Panther aka T’Challa who becomes king of the technologically advanced yet exclusive central African kingdom of Wakanda after his father T’Chaka played by South Africa’s John Kani is killed in an assassination.

Creed director, Ryan Coogler assembles an all-star cast for Black Panther including Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) as Black Panther’s love interest, the beautiful and noble Nakia as well as Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Zuri along with Angela Bassett as Black Panther’s regal mother and Queen of Wakanda, Ramonda.

Black Panther has to fight off the likes of a crazy South African mercenary Ulysses Klaue dubiously played with a terrible accent by Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes) attempting to steal smuggled vibranium from Wakanda at a buying exchange in Busan, South Korea, a scene in the film which is both brilliantly shot and innovatively orchestrated with a virtual reality car chase sequence.

Back on African soil, T’Challa soon realizes that the real enemy is the American born Erik Killmonger wonderfully played by Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic Four). With the able assistance of his cheeky sister Shuri fantastically played by British-Guyanese star Letitia Wright, Black Panther manages to fight Killmonger in a noble duel about the paternal claim to be the future King of Wakanda.

Director Ryan Coogler ingenuously incorporates lots of African tribalism and cool technology into Black Panther however he does take the superhero genre too seriously by unashamedly politicizing it. This is the Avengers after all, which Spiderman has just joined. Superhero movies are meant to be pure escapism, which is precisely why director Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnorak was such a refreshingly funny movie.

What remains to be seen is how effectively Black Panther will be blended into the mainstream Avengers films with the new Avengers: Infinity War opening soon. Chadwick Boseman is not as convincing as the main hero, Black Panther as his counterpart Michael B. Jordan who relishes playing the ruthless villain.

Lupita Nyong’o holds her own and kicks some butt in Black Panther as does rising star Letitia Wright who is an actress to watch out for. Golden Globe winner Sterling K. Brown has a minor role while Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) is suitably untrustworthy as Black Panther’s best friend and Wakanda protector W’Kabi.

Whether the much hyped Black Panther’s initial success in African cinemas is translated commercially to international audiences globally remains to be seen, yet the effort and rejuvenation of the highly anticipated Black superhero genre is applauded and provides starring roles for a host of African-American stars who have been clamouring for their own identifiable superhero film.

Marvel fans that enjoyed Captain America: Civil War and The Avengers franchise will certainly appreciate Black Panther, despite some uneven performances. At least now there is a guaranteed diversity of fans attending Comic-Con especially since its coming to Johannesburg in late 2018.

For all its vibrant celebrations of African culture, Black Panther gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

 

Vice and Virtue

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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Directed by: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Christopher Abbott, Alfred Molina, Stephen Peacocke, Cherry Jones, Josh Charles

From the directing team that brought audiences, I Love You Philip Morris and Focus, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa bring the Afghan war drama Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which is military jargon for WTF!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot focuses on the experiences of journalist Kim Baker who swops the tedious life of a New York media office for the dangerous life of a war correspondent in Afghanistan, from 2004 onwards based on her own novel, “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

30 Rock TV star and veteran comedian Tina Fey takes the title role and impressively turns in a nuanced, vaguely dramatic performance as Kim Baker ably assisted by a superb ensemble cast including Margot Robbie as a hard drinking cut-throat journalist Tanya van der Poel, Martin Freeman as a snarky Scottish reporter Iain McKelpie and best of all Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton as the no-nonsense American general Hollanek.

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Tina Fey who to date has largely appeared in comic roles alongside Amy Poehler is brilliant as Kim Baker and gives audience a chance to witness her dramatic side. As the emotional and physical strain of remaining in Afghanistan takes its toll, along with media colleagues who double cross her, Baker manages to resist the temptations of falling for her own hunky security detail, the gorgeous Nic, wonderfully played by Stephen Peacocke (Hercules) whilst forming a bond with her Afghani translator and guide, Fahim Ahmadzai brilliantly played by American actor Christopher Abbott last seen in J. C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year.

Character actor Alfred Molina also makes a hilarious turn as a Westernized Afghani government official Ali Massoud Sadiq who becomes besotted with Tina Fey’s hardnosed journalist.

Besides the decadent partying which occurs in the Ka-Bubble, as the foreigners nickname Kabul, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot highlights with dashes of humour, the difficulties invading Western forces face when dealing with a foreign country and culture so alien to their own, in this case Afghanistan.

What could be gleaned from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, besides the atrocities involved, is that war is almost like a decadent excursion into a completely different world. The scene in the film where Baker discovers the real reason a watering well is constantly being blown up in an Afghani village points to the larger gender inequalities inherent in war especially when the country being invaded is deeply patriarchal. War itself is demonstrated to be a man’s game and what makes the women in the film so fascinating especially Baker and Van der poel is their fleeting exotic beauty in a country in which the women are entirely covered up, a point so brilliantly made in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

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Whilst Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not going to win any awards cinematically, it is nevertheless a humourous and mostly farcical take on the absurdities of war, in the vein of Robert Altman’s classic film M. A. S. H. and Mike Nichol’s 1970 film Catch 22 based upon the Joseph Heller novel. What is notable is the media stance on war, whereby despite the annihilation around them, they refuse to take sides but merely show a mirror up to the brutal horrors of this contemporary man-made conflict in a hostile environment characterized by ample vice and little virtue or trust.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Zero Dark Thirty and David O. Russell’s Three Kings.

Clash of the Superheroes

Captain America: Civil War

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Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, William Hurt, Paul Bettany, Martin Freeman, Tom Holland, Alfre Woodard, Frank Grillo, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Paul Rudd, Emily Van Camp, John Kani, Marisa Tomei

I was never a fan of superhero comics as a kid, but as an adult, the superhero films have captured my imagination. Who can forget The Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan who reinvented Batman? Or the recent Batman v Superman blockbuster by Zack Snyder, a sure precursor to the Justice League films set for release in 2017 and 2018?

Moving away from DC comics, their direct rival Marvel has expanded their superhero universe exponentially and in the third installment of Captain America: Civil War, a more iconic superhero pops up, Spiderman curtesy of a Marvel and Sony sharing agreement to reinvent Spiderman within The Avengers universe. Smart move on the part of Marvel and especially Sony whose two previous Spiderman reincarnations were faltering: The Amazing Spiderman and its psychedelic sequel.

Captain America: Civil War features a plethora of superheroes, so many in fact that the inevitable showdown which the title refers to is quite spectacular to behold.

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Captain America leads the one camp as he defends his friend Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan along with the help of Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon played by Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Antman), Antman played by the hilarious Paul Rudd, Hawkeye returning from retirement played by the roguish Jeremy Renner.

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The other camp is headed up by opinionated tech billionaire Iron Man, wonderfully played again by Robert Downey Jnr, joined by the War Machine played by Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2) and Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. Tony Stark aka Iron Man also enlists the help of a young and precocious Peter Parker, wonderfully played by young British actor Tom Holland (The Impossible) as he reinvents Spiderman promising an energetic reinvention when Holland will appear in his stand alone film called Spiderman: Homecoming.

Adding some much needed diversity to The Avengers universe, Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman (Gods of Egypt), who is also starring in his own origin Black Panther film coming in 2018 also joins team Iron Man as he aggressively fights Bucky Barnes who he believes is responsible for the death of his father, a suitable cameo by South African acting legend John Kani (Coriolanus, The Ghost and the Darkness).

While the Clash of the Superheroes is spectacular and at times appears like a spandex orgy it is really Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as the master villain Zemo who has instigated the division between the Avengers as revenge for what occurred in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron, in which his whole family was killed in a supernatural skirmish in some fictional East European country.

Captain America: Civil War is a superb superhero film as the Russo brothers who direct this third instalment of the Captain America trilogy dexterously managing to combine all these diverse superheroes in a brilliant duel whilst also introducing some new and iconic characters. Fans of Iron Man, Ant Man and all The Avengers films will relish this caper standoff sure to capture the imaginations of many Comic con fans and paving the way for Marvel’s relentless cinematic expansion of all their gang of masked crusaders, a sure rival to DC Comics Justice League, although both superhero franchises will definitely benefit financially at the box office.

Captain America: Civil War is highly recommended viewing especially for some superb cameos by seasoned character actors including William Hurt, Alfre Woodard, Martin Freeman and Marisa Tomei.

 

 

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 ?

 

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