Posts Tagged ‘Michael Keaton’

Rogue Mercenary

American Assassin

Director: Michael Cuesta

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan, David Suchet, Scott Adkins, Shiva Negar, Navid Neghban, Charlotte Vega

Kill the Messenger director Michael Cuesta returns to the big screen with his next film the action packed globetrotting American Assassin starring Dylan O’Brien (Deepwater Horizon) as Mitch Rapp and Michael Keaton (Spotlight, Birdman) as his CIA trainer Stan Hurley.

American Assassin opens on an idyllic Spanish beach in Ibiza whereby Mitch is videoing his gorgeous girlfriend Katrina swimming and whereupon he soon proposes to her. The romantic seemingly delightful scene is shattered when terrorists open fire on the beach goers in a horrific scene that which mirrored a real life attack in Tunisia.

Then back in America, Mitch is recruited by the CIA after a failed attempt to take revenge on the perpetrators of the attack. He is sent off for training in Virginia by the tough Hurley whilst the deputy director Irene Kennedy played by Sanaa Lathan (Now You See Me 2) is handling a bigger crisis: weapons grade plutonium has been stolen from an abandoned site in Russia and is currently being sold on the black market by a rogue mercenary simply known as Ghost played with psychopathic intensity by Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Savages).

The action moves to Istanbul, Turkey whereby Mitch teams up with CIA counter-terrorism operative played by Iranian-Canadian star Shiva Negar as they hunt down the Ghost and through various political intrigue between the Iranians and the CIA, they discover that this lethal rogue mercenary plans on using the plutonium to maximum effect in the Mediterranean.

From Istanbul to Rome, the action is swift with the 26 year old Dylan O’Brien holding his own as a lead actor in a big budget action film as he beefs up thanks to his experience on the hugely popular Maze Runner franchise.

Audiences should take note that there is a gruesome torture scene in a sprawling refugee housing project outside Rome.

American Assassin is a thrilling action film at face value, expertly shot by Cuesta and making use of the extensive locations from Virginia to Dubai. Gritty, fast paced and definitely entertaining, with the most notable scenes being the Virtual Reality assassin practice sequence as well as the speedboat fight scene on the Mediterranean.

American Assassin gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for action film fans.

The film is not quite in the category of the spy thriller Jason Bourne but definitely worthy enough to be classed within the same gritty, espionage globetrotting genre, which has become such a lucrative money spinner. Perhaps director Michael Cuesta will consider making a sequel maximizing the potential of its hunky young lead star, Dylan O’Brien.

 

Rejuvenated Web Slinger

Spiderman Homecoming

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Glover, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Logan Marshall-Green, Jennifer Connelly, Laura Harrier, Angourie Rice

Young British star Tom Holland, who was riveting as Naomi Watt’s son Lucas in director J. A. Bayona’s The Impossible, takes on the iconic superhero role of Spiderman in the Sony Marvel reboot of the webslinger franchise in the captivating Spiderman Homecoming directed by Jon Watts.

Since Marvel entered into a rights partnership agreement to use the Sony copyrighted superhero in Captain America: Civil War when audiences first caught a brief glimpse of Tom Holland as the new Spiderman it was inevitable that he would get a film of his own.

Spiderman Homecoming is thoroughly entertaining augmented by Holland’s spunky performance as the brash young Peter Parker who is struggling to complete High School while also being mentored by Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jnr. The young Spidey has allusions of grandeur of being inducted into the Avengers army but Tony Stark is rather letting him prove his worth first.

In a poignant moment, Stark says to Peter Parker, if you are nothing without this suit then the suit will mean nothing. In other words, the clothes do not maketh the man.

Parker, played with humour and courage by Holland soon proves his worth and apparent screen appeal when while revealing his alter ego to his best friend also has to contend with an evil villain Vulture wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Michael Keaton (Birdman) and his protective aunt May, whom he loves dearly played by another Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny).

While all this parental authority weighs down on the young webslinger he soon finds his own feet as he saves his science group from a diabolical end in the Washington monument whilst on a school trip to Washington D. C. The Washington monument and the action packed ferry sequences are two of the best in Spider Homecoming, both scenes being awash with symbolic American patriotism.

The irony is that Tom Holland is British is not lost on a more erudite viewer of pop culture.

Spider Homecoming has with some great cameo’s including Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Bokeem Woodbine of Fargo TV series fame as Herman Schultz, Vulture’s evil sidekick known as Shocker 2. Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) plays the ill-advised first evil sidekick Shock 1.

Parker’s love interest is high school crush Liz played by Laura Harrier which allows for the narrative to set up an interesting twist towards the end and will definitely satisfy any lack of diversity disclaimers.

Audiences should forget Tobey Maguire as Spiderman in the Sam Raimi Trilogy or the ill-fated Amazing Spiderman films starring Andrew Garfield. Tom Holland presents a revitalized savvy young superhero which will ensure the franchise’s continued survival in the cluttered Marvel universe as he will next be appearing in the anticipated The Avengers: Infinity War.

You never too old to watch Spiderman.

Spiderman Homecoming is blissfully entertaining and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

 

Breaking the Cardinal Rule

Spotlight

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Director: Tom McCarthy

Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, Jamey Sheridan

Spotlight refers to a team of investigative reporters stationed at the Boston Globe. Just months before 9/11 in mid-2001, The Boston Globe hires a news editor fresh from Miami, Marty Baron played by Liev Schreiber (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) who subsequently instructs the Spotlight team headed up by Robby Robinson played by Michael Keaton (Birdman) to investigate the systematic child abuse which is happening in the Catholic Church specifically in the Archdiocese of Boston, a strongly Irish Catholic community as highlighted by a recent case pending at the criminal court.

Director Tom McCarthy’s film Spotlight is compelling viewing, a riveting tale of tough investigative journalism by a team of men and woman who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. The Spotlight team also consists of journalists Sacha Pfieffer brilliantly played by Rachel McAdams  (A Most Wanted Man) who pursues testimony from the alleged victims of child abuse and Portuguese descendant Mike Rezendes superbly played by Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) who goes after the legal aspects of the case that lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci is making against a particular Catholic priest John Geoghan.

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As the investigation continues, the journalists realize that what they are uncovering is a much wider scandal of how the Catholic Church not only knew about errant priests committing sexual abuse preying upon vulnerable minors but also how this powerful institution discreetly got these priests transferred or they were given supposed sick leave to avoid exposure or damage to the Church’s reputation.

As they investigate all the priests in the Boston area, the Spotlight team uncovers a much wider pattern of abuse by several priests. However, before they can publish a damning expose they need to have irrefutable proof that this was occurring.

That proof comes in the form of victim testimonies that Garabedian attached as legal documents in a case that he is building against Geoghan and that the Church tried to cover up these legal documents, thus breaking Cardinal Law.

McAdams and Ruffalo are particularly brilliant in Spotlight as journalists who not only uncover a massive and systemic scandal but are forced to question their own religious and spiritual convictions.

What actor turned director McCarthy avoids doing is standing in judgement of the Catholic Church, but rather focuses on the relentless pursuit of facts and absolute proof that investigative journalism is based upon, both of which need to be authenticated before any expose is subsequently published. With a screenplay by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is a superb indictment against one of the most powerful religious institutions in the world but also emphasizes the absolute necessity for responsible and comprehensively researched investigative journalism.

When the Spotlight story eventually does go to print, the expose points to a much wider problem in many archdioceses across America and other parts of the world, something which news editor Marty Baron alludes to in the beginning of the investigation.

The cast of Spotlight are phenomenal and deservedly won a 2016 Screen Actors Guild award for best cast and the intelligently crafted story is essential viewing. Spotlight is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed such films as All the Presidents Men and Frost/Nixon.

 

72nd Golden Globe Awards

72nd Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 11th  January 2015 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

boyhood

Best Film Drama: Boyhood

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Best Film Musical or Comedy: Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Director: Richard Linklater – Boyhood

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Best Actor Drama: Eddie Redmayne – Theory of Everything

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Best Actress Drama: Julianne Moore – Still Alice

birdman

Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Michael Keaton – Birdman

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Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Amy Adams – Big Eyes

whiplash

Best Supporting Actor: J. K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

leviathan

Best Foreign Language Film – Leviathan (Russia)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/72nd_Golden_Globe_Awards

Performance Anxiety

Birdman

Or

The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

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Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Lindsay Duncan

Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu whose previous films include the critically acclaimed Babel, Buitiful and 21 Grams, delivers another cinematic magic realist masterpiece in the electrifying film Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance about the crazy antics which occur backstage on a Broadway production of a play adapted from a Raymond Carver story.

Birdman is comical, fantastical and brilliantly acted by a great ensemble cast but particularly by Michael Keaton as the central character Riggan, a washed up 1990’s superhero film star who is desperate to revive his acting career on Broadway.

Michael Keaton delivers a crackling performance as the erratic Riggan, an aging actor on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whose alter ego the superhero film character Birdman keeps whispering in his ear that he should not be taking to the stage but rather resuscitating his failed film career. Riggan also seems to be constantly hounded by a multitude of neurotic woman throughout the film which feeds his own performance anxiety.

Joining the energetic Keaton who just won the 2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy is an impressive ensemble cast including the hugely underrated Edward Norton as Mike Shiner a younger more precocious actor, Emma Stone as Riggan’s snappy daughter Sam, Andrea Riseborough as Riggan’s neurotic girlfriend Laura, Amy Ryan as Riggan’s ex-wife and stabilizing influence on his life, Sylvia. The Hangover star Zach Galifianakis as the exasperated bearded theatre producer Jake and Naomi Watts as a drama queen Lesley.

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What makes Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance so utterly absorbing and in parts quite delirious is that Inarritu chooses to film the entire movie as one long tracking shot which keeps the momentum of this frenetic story alive and fresh. Besides the extraordinary direction, a very witty script, there is of course the superb performances by the entire cast who really excelled in a very difficult and strenuous acting stretch reminiscent of Luigi Pirandello’s play Six Characters In Search of an Author with a massive dash of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Magic Realism thrown in.

Visual clues abound along with multiple references to the 21st century super saturated media world of the 21st century. In one of the best scenes of the film Sam (superbly played by Emma Stone) tells her father Riggan that he has lost touch with the world, he does not even have a Facebook Page or a Twitter account and is rarely on social media. As Birdman progresses and in a hilarious sequence with Riggan running through New York’s Times Square dressed only in white underpants, which is naturally captured on YouTube, his digital success changes instantly.

Then after a near meltdown with a bottle of Whisky and after Riggan tells the influential theatre critic Tabitha (a superb cameo by Lindsay Duncan) that he should be taken seriously as a stage actor, the opening night of the play arrives and no one can anticipate the final reaction or the review in the New York Times theatre page entitled The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.

For anyone that has studied drama or been in a stage production, Birdman is a must see film, as Inarritu expertly captures the confidence, chaos and utter lack of self-consciousness of the wild and crazy cast of this production, as they strip for scene changes, fight with their fellow actors and generally are quite debauched in all sorts of ways unique to the Theatre world.

Birdman imaginatively emphasizes that despite all the social media around especially in 21st century contemporary America, there is nothing quite as exciting as Live Theatre.

Keaton, Norton and Stone are absolutely superb and this film is highly recommended viewing, worthy of all the attention it is currently receiving, much like what every actor in the world constantly craves: rave reviews and becoming a celebrity!

 

 

 

 

 

Americana Road Racing

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Need for Speed

Director: Scott Waugh

Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, Rami Malek, Dakota Johnson, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbert

Former stunt co-ordinator turned director Scott Waugh brings the EA video game Need for Speed to the big screen in awe-inspiring 3D. Teaming up TV actor raspy voice blue eyed Aaron Paul with the sultry more accomplished British actor Dominic Cooper in this cross-country road race thriller is big on action, devoid of any significant plot, but great on visual effects. Paul and Cooper play rival road racers Tobey Marshall and Dino Brewster who after a horrific accident in upstate New York challenge each other in flashy sports cars to an exclusive cross country road race with the finale happening in fabulous California.

Down on his luck Marshall teams up with a sassy British companion Julia Maddon played by Imogen Poots as they race across America stopping in the Mecca of Motorcars, the now debt ridden Detroit before finally reaching their destination on the West Coast, San Francisco, where Marshall, a constant fugitive will race in a private sponsored event through Northern California in terrain remotely resembling Big Sur. Michael Keaton (Robocop) plays the techno sussed race coordinator Monarch and Rami Malek and Scott Mescudi team up as Marshall’s race team assistants Finn and Benny. Watching Need for Speed especially in 3-D is like driving full throttle in a Mustang on crack!

The stunts are tremendous, the storyline dire, but then again this narrative originated on a video game, which does not always guarantee a smooth transition to cinema. The chemistry between Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots is barely palatable, made worse by a winding narrative which could have been edited to at least 90 minutes.

Naturally Waugh as director pays tribute to the 1968 film Bullitt starring Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bissett even featuring a film clip within Need for Speed – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Lbs_nYW3-o . The biggest mystery besides the outlandish stunts performed in Need for Speed, is why an accomplished actor like Dominic Cooper would appear in such a popcorn film, but clearly there is a need for him to becoming better acquainted with American audiences. After Cooper’s superb turns in Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double and opposite Keira Knightley in The Duchess, he perhaps needed to expand his action repertoire.

Need for Speed is clearly aimed at young male audiences and like the hugely successful The Fast and Furious franchise involves a lot of car chase sequences that no ordinary viewer should attempt on any suburban road.

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Unlike The Fast and the Furious, whose buddy-action movie formula got better as the franchise progressed from Miami to Rio to London, The Need for Speed feels like one long video game in 3D without the emotional punch of Nicholas Winding Refn’s brilliant car chase thriller Drive. Waugh’s Need for Speed is simply  great surface entertainment without much character development, but the locations and stunts will surely keep any petrol head sated for a while. Dakota Johnson soon to be seen in Fifty Shades of Grey along with Harrison Gilbert and Ramon Rodriguez round off the cast.

 

Illusion of Control

RoboCop

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Director: Jose Padilha

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jennifer Ehle, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Aimee Garcia

Brazilian director Jose Padilha imaginatively captures the essence of Robocop’s moral dilemma in the 21st century reboot of the popular 1987 cult hit Robocop, by blending a human story with that of greedy industrialists, partisan politics and a dash of media saturated parody.

Joel Kinnaman takes on the part of Detroit police Detective Alex Murphy who is blown apart in a car bomb and who is reassembled with the assistance of the sinister Omnicorp robotics corporation, a role that made actor Peter Weller famous in Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s original film. Whilst Kinnaman’s Robocop does not require much acting beyond a couple of confused facial expressions, it’s really the supporting cast of Padilha’s version which do the film justice. Abbie Cornish is oddly cast as the confused yet betrayed wife Clara Murphy, Michael Keaton is brilliant as the greedy industrialist Raymond Sellars who wants to unleash part man part machine cyborgs onto the crime ridden streets of Detroit and then there is Gary Oldman as sympathetic Dr Dennett Norton who reconstructs the almost obliterated Detective Murphy into Robocop who has become more machine than human with the exception of a brain full of fluctuating dopamine levels.

What elevates Robocop from another popcorn sci-fi film are the superb special effects, the crisp editing and Padilha’s emphasis on media parody brilliantly done in the scenes with Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) as the no nonsense TV presenter who frames the narrative in a series of audacious TV interviews in the ultra sophisticated show The Novak Element – a spoof of Piers Morgan Live and Sky News. Pro-robots TV presenter Pat Novak is wonderful  as a mechanism for blending parody and pastiche in a dystopian society where Omnicorp robots will eventually replace the existing police force of all American cities.

For as Robocop opens The Novak Element goes live to the streets of Tehran where robots are policing the local Iranian population but are not allowed onto American soil due to a political decision known as the Dreyfuss Act, banning robots on American streets. What Robocop is incisively commenting on is America’s controversial use of drones in foreign battlegrounds like Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Michael Kenneth Williams plays Murphy’s partner on the corrupt Detroit police force and assists Robocop in tracking down the real criminals behind his attempted assassination. Like the original film, 2014’s Robocop is set in Detroit the home of motor manufacturing but in recent years also one of the only American cities to file for bankruptcy after the 2008 recession due to corruption, maladministration and urban decay. Yet in this version, Detroit looks like a city on the mend especially with the establishment of the Omnicorp headquarters, which become Robocop’s ultimate nemesis.

As with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where the mad scientist creates a monster who in turn, attacks his creator, there is this thematic twist of an illusion of control. In Robocop, the recreated ruthless part man/part machine turns on the company which created him, especially Sellars who only sees the hybrid cyborg as a money making product to be marketed by Omnicorp to other American cities in the proposed interests of crime prevention despite the ethical protests of Dr Norton, a rather softened Gary Oldman (The Fifth Element).

Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) plays Omnicorps muscle Rick Mattox who is eager to test Robocop’s combat abilities in a simulated combat environment. Other stars include Jennifer Ehle (Contagion) Jay Baruchel as Omnicorp relentless marketing man and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secret and Lies) as Police Chief Karen Dean helping rounding off a solid cast to compliment the purposefully wooden Kinnaman.

What makes the 21st century Robocop so stylish, is Padilha’s slick direction from the aerial shots of a Detroit skyline to the mind blowing special effects to the crime reconstruction sequence by Robocop/Alex Murphy in his suburban driveway. Robocop along with some brilliant action sequences, a cool slate grey body armour suit, becomes an antihero and the films chillingly predictive narrative arc is punctuated by some human conflict in terms of his family and loads of media hype with the parody infused TV show The Novak Element.  As a film, Robocop is an entertaining, provocative and enjoyable sci-fi thriller which points to an impressive and marketable finished product, much like its anti-hero.

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