Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Williams’

Celebration of Humanity

The Greatest Showman

Director: Michael Gracey

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Paul Sparks, Sam Humphrey

Set in the Victorian age, director Michael Gracey’s exuberant and brilliant film, The Greatest Showman is an outstanding musical inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) gives an inspiring performance as circus founder P.T. Barnum whose poverty stricken childhood stoked his ambitions to make something of his life. Barnum meets the wealthy Charity wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Manchester by the Sea).

Audiences should go into The Greatest Showman expecting superb musical numbers similar to Damien Chazelle’s La La Land without the contemporary Hollywood twist.

Barnum soon collects a host of freaks and outcasts to star in the Greatest show ranging from the Bearded Lady wonderfully played by Keala Settle to a Napoleonic dwarf played by Sam Humphrey, all the time justifying his curious show to outspoken critic James Bennett played by Paul Sparks from the Netflix series House of Cards.

To add credibility to the motley crew of performers, Barnum persuades the aristocratic and dashing Philip Carlyle wonderfully played against type by the blue eyed Zac Efron (The Paperboy) to join him as a junior partner in the entertainment business relinquishing Carlyle’s chance of a massive inheritance.

Soon the Barnum entourage are invited to visit Queen Victoria where Barnum meets the dazzling Swedish Opera singer Jenny Lind superbly played by Rebecca Ferguson, who I am glad to see is displaying her electrifying singing talents in The Greatest Showman and certainly makes an eye catching onscreen debut in the opening number in the New York performance scene.

The Greatest Showman is a wonderful musical featuring crisp cinematography by Oscar nominated cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (Atonement, Anna Karenina).

When the narrative needs some dazzling pace, the characters break out into song and audiences that enjoyed some of the best onscreen musicals including Rob Marshall’s Chicago and Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, will love The Greatest Showman.

The Greatest Showman gets a film rating of 9 out 10 and is highly recommended viewing. Let’s see how this musical fares at the upcoming 2018 Awards Season.

Massachusetts Men

Manchester by the Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Lucas Hedges, Tate Donovan, Matthew Broderick, C. J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton

Oscar nominee Casey Affleck gives a Golden Globe winning performance as the emotionally stunted Lee Chandler in director Kenneth Lonergan’s atmospheric if slightly drawn out family drama Manchester by the Sea.

Affleck first came to critics’ attention in the Western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford opposite Brad Pitt, of which he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Although more reticent than his prolific older brother Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck has built up an impressive body of acting work (Gone Baby Gone, Interstellar, The Finest Hours).

In this moving study of American masculinity set in Massachusetts, playwright turned screenwriter and director Kenneth Lonergan sets the scene for a series of unfortunate events slowly revealing layers of secrets that his characters contain as the plot develops through a series of well executed flashbacks creating an extensive backstory particularly for Lee Chandler and his close relationship with his older brother Joe and nephew Patrick.

When Joe played by Kyle Chandler (Carol, Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf of Wall Street) suddenly dies from congestive heart failure, Lee has to travel upstate to Manchester, Massachusetts to identify his brothers body and deal with the guardianship of Joe’s son Patrick, a precocious outspoken teenager, superbly played by Lucas Hedges (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom).

Patrick’s mother Elise has moved away, a recovering alcoholic played with a brittle intensity by the hugely underrated Gretchen Mol who was so brilliant in the crime series Boardwalk Empire. Elise has set up a new life with boyfriend Jeffrey played by Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Glory, The Producers).

But Lee Chandler, a foul mouthed janitor and handyman has his own demons to grapple with, a sense which Affleck conveys with perfect nuance. In between his mundane existence he suddenly starts bar fights in the local pubs letting violence replace his inner torment about a tragic event that occurred in his past.

As the story progresses, Lonergan does not give the audience all the narrative clues upfront something which adds to the emotional tension of the film. Halfway through we discover that Lee was married to Randi and had three beautiful children but his irresponsible ways destroyed their family forever. Randi is played by Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) who re-enters Lee’s life at the point which he would least like to see her. His brother’s funeral.

While Manchester by the Sea is drawn out, the script is brilliant especially in the tension filled scenes between uncle and nephew as they drive around trying to sort out all the tedious details of Joe’s death including the funeral arrangements and the impact of Patrick’s guardianship. Hedges’ performance as Patrick electrifies the family drama with his back chatting confidence as he proudly tells his uncle that he has two girlfriends and plays in a band.

Manchester by the Sea clearly belongs to Casey Affleck as he is in virtually every scene of the film and is an intimate study of broken masculinity, a portrait of a man battling to deal with his older brother’s death and the terrifying prospect of taking responsibility for his sixteen year old nephew.

Highly recommended viewing for a film with a first rate script and intelligently portrayed characters. Casey Affleck is definitely an actor to watch in future…

69th Golden Globe Awards

69th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 15th January 2012 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

descendants

Best Film Drama: The Descendants

The artist

Best Film Musical or Comedy : The Artist

Best Actor Drama: George Clooney – The Descendants

iron_lady_ver2

Best Actress Drama: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Jean Dujardin – The Artist

my_week_with_marilyn_ver2

Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

beginners

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer – Beginners

help

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer – The Help

hugo_ver3

Best Director: Martin Scorsese – Hugo

A Separation nader_and_simin_ver2

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation (Iran)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/69th_Golden_Globe_Awards

Intimacy without Intricacy

Deception

deception Poster

The 2008 film Deception is a subtle psycho-sexual thriller, directed by Marcel Langenegger set in the corporate world of New York City, starring Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams interweaving themes of illicit anonymous dating, with identity theft and corporate money laundering.

It is by no means a particularly bold film, but will nevertheless keep the viewer entertained with a sinister love triangle that is hinted at between McGregor, Jackman and Williams’s characters as they enter into a series of deceptive encounters and sexual intrigues stretching from New York to Madrid surrounding a corporate dating agency called the List, which promises the hard-working corporate clients late-night hook-ups with anonymous respondents. No names, no conversations, just murky and unquestionable sexual desire being completely gratified.

swimming_pool

Charlotte Rampling, the queen of psycho-sexual thrillers, so disturbingly good in such movies as Swimming Pool and Basic Instinct 2, makes a far too brief appearance as one of Ewan McGregor’s first encounters, who tells his character Jonathan McQuarry, that anonymous dating provides the clients with intimacy without the intricacy.

As the film progresses first impressions are ultimately deceiving and the shadowy midnight world of corporate sexual encounters develops into a far more sinister tale of murder and international financial embezzlement. All the scenes in New York City are mostly shot at night, with locations in bleak office buildings, pale apartments, dingy subway stations or dimly lit hotel bars and bedrooms. McGregor’s character McQuarry transforms from a dull introverted external auditor to a cunning and resourceful anti-hero.

With hints of the 1980’s classic thriller Bad Influence and the more recent film with Jennifer Anniston and Clive Owen Derailed, Deception is certainly not an original story, but its fascinating film noir qualities combined with themes of sexual intrigue, and the undertones of corporate power and identity make the film a worthy cinematic visit. By the end, you won’t want to trust that casual acquaintance you have made at work or indulge in any seemingly anonymous sexual activities. Deception definitely and darkly reveals that in most cases intimacy without the intricacy is really an illusion.

 

This Ain’t Kansas Anymore…

Oz, the Great and Powerful

oz_the_great_and_powerful_ver9

Sam Raimi, the director of the original Spiderman trilogy, has reinvented the great tale of the 1939 Judy Garland classic The Wizard of OZ in his unique, but tepid version in Oz, the Great and Powerful starring James Franco (Milk, 127 Hours) as the self-infatuated and egotistical conman wizard Oz. The film’s opening sequence is truly hilarious, shot in black and white and set in a mid-Western state fair in Kansas in 1905, where Oz, also known as Oscar Diggs poses as a Wizard and puts on a less than illustrious show to try and dazzle the conservative rural community of this Mid-Western American state. Assisted with a comic glee by Frank played by the underutilized Zach Braff, Oz is soon wooing audiences into all sorts of illusions and magic tricks, some of which fall short of magnificence.

However in an attempt to escape the county fair strongman, Oz gets caught up on a balloon in a tornado as one does in Kansas and soon finds himself transported to the radiant and colourful land of Oz where he meets the bewitching Theodora, underplayed by the smouldering Mila Kunis (Black Swan) who soon takes Oz on the yellow brick road to meet her supposedly evil sister Evanora, played with malicious panache by Oscar Winner Rachel Weisz (The Fountain, The Constant Gardiner).

Theodora

Theodora

Evanora upon showing Oz the mountains of gold stored in the Emerald city soon cons him into tracking down the Wicked Witch in a bid to steal her magic wand. Oz journeys to the dark forest along with a china girl and a pet flying monkey and tracks down the supposed evil witch who turns out to be Glinda the Good, beautifully played by Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine), who obviously took the role so that her daughter Mathilda could see one of her movies. The rest of Oz, the Great and Powerful is light, candied entertainment with the occasional witty line, but really lacking in the true imaginative retelling found in Tim Burton’s brilliant Alice in Wonderland or in the dark magic realism of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

Glinda complete with shiny heels and a wand!

Glinda complete with shiny heels and a wand!

Even the flying baboons are not that scary. Raimi who is renowned for making brilliant horror films (Drag Me to Hell and The Evil Dead), find himself caught up in the world of Oz without the necessary desire to make the fantasy vaguely fascinatingly edgy, but rather predictable and very tame. The best lines in the film are taken by Williams and Weisz who know how to play sassy witches, trying to compete for the attentions of the goofy Wizard, slightly overplayed by Franco.

Oz the Great and Powerful will definitely appeal to younger viewers and lacks some of the edginess seen in some of the more recent revisionist fairytale cinematic offerings. My only thought throughout this version was where the heck was Dorothy? She was stuck in celluloid legacy as Judy Garland in the MGM original.

Dorothy had a new meaning after this film!

Dorothy had a new meaning after this film!

The only one with sparkling shoes was Glinda the Good, which audiences briefly caught a glimpse in the last few scenes of the film. Fascinating and fabulous as it is, like the Oz’s final projected appearance in the Emerald City, much of the film is filled with hot air, but is nevertheless entertaining in parts.

Clashing of Vanities

My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn directed by Simon Curtis is a charming film about the clashing of vanities in a more subtle and polite society following the filming of the musical comedy The Late Prince which would become 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl teaming up the great British Theatre personality Laurence Olivier and 1950’s American screen goddess Marilyn Monroe at Britain’s legendary Pinewood Studios.

Michelle Williams takes the part of Marilyn Monroe and might not be as voluptuous physically, but her brilliant performance of the doomed and fragile screen icon Monroe who was a legendary flirt and a consummate movie star is layered and superb. Kenneth Branagh is equally brilliant as the vain and pompous Laurence Olivier whose  divergence into cinema with the Prince and the Showgirl was beset with problems on the Pinewood studios set especially made more difficult by the pill-popping, temperamental and sultry Monroe.

The clash between Monroe and Olivier went far deeper than vanity or fame, it was also a conflict of their two vastly different styles of acting. Monroe was trained in the Lee Strasberg school of method acting  popular in Hollywood, California originally pioneered by Constantin Stanislavski and refers to the method of actors drawing on their own personal emotions and memories in their onscreen portrayals.  Olivier was a London Shakespearian theatre actor and was quite unused to the medium of film.

Monroe felt and acted in the moment which worked brilliantly on the short takes of cinema, whilst Olivier was trained in the more established tradition of  Classical Theatre where thespians  rehearsed and performed a repertoire of theatre from Greek tragedy to plays by Sheridan, Shakespeare, Chekov and Noel Coward and prepared for their roles by learning their lines down to the last iambic pentameter and essentially being on time and in full costume. Their vastly different styles of acting is exemplified in the original 1957 film, The Prince and the Showgirl.

My week with Marilyn is told through the eyes of a 3rd Assistant Director Colin Clark played with surprising vigour by rising British Star Eddie Redmayne who is smitten by the tantalizing Marilyn Monroe and has a wonderful supporting cast including Zoe Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg, Dominic Cooper as Hollywood agent Milton Greene along with Julia Ormond as Laurence Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh and Dougray Scott as playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s husband at the time of shooting Prince and the Showgirl. Watch out for a great cameo by Dame Judi Dench playing the great Shakespearean actress Dame Sybil Thorndike. Where My Week with Marilyn excels is how beautifully it illustrates how divergent British and American cultures were especially in the 1950’s and how the clashing of vanities between the screen siren Monroe and the theatrical Olivier underlined both these stars own vulnerabilities and their strengthens.

Casting of Williams and Branagh as legendary stars Monroe and Olivier was critical in making My Week with Marilyn a lovely and substantial film about the making of film itself and the insecurities and drama that goes on between a Screen siren who knew how to titillate the public especially men and an aging theatre actor desperate to make his cinematic debut.  Both Williams and Branagh deserved earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor but lost out to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady and Christopher Plummer for Beginners at the 2012 84th Academy Awards.

Intense Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine is a 21st century Kramer vs Kramer anchored with a superb performance by Michelle Williams as Cindy, an aspiring doctor whose potential is thwarted by a sudden marriage to Dean, a slacker not too serious house painter.

 

Fireworks that Fade

Set in suburban Pennsylvania, Blue Valentine is a depiction of a nonlinear disintegration of romance and marriage, made more intense by extreme closeup shots of Gosling and Williams as a young married couple whose love has clearly reached the end of its journey typified by a romantic night away from the domestic grind as a last ditch resort for their failing marriage.

Cindy and Dean’s love for each other is clearly precarious as they check into the Future Suite at a tacky motel upstate, and in between various stages of inebriation try to arouse each other again to the same levels of intensity that characterized their early dating sessions. While Gosling is brilliant and evokes a similar performance to that of his Oscar nominated role in Half Nelson, it is Michelle Williams who maintains the emotional gravity of the film with a poignant, slightly gloomy and always quirky performance as Cindy, a woman who is desperate to avoid the marital pitfalls of her bickering parents.

Blue Valentine is at times gloomy, deeply intense, but brilliantly acted and a must for viewers who appreciate independent American cinema.

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