Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Weisz’

Unbridled Extravagance

My Cousin Rachel

Director: Roger Michell

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Pierfrancesco Favino, Andrew Knott, Tim Barlow

South African born British based director Roger Michell has been responsible for such films as Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Morning Glory and Hyde Park on Hudson. Michell returns with a cinematic adaptation of the Victorian Gothic romantic drama by Daphne du Maurier My Cousin Rachel set in the dramatic cliffs of Devon and Cornwall and also in Florence Italy.

My Cousin Rachel is a handsome cinematic production held together by a suitably ambiguous performance by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, Youth) as Rachel Ashley who arrives in England to seduce the impressionably young Philip Ashley wonderfully played with besotted bewilderment by Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Their Finest and The Riot Club) who is proving to be one Britain’s rising young actors.

When young Philip’s legal guardian travels to Tuscany to recuperate and then mysteriously dies, leaving Philip’s claim to his cousin’s massive estate in a precarious position, Philip travels to Italy to uncover the source of the mystery surrounding his new relative the beautiful Rachel. Upon arrival in Italy he does not meet Rachel but the Italian lawyer handling his cousin’s affairs played by Pierfrancesco Favino (Rush, Angels and Demons), who Philip suspects is conniving with Rachel to steal Philip’s rightful inheritance.

Back in England, advised by his godfather Nick Kendall played by Game of Thrones star Iain Glen and his daughter Louisa played by Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, The Finest Hours and Anna Karenina), Philip is initially weary of Rachel as she sets foot on English soil soon to arrive at the family home at dusk.

Incredibly dramatic, the one thing Philip has not had in his life is any female influences so naturally he is completely beguiled by the beautiful and exotic half Italian Rachel who makes such a fashionable entrance in local society, which is enough to cause a mild scandal.

But as family jewels are generously given away and as Philip approaches his 25th birthday upon which he will rightfully inherit his cousin’s massive estate, intrigue within the landed gentry is heightened by the scheming and provocative Rachel who often dressed in mourning is portrayed as a sort of Black Widow, a woman with a rumoured  history of killing off husbands to profit off their inheritances.

My Cousin Rachel is the Victorian femme fatale, a noir female character who is subtly undermining all that the male hero is trying to achieve, which in this case is quenching his unbridled lust matched only by Rachel’s own unbridled extravagance. Sexual tensions simmer as the scheming continues, but as the narrative draws to a dramatic conclusion, My Cousin Rachel leaves audiences with a portrait of a woman with considerably dubious intentions.

My Cousin Rachel gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and will be enjoyed by audiences that love period dramas with a touch of the Victorian Gothic, especially scenes of luminous pearls cascading down darkened candlelit staircases.

Horror or Desire

Youth

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Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Nate Dern, Ed Stoppard, Tom Lipinski, Alex Beckett, Alex Macqueen

Italian director Paolo Sorrentino first caught my attention with the visually impressive film, This Must be the Place about an aging rocker who leaves England and travels across America. The film starred Sean Penn. Then Sorrentino made the beautiful La Dolce Vita inspired masterpiece, The Great Beauty set in Rome about an aging playboy who reflects on his life of indulgence and decadence.

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Now, Sorrentino returns with another visually impressive film Youth starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda. Youth is film as art.

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A sublime and intriguing cinematic meditation on both the horrors and concealed desires of aging. It is a superb film, especially the last third of the film, which is so visually arresting and gorgeous it will be difficult for viewers not to be moved.

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Set mainly in a luxurious Swiss Spa resort which naturally focuses on well-being, health and vitality, Youth centres on the uncomplicated friendship between two aging celebrities, Fred Ballinger, superbly played by Oscar winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) and film director Mick Boyle also brilliantly played by Harvey Keitel (Casino, The Piano).

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Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) also stars as Ballinger petulant but continuously sad daughter and assistant, who happens to be married to Boyle’s son.

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Paul Dano (There will be Blood) appears as a hip Hollywood actor who is experimenting with his next major onscreen role. He finally decides to choose Desire over Horror.

The repartee between Keitel and Caine is superb, punctuated by some fantastically crafted scenes on aging bodies recuperating under the guidance of the Swiss. Ballinger is also constantly being pestered by the Queen of England’s emissary to conduct a concert of one of his most prolific works, Simple Songs, which was created as a sign of his complicated love for his wife.

Youth is a beautiful film, wonderfully shot, taking full advantage of the pristine Swiss countryside and surrounding mountain ranges. What is even more captivating in the film, is Michael Caine’s droll and almost nonchalant performance as the reluctant composer who is being enticed at every turn to come out of semi-retirement.

Caine’s performance is phenomenal considering how few well-written roles there are in Hollywood for actors over the age of seventy in this youth obsessed digitized contemporary culture that currently influence Western cinema. Which brings us to the second most captivating scene in the film, the mind-blowing moment between Harvey Keitel and screen legend and icon, Jane Fonda (Barbarella, The China Syndrome, The Butler). In such a brief scene, Fonda is sizzling and absolutely defines the film.

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Fonda plays Brenda Morrell a high maintenance Hollywood diva who unexpectedly arrives at the Swiss resort to break some startling news to her director Mick Boyle. This scene is cinematically brilliant in that it occurs just after Ballinger and Boyle are drooling over the voluptuous Miss Universe as she takes a dip in the same swimming pool they are in.

Youth is a cinematic feast, a gorgeous and rich meditation on the wonders and horrors of grow old gracefully. Aesthetically challenging, Youth is highly recommended viewing and worth a visit for a discerning audience who like their films to be inventive, invigorating and poignant.

 

 

63rd Golden Globe Awards

63rd Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday  16th January 2006 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

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Best Film Drama: Brokeback Mountain

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Best Film Musical or Comedy: Walk the Line

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Best Actor Drama: Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote

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Best Actress Drama: Felicity Huffman – TransAmerica
Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Joaquin Phoenix – Walk the Line
Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Reese Witherspoon – Walk the Line

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Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney – Syriana

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Best Supporting Actress :Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener
Best Director: Ang Lee – Brokeback Mountain

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Best Foreign Language Film: Paradise Now (Palestine)

Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/63rd_Golden_Globe_Awards

This Ain’t Kansas Anymore…

Oz, the Great and Powerful

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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.

78th Academy Awards

78th Academy Awards

5th March 2006

Oscar Winners at the 78th Academy Awards

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Best Picture: Crash



Best Director: Ang LeeBrokeback Mountain

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Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote

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Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon – Walk the Line

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Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney – Syriana

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Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener

Best Original Screenplay: Paul Haggis & Robert Moresco – Crash

Best Adapted Screenplay: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana – Brokeback Mountain

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Best Foreign Language Film: Tsotsi directed by Gavin Hood (South Africa)

Best Documentary Feature: March of the Penguins directed by Luc Jacquet and Yves Darondeau

Best Original Score: Gustavo Santaolalla – Brokeback Mountain

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Best Cinematography: Dion Beebe – Memoirs of a Geisha

Best Costume Design: Colleen Atwood – Memoirs of a Geisha

Best Film Editing: Hughes Winborne – Crash

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Best Visual Effects: King Kong

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/78th_Academy_Awards

 

 

Lethal Legacy Continues

The Bourne Legacy

Tony Gilroy the screenwriter for the original three Bourne movies takes the director’s chair in the fourth installment of the Bourne movies The Bourne Legacy featuring an all star cast including Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, Rachel Wiesz as Dr Marta Shering. The Bourne Legacy also features Edward Norton as Eric Nyer and Stacy Keach as Mark Turso along with brief appearances by David Strathairn, Joan Allen and Albert Finney. The Bourne Legacy has all the excitement, espionage and action of the first three Bourne movies except for Jason Bourne himself, whose character lurks in the fourth installment as a shadow, with this film’s tag line being suitably appropriate There was never just one.

The Bourne Legacy picks up soon after the third Bourne film ends, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) when Jason Bourne played by Matt Damon deftly vanishes into the Manhattan morning traffic, swopping its urban location for icy Alaska where viewers are introduced to Aaron Cross bringing a muscularity to the role is the superb Jeremy Renner another drug-modified recruit employed by a shady covert agency within the CIA, battling hungry wolves and his own survival in this gorgeous Alaskan wilderness.

Matt Damon in the first two Bourne films always had this stern yet slightly confused look on his face as he was globetrotting across Europe trying to work out who wanted him dead without vocalize his unique dilemma. Jeremy Renner is wonderfully vocal and expressive in his portrayal of Aaron Cross who soon has to flee Alaska and head for Maryland to discover the supplier of the shady drugs he is taking from a less than orthodox Pharmaceutical company in Bethesda, Maryland.

Cross soon teams up with Marta who after surviving a horrific laboratory shooting, trusts in Cross as her number 5 patient and they flee America for the Philippines.  The Bourne Legacy might lack some of the directorial flourishes of the more experienced action directors of the original visceral Bourne Trilogy Doug Liman (Mr and Mrs Smith) and Paul Greengrass (United 93), but retains all the traits of the original movies: exotic locations, shady government agencies and of course a brilliant chase sequence in the overpopulated streets of Manila.

Two particular noteworthy scenes are Cross’s encounter with a wolf in Alaska and the superbly shot motorbike chase sequence in Manila. The chemistry between Wiesz and Renner is genuine and they make a great onscreen couple something which was lacking in the original films especially when Matt Damon’s love interest Franka Potente was eliminated in The Bourne Supremacy.

The Bourne Legacy continues in the tradition of the first three films and viewers who have seen that trilogy will be impressed by Tony Gilroy’s recreation of the Bourne universe complete with physical violence, ruthless assassins and spectacular action sequences complete with some really well timed dialogue especially between Renner and Wiesz. Gilroy as director was also responsible for the superb Michael Clayton and Duplicity and does not disappoint in The Bourne Legacy. The chase sequence in the Philippines deserves an Oscar for Best Sound Editing. Recommended viewing for those who love spy thrillers and enjoy Jeremy Renner’s always unnerving on screen performances as seen in The Hurt Locker and The Town and proves that Renner has what it takes to be a leading man.

Carousel of Desire

Three Sixty

From the Brazilian Director Fernando Meirelles whose previous films include the Oscar-winning adaptation of the John le Carre novel, The Constant Gardner and the highly acclaimed City of God, comes his latest film Three Sixty collaborating with Oscar winning scriptwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen) who deftly interweaves a complex narrative tapestry focusing on humanity’s ever spinning carousel of desires connecting each character around the world. Three Sixty premiered at the 2011 London International Film Festival and the 2012 Durban International Film Festival and is a brilliant virtuoso look at how humanity is connected through love, weakness, temptation and sex.

Three Sixty features an international cast and is a series of interconnected character studies set in Vienna, Bratislava, Paris, London, Denver and Phoenix and includes wonderful yet brief performances by Rachel Wiesz, who garnered an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in The Constant Gardner, Jude Law, Ben Foster, Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets and Lies) and Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins as well as a host of lesser known Eastern European, Brazilian and French stars.

Three Sixty is a thought-provoking look at how sexual desire traverses all geographical boundaries while love, temptation, blackmail and infidelity abound around the globe connecting all nationalities, cultures and religions. Watch out for a wonderful performance by Anthony Hopkins as a recovering alcoholic searching for his missing daughter in Phoenix, Arizona or Jude Law as a less than proper British business man Michael Daly being caught in a web of blackmail in Vienna and Rachel Wiesz as his wife Rose who is far from faithful back in London.

The real star of the film is Ben Foster in a superb cameo as a shaven-head ex-con Tyler, recently paroled sex offender stranded in the snowbound Denver International Airport en route to Phoenix struggling with his inner demons. Russian actor Vladimir Vdovichenkov makes an impression playing Sergei a Russian gangster’s driver willing to make a break from an abusive boss and escape with an innocent woman. Three-Sixty is in German, French, Portuguese and English but is a spell bounding portrayal of humanity traveling around the globe and taking all their urges, desires and ambitions with them, a surprising sexual thriller by one of international cinema’s more enigmatic and brilliant directors. Recommended as a thought-provoking film and will surely make any viewer want to hop on a plane to an exotic city and escape, transfer or express one’s own forbidden sexual desires…

 

Amid Celestial Harmony

Agora

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Alejandro Amenabar’s film Agora about the ancient woman astrologer and Neo-Platonist Philosopher is an absorbing tale of religious strife in Alexandria, Egypt in the declining decades of the Roman Empire. Caught between the rise of Christianity and the intolerance of the Christians for the Jews and vice versa, the Roman pagans especially the nobility who are still laying offerings to pagan Gods soon realize the extent to which Christianity has swept the Roman empire by the end of the 4th Century A.D.

Hypatia is more concerned about the alignment of the planets and encourages logical mathematical inquiry, philosophizing over the causes of gravity, the earth’s rotational spin and an heliocentric model of the solar system, placing the sun at the universe’s centre. Her theories on relativity, mathematics and astrology were way ahead of her time and all the knowledge of the ancient world, stored at the gorgeous library of Alexandria is soon sacked by the marauding Christians, Hypatia realizes that she is in a world, which is rapidly changing its social structure in the waning years of the Roman Empire.

Her once proud father Theon, a Roman nobleman, is played with suitable panache and misguided wisdom by Michael Lonsdale, seldom seen in many features any more. Lonsdale become famous to international audiences as the arch villain Hugo Drax in the James Bond film Moonraker. He was later seen in a cameo role as the French diplomat in The Remains of the Day.

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Academy award winner for The Constant Gardener,  Rachel Weisz embraces the complex role of Hypatia and relishes in the range of emotional depth and intellectual strength the character is given, especially in relation to her former slave, Davus a wonderful performance by Max Minghella, son of the late film director, Anthony Minghella, acclaimed for The English Patient and also to Orestes a Roman prefecture played by Oscar Isaac, who is hopelessly in love with her since the student days when Hypatia was  head teacher of philosophy before Alexandria was plagued by religious strife.

Agora is a superb historical epic detailing a little known time between the fall of the Roman Empire and those tumultuous days when religious fervour swept and changed the ancient world, eventually plunging the entire ancient and once sophisticated societies of Egypt, Greece and Italy into the Dark Ages.

The ending of Agora is symptomatic of the transitional times from crumbling Empire to a  new world order and while Hypatia stands firm in her beliefs as a philosopher and astronomer, she was sacrificed as a victim of her rapidly changing city, leaving her discoveries to be lost forever.

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Alejandro Amenebar the director of The Others and the Oscar winning The Sea Inside uses his flare to bring the texture and brutality of the 4th century Alexandria to life especially in contrast to the crumbling world of philosophical endeavour in favour of religious supremacy and intolerance. The sacking of the Library at Alexandria as scrolls burn and all the ancient world’s discoveries vanish is effective and is always a lesson against those who prefer ignorance to critical research. In the case of Hypatia her knowledge was her power and her greatest liability in a world ruled by megalomaniac men blinded by faith and not vision.

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