Posts Tagged ‘Rafe Spall’

Trust in the Universe

Men in Black International

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rafe Spall, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Kayvan Novak

The Fate of The Furious and Straight Outta Compton F. Gary Gray desperately tries to reunite the Men in Black franchise first initiated by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. The long awaited reinvention, Men in Black International is a slight misnomer as the two Men in Black are Agent H for Henry played by Chris Hemsworth (Rush, Thor, The Avengers) and Agent M for Molly played by Hemsworth’s Thor Ragnorak co-star Tessa Thompson.

Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End, Sense and Sensibility) pops up periodically as Agent O who promises Agent M that they are working on The Men in Black title? A possible feminist reinvention?

While director F. Gary Gray methodically ticks all the right boxes in this bizarre space action film which moves swiftly from New York to London, Paris and Marrakesh, he fails to uplift this film to the quirky originality of the first Men in Black possibly because of the over-exposure of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson.

Their onscreen chemistry worked in Thor: Ragnarok but starts to wear dangerously thin in Men in Black International.

Thompson lands up playing the smart New Yorker next to Hemsworth’s dashing clean shaven pin up boy Agent H who feels nothing at sleeping with aliens or wearing pink trousers in a rather bizarre sequence on an Italian island with a vampish Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Greatest Showman) as a three armed intergalactic weapons dealer Riza.

Men in Black International is a fun film, but the aliens play second fiddle to the real conflict between the humans in a fairly predictable story about a malevolent force planning on attacking planet Earth. Naturally the new 21st century Men and Women In Black are suited and booted to protect the population from the scum of the universe.

Men In Black International gets a film rating of 6 out of 10 and could have been so much smarter, funnier and inspiring, but instead comes off as a paint by numbers diversity sci-fi action comedy which ticks all the boxes even those that don’t exist.

MIB International is saved by Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) and Liam Neeson (Cold Pursuit, The Commuter, Taken) although even their performances are lacklustre in a messy storyline saved by exotic locations and slick gadgetry.

Audiences should not expect a return to form or onscreen chemistry which the original 1997 film produced or the 2002 and 2012 sequels all directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

Origin of Several Species

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Director: J. A. Bayona

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Geraldine Chaplin, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon, Justice Smith

Spanish director J. A. Bayona brings an impressive sense of Gothic Horror to the sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World, in the his latest film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which is both riveting and tantalizingly watchable without reverting completely into blockbuster CGI overload. Although that said, the volcanic sequence on Isla Nuba off the coast of Costa Rica is brilliantly staged.

Familiar cast members return including Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dering who teams up with macho dinosaur wrangler Owen Grady wonderfully played by Chris Pratt whose phenomenal career path as rocketed since his casting as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in Marvel’s The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) plays the villainous Eli Mills assistant to the immensely wealthy Benjamin Lockwood, played by James Cromwell (The Queen). Audiences should look out for a stand out performance by Isabella Sermon as Lockwood’s tenacious granddaughter Maisie who has to eventually contend with some monsters in her own childhood bedroom.

Watching over young Maisie is her guardian Iris played by the daughter of silent screen star Charlie Chaplin, Geraldine Chaplin (The Impossible, The Wolfman, The Age of Innocence) whom it is so refreshing to see on the big screen again.

As the dinosaurs of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are consequently rescued just as the volcano at Isla Nuba threatens to make these ancient creatures extinct, a new threat develops on the massive Lockwood country estate in Northern California whereby director J. A. Bayona skillfully uses all the traits of Gothic Horror to add a fascinating twist to a blockbuster sequel with enough suspense to keep audiences entertained while also emphasizing the perennial issue of endangered species, something which endangered wildlife are constantly at risk of becoming in the increasingly technological 21st century.

Audiences that enjoyed the 2015 Jurassic World, will undoubtedly love this authentic and imaginative sequel.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and recommended for audiences that harbour an abiding fascination for dinosaurs.

 

No Income, No Jobs

The Big Short

big_short

Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, Jeffry Griffin, Billy Magnussen, Max Greenfield, Tracy Letts

The critically acclaimed film The Big Short is a highly inventive tale of how six men predicted the collapse of the US housing market and actually made money off this economic disaster.

Christian Bale turns in a brilliant Oscar nominated performance as the socially awkward Dr Michael Burry, a neurologist suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome who gives up medicine to become a hedge fund manager in director Adam McKay’s frenetic financial diatribe The Big Short, about the collapse of the American housing market in 2007 and 2008, which precipitated the worst international financial crisis since the Great Depression back in 1929.

big_short_ver2

Joining Bale in the cast are Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) as Wall Street trader Jared Vennett, Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) as hedge fund manager Mark Baum and Brad Pitt (Moneyball) as reclusive banker Ben Rickett. These four men together with two young eager investors Charlie Geller played by John Maguro (Carol) and Jamie Shipley played by Finn Wittrock all predict the imminent collapse of the US housing market due to the instability of unsecured sub-prime mortgages.

Through a series of inter related events between 2005 and 2007, these guys develop a system of credit default swaps by betting against the housing market which like the Tech industry bubble, eventually burst in 2008 bringing down Lehman Brothers in September 2008, one of the world’s largest investment banks, and forcing the entire global economy into a devastating recession.

What makes the entire dodgy financing worse is that the banks and the international rating agencies collude to actually validate the profiting of these credit default swaps, causing the Biggest Short in economic history which inevitably lead to no income and no jobs for millions of people worldwide.

Best Line in the film is prophetically “In five years’ time, everyone is going to be blaming the immigrants and the poor.”

Financial films are never exciting unless the director makes the viewer totally engrossed in what they are watching. Fortunately Anchorman director Adam McKay through some inventive directing and skillful editing along with a fascinating script by Charles Randolph which makes The Big Short an utterly engrossing film.

The Big Short is anchored down by four great performances by Pitt, Carell, Gosling and particularly Bale. Christian Bale and Steve Carell are particularly good and while some of the narrative devices are quite ingenious like Jared Vennett directly addressing the audience or using celebrities like Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez to explain the financial fundamentals especially of synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), the latter of which ironically taking place at a Blackjack table in Las Vegas.

The Big Short is an engaging, masculine portrayal of greed and power running unabated and the most frightening part about the story is that it is all true. The effects of the 2008 global financial meltdown are still being felt around the world in 2016.

Audiences should also look out for cameos by Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei along with Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) and Hamish Linklater (Magic in the Moonlight). Unlike Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street or Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, Adam McKay’s The Big Short does not glamourize greed but rather sheds light on how reckless and unchecked rampant capitalism has its pitfalls as the entire world was to find out in September 2008.

The scary part is that, these real life characters portrayed in The Big Short made money off the eventual collapse of a national housing market and some of the larger Banks got away with dishing out unsecured loans to unsuspecting home buyers simply by restructuring the debt packages.

The Big Short is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy financial films with edge, tenacity and an inventive style without resorting to profanity or decadence.

 

 

 

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

Life of Pi

Sharing a lifeboat with Richard Parker

Sharing a lifeboat with Richard Parker

Astounding visuals and an extraordinary tale of survival make Life of Pi worth seeing. Based upon the hit novel by Yann Martel which I was first introduced to in a London Bookshop six years ago by a good friend of mine, Life of Pi tells the extraordinary tale of Pi, a boy who grew up in the French colonial region of India and whose father ran the Pondicherry Zoo.

Pi’s seemingly tranquil childhood in Pondicherry is spent experimenting with different religions from Hinduism to Christianity and endlessly teased at school by his classmates for his unusual name Pi, which he quickly shortened from his original birth name Piscine Moritor Patel, named after a Parisian swimming pool which his father once had the good fortune to swim in.

Pi’s exotic youth is disrupted when his parents decide to emigrate to Canada from India. The catch being that the journey was to be on a Japanese freighter sailing from India to Canada around the Pacific and Pi’s father insisted on taking some of the zoo animals with them including a Bengal Tiger, a zebra, an orang-utan and a hyena.

During a horrific storm off the coast of the Philippines, the freighter sinks leaving Pi now sixteen stranded on a life boat with several animals including a Bengal Tiger, a zebra,  an orang-utan and a hyena. Naturally in these extraordinary circumstances survival of the fittest ensues and soon afterwards it is only Pi faced with the prospect of sharing a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger oddly named Richard Parker.

Yann Martel’s brilliant novel Life of Pi leaves much to the imagination and is beautifully written, winning the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. It is only through the expert eyes of Oscar winning film director Ang Lee whose successes include Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm and Lust, Caution that this extraordinary tale of courage, survival and triumph be brought to the big screen with the assistance of some amazing special effects making the Life of Pi an unbelievable and wonderfully told novel come to life on the big screen.

Director Ang Lee whose previous films all dealt with decidedly human dilemmas of forbidden love, family dramas and political intrigue proves he is equally adept at handling a tale about survival, triumph and one teenage boy’s determination to beat Mother Nature’s odds despite his extraordinary situation of being stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific ocean for almost a year with only a hungry Bengal Tiger for company…

Naturally the special effects team of Avatar and Titanic also offer great assistance in bringing this extraordinary novel to the big screen and also shown in 3D. Read the book of Life of Pi and by all means don’t miss the colourful cinematic version. Recommended!

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