Posts Tagged ‘Ray Winstone’

Nature Versus Man

Point Break

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Director: Ericson Core

Cast: Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone, Delroy Lindo, Tobias Santelmann, Nikolai Kinski, Clemens Schick

The 2015 remake of the 1991 surf thriller Point Break, which originally starred Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves and directed by Kathryn Bigelow moves the action from California to the French Riviera and features a more international cast including Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez (Zero Dark Thirty) as Bodhi and Australian actor Luke Bracey (The November Man) as Johnny Utah yet does not live up to the original.

Nevertheless, Ericson Core’s version of Point Break comes across more as a globetrotting extreme sports adventure film than a hard core action film and whilst the stunts are fantastic, the storyline does not feature anything fresh or innovative, but remains loyal to the original plot of an FBI agent who infiltrates a group of extreme sports men, headed by the alpha male Bodhi as they jet set around the globe and attempt some awe inspiring stunts while their criminal acts appear to be philanthropic.

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The onscreen bromance between Bodhi and Johnny Utah is an essential ingredient which director Bigelow captured so well in the first film, however in this version, the actors Bracey and Ramirez do not quite accomplish that genuine competitiveness. Their fragile friendship is strained too early in the film and soon the narrative and characterisation gets lost amidst the spectacular stunts and action sequences mainly in the French and Italian Alps.

Whilst the rest of the cast assist with making this bromance believable including Ray Winstone as Utah’s FBI handler and a cast of European actors which make up Bodhi’s crew including Norwegian actor Tobias Santelmann (Hercules) as Chowder and German actor Clemens Schick (Casino Royale) as Roach with Natassja Kinski’s younger half-brother Nikolai Kinski (Saint Laurent) playing a wealthy reckless playboy Pascal al Fariq who funds their various international heists from Mumbai to Mexico.

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The extreme sports in this version of Point Break range from snowboarding to wingsuit flying, high speed motor cross and surfing 70 foot waves in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Viewers get the impression that Ericson Core’s version of Point Break tried to dazzle 21st century audiences yet got carried away with the visual possibilities especially since he originally was director of photography for such films as Daredevil and The Fast and The Furious. This version of the film is by no means as good as the original directed by Kathryn Bigelow who went on to win an Oscar for The Hurt Locker.

2015’s Point Break does have that international multicultural feel which the original film does not, but somehow the narrative of a gang of dare-devil extreme sports men chasing the elusive eight feats of man conquering nature gets lost amidst the stunts. In the end Nature ultimately proves a worthy contestant.

Australian actress Teresa Palmer (I am Number Four) plays Samsara whose initial love interest with Johnny Utah is soon smothered by the general overwhelming masculine desire to push these natural limits beyond their own human capabilities. Despite its visual appeal, 2015’s Point Break is fun to watch but in no way eclipses the original film which was far better directed and a more exciting action thriller.

Calvary Rebounded

The Gunman

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Director: Pierre Morel

Cast: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Mark Rylance, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Jasmine Trinca, Peter Franzen

Taken director Pierre Morel brings to cinematic life an above average thriller The Gunman based upon the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette pairing Oscar winners Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) together for the first time.

Set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, England and Spain, Penn plays an off the books Mercenary who is unwillingly hired to assassinate the Minister of Mines in the DRC after his announcement that the war torn country would be limiting foreign owned mining companies from operating in the ravaged but mineral rich central African country formerly the Belgian Congo.

gunman_ver5Dubbed operation Calvary, once the assassination takes place in 2006 Terrier was to leave the country and the continent and also that of his love interest, NGO worker Annie played by Italian actress Jasmine Trinca.

Fast forward eight years to 2014 and Terrier is targeted back in the DRC by some mean looking machete welding men and soon hightails it back to London after a narrow escape. Back in England, he confronts the mastermind of operation Calvary, the shady British businessman Cox played by Mark Rylance (Anonymous, The Other Boleyn Girl).

Terrier soon realizes that all the men involved in operation Calvary have been killed only leaving himself and boozy Spaniard Felix played by Bardem. The action thankfully moves to the fabulous Catalonian capital of Barcelona where things really heat up as Trinca realizes that her former flame is alive and well. After a very bloody shootout in a Spanish villa, Terrier travels to the British protectorate of Gibraltar to finally confront the real culprit in this scandalous and dangerous international cover up.

Unfortunately director Pierre Morel’s film The Gunman despite having two A list actors in it, suffers from the wait of its own importance and does not nearly come close to such masterpieces as the brilliantly directed Fernando Meirelles thriller The Constant Gardener based on a John le Carre novel.

The Gunman has all the right ingredients including shady Multi-Nationals plundering Africa’s vast mineral wealth, a covert operation which went horribly wrong and a doomed love affair which is finally reconciled.

gunman_ver4Penn gives an impressively muscular performance as the mercenary Terrier but Bardem and even Golden Globe nominee Idris Elba (Mandela, Pacific Rim) are wasted in this overlong meandering thriller which despite the exotic locations could have been neatly edited. The script needed an incisive treatment by Oscar winning scriptwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, Rush).

The Gunman is an average thriller and although at times exhilarating lacks a clear vision and less contrived plot, although the bullfight sequence at the end certainly is inventive. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed The November Man and The Constant Gardener. Look out for cameos by Ray Winstone (Noah, Snow White and the Huntsman) and Finnish actor Peter Franzen as the crazed gun for hire.

Tapping into Imagined Mythologies

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Director Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Ray Winstone

(Review originally published in June 2008)

Almost twenty years on from the last Indiana Jones film, the fourth installment of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas original blockbuster trilogy, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had its world premiere at the Cannes film festival last month. The latest Indiana Jones marks the beginning of the so-called American Summer Movie Blockbuster season. Naturally many critics and viewers alike were dubious about the 65-year old Harrison Ford reprising his role as the adventurous globetrotting relic hunter and archaeologist. However, fans of the original three enormously successful films all centering on our whip-cracking hero in search of a mythical artifact at odds with a nefariously evil regime in close pursuit, while journeying to exotic locations around the globe, will not be disappointed with this latest installment.

 

Obviously, the creators both Lucas and Spielberg, the men behind such fantastic films as the Star Wars trilogy and War of the Worlds, are confident creators and know their territory well. Combining lots of fast-paced action sequences with some surprisingly consistent characterization and additions of new villains and side-kicks, along with some old-style drama, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a skillful blending of several genres from the cowboy to the science fiction, while tapping into several imagined mythologies from the ancient Inca lost cultures of the Amazon to the urban myth of Hangar 51 and the Roswell incident, involving the American government’s secretive cover-up of an alien space craft that apparently crash landed in the New Mexican desert in 1947.

 

This film is set ten years on and firmly places the period of the action in the late 1950’s a time of the Red Scare, with McCarthyism sweeping America, a daunting decade when Communist infiltration was suspected in every aspect of American life. Into the mythology of the Roswell alien sighting at New Mexico and the lost city of El Dorado, an ancient Amazon city of Gold, which was believed to have existed at the Spanish conquest of South America in the early 1500’s, Spielberg and Lucas add the Stalinist era Soviets as Indiana’s arch enemies, headed by a blue-eyed sword wielding villain Dr Irina Spalko, an energetic performance by the Oscar winning Cate Blanchett (The Aviator).

 

In a rare genius of casting, Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood first seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the hot new Hollywood talent, Shia La Beouf stars as the spunky and wild Mudd, sporting a look reminiscent of the young Marlon Brando from his breakthrough film in The Wild One, kitted out in black leather cap and jacket skillfully riding a Harley Davidson and shattering the tranquility of an American town.

 

Even if you are new to the mythologies of Indiana Jones, this fourth installment is a great piece of entertainment in its own right, with thrilling action sequences, minimal CGI usage and a brilliant storyline tapping into several historical and imagined mythologies, while keeping a sense of humour and retaining a long espoused theory that many of the magnificent architectural wonders of ancient civilizations, from the pyramids of Egypt to the Amazonian Temples are tied into something vastly supernatural and way beyond anything we, as mere mortals, could possibly believe. Whether it’s the quest of infinite knowledge or that promised chalice of immortality, suspend your disbelief and take two hours to see this thrilling, fascinating and much anticipated sequel. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will surely not disappoint and has already proven its worth in international Box office gold.

The Creator’s Wrath

Noah

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth, Nick Nolte

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Oscar winners Russell Crowe (Gladiator) and Jennifer Connelly team up again after their successful onscreen pairing in Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, in Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky’s allegorical tale Noah, which has less to do with the bible story and more to do with humanity propensity for destroying the planet.

This visually packed tale of Noah, the ark and the great flood which ensues is inventive, patriarchal and slightly disappointing considering Aronofsky’s reputation for turning out shocking, if not provocative films like Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and his most successful film yet Black Swan, which earned Natalie Portman a Best Actress Oscar in 2011.

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Russell Crowe looks increasingly perplexed throughout the film of Noah, almost if he knew this cinematic tale might turn out controversially. The script is stilted and not thrashed out properly and even though the film is in 3D, many of the characters are one dimensional. Which is a pity considering that Aronofsky smaller films do focus on flawed characters trying to grapple with their own success or failure.

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British actor Ray Winstone as Tubal-cain and Logan Lerman as Noah’s son Ham stand out in the acting stakes in this version of Noah, while Crowe, Connelly and even Emma Watson come across as pathetic individuals caught up in an event greater than their own destinies, even though their destinies are tied in with the flood which devastated a ravaged earth, thanks to the descendants of Cain, who have wrecked havoc on the planet’s natural resource.

The whole dynamic of the creation narrative rests on  conflict. Adam and Eve enter the Garden of Eden and are confronted by temptation in the form of a serpent. Their children Cain and Abel battle jealousy and envy with Cain killing Abel, leaving a third brother Seth, of which Noah is descended to recover the familial equilibrium. Then the Creators Wrath returns and after a prophesy from Noah’s Grandfather, a wizened Anthony Hopkins that he should build an ark to survive the impending flood, Noah sets his three sons on a mission to complete a gigantic arc to save themselves and a handful of creatures so that a new population can inhabit a cleansed earth. The irony is that Director Aronofsky should not convince big budget Hollywood to give him free reign on an essentially biblical story.

Purists would not be pleased at the cinematic result which is Noah, not to mention that the narrative does not withstand the special effects and somewhere in between the flood, the entire plot is lost. Noah is an overlong allegorical and patriarchal tale with a hint of biblical connotation but is no cinematic masterpiece. Director Aronofsky should return to making small budget shocking films like the psycho sexual ballet thriller, Black Swan. Even Oscar nominated cinematography Matthew Libatique’s trademark sheen is lost on the 3D version of Noah.

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If Noah had been less about visual effects and more about a conceivable plot, then the film would have been vaguely interesting. Even Emma Watson’s (The Bling Ring) turn as Ila, Noah’s eldest son’s girlfriend and mother-to-be is not nearly as captivating. Where is all the sex, debauchery and shock value normally associated with Aronofsky films?  Noah is fascinating, but not fantastic cinema and would be better if left in 2D with a more fleshed out, stimulating narrative. Noah also stars Douglas Booth and unrecognizable Nick Nolte.

The Evil Queen Stakes

Snow White and the Huntsman

Vicious Vanity takes no prisoners

Director Rupert Sanders visually stunning Gothic Snow White and the Huntsman channels Gullermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and the hit HBO Feudal Fantasy series Game of Thrones and ain’t no fairytale although all the elements of fantasy are evident from Trolls to Dwarves, to Knights and Fairies. The real winner of Snow White and the Huntsman is the Evil Queen Ravena played beautifully with a seriously unhinged quality by Oscar winner Benoni superstar Charlize Theron, referencing her earlier role in Monster. In Snow White and the Huntsman, Charlize steals the show and is the backbone to this dark fantasy epic featuring Kirsten Stewart as the meek and anaemic Snow White and Thor’s hairy and gruff Chris Hemsworth as the sword wielding Huntsman sent to rescue the damsel trapped in the dark forest…

Mirror Mirror

This Queen ain’t no Bad Apple

Where the frivolous and occasionally funny Mirror Mirror spectacularly fails is the casting of goodie-two-shoes actress Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen in director of The Immortals Tarsem Singh’s frothy and glossy retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in Mirror Mirror, which as a comedy is fun in parts namely due to the casting of genuine dwarves, along with Nathan Lane and Lily Collins, daughter of singer Phil Collins as the sweet and innocent Snow White, but the casting of Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen?Really?

Joan Rivers, Rupaul  or Kim Catrall could do a better job especially in this semi-Bollywood fantasy featuring  the buff Armie Hammer as the hapless but entirely vacant Prince. Wait for the end of Mirror Mirror to see the Dance number and the redeeming aspect is the fabulous costumes at the Queens Ball with Snow White as a Swan…

Unlike Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman is pure feudal old world action with a dash of macabre incest, vanity and vicious magic realism. Charlize Theron steals the show as the completely off kilter pyschopathic Evil Queen who bathes in milk and whose gold mirror comes to life. Twilight star Kirsten Stewart only really comes into her role as the grubby Snow White in the second part of the film, but alas there is no chemistry between her and the Huntsman, played with less enthusiasm by Chris Hemsworth who really made an impact with Kenneth Branagh’s Thor.

Mirror Mirror is suitable for pretty little girls and Snow White and the Huntsman is more closer to malignant  witchcraft appealing to a more jaded generation complete with a sinister Evil Queen hell bent in her quest for the heart of a virgin at the expense of the seven dwarfs, the occasional fairy and a hapless Troll. Charlize Theron is just that much more menacing in the evil Queen stakes and film’s final show down is visually stimulating.

 

 

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