Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Ferguson’

Notorious Norway

The Snowman

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chloe Sevigny, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons, James D’Arcy, Toby Jones, Jonas Karlsson, Jakob Oftebro, David Dencik

Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo’s thriller The Snowman is brought to cinematic life by Iranian screenwriter Hossein Amini and co-written by Peter Staughan. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy director Tomas Alfredson brings this bleak Norwegian thriller to the big screen with a constantly icy landscape concerning a ruthless and psychopathic serial killer who kills his victims every time the snow begins falling, which in a Scandinavian winter, would be consistently often.

Assembling an international cast including Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, Steve Jobs) as hard-drinking detective Harry Hole opposite art house actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, the muse of Danish auteur Lars von Trier who starred in such films as Anti-Christ and Nymphomaniac as his ex-girlfriend Rakel, personally I had high hopes for this thriller being a captivating cinematic experience. My criticism is that in The Snowman, the character relationships were not clearly defined, which made navigating this thriller virtually impossible.

Having not read the Jo Nesbo novel, I found this film version slightly lacklustre especially in the slow moving first half. Despite a refreshing change of watching an entire film shot in Norway, The Snowman didn’t quite pack the same verve as David Fincher’s utterly compelling film version of Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Rebecca Ferguson who appeared in Life and Florence Foster Jenkins also stars as co-detective Kathrine Bratt who is harbouring secrets of her own especially as she tries to entice Norwegian businessman Arve Stop played by Oscar winner J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) into a honey trap, since he has a peculiar penchant for photographing beautiful girls. Rarely seen actor Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Heat and Pollock) makes a welcome comeback as Gert Rafto a Bergen based detective following a similar murder case years earlier.

While The Snowman’s narrative visibility is as convoluted as the blurry icy landscape of Oslo and Bergen, the acting comes off as flat and uninspired. Which is a great pity considering the film’s acting talent.

Fassbender does a reasonably good job of bringing some dimension to Harry Hole, the lonely but observant detective, however one gets the sense that he fully was committed to the role as he was in director Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth.

Perhaps the reason for my lukewarm response to this supposedly icy thriller was that I had a nightmarish cinematic experience coupled with expectations that director Tomas Alfredson would make an equally impressive film as his gripping adaptation of John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The Snowman for all its gripping plot-twists, peppered with gruesome murders, gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10.

 

Goodbye Moon, Goodbye Stars

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare

What made director Ridley Scott’s The Martian such an enjoyable film was the emotional tension between Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney stuck on Mars and the ground crew desperately trying to return him safely back to earth. This emotional tension is lacking in Safe House director Daniel Espinosa’s sci-fi thriller Life, which has an unimaginative title.

This sci fi thriller Life should not be confused with the 2015 Anton Corijn film Life about James Dean or the earlier film 1999 Eddie Murphy film also called Life. Seriously, couldn’t the screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick think up a more imaginative title?

Except for the onscreen chemistry between Rebecca Ferguson (Florence Foster Jenkins) as Dr Miranda North and Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) playing Dr David Jordan on board the doomed International Space Station circling above Earth, Life relies too heavily on the storyline of Ridley Scott’s Alien film franchise without delivering any of the inherent shock value.

Life centres on a multinational group of astronauts who inexplicably bring back a living organism from Mars which is initially carefully nurtured by Hugh Derry played by Ariyon Bakare. The organism is affectionately nicknamed Calvin and only through a brief sequence shot in Time Square in New York featuring children looking forward to humanity’s future with this alien life form still supposedly being cultivated safely on the space station above our planet.

Soon things go horribly wrong as Calvin turns into a malevolent starfish which transforms into a bloodsucking slimy creature intent on destroying all humans on board the spaceship. As each of the crew members starts dying off, Life tries to keep the visual intensity going with some superb camera work yet fails to deliver an original storyline.

Set almost entirely on board the spaceship, Life is as bland as the visually impressive Morten Tyldum film Passengers. Both films just fail to engage although at least with Passengers the sexy chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence was far more palpable.

Daniel Espinosa’s Life is watchable viewing held together by a brilliant twist at the end but unfortunately the story line is nothing original even lacking in orchestrated suspense. Ultimately, Life suffers from falling under the shadow of a far more superior horror film, Ridley Scott’s 1979 smash hit Alien featuring a breath taking performance by Sigourney Weaver as Ripley.

A watchable but not brilliant film, Life unfortunately succumbs to an overpopulated film genre which has been outstripped by the Alien franchise and more recently Alphonso Cuaron’s Oscar winning Gravity.

Despite the inventive camera work, Espinosa’s Life gets a rating of 6.5 out of 10.

 

 

Off the Rails

The Girl on the Train

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Director: Tate Taylor

Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Pepron, Alison Janney, Lisa Kudrow

The Help director Tate Taylor tackles the cinematic adaptation of Paula Hawkins shocking suburban thriller The Girl on the Train which had book clubs the world over guessing what really occurred.

Golden Globe nominee Emily Blunt plays the prying and lonely Rachel, a boozing thirtysomething woman who is recovering from her failed marriage to the malevolent Tom, played by the rakish Justin Theroux (Mulholland Drive).

As Rachel travels the trains between suburban New York and the city, she watches Megan Hipwell, wonderfully played by the gorgeous rising star Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as she pouts from her sumptuous home while playing coy with her hunky husband, Scott played by Luke Evans.

The action of the novel takes place in suburban Oxford which is Americanized to suburban upstate New York in the film. Soon the plot begins to unravel as Megan through a series of flashbacks is portrayed as a mixed up bored housewife who appears to be having an affair with her dashing psycho therapist, played by Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Zero Dark Thirty).

The manipulative Tom has moved on from the sad and pesky Rachel and is now living with the doll-faced Anna, played with an uncharacteristic blandness by Swedish star Rebecca Ferguson who was so brilliant in Florence Foster Jenkins and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Then the unthinkable happens in a seemingly ordinary suburb: the beautiful Megan goes missing and Rachel for her desire to get involved in a mystery besides the real reason she is sipping martinis all day, is soon embroiled in a dangerous murder where she can’t quite remember what really happened on that fateful night when Megan Hipwell disappeared.

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The Girl on The Train is a book club novel made into a Book club film, with a brilliant performance by Emily Blunt and suitably adequate performances by all three of the hunky male co-stars. However the best performance is certainly by Haley Bennett as the doomed but utterly sultry Megan Hipwell, who is the victim of a terrible crime.

Audiences should watch out for great supporting roles by Allison Janney as a tough cop and Lisa Kudrow as the woman who unlocks the real reason why Rachel and Tom’s marriage went off the rails.

The Girl on the Train is recommended viewing but audiences should be warned this film is not as gripping as the brilliant David Fincher suburban thriller Gone Girl, which featured an Oscar nominated performance by Rosamund Pike. Nevertheless this is an entertaining and watchable thriller saved by excellent performances by Emily Blunt and Haley Bennett.

 

 

Heroic Heiress

Florence Foster Jenkins

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Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Stanley Townsend, Christian McKay, John Sessions

No actress plays a diva quite like Oscar winner Meryl Streep. First it was her brilliant portrayal of the Fashion Editor Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada. Now in the capable hands of The Queen director Stephen Frears, Streep plays the delusional American heiress Florence Foster Jenkins opposite British star Hugh Grant.

For once Grant holds his own opposite Streep and as a rather stylish couple in Florence Foster Jenkins set in lavish New York musical circles in 1944 as the Second World War is drawing to a close.

Jenkins who unfortunately had an awful singing voice but believed that she could sing beautifully, enlists the help of accompanying pianist Cosme McMoon wonderfully played by Simon Helberg from the hit TV series The Big Bang Theory. Helberg acts with his eyes and his expressive disapproval of Jenkin’s awful voice is soon transformed into a fondness for the eccentric heiress who genuinely thinks her voice is superb.

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Naturally her singing ambition is encouraged by her husband St Clair Bayfield fabulously played by Hugh Grant (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense and Sensibility). In a complicated arrangement Bayfield enjoys his conjugal activities with the gorgeous Kathleen, played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) who isn’t impressed with Jenkins rise in popularity.

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Three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, The Iron Lady) nails her interpretation of Florence Foster Jenkins as a lonely American heiress who due to an unfortunate illness, namely syphilis, is never able to have children so she sets her sights on conquering the fickle and snobbish world of classical music and in turn believes she has the makings of a star.

Her crowning achievement came during the infamous concert at Carnegie Hall where to bolster audience numbers she gave free tickets to inebriated American soldiers about to embark on a foreign war. Remember this is the golden age of radio and Jenkins exploited this medium to its fullest, soon becoming a favourite for her willpower rather than any inherent lyrical traits.

Assisted with a witty script by Nicholas Martin, Frears approaches the tale of Florence Foster Jenkins in a high camp fashion, making the film a poignant and hilarious tale of the diva whose fabulous costumes and awful singing made her the heroic heiress of New York.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful film and will sure to garner some recognition for the sumptuous production design and brilliant costumes in the approaching awards seasons.

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Simon Helberg is particularly superb as McMoon who is mesmerized and scandalized by the life force that was the flamboyant Florence Foster Jenkins https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Foster_Jenkins.

This film is highly recommended viewing, a wonderfully acted tale of an heiress who certainly made the most of her fifteen minutes of fame despite popular opinion.

Manifestation of Destiny

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Sean Harris, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hollander, Ving Rhames, Simon McBurney

Tom Cruise reunites with Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie in the fifth instalment of the hugely successful Mission Impossible franchise with the latest film, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Unlike the Brad Bird directed Ghost Protocol, which was lavish and outlandish, Rogue Nation is a more grittier and muscular spy thriller, both written and directed by McQuarrie, with pristine cinematography by Robert Elswit and returns to a more European feel which the original Mission Impossible film had back in 1996 classically directed by Brian de Palma.

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Cruise is joined again by Jeremy Renner (Ghost Protocol, The Avengers), Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible 1,2 and 3) and Simon Pegg (Ghost Protocol, Star Trek Into Darkness).

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The female role is brilliantly taken up by the blue-eyed Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules) as the femme fatale British agent Ilsa Faust who gives her male counterparts a run for their money.

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Sean Harris (Prometheus) plays the sinister silver-haired villain Soloman Lane with a steely reserve and a distinctly British coldness, who is the mastermind behind the syndicate controlling several rogue agents hence the term rogue nation.

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Alec Baldwin (The Cooler, Still Alice) plays the exasperated IMF chief who has to answer to the bigwigs at Langley, Virginia and orders Brandt played by Renner to find the elusive Ethan Hunt, still expertly played by Cruise who is on a covert mission in Vienna, Austria to uncover the sinister syndicate, a supposed spook organization made up of international ex-spies which are responsible for all sorts of nefarious worldwide events from plane crashes to assassinations. The Vienna sequence during a performance of Turandot at the Opera House is clearly inspired by The Quantum of Solace, and earlier Bond films and is superbly choreographed.

The action moves swiftly to the exotic location of Casablanca, Morocco to what must be one of the best sequences in the film, the breaking in at a desalination plant on the outskirts of the city, which naturally leads to a spectacular chase sequence involving BMWs and motorbikes ending up along a desert highway.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation has all the hallmarks of a classic British spy thriller and as the nail biting narrative returns to London in the closing section of the film, the brittle spy jargon is superbly written by McQuarrie with such lines as “Ethan Hunt is the Manifestation of Destiny”.

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Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is highly recommended, beautifully paced, eloquently written and the muscular action sequences will not disappoint right up to the suspense filled climax. Fans of the previous films will enjoy Rogue Nation and hope that this is surely not the end of a hugely successful and fascinating film franchise which has always had amazing stunts, brilliant action sequences and exotic locations, the bespoke ingredients of any spy thriller.

 

 

Thracian Turmoil

Hercules

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Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes, Tobias Santelmann, Ingrid Borso Berdal, Rebecca Ferguson, Aksel Hennie

After Hercules completes the 12 labours, the demi-god gets involved with a civil war in Thrace http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrace. Based upon the graphic novel, Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, director Brett Ratner (After the Sunset, Tower Heist, The Rush Hour Trilogy) brings to glossy cinematic life this ancient loincloth adventure which shows Hercules played by Dwayne Johnson (GI Joe, Rise of the Cobra) along with a band of mercenaries including Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Amazon archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and his nephew storyteller Iolaus played by Reece Ritchie in various Thracian turmoils.

Hercules and his bloodthirsty and feral band of misfits are approached by Ergenia played by upcoming Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson on behalf of her father, the duplicitous Lord Cortys played by veteran British actor John Hurt to quell a civil war brewing in Thrace, supposedly led by the gruesome insurrectionist warlord Rheseus played by Norwegian actor Tobias Santelmann.

As the battle ensues it soon emerges that Lord Cortys has a secret alliance with the evil King Eurystheus who is wonderfully played by Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) who tormented Hercules with the notion that he was responsible for the murder of his own wife and children, which resulted in his subsequent exile.

Painted by Pieter Paul Rubens

Painted by Pieter Paul Rubens

With superb cinematography by Dante Spinotti, director Brett Ratner brings a lavish eye to these mythological battles and while Johnson might not be as believable as Hercules, he is in terms of acting, he is so in terms of strength and brute force, quite opposite to the scantily clad Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules.

Viewers shouldn’t expect Game of Thrones or 300 style gore or bloodshed in the battle scenes, as Ratner has deliberately chosen to make Hercules palatable to a teenage audience and has spared scenes of gratuitous nudity and gruesome violence.

Unlike the earlier film The Legend of Hercules, this version of Hercules portrays the man as more mature and hardened warrior famed for completing the 12 labours of Hercules and now embroiled in what is seemingly a Grecian civil strife.

Reece Ritchie 10 000 BC and The Lovely Bones fame does a superb job as the loquacious storyteller Iolaus, nephew of Hercules and the acting stakes are held up by British actor Rufus Sewell (Carrington, Tristan and Isolde) along with Scottish actor Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), who seamlessly blend humour and bravado as they embark on their less than gruesome Thracian battles.

Hercules is a well narrated fun filled mythological adventure film with some stunning action sequences especially the closing battle and the toppling of the massive statue of Hera. Lovers of mythological films such as Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans, will definitely enjoy Hercules, even if Dwayne Johnson’s acting leaves much to be desired.

This version of Hercules is recommended viewing and suitably classical complete with Grecian costumes and fantastic scenery where myth and legend blend to become a more plausible historical reality.

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