Posts Tagged ‘Richard E. Grant’

Amsterdam Kill Run

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Director: Patrick Hughes

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Sam Hazeldine, Rod Hallett, Richard E. Grant

Despite an international cast, director Patrick Hughes stylistically violent action film The Hitman’s Bodyguard becomes a warped buddie movie with Samuel L. Jackson starring as Darius Kincaid a foulmouthed assassin who unwillingly teams up with the executive protection agent Michael Bryce played by Canadian Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds.

After an explosive opening sequence in Manchester, England and then followed by an equally hectic sequence in Coventry, Bryce is tasked with transporting Kincaid intact to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands to testify against evil Belarussian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich played by Oscar nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) complete with dodgy accent.

What was Gary Oldman thinking appearing in such a film?

Then again what was another Oscar nominee Mexican star Salma Hayek (Frida) thinking appearing as the equally foulmouthed Honduran jailbird Sonia Kincaid wife to Darius?

Even the two sequences with Hayek and Jackson are drizzled in bloodshed which is pitiful considering that it detracts from any potential onscreen chemistry.

Clearly all the stars involved in The Hitman’s Bodyguard did not act in this film to further their careers.

Then again, obviously the director of The Expendables 3, Patrick Hughes knows that his audience is not going to take the film too seriously if he packs The Hitman’s Bodyguard with excessive violence that the film becomes stylistically nauseating especially considering the events that are currently happening in 21st century Europe including multiple random acts of terror in every city from London to Barcelona.

The only redeeming feature of The Hitman’s Bodyguard besides the onscreen sparing between Reynolds and Jackson is the multi chase sequence in Amsterdam involving a ski boat, motorcycle and various vehicles along the Dutch canals.

Action fans will be satisfied as basically every city featured in The Hitman’s Bodyguard gets shot at and blown to smithereens from Manchester to Amsterdam to The Hague.

Unlike director Edgar Wright’s excellent Southern crime caper Baby Driver, the action sequences in The Hitman’s Bodyguard is repulsively manufactured and the violence is deliberately pornographic. The story is definitely thin on content which underscores the question why such normally bankable stars including Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson would consider acting in such an excessively violent film without a pause to think what the real cinematic message conveys: That violence is acceptable internationally?

Even the brief appearances by character actors Richard E. Grant and Portuguese star Joaquim de Almeida as a sinister Interpol agent do not redeem the narrative in any significant way.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is big on action, violence, bloodshed and a massive body count (mostly of mean looking Belarussians) and low on nuanced content. Entertaining to an extent but way over done.

The Nancy Starling

Their Finest

Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Irons, Jake Lacy, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Rachael Stirling

Danish director Lone Scherfig delivers another nuanced and unexpectedly unsettling film, Their Finest featuring a superb performance by Gemma Arterton (The Prince of Persia, Quantum of Solace) in one of her best roles yet. Director of The Riot Club, One Day and An Education, Scherfig is brilliant at capturing the peculiarities of the British social system, exemplified in The Riot Club and perfected in her latest film, Their Finest.

Set in 1940 during the Blitz, while London was being mercilessly bombed by the Germans at the beginning of World War II, Their Finest focuses on the art of propaganda about Arterton who is asked to become a scriptwriter on a film aimed to boosted the morale of the British public particularly from a woman’s perspective when most of the men were being conscripted to fight the war.

Arterton plays the feisty Welsh woman Caitrin Cole whose relationship with a struggling artist Ellis Cole played by Jack Huston (Ben-Hur, The Riot Club) is precarious at best. Caitrin’s co-writer is the cynical Tom Buckley wonderfully played by Sam Claflin (Me Before You) who keeps on advising her to trim the fat on any story which appears too verbose.

The story in question is how twin sisters managed to save some Allied soldiers off the French coast during the Dunkirk evacuation aboard their father’s fishing vessel The Nancy Starling.

The embellishment of the story and its natural progression to a morale boosting piece of cinema, aptly named The Nancy Starling is the task of Caitlyn and Tom who has to contend not only with the vested interests of the Ministry of Information represented by Roger Swain wonderfully played by Richard E. Grant but also the War Ministry represented by the Secretary of War played by Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (The Reversal of Fortune).

What elevates the grim narrative of Their Finest, a city under siege with Londoners being randomly killed off during incessant bombings is the appearance of fading film star Ambrose Hilliard acidly played with dark humour by character actor Bill Nighy (Love Actually, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Pride).

There are some precious moments between Nighy and his new agent Sophie Smith played by Helen McCrory who takes over Hilliard’s career after her brother Sammy Smith, a brief cameo by Eddie Marsan, is unexpectedly killed in the bombings.

Based upon the novel by Lissa Evans entitled “Their Finest Hour and a Half”, Their Finest is a remarkably interesting war film about the art of propaganda, the process of scripting a film and a precarious love triangle, particularly noticeable when thwarted affections develop between Tom Buckley and Caitrin Cole.

The only criticism is that Their Finest could have been edited more efficiently as the dramatic pace of the film lags at times and this efficiency in getting the story across would have prevented the narrative from becoming slightly repetitive and drawn out.

Yet despite its imperfections, Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin are brilliant as the young creative screenwriters trying to negotiate a budding romance amidst their own artistic differences.

Audiences should look out for a particularly tart performance by Diana Rigg’s daughter Rachael Stirling as the propaganda film’s sharp tongued production secretary Phyl Moore.

Their Finest as a wartime dramatic comedy gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. This witty and poignant British film will be enjoyed by those that share the English sentiment of stoically soldiering on in the face of burdening hardships without resorting to emotional melodrama. Which is what the British did during the Blitz.

 

The Great Western Claw Slinger

Logan

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) has become synonymous with the role of the mutant Wolverine since Bryan Singer’s first film The X Men back in 2000. Now seventeen years later, Jackman reprises his role in director James Mangold’s cleverly titled Logan a sort of follow up to The Wolverine back in 2013.

The year is 2029 and there appears to be an absence of mutants on Earth, an arid planet ravaged by decades of global warming. Mangold who directed the tense Western 3:10 to Yuma seamlessly blends frontier mythology into Logan right from the beginning as audiences first see Logan aka The Wolverine in El Paso, Texas as a washed up middle aged Uber limo driver, all hairy and hard to like.

Logan is taking care of a frail and delusional yet still powerful Charles Xavier, a brilliant performance by Patrick Stewart, who has reprised his role in most of the X-Men movies.

Xavier keeps telling Logan that there is still one more powerful mutant out there. In a desperate call for help, Logan gets called to the shady motel room of Mexican immigrant Gabriela played by Orange is the New Black star Elizabeth Rodriguez who pleads with him to take the mysterious young girl Laura wonderfully played with an immense screen intensity by newcomer Dafne Keen to Canada for safety.

Soon X-Men adversary Donald Pierce and his band of nefarious gang members appear intent on hunting and killing Laura. Pierce, played by Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl, The Skeleton Twins) is actually the henchman of mastermind Dr Rice wonderfully played by Richard E. Grant (Jackie, The Iron Lady) who unbeknownst to anyone has been harvesting mutant children in a dodgy clinic in Mexico City.

As Logan, Laura and Xavier head off across country from El Paso through to Oklahoma City, screenwriters Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green turn Logan into a Neo-Western road film, a more gritty adventure even referencing some classic Western films like director George Stevens 1953 film Shane and unlike the more CGI orientated X-Men films, Logan is more violent, nostalgic and resonates with a more mature audience. That predominately male audience is presumably the same viewers that started following The X-Men films back in 2000.

Jackman is suitably tough, menacing and conflicted as Logan and Dafne Keen who swops between Spanish and English is wonderful as the bratty teenage mutant, but what really gives Logan that gravitas is Patrick Stewart’s superbly dry performance as Xavier, once head of the school for mutants, but now a bitter and twisted old man being hunted by some evil cloners.

Logan is highly enjoyable and delivers on the action front with some stunning and violent action sequences especially in the first half of the film. However, the last quarter of the film could have been edited for dramatic effect despite the surprisingly poignant ending.

Walk the Line director James Mangold’s Logan gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Ultimately, the return of the hairy man aka The Wolverine has past his macho prime, yet his ferocious decline is highly entertaining viewing.

 

History, Identity, Beauty

Jackie

Director: Pablo Larrain

Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt, John Carroll Lynch, Caspar Phillipson, Beth Grant, Max Casella

Producer Darren Aronofsky and Chilean director Pablo Larrain bring an exquisite and heart wrenching portrait of Jackie Kennedy just moments after her husband President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas on the 22nd November 1963 in Jackie.

Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is sublime as Jackie and considering that she is in virtually every frame of the film, shot in mostly extreme close up, Portman delivers a poignant portrait of Jackie as she is suddenly stripped of her position as first lady while also dealing with suddenly becoming a young widow to two small children, John and Caroline Kennedy.

Simultaneously, Larrain explores the mythical concepts of History, Identity and Beauty as Jackie has to boldly deal with the aftermath of an assassination and the claustrophobia of grief intertwined with state politics and diplomacy.

Jackie has to decide what type of funeral she would like for John F. Kennedy and amidst the security concerns following her husband’s dramatic assassination, she opts for a full length funeral parade, which symbolically become the most watched event on American Television in the early 1960’s.

Screenwriter Noah Oppenheimer’s seductive script pulls viewers into the traumatic world of Jackie Kennedy, deconstructing the myth of a debutante stripped of her power, yet ironically her glamour and poise managed to embed itself in the American psyche for decades after her role as the First Lady of the United States.

Jackie is a stunning, visually dazzling historical portrait of a very specific moment in American history, the aftermath of one of the most pivotal assassinations, which irreparably changed the course of American politics and society redefining the 1960’s as a tumultuous decade. Cleverly what the film does not do is delve into any conspiracy theories surrounding the infamous assassination, but exclusively focuses on how Jackie deals with the funeral and subsequent interviews afterwards.

Audiences should look out for strong supporting roles by Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine) as Bobbie Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as loyal assistant Nancy Tuckerman and John Hurt as unnamed priest who Jackie confides in. Incidentally Jackie was one of Hurt’s last films before he died in 2017.

The costumes by Madeline Fontaine, which she won a 2017 BAFTA Award for, are gorgeous clearly recreating the iconic style of Jackie Kennedy and the production design by Jean Rabasse (The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen) is equally fitting.

What makes Jackie so inspiring is the unconventional approach of Larrain’s direction as he inter cuts scenes of the massive funeral march in Washington DC with the graphic violence of the actual assassination in the backseat of a convertible sedan speeding along a Dallas highway, blood stains on Jackie’s pink Chanel suit.

Like director Barry Jenkins’s Oscar winning film Moonlight, Jackie intensely captures the audience’s attention and never let’s go, anchored by a brilliant performance by Natalie Portman who in my opinion should have won the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 2017 Oscars, although perhaps the odds were stacked in favour of Emma Stone winning for La La Land.

Gorgeous, riveting and emotionally draining, Jackie is a vivid and intricate tour de force of an iconic figure who used her widowhood to become more famous, made all the more touching by the scenes with her two very young children.

My film rating for Jackie is 9.5 out of 10. Having directed an exceptionally vivid film, director Pablo Larrain is a talent to watch out for.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_John_F._Kennedy

 

 

Never One to Compromise

The Iron Lady

Director: Phyllida Law

Cast: Meryl Streep, Alexandra Roach, Jim Broadbent, John Sessions, Julian Wadham, Nicholas Farell, Olivia Colman, Richard E. Grant

The first moment Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice) appears on screen as Baroness Thatcher in Phyllida Law’s The Iron Lady, the viewer knows that they will be treated to a towering portrayal of one of the most influential and controversial leaders of the Western World in the 20th century former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady, which chronicles Baroness Thatcher grappling with her old age and the loss of her beloved husband Dennis, played by Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (Iris) depicts an elderly  and at times not so iron lady looking back on a landmark and eventful political career.

Streep’s performance of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher both as an old woman and as a ruthless and powerful Conservative politician is outstanding and is worthy of Streep being one of the few actresses to win three Oscars in an impressively brilliant and diverse career spanning from such earlier films as Kramer vs Kramer and The Deer Hunter, through to Sophie’s Choice, Ironweeds and Out of Africa to the more recent performances in Mamma Mia and The Devil Wears Prada.

The Iron Lady is as much about the making of a politician, the sculpting of a prolific and charismatic female leader as Prime Minister of Britain that Margaret Thatcher was during the tumultuous 1980s, as a testament to an aging woman who cannot deal with approaching senility and the fact that her once great career is drawing to a gradual close. Meryl Streep, helped with superb make-up by the Oscar winning team of J. Roy Helland and Mark Coulier portrays all the nuances  and strength of a unrelentingly headstrong politician, along with all the subtle  insecurities of breaking all the initial conventions of being the first female leader of Parliament in the cut-throat male dominated world of British politics while sacrificing her family life and domestic duties to achieve her political ambitions.

Whilst The Iron Lady does not sequentially follow Thatcher’s political career in the 1980s, it is portrayed through a series of perfectly crafted flashbacks showing the flashpoints in Margaret Thatcher’s political career from the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton at the 1984 Conservative Party conference to the Falklands War and also the eventual ousting of Thatcher as leader by her own party at the height of Britain’s participation in ending the Cold War.

Phyllida Law, director of Mamma Mia, shows a slightly parodic view of Margaret Thatcher beautifully portrayed by Streep as well as thematically points to the personal dilemma of all great leaders, that of having made your mark on history and now having to deal with the greatest challenge of all, old age and dealing with one’s own mortality.

Unlike Stephen Frears superbly directed film The Queen which also dealt with a living icon, the British Monarch an Oscar winning performance by Helen Mirren, focusing on a specific period of British history, the death of Lady Diana; The Iron Lady is more fluid in its narrative, depicting Baroness Thatcher in the 21st century reminiscing about her prominent political career three decades earlier, in which as Prime Minister she was never one to compromise. Whilst The Iron Lady as a film is not superb and flawed in narrative and direction, it is Meryl Streep’s unbelievably brilliant portrayal which makes up for any cinematic defects.

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