Posts Tagged ‘Robin Wright’

Wish Upon a Star

Wonder Woman 1984

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Pedro Pascal, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lily Aspell, Gabriella Wilde

Director Patty Jenkins had a hit with Wonder Woman back in 2017. Little did she realize what a challenge the sequel would be to get released on the big screen in 2020 amidst the ongoing crisis of the coronavirus pandemic?

Parent company Warner Brothers decided to come to a strange compromise which has divided the battling film industry in 2020 and release the sequel Wonder Woman 1984 in cinemas where possible and also simultaneously on the streaming service HBO Max.

Fortunately I was lucky enough to watch Wonder Woman 1984 in a cinema and apart from the impressive opening sequence featuring a young Wonder woman wonderfully played by Lily Aspell fighting in an Amazonian competition overseen by Antiope played by Robin Wright and Hippolyte played by Connie Nielsen, the first part of this sequel seemed slightly directionless and admittedly took a while to find its feet.

While setting the film in Washington DC in 1984 and using lots of gimmicky film references to the 1980’s especially the clothes, audiences will find Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman working at the Smithsonian in Washington DC where she meets the nerdy Barbara Minerva and the seemingly harmless oil entrepreneur Max Lord wonderfully played with a zany insecurity by Chilean actor Pedro Pascal (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Great Wall).

The plot line stumbles here at the beginning of the film and only really gets invigorated once Max Lord wishes upon an archaeological stone and gets bizarre superpowers to grant wishes to every human in the world, good or bad. One of Lord’s first recipient is Barbara Minerva who gets super human speed and agility enough to turn her into Cheetah, another superhero who Wonder Woman will definitely confront.

Everything goes south from there as Maxwell Lord flies off to Egypt to gain all the countries oil supplies and Wonder Woman with the help of her first love Steve Trevor, a wonderful reprisal by Chris Pine chase after Lord on a stunning action packed sequence on an Egyptian desert highway.

What is remarkable about Wonder Woman 1984 is how little screen time, the male characters really get especially Steve Trevor and Max Lord, although as a villain Pedro Pascal gives his egomaniac character some personal dimension, especially some heart rendering flashbacks to his tortured childhood as an outcast.

Naturally the stars of Wonder Woman 1984 are Diana Prince and Barbara Minerva and it’s their showdown as two alpha females as Wonder Woman and Cheetah on a stormy island at the film’s end is what makes the second half of this sequel so worthwhile.

Wonder Woman 1984 is certainly not as brilliant as the original film, but given the challenging year of its release, it’s about the best form of escapism that 2020 has to offer and is worth watching. Wonder Woman 1984 gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Viewers can catch the film on HBO Max or at your nearest cinema depending on which country you are in.

Replicants Rising

Blade Runner 2049

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, David Dastmalchian, Edward James Olmos, Barkhad Abdi, Sylvia Hoeks, Tomas Lemarquis, Mackenzie Davis, Sean Young, Hiam Abbass

When Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner appeared on cinema screens in 1982 it was hailed as a visionary science fiction film about replicants in Los Angeles in 2019.

The film developed an instant cult following and become a prime example of Post Modern Film Noir, with its blend of 1940’s costumes coupled with a dystopian future of a vast city laid bare by global warming and sinister corporations filled with surreal images of a multi-national world overtaken by replicant animals and a rapidly depleting human population most of whom had gone off world to the colonies in outer space.

Thirty five years later, there is finally a sequel, the highly anticipated Blade Runner 2049 featuring Ryan Gosling as K and veteran actor Harrison Ford reprising his role as Deckard.

Directed by French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, who brought cinema lovers his excellent impressionistic films Arrival and Sicario, this is by far his best and most ambitious film yet.

With Blade Runner 2049 he had a lot of visionary expectations to live up to and with the able assistance of Oscar nominee cinematographer Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049 is a visual feast, a mind blowing and sophisticated contemplation on the nature of what humanity is, of what fabricated genealogy is and more significantly where our species are heading in a future increasingly popularized with invasive technology. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented operating systems to name a few.

If contemporary audiences are expecting a straight forward sci-fi sequel then don’t watch Blade Runner 2049. It’s advisable to watch the first film so that you as a viewer can understand all the cinematic references to the original that Villeneuve densely packs into this version along with some stand out performances particularly by Harrison Ford as the older Deckard as he appears exiled in an abandoned casino in a vacated Las Vegas to Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks as the uber-cool yet vicious replicant Luv along with Robin Wright as K’s LAPD hard-drinking superior Lieutenant Joshi. Cuban actress Ana de Armas (War Dogs) also stars as a virtual projection of K’s love interest Joi to compensate for his increasing alienation in this post-apocalyptic landscape.

What is most captivating about Blade Runner 2049 is the subliminal images and the dexterous use of colour filters particularly in the chic scenes with new arch villain Niander Wallace played with a psychopathic God complex by Oscar winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyer’s Club).

The ratcheting up of the pace in Blade Runner 2049 is remarkable especially in the film’s second half elegantly assisted by a phenomenal original score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.

To tell audiences anything else about Blade Runner 2049, would be to reveal vital spoiler alerts and sinister plot twists.

Blade Runner 2049 is fantastic cinema on an epic, visionary scale and its magnitude would be lost if viewers saw the film on anything smaller than a massive screen complete with surround sound.

Blade Runner 2049 is superb viewing and gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

A ravishing tour-de-force in post-modern semiotic brilliance, this film is not to be missed by those that loved the original Blade Runner.

Princess of the Amazons

Wonder Woman

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Elena Anaya

Monster director Patty Jenkins delivers a feminine superhero film with DC’s Wonder Woman featuring the beautiful Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazons.

Gal Gadot first appeared as Wonder Woman in the male-orientated film Batman v Superman and she certainly was no femme fatale, proving a viable counterpoint to Ben Affleck’s Batman.

The first fifteen minutes of Woman Woman, there is no man in sight as the tribe of Amazonian female warriors live blissfully unaware of external strife on an island Themyscira.

As a headstrong young woman, Diana (Wonder Woman) is heavily watched by her protective mother Hippolyta played by Danish beauty Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) while being influenced to train as a Amazonian warrior by her aunt Antiope played by Robin Wright soon to be seen in Blade Runner 2049.

The idyllic exclusion of Themyscira is shattered when the young Diana sees a plane crash into the distant sea and jumps into the ocean saving the bewildered WWI pilot Steve Trevor wonderfully played with bashful humour by Chris Pine (Hell or High Water, Into the Woods).

In an ironic female gaze, director Jenkins turns the camera on a naked Steve as he emerges refreshed from a luxurious infinity pool under the lustful eye of Diana who asks pointedly “Do all men look like that?”

The action moves swiftly to the gritty battle lines of World War 1 as Britain and the allies are about to sign a shaky armistice with Germany. There Diana sees the brutality of man first hand and director Jenkins does not shy away from a valid point that men are the cause of all the wars and the subsequent destruction in the world.

At this point, the audience assumes that the villain of Wonder Woman is the evil German officer Ludendorff played by Danny Huston (Hitchcock, Wrath of the Titans) who is developing chemical weapons with the help of poison specialist Dr Maru played by Elena Anaya.

Diana and Steve form a band of mercenaries set on destroying Ludendorff made up of smooth talking Sameer played by French Moroccan star Said Taghmaoui, Scotsman Charlie played by Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner and Red Indian chief played by Eugene Brave Rock.

Serving as an origins story and since Wonder Woman is immortal, this is a snapshot of bravery at time when the World was fighting the War to end all wars, circa 1918. What Jenkins manages to do so brilliantly is defy the conventional roles woman play in superhero and adventure films by making the heroine the woman that boldly saves the day, instead of just portraying her as a helpless damsel in distress, leaving the men bewildered, confused and looking like idiots.

As a superhero film, Wonder Woman delivers on all fronts, including lots of humour, copious amounts of action, sufficient visual effects and a surprising plot denouement to keep audiences engaged.

The strikingly gorgeous Gal Gadot holds her own in a big budget franchise film opposite a brilliant blue-eyed Chris Pine, while the period costumes by Lindy Hemming add to the effect of a superheroine stuck in the middle of an antiquated man-made war, which only leaves death and devastation in its wake.

Wonder Woman gets a rating of 8 out of 10. Soon audiences will see more of Wonder Woman as Diana, Princess of the Amazons will next be seen in the highly anticipated Justice League opposite Batman and newcomer Aquaman.

 

The Art of Surveillance

A Most Wanted Man

A most_wanted_man

 Director: Anton Corbijn

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Bruhl, Nina Hoss, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Rainer Bock

Dutch director of The American, Anton Corbijn skilfully brings to cinematic life the spymaster John le Carre’s novel A Most Wanted Man set in the German port city of Hamburg, the site in which the 9/11 terror attacks emanated from.

Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) in one of his last onscreen performances before his untimely death in New York in 2014, plays German intelligence officer Gunther, an overweight heavy drinking, chain smoking yet patience man who engineers a web of intrigue and surveillance when a Chechen Muslim illegal immigrant arrives in Hamburg seeking asylum.

The immigrant is half Chechen and half Russian and his true reasons for arriving in Hamburg is to claim access to a private bank account held by his Russian father who stashed funds after several covert and illegal Russian/Chechen wars.

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The most wanted man, Issa is a Muslim convert, played by Russian actor Grigoriy Dobrygin, who seeks shelter with a Turkish mother and son. They in turn seek advice on his precarious existence with a human rights lawyer and refugee sympathizer Annabelle Richter played against type by Rachel McAdams.

Gunther with the help of his surveillance team including Daniel Bruhl (Rush) as Maximilian and German actress Nina Hoss as Irna Frey who manipulate Annabelle into setting up a play to gain the confidence of Issa whose sudden wealth is being held by a suave German banker Tommy Brue played by Willem Dafoe (Nymphomaniac).

The German surveillance team is interested in where the funds might go, namely to a prominent Muslim businessman Abdullah in Hamburg who is funneling cash to jihadist groups in the Middle East through a shipping company based in Cyprus.

A Most Wanted Man’s opening scene focuses on the murky swirling waters of the river Elbe running through the second largest port in Europe after Rotterdam, a fitting motif for the tricky surveillance and bureaucracy involved in the gathering of intelligence on suspected terrorists post 9/11. This is an intricate geopolitical affair, with allegiances and deception as part of the cold business of espionage in the tradition of Zero Dark Thirty and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Into the play comes the seemingly sympathetic CIA officer, Martha Sullivan played by Robin Wright, last seen in the excellent series House of Cards. As Gunther increasingly manipulates both Issa and Annabelle to his own advantage without wanting a full scale extradition, the tension and strain becomes almost unbearable.

This is a well plotted gritty thriller without the flashy car chases or violent fight sequences synonymous with The Bourne Trilogy. Director Corbijn opts for a more sedated, yet carefully paced spy narrative, slow moving in parts, rather emphasizing the mental and emotional strain on all those involved especially Gunther, with his unraveling coming to a head at the film’s rather poignant unexpected conclusion.

At just over two hours, A Most Wanted Man could have been edited in parts, but is nevertheless a fascinating study of the excruciating art of surveillance. Recommended for cinema goers who enjoy well-plotted intelligent spy thrillers without the glamour or excitement of a Bond film.

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