Posts Tagged ‘Samuel West’

Victory at Any Cost

Darkest Hour

Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Samuel West, David Schofield, Joe Armstrong, David Strathairn

Oscar nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) gives an Oscar worthy performance in his nuanced portrayal of cantankerous British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill whose face is completely transformed to look like Churchill thanks to the superb makeup and prosthetic by Kazuhiro Tsuji.

Acclaimed director of Atonement Joe Wright is the perfect candidate to steer this compelling political war drama Darkest Hour as the story meticulously tracks the events from Churchill’s inauguration as prime minister, including a particularly refined scene between the PM and King George VI wonderfully played by Ben Mendelsohn to the anxious events leading up to the ingenuous evacuation of British troops from the beaches at Dunkirk, successfully anticipated and engineered by Churchill himself and the British sea going public.

If Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk is a stunning depiction of that crucial maritime military evacuation, then Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is the companion film showing the political and administrative events which lead to that escape from the invading Nazi forces which were aggressively sweeping across the European continent in May 1940.

The fact that both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour are vying for Best Picture at the 90th Oscars is a testament to how exceptional both films are made. Joe Wright should have got an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

At the heart of Darkest Hour is Gary Oldman’s finest onscreen performance, a superb acting tour-de-force in which he completely embodies every aspect of Winston Churchill from his unconventional drinking habits to his affectionate if often tumultuous relationship with his level headed wife Clementine superbly played by Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient).

Oldman’s performance rarely falters and actually improves as Darkest Hour progresses, a performance with such gusto and insight that all audiences will see is Winston Churchill, a seasoned politician, a risk taker and a man who had the entire fate of the British nation in his sometimes shaky hands, yet who realized the gravity of the approaching invasion of the Germans at the beginning of World War II.

Churchill’s doubt about whether the British must fight Hitler to the bitter end or sue for an untrustworthy peace is conveyed in an extremely relevant scene between him and the king who politely suggests that perhaps as prime minister, Churchill should seek advice from the British public, encapsulated in a jingoistic scene whereby he discusses the grave decision with commuters on the London underground before stepping off at Westminster.

Aided by theatrical costumes by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) and a sumptuous production design, Darkest Hour is an epic film made all the more riveting by a staggering performance by Gary Oldman who must surely get the long awaited recognition he deserves for his limitless acting talent and his pivotal contribution to world cinema.

Darkest Hour gets a Film rating: 9.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended for viewers that love historical biographies such as The King’s Speech and The Iron Lady.

Raising Debauchery to an Art Form

The Riot Club

riot_club

Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Matthew Beard, Sam Claflin, Freddie Fox, Holliday Grainger, Natalie Dormer, Samuel West, Tom Hollander, Tony Way, Julian Wadham

Based on Laura Wade’s play Posh and with the skillful direction of Danish film maker Lone Scherfig (An Education), The Riot Club assembles a cast of the next generation of British thespians from Oscar winner Jeremy Iron’s son Max Irons as well as Edward Fox’s son Freddie Fox along with the dashing Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations) in a truly brilliant diatribe about the hidden debauchery of the aristocracy.

What makes The Riot Club even more brilliant is Scherfig’s superb use of tension in the film as the second half really does raise debauchery and menace to an art form, with horrific consequences.

The Riot Club focuses on a privileged group of Oxford freshman who form a secret society, a sort of uninhabited Lord of the Flies style gathering in which the ten member group have to outdo each other in decadence, bravado and more significantly stamina, something most young men are extremely competitive about.

With the taglines of Filthy, Rich, Spoilt, Rotten, The Riot Club truly does show the terrible side of young and obnoxious men behaving extremely badly from trashing University dorm rooms to the disgusting initiation procedures a young man will go through to belong to this elite and secretive club.

This is hazing at its worst along with the cunning and knowing ability which shines through especially in the second half of this film, that no matter how disgusting or debauched their activities get, The Riot Club will manage to get away with it, relatively unscathed. In this privileged aristocratic circle, money truly does buy them everything except in this case decency and consideration for their fellow man.

The Riot Club is disturbing at the best of times, captivating and utterly debauched and aptly directed by Scherfig who as a female director superbly shows how the pack mentality in men can lead to the most heinous of acts. Audiences should watch out for cameo’s from rising Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer as a high class escort as well as an excellent performance by Holliday Grainger as Miles Richards’s (Max Irons) girlfriend Lauren who does not come from the aristocracy and whose merchant background is used as a weapon to humiliate her when she is mistakenly called to the raucous dinner at an old English pub outside Oxford, where literally all hell breaks out.

It’s at this dinner, making up the exceptional second half of the film, that the Riot Club really live up to their horrendous reputation with copious amounts of heavy drinking and drug taking which fuels these aristocrats libido and aggression.

The Riot Club shows off the menacing side of the posh British upper classes and also the exclusivity of the landed gentry who think that despite their actions they are continually above the law because of the vast wealth. Highly recommended viewing but not for those easily offended.

 

 

Hot Dogs on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson

hyde_park_on_hudson

Told from the innocent perspective of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s distant cousin Daisy Suckley, Hyde Park on Hudson is a charming film about a collection of fascinating historical figures namely the pivotal meeting between Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and King George VI and should be viewed as a companion piece to The King’s Speech. Veteran American actor Bill Murray takes the part of FDR and Olivia Williams plays his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, and British actor Samuel West (Howards End) takes the part of King George VI. Set in upstate New York, Hyde Park on Hudson tells of a weekend in the summer of 1939 when the recently crowned King George VI and queen Elizabeth, both whom are reeling from the scandal surrounding the 1936 abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in favour of marrying American divorcee Wallis Simpson gorgeously told in Madonna’s companion film W/E.

The visit of the British monarchy to the American president is meant to bolster American support for Great Britain as the threat of World War II looms with Nazi Germany invading most of Europe and in fact World War II did break out three months later.

Besides the international magnitude of the time, the film centres more on the eccentric Franklin D. Roosevelt America’s president during World War II who crippled by polio resorts to having a string of extramarital affairs including one with his distant cousin Daisy and who despite his physical ailments does not let that deter him from enjoying life and running such a powerful country as the USA. Especially pertinent in the film is the after dinner discussion between the King, who suffering from a speech impediment is soon put at ease by the magnanimous and charming FDR. It shows two politically important men that despite their physical and social impediments have more in common and their strategic meeting soon eases any tension between the United States and Great Britain forging the beginning of a special relationship which is still active more than 70 years later.

Director Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson is an intriguing tale of great political leaders who are viewed through the context of their private frailties and how they triumph not just for their own countries sake but that of the enormous publicity which marked such a visit by a British Monarch and his wife on American soil, in the face of a looming World War. Soon his Royal Highness the King of England is munching on a hotdog in an American style Barbecue and is effortlessly drawn into the less stuffy social conventions of Americans on their home turf. Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) is brilliant as the charming and quite naughty FDR (with his cigarette holders and exotic stamp collection) along with Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer) cast as the forthright Eleanor Roosevelt. Laura Linney is perfect as the awe-inspired, slightly naive Daisy who is caught in the middle of such a significant historical event.

Beautifully filmed as a period piece, if a tad dark in some scenes, but a fun and interesting comedy serving as a comparison of the differences between British and American cultures and social customs reminiscent of some of the best Merchant Ivory films which are unfortunately no longer made. Recommended!

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