Posts Tagged ‘Sebastian Stan’

The Hillbilly Heist

Logan Lucky

 

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, Sebastian Stan, Katherine Waterson, David Denham

Director Steven Soderbergh has an inventive filmography including Contagion, Side Effects and the Oscar winning films Traffic and Erin Brockovich.

He returns to the big screen with the redneck caper film Logan Lucky starring Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as unfortunate West Virginia brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan who together with their younger sister Mellie played by Legendary singer Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road, Magic Mike) who concoct a plan to steal cash from the Nascar Speedway during a major Racing event in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In order to break into the air locked vault of the cash rich Speedway, the Logan brothers enlist the assistance of incarcerated Joe Bang wonderfully played in a stand out (possibly Oscar worthy) performance by James Bond star Daniel Craig who obviously was desperate to breakout of  the 007 image.

Which is what makes Logan Lucky all the more fascinating. Soderbergh’s uncanny ability to assemble a really good cast to tell an extraordinarily clever story almost rival’s that of the cinematic auteur Woody Allen in his comic films like Café Society.

Except that Logan Lucky is a far cry from the glamourous Golden age of Hollywood of Café Society. Logan Lucky is an exceptionally funny film and almost bizarrely told with a deadpan sense of timing that makes the heist which they seemingly pull off even more unbelievable.

In order for Joe Bang to assist the Logan brothers he has to enlist the help of his own two hillbilly brothers Fish and Sam Bang, superbly played by rising stars Jack Quaid (son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid) and Brian Gleeson (The Eagle, Snow White and the Huntsman) son of Brendan Gleeson.

The unbelievably stupid Bang brothers unlike the Logan brothers feel that committing a crime would be immoral but when the lure of big cash is promised their assistance is secured unequivocally.

What follows is an ingenuous heist film centred on the Nascar Car Racing Event in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the South, below the Mason-Dixon Line where the Southern drawl is pronounced and patriotism to the American flag is unwavering.

With Soderbergh’s trademark use of cameo appearances of big stars including Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes, Sebastian Stan and Oscar winner Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry, Million Dollar Baby) as FBI Special Agent Sarah Grayson who post-heist desperately tries to catch the culprits only to land up at a West Virginia bar being served by a one armed bartender, Logan Lucky is a character driven film about ordinary citizens wanting to better themselves in a semi-impoverished backwater.

Audiences would have to watch Logan Lucky to enjoy Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and an excellent Daniel Craig in a hillbilly heist comedy about outback losers who plan on getting back at the system which has kept them downtrodden and unemployed. Highly Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the Ocean’s Eleven Trilogy without the glamour.

Logan Lucky gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is immensely enjoyable.

Clash of the Superheroes

Captain America: Civil War

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Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, William Hurt, Paul Bettany, Martin Freeman, Tom Holland, Alfre Woodard, Frank Grillo, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Paul Rudd, Emily Van Camp, John Kani, Marisa Tomei

I was never a fan of superhero comics as a kid, but as an adult, the superhero films have captured my imagination. Who can forget The Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan who reinvented Batman? Or the recent Batman v Superman blockbuster by Zack Snyder, a sure precursor to the Justice League films set for release in 2017 and 2018?

Moving away from DC comics, their direct rival Marvel has expanded their superhero universe exponentially and in the third installment of Captain America: Civil War, a more iconic superhero pops up, Spiderman curtesy of a Marvel and Sony sharing agreement to reinvent Spiderman within The Avengers universe. Smart move on the part of Marvel and especially Sony whose two previous Spiderman reincarnations were faltering: The Amazing Spiderman and its psychedelic sequel.

Captain America: Civil War features a plethora of superheroes, so many in fact that the inevitable showdown which the title refers to is quite spectacular to behold.

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Captain America leads the one camp as he defends his friend Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan along with the help of Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon played by Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Antman), Antman played by the hilarious Paul Rudd, Hawkeye returning from retirement played by the roguish Jeremy Renner.

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The other camp is headed up by opinionated tech billionaire Iron Man, wonderfully played again by Robert Downey Jnr, joined by the War Machine played by Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2) and Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. Tony Stark aka Iron Man also enlists the help of a young and precocious Peter Parker, wonderfully played by young British actor Tom Holland (The Impossible) as he reinvents Spiderman promising an energetic reinvention when Holland will appear in his stand alone film called Spiderman: Homecoming.

Adding some much needed diversity to The Avengers universe, Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman (Gods of Egypt), who is also starring in his own origin Black Panther film coming in 2018 also joins team Iron Man as he aggressively fights Bucky Barnes who he believes is responsible for the death of his father, a suitable cameo by South African acting legend John Kani (Coriolanus, The Ghost and the Darkness).

While the Clash of the Superheroes is spectacular and at times appears like a spandex orgy it is really Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as the master villain Zemo who has instigated the division between the Avengers as revenge for what occurred in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron, in which his whole family was killed in a supernatural skirmish in some fictional East European country.

Captain America: Civil War is a superb superhero film as the Russo brothers who direct this third instalment of the Captain America trilogy dexterously managing to combine all these diverse superheroes in a brilliant duel whilst also introducing some new and iconic characters. Fans of Iron Man, Ant Man and all The Avengers films will relish this caper standoff sure to capture the imaginations of many Comic con fans and paving the way for Marvel’s relentless cinematic expansion of all their gang of masked crusaders, a sure rival to DC Comics Justice League, although both superhero franchises will definitely benefit financially at the box office.

Captain America: Civil War is highly recommended viewing especially for some superb cameos by seasoned character actors including William Hurt, Alfre Woodard, Martin Freeman and Marisa Tomei.

 

 

Man from Mars

The Martian

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Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Donald Glover

Oscar winner Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) takes the lead role in director Ridley Scott’s visually stunning adaptation of the Andy Weir novel, The Martian as he stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut who after a sandstorm on Mars gets stranded on the red planet by his fellow crew members who abandon him unknowingly to head back to earth.

The crew members include Captain Melissa Lewis played by Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Beth Johanssen played by Kate Mara, Chris Beck played by Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Rick Martinez played by Michael Pena (Antman, American Hustle) and Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie (Hercules) as Alex Vogel.

Meanwhile back at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, NASA headquarters, Director Teddy Sanders played by Jeff Daniels channeling his role in Aaron Sorkin’s TV Series, The Newsroom, announces that Watney is dead. Back on Mars, Watney is alive and has to figure out a way to survive on a planet with minimal oxygen and no sustainable ecosystem to grow his own food supply, an obvious metaphor for the dwindling food supply on planet Earth. Watch out for a superb supporting role by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as Vincent Kapoor who firmly believes in finding Watney and bring him back to Earth.

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Luckily Watkins is a trained botanist so with ingenuity and a lot of dry humour, he manages to harvest a small crop of potatoes inside the Mars man-made habitat. This is where Damon really inhabits the role of a lone space colonizer, the only man left on Mars who has to survive and adapt to his hostile and surreal environment, ironically while listening to 70’s disco music. Best line in the film is:

“Neil Armstrong, eat your heart out!”

As the team at NASA scramble to figure out a way to rescue Watney after receiving an encrypted message from him letting them know he is still alive, Watney has to use all his own resources to remain resilient until a rescue mission, however precarious is assembled. Whilst the astrophysics of the rescue mission, will go over the head of most viewers, what makes The Martian such an enlightening cinematic experience are the stunning almost ethereal visual effects, held together by an Oscar worthy performance by Matt Damon as he contemplates that he could perish on this desolate and largely uninhabitable planet, if the rescue mission fails.

The rest of the cast are largely viewed in supporting roles, including Chastain as the steely Captain of the Hermes space craft, they support Damon’s character both psychologically, emotionally and spiritually as Watney gradually learns that back on Earth he is becoming a symbol of a lone survivor who if he manages to return home safely will definitely have a legendary tale to tell.

With breathtaking cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and production design by Arthur Max, The Martian is definitely in the same league as Alphonso Cuaron’s 2013 Oscar winner Gravity and humanizes space travel without delving to deeply into the philosophical elements of the infinite universe as done in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or more recently Christopher Nolan’s visually compelling but laden Interstellar which oddly enough also featured Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon.

With a running time of 141 minutes, The Martian is a superbly told adventure story about one man’s fight to survive and his resilient desire to return to Earth, brilliantly acted by Matt Damon and beautifully directed by Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Gladiator).

Highly recommended viewing especially in a cinema. Do not wait for The Martian to come on TV as the visual and sound effects will certainly be lost.

Freedom versus Fear

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Sebastian Stan, Frank Grillo

Not quite matching up to the brilliance of the Coen brothers or the technical wizardry of the Wachowski brothers of the Matrix series, directing team and brothers Anthony and Joe Russo who directed You, Me and Depree are at the helm of the new Captain America movie with the expert assistance of Joss Wheldon (The Avengers, Cabin in the Woods). Chris Evans reprises his role as Captain America along with Scarlett Johannsen as wise cracking Natasha Romanoff or The Black Widow along with newcomer Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) as Sam Wilson or known as the Falcon. Emily Van Camp (from the TV series Revenge) makes a welcome big screen appearance as SHIELD agent 13 along with Frank Grillo and Callan Mulvey recently seen in 300: Rise of an Empire who all round off the star studded cast.

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In Captain America: The Winter Soldier the action is firmly rooted in America’s capital Washington DC with the Smithsonian and Virginia as backdrop focusing on the SHIELD headquarters which are duly comprised when an assassination attempt on its leader the aptly named Nick Fury smoothly played by Samuel L. Jackson. The so-called chief of SHIELD Alexander Pierce played by Hollywood veteran Robert Redford appears to have a more sinister agenda.

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Captain America aka Steve Rogers teams up with The Black Widow and Falcon to fight the seemingly invincible Winter Soldier who is an evil Hydra byproduct from the Second World War and played by an unrecognizable Sebastian Stan (Black Swan). Where the first Captain America dwelt firmly on America’s successful involvement in World War II heading up the allies defeat of Nazi Germany and all its equally nefarious covert operations, Captain America: The Winter Soldier thrusts the WWII all American hero firmly in the 21st century where with the aid of the internet Steve Rogers has managed to catch up on the last 50 years of human history.

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There are a couple of references to the original Americana of the first film, but this Captain America sequel takes on a more Transformeresque approach and features lots of brash action sequences clearly initiated by influence from director Joss Wheldon’s big budget blockbuster The Avengers. The only criticism of the film was that with all the explosive action taking place, Captain America: Winter Soldier does not effectively use the medium of 3D and could easily have been viewed in traditional 2D.

The nostalgic glamour of 1940’s America and Europe during a World War is replaced with high-tech gadgetry of a level resembling a more ambitious and implausible sci-fi film set well beyond the 21st century. Naturally the plot takes a couple of fascinating twists but the entire narrative of Captain America: Winter Soldier lacks a uniformity of vision so clearly tangible in the original film, but this sequel is nevertheless entertaining and will surely please all superhero fans.

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Although there is no real love interest like in Captain America – with Hayley Atwell’s character considerably aged, the downside of dating a boyfriend who was kept on ice for 50 years! Captain America: The Winter Soldier is another great superhero action film in the Avengers vein with Marvel studios clearly capitalizing on a hugely successful and ever expanding franchise especially after the success of Iron Man 3.

Not to be over analyzed but simply enjoyed in the perennial battle of freedom versus fear or SHIELD versus Hydra, fans of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man will surely not be disappointed. Note to audiences to wait in the cinema beyond the retro 007 end credits for a sneak peak at potential plot of Captain America 3?

Military Retro Americana Reigns

Captain America: The First Avenger

From Scrawny to Super Muscular

Joe Johnston’s retro superhero film, Captain America, The First Avenger is a wonderfully evocative 1940s style Americana glamorizing the American involvement in World War II and what better way to achieve this macho propaganda than through the story of Captain America, reluctantly but brilliantly played by Chris Evans who starts the film as an underweight and scrawny all American boy Steve Rogers desperate to enrol in the US Army and contribute to the European theatre of War. A German immigrant scientist, Dr Abraham Erskine played with relish by Stanley Tucci recognizes Rogers ingenuity and enlists him in a top secret research project aimed at fighting the mysterious Nazi supernatural research unit Hydra, headed by the demonic Captain Johann Schmidt, played with sinister pleasure by Hugo Weaving.

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Evans character Rogers through a specially injected serum is transformed into the brawny and muscular Captain America, a super soldier who initially is used as a ridiculous propaganda figure by the US military driving up conscription and bolstering the armies psyche in their fight against the Nazi’s in a glorious cinematic pastiche of Americana complete with showgirls and wartime publicity.

As this is a comic book caper and very far from the actual reality of war, Captain America with the aid of a motley crew of trusted soldiers, an elegant British attache Peggy Carter played by Hayley Atwell of Brideshead Revisited fame and empowered with an arsenal of weapons, military transportation and the like by Howard Stark, Ironman’s father, played by the dashing Dominic Cooper from Mamma Mia, Captain America takes on the crazed Captain Schmidt whose powers derive from some Nordic mythological cube, capable of utter destruction.

Only the Brave and the Strong

Captain America is thrilling, glamorous and a great adventure film with tribute being payed to the Indiana Jones franchise whilst keeping in line with similar styled 1940s themed films from Casablanca to Bugsy. Watch out for a fantastic chase sequence in Brooklyn, a twist at the end and definitely a promise of a sequel. The supporting cast are terrific from Tommy Lee Jones as the no nonsense Colonel Phillips to Hugo Weaving bolstering up Chris Evan’s performance as the ultimate American superhero.

 

 

The Fall of the Swan Queen

Black Swan


Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, Sebastian Stan, Patrick Heusinger

Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece is a taut psychological thriller about a prima ballerina who delves into her dark side, so she can perform the complex role of the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.  Natalie Portman gives a stunning and frenzied performance as Nina Sayers. As well as the physical demands of playing the lead Ballerina in Swan Lake, Nina is trapped in a claustrophobic and co-dependent relationship with her mother, a wonderfully obsessive performance by Barbara Hershey (Portrait of a Lady).

Whilst rehearsing for the final act, the ballet master a seductive and sadistic Thomas played with relish by Vincent Cassel, taunts Nina and reproaches her continually for not bringing out her dark qualities to dance the antithesis of the White Swan, the Black Swan. The fact that Nina is prone to episodes of self-mutilation smothered by her overbearing mother and is generally an exceptional sexually frustrated and fragile young woman who uses dancing to quench her repressive state, makes Black Swan a highly intoxicating psycho sexual thriller set in the bitchy and uncompromising world of ballet.

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Aronofsky always has his central characters stripped away to the vicious core, from The Wrestler, where in a break-out performance by Mickey Rourke as a washed up Trailer Park, drug-addicted wrestler angling for a comeback to heroin addicts played by Jennifer Connelly and Jared Leto in Coney Island, who resort to extreme methods for their drugs, as detailed in the inventive and shockingly brutal Requiem for a Dream.

Black Swan is no exception, as Portman gives a ground breaking performance of a Ballerina rapidly losing her grip on reality, delving deeper into her own troubled and shattered psychosis to satisfy the dreams of an obsessed mother who compromised her own stage success.

Black Swan is about the rigours of Ballet training along with the mental deterioration of a young woman driven beyond the edge of sanity, surrounded by a gallery of heinous characters from an overbearing mother, a cruel ballet instructor and a tempting rival, Lily played with an unforgiving relish by Milas Kunis slyly plotting to derail Nina’s debut as the Swan Queen.

This is a classic psychological thriller, from the drab and daunting world of the dance studios, filled with giant mirrors reflecting Nina’s inner torment to the dingy apartment shared with her mother, an entire film bathed in black and white with only the occasional gashes of blood to break the diametric colour palette. Watch out for a great cameo performance by Winona Ryder as the broken ballerina Beth who declines as savagely as Nina’s star rises dramatically. Black Swan is a debut etched in blood and director Aronofsky, like in The Wrestler and Requiem for Dream shows this grueling Ballet world in its entire stripped down depravity, with obsessive dancers driven and searching for a depreciating gratification. A far cry from the graceful triumph associated with Ballet exemplified in such films as The Company and Mao’s Last Dancer.

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