Posts Tagged ‘Sienna Miller’

Savage Nobles

The Lost City of Z

Director: James Gray

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, Franco Nero, Angus McFadyen, Edward Ashley

The Immigrant director James Gray’s handsome exploratory film The Lost City of Z had its South African premiere at the 38th Durban International Film Festival http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/. Starring Charlie Hunnam in the role of British explorer Percy Fawcett who establishes his inherent masculinity in the opening shot of the film as Fawcett hunts deer on an estate in Ireland during the Edwardian era.

Hunnam embodies the role of the hunky and courageous explorer Percy Fawcett who according to legend was the inspiration behind Indiana Jones and also whose life was briefly drawn upon in the Charles Sturridge film A Handful of Dust starring James Wilby and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Although The Lost City of Z is set during an earlier period pre World War 1 and in the early 1920’s it documents the extraordinarily bizarre story of Fawcett who with the backing of the Royal Geographic Society travels to the unexplored border of Bolivia and Brazil deep in the Amazon jungle and becomes convinced that there is indeed evidence of a much earlier advanced population that lived there in a illusive city of Z, an exotic place hidden in the jungle filled with gold far removed from the civilized establishment of Europe.

After several tormented expeditions to the heart of the Amazon with his aide-de-camp Henry Costin played by Robert Pattinson, his geographical explorations are halted when world war one breaks out and Percy is forced to fight, leaving his frustrated wife Nina played by Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, American Sniper) to look after his three children.

Nina sees the value of her husband’s expeditions but wishes that as a woman she has more influence to assist him, such as accompanying him to the tropics, a desire which Sienna Miller conveys beautifully in her screen portrayal.

Angus Macfayden (We Bought a Zoo,) plays the disruptive financier and explorer James Murray who Fawcett and Costin abandon on a second expedition to the Amazon just before WW1 breaks out. Murray attempts to discredit’s Fawcett’s reputation as an explorer.

Despite internal society politics and world war, The Lost City of Z is a fascinating portrayal of one man’s quest to discover The Other, the truly exotic even if it means possibly endangering his own life and that of his son Jack played by Tom Holland (Spiderman Homecoming). Fawcett in his quest for discovery pays the ultimate price of a nobleman obsessed with a savage jungle.

Audiences should watch out for a cameo by veteran Italian actor Franco Nero (Django, Django Unchained) as the decadent Baron De Gondoriz who has established a debauched Portuguese outpost deep in the Amazon complete with naked tribes and operatic performances.

With a screenplay by James Gray and David Grann based upon the book The Lost City of Z, the film version is fascinating if slightly long in the middle, yet definitely worth watching if audiences enjoyed such ethnographic films as At Play in the Fields of the Lord and of course A Handful of Dust.

The Lost City of Z gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Source: Percy Fawcett – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Fawcett

 

A Fallen World

Live By Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Sienna Miller, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Remo Girone, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Clark Gregg, Anthony Michael Hall

Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo, Good Will Hunting) approaches another passion project with the cinematic adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s riveting gangster novel Live By Night about the rise of Irish mobster Joe Coughlin.

Set in Prohibition era America in the mid 1920’s, Live By Night features Affleck as the main character as well as him adapting the screenplay and directing the film version. To his credit, Affleck assembles a fine cast including an unrecognizable Sienna Miller as the gangster’s moll with a strong Irish accent, Emma Gould who Coughlin first meets in Boston.

Also in the cast are Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) as Coughlin’s father Thomas who happens to be Boston police chief, Oscar winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation) as Tampa police chief Figgis, Elle Fanning (Trumbo, Maleficent) in a stand out role as a recovering heroin addict Loretta Figgis and Zoe Saldana as Cuban beauty Graciela whom Coughlin eventually falls in love with after he moves to Tampa, Florida after fleeing Boston.

If viewers have not read Lehane’s book they might find the film version of Live By Night drawn out with a screenplay which delivers but doesn’t elevate the film to such genre classics as The Untouchables, Casino or even Goodfella’s.

Whilst the gorgeous period production design of Live By Night can be applauded as well as some stunning sequences in Florida, where after the initial gloom of Boston, the film definitely brightens to show a much more diverse and fascinating world in the deep South, the overall effect of Live By Night is laboured but not exhilarating.

Personally I loved the film, but I had read the novel so knew ahead what was install.

Ben Affleck’s ambitious plans to write, direct and star in a big screen adaptation of the novel might fall short, although his effort in doing so is admirable. What does elevate Live By Night are the superb supporting cast including Sienna Miller who after Burnt and Foxcatcher has an ability to disappear into any screen role and certainly is one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood. Fanning as a bible preaching morally conflicted young woman comes across as sacrificial, yet her performance is brilliant despite the minimal screen time.

The best scenes in the film are between Affleck and Chris Messina who is wonderful as Coughlin’s best friend and crime partner, the wise cracking Dion Bartolo, a role which he played against type. It is refreshing to watch Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) play in a period film as the gorgeous Cuban business woman Graciela although her role in the film is not as detailed as it is in the novel.

What Affleck does successfully is portraying America as a Fallen World, where as prohibition ends, there is nothing left except repression, bigotry and violence. Live By Night is a gritty, stylish and violent gangster film similar to Gangster Squad but not as brilliant as Bugsy or Public Enemies.

Audiences should only see Live By Night if they are ardent fans of gangster films, a genre which is difficult to get right at the best of times. Despite Affleck’s talent as a director, he is no Martin Scorsese or Brian de Palma. Although his evocative visual efforts should be commended.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Gangster Squad.

 

Demons in the Kitchen

Burnt

Burnt ver2

Director: John Wells
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Emma Thompson, Omar Sy, Uma Thurman, Matthew Rhys, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lily James, Sam Keeley

Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper) gives a sterling and frenetic performance as Michelin star chef Adam Jones in the film Burnt, who returns to London from New Orleans, to redeem himself, his reputation and make amendments with the colleagues he upset during his stint in Paris.

Assembling an eclectic cast including Uma Thurman as a Food Critic, Emma Thompson as a Nurse/Social Worker and Daniel Bruhl as the maitre’d Tony. Burnt is a brilliant examination of one man’s attempt to regain his former culinary glory and even surpass it, with a brittle script by Steven Knight.

The film of course is assisted by the two central and brilliant performances by the blue-eyed Bradley Cooper who really excels in the role of the temperamental and arrogant chef Adam Jones who not only is a demon in the kitchen but has to face his own inner demons. Sienna Miller (American Sniper, Foxcatcher) makes up the second superb performance and is fortunately given much more screen time than she had in both her previous films.

Miller plays aspiring Chef Helene who has to juggle bringing up a little girl and working in a hectic kitchen where it’s not only the male egos that threaten her livelihood but their intense competitiveness. Miller is literally surrounded by demons in the kitchen as she has to stand in for Jones after he is beaten up by some nefarious French gangsters for an outstanding drug debt. The scenes between Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper are riveting too watch, clearly signifying an onscreen chemistry which is both comfortable and electric.

August: Osage County director John Wells’s new film Burnt is certainly primed for Oscar season and it’s especially Cooper and Miller which deserve some thespian recognition. Audiences, while not salivating over the nouvelle cuisine served up at London’s posh Langham Hotel in the West End, should look out for Matthew Rhys as rival chef Reece who also turns in a superb performance opposite Cooper. Then again Rhys has really proven himself as an actor after roles on the hit show Brothers and Sisters and the excellent espionage series The Americans.

As culinary dramas go, Burnt is a top notch film, held together by a riveting performance by Bradley Cooper as the prima donna chef who not only throws pots and pans, but also his reputation to chance, in a concerted effort to redeem himself in one of the world’s toughest capital cities, London.

At times Steven Knight’s script leaves more questions than answers, however Burnt is redeemed in the acting department with both Miller and Cooper turning in fiery and intense performances ably assisted by a European supporting cast including Alicia Vikander (Man from Uncle), Lilly James (Cinderella), Omar Sy (Jurassic World, Good People) and of course the Golden Globe nominee Daniel Bruhl whose screen presence has certainly been raised after his superb performance as Nikki Lauder in Rush.

For all the foodies out there, Burnt is a must see film and will positively find an international audience with the proliferation of MasterChef programs gripping TV screens around the globe.

Haute Cuisine

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the superb French film Haute Cuisine and Hundred Foot Journey.

 

The Alpha Male Syndrome

American Sniper

american_sniper

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Eric Close, Kier O’ Donnell, Jonathan Groff

After Bradley Cooper’s amazing performances in two of director David O. Russell’s films Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Cooper utterly transforms himself physically for the role of Chris Kyle, the most honoured sniper in the American military in director Clint Eastwood’s sparse and taut war film American Sniper.

Cooper plays the ultimate Alpha Male, who is taught to hunt as a boy by his masochistic father and is heavily influenced by the notions of God, country and family something that pervades most of the Republican ethos of Texas. Kyle’s unsuccessful career as a cowboy rodeo rider is short lived after he decides through a series of mediated Television coverages first of the 1998 bombing of the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and then more crucially in the historic events of 9/11 that he must do his part in protecting America from the ever growing threat of Al-Qaeda and join the almighty US military.

Kyle joins the auspicious navy seals and through a rigorous training programme soon transforms into an Alpha male, a lean, mean fighting machine ready to protect American borders at any cost. Kyle is not interested in the politics of the situation, his unrelenting patriotism drives him to commit to the US war effort with an unflinching ferocity.

At Kyle’s wedding to the flirty yet insubstantial Taya following a bar room pickup, he is soon called up to fight in Iraq. Fallujah to be exact, which is hell on earth and symbolic of urban terror and warfare at its most bloodiest.

Kyle’s special gifts as a sniper are put to good use although controversially his targets are not always his equals in those he kills. Sometimes he is forced to pull the trigger on woman and children, a decision which haunts him profoundly on his return trips to the States, where his pregnant wife Taya is attempting to establish some form of domestic bliss.

american_sniper_ver3

Something which Kyle after witnessing and participating in the atrocities of a vicious war in a foreign land, finds himself difficult to reconcile with. Kyle’s shock at being back in American domestic life is akin to the World War One soldiers suffering from shell shock after attempts at reintegration have failed.

After spending four tours in Iraq at the height of the US-Led invasion of Iraq from 2003 onwards and over 1000 days in a conflict zone, any recourse to settle down is a long way off. This conflict between Kyle’s wartime experiences and his scenes with his wife and children back home, especially those between him and Taya, played by Sienna Miller, is not as convincingly portrayed as in Kathryn Bigelow’s superb war drama The Hurt Locker.

Unlike Zero Dark Thirty which delved into the complexity of the American invasion in Iraq and Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, American Sniper clears politics from the cinematic palette, making it a much harsher film especially the unnerving scenes in Iraq which Kyle handles with an intensity and bravado which Cooper imbues with his complete physical transformation. In short Bradley Cooper utterly captivates the audience with his tragic and sombre performance of Chris Kyle, a quintessentially doomed American hero.

Eastwood’s direction is steady and besides the domestic scenes which are questionable due to Sienna Miller not having the emotional resonance to make Taya Kyle utterly believable, the warzone sequences are utterly riveting and Bradley Cooper’s performance as Chris Kyle lifts this films out of being just another patriotic tribute to American heroism especially considering the bizarre circumstances of Kyle’s tragic end to his life, which is underscored with irony and a profound message about America’s constant fascination with artillery and the second amendment.

American Sniper is an excellent film, highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed The Hurt Locker and Fury and is sure to spark controversial debate especially in light of the current Geo-political tensions occurring between America and the Middle East specifically Iraq and Syria.

 

Wrestling with the Wealthy

Foxcatcher

 foxcatcher_ver4

Director: Bennett Miller

Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall

Capote and Moneyball director Bennett Miller returns to the more sinister side of American life: wealth, competitiveness and guns in his new film Foxcatcher.

In some interesting casting choices, Miller assembles comedian Steve Carell along with action star Channing Tatum (GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra, Magic Mike) and the talented Mark Ruffalo in a three man drama about a truly bizarre actual series of events which occurred between the mid 1980’s to the mid 1990’s in Pennsylvania, America.

Foxcatcher is the true story of heir to the multi-million dollar Du Pont Family fortune, John E. Du Pont, creepily played against type by Carell whose wealth and influence entices the young Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, who has won gold at the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles to train at the Foxcatcher Farm.

Du Pont was an eccentric man, living on the vast estate in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, known as Foxcatcher Farms, heir to the incredible Du Pont family fortune, whose money was made in chemicals and ammunition manufacturing over two and a half centuries in America since the family first arrived in the States from France at the beginning of the 19th Century. This is old American money, built up over generations, in the tradition of the Gettys, the Hiltons, the Astors and the Vanderbilts.

John E. Dupont, heir to a $100 million family fortune has always been overshadowed by his disapproving mother Jean Du Pont, coldly played by a rarely seen Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End), who even paid people to be friends with him. To state that he never quite fitted in was an understatement. Du Pont was an ornithologist, an avid philatelist (stamp collector), a gun collector and oddly enough, an ambitious coach of male wrestling http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Eleuth%C3%A8re_du_Pont.

On the other end of the spectrum is the young and impressionable Schultz, expertly played by Channing Tatum in one of his best screen performances ever, who has trouble articulating for a public speech, who is battling for money and is desperately trying to escape the shadow of his older brother, a fellow wrestler and family man, Dave Schultz, wonderfully underplayed by Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are Alright, The Normal Heart).

Du Pont invites Mark Schultz to train at his Foxcatcher Farm in Newtown, Pennsylvania, a vast estate, in preparation for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He also would like the older more responsible Dave to be there, but in a rare glimpse of rivalry, Mark tells Du Pont that his brother cannot be bought, not realizing that with this type of wealth anybody can be bought.

foxcatcher_ver2

Soon Mark Schultz is socially seduced by the eerie Du Pont and invited to stay at the Foxcatcher farm to become part of team Foxcatcher. The younger Schultz even gets introduced to East Coast high society in a bizarre scene whereby Du Pont offers him cocaine in his private helicopter on the way to a glamorous charity event in Washington D. C.

What Miller does so well is set up this strange but surreal dichotomy between the eccentric and hugely influential Du Pont and the weird intensely physical world of male wrestling, which is part bravado and more homo-erotic than spectators care to admit.

Du Pont creates a haven for USA Wrestling to flourish in his own private dominion soon enticing both the Schultz brothers into Team Foxcatcher in an effort to recapture their glory at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

In a rare scene between Carell and Redgrave, wealthy mother and renegade heir apparent, she tells him that his infatuation with male wrestling is low. This sets the stage for an even more devastating end to the sinister relations between Du Pont and the Schultz brothers.

reversal_of_fortune_ver2

In re-imagining a truly bizarre encounter with the superrich, Miller does not captivate the viewer in Foxcatcher, like director Barbet Schroeder did so brilliantly in a similar eighties true life drama Reversal of Fortune with the Claus von Bulow case, but then again Steve Carell is not quite Oscar winner Jeremy Irons.

Director Miller instead downplays the historical aspects of the actual events and leaves the viewer hungry for more details, not to mention motive. The end result is a deeply disturbing film, excellently acted especially by Tatum and Carell, but nevertheless wanting for more. After all Foxcatcher isn’t as fine a film as Capote or as tightly directed even though Miller did win the Palm d’Or for Best Director at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

If viewers have not researched the actual story behind Du Pont’s involvement with the Schultz’s brothers, Foxcatcher could appear as bizarrely fictional as it is actually real. Nevertheless the lingering sense of suspense and unease is perfectly captured against the raw aggression and male physicality of competitive wrestling, a sport as old as the Olympic Games itself. Recommended viewing for those that like All Good Things and Reversal of Fortune.

 

 

 

2014 Cannes Film Festival

2014 Cannes Film Festival Winners

Cannes Festival 2014 (2)

 

Winners of the five main prizes at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival were as follows: –

Winter_Sleep_(Poster) Palmd'Or 2014

Palm d’Or: Winter Sleep directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

foxcatcher unofficial poster

Best Director: Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave

mr_turner

Best Actor: Timothy Spall for Mr Turner

 Maps_to_the_Stars_poster

Best Actress: Julianne Moore for Maps to the Stars

leviathan

Best Screenplay: Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin for Leviathan (film poster not yet released)

Source –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannes_Film_Festival

http://www.festival-cannes.com/en.html

 

 

Why District 9 beat GI Joe at the US Box office…

Don’t get me wrong,  both films were worthy of some merit, but what is interesting is why a New Zealand produced, South African set Sci-Fiction Film, District 9 beat GI Joe at the US Box Office – one word – ORIGINALITY!!!

Layout 1

District 9 directed by Neill Blomkamp was so original in its concept and form and turned the blockbuster Independence Day on its head and reversed all the usual ingredients of a sci-fi Aliens landing film. Brilliantly shot in a dusty, mine-dumped surroundings of the one of the largest African metropolises, Johannesburg, one almost feels that the city is as much a character in the film as the wonderfully funny South African cast who take on the slippery alien Prawns as they are left stranded on earth! Not going to give away too much more, suffice is to say, go and see an original and cleverly shot film! Worth watching for its genre-defying satire.

*****

Rise of Cobra or the Return of the Spies who loved each other...

Rise of Cobra or the Return of the Spies who loved each other…

GI Joe, Rise of Cobra directed by Stephen Sommers follows the classic James Bond narrative of hero’s battling villains with a seemingly dangerous damsel who oscillates between the enemy and the GOOD  side and with an ending out of The Spy Who Loves Me, swopping the Mediterranean for the Polar Ice Caps, it was glossy, slick but nothing exceptionally different. Saving grace of the film was the great chemistry between Channing Tatum’s Duke and Sienna Miller’s sexy Baronness. Great viewing for a Sunday afternoon, but don’t expect anything unusual in terms of plot and storyline, just the establishment of another CGI-filled, location jumping and action-orientated film trilogy based on toys politely following in the Transformers tradition. GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra also stars Dennis Quaid, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as The Doctor and Christopher Eccleston as Destro.

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