Posts Tagged ‘Stellan Skarsgard’

Blood Money

Our Kind of Traitor

our_kind_of_traitor

 

Director: Susanna White

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis, Naomie Harris, Jeremy Northam, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Pawel Szajda, Marek Oravec, Alicia von Rittberg, Jana Perez, Khalid Abdalla, Mark Stanley, Alec Utgoff

Based upon the bestselling novel by John le Carre, Iranian screenwriter Hossein Amini’s (Drive, The Two Faces of January) adaptation of Our Kind of Traitor to the big screen is spotless, peppering most of the dialogue with that dry British repartee.

British director Susanna White turns Our Kind of Traitor into a glossy cat and mouse game of international intrigue choosing to rather hint at bloodshed than actually portraying it.

Except for the opening sequence where a Russian money launderer, his wife and daughter are brutally murdered by the Blue Eyed killer played by Pawel Szajda (Under the Tuscan Sun), Our Kind of Traitor effortlessly shifts to a glamourous Moroccan resort in Marrakech where British couple Perry and Gail Makepeace expertly played by Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Spectre) are unwittingly drawn into a murky world of international intrigue when Perry befriends the exuberant Dima colourfully portrayed by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard.

Dima gives Perry a flash drive containing names of the Russian mob who are planning on setting up a shady Cypriot bank in London and Dima as money launderer for the head of the Russian mob, Prince, played by Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man), knows that his family are under imminent threat.

our_kind_of_traitor_ver2

As the action moves from Marrakech to London, Perry is detained at Heathrow by suave Mi6 agent Hector, elegantly played by Damian Lewis of Homeland fame.

In the shadowy world of international money laundering Hector uncovers that there are indeed links between corrupt British MP Aubrey Longrigg played by Jeremy Northam and Russian mobster the Prince. In order to prove these links exist, Hector uses Perry and Gail to get close to Dima so that they can prove that such dubious transactions exist between Russian organized crime and the London financial district. Blood money as Hector so bluntly puts it to a genteel British government committee.

The action moves swiftly to Paris and then onto Bern, Switzerland, where Perry and Gail under orders of Hector make contact with Dima in order to secure the safe passage of Dima and his family out of Europe safely to British custody.

Our Kind of Traitor is an engaging and evenly paced thriller with just the right dash of exotic intrigue, hinting at a broader criminal conspiracy involving the Russian mob and London’s financial district whilst underlining the strain this covert involvement takes on the marriage of a seemingly affluent British couple.

With stylish production design by Sarah Greenwood and a polished script by Amini, Our Kind of Traitor manages to deliver a sophisticated and suspenseful thriller which most John le Carre stories are known for.

Viewers that enjoyed A Most Wanted Man and The Constant Gardener will love Our Kind of Traitor especially in the wake of a revival of most of Le Carre’s recently published novels to glossy film and television productions which recently includes the excellent AMC series The Night Manager starring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston.

Our Kind of Traitor is highly recommended viewing for a superbly adapted thriller to the big screen with a particularly brilliant performance by Stellan Skarsgard as the brave but vicious Dima who will go to any lengths to protect his family.

 

Comic Book Pastiche

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver11

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett, Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgard, Thomas Kretschmann, Julie Delpy, Andy Serkis, Anthony Mackie.

The Avengers are back in director and writer Joss Whedon’s much anticipated sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron featuring all the Marvel superheroes and some new ones in a CGI laden special effects extravaganza, which is at times confusing and other times absolutely fascinating. At a running time of two hours and twenty minutes, director Whedon has sufficient screen time to flesh out all the characters individually as well as give nuance to some of their more complicated relationships.

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver14

Like the relationship between The Hulk, aka Bruce Banner wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) and the Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson who seems to be the only avenger that can calm the Hulk’s penchant for destructive anger.

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver17

The relationship between goodie two shoes Steve Rogers aka Captain America, played by Chris Evans and Nordic God Thor played by the hunky Chris Hemsworth is also subtly explored considering that the former is a World War two hero and the latter from another dimension.

Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as egotistical Billionaire Tony Stark, aka Iron Man and his irrepressible desire to mould any technological discovery, in this case the power artificial intelligence to his own advantage.

The Age of Ultron refers to the ubiquitous Altron a powerful A.I. force which is hell bent on human destruction and vain enough to realize that he can survive the aftermath, beautifully voiced with an underlying menace by James Spader (Bad Influence, more recently in the hit TV show The Black List).

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver18

The sexy Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton aka Hawkeye ‘s character is fleshed out as a devoting family man which is entirely incongruous with his status as a member of the Avengers, but hey who cares?

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver21

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play evil orphaned Eastern European twins Pietro and Maximoff who soon turn on Ultron when they realize his megalomaniac tendencies. Even Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis makes an appearance as a South African mercenary Ulysses Klaue and the Johannesburg downtown sequence is truly phenomenal to watch as is the action scene in Seoul, South Korea.

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver19

If audiences get confused with who all the avengers are, there are ample filmic references to each of their own background stories from Thor: The Dark World, including a brief appearance by Idris Elba and also Captain America’s Agent Carter, played by Hayley Atwell. Marvel is indeed expanding their universe exponentially and if The Avengers: Age of Ultron’s audience figures are anything to go by, this will prove to be another superhero box office smash hit.

avengers_age_of_ultron_ver10

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is fun entertainment and definitely aimed at Iron Man, Thor and Captain America cinema fans especially all the witty references and innuendo’s involving lifting Thor’s hammer which are neatly laced into a script which may seem convoluted but then again when it comes to Artificial Intelligence its more an infinite mess which at some point needs to be reined in.

Audiences should look out for brief cameos by Anthony Mackie, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Delpy, Don Cheadle and Thomas Kretschmann. If The Avengers: Age of Ultron appears to be a pastiche of all the previous Marvel films, then director Joss Whedon has certainly achieved the impossible, not to mention making a narrative out of the dangers of artificial intelligence plausible and entertaining.

It’s best for audiences to suspend their disbelief and enjoy The Avengers: The Age of Ultron for what it is: a comic book orgy with a giant budget and loud, awe-inspiring special effects which will be sure to nurture any young adult’s imagination for awhile.

 

 

 

Love = Lust + Jealousy

Nymphomaniac Vol: 1 and 2

nymphomaniac_ver16

Director: Lars von Trier

Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe, Connie Nielsen, Jamie Bell, Stacy Martin, Udo Kier

Unlike 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen’s handsome New York set film about sex addiction, the highly acclaimed Shame, starring a gorgeous yet libidinous Michael Fassbender, Danish director and auteur, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 is on an entirely different level.

Explicit, provocative, brutal and shocking, this is von Trier’s seminal work on Freudian psycho-analytic film theory, the nature of sexuality and of society’s views on sexual deviancy and obsession. Warning these two films, making up a total of four hours viewing time is NOT for sensitive or prudish cinema goers.

nymphomaniac_ver2

Von Trier’s favourite muse Charlotte Gainsbourg (Anti-Christ) stars as Joe, a relentless nymphomaniac who is discovered beaten in a dark city alley way by a seemingly kind mysterious bachelor Seligman played by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, Girl with The Dragon Tattoo). As Joe recovers with copious cups of tea in Seligman’s drab apartment she frankly recounts in episodic form her life thus far as a nymphomaniac and the events leading up to her supposed downfall.

nymphomaniac_ver6

The younger version of Joe is played by Stacy Martin who as a young licentious teenager seduces all the men on the train in a bet with her friend B, played by Sophie Kennedy Clark. The sex scenes are graphic and unrelenting. Her insatiable sexual appetite is temporarily quelled when she meets Jerome wonderfully played by Shia LaBeouf, who has definitely come a long way from his Transformers movies. LaBeouf proves to be superb as the equally lustful Jerome, who apparently sent a sex tape to von Trier as part of his audition for this part in Nymphomaniac. It proves that Shia LaBeouf is willing to take major risks as an actor and more recently as a notorious performance artist.

nymphomaniac_ver3

Joe as a young girl displays her close relationship with her father played by Christian Slater (True Romance) and her non-existent relationship with her aloof mother played by Connie Nielsen (Gladiator). As Joe’s sexual awakening becomes more ferocious she ventures into some dark territory particularly as she resumes a relationship with Jerome and attempts to settle down and lead a normal existence. All this is shot in grey colours with lots of graphic nudity and sex, with von Trier intentionally deglamourizing sex and sensuality on screen and deliberately punctuating these pornographic images with bizarre directorial screenshots of fly fishing, predators, sunsets and forests.

In between Joe’s sexual adventures all done in flashbacks, is the frank discussion between the mature Joe a scarred Gainsbourg and the supposedly asexual Seligman, who provides some intellectual insights into her sex addiction along with Freudian psychoanalysis and historical anecdotes. As Seligman explains in Volume 2, that all children are born with polymorphic sexual perversions according to Freud which gradually are repressed or discovered  latently as the child becomes an adult and thus manifests itself in later life. This is classic Freudian psychoanalysis. Even Love is equated to Lust+ Jealousy.

nymphomaniac_ver7

So despite all the subliminal theory and explicit pornography, is Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 any good? Volume 1 is better than Volume 2, a more superior and controlled film but the entire diatribe about Nymphomania could have been edited into a more concise and elegant film. Then again Von Trier is not one to bow to Western film aesthetics and has never done so. His film 2003 Dogville was shot without sets in a sparse Brechtian style about a close knit community who does not accept outsiders with Nicole Kidman in the lead.

 nymphomaniac_ver11

Nymphomania Volume 1 and 2 is not easy or comfortable viewing, but that its point. Especially Volume 2 where Joe’s sexual addiction takes her into the dangerous world of Sadomasochism, cue a rather sadistic master K played by Jamie Bell of The Eagle and Billy Eliot Fame. There are also brief appearances by Uma Thurman as a wronged wife Mrs H. whose husband has fallen for the nubile, precocious and younger Joe, bravely played by Stacy Martin and Willem Dafoe as Joe’s last employer a shady debt collector.

nymphomaniac_ver4

What should really be applauded is the bravery that these actors show in starring in such an explicit, unconventional and shocking film including Stacy Martin, Christian Slater, Shia LaBeouf and naturally Charlotte Gainsbourg (Anti-Christ). Audiences might want to walk out in several particularly disturbing scenes, but it’s worth staying until the end of Joe’s confession to Seligman, as all is not what it seems… Those not familiar with Lars von Trier’s previous films should definitely stay away.

A Poisonous Universe

Thor: The Dark World

thor_the_dark_world

From Asgaard to Greenwich, Thor and his hammer are back in the Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World, moving the action from the arid plains of New Mexico to the nine universes along with London and Stonehenge. The immensely successful Thor in 2010 directed by Kenneth Brannagh assembled a fabulously competent cast including Oscar Winners Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) as Thor’s father Odin, King of Asgaard and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) as physicist Jane Foster along with Rene Russo as Thor’s mother Frigga and Shakespearian actor Tom Hiddleston as malevolent and destructive brother Loki.

Thor: The Dark World reassembles this cast along with Kat Dennings of Two Broke Girls TV series fame as the sharp talking Darcy Lewis for some comic relief, Stellan Skarsgaard as the mad scientist Erik Selvig seen running naked around Stonehenge and newcomer Christopher Eccleston as Malekith the evil Dark Elf who is bent on destroying all known universes through an ethereal substance known as Aether which has the power to envelope all worlds in eternal darkness constituting a thoroughly poisonous universe.

thor_ver4

Moving the action from sunny New Mexico in Thor to murky and grey England was a smart move for Thor: The Dark World, however this sequel whilst it has stunning visual effects but not quite to the same level as Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, is certainly entertaining as superhero films go that the rival  Marvel studios are successfully releasing in quick succession after the huge commercial success of The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

Needless to say much of the action of Thor: The Dark World does not take place on earth so the plot is mostly action driven and there is naturally very little new character developments in the various CGI created universes with elegant and glossy Asgaard  taking the centre stage. Chris Hemsworth is naturally good as Thor, a role that will surely become synonymous with his name, but his real acting can be seen in films like Rush. Natalie Portman is fantastic and Anthony Hopkins is going through the character motions. Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as the ambivalently evil Loki set on revenge for his incarceration on Asgaard and look out for rising star Idris Elba as the celestial Asgaard gatekeeper Heimdall.

Basically Thor: The Dark World has stunning visuals, lots of action, a twisted plot without too much characterisation and basically retains its popcorn teenage audience that all the Marvel films are aiming for.

For fans of Thor, this glossy sequel not as tightly directed by Alan Taylor is thin on plot, and will not disappoint fans of the hammer wielding hunk who is part of the Avengers group. Watch out for a brief cameo by Chris Ryan as Captain America. The action is fantastic but not on the level of Pacific Rim or Man of Steel. Also starring Zachary Levi from Chuck fame along with Ray Stevenson and Jaimie Alexander. See Thor: The Dark World in a 3D cinema if possible.

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
June 2018
M T W T F S S
« May    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  
  • HBO Latin America Makes First Colombian Fiction TV Series
    HBO Latin America is marking its first foray into Colombia with the series “Mil Colmillos,” in conjunction with Rhayuela Films. Jaime Osorio, best known for his suspense thrillers “El Paramo” (“The Squad”) and “Siete Cabezas,” will co-direct the series with Pablo Gonzalez (“Cord”). Osorio and Guillermo Escalona co-wrote and co-created “Mil Colmillos,” roughly translated to […]
    John Hopewell
  • Paul McCartney Joins James Corden for Carpool Karaoke (Watch)
    Yes, he can drive his car. Paul McCartney took the driver’s seat — and the passenger seat — in the latest installment of “Carpool Karaoke,” which aired as part of “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” which is airing this week from London. The Beatle swapped seats with Corden as they harmonized their way […]
    Debra Birnbaum
  • Off Broadway Review: ‘Skintight’ With Idina Menzel
    Although Idina Menzel looks fabulous in “Skintight,” the new play by Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews,” “Significant Other”), her character, Jodi Isaac, is a total wreck when she flies into New York for her father’s 70th birthday. Jodi’s middle-aged husband has left her for a 24-year-old, and all her friends have deserted her for the happy […]
    Gordon Cox
  • Film Review: ‘Incident in a Ghostland’
    French director Pascal Laugier’s first English-language feature, “The Tall Man,” wasn’t seen by many, perhaps because that convoluted mystery-thriller with Jessica Biel wasn’t really the straight horror film it appeared to be. Maybe that explains why Laugier’s first film in six years returns to the terrain of his more successful 2008 breakout, “Martyrs.” While not […]
    dharv2014
  • Film News Roundup: Scoot McNairy Joins Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
    In today’s film news roundup, Scoot McNairy becomes the newest cast member of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and deals close for “40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie” and “1985.” CASTING Scoot McNairy has been cast in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and […]
    Dave McNary