Posts Tagged ‘Taylor Kitsch’

The Granite Mountain Hotshots

Only the Brave

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Cast: Miles Teller, Josh Brolin, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Jeff Bridges, Ben Hardy, Josh Hopkins

Based on the GQ article No Exit written by Sean Flynn with the assistance of fellow screenwriters Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, Only the Brave is an extraordinary tale of bravery, courage and heroism, illustrating the eternal battle of Man Versus Nature.

Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski using the cinematic motif of a grizzly bear running through the forest engulfed in flames, Only the Brave is a remarkable film held together by solid acting especially by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk) and Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind).

Set in the North American summer of 2013 and focusing on the small town of Prescott, Arizona near Phoenix, Only the Brave follows the story of a group of municipal firefighters that are deployed to help fight runaway forest fires in the canyons and mountainous regions in Arizona.

At times, sublime and dangerous, all the men realize that their jobs are extremely risky fighting unpredictable fires which can engulf entire forests in a matter of minutes depending on the wind speed and air temperature.

Brolin plays Eric Marsh, supervisor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who has to look after a team of 18 men and train them into fighting one of nature’s most unpredictable beasts: wildfires. Marsh takes a chance on Brendan McDonough, a recovering addict superbly played by rising star Miles Teller (War Dogs, Whiplash) while also dealing with his own relationship issues with his headstrong wife Amanda, a standout performance by Jennifer Connelly.

To add gravitas to the cast, Oscar winner Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) plays Marsh’s mentor Duane Steinbrink. James Badge Dale (The Departed, The Walk) plays Marsh’s deputy Jesse Steed while Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Lone Survivor) plays McDonough’s friend and fellow firefighter Christopher MacKenzie.

What is most impressive about Only the Brave is the haunting cinematography by Oscar winning Chilean cinematographer Claudio Miranda who won for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi.

Cinematically this film is excellent from vast aerial shots of the dramatic Arizona topography to the inner anguish of the team’s social dynamics as they navigate their own fears and dreams in light of a grueling occupation which seldom takes survivors when the fires rage out of control.

Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski really does his best work with Only the Brave assembling a muscular cast to tell a robust narrative filled with searing bravado.

Only the Brave gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Lone Survivor, Dunkirk and the 1991 Kurt Russell film Backdraft.

Rogue Mercenary

American Assassin

Director: Michael Cuesta

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan, David Suchet, Scott Adkins, Shiva Negar, Navid Neghban, Charlotte Vega

Kill the Messenger director Michael Cuesta returns to the big screen with his next film the action packed globetrotting American Assassin starring Dylan O’Brien (Deepwater Horizon) as Mitch Rapp and Michael Keaton (Spotlight, Birdman) as his CIA trainer Stan Hurley.

American Assassin opens on an idyllic Spanish beach in Ibiza whereby Mitch is videoing his gorgeous girlfriend Katrina swimming and whereupon he soon proposes to her. The romantic seemingly delightful scene is shattered when terrorists open fire on the beach goers in a horrific scene that which mirrored a real life attack in Tunisia.

Then back in America, Mitch is recruited by the CIA after a failed attempt to take revenge on the perpetrators of the attack. He is sent off for training in Virginia by the tough Hurley whilst the deputy director Irene Kennedy played by Sanaa Lathan (Now You See Me 2) is handling a bigger crisis: weapons grade plutonium has been stolen from an abandoned site in Russia and is currently being sold on the black market by a rogue mercenary simply known as Ghost played with psychopathic intensity by Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Savages).

The action moves to Istanbul, Turkey whereby Mitch teams up with CIA counter-terrorism operative played by Iranian-Canadian star Shiva Negar as they hunt down the Ghost and through various political intrigue between the Iranians and the CIA, they discover that this lethal rogue mercenary plans on using the plutonium to maximum effect in the Mediterranean.

From Istanbul to Rome, the action is swift with the 26 year old Dylan O’Brien holding his own as a lead actor in a big budget action film as he beefs up thanks to his experience on the hugely popular Maze Runner franchise.

Audiences should take note that there is a gruesome torture scene in a sprawling refugee housing project outside Rome.

American Assassin is a thrilling action film at face value, expertly shot by Cuesta and making use of the extensive locations from Virginia to Dubai. Gritty, fast paced and definitely entertaining, with the most notable scenes being the Virtual Reality assassin practice sequence as well as the speedboat fight scene on the Mediterranean.

American Assassin gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for action film fans.

The film is not quite in the category of the spy thriller Jason Bourne but definitely worthy enough to be classed within the same gritty, espionage globetrotting genre, which has become such a lucrative money spinner. Perhaps director Michael Cuesta will consider making a sequel maximizing the potential of its hunky young lead star, Dylan O’Brien.

 

Death of Fire Island

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The Normal Heart

NB: This is a made for TV film

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Stephen Spinella, Alfred Molina, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons

HBO’s The Normal Heart directed by Glee and Eat, Pray, Love director Ryan Murphy is a startling and heart wrenching tale of the outbreak of AIDS in New York’s gay community in the early 1980’s. Mark Ruffalo plays a middle aged openly gay man, Ned Weeks who gives one of the best performances of his career as he becomes the outspoken champion of gay rights and one who urges the American government to do more to fight the stigmatisation of AIDS as it ravaged the homosexual community in the mid 1980’s.

This film is set at a similar time as Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, but unlike this Oscar winning film, is a made for Television, bravely done by HBO featuring some exceptional performances besides Ruffalo that includes Matt Bomer as his lover, Felix Turner, a young, handsome New York society journalist dying of AIDS related illnesses along with Julia Roberts as Dr Emma Brockner a wheel-chaired bound no nonsense doctor who is adamant that the American gay community need to be sufficiently educated about this disease. She goes onto advocate that the New York gay community need to immediately curb their promiscuous lifestyle, so lavishly explored in the film’s opening scenes on Fire Island, in upstate New York, the gay resort famous in the 1980’s for White Parties, wild sex and unabashed homosexual hedonism.

Audiences watching The Normal Heart should be warned this is a sad, graphic and dramatic tale of a community ravaged by an illness which they were not equipped to handle, both physically and emotionally. Remember that this is set at least 30 years ago before all the medical advances in ARV treatment globally and when AIDS research was in its infancy. Without the sufficient funding from the American government, those that suffered at the forefront of the epidemic, was an already marginalized community known only for their lascivious and risky sexual behaviour.

What director Ryan Murphy does so brilliantly is remind the audience that despite all the stigma and the prejudice, these were real professional people dying of a yet unquantified illness with a virtually non-existent health care regime and support structure.

At the core of The Normal Heart based upon a play by Larry Kramer is the remarkable performance by Mark Ruffalo who certainly has proved his worth as a serious actor in recent years especially after his recent Oscar nomination for The Kids Are Alright.

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The Normal Heart as a mainstream film, like Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra would have a fairly limited appeal, but it is comforting that HBO takes a bold leading in making these films and even attracting such A list talent like Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

Watch out for an unrecognizable Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Lone Survivor) as Bruce Niles a young, arrogant and gorgeous gay man who appears to be immune to all the community activism and terrible threat affecting his friends along with The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parson’s in a brilliant and touching performance as Tommy Boatwright who counts the dead on his Rolladex.

This drama is brutal, heart wrenching and truly inspiring film making even if it only was made as a TV film, but really should be seen by everyone gay or straight especially in the wake of the recent commercialization of gay culture in Western mainstream media along with the associated rights and civil liberties which the gay and lesbian community have been granted in Europe and America recently, viewed within the 21st century progress made in transforming HIV into a manageable disease through a strict regime of medication controls.

The Normal Heart is highly recommended viewing, boosted by superb performances all round which should go a long way in deconstructing the stigma surrounding marginalized communities especially at the outbreak of an initially incomprehensible disease.

 

 

Quick Reaction Force

Lone Survivor

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Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Jerry Ferrara

Battleship and Hancock director Peter Berg tackles more informative and ferocious subject matter in the excellent adaptation of the non-fiction war story Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson, which details the failed mission of the US Navy Seals counter-insurgency attack in the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan against the Taliban. With superb sound editing and sound mixing, Lone Survivor follows in the spirit of Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down and features a tightly knit muscular group of actors playing soldiers led by Mark Wahlberg (Two Guns), Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Battleship), Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Milk) Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, The Mechanic), Eric Bana and newcomer Canadian actor Alexander Ludwig last seen in The Hunger Games.

The bravado and savagery of war is brilliantly recreated in this tightly directed account of a four man Navy Seals reconnaissance team led by Marcus Luttrell played by Wahlberg and his fraternal band of bearded soldiers which includes Michael Murphy played by Kitsch, Danny Dietz played by Emile Hirsch and Matthew Axelson played by Ben Foster. The harrowing gun battle which follows when the team are ambushed by a Taliban army who clearly know the terrain better than themselves is vividly recreated and the ordeal that Luttrell goes through makes for an outstanding war and survival movie.

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Lone Survivor, like Platoon, Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down, does not stint on the violence and fear involved in mortal combat between two enemy forces and emphasizes the bravery and courage that these men faced in battling another American war on foreign territory against a hostile anti-American enemy.

Incidentally Lone Survivor was filmed in New Mexico at the Santa Fe National Forest standing in for the rugged and alien terrain of the Hindu Kush http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_Kush, the rugged mountain range which connects central Afghanistan and  northern Pakistan.

What makes Lone Survivor so watchable and riveting is the excellent sound quality of the mountainside battle which makes up the bulk of the film. This film received two Oscar nominations in 2014 for Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing and rightly so. With a top notch cast especially Foster and Hirsch playing against type, Lone Survivor is highly recommended viewing for fans of great war films. Supremely entertaining, action-packed and technically unrivaled, Lone Survivor is definitely one of Peter Berg’s best films so far.

 

 

Vicious Laguna Lunacy

SAVAGES

Acclaimed director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July) paints a lush, brutal and stylistically rich portrait of drug running along the Californian and Mexican border in his latest film  Savages  set between Laguna, California and Tijuana in Mexico and is almost Shakespearean in tone and plot. Savages assembles a fabulous cast including Taylor Kitsch last seen in Battleship and John Carter and Aaron Johnson, soon to be seen in the new version of Anna Karenina along with the blonde beauty Blake Lively (The Green Lantern) and a ludicrously well-cast group of veteran and independent actors including Academy Award winner Benicio del Toro, Academy Award nominees Salma Hayek, John Travolta and Demian Bechir.

Savage Shakespeare Surfer Style

While the vibrant poster for Savages suggests an intricate web of characters dealing in a Mexican-Californian trade-off, Oliver Stone imbues this complex plot of brutal treachery, violence, drug smuggling, sex and murder with an array of visual flourishes which makes Savages stand out as a unique and twisted drug running thriller making the most of the beautiful surfing paradise of Laguna, California while brilliantly contrasting that with all the devotional religious iconography so often associated with Catholic Mexico embodied in Tijuana and the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead

Oliver Stone, clearly influenced by his contemporaries Baz Luhrmann (Romeo and Juliet) and Steven Soderbergh  (Traffic) and not one to edit his narrative gives each of his main cast members enough screen time to flex their acting muscles interspersed with some exceptionally violent and brutal images of decapitation, torture and murder all adding to the central theme of beautiful savages.

Savages focuses on best friends Chon and Ben who not only share the same girlfriend Ophelia but also run a profitable and successful dope peddling operation in Southern California with the muscular Chon played by Taylor Kitsch as an aggressive Gung-Ho war veteran fresh from the horrors of Afghan conflicts and also exposed to one of the largest  opium growing region in the world. Buddhist leaning Botanist Ben comes up with a brilliant plan of producing the best cannabis in California and teams up with Chon to make sure the operation is successful with Ben as the brains and Chon as the brawn of the lucrative yet illicit narcotics operation.

Enter the Mexicans from Baja California headed by the flamboyant yet ruthless matriarch of a Tijuana drug cartel Elena played with relish by Salma Hayek with that flair which she so deftly illustrated in the remarkable film Frida. Supported by Lado,  a demonically mean killer and her trusted enforcer played with ambivalent psychopathic menace by Benicio del Toro and Demian Bichir (Che and A Better Life) as Alex the front man for the Mexicans in Laguna who are keen to infiltrate Chon and Ben’s mellow yet sophisticated dope peddling enterprise in the Surfer’s Paradise of Laguna.

What follows is an intricately plotted yet violent narrative of kidnapping, extortion, murder and vengeance which begs the question is humankind’s innate savagery endemic in a population in which survival of the species is paramount at whatever the cost? Given the right circumstances and in this film these are ruthless, every characters inner savagery is revealed in one form or another.

Savages is not for sensitive viewers and whilst Oliver Stone could have edited parts of the film one gets the visual impression that he was so caught up in the brutal Shakespearan tragedy of the entire narrative of Californian-Mexican drug running that too cut a scene would be murder. Watch out for some particularly brilliant scenes between  Lively and del Toro as captive and torturer and between Lively and the ever beautiful Salma Hayek. John Travolta’s turn as Dennis a middle income DEA officer playing both sides of the vicious Laguna turf war proves that he is still a brilliant actor.  While the ever versatile Emile Hirsch makes a small appearance as the Californian’s money launderer aptly named Spin.

As for the conclusion of Savages, its best expressed in Spanish, todo es posible – anything is possible….

Aliens in the Pacific Rim!

BATTLESHIP

Battleship  like the Transformers Trilogy inspired by another Hasbro game is a spectacularly entertaining male-oriented action film, but don’t expect anything deeper than the odd ship being sunk. A bizarre mixture of Hawaii 5-0 meets Aliens and features all the usual plot twists.  Rising star Taylor Kitsch last seen in the commercially unsuccessful John Carter and also in the little noticed South African inspired film The Bang Bang Club, plays Alex Hopper, a brash, untamed and irresponsible unemployed young man in Hawaii who is taken under the wing of his stricter older brother Commander Stone Hopper, played by Alexander Skarsgaard.

When Hopper decides to impassively smash a convenience store all for the sake of a Chicken Burrito to please the nubile blonde beauty Samantha played by Brooklyn Decker, he is swiftly sent to the Navy. Unbeknownst to Hopper and his older brother or the Admiral Shane, father of the voluptuous Samantha played by once again by Liam Neeson, there is a signal sent out to distant space devised by NASA and some quirky technocrats.

Soon enough whilst on an international Naval exercise involving both American and Japanese sailors off the coast of Pearl Harbour, the once sworn enemies are band together to fight off aliens that have not only landed in the Pacific, but also made their presence felt in Hong Kong and by all intentions, plan on beaming contingency plans to the mothership, awaiting in distant space, having come from a planet similar to earth in an almost identical solar system. These aliens aren’t no human look a likes either, but are stronger and more technologically advanced and are planning complete annihilation of the human race starting off with America and China of course! Battleship is low on motivation, emotional plot points but big on CGI special effects and a great cinematic vehicle for popstar Rihanna to make her onscreen debut. The characters are just more than cardboard cut outs against the Pacific theatre of naval war against an unknown species.

Viewers can read any similarities into Battleship that they desire especially since the essential irony of the film involves the Battleship USS Missouri. Taylor Kitsch is making his spring or autumn blockbuster debuts depending on which hemisphere viewers are in, but perhaps he should be aware of being typecast in too many sci-fi films especially when Battleship is more like Baywatch meets close encounters.

At least with the earlier John Carter there was some Victorian allusions, being based upon the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs…

Return of the Hairy Man…

Return of the Hairy Man: Wolverine, Terminator Salvation and Zack and Miri make a Porno…

So in these time of global economic gloom, a clean-shaven, metrosexual is not your saviour. Besides all these good-looking, well-dressed beautifully groomed corporate types were the ones lending money out to those hapless citizens who were fiscally irresponsible. Investing in outlandish off-shores accounts, allowing an international unregulated banking system to flourish in a world where credit was supreme, and sensibilities had gone out the window. In the times of a crisis, strong hairy men are here to save the world!

That’s if the batch of summer blockbuster action and comedy films is anything to go from the archetypal X-Men Origins: Wolverine directed by South African Gavin Hood to the hilariously off the coffee counter, Zack and Miri make a Porno. Whether the world has come to a sticky and apocalyptic end in the monochromatic world of Terminator Salvation, with an unshaven Christian Bale as John Connor, all grown up and ready to take on Skynet or audiences discover the real origins of the gorgeously sexy hairy beast of a man, well, mutant, Wolverine who along with a band of fellow unshaven mutants is out to wreck havoc on an suspecting America, the truth be told that clearly the Hairy Man has returned!

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a fantastic action film appealing to the younger testosterone filled male generation, which tells of how Wolverine and his brother Sabretooth, an equally hairy and deadly character played with sinister panache by Liev Schreiber fight each other, the world and all those in between, including every major world war from the Napoleonic era to Vietnam. Even the normally clean-shaven Canadian actor, Ryan Reynolds is quite revealing in his role as Wade Wilson but then let’s not discount that Reynolds did appear in the Blade Trilogy.

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Terminator Salvation paints a grim and grimy picture of a post-nuclear blasted world where the Skynet controlled Robots have wrecked havoc on America with the cities resembling industrial junkyards from hell. Christian Bale returns in another blockbuster but here again, as in the far superior The Dark Knight, it is his co-star that steals the shows. The Dark Knight, such a brilliant film of anarchy reigning supreme featured the flawlessly demented performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker and now in Terminator Salvation it is the more subtle less frenetic performance of Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright who is propelled into a future abyss only to discover redemption is beyond his electronic grip…


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On a lighter note, and much more grounded in the present day recession-laden America is Kevin Smith’s fantastically funny and very raunchy film Zack and Miri make a Porno, about a couple of loser flat mates in Pittsburgh that realize that the financial crisis calls for more drastic measures. Seth Rogen saves the film as the unsexy but very hairy, Zack next to the gorgeous demurely (I kid you not) Miri, played by Elizabeth Banks. Rogen plays every type of hairy anti-hero with such effortless wit and perfect comic timing, who manages to save his reputation, make some underground cash and with the help of an extra-terrestrial cast make a Porno! Watch out for superb cameos by Brandon Routh (from Superman fame) and the delightful Justin Long at Zack and Miri’s reunion…

Although all three films are vastly different, it denotes a new fashion of fury heroes ready to save us from the grim realities of the strange 21st century recession obsessed reality most Western nations find themselves in.

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