Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Middleditch’

Invasive Species

Godzilla II: King of the Monsters

Director: Michael Dougherty

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Ziyi Zhang (The Grandmaster, The House of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) , C. C. H. Pounder (Baghdad Cafe), Anthony Ramos, O’Shea Jackson Jr

Director Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla II: King of the Monsters should be viewed within the same context as Legendary pictures predecessor films Gareth Edwards’s 2014 film Godzilla and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts Kong: Skull Island

Returning to the cast are scientists Dr Ishiro Serizawa and Dr Vivienne Graham played by Oscar nominee’s Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water).

Amidst the re-emergence of Godzilla and the global threat of his fellow titans, a selection of invasive species called Mothra, Rodan and the three headed dragon Ghidorah, there is the familial conflict of the Russell family. There is the father Mark played by Kyle Chandler (Argo, Super 8, First Man) and estranged wife Dr Emma Russell played by Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) and their beloved daughter Madison played by Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown.

As Dr Russell and Madison are captured by the ruthless Jonah Alan played by Charles Dance (White Mischief), Mark Russell with the help of crypto-zoological agency Monarch scientists to unleash Godzilla who is released to fight Ghidorah from the plains of Mexico to the fiery urban landscape of contemporary Boston, Massachusetts.

If viewers are Monster movie fans, then Godzilla II: King of the Monsters is sure to satisfy them with amazing production design and dazzling visual effects as the primordial clash of the titans begins.

Also in the cast are Thomas Middleditch (The Wolf of Wall Street, Kong: Skull Island) as Sam Coleman, Oscar nominee David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck) as Admiral William Stenz who is hell bent on launching nuclear firepower at the Titans to save the earth from being ravaged by monsters.

Other supporting cast members include C.C.H. Pounder from Avatar, Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born), Bradley Whitford (The Post) and Chinese superstar Ziyi Zhang from such classic films as The Grandmaster, The House of Flying Daggers and Ang Lee’s Oscar winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

As far as plot goes, Godzilla II: King of the Monsters is basically a family drama about the Russell’s as parents fight each other for custody of Madison superbly played by Millie Bobby Brown framed within a larger war between enormous monsters including the trustworthy Godzilla as he battles Mothra, Rodan and the three-headed dragon Ghidorah who likes to devastate cities like the Dragons in the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Godzilla II: King of the Monsters gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is extremely enjoyable for those that love monster movies as this cinematic piece is jam packed with crazy beasts ravaging the earth, which serves as an allegorical tale of the unprecedented effects of climate change on this planet.

Californian Crazies

Once upon a Time in Venice

Director: Mark Cullen

Cast: Bruce Willis, John Goodman, Jason Momoa, Emily Robinson, Jessica Gomes, Famke Janssen, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Goldberg, Kal Penn

Bruce Willis relives his Pulp Fiction days when he skateboards naked down a street in Venice Beach, California playing washed up cop Steve Ford in the awfully bad and quite frenetic action movie Once Upon a Time in Venice directed by Mark Cullen.

When the tag line for a film is Never Mess with a Man’s Dog one should know that the film is not going to deliver an original narrative although at times Once upon a Time in Venice feels like a collection of Californian Crazies as the audience is introduced to Hispanic gangbangers headed by Hawaiian star Jason Momoa as Spyder who is soon to play Aquaman in the Justice League along with lewd graffiti artists, drag queens and monstrous real estate agents. The cast of characters is reminiscent of director Sean Baker’s 2015 art film Tangerine shot on an iPhone in Los Angeles except this comic adventure has Bruce Willis as its main hero.

The point to note is not to take Once Upon a Time in Venice too seriously as the entire film looks like it was made on a balmy Saturday afternoon in California by a production crew that was high.

The sad part is that both John Goodman and Bruce Willis are in the twilight of their film careers and are obviously getting desperate to act in such low brow fare. Not that Bruce Willis ever elevated the art of cinema beyond the Die Hard franchise but character actor John Goodman who was so brilliantly in the Coen brothers Barton Fink should have known better.

Goodman plays Steve Ford’s faithful buddy Dave, a divorcee who is battling to get rid of a dodgy surf shop while recovering from a terrible divorce.

Dutch actress, former bond girl and X-Men star Famke Janssen appears all too briefly as Ford’s sister Katey and Emily Robinson stars as his niece Taylor.

It is when their house on Venice Beach gets robbed by the merciless drug lord Spider, wonderfully played by Jason Momoa who steals all valuables including their dog, that the story sets off in a madcap sort of coastal way, which ultimately requires a wittier script and tantalizing action to keep audiences vaguely interested in the outcome of this truly bizarre film.

Once Upon a Time in Venice is 90 minutes of mediocre entertainment with Bruce Willis pulling the tough guy routine in a beachfront neighbourhood which is as bizarre as it is crazy. Venice Beach, that stretch of Californian beachfront which is being gentrified by tech companies and slimy landlords embodied by Adam Goldberg’s character Lew the Jew.

The only redeeming feature of this film is Ford’s younger partner John played by Thomas Middleditch whose sarcastic voice narrates the misadventure story which sort of loosely holds the narrative together as much as a tacky drag queen trying to keep a bra on. Yes there are drag queens too!

Once Upon a Time in Venice gets a film rating of 6 out of 10. The film is strictly for ardent fans of Bruce Willis who occasionally has to prove to audiences that he can pull off action and comedy simultaneously.

 

 

Where Myths and Science Meet

Kong: Skull Island

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Richard Jenkins, Thomas Mann

The allusions to Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s novel The Heart of Darkness are rife in newcomer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts action packed seventies set adventure film Kong: Skull Island.

Featuring an international cast including British actor Tom Hiddleston, Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room), John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly and Tian Jing (The Great Wall), Kong: Skull Island wastes no time on characterization or dramatic build up but rushes straight into an adrenaline filled action film set at the end of the Vietnam war in 1973.

With a retro seventies soundtrack to match, Bill Randa played by John Goodman and Houston Brooks played by 24: Legacy’s Corey Hawkins get the go ahead from Senator Willis briefly played by Richard Jenkins (Eat, Pray, Love) to assemble a  military team and journey to a mysterious storm ridden island in the South Pacific on an exploratory mission.

The team consists of soldiers hanging for some more action after the American withdrawal from Vietnam including Preston Packard played by Samuel L. Jackson and Cole played by Shea Whigham (American Hustle) along with anti-war photographer Mason Weaver played by Larson and golden boy James Conrad, played by Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World).

As they approach Skull Island and drop seismic charges on the lush and malignant landscape, the team soon discover that a massive beast is guarding the island from vicious lizards. That beast is King Kong, that giant gorilla last seen on top of the Empire State building with a blond in his palm. Reference Peter Jackson’s 2005 epic King Kong.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cleverly wastes no time in cutting straight to the action as various teams on the island are separated only to be individually preyed upon by a variety of nefarious creatures including giant spiders. While Packard and his band of mercenary soldiers are keen on annihilating Kong, Mason and James stumble upon Hank Marlow, a crazed but good natured World War II pilot who accidentally landed on Skull Island back in 1944 and never left, even befriending the silent locals who worship Kong as their sole protector.

Marlow is superbly played by character actor John C. Reilly, a role clearly referencing Dennis Hopper’s frenetic photojournalist in Apocalypse Now without the looming intensity of a Mister Kurtz watching over his horrific empire. Reilly brings empathy to the role of Marlow, another clear reference to The Heart of Darkness and advises the more sympathetic team that Kong is not that bad. A fact which is vividly illustrated by Mason Weaver’s wonderful encounter with the gigantic beast.

Brie Larson gives a resilient performance as the only strong female lead in a basically all male film and has the best screen time with Kong, realizing that much like those brave soldiers hunting Kong, they are all as confused about this rapid reversal in the environmental food chain.

Kong: Skull Island is unadulterated adventure, punctuated with cool photographic stills of exotic ethnography to capture a unique and terrifying experience where myth and science meet.

With the help of a groovy seventies soundtrack and a stand out performance by John C. Reilly, Kong Skull Island gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing.

 

Scorsese’s Satyricon

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Shea Wingham

The much anticipated explosive new film about Wall Street Stock broker Jordan Belfort by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese is an orgy of drugs, hedonism and consumerism held tightly together by one of the best on screen performances that Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby) has ever given. The Wolf of Wall Street can best be described as Oliver Stone’s Wall Street highballing on crack and speed with large amounts of sex, swearing and swindling thrown in.

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The three hour film about the rise and fall of one of Wall Street’s most notoriously decadent stockbrokers is fascinating, bizarre, crude and highly entertaining. The Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese’s sleazy and salacious Satyricon, a drug fuelled  hedonistic journey into the heart of America’s consumerism, while ripping to shreds its number one bastion Rampant Capitalism. For according to Belfort there is no nobility in poverty.

Audiences meet Belfort when he is a young would be stockbroker as he arrives off the bus on Wall Street soon to be taken in by the foul-mouthed cocaine sniffing chest thumping mentor Mark Hanna an expertly played cameo by Matthew McConnaughey.

Belfort after the Stock Exchange crash of 1989, goes into penny shares in a two bit stock brokerage in Long Island, where he revolutionizes the bunch of weirdo pot selling brokers into a serious blue chip Wall Street company rebranding it as Stratton Oakmont. Soon Belfort motivates his entire team to sell penny shares (those companies that cannot afford to be listed on NASDAQ) to the very rich, and after much cavorting and convincing, earns huge amounts of cash where the brokerage becomes a literal madhouse of drugs, greed and absolute debauchery.

With the help of his wing man Donny, a brilliant performance by Jonah Hill of Moneyball fame, Belfort catapults Stratton Oakmont into a serious stock brokerage to rival Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and the late Lehman Brothers in New York whilst at the same time committing serious securities fraud with imaginary IPO’s.

At the heart of The Wolf of Wall Street is a story about corruption, unrelenting drug addiction, rampant sex and partying, a frenetically paced tour de force of the arc of an absolute sinner energetically played by DiCaprio who is in virtually every scene of the film. Memorable scenes include his blond wife Naomi (a wonderful turn by newcomer Margot Robbie of the TV series Pan Am) walking in on a gay orgy in their plush Manhattan apartment, a bizarre incident with Belfort driving his white Ferrari from the Country Club while literally dazed on sleeping pills, a luxury yacht riding massive Mediterranean waves en route to Monaco, a sex-crazed air hostess humping trip in first class to Switzerland and that’s just to name some of the few crazy episodes in The Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese’s film is a sublime Satyricon meshing elements of Casino, Shutter Island and The Departed proving that he is a consummate director and cinematic visionary.

Belfort’s eventual downfall comes at the hand of  conservative securities agent Patrick Denham played by Kyle Chandler (Super 8) but not before he has moved large parts of his vast fortune off shore to a Swiss Bank account with the help of a slimy banker Saurel seductively played by Jean Dujardin of The Artist and Naomi’s British aunt Emma played by Ab Fab star Joanna Lumley who utters the immortal line “I have lived through the Sixties”.

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Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is frenetic, shocking and superbly acted by DiCaprio along with an incisive script by Terence Winter, a tour-de-force of a film, a reason to love the art of cinema. A highly recommended montage on the destructive nature of greed and addiction, The Wolf is not for sensitive viewers, but packs a powerful punch held together by an Oscar worthy performance by DiCaprio whose rousing motivational trading floor speeches are the stuff of cinematic legends. After all if you can sell a pen, then you are a salesman…

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