Archive for the ‘Craig Gillespie’ Category

Divas and Dalmatians

Cruella

Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Emma Stone Emma Thompson, Mark Strong, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, John McCrea, Emily Beecham, Kayvan Novak, Kirby Howell-Baptiste

Disney’s retelling of 101 Dalmatians paid off in the lavish and expertly crafted live action film Cruella featuring Oscar winner Emma Stone (La La Land) channelling her inner psycho diva as the fashion mad anti-heroine  Estella who becomes the villainous Cruella de Ville.

I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie sets Cruella in the vicious fashion world of the 1970’s as Cruella and her arch rival the narcissist and extremely evil Baroness wonderfully played against type by another Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End, Sense and Sensibility) as she draws inspiration from Meryl Streep’s performance in The Devil Wears Prada. In this Avant-Garde and fabulously retro Cruella, the battlefield is the infamous Liberty’s department store in Central London, the playground of 1970’s fashion.

Thompson and Stone are perfectly cast as arch rivals who are determined to rip each other to shreds both figuratively and physically using everything at their disposal from Dalmatians to deception.

With double Oscar winner costume designer Jenny Beavan (A Room with a View, Mad Max: Fury Road) creating the most outrageous costumes for both Cruella and The Baroness, the costumes and makeup are unbelievable and absolutely amazing. The musical score is another winner, adding to the film’s funky and swanky feel.

The male actors in Cruella take a notable backseat to the main plot of a rag to riches Cruella who fights her way literally to the top of the London fashion scene.

There is the exception with Cruella’s fellow thieves Jasper expertly played by Joel Fry (Yesterday) and Horace played by extremely talented character actor Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya; BlackKklansman; Richard Jewell). Both Horace and Jasper become Cruella/Estella’s aides and assistants as she effortlessly slips between two opposing personalities, one good and the other evil, almost like a fashionable female version of Joker which garnered an Oscar win for Joaquin Phoenix in 2020.

Naturally evil triumphs over good as Cruella soon realizes that to beat a formidable opponent like the vile Baroness who treats all her staff as lowly minions, you have to become a cold hearted and ruthless Diva. Something which Cruella can relate to.

British actor Mark Strong (1917, Shazam!, Zero Dark Thirty) who plays the obsequious and loyal valet represents the stabilizing force in both Cruella and the Baroness’s lives as he delicately shifts the war between the two powerful female forces in favour of the younger, while revealing a devastating family secret.

Disney hit gold with this lavish version of Cruella thanks to two equally brilliant performances by two exceptional actresses: Emma Stone and Emma Thompson.

Cruella is tantamount to the Joker seizing editorial power over Vanity Fair. This elegant Disney version gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is insightfully directed by Craig Gillespie.

Cape Cod Sea Rescue

The Finest Hours

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Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger, John Magaro, Kyle Gallner, John Ortiz, Michael Raymond-James

Million Dollar Arm director Craig Gillespie brings to cinematic life the true story of one of the greatest small boat rescue operations ever attempted by the US Coast Guard in his new film, The Finest Hours featuring a cast of rising Hollywood actors including Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck.

Chris Pine stars as the shy yet brave coast guard officer Bernie Webbers who on the day of asking his commanding officer for permission to marry the gorgeous Miriam Pentinen played by Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations) is sent on a tough mission to save the crew of an oil tanker SS Pendleton which broke in half during a monstrous storm in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Chatham, Massachusetts.

The Finest Hours is based on the The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman and developed into a screenplay by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy. Aboard the SS Pendleton is seaman Ray Sybert, who realizes that after the tanker has been ripped in to two by a massive storm the only way for his crew to survive is if they run the ship aground as using lifeboats during such awful weather would only result in serious loss of life.

Sybert expertly played by Oscar nominee Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) reassures the crew that they have to sit tight on the remaining section of the tanker in the hope that a rescue mission is being sent out for them.

That rescue mission is headed by Webbers with the assistance of seamen Richard Livensey played by Ben Foster last seen in The Program, Andy Fitzgerald played by Kyle Gallner and Ervin Maske played by John Magaro last seen in Carol.

As The Finest Hours is set in February 1952, and the maritime rescue technology then was not quite advanced as it in the 21st century, the feat of this rescue mission is truly inspirational. Viewers could also be forgiven for wondering how such a small rescue boat CG36500 is able to save over twenty men aboard a stranded oil tanker out in the roaring and unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean during a horrendous winter storm.

The Finest Hours is captivating as a historical drama although the palette for the film is a bit dark and indistinguishable, but director Craig Gillespie did this intentionally so to visually submerge the audience in a real life sea rescue mission off the coast of Cape Cod during a winter blizzard.

The visual effects are amazing and those that enjoy historical dramas should definitely see The Finest Hours. The cast is superb given the material they work with and despite a lack of dialogue, the drama of a sea rescue mission is conveyed accurately although not as good as the excellent film Captain Philips.

 

Slumdog Moneyball

Million Dollar Arm

million_dollar_arm

Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Jon Hamm, Alan Arkin, Suraj Sharma, Bill Paxton, Lake Bell, Aashif Mandvi, Maddhur Mittal

Disney’s take on baseball meets Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire comes in the form of the charming sports film, Million Dollar Arm featuring Mad Men’s Jon Hamm teaming up with Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma and Alan Arkin from Argo.

Set in India and Los Angeles, director Craig Gillespie’s Million Dollar Arm premiering at the Durban International Film Festival 2014 – http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ tells the true story of a down on his luck sports agents J. Bernstein, played by Hamm who while channel surfing flicking between Britain’s Got Talent and cricket in India on late night TV, comes up with an epiphany to travel to India to find the next big baseball player.

The only problem is that in India, once the jewel of the British colonial empire, the main sport is cricket as it in the rest of the Commonwealth and the general male population there do not play baseball. With the help of a shady Chinese business investor Chang played by Tzi Ma, J. B. Bernstein travels to chaotic Mumbai to discover a world so alien and different to his lavish and ordered Californian lifestyle, one in which he was a once successful sports agent.

million_dollar_arm_ver4

Spurred on by his tenant, Brenda played by Lake Bell, J. B. Bernstein travels the length and breadth of India in search of a cricket player with a million dollar arm. He is helped by a retired baseball talent spotter Ray wonderfully underplayed by Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) who discover two young men Rinky and Dinesh, played by Suraj Sharma and Maddhur Mittal respectively who each possess a million dollar arm, or an above average ball throwing speed.

Part of the enticement for these two young players is the opportunity of traveling to the United States and play a game that they have never played before. Leaving the rural confines of Lucknow, India, they are suddenly transplanted in University of Southern California’s baseball fields where they are coached by the cautious yet optimistic coach Tom House played by Bill Paxton.

Naturally as a Disney film, director Gillespie in Million Dollar Arm aims for a general feel good sports film while making insightful observations about the massive cultural differences between India and America and highlighting each society’s similarities.

Jon Hamm is excellent as the exasperated JB Bernstein supported by a great cast especially Oscar winner Arkin and the always amiable Lake Bell, along with Aashif Mandvi as Aash while Suraj Sharma and Maddhur Mittal make the most of their roles as young Indian boys caught up in an essentially American sporting dilemma. Watch out for a superb musical score by A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire).

moneyball_ver2

Unlike the very specific baseball films Moneyball or Field of Dreams, Million Dollar Arm is enjoyable family viewing and will appeal to sporting enthusiasts both in America and the commonwealth highlighting Hollywood’s increasing desire to deliver more international fare. A thought provoking and fascinating film about the increasing globalization of sport and the desire for all people to achieve seemingly impossible dreams. Like Indian hockey players trying out for the American National Baseball league. Recommended viewing especially as it is a true story.

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