Archive for the ‘Ron Howard’ Category

American Melancholy

Hillbilly Elegy

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, Owen Asztalos

This film is only available on Netflix

Frost/ Nixon and Rush director Ron Howard brings to life J. D. Vance’s autobiographical tale Hillbilly Elegy to the screen featuring superb performances by Oscar nominees Amy Adams (The Fighter, American Hustle, Vice) and the wonderfully talented Glenn Close (The Wife, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs) as mother and daughter. Amy Adams plays the troubled mother Bev, a nurse in Ohio who has a heroin addiction and is trying to keep her young family together, namely her daughter Lindsay played by Haley Bennett (Rules Don’t Apply, The Girl on the Train) and J. D. played by the talented Gabriel Basso (Super 8, The Whole Truth).

Glenn Close plays Bev’s mother and grandmother to her two children, the matriarchal Mamaw who ultimately steps in to raise the young J.D. when he is a boy, the younger version brilliantly played by Owen Asztalos who holds his own in some heart wrenching scenes between Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

The adult J. D. has completed law school at Yale in Connecticut and is about to be interviewed for his first legal appointment as a junior attorney at law. Before he gets to that interview in the prestigious and affluent environment of Yale in Connecticut he has to head back to Middleton in Ohio to deal with his mother Bev, expertly played by Amy Adams who has had a relapse on heroin.

J. D. doesn’t come from a wealthy family but through his grandmother’s encouragement, he studied hard, worked to pay the bills and got into law school. He was determined to escape the trap of cyclic poverty that his mother and grandmother had been trapped in.

His beautiful girlfriend Usha is back home in Connecticut awaiting for his return and is played by Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto. J. D. has kept the divide between affluent Connecticut and his Hillbilly past very distinctive by not sharing his violent upbringing in Jackson, Kentucky or Middleton, Ohio with Usha.

Hillbilly Elegy is told through a series of childhood flashbacks to a younger J. D. as he had to deal with his mother’s erratic behaviour, which provides some brilliant scenes between Owen Asztalos and experienced Hollywood actresses Glenn Close and Amy Adams.

What makes Glenn Close’s performance as the chain smoking Hillbilly matriarch so brilliant is that she is playing it against type, a struggling grandmother who gets meals on wheels and barely has enough cash to feed her grandson.

Close’s performance is astounding, a far cry from her lavish and equally superb performances in The Wife, as Sunny von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune and her breakout performance as the scheming Marquise de Merteuil in the Oscar winning French drama Dangerous Liaisons. Glenn Close has never won an Oscar and she deserves to win for this supporting performance in Hillbilly Elegy.

Hillbilly Elegy is a melancholic look back at one man’s struggle to lift himself out of poverty and the immense impression his mother and grandmother made on his life and how he overcome his dire circumstances to rise up and join the professional classes while never dismissing his impoverished heritage.

Hillbilly Elegy gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that love a good family drama.

Origins of an Intergalactic Smuggler

Solo: a Star Wars Story

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Erin Kellyman, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt

I have to confess I am a huge Star Wars fan. Ever since the first trilogy I saw when I was a kid, I have been hooked.

Well, when rumours circulated in the film trade press that there was going to be an origins story for Han Solo – it certainly piqued my curiosity. The casting was superb. The boyish charm of Alden Ehrenreich last seen in Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply is perfectly cast as the Young Han Solo, a role made famous by the Hollywood star Harrison Ford.

With steady direction by Ron Howard, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a brilliant prequel recommended especially for fans of the original trilogy, extracting elements out of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.

To add to the continuity, Donald Glover plays the young gambler Lando Calrissian last seen on the Bespin Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back and played back then by Billy Dee Williams. Glover is superb as the young Lando, a carefree gambler who gambles the millennium falcon in a space contest with the equally adventurous Han Solo.

Solo: A Star Wars Story also features Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson as the smuggler Tobais Beckett who teams up with Han Solo on a raid on an icy planet to steal some explosive mineral for the nefarious Dryden Vos, wonderfully played by British star Paul Bettany.

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke plays the intergalactic femme fatale Qi’ra who facilitates between Han Solo and his enemy Vos. As Beckett advises Han solo in the cutthroat world of smuggling and intergalactic piracy, trust no one.

Westworld star Thandie Newton briefly appears as Beckett’s love interest Val, a fearless fellow smuggler.

The magnificent scenes in the film belong to those between Lando and Han, which establishes a friendship based on rivalry and pure competitiveness as each recognize a rogue quality in each other. Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover are cleverly cast as these two iconic space heroes.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is an entertaining hyperspace glimpse into the origins of an infamous intergalactic Smuggler as possibly one of George Lucas’s best loved characters, the charming risk taker pilot Han Solo which both Ford and now Ehrenreich captured so perfectly onscreen.

With stunning production design and beautiful cinematography, Solo: A Star Wars Story gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

Highly recommended viewing for fans that love Star Wars films and fondly remember the original trilogy which shaped their love for sci-fi.

 

 

Dante’s Death Mask

Inferno

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Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ana Ularu

Screenwriter David Koepp intentionally disorientates the viewer in a disrupted narrative through a series of flashbacks and blurred images in the first half of director Ron Howard’s historical thriller Inferno as Professor Robert Langdon played again by Tom Hanks wakes up bewildered like Jason Bourne in a hospital in Florence. There Langdon is initially tended to by Dr Sienna Brooks played by Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything).

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Soon the couple are shot at by a vicious but gorgeous female carabinieri Vayentha played by Romanian beauty Ana Ularu. As Langdon and Brooks seek shelter in her Florence apartment they soon discover that crazed Billionaire Bertrand Zobrist played by Ben Foster (Warcraft, Hell or High Water), seen only through a series of mediated images like a televised lecture and numerous flashbacks has decried the world’s overpopulation and plans on letting off a deadly virus killing more than half the world’s population as a form of human culling.

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Langdon and Brooks travel to the Hall of the Five Hundred within the Palazzo Vecchio https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Vecchio to discover that Dante’s death mask has been stolen. Hot on their heels is Brouchard played by French actor Omar Sy as well as a tactical team from the World Health Organisation headed by the beautiful Dr Elizabeth Sinskey played by Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen last seen as the doomed corporate executive in the thrilling HBO Sci-Fi series Westworld.

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As the action moves from Florence to San Marks Square in Venice, Koepp’s script strips away the confusion and reveals an enlightening moment as a significant plot twist occurs in the Venetian Piazza reminiscent of Casino Royale and Professor Langdon soon realizes who he can really trust.

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With high production values and lots of flashing images of blood soaked streets and corpses writing in hell, the cinematic depiction of Dante’s Inferno adds to the already suspenseful narrative as Langdon races against time taking in some of the ancient world’s most iconic tourist attractions including Florence’s Duomo and Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.

The second half of Inferno is captivating as the denouement is revealed and the true danger identified in a thrilling finale in Istanbul’s Sunken Palace where a Solstice concerto is taking place amidst the possibilities of a dangerous virus being released into the ancient city’s water supply.

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It is a pity that Ben Foster and Tom Hanks did not have any screen time although like with Angels and Demon’s and The Da Vinci Code, Inferno does not faithfully follow the thriller genre. Instead using a combination of visual clues heavily reliant on art history and a sense of urgency, the hero Professor Langdon in Inferno covers a touristic journey through some of the most cultural cities in Europe and Asia Minor.

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Whilst Hanks and Jones are suitably impressive in their roles it is the supporting roles particularly played by Knudsen and Indian actor Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) which add a sense of diversity to this extraordinary tale. Inferno is a fast paced historical thriller boosted by contemporary fanaticism which makes the story all the more relevant within the global context of terrorism and unsuspecting horrors.

Inferno is a captivating thriller which by far is one of the best in the Dan Brown inspired cinematic franchise, transforming into a fitting third act to The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

 

 

Champions of the World

Rush

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Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, James Norton, Olivia Wilde, Christian McKay, David Calder, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Natalie Dormer, Pierfrancesco Favino

Oscar winning director of A Beautiful Mind Ron Howard tackles the fast and affluent world of Formula One Motor Racing in the new biographical drama Rush centering on the brutal and brash rivalry between reckless English racing driver James Hunt, gorgeously played by Australian actor Chris Hemsworth and cautious Austrian driver Niki Lauder, brilliantly played by the European actor Daniel Bruhl.

Screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen), who first collaborated with Howard on the slick film version Frost /Nixon offers a crisply written script, as the narrative of Rush doesn’t waste time showing the glamorous international and ruthless world of Formula One racing with drivers speeding around the circuits of Monaco, Kyalami, Monza, Valencia and Sao Paolo. Yet despite all the thrill, danger and spectacle, Morgan weaves a brutal and exacting tale of professional rivalry between Lauder and Hunt framed within the media-frenzied competitive jet set world of Formula One, presenting an ego driven portrait of two men at the peak of their careers, just as he did in the exemplary Frost / Nixon.

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The film’s stunning opening scene features Hunt seducing a British nurse played by Natalie Dormer (W.E.) which immediately sets the tone for the 1970’s, a decade known for easy sex, drugs and partying, providing an insight into a carefree decadent era in which the ambitious race car drivers soon graduate to Formula One. Where Lauder is mechanically minded, disciplined and ambitious, James Hunt is reckless, celebrity driven and risk seeking, a driver who is never shy to compete in an ongoing bitter global challenge to become the Number 1 World Championship Racing Car Driver.

Lauder’s wife Marlene is played by Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara and the gorgeous Olivia Wilde makes a stunning appearance as beautiful swish model Suzy Miller who soon becomes James Hunt’s wife, despite his reckless lifestyle. From Ibiza to Bologna, from Sao Paulo to Germany, Rush is a superbly orchestrated biopic of the rivalry between these two Champions of the World, and for all those fans of Formula One, this film is not to be missed. Especially look out for the vividly recreated infamous crash sequence that Niki Lauder is involved in as he gets trapped in a fiery Ferrari in the Nurburgring racetrack in Germany in August 1976 along with the riveting final race of the season set on a rain-soaked Japanese track in the shadow of Mount Fiji.

Spanish-German actor Daniel Bruhl best known for Inglourious Basterds is utterly believable as the goal-driven and infamously determined Austrian racing driver Niki Lauder whilst Hemsworth (Snow White and the Huntsman, Thor) proves his worth as a versatile Shakespearean trained actor producing an upper crust English accent. The real star of Rush besides the excellent script and film direction is the unbelievable sound editing, which makes this film all the more worthwhile and gripping in a Digital Cinema. Highly recommended for the glitz bravado, the incredible speed and the blood stained price of success, Rush is a well-crafted film, a winning formula that elegantly delves into a fast paced racing arena really suitable for playboys and daredevils.

74th Academy Awards

74th Academy Awards

24th March 2002

Oscar Winners at the 74th Academy Awards

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Best Picture: A Beautiful Mind

Best Director: Ron HowardA Beautiful Mind

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Best Actor: Denzel Washington – Training Day

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Best Actress: Halle Berry – Monster’s Ball

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Best Supporting Actor: Jim Broadbent – Iris

Best Support Actress: Jennifer Connelly – A Beautiful Mind

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Best Original Screenplay – Julian Fellowes – Gosford Park

Best Adapted Screenplay – Akiva Goldsman – A Beautiful Mind

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Best Foreign Language Film – No Man’s Land directed by Danis Tanovic (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

Best Documentary Feature: Murder on a Sunday Morning directed by Jean Xavier Lastrade and Denis Poncet

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Best Original Score – Howard Shore – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

Best Cinematography – Andrew Lesnie – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

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Best Costume Design – Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie – Moulin Rouge

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Best Film Editing – Pietro Scalia – Black Hawn Down

Best Visual Effects – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/74th_Academy_Awards

 

 

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