Posts Tagged ‘Alex Pettyfer’

A Wilderness of Mirrors

Chief of Station

Director: Jesse V. Johnson

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Olga Kurylenko, Alex Pettyfer, Chris Petrovski, Nick Moran, Daniel Bernhardt, Laetitia Eldo

Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes

Film Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Aaron Eckhart, Alex Pettyfer and Olga Kurylenko team up in this murky spy thriller, which is very moody and sombre to the point that audiences might be tricked into thinking they are watching a 1980’s Soviet era spy film.

Stuntman turned director Jesse V. Johnson directs Chief of Station about CIA agent Ben Malloy played by Aaron Eckhart whose wife Fallah played by French actress Laetitia Eldo is killed in an explosion at a posh restaurant in Budapest where they were meant to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Six months later, Ben retraces his steps from Washington DC back to Budapest, Hungary where he confronts a suspected Russian FSB Officer Evgeny Maltsev played with panache by British actor Nick Moran (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).

Ben discovers that in the deceptive world of espionage, it is truly a wilderness of mirrors as he initially trusts shady Eastern European Chief of Station John Branca played by Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike, In Time).

As Ben tries to identify who the true villain is, his son Nick played by Macedonian actor Chris Petrovski (Ray Donovan: The Movie) is kidnapped in Croatia by a rogue unit of the CIA.

Ben is trapped on a supposed CIA safehouse, a boat on the river Danube when he is fortunately rescued by his late wife’s colleague Krystyna Kowerski played with cool grit by Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Black Widow).

Unfortunately Chief of Station does not live up to expectations as an action spy film, with too many gaping holes in the narrative and a film with bad lighting and a confusing narrative. Even when you think the characters have been killed off in an action scene, they unexpectedly reappear. The storyboard for the films action scenes did not always make sense.

The actors do their best in this substandard action film but the direction is unimaginative and the action scenes are not even thrilling. As a viewer one got the sense that the film ran out of budget before completing filming. The production values are very low budget and generally the stars have very little to work with.

Potentially Chief of Station could have been a much better film, but it just doesn’t take off the ground despite the talents of Aaron Eckhart and Olga Kurylenko, whose agents should know better than put these actors in such a bad film.

A bad script, poor lighting and confusing characters cause this film to get a film rating of 5.5 out of 10. The best thing about the film is the running time.

Taking off the White Gloves

The Butler

The butler

 

Director: Lee Daniels

Starring: Forest Whitaker, David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, John Cusack, Alex Pettyfer, James Marsden, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lenny Kravitz, Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey.

The Oscar nominated director of Precious, Lee Daniels assembles an all star cast in the elegant and brutal chronicle of the American Civil Rights Movement from the Georgia cotton picking days of 1926 to the historic election of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States in 2008.

With a screenplay by Danny Strong based on Wil Haygood’s article “A Butler Well Served by this ElectionThe Butler follows the life of Cecil Gaines, a loyal and trusted African American butler to seven American presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower (played by Robin Williams) in 1957 to Ronald Reagan (played by Alan Rickman) in 1986 at the White House and features a staggeringly Oscar worthy performance by Forest Whitaker, Oscar winner for the extraordinary film The Last King of Scotland, whose sturdy and nuanced performance makes this historical film a must see. Alongside Whitaker portrayal of Gaines, is another wonderful performance by Talk Show Queen Oprah Winfrey as his hard drinking wife Gloria Gaines who along with her husband has to live through the turbulent sixties and seventies watching helplessly as one son Louis Gaines brilliantly portrayed by David Oyelowo gets involved in the civil rights movement in the Deep South whilst their youngest son Charlie joins up to fight in Vietnam.

During the Butler’s time at the White House he serves a range of American Presidents from JFK (played by James Marsden) to Nixon during the Watergate scandal, from Lyndon B. Johnson (played by Liev Schreiber) during the Vietnam War through to Ronald Reagan and his vetoing of sanctions against Apartheid South Africa in the mid 1980’s.

Whilst Daniels film is a clear tribute to the huge impact made by the American civil rights movement, the viewer at times will feel like they are watching a History Channel documentary. Yet despite the racial politics, at the heart of The Butler is the equally tumultuous yet tender relationship between Cecil Gaines and his family. Gaines employed as a White House Butler cannot jeopardize his job employed in service at the iconic seat of American power where ironically there is no room for politics. He cannot participate himself in the increasingly active American civil rights movement of the sixties, whilst his son Louis gets politically involved as he attends Fisk University in Tennessee.

From Gandhi inspired sits ins at segregated restaurants in Alabama to Freedom Bus rides through Klu Klux Klan riddled Mississippi, Louis finds his own identity as a civil rights activist only stopping short of joining the increasingly militant Black Panther movement which plagued the Nixon Administration in the early 1970’s. Gloria Gaines, wonderfully played by Winfrey has to manage two sons, an absent husband and an increasingly reckless lifestyle whilst adjusting to the ever changing race relations in contemporary American society.

remains_of_the_day

The Butler takes off the white gloves in examining the contentious issue of America’s history of race relations. Director Daniels expertly splices scenes of a brutal attack by white students on members of the civil rights movement at a Tennessee diner with images of Cecil Gaines and his fellow butlers Carter Wilson played by Cuba Gooding Jr and James Holloway played by Lenny Kravitz laying an immaculate table for White House state dinners, reminiscent of Merchant Ivory’s superb period drama Remains of the Day about the crumbling of the British class system in the late 1930’s prior to the outbreak of World War II.

What really makes The Butler so utterly absorbing is Forest Whitaker’s powerful performance as Cecil Gaines who whilst in service humbly retains only one constant request of equal wages from his White House employers. The rest of the star studded cast including veteran actors Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End) and Jane Fonda (On Golden Pond) really only have very brief scenes. John Cusack stands out as a troubled hard drinking Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal in 1972.

For lovers of period dramas with an expansive historical context, The Butler is recommended viewing. Director Lee Daniels expertly manages a huge and contentious time span of American history along with an impressive ensemble cast while extracting superb performances by Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo, making The Butler like his previously provocative film Precious a firm Oscar favourite.  A highly recommended and masterful piece of cinema.

 

Stripping for Tantalizing Tampa

MAGIC MIKE

This ain’t the village people

Before anyone reads this review, there is a confession to be made… I am a huge Steven Soderbergh fan!

As a film director he can do little wrong. Who else could turn a seemingly sordid tale of male stripping in Southern Florida into a thought-provoking work of decent cinema despite the subject matter? Steven Soderbergh can and it appears he has found his new muse in rising star, dancer turned actor Channing Tatum, in which this story of struggling male stripper turned actor is apparently based on. Magic Mike is far from amusing but tantalizing, provocative and superbly directed.

Soderbergh does for the almost closeted world of male stripping what Darren Aronofsky did for Wrestling and Ballet in his acclaimed films, The Wrestler and Black Swan. After all Soderbergh directed the Oscar winning multitextured portrayal of drug running on the US-Mexican border in Traffic and made a social political thriller in 2011’s excellent film Contagion.

With brilliant direction and solid performances by Channing Tatum in the title role along with Alex Pettyfer as novice young stripper Adam, along with Cody Horn as Adam’s responsible and disapproving sister Brooke and a charismatic and memorable performance by Matthew McConnaughey as sleazy and vain nightclub owner Dallas, Magic Mike follows the trials and stripteases of Mike and Adam in the raunchy and drugfuelled world of male stripping where the cash is easy but the credibility is often unattainable.

Magic Mike is no comedy and although there are loads of hot male bodies, both butts and torsos for female viewers to titiliate over, the film brilliantly overshadows the British comedy on the same subject The Full Monty in both flesh and substance. Its a sort of indictment of how far ordinary people will go to survive in an economically constrained era whilst also highlighting the pitfalls of being drawn into a morally dubious and nefarious glitzy world of strip clubs which is both addictive and difficult to escape from without one’s dignity completely unscathed.

Soderbergh does not sugar coat the world of male stripping nor glamorize its virtues for ultimately the cheap thrills that women receive always takes an emotional toll on the men being objectified. Stripping whether by men or women is ultimately always about sexual objectification and erotic tantalization with the ever elusive promise of forbidden fulfillment. Magic Mike has some light moments and lots of great eye-candy, but the film’s success belongs to Soderbergh’s expert direction and two surprisingly well balanced performances by Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer. Well worth the cinematic experience and not just for the gorgeous male cast! There is dancing too! Besides the film’s tagline says everything Work all Day, Work it all Night!

 

Darwinian Capitalism Out of Time

IN TIME

Amanda Seyfreid and Justin Timberlake star in the futuristic thriller In Time, written and directed by Andrew Niccol. While the concept is fresh and the look is retro-futurism, In Time does not fully develop into maturity and that is not just because all the characters most of whom are beautiful are not older then 25 years. It is set in mythical Los Angeles which is transformed into the opposing worlds of the downtrodden industrial Dayton and the chic and affluent New Greenwich whereby no one ages older than 25 years.

The Future is on your Hands


After the characters reach 25 years they live on time credit and everything is paid for in time, not money. While the story is largely allegorical about how the present generation is struggling to survive in a global culture of Darwinian Capitalism, whereby it surely is the survival of the fittest or in this case the richest, Timberlake and Seyfreid play Will Salas and Sylvia Weiss a Bonnie and Clyde duo who go about robbing time banks and redistributing centuries back to the poorer classes. In Time is a unique, yet under explored concept lacking depth but making up in style. As sci-fi films go In Time is no match for any of the retro-futuristic classics like Minority Report or Blade Runner or even The Adjustment Bureau, but still fun to watch.

The best part of the film besides the suave looking cast is the film noir feel of the movie, with Nichols creating a retro yet stylish futuristic world with cool cars, stylish wardrobe and a storyline which resembles more a Raymond Chandler novel than a 21st century sci-fi thriller. Seyfried and Timberlake make a fine couple, although their on screen chemistry wanes towards the climax of the narrative. Watch out for a balanced performance by Cilllian Murphy playing the timekeeper trying to maintain the system and Alex Pettyfer as the local gangster Fortis.

In Time ‘s best line which rings true as we enter the 2nd decade of the 21st century – “Its about Darwinian Capitalism”. See the thriller and make sure you not with anyone over 45, they will feel ancient!

 

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