Posts Tagged ‘Alfred Molina’

With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility

Spiderman: No Way Home

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Benedict Wong, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Charlie Cox, J. K. Simmons, Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, Angourie Rice, Rhys Ifans, Thomas Haden Church, Tom Hardy, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori

Film rating: 7.5 out of 10

Running Time: 2 hours and 28 minutes

Director Jon Watts went all out in the third Spiderman film to feature Tom Holland in Spiderman: No Way Home, capitalizing on both the success of all the previous Spiderman films and expertly capitalizing on Sony’s new deal with Marvel Studios to incorporate Spiderman into The Avengers as part of a multi-million dollar trademark agreement between Sony and Disney Studios.

The sprightly Tom Holland reprises his role as Spiderman, but now he has completed school and him and his friends are applying to go to MIT which is the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

Before Peter Parker aka Spiderman can enter college, he has to deal with the immense media fallout of his alter ego being blown wide open by the previous villain Mysterio played by Jake Gyllenhaal in 2019’s Spiderman: Far From Home.

With pure imagination and skill, director Jon Watts makes Spiderman: No Way Home a far darker comic book adventure as Peter Parker has to contend with some uninvited guests from his previously unknown past, courtesy of a spell which he requested the pompous wizard Doctor Strange to cast on everyone forgetting that Peter Parker is in fact Spiderman. The spell obviously goes terribly wrong….

Much to his horror, some past evil villains emerge to take revenge again on Spiderman including Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) as Electro; Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Shadow of a Vampire, The Florida Project, At Eternity’s Gate) as the Green Goblin and Alfred Molina as Doc Octopus.

Spidey has to contend with these new villains as well as pressure from an increasingly gruff Doctor Strange played again by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) who continually treats the young Peter Parker like an irresponsible college kid, which he essentially is.

Without giving any spoilers away, Spiderman: No Way Home is a fun filled Super hero film which will be sure to satisfy all the fans of the previous films. Audiences must stay beyond the closing credits to catch a glimpse of another Marvel monster who is desperate to meet the wayward web slinger.

Tom Holland does a wonderful job as Spiderman and even looks quite buff in the role compared to the first to films, but it is really director Jon Watts that makes the entire 2 and a half hour spectacle visually impressive channelling all that influence which acclaimed British director Christopher Nolan had on him. Clearly, Inception played a big part in Jon Watt’s directorial maturity.

Spiderman: No Way Home gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is immensely enjoyable family viewing.

Judging by how full the cinema was, this film is the theatrical blockbuster that 2021 so desperately needs. Watch it in cinemas now.

Vice and Virtue

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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Directed by: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Christopher Abbott, Alfred Molina, Stephen Peacocke, Cherry Jones, Josh Charles

From the directing team that brought audiences, I Love You Philip Morris and Focus, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa bring the Afghan war drama Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which is military jargon for WTF!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot focuses on the experiences of journalist Kim Baker who swops the tedious life of a New York media office for the dangerous life of a war correspondent in Afghanistan, from 2004 onwards based on her own novel, “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

30 Rock TV star and veteran comedian Tina Fey takes the title role and impressively turns in a nuanced, vaguely dramatic performance as Kim Baker ably assisted by a superb ensemble cast including Margot Robbie as a hard drinking cut-throat journalist Tanya van der Poel, Martin Freeman as a snarky Scottish reporter Iain McKelpie and best of all Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton as the no-nonsense American general Hollanek.

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Tina Fey who to date has largely appeared in comic roles alongside Amy Poehler is brilliant as Kim Baker and gives audience a chance to witness her dramatic side. As the emotional and physical strain of remaining in Afghanistan takes its toll, along with media colleagues who double cross her, Baker manages to resist the temptations of falling for her own hunky security detail, the gorgeous Nic, wonderfully played by Stephen Peacocke (Hercules) whilst forming a bond with her Afghani translator and guide, Fahim Ahmadzai brilliantly played by American actor Christopher Abbott last seen in J. C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year.

Character actor Alfred Molina also makes a hilarious turn as a Westernized Afghani government official Ali Massoud Sadiq who becomes besotted with Tina Fey’s hardnosed journalist.

Besides the decadent partying which occurs in the Ka-Bubble, as the foreigners nickname Kabul, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot highlights with dashes of humour, the difficulties invading Western forces face when dealing with a foreign country and culture so alien to their own, in this case Afghanistan.

What could be gleaned from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, besides the atrocities involved, is that war is almost like a decadent excursion into a completely different world. The scene in the film where Baker discovers the real reason a watering well is constantly being blown up in an Afghani village points to the larger gender inequalities inherent in war especially when the country being invaded is deeply patriarchal. War itself is demonstrated to be a man’s game and what makes the women in the film so fascinating especially Baker and Van der poel is their fleeting exotic beauty in a country in which the women are entirely covered up, a point so brilliantly made in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

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Whilst Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not going to win any awards cinematically, it is nevertheless a humourous and mostly farcical take on the absurdities of war, in the vein of Robert Altman’s classic film M. A. S. H. and Mike Nichol’s 1970 film Catch 22 based upon the Joseph Heller novel. What is notable is the media stance on war, whereby despite the annihilation around them, they refuse to take sides but merely show a mirror up to the brutal horrors of this contemporary man-made conflict in a hostile environment characterized by ample vice and little virtue or trust.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Zero Dark Thirty and David O. Russell’s Three Kings.

Passion Drives Us

Secret in their Eyes

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Director: Billy Ray

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina, Michael Kelly, Dean Norris, Zoe Graham, Joe Cole

Secret in Their Eyes is an American remake of the 2010 Argentinian film “El secreto de sus ojos” which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The director of the Spanish language film  Juan José Campanella co-writes the screenplay with Captain Philips writer Billy Ray and this new version teams up the talents of Oscar winners Nicole Kidman (The Hours) and Julia Roberts  (Erin Brockovich, Charlie Wilson’s War) with Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave).

This three handed complex murder mystery is set in Los Angeles and Ejiofor plays a Counter-Terrorism detective Ray Kasten whose allegiance to an unsolved murder case involving his partners daughter Carolyn Cobb, glimpsed in flashbacks and played by Zoe Graham last seen in Boyhood, leads him and ambitious and beautiful district attorney Claire Sloane, played by Kidman to believe that Carolyn Cobb’s killer is still out there since the case was never technically solved.

Julia Roberts plays a washed out and grim-faced detective Jess Cobb, whose only daughter was the victim of a horrific crime. Secret in Their Eyes is a tense psychological thriller with a brilliant twist at the end, although at times the action could have been more captivating.

Considering the acting talents involved, Secret in Their Eyes tends to disappoint at times as the plot, stumbles along stretched between two time periods 2002 and 2014 which makes following the narrative more difficult.

The best scene in the film is when Kidman’s character Claire is questioning the main suspect Marzin played by Joe Cole with a hint of psycho-sexual paranoia thrown in. Audiences should look out for great performances by supporting actors Alfred Molina (Abduction, Prince of Persia) as Martin Morales and Michael Kelly, last seen in Netflix’s House of Cards as Reg Siefert.

One gets the feeling that the original Argentinian film was far more riveting. Secret in Their Eyes is recommended viewing but nothing spectacular and although Roberts, Kidman and Ejiofor are superb, one gets the sense that a better director would have made this English language version more riveting and less contrived. Viewers can judge for themselves.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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    Leo Barraclough
  • Olivier Dahan on Simone Veil Biopic ‘Simone, A Woman of the Century’
    Olivier Dahan’s “Simone, A Woman of the Century” completes the trilogy he began with the Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en Rose,” starring Marion Cotillard, and “Grace of Monaco,” starring Nicole Kidman. Dahan spoke with Variety during the Unifrance Rendezvous in Paris, where the film had its market premiere. “Simone,” starring Elsa Zylberstein (“Un plus […]
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