Posts Tagged ‘Guy Pierce’

Look Homeward, Angel

Genius

genius

Director: Michael Grandage

Cast: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Guy Pierce, Dominic West, Vanessa Kirby

Jude Law reunites with his Cold Mountain co-star Nicole Kidman and shares the screen with Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) in actor turned director Michael Grandage’s handsome literary film, Genius which premiered at the 37th Durban International Film Festival – http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/

Genius is based upon the biography of Max Perkins written by A. Scott Berg and transformed into an enlightening screenplay by John Logan.

Set in New York in the late 1920’s and on the brink of the Great Depression, Colin Firth gives a measured and subtle performance as the literary editor Max Perkins who has to contend with the overzealous and brilliant Carolingian writer Thomas Wolfe wonderfully played by Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) who has written a masterpiece, Look Homeward, Angel but needs the editing skills of the diligent Max Perkins to edit the text into a readable novel.

Perkins was responsible for editing the literary works of Ernest Hemingway played in this film by Dominic West (Testament of Youth) and F. Scott Fitzgerald post his Parisian phase, played by Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential). Genius is the examination of a male bond and friendship which strikes up between the reserved and slightly conservative Perkins and the wild and exuberant Thomas Wolfe, whose patronage is supported by the jealous and possessive Aline Bernstein superbly played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours).

Genius is about the evolution of a literary text, from creation through editing to publication, and how that process can be fraught with distraction, despair and most importantly passion.

Perkins neglects his long suffering wife Louise played by Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, Mr Holmes) and his family of daughters. Perkins unwittingly and perhaps subconsciously finds solace in the male friendship of the erratic and gifted Thomas Wolfe, although their affection for each other borders upon the homo-erotic, which both Aline and Louise can perceive and are certainly threatened by.

Firth wears a hat for the majority of the film and only at the end of Genius after he admits his true feelings for the incorrigible Wolfe, does he take it off. Perkin’s hat serves as a signifier of conformity in the film, despite the raging modernist and Bloomsbury movement which was engulfing Paris and London at the times. New York was still fairly conservative by European standards especially as the full effects of the Great Depression are realized by American society.

Despite an Oscar worthy cast and ambitious literary intentions, Genius is not a superb film in the same vein that The Hours was or Christopher Hampton’s Carrington, yet it is worth watching and would appeal to audiences who possess sophisticated literary tastes.

Nevertheless with polished production values, and brilliant performances by Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, Genius is an informative portrayal of a hugely talented writer Thomas Wolfe who never quite achieved the same international posthumous recognition as F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway.

Genius is recommended viewing and certainly a reason to rediscover the literary works of Wolfe who wrote Look Homeward, Angel  and Of Time and The River.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wolfe

2010 Toronto Film Festival

2010 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

TIFF 2010

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on amongst others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: Score, A Hockey Musical directed by Michael McGowan starring Nelly Furtado, Olivia Newton-John, Stephen McHattie & Noah Reid

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People Choice Award: The King’s Speech directed by Tom Hooper starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pierce, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle

Incendies

Best Canadian Feature Film: Incendies directed by Denis Villeneuve starring , &

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Toronto_International_Film_Festival

 

Upgrading the DNA

IRON MAN 3

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Director: Shane Black

Cast: Robert Downey Jnr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Miguel Ferrer, Paul Bettany

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black reunites with Robert Downey Jnr in the third instalment of the highly successful Iron Man franchise in Iron Man 3. Whilst the third film lacks the panache of the original Iron Man, Iron Man 3 will definitely appeal to its target male audience and features a bigger role for the superhero sidekick Pepper Potts, played with a muscularity by Gwyneth Paltrow. Don Cheadle returns as the army officer suiting up the Iron Patriot. Iron Man 3, with the exception of a brief prelude in Bern Switzerland, stays firmly within the cultural pastiche of 21st century America from Malibu to Chattanooga to Miami.

Especially relevant now, the enemy in Iron Man 3 is a psychopathic superhuman terrorist, The Mandarin, who is seemingly terrorising key points in the USA from the Graumann Theatre in downtown Hollywood to Air Force One, mid air over Florida with an explosive chemical manipulation of man’s DNA. As a sideline there is the supposedly geeky rival scientist Aldrich Killian first introduced in Bern, played with a marvelous dexterity by Australian actor Guy Pierce, an antithesis of all that Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark represents from boyish charm, sophisticated genius and suave, billionaire industrialist.

Unfortunately unlike Iron Man and Iron Man 2, with the wonderful Mickey Rourke as the villain flinging racing cars through the air at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, the villain in this third installment is not as clearly defined, nor is he as ruthless and cunning yet equally clever and what imbalances appear on screen, is made up for by the witty script and loads of stunning action sequences from the demolition of Tony Stark’s Malibu Mansion, to a unrivaled skydiving sequence.

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Fresh from the attack of Loki’s avenging Nordic demons on the Manhattan skyline in 2012’s smash hit The Avengers, Iron Man is more fragile and less strong as he first appears, suffering from anxiety attacks and insomnia and seeking refuge in his robotic world of remote controlled Iron Men, Tony Stark soon finds the inner parent in him as he befriends Harley a Tennessee tech-savy youngster as he investigates a mysterious explosion in the Southern town close to Chattanooga in a bid to rebuild his Iron Man suit and save Pepper Potts from the clutches of the elusive villain, the internet waging, cultural terrorist The Mandarin…

Whilst there are some fantastic action sequences and Downey as usual embodies all the likable characteristics of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, the third installment of the series lacks a tighter narrative, with many inexplicable plot points not being resolved in favour of big budget action sequences. Iron Man 3, immersed in contemporary cultural references from Joan Rivers to Downton Abbey has some hugely entertaining sequences especially the Malibu and Tennessee sections but lacks some of the inherent style and flamboyance of the first two films, and also points to a rather disturbing subtext that many violent episodes in 21st century American society are at the hands of those from within the nation, and not some foreign malevolent power.

Nevertheless, the action and script makes up for any plot deficiencies and Iron Man 3 is fun for a gang of teenage boys to watch. Also starring the underutilized Rebecca Hall (Vicky Christina Barcelona) and Oscar Winning Ben Kingsley which begs the question what were these fine actors doing in such a comic book sequel?

Violent Tendencies

LAWLESS

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The Road director John Hillcoat’s violent adaptation of the novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondourant is graphic, gritty and riveting. Featuring the bad boys of 21st century cinema, Lawless teams Shia LaBeauf (Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps, Transformers) with Tom Hardy (Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises) and Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) as the true life Bondourant  bootlegging brothers of Franklin County, Virginia, circa 1920.

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Narrated by the youngest and naturally the most flashiest brother Jack Bondourant played brilliantly by La Beouf, Lawless tells of how the three brothers enter the bloody world of bootlegging during Prohibition America and how their claim to fame besides their protectiveness of each other is their invincibility. Sooner Jack goes into business with the fugitive Chicago Floyd Banner (a great cameo by Oscar Nominee Gary Oldman) and illegally transports whisky and moonshine across county lines. Up against a sadistic and vain deputy sheriff Charlie Rakes played with a subtle brutality by Guy Pierce (L. A. Confidential), what ensues is a violent turf war brought on by the prohibition and all the illegal, criminal activities which develop at an unrelenting pace.

Jessica Chastain (The Help, Zero Dark Thirty), plays Maggie Beauford the storekeeper and eventual love interest for the seemingly invincible Forrest Bondourant  gruffly acted by the ever talented Tom Hardy, whilst the oldest brother Howard, played by Jason Clarke fresh from the horrors of World War 1 is the quiet and slightly sociopathic type. Lawless is a rural gangster film, which moves the action away from the major cities like Chicago,  New York and Atlantic City (as seen in the classic The Untouchables and the brilliant HBO series Boardwalk Empire) and depicts the Virginia trio as a tough, seemingly invincible band of brothers who will go to any lengths to protect their operation and survive during the 1920’s and 30’s.

Boardwalk Empire

Whilst Lawless focuses too much on the violence, and not enough on the characters motivation, it is clear that all three brothers possess vicious tendencies when protecting themselves and each other in their bid for survival. Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre) stars as the Quaker’s daughter Bertha Minnix, a potential love interest for Jack and it’s in scenes between Wasikowska and LaBeouf in which the script is the strongest.

Lawless is a bloody slice in more ways than one of Prohibition era American history and is not for sensitive viewers as director Hillcoat goes for more of the brutality and less of the morality in this gripping tale of brutal brothers surviving against all odds, and proving that when it comes to turf wars, blood is always thicker than moonshine.

 

Origin of the Species

Prometheus

Ridley Scott’s much anticipated prequel to Alien, Prometheus contains astounding visuals and superb special effects and thematically centres on the anthropological term of first contact whereby mankind goes into deep space in search of their mysterious origins and discovers species bent on annihilation. Featuring an all star international cast including Noomi Rapace from the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as the pivotal role of Shaw, Michael Fassbender from Xmen: First Class and Inglorious Basterds as David and South African Hollywood superstar Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers, Prometheus follows the terrifying journey of the Prometheus spaceship into an unchartered planet to discover the origins of mankind.

Whilst the origin of species  remains questionable this film theorises that it is all down to a gradual mutation of DNA and naturally instinctive survival is paramount, in this case one species dominating the others through treachery and deceit. In Greek Mythology Prometheus is a titan who is credited with the creation of man but is also punished by Zeus for the theft of fire for human use – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus. In the sci-fi universe of Prometheus man’s creation and the discovery of something infinitely more powerful than fire is all consuming.

Man’s insatiable quest for knowledge about their origins and his desire for answers that leads the motley crue of the ship to discover not one, but two alien races, one whose DNA feeds off the originator like a parasite and transforms into something purely evil and instantly recognizable. The only answer to creation provided in this film is to the question that the dubious David asks about his maker to Shaw’s love interest the doomed Dr Holloway played by Logan Marshall-Green last seen in 2009’s Brooklyn’s Finest.

As in the visually spectacular Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s iconic dreamlike vision of the future set in Los Angeles in 2019, which now as it happens is not that far off, Prometheus is set in 2095 and predicts humans quest to discover other life forms, a journey, which like most space travel in the 21st century is predominantly sponsored by large commercial corporations represented in this film by the icy crew manager Vickers played by Theron. Prometheus like Blade Runner and Alien is pure sci-fi thriller with some astounding visuals but leaves the audience  slightly lost in space as the elusive narrative drifts towards a rather sudden and unpredictable climax.

Where the plotlines rupture with some fascinating twists, it is the technical superiority of this film which triumphs making Prometheus eclipse Avatar on so many levels and is worth watching on a cinematic widescreen with digitally enhanced surround sound.

Like Alien, Thelma and Louise and GI Jane, Ridley Scott has often relied on strong female leads to carry his films, and Noomi Rapace is brilliantly cast as the gritty Dr Elizabeth Shaw and carries the intensity of such a murky monochromatic  movie. Best scene is Shaw’s speedy self diagnosis and instant electronic caesarian. Prometheus is brilliant as a Sci-Fi film and an enigmatic prequel, but is not Ridley Scott’s best work, yet still thoroughly entertaining but not quite as terrifying as the original Alien movies or the horrific Event Horizon and like Avatar could have been enhanced by a Sigourney Weaver cameo.

Transforming a Future King

The King’s Speech

In the age of radio and the approaching storm clouds of World War II, King George VI takes over the British throne after his elder brother King Edward VIII abdicates in favour of marrying American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Tom Hooper’s superb drama The King’s Speech is remarkable in the three central performances by the fantastic Colin Firth as King George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as his wife Queen Elizabeth and Geoffrey Rush as an exuberant and unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Coupled with a brilliant score by Alexandre Desplat who did the music for Stephen Frears’s drama The Queen and using an evocative and almost gloomy backdrop of post-depression London, The King’s Speech is a film that deftly combines the historical enormity of the abdication crisis and the approaching war, with a far more personal affliction of a reluctant King who has suffered since childhood with a terrible speech impediment.

In the intelligently scripted scenes, written with panache by David Siedler between Lionel and Bertie as King George VI was known, Siedler portrays an unconventional Antipodean speech therapist who recognizes the potential of a prickly nobleman destined to become a great King and gives him back the confidence to rule a nation at a time of immense uncertainty. Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth are in top form as commoner unleashing the potential of a King and slowly uncovering the psychological stumbling blocks associated with such a speech disability as a Prince suffering the effects of a strict Victorian upbringing and weighted with the destiny of being 2nd in line to the British Throne.


Director Tom Hooper not only shows the historical developments of late 1930s Britain but also the rapid and transforming power of radio and the potential of this new medium to address all corners of the then expansive colonial Empire. Much was at stake for Bertie to conquer his affliction and give Britain and its colonies hope and inspire confidence through the power of radio as the storm clouds gathered with the rapid brutal expansion of the Third Reich, culminating in the outbreak of World War II in September 1939.

The Kings Speech is funny, immensely moving and by far the best film about the British Monarchy to be made in recent years and can stand proudly as a companion to such classics as The Madness of King George and The Queen.

The Kings’ Speech is just the right vehicle to recapture the imagination of audiences worldwide to the powerful allure and the enduring reign of the British monarchy. Colin Firth deserves all the accolades already heaped on him for his subtle and multi-layered performance as Bertie and is supported brilliantly by Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter along with stolid cameos by Michael Gambon as the patriarchal King George V and Claire Bloom as the stoical Queen Mary.

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