Posts Tagged ‘Melissa Leo’

Barbarians at the Gate

London has Fallen

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Director: Babak Najafi

Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Patrick Kennedy, Colin Salmon, Charlotte Riley, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Alon Aboutboul, Waleed Zuaiter

Iranian director Babak Najafi follows up the 2013 action film Olympus has Fallen with the more obvious title of London has Fallen.

This time Washington D. C. is the safe zone but London comes under attack by a Pakistani arms dealer Aamir Bakawi who is wreaking havoc on the West for a drone attack which killed his daughter during her wedding back in Pakistan. Bakawi is helped by his vengeful son Kamran played by Waleed Zuiater (The Visitor).

Two years later, after the sudden death of the British prime minister, the entire group of G8 leaders plan on assembling in London for the state funeral at Westminster Abbey.

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No London landmark is safe as the Houses of Parliament, the Abbey, Chelsea Bridge all come under attack but fear not the American president Benjamin Asher played again by Aaron Eckhart is protected by macho bodyguard Mike Banning wonderfully played to form by Gerard Butler, both of whom were in the first film.

This time Banning has more to fight for including getting back to his expectant wife Leah played by Radha Mitchell. As the situation deteriorates in London, and the security forces cannot be trusted as many of whom are employed by the elusive arms dealer, Bakawi who is gleefully watching the destruction of the British capital from a café in Yemen.

Whilst director Najafi does not concentrate on a complex political backstory, his main focus is on delivering a fast paced action thriller filled with brilliant stunts, classic one liners mainly uttered by Gerard Butler, London has Fallen, despite the unlikely plot, is sure to satisfy action fans.

With a great supporting cast including Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) as the vice-president Trumbull who is directing the presidential extraction from the Washington situation room along with Robert Forster and Jackie Earle Haley, London has Fallen is similar to Olympus has Fallen but lacks originality although is sure to raise more security questions considering how the enemy is portrayed as infiltrated British police officers.

In light of the Paris attacks in November 2015, London has Fallen is gripping but the explosive action does little to actually make the narrative seem more credible. Like the first film, audiences should expect a high body count, a couple of twists and turns and Gerard Butler saving the day.

As the mysterious mole in British intelligence says, the barbarians are at the gates, London has Fallen raises more questions about which city would be under attack next, especially considering the current state of geo-political affairs and more significantly the rapidly growing migrant influx into Western Europe.

London has Fallen is a real action film, short on plot but big on visuals and explosions. Fans of Olympus has Fallen will enjoy this interesting sequel. A third film is sure to follow to make up an explosive trilogy.

 

No Income, No Jobs

The Big Short

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Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, Jeffry Griffin, Billy Magnussen, Max Greenfield, Tracy Letts

The critically acclaimed film The Big Short is a highly inventive tale of how six men predicted the collapse of the US housing market and actually made money off this economic disaster.

Christian Bale turns in a brilliant Oscar nominated performance as the socially awkward Dr Michael Burry, a neurologist suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome who gives up medicine to become a hedge fund manager in director Adam McKay’s frenetic financial diatribe The Big Short, about the collapse of the American housing market in 2007 and 2008, which precipitated the worst international financial crisis since the Great Depression back in 1929.

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Joining Bale in the cast are Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) as Wall Street trader Jared Vennett, Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) as hedge fund manager Mark Baum and Brad Pitt (Moneyball) as reclusive banker Ben Rickett. These four men together with two young eager investors Charlie Geller played by John Maguro (Carol) and Jamie Shipley played by Finn Wittrock all predict the imminent collapse of the US housing market due to the instability of unsecured sub-prime mortgages.

Through a series of inter related events between 2005 and 2007, these guys develop a system of credit default swaps by betting against the housing market which like the Tech industry bubble, eventually burst in 2008 bringing down Lehman Brothers in September 2008, one of the world’s largest investment banks, and forcing the entire global economy into a devastating recession.

What makes the entire dodgy financing worse is that the banks and the international rating agencies collude to actually validate the profiting of these credit default swaps, causing the Biggest Short in economic history which inevitably lead to no income and no jobs for millions of people worldwide.

Best Line in the film is prophetically “In five years’ time, everyone is going to be blaming the immigrants and the poor.”

Financial films are never exciting unless the director makes the viewer totally engrossed in what they are watching. Fortunately Anchorman director Adam McKay through some inventive directing and skillful editing along with a fascinating script by Charles Randolph which makes The Big Short an utterly engrossing film.

The Big Short is anchored down by four great performances by Pitt, Carell, Gosling and particularly Bale. Christian Bale and Steve Carell are particularly good and while some of the narrative devices are quite ingenious like Jared Vennett directly addressing the audience or using celebrities like Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez to explain the financial fundamentals especially of synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), the latter of which ironically taking place at a Blackjack table in Las Vegas.

The Big Short is an engaging, masculine portrayal of greed and power running unabated and the most frightening part about the story is that it is all true. The effects of the 2008 global financial meltdown are still being felt around the world in 2016.

Audiences should also look out for cameos by Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei along with Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) and Hamish Linklater (Magic in the Moonlight). Unlike Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street or Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, Adam McKay’s The Big Short does not glamourize greed but rather sheds light on how reckless and unchecked rampant capitalism has its pitfalls as the entire world was to find out in September 2008.

The scary part is that, these real life characters portrayed in The Big Short made money off the eventual collapse of a national housing market and some of the larger Banks got away with dishing out unsecured loans to unsuspecting home buyers simply by restructuring the debt packages.

The Big Short is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy financial films with edge, tenacity and an inventive style without resorting to profanity or decadence.

 

 

 

68th Golden Globe Awards

68th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 16th January 2011 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

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Best Film Drama – The Social Network

Best Director: David Fincher – The Social Network

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Best Film Musical or Comedy: The Kids are All Right

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Best Actor Drama: Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

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Best Actress Drama: Natalie Portman – Black Swan

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Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Paul Giametti – Barney’s Version

Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Annette Bening – The Kids are All Right

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Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale – The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo – The Fighter

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Best Foreign Language Film: In a Better World (Denmark)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/68th_Golden_Globe_Awards

 

 

 

Trapped in Suburbia

Prisoners

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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, David Dastmalchian

French Canadian director of Foreign language film nominee Incendies Denis Villeneuve weaves a web of intrigue in the deeply disturbing suburban thriller Prisoners extracting a brilliant performance by his two central male leads, Oscar Nominees Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) set in a wintry landscape of Pennsylvania.

Prisoners bleak story revolves around two average American families (the Dovers and the Birches) whose daughters are best friends and after a relaxing Thanksgiving lunch, the girls are playing in the street where they are snatched in mysterious circumstances. The parents of the missing girls Keller Dover and his wife Grace played by Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello and the Birches played by Terrence Howard (Dead Man Down) and Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help) are naturally beside themselves with grief and worry.

In steps the local police Detective Loki, a superb performance by Jake Gyllenhaal who goes on a desperate mission to unravel the mystery of these vanished children, uncovering a whole web of secrets in the closely knitted Pennsylvanian community. The first suspect is the shy Alex Jones, wonderfully played by Paul Dano (Ruby Sparks, There will be Blood) who was parked in a RV that the abducted girls were playing on moments before they went missing, but upon questioning turns out to have a seemingly limited intelligence, covering up an even darker secret.

To complicate the investigation even further the fathers of the missing girls Keller Dover and Franklin Birch capture the scared Alex Jones soon after he is released from police custody and then start torturing him as a prisoner in an abandoned apartment convinced that he knows what happened to the little girls. Detective Loki is meanwhile hot on the trial of another suspect Bob Taylor played by David Dastmalchian, who has a penchant for buying children’s clothes at the local Valuemart.

Prisoners is a disturbing tale of how far a father will go to find his lost daughter and the also the ramifications that an abduction can have on a small town community. This is a disturbing film, slightly depressing as most of it is shot against a slate grey sky of an approaching Pennsylvania winter, but fortunately director Villeneuve has assembled a top notch cast including Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) as Alex Jones’s mysterious aunt Holly Jones.

Viewers have to concentrate in this film as the narrative drops clues all the time about who the real culprit is and as the tension mounts a disturbing twist is revealed whereby the hunter becomes the prey, an analogy first introduced in the opening shot when the ultra prepared and slightly neurotic Keller Dover, a wonderfully different performance by Hugh Jackman is teaching his teenage son Ralph how to hunt deer.

Prisoners only crime is that the riveting, yet gap filled narrative could have been more tightly written by screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski and certain scenes definitely required some crisp editing  to make the emotional resonance of the film more astounding.

Prisoners runs for 153 minutes which is fairly long for a suspense drama about child abduction in a murky and seemingly soulless American suburbia. If film goers enjoyed the Oscar winning Mystic River then Prisoners is that type of film although not as good. Disturbing, compelling and scary, Prisoners will take viewers into a maze of intrigue…

Taking of the Capitol

Olympus Has Fallen

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Aaron Eckhart, Robert Foster, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser

Whilst it is not about the Greek financial crisis, Olympus Has Fallen, is a gripping, albeit unsubtle hostage drama involving  a vicious attack on the White House by a Korean paramilitary group who is seeking vengeance on America for the Korean War. Featuring Gerard Butler (Machine Gun Preacher, 300) as the original action hero, Mike Banning who is first introduced as a secret service aide to the youngish gung-ho American President Benjamin Asher played by Aaron Eckhart and the gorgeous First Lady briefly played by Ashley Judd at the Presidential retreat at Camp David where on a routine presidential outing a terrible car crash occurs on an icy bridge during a blizzard.

The action swiftly moves 18 months later to the White House and Capitol Hill where the rest of the cast is introduced including Oscar winners Morgan Freeman as the Secretary of State Trumbull and Melissa Leo as the tough Secretary of Defence Ruth McMillan along with Oscar nominees Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs and Robert Forster as General Edward Clegg. Director of the Oscar winning film Training Day, Antoine Fugua throws caution to the wind and without much intrigue depicts a full scale assault on the White House by a group of rogue Korean operatives, lead by Kang played by Rick Yune of Die Another Day fame,  who attack a key meeting  between the American and South Korean presidents and literally annihilate half of Washington DC including the famed Washington Monument.

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Fuque as director excels in his trademark bloody action style, and Olympus Has Fallen is no different and whilst the audience will be gripped in the midst of a Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 type hostage crisis, whereby the President is held captive by the villainous Kang with the assistance of some unlikely traitors, as a film it certainly does not leave much to the imagination.

The film’s action and violence is fast and thick which does little for any sense of diplomacy or pay tribute to the more complex political dynamic that America has with the 21st Century Korean peninsula, along with the current intricate relations Washington DC has with both Seoul and Pyongyang, the film only serves to bolster American patriotism at the hands of a foreign enemy invasion.

Whilst the action sequences are brutal and spectacular the remaining characterization in the film lies too thin to make this outlandish plot entirely plausible, although it is gripping entertainment but not nearly as good as Fugua’s all American crime dramas like Brooklyn’s Finest and Shooter. Watch out for particularly good performances by Dylan McDermott as Secret Agent Forbes and Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) as the tortured hostage and resilient Washington politician, whilst the rest of the cast including Radha Mitchell as Banning’s wife Leah and Cole Hauser have minimal screen time.

Olympus has Fallen is an intense action thriller with a vaguely political narrative serving to bolster American propaganda, but subtlety is not its strong suit, nor was it meant to be plausible or intriguing, just downright entertaining. Recommended viewing but not in the cinematic league of Enemy of the State, Spy Games or the brilliant Zero Dark Thirty.

Temple of the Infinite Gods

Oblivion

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The undeniable truth about Tom Cruise Sci-Fi movies is that he doesn’t really star in a bad film. Like the success of  the riveting 2002 Steven Spielberg film Minority Report, Oblivion is a glossy 21st century version of 2001 a Space Odyssey with gorgeous cinematography by Claudio Miranda (who won an Oscar for Life of Pi) and a very tantalizingly post-modern narrative involving Jack Harper played by Cruise and his effective team member Victoria played by Andrea Riseborough (W/E) who live in a post apocalyptic earth high above the carnage in a swish pent house resembling Bespin Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back and whose job in 2077 is to look after huge hydroelectric plants which are converting the earth’s ocean energy to be used towards the future colonization of one of Saturn’s more inhabitable moons as Earth is no longer entirely livable.

Oblivion through some stunning production designs sets up a seemingly post apocalyptic planet in which scavengers have invaded and attacked the moon causing much havoc with the world and the tidal systems, and once where there were cities lies a wasteland. Except that Jack Harper whose memory has been wiped clean of the apocalypse has flashbacks of a meeting with a mysterious woman, Julia subtly underplayed by Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), at the base of the Empire State Building sixty years earlier back in 2017, pre-apocalyptic New York City. Themes of liberty and the eternal struggle of the human spirit against insurmountable odds is beautifully explored in Oblivion and as the film progresses, one gets the feeling that this is a three act Scientology inspired opera on the Infinity of Space.

As Jack and Victoria report to a distant projected screened image of Sally, their supervisor, played with a Southern drawl by Melissa Leo on the orbiting space station Tet, one gets the sense of something sinister occurring much like the omniscient spaceship computer Hal 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Without giving away too much of the plot twists, and in Oblivion there are many, Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski’s existential version of the Odyssey is superb to watch and whilst the film is evenly paced, the last act of the film, in which many narrative threads are elegantly woven together, Oblivion clearly appears as a cinematic pastiche of all successful Sci-Fi films from the last four decades from Star Wars to The Matrix trilogy to the Mad Max movies.

Not as tightly woven as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Oblivion is a gorgeously slick odyssey to the Temple of the Infinite Gods namely in outer space with a huge amount of twists and certainly shows that Cruise at the age of nearly 51 still has what it takes to carry such an inventive and intriguing science fiction cinematic fantasy. Oblivion is worth watching especially for serious Sci-Fi fans! Also stars Morgan Freeman  as the mysterious Beech sporting a huge cigar in a sadly underwritten cameo and Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Sykes also familiar as Jamie Lannister in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.

83rd Academy Awards

Oscar Winners

for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards

Sunday 27th February 2011

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Best Film: The King’s Speech

Best Director: Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech

Best Actor: Colin FirthThe King’s Speech

 

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Best Actress: Natalie PortmanBlack Swan

 

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Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo – The Fighter

Best Supporting Actor: Christian BaleThe Fighter

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Best Original Score: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Social Network

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network

Best Original Screenplay: David Siedler – The King’s Speech

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Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland

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Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister –Inception

Best Costume Design: Colleen Atwood – Alice in Wonderland

Best Editing: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter – The Social Network

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Best Make-up: Rick Baker and Dave Elsey – The Wolfman

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Best Foreign Language Film: In a Better World directed by Susanne Bier (Denmark)

Best Sound Editing: Richard King – Inception

Best Visual Effects: Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb – Inception

*

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/83rd_Academy_Awards

 

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