Posts Tagged ‘Paul Dano’

City of Vengeance

The Batman

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Rupert Penry-Jones

Running Time: 2 hours and 56 minutes

Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10

War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves goes full out for the highly anticipated Batman remake simply called The Batman featuring Robert Pattinson as the stubbled caped crusader ready to fight off all Gotham’s evil creatures. In this case there are several.

Drawing massive inspiration from such films as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and David Fincher’s Seven, Matt Reeves paints Gotham as a dark and seedy metropolis filled with particularly twisted individuals, corrupt politicians and a serial killer that leaves cryptic clues while he livestreams killing his victims.

Gotham becomes a City of Vengeance as The Batman has to battle the entirely twisted The Riddler superbly played with a particular sinister panache by Paul Dano (There will be Blood, 12 Years a Slave, Little Miss Sunshine). Paul Dano’s The Riddler accurately rivals Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar winning portrayal of Joker in 2019.

Besides The Riddler that Batman has to contend with, there is the slinky Catwoman wonderfully played with a nefarious independence by Zoe Kravitz (Mad Max: Fury Road). The onscreen chemistry between Kravitz and Pattinson is electrifying as they reluctantly band together to track down The Riddler while also dealing with The Penguin played by an unrecognisable Colin Farrell (In Bruges, The Gentleman, The Beguiled) who is the henchman to the reclusive city gangster Carmine Falcone superbly played by John Turturro (Barton Fink, Quiz Show, Jungle Fever).

Screenwriters Matt Reeves and Peter Craig delve into all the Bruce Wayne mythology, including the dark and treacherous past of Bruce Wayne’s wealthy parents and their link with the Arkham asylum.

Robert Pattinson comes across as a less confident Batman, a Billionaire cape crusader less comfortable with becoming the saviour of the city, until he reconciles that this is his destiny. Pattinson’s Batman is far different from Ben Affleck as the arrogant Batman or Christian Bale as the wealthy, snobbish Batman who feels that it his right to defend the city because he inherited billions.

Pattinson is brilliant in the role of The Batman giving the iconic screen character a three dimensionality never seen before especially when forced to deal with the criminally insane but ingenious The Riddler who Paul Dano portrays as an extraordinary orphan with a meticulous grudge to bear against the rich, corrupt and powerful. 

From the seedy nightclubs of Gotham including 44 below, from Zoe Kravitz’s excellent interpretation of Catwoman, from the brilliant pacing of the film, from the quietly dark periods before the explosions rock the outskirts of Gotham and all hell breaks loose, The Batman gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10.

This is a long film but director Matt Reeves gives every cinema goer their money’s worth. This interpretation of The Batman is enthralling, gothic and grungy. Highly recommended viewing.

Horror or Desire

Youth

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Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Nate Dern, Ed Stoppard, Tom Lipinski, Alex Beckett, Alex Macqueen

Italian director Paolo Sorrentino first caught my attention with the visually impressive film, This Must be the Place about an aging rocker who leaves England and travels across America. The film starred Sean Penn. Then Sorrentino made the beautiful La Dolce Vita inspired masterpiece, The Great Beauty set in Rome about an aging playboy who reflects on his life of indulgence and decadence.

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Now, Sorrentino returns with another visually impressive film Youth starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda. Youth is film as art.

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A sublime and intriguing cinematic meditation on both the horrors and concealed desires of aging. It is a superb film, especially the last third of the film, which is so visually arresting and gorgeous it will be difficult for viewers not to be moved.

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Set mainly in a luxurious Swiss Spa resort which naturally focuses on well-being, health and vitality, Youth centres on the uncomplicated friendship between two aging celebrities, Fred Ballinger, superbly played by Oscar winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) and film director Mick Boyle also brilliantly played by Harvey Keitel (Casino, The Piano).

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Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) also stars as Ballinger petulant but continuously sad daughter and assistant, who happens to be married to Boyle’s son.

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Paul Dano (There will be Blood) appears as a hip Hollywood actor who is experimenting with his next major onscreen role. He finally decides to choose Desire over Horror.

The repartee between Keitel and Caine is superb, punctuated by some fantastically crafted scenes on aging bodies recuperating under the guidance of the Swiss. Ballinger is also constantly being pestered by the Queen of England’s emissary to conduct a concert of one of his most prolific works, Simple Songs, which was created as a sign of his complicated love for his wife.

Youth is a beautiful film, wonderfully shot, taking full advantage of the pristine Swiss countryside and surrounding mountain ranges. What is even more captivating in the film, is Michael Caine’s droll and almost nonchalant performance as the reluctant composer who is being enticed at every turn to come out of semi-retirement.

Caine’s performance is phenomenal considering how few well-written roles there are in Hollywood for actors over the age of seventy in this youth obsessed digitized contemporary culture that currently influence Western cinema. Which brings us to the second most captivating scene in the film, the mind-blowing moment between Harvey Keitel and screen legend and icon, Jane Fonda (Barbarella, The China Syndrome, The Butler). In such a brief scene, Fonda is sizzling and absolutely defines the film.

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Fonda plays Brenda Morrell a high maintenance Hollywood diva who unexpectedly arrives at the Swiss resort to break some startling news to her director Mick Boyle. This scene is cinematically brilliant in that it occurs just after Ballinger and Boyle are drooling over the voluptuous Miss Universe as she takes a dip in the same swimming pool they are in.

Youth is a cinematic feast, a gorgeous and rich meditation on the wonders and horrors of grow old gracefully. Aesthetically challenging, Youth is highly recommended viewing and worth a visit for a discerning audience who like their films to be inventive, invigorating and poignant.

 

 

Arizona under Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Abigail Spencer, Wyatt Russell

Originally published in August 2011

It’s like this. It’s always a one horse town, Absolution. If you love Westerns and Aliens films in the tradition of 3:10 to Yuma and all of Sergio Leone’s films like The Good, Bad and the Ugly, you will love Cowboys and Aliens, it’s a cross-genre mix without subtly and it has the star of the James Bond film franchise’s recent acquisition, Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) looking very out of place in a western. He has Harrison Ford (Star Wars) to assist him as the town sheriff. Harrison Ford, ex Solo is there to help against an awfully bizarre alien invasion in Arizona 1873. Together they battle the onslaught of an Alien invasions in outer far west.

There are lots of explosions, gunfights and alien invasions but it’s never without some form of retribution. Cowboys and Aliens is entertaining but hugely commercial film with loads of action sequences and lots of gunfights with hard-arsed cowboys and nefarious aliens that are clearly there to exploit the vulnerability of humans in an attempt  to control the Planet Earth even back in the 19th century in the outback of Arizona of all places.

See Cowboys and Aliens and don’t expect mental stimulation, but loads of popcorn fun. It’s a sleepy hit for the Northern Hemisphere summer season. Cowboys and Aliens also stars Paul Dano (There will be Blood), Sam Rockwell (Moon, Iron Man 2), Keith Carradine (Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle) and Abigail Spencer (Oz, The Great and Powerful).

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This is a cross over Sci Fi Western in the tradition of Yul Brynner’s 1973 film Westworld.

Sold Down the River

12 Years a Slave

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Director: Steve McQueen

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Quvenzhané Wallis, Michael Kenneth Williams

Based upon Solomon Northup’s groundbreaking novel, 12 Years a Slave published in 1853 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Years_a_Slave, British director Steve McQueen brings the critically acclaimed film version to the big screen exposing the cruelty, violence and brutality of the slave trade in the Antebellum Deep South prior to the American Civil War. Audiences have to bear in mind that 12 years a Slave is set in 1841, the first half of the 19th century when America having broken away from Britain was expanding its nation commercially especially in the Southern States like Georgia, Louisiana and basically most South Eastern states below the Mason-Dixon line from Virginia downwards.

Nevertheless, director McQueen emphasizes the emotional and physical imprisonment of both slave and slave owner in a terrifying master servant relationship which is based entirely on commerce and the expansion of agricultural land in the vast cotton-picking states of the American South East where slave owners viewed slaves as their personal property to be bought, sold or exchanged for debts as part of payment for arable land. Despite the commercial exchange and vicious currency of slavery, this does not excuse the devastating effects it had on the African American people who become slaves often ripping families apart as well as being subjected to all sorts of human rights abuses which would be unimaginable in a 21st century America with Barack Obama as president.

Slavery is a tough subject to contextualize onscreen and British director McQueen takes the challenge head on and show through the extraordinarily horrific experience of Solomon Northup (superbly played by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor) who as a free man in Saratoga, New York travels as part of a minstrel band to Washington DC where after a drunken night is drugged and sold into slavery and literally shipped down the Mississippi river to the slave port of New Orleans.

Northup first becomes the property of seemingly benevolent land owner Ford played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate), but after an altercation with the vicious plantation manager Tibeats an excellent cameo by Paul Dano, is transferred as part of a debt owing to the even more sadistic plantation owner Epps brutally played by Michael Fassbender. On Epps’s cotton picking Louisiana plantation, Northup meets the vulnerable but tough Patsey (an excellent performance by screen newcomer and Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o) who becomes the forbidden object of desire by the psychotic, bored and lustful Epps.

It is really Nyong’o’s Patsey who endures rape, torture and a particularly cruel whipping scene which elevates 12 Years a Slave into a shocking and harrowing portrayal of the absolute horrific conditions of 19th century slavery in the deep South, conditions so horrendous that the Northern states eventually intervened in a bid to abolish slavery resulting in the bloody American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War.

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McQueen’s film while at times lacking in narrative structure, is still an absorbing historical portrayal of humanity’s capacity to inflict cruelty and suffering on their fellow humans, a point which Brad Pitt’s character Bass emphasizes and who eventually assists Northup in his bid for emancipation. Shot in the suffocating heat of a Louisiana summer, 12 Years a Slave is atmospheric, brilliantly acted and deeply disturbing and a testament to man’s own ability to survive under vicious circumstances.

Whilst 12 Years a Slave won People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and has nine 2014 Oscar nominations, it is really the breakout performance of Lupita Nyong’o who shines amongst a British American cast including Alfre Woodard, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch and Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild as Northup’s daughter Margaret.

This is recommended viewing for lovers of historical films, but be warned 12 Years a Slave is cruel, violent and shocking, which is exactly McQueen’s intention in showing up Slavery as one of Mankind’s most atrocious historical eras, a completely ruthless and harrowing practice, offering a contemporary cinematic counterpoint to the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind.

 

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…

2013 Toronto Film Festival

2013 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

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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 among others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Fifth Estate directed by Bill Condon starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and Carice van Houten

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People’s Choice Award: 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Sarah Poulson

Best Canadian Feature Film: When Jews were Funny directed by Alan Zweig (documentary) starring Howie Mandel, Shelley Berman, Norm Crosby, Shecky Greene, Jack Carter, David Steinberg

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Toronto_Film_Festival

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