Posts Tagged ‘Paul Giamatti’

Lily of the Amazon

Jungle Cruise

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Veronica Falcon, Dani Rovira, Quim Gutierrez

Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

If viewers are looking for a fun-filled action adventure film then look no further than Jungle Cruise, a film by Disney based upon a ride at Disney World.

Jungle Cruise has the unique mixture of Pirates of the Caribbean tinged with a dash of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with undertones of Maurice and The Lost City of Z.

Essentially, Jungle Cruise is about headstrong British explorer Lily Houghton brilliantly played by a blonde haired and gorgeous looking Emily Blunt who teams up with alpha male Frank Wolff played again by Dwayne Johnson, who is lovable in this part but entirely miscast, as they journey down the Amazon river in search of a rare petal, called tears of the moon which promises immortality and a range of exotic cures for Western ailments.

Jack Whitehall plays the prissy younger brother MacGregor Houghton, channelling a younger Hugh Grant, but eventually just emerging as a gay caricature. Nevertheless, Whitehall makes the most of his role as MacGregor who is largely superfluous to the action, but who acts as a foil for his older sister Lily, who is all strong and adventurous.

Unfortunately for Jungle Cruise, there is no clear villain, so the plot gets as entangled as the thickest vines of the Amazon, as two actors Edgar Ramirez (Resistance, Zero Dark Thirty, Domino) and Jesse Plemons (The Irishman, Battleship) both vie for the roles of the main villain.

Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez should have been the quintessential villain, but his role is upstaged by character actor Jesse Plemons playing the young son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Prince Joachim who is after the mysterious petal in a German submarine so that he can obtain the rare flower to help Germany win the First World War.

The plot is outlandish, the action is at times messy but fortunately Emily Blunt is a skilled enough actress to make her role as the dynamic Lily Houghton believable and recognizable.

Suspend your disbelief at the door as Jungle Cruise is that crazy adventure film set in Brazil in 1916 during the First World War about British explorers, conquistadores, jaguars and disgruntled German princes.

Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) and Mexican actress Veronica Falcon are wasted in extremely small roles. Jungle Cruise is all about a satisfying adventure film and in this respect it achieves its goal and delivers.

Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra steers a solid action packed adventure film which should please the entire family. Jungle Cruise might be as bumpy as a Disney ride, but it is enjoyable and light entertainment disregarding many of its classic film inspirations.

Jungle Cruise gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 but it could have been so much better.

It is surprising that Collet-Serra did not fight for more representation from the vastly talented pool of Latino actors that he had at his disposal namely Edgar Ramirez and Veronica Falcon. Fortunately for all its faults, Emily Blunt shines as Lily of the Amazon.

California Fault Lines

San Andreas

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Director: Brad Peyton

Cast: Dwight Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Archie Panjabi, Hugh Johnstone-Burt, Will Yun Lee, Alexandra Daddario, Colton Haynes, Kylie Minogue, Ioan Gruffudd

Canadian director Brad Peyton’s homage to American patriotism is brilliantly captured in the Hollywood blockbuster San Andreas starring Dwight Johnson (Hercules), Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave) and Carla Gugino (Sucker Punch, American Gangster, Sin City).

California literally splits in two in San Andreas as the fault line which separates Nevada and California erupts and causes a mammoth series of earthquakes along the entire San Andreas fault from the Hoover Dam in Nevada right to Los Angeles and up to San Francisco, where the film echoes the devastating 1906 earthquake which rocked the Bay area.

Audiences should not expect any intelligent dialogue, with possibly the best lines being spoken by seismologist Lawrence played by Paul Giamatti (Sideways) and tough News reporter Serena played by The Good Wife star Archie Panjabi.

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San Andreas focuses on a broken nuclear familiar whose own personal fault lines mirrors that of those which occur naturally. Dwight Johnson and Carla Gugino play a couple, Ray and Emma on the verge of divorce and she has met a shady smooth talking property developer Daniel Riddick played by Ioan Gruffudd (Amazing Grace, The Fantastic Four).

The San Andreas fault brings epic chaos to the entire state of California and like most natural occurrences which bring a family together, this film is a familial drama set within a broader context of a national American tragedy played out on the big screen with spectacular visual effects.

Whist the storyline and plot are certainly contrived, San Andreas relies heavily on stunning visual effects as all the characters play second fiddle to the earth erupting around them and complete obliteration of some of California’s most iconic landmarks including the Hollywood sign above Los Angeles and The Golden Gate Bridge.

This is a disaster film with a massive budget and audiences will certainly not be bored by the fantastic aerial shots of the San Francisco bay area rippling under the weight of a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami. San Andreas is the 21st century answer to The Towering Inferno.

Watch out for a doomed cameo by Australian pop diva Kylie Minogue who plays a bitchy L. A. blonde, Susan Riddick. Australian actor Hugh Johnstone-Burt and Alexandra Daddario play the young beautiful couple Ben and Blake who manage to survive all sorts of treacherous earthquake related events including being trapped in a newly built skyscraper known as The Gate, situated in San Francisco’s posh Nob Hill suburb.

San Andreas is a spectacular show and is recommended for audiences that enjoyed films like Poseidon, although at times it’s a bit too heavy on its American patriotism, especially when everything will still be peachy despite too major cities being completely obliterated. The main thing is that all the wholesome characters survive the earth shattering ordeal relatively unscathed.

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

 

 

 

Trauma of an Assassination

Parkland

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Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale, Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Giametti, Jacki Weaver, Ron Livingston, Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley, Gil Bellows

Investigative journalist and screenwriter Peter Landesman makes his feature film debut with the harrowing reenactment of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day on the 22nd November 2963 and how this pivotal event affected not only the lives of those working at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas but also of those that were caught up in the trauma of the event from the FBI that almost had the assassin in their grasp, to the Oswald family who were shunned by society as relatives of the man who shot JFK.

Parkland, based upon the book Four Days in November by Vincent Bugliosi is an absorbing and graphic retelling of this assassination and features an all star ensemble cast including Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo TV Series), Zac Efron (The Paperboy), James Badge Dale (The Lone Ranger) who is particularly good as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) as Oswald’s mother Marguerite Marcia Gay Harden as the trauma nurse Doris Nelson along with Paul Giametti as Abraham Zupreder the man who unwillingly films the horrific assassination and then sells the footage to Life magazine. James Badge Dale and Jacki Weaver are particularly good as brother and mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspected assassin of President John F. Kennedy who subsequently gets shot on live television two days after the assassination by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby pointing to a much larger possible conspiracy which was elaborately explored in Oliver Stone’s film J. F. K. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Harvey_Oswald

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Viewers can be forgiven for thinking that this film is a segment from the History channel, but with all the great character actors at hand, they do their best to make Parkland an absorbing and graphic, almost shocking retelling of one the 20th centuries most famous assassinations in Dallas, Texas in 1963. An assassination which awoke America out of a cathartic state and catapulted contemporary Western society further into a culture of violent paranoia and media speculation, something which audiences watching it fifty years later are more accustomed to especially since witnessing the destruction of the New York twin towers on live television on 9/11.

Parkland is recommended viewing and perhaps too short for a 90 minute film as aspects about this historical day could have been fleshed out further beyond the initial shock and trauma of a bloody assassination in the heat of a Texan day. A riveting and engaging film which was possibly made to coincide with the 50th anniversary of this tragic event. Watch out for a cameo by Tom Hank’s son Colin Hanks as the Chief of Surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital Dr Malcolm Perry.

 

 

 

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.

 

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

Descent into Random Chaos

Cosmopolis

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Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Matthieu Amalric, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel

Published in 2003, American writer Don DeLillo’s philosophic diatribe on the randomness of contemporary American culture showcases a society on the brink of paranoia, valueless violence and dysfunctional oligarchs, Cosmopolis was originally praised by literary critics as a prediction of a truly unpredictable urbanized consumer society which thrives on wealth and more inherently lack of wisdom. Naturally the book is set in Manhattan, New York, the site of the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers and the heart of Wall Street, where corporate greed has run riot, a metropolitan pantheon of the perverse.

Cosmopolis focus on the young,  vain, egotistical and hypochondriac billionaire Eric Packer who trades in all the world’s fluctuating currencies from the comfort of his sleek, multifaceted stretch limousine. A vehicle, where he can have sex with his financial advisor, have his prostate examined while predicting the currencies in Asia, pour a vodka and unemotionally view the thronging masses rhythmically rioting on the Manhattan streets as they protest job losses, raising inflation and an impending economic meltdown. DeLillo’s post 9/11 novel, almost predicted with certainty the 2008 financial crisis of Wall Street rupturing the entire American Capitalist system as the collapse of the subprime mortgage lending schemes which crippled international banks and caused contagious economic havoc.

Enter Canadian director David Cronenberg (The Naked Lunch, A History of Violence), whose claustrophobic film version of Cosmopolis starring Twilight’s Robert Pattinson as the deadpan, psychotic bored billionaire Eric Packer along with a host of briefly seen international stars from Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), Matthieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and Samantha Morton (The Libertine) who are all captured in a series of sporadic dialogues with Packer which ultimately serve no purpose whatsoever emphasizing DeLillo’s dissatisfaction with contemporary discourse and the apparent random rhetoric attributed to contemporary language, making for a quirky and unintelligible script, purposefully devoid of significance.

Whilst as a novel, DeLillo crisply conveys the descent into chaos and violence that Packer’s journey across downtown Manhattan will lead to, all in the search of a haircut, the novel’s perilous message is lost on the big screen. Cronenberg’s Cosmospolis does not convey many exterior shots of New York but like the novel confines the action mostly to the limousine and the diner, inherent symbols of American excess and corporate convenience: a dystrophic society ready to consume itself.

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Cosmopolis is difficult to watch, almost uncomfortable from the random and bloody violence to the prospect of seeing Pattinson cooped up in a Limo for most of the film, and unlike Mary Hatton’s brilliant film adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis novel, American Psycho, does not make use of the Manhattan skyscraper iconography. Unlike American Psycho, Cosmopolis comes across onscreen as a pretentious film without much substance, but then that is conveyed more accessibly in DeLillo’s slim and scathing prosaic prediction of an American society consumed by greed, vengeance and mistrust.

Best part of Cosmopolis is the final scene between Robert Pattinson and Paul Giamatti (Sideways, The Hangover Part II) who adds an uncharacteristic level of deviousness to an otherwise thinly plotted but ultimately vacuous narrative.

Audiences should not expect stunning visuals or any cathartic release, after all this is pure Art House Cinema Cronenberg returning to eccentric cinematic form and not intent on delivering  a more substantial mainstream thriller like his brilliant Russian gangster film Eastern Promises.

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