Tag Archives: Mark Strong

[Review] – Zero Dark Thirty

6 Jan

Zero Dark Thirty

Title: Zero Dark Thirty
Year: 2012
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass, Frank Grillo, Edgar Ramirez, Harold Perrineau, Jennifer Ehle, James Gandolfini
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language
Runtime: 157 min
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 95

Finally I get to watch Zero Dark Thirty. Let me tell you something out front, I don’t intend to get into any of the hot topics that have been surrounding this movie, at least not spend the whole review talking about. I won’t talk about whether it’s pro-Obama, or whether it’s pro-torture, or whether it got improper access to classified information. On the one hand I don’t think I’m really classified to talk about those things with any kind of credibility (though, obviously, that hasn’t stopped most people with an internet connection to do so) and on the other hand I’m here to talk about the merits of Kathryn Bigelow‘s latest as a film. And as a film this is an undeniable masterpiece.

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[Trailer] – Zero Dark Thirty

11 Oct

Not much has been heard about Kathryn Bigelow‘s upcoming Zero Dark Thirty, probably due to the fact that they want to wait until after the election is done to really get the promotional ball rolling but for good measure we’ve now gotten a new trailer which you can watch below.

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[Teaser] – Zero Dark Thirty

6 Aug

Watch the teaser for the highly-anticipated Zero Dark Thirty after the cut.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

25 Dec

Title: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Year: 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writers: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, based on the novel by John le Carré
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds, David Dencik
MPAA Rating: R, violence, some sexuality/nudity and language
Runtime: 127 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Metacritic: 87

That Gary Oldman hasn’t even been nominated for an Oscar is pretty hard to believe. The man is one of the best working actors, beloved by peers, critics and audiences alike and he hasn’t gotten any kind of recognition by the Academy. The performance he gives in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy should be enough to earn him at least a nomination, even though after being snubbed by the SAG and Globes it looks as though he’s a darkhorse contender for the fifth slot, but hell, even if no recognition comes from the Academy, his performance is still one of the year’s very best, in a film that’s also amongst the year’s elite, an espionage film that’s really smart, intricately plotted, acted by some of the very best British actors, and masterfully directed by Tomas Alfredson in his first stab at an English-language film after breaking out with Let the Right One In in 2008, which was my eighth favorite film of that whole year, how skillfully he gets this whole thing together, bringing out a sense of vivid paranoia as he starts putting together this intricate puzzle, is just amazing to watch, he just knows how to create a gripping atmosphere.

The film is, of course, an adaptation of John le Carre’s classic 1974 spy novel of the same name, which had already been made into a seven-part television series with Alec Guiness taking on the role of George Smiley back in the late seventies, and it’s really neat to be back in this world, and to now have Mr. Oldman wearing the iconic glasses, every little thing about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy feels exactly like it should, the images, the sounds, everything is just right. What’s great is that Mr. Alfredson and his cast and crew never underestimate us as an audience, they give it to us thinking that we’re smart enough to keep up with it, and yes, you’ll have to pay attention to this film in order to really get into it, but trust me when I say it’s well worth it. Not to mention that he really keeps true to the spirit of the novel, he doesn’t try to make stuff in the film ring true in today’s world, he’s just comfortable in showing us the world Mr. le Carré designed, a precise moment in time during the 20th century in a world that was ran by men, always knowing how to thicken his atmosphere for a chilling effect.

It’s that bleak atmosphere that keeps the pulse of this one beating a really steady pace, and it’s part of what makes you watch this film so intently, it’s what makes those quiet conversations so damn compelling to watch. George Smiley, unlike what his name would suggest, isn’t a guy that doesn’t smile all that much, he sits around, observant, waiting for his enemies to come to him or make a big mistake and make it easy for him to catch them. The whole film is incredibly intriguing, there are mysteries within the mysteries, and it’s all plotted like an expertly-made labyrinth for us to try and follow. The head of The Circus, which is the name given to the MI6 here, a man called Control who’s played really well by John Hurt, is under the impression that there’s a mole within the agency’s elite members. Control, along with Smily, however, botches up a mission in Budapest and the two are let go. Smiley is then later taken out of his retirement, brought back into the fold, undercover, with the task of finding out who that mole is, who’s selling them out to the Soviets. Consider this, the main suspects of being the mole are played by Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds and David Dencik. Like I said, this is a dream cast.

The whole world presented in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is all about the secrets and the lies and where loyalties lie. This obviously isn’t a seven-part series like the one the BBC did over three decades ago, but Mr. Alfredson is a brilliant director, using the two hours he got to perfectly represent the novel, using great imagery, the great faces and body language of his actors to say things that would normally take minutes of dialogue to express, it’s his attention to the little details, and the talents of his amazing cast that make this one not miss a single beat and spell out a truly remarkable story. And then there’s Mr. Oldman, one of the finest working actors, playing a lead character who doesn’t utter a word until nearly twenty minutes into the film, playing Smiley in a brilliantly nuanced way, showing us so much just with his eyes and his voice, it’s a masterclass in acting, and the fact that he got such an unbelievable team of co-stars to spar with is magnificent, the scenes in which he gets to trade off lines with Mr. Firth are a marvel to watch.

What’s great is there’s always something going on this film that we don’t know about, spies spying on spies, with Smiley working under tips provided to him by a rogue agent named Ricki Tarr, who’s played by Tom Hardy, an actor that’s headed for greatness, and with the help of one of the agents in Circus he can trust, Peter Guillam, who’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the guy in charge of playing the titular character in Steven Moffat’s Sherlock for the BBC. Like I said, there are only great, great actors in this film.

What’s great is that while it’s obviously incredibly fun to watch the whole labyrinth unfold bit by bit, paying attention just to keep up, it’s also amazing what goes on behind the actual spy stuff the plots gives us, a tale of men that find themselves lonely and desperate in a really dark world. It’s incredible to see what living a life like this can do to someone, to men that love their country and that are consumed by secrets in a world in which knowledge means power, secrets that they can’t even utter to themselves for fear of having them heard.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is amongst the year’s very best films, my tenth perfect grade of the year, a film that will make audiences try hard in order to keep up with the many twists it takes, and if you cant’ keep up with the many characters and events then you’ll get lost and not really enjoy this one as much. But trust me, make the effort to keep up and you’ll see that Tomas Alfredson has expertly crafted one of the best espionage films of the past couple of decades, it’s one of the finest directing works of the year. The cast is all brilliant, igniting every single scene and making you really interested in this whole thing, and at the center of it all you have a screen icon, delivering a masterfully understated performance, playing a hero that isn’t really all that likable and not really doing all that much to humanize him, just playing him to perfection, showing us that he deserves that long overdue invite to the big dance.

Grade: A+

The Guard

24 Aug

Title: The Guard
Year: 
2011
Director: 
John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: 
Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Mark Strong
MPAA Rating: 
R, pervasive language, some violence, drug material and sexual content
Runtime: 
96 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 
95%

 

In Bruges was my fourth favorite film of all 2008 (behind only, in order, The Wrestler, Synechdoche, New York and The Dark Knight), it was a truly masterful film, written and directed by the insanely genius playwright Martin McDonagh, it boasted probably one of the best screenplays of the past decade, full of sensational one-liners and situations and a love for perfectly used curse words, and a couple of superb performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. I have recommended that film to pretty much everyone I’ve had the chance to, and more often the not they thank me like crazy for it. Now, that undying love I have towards In Bruges is what embedded in me some pretty high expectations for The Guard, a film produced by Mr. McDonagh and written and directed by his brother John Michael McDonagh, and that also had Mr. Gleeson in a starring role and that looked to be a cousin to In Bruges insofar as it seemed to be another masterful black comedy with all kinds of perfect uses of the word “fuck” in great Irish accents.

Now, The Guard ultimately really wasn’t as amazing as In Bruges was over three years ago, but it’s still just so tremendously dark and witty, with all of these terrific crime sequences punctuated by a razor sharp comedy that make you quickly realize this has the McDonagh gene pool all over it, and that’s something I really can’t get enough of. And, really, Mr. Gleeson is a damn fine actor, and he’s becoming a McDonagh staple now it seems after starring in In Bruges and his turn in Six Shooter, Martin McDonagh’s Oscar-winning short film from 2004, but yeah, this guy is just a fantastic actor who just knows how to own a role, his body becomes as much part of a character as the lines and circumstances, he really gets in it, and sells the role to you. And in here he stars as Sergeant Gerry Boyle a garda who’s in charge of patrolling Connemara, a district of the west coast of Ireland.

Boyle is this policeman who we learn all we need to know about in the opening scene, as he witnesses a high-speed crash on a coastal road and then rapidly proceeds to check the victim’s clothes for drugs he can then transfer to his own pockets. This is the sort of law enforcer Boyle is, he gets high on stashes of criminals, he orders up prostitutes in his day off, not because he’s a bad guy, but because in such a quiet town there’s really not a lot of crime to go around, and he needs something to cut the monotony of his life with. And that whole boredom makes the events of the next day pop out even more, as Boyle and another young police officer find a the body of a young man with a bullet in his head and the number “5 1/2” smeared in his blood on the adjoining wall. The young officer says it’s probably a serial killer who only half-killed one of his victims (showing that in Connemara police officers probably learn most of their craft from films) but in fact it’s something bigger, a crime wave tied to a drug ring operation through the area that the FBI is actually investigating. And to coordinate the investigation with the local authorities the FBI sends over Agent Wendell Everett, played by Don Cheadle.

Mr. Cheadle by the way is another seriously dependable actor who has also been quite terrific in past roles, and his casting in this film is as much a stroke of genius as Mr. Gleeson’s, because those two really couldn’t be more different from each other, and that’s the whole point of this film. You see, for one, Boyle doesn’t want someone partnering with him, he drinks on the job and he fears that will keep him from that, not to mention that the guy, if not a racist, is certainly incredibly naïve about black people, and has no sensible tact when approaching Everett whatsoever, his opinion of him being based apparently on whatever he has heard about black people on stereotypical TV shows.

And it’s really great what Mr. McDonagh does with the whole culture clash, he makes fun of the local people, for sure, makes them seem ignorant, but also uses them to make fun of Mr. Cheadle’s character, who can’t really move forward with the investigation of his own because the locals don’t want to speak English to him and instead reply in Gaelic. That’s what pushes him to team up with Boyle, a man who says racism is part of his culture, and that’s really when The Guard, as good as Mr. Cheadle is, really becomes a Brendan Gleeson show. The way Mr. Gleeson plays Boyle is just sheer perfection, his comments, coming from a splendid script, are delivered by him in a way that have you doubting if Boyle is just this really dumb and ignorant guy, as they come with enough hints of wit that you have to think that maybe he’s the most intelligent guy in the room and the only one who really knows what the hell he’s doing.

The film has a lot of formulaic elements, that’s for sure, good cop/bad cop, a guy who’s out of his element, a relationship that didn’t want to happen in the first place, those are all familiar themes in these kind of movies, but the script makes all the familiar things seem fresh. Seriously, this is just really awesome writing which often has characters engaging in a conversation that’s just so wonderfully done and full of black humor delivered by some of the very best that’s impossible to look away. Again, this really isn’t as great as In Bruges, but it’s still a remarkably good film, you just have to sit back enjoy and prepare yourself to laugh out loud many times as Brendan Gleeson shows you how it’s done.

Grade: A-

Green Lantern

29 Jun

Title: Green Lantern
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Martin Campbell
Writers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg, with story by Mr. Berlanti, Mr. Green and Mr. Guggenheim, based on the comic book by John Broome and Gil Kane
Starring: 
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Clancy Brown
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Runtime: 
114 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
26%

 

Ugh. That about sums up my overall experience with the Green Lantern movie. No, it’s not the worst film of the year, not even close, but as a comic book fan who’s extremely fond of this character, I sure as hell was thoroughly disappointed. Seriously, this is a character I adore, he might even be my favorite DC Comics staple, or at the very least right up there with Batman, and other than Spider-Man he may just be about my favorite comic book character ever. And yet what we got here is a film that had a huge budget but that did absolutely nothing with it, totally squandering the incredible opportunities embedded within the deep comic book mythology available in favor of just this very noisy and badly written spectacle in which you just know every penny available was spent in the effects and not to flesh out the story.

And look, even the effects with the $200 million budget and everything actually look very flat, add that to the fact that the writing was just plain bad, the direction totally uninvolved and the fact that Ryan Reynolds’ charm was just put to basically no use and you have a film that, while certainly more than fine to kill an afternoon with, still doesn’t even get close to achieving its full potential, and I was left feeling very disappointed by what they did to one of my favorite superheroes, and I want someone to reboot this franchise now. I won’t hate on it that much because there were still a couple of good things, but I just need to vent my frustration about those good things not being plain awesome, and not being nowhere near enough of them to begin with.

In the past I have talked a lot about my dislike of screenplays written by a team of more than two people, I generally dislike every single thing that comes out of such a conglomerate, and while there certainly have been some exceptions to that rule in the recent past (like last year’s Love and Other Drugs or How to Train Your Dragon, for instance), this one just isn’t. And what’s worse is that it’s not as though the four guys who contributed to this one are any bad, you have Greg Berlanti, known for his television work in quality shows he spearheaded like Eli Stone and Jack & Bobby, then you have Michael Green, a collaborator of Mr. Berlanti’s on some of his shows and a comic book writer, Marc Guggenheim, who much like Mr. Green has worked on those TV shows before and also writes comic books, and Michael Goldenberg, who adapted the fifth Harry Potter movie. So, you see, I had high hopes for this script, it had a blend of a guy who had successfully adapted a popular property before, two guys who had experience in the comic book world and certainly knew about the mythology, and a guy who had created TV shows that were all about character development. And yet they got together and created this thinly-written work that I just can’t see anyone liking. Again, a team of more than two to write a screenplay is usually not the brightest move.

On the one hand you have Hal Jordan here on Earth, the character played by Mr. Reynolds, who’s a pretty damn good test pilot for this crazy fighter jets who he flies next to Carol, played by Blake Lively, who’s actually the daughter of the man who makes these jets. But at first what happens on Earth really isn’t all that important, because the real critical stuff is happening in a whole other part of the universe, in which the Green Lantern Corps have been created to combat Parallax, the evil alien trying to envelop the universe in evil. A member of the Corps is then sent to Earth, so as to a find a worthy human of joining their group, but after a dangerous journey across the galaxy he barely makes it to Earth, and dies soon after entrusting Hal with the green ring and green lantern, which he’ll soon enough find out are tremendously powerful, but will have a hard time knowing to trust and trying to access that power.

And of course trying to really cram this all up in a two hour film would be difficult, because you obviously can’t buy Hal being so chill as he understands and takes in all the stuff the green lantern can do, but this is a movie that can’t afford him not getting it real fast, and it really does try its best to explain the logic behind it all, but you just know it’s only doing that so that it can then zoom ahead and create some expensive special effects sequence. And that’s really all that you get after that first part of the movie is done, a very expensive and green lights and sound show, but that’s not even nicely done because the stuff that Hal creates with his will and the ring just look silly a lot of the times, and you can’t really buy into all the supposed seriousness of the task at hand.

I won’t go on longer about this one, because I feel like we already should have known what to expect, and it’s on me feeling disappointed because I held out some hope for this character because I love him. But yeah, it’s not like we got world-class acting or dialogue with any real substance, we’ll get our villains, our PG-13 appropriate kisses and our special effects showcase, but not much more. But I don’t really know if I’ll recommend this one to you, probably not, I mean it would be somewhat recommendable for those initial scenes in deep space because the CGI there is pretty kickass, but once the CGI has to adapt itself to a bit more rules of logic when the movie gets back to Earth, the results aren’t even that great, no matter how immense its budget. And, again, this is a film with Ryan Reynolds that didn’t really let him turn on the charm like he has before, and that’s the guy’s greatest asset, so there’s that. I hear that Warner Bros. is already thinking about a sequel, even though they’re obviously seeing the results of this one, both critically and commercially, as a disappointment, and I would love for them to scratch that idea, but not give up on the character. This superhero deserves better, and so do we.

Grade: C+

The Eagle

24 Mar

Title: The Eagle
Year:
2011
Director:
Kevin Macdonald
Writer: Jeremy Brock, based on the novel by Rosemary Sutcliff
Starring:
Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Denis O’Hare
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, battle sequences and some disturbing images
Runtime:
114 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
6.3
Rotten Tomatoes:
38%

 

Channing Tatum gets around quite a lot, and I’m still not sure as to whether I like him or not. After coming out big in 2006 thanks to Step Up the guy has definitely spent most of his time building up his tough guy image with films like Stop-Loss, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the aptly titled Fighting. And he’s also tried to show range by playing Pretty Boy Floyd in 2009’s Public Enemies, a role he actually did a real fine job at, not to mention trying to establish himself as a heartthrob with last year’s Dear John, and trying to show his comedic side with this year’s The Dilemma.

So yeah, the guy has been around since he first exploded into the scenes with that dance flick, and, like it or not, the guy’s not going away any time soon, as he has three further flicks lined up for 2011 (one of which is Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire which may turn out to be pretty awesome), so yeah, he’s working his best to keep himself present in your memories.

But yeah, that’s the thing, many people seem to already know if they like this guy or not, they’ve gotten wide enough a sampling of him to form their opinion. I’m not part of that group of people, I’m not sure I dig his style and look and charm at all and I can’t help but think the guy hasn’t headlined a film I’ve graded better than somewhere in the C-range (Public Enemies was a solid B+ film but he had a supporting role there). And The Eagle won’t be the exception.

I mean, The Eagle is good enough, it won’t bore you, but you won’t necessarily come out of it calling your friends and telling them they ought to check it out as soon as possible, you’ll just tell them it was okay, because that’s exactly what it was. And what’s more is that I could have seen it turning out somewhat better than okay, and the fact that it didn’t turn out that way lies substantially on the shoulders of Mr. Tatum, who’s work here is totally uninspired.

I mean, the story itself isn’t that mindblowing, but as another action/adventure flick it will make do just perfectly, it just needed solid direction and good acting from its two leads to realize its potential. And even though Mr. Tatum’s co-star is amazing, because Jamie Bell pretty much always is, the bigger role was his, and he disappointed. As for the direction, well, it wasn’t horrible, but considering it was coming from the guy that has given us The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, two really well made and acted films, it came as a disappointment of sorts, his hand not as sensible as it has been in the past.

The film will no doubt draw comparisons to last year’s Centurion, a film I gave a strong B- to, and that was a film I at least found myself liking, and that was pretty much entirely because of how good its lead actor was, and marks the difference between these two films. I’m not saying Mr. Tatum should be as good as Michael Fassbenber, because Mr. Fassbender is just insanely great at everything he does, but he just needed to bring it to the shooting, something he evidently didn’t. Just because you’re all bulky and some teenage girls like you doesn’t mean you can play brooding and appealing in auto-pilot, Mr. Tatum.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate The Eagle, not even close, but I just thought it could have turned out way better than it ultimately did. An R-rating would have given it the chance to have more explicit actions scenes, and they don’t necessarily have to be as gruesome as the ones in Centurion were, but they would have upped the ante to proper heights.

And it also would have given them the opportunity to add some much needed sexuality to the film. I mean, this is a film all about men, and even though Centurion, to continue the comparison, was too, that one at least had the Olga Kurylenko character to amp up the sexuality. This one needed a character like that, we only see a few women in this one, and while some of them do throw wanting looks towards Mr. Tatum they are no real characters, and the film quickly reverts itself to the position its mostly in, which only focuses on the men on screen.

I won’t go ahead and tell you the story you’ll witness, if you watch the two-and-a-half-minute trailer on YouTube you’ll know everything you really need to, I’ll just tell you that The Eagle, though far from bad, is pretty forgettable. There are themes of loyalty and courage here, yes, and that’s all good and nice, but so many other issues go by unexplored. Go see The Eagle if you like these sort of films, I guess, but it will only work to reassure you that Mr. Tatum is at his best when he’s fighting on-screen, and not acting.

Grade: C+