Tag Archives: Ralph Fiennes

[Review] – Skyfall

7 Dec

Skyfall

Title: Skyfall
Year: 2012
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, based on the characters by Ian Fleming
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking
Runtime: 143 min
IMDb Rating: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Metacritic: 81

Yes, I know, I’m officially the last person on Earth to have seen Skyfall. I’ve listened to unanimous praise being bandied about in regards to this movie for over a month, people calling it the best Bond movie of all-time even, and read about it smashing box office records (it’s currently at over $870 million worldwide) but yeah, it’s taken me a while to sit down to watch the twenty-third entry in the spy franchise. It didn’t take me quite as long, however, to agree that, yes, this may just be the best one there’s ever been.

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[Trailer] – Skyfall

31 Jul

When Daniel Craig took over duties from Pierce Brosnan and became the new James Bond, we got Casino Royale, which one could argue is the best 007 film ever, or at least certainly in the top three. So the world was eagerly awaiting the follow-up to that one, and we got Quantum of Solace, a film that, while certainly not bad, was still definitely inferior, and was a big disappointment to me personally. Well, now we’re getting Mr. Craig’s third go-round as the most famous spy in film history in Skyfall, and you can watch the trailer for it after the cut.

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[Teaser] – Skyfall

21 May

When Daniel Craig took over the James Bond character we got Casino Royale, which definitely vies fort he title of the best film in that storied franchise. But then Quantum of Solace wasn’t all that great, and after MGM went bankrupt, the future of the spy franchise was left up in the air. Well, now we know that the twenty-third 007 movie is coming this year, and it’ll be called Skyfall, and we’ve now have the first teaser for it which you can watch after the cut.

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[Review] – Wrath Of The Titans

15 Apr

Title: Wrath of the Titans
Year: 2012
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Writers: Dan Mazeau and David Johnson, based on a story by Mr. Mazeau, Mr. Johnson and Greg Berlanti, based on the original 1981 screenplay by Beverley Cross
Starring: Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Bill Nighy, Édgar Ramírez, Toby Kebbell, Danny Huston, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of fantasy violence and action
Runtime: 99 min
IMDb Rating: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Metacritic: 37

I remember watching Clash of the Titans in 2010 and not really liking it at all (I gave it a C-), thinking that while director Louis Leterrier certainly seemed to really like the original film he was remaking, he paid no mind whatsoever to any sort of storyline and just dedicated himself to crafting these huge action set pieces, not to mention that it was converted to 3D in post-production which is just a really shameless way to try to get more money. And money it got, bringing in over $490 million at the worldwide box office, which meant of course that a sequel to it was fast-tracked, which in turn resulted in us getting Wrath of the Titans, which, even though sees an improvement in the 3D department, is just as crappy in every other aspect.

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Coriolanus

13 Feb

Title: Coriolanus
Year: 2012
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Writer: John Logan, based on the play by William Shakespeare
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, Paul Jesson
MPAA Rating: R, some bloody violence
Runtime: 122 min
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Metacritic: 78

 

Yes, I realize Coriolanus was up for 2011 awards and technically it should have counted towards that yearly ranking, but it only got a proper release in 2012 so I’m counting it towards this year’s. And considering I’ve only seen three films from this year, and this early stage of the year isn’t that awesome quality-wise, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is the best film of 2012 so far. Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut with this film, in which he also stars, a modernization of the Shakespeare tragedy. And he really nails it; you really buy into this every single step of the way, it retains the visual and dramatic weight of the play and makes for a really stunning and powerful film, full of really incredible performances across the board.

It’s also a really timely piece to hit the screens, you kind of get an “Occupy Rome” vibe from the riot that takes place, an allegory of modern day politics while still retaining to perfection the language of the Bard, one that’s spoken brilliantly be everyone in this cast, bringing a remarkable intensity to the proceedings. It’s just a viewing experience that really shouldn’t be missed, even if you think you’re going to be turned off by the language let me assure you that won’t be the case, and even though the play was the second-longest in Shakespeare’s oeuvre you’re not in for a four-hour movie or nothing, as John Logan (who wrote the adaptation for my favorite film from last year, Hugo) has managed to really skillfully trim down the play to its bare essence while retaining the piercing language and amazing drama.

Shakespeare is and has always been all about the language, and when you have people like Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox and Ralph Fiennes speaking these words so damn masterfully you’re bound to be awe-struck by everything that’s going on in front of you. Mr. Fiennes plays a Roman general, Caius Martius, nicknamed Coriolanus, a terrifying man because of his apparent lack of empathy, who’s pitted in battle against the Voluscian army that’s led by Aufidius, who’s played by Gerard Butler, an actor that actually surprised me in how well he was delivering this awesome dialogue, and who’s gruffness suited this character really nicely. But Coriolanus is not a man to really be all that sociable with his people, not wanting to cater to them like he should in order to go for the position of Consul his mother pushes him to seek so that he’s more powerful.

When he refuses to play nice with the people, they obviously respond by not backing him up, which means that the hot-tempered Coriolanus has a burst of outrage, that’s all the more awesome to witness thanks to the language it’s spoken in. And his anger prompts a riot that, as he’s separated from both his family and his city, results in his banishment from Rome. Which in turn results in him becoming allies with Aufidius in order to exact revenge on the city he once led. It’s such a complex character, one that can’t be softened by his wife, played by the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain, but that can be manipulated by his mother, Volumnia played by Ms. Redgrave in a sensational performance, with whom he shares a relationship that borders on incest. The scenes between Mr. Fiennes and Ms. Redgrave are by far the best of the whole film for me, they are the key scenes to get to know this man, and the acting on display by Ms. Redgrave is just a masterclass.

As a director Mr. Fiennes shows some really nice promise, I guess you learn a thing or two working with the Spielberg’s and Minghella’s of the world. He knows that Shakespeare’s themes are still incredibly relevant in a modern setting, and the decisions he makes to show us a nation about to crumble because of war and inequality, as well as to show Coriolanus as the macho man hero to be powerful while conceding nothing of himself, are really neat to watch. Here is a man who can’t connect emotionally at all, and who’s intense commitment to his military chores makes people dislike the idea of connecting with him, too. We never really know exactly what it is that makes him tick, but we do realize that when he does tick he explodes.

The film, which has some really neat cinematography by Barry Ackroyd (who was an Oscar-nominee for The Hurt Locker, in which Mr. Fiennes starred) is brutal and bleak and it never really offers another way out than the one it presents to us. And in the relationship that develops between Coriolanus and Aufidius you see two men who are enemies but who are cut from the same cloth as well, two men who live to wage war and to win them, but who couldn’t really survive in a world in which they really won and the wars ceased. Coriolanus is a film to admire, a film to really lose yourself into, to soak in the language and marvel at the acting in display. The one catch is that there’s too much action set pieces going on considering it’s Shakespeare, and there’s too much Shakespeare language being spoken considering it’s an action movie. But still, it works, it works really, really well.

Grade: A-

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

11 Aug

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Year: 
2011
Director: 
David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Starring: 
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Domhall Gleeson, John Hurt, Jason Isaacs, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Kelly Macdonald, Helen McCrory, Gary Oldman, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Natalie Tena, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Bonnie Wright
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
Runtime: 
130 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
8.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 
97%

 

It’s taken me forever to do my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. And that’s not because it took me forever to watch it, because I was at the midnight screening on opening day, and I’ve watched it four extra times since, both with and without those pesky 3D glasses. But I’ve taken forever to do the review because, I just simply don’t want this to end. I’ll try to keep it professional and all, but if this feels a bit too fanboy-ish at times, bear with me, Harry Potter represents a huge chunk of my life, I have read the books multiple times each, have seen all eight films a bunch of times, and I consider Jo Rowling the be one of the greatest minds of the last century.

But what’s so awesome is that to celebrate this final chapter in the Harry Potter saga you don’t really need to be as huge a fanboy as I am, because this is after all the most profitable film franchise of all-time, and right up there as one of the best film series ever. Eight films in eleven years, over $7.5 billion dollars in cumulative worldwide box-office grosses, with this last one already having passed the $1 billion mark on itself, currently standing as the third highest-grossing worldwide film of all-time. And that’s just the commercial part of it all, the stuff that correlates with all the Harry Potter merchandise you’ve bought and seen in the past decade, with the theme park in Orlando, with just how much an influence the Harry Potter brand has had in the new millennium. But what’s truly amazing is that the films are unequivocally great, with an average 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, with this one actually scoring a series-high 97%. Those are the statistics, the numbers that reflect just how profitable, and more importantly just how great, the film series has been. What it doesn’t show is just how much it has influenced the people who really love these books and films, and who really do feel as though a part of our lives ended as those end credits started rolling.

But anyways, I guess we must talk about this final film specifically, one that I absolutely loved every single time I’ve seen it, and that probably passed the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as my favorite film in the series. I loved it because, even though there was that 3D aspect, you didn’t get the feeling as though something was there just to make a big buck, you really got the sense that they divided the spectacular final novel into two to service this unbelievable series in a way worthy of its epic scale, and this film was just tremendously well-made. And you contrast this with the previous two films in the franchise and you really get that awesome sense of closure that lacked in the prior two movies, which were just all about the set-up and not as terrific as stand-alone films, this one manages to deliver closure and is purely about the pay-off from being part of a decade-long journey, it’s all literally about the big final battle of Hogwarts, of all the good guys agains the bad guys, of Harry against Voldemort, of good against evil.

Not to mention that we got some sensational performances in the midst of all the spectacular action, as well. Our three young leads, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint all shone in the past two films, really embedding a lot of themselves into the characters, traits that maybe weren’t as obvious when we read the books, but that now we can’t imagine the characters without. And then there are the adult castmembers. The Harry Potter film series has been consistently amazing in recruiting the best of the best of British acting royalty for the supporting adult roles, from Michael Gambon to Alan Rickman to Emma Thompson to Imelda Staunton, the people involved in these films are all insanely talented, and in this film they get to really show off their props.

Mr. Rickman as Snape was specially incredible here, as it is in this film that the veil of secrecy that had shrouded his character in the previous seven films gets lifted and we get a look at this real agenda, and he does a stellar job at showing this to us, so much so that some people are already generating buzz for him for a Best Supporting Actor nomination come Oscar time, but that’s a subject I’ll tackle later on. Then there’s the unbeatable Maggie Smith, who really gets the crowds going as Professor McGonagall here and has a couple of seriously neat moments that she rocks. Michael Gambon in the King’s Cross scene I think delivered his best Dumbledore performance yet. And Ralph Fiennes took a page out of the Heath Ledger playbook and this time around made Voldemort seem like a person equal parts evil and mad, and it was his best turn as the Dark Lord yet, a hugely entertaining performance to watch and let fuel the whole movie. All of these great actors you get the sense are really just having the time of their lives as these characters.

I’ll actually end the review right now because if I go into specifics this will never end. Suffice it to say, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a truly masterful film, a movie that somehow lived up to the huge expectations of providing a tremendously satisfying finale to one of the best series of films ever. It’s just a huge bundle of thrills, acted ridiculously well by a bunch of young actors with huge futures ahead of them alongside the crème de la crème of British acting, and with its stunning visuals it really shows us, for a final time, how magical a film experience can truly be. This is what all franchises should aspire to be, the fact people keep coming to see this films speaks not only to the built-in audience, but to the fact that they never messed a film up, they’ve all be amazing, and this is what a conclusion to this should feel like.

As for the Oscar part of it all, which is talked about quite a bit these days regarding to this film, I think it’s safe to assume Warner Bros. will heavily push this one across the board, and while I think Cinematography, Special Effects, Art Direction and Score are all real shots, it’ll be interesting to see if Mr. Rickman gets that acting nod and if the film can crack the now-expanded list of Best Picture nominees. I think it should definitly get a Best Picture nomination, I won’t pretend this one has a shot at actually winning that award, but a nomination would be incredible to celebrate the decade-worth of entertainment this film has given millions across the world, and I really do hope it gets it because those tears you experienced as Harry was in the Forbidden Forest making that final walk, or as you saw the Prince’s tale finally unfold in the pensieve, show just how much an effect this franchise has had on our lives. And, corny as this may be for a final line, I will say one thing, the books and films may have now ended, but the magic truly does live on.

Grade: A+

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

21 Nov

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
Year:
2010
Director:
David Yates
Writer:
Steve Kloves
Starring:
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Frances de la Tour, Hazel Douglas, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Evanna Lynch, John Hurt, Bonnie Wright, Dave Legeno, Jason Isaacs, Andy Linden, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, George Harris, Natalie Tena, Mark Williams, Julie Walters, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Clémence Poésy, Miranda Richardson, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality
Runtime:
146 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
8.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
79%

 

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, I love the books and I think some of the movies have been pretty genius, especially the Alfonso Cuarón directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which also happens to be my favorite book of the series. So here I was, waiting in line to get into the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, the first half of the final book, which had been cut into two films because of the immense amount of stuff in it, the first one out now and the final one to be released in July of next year. I had re-read every single book in the two weeks leading up to this, and watched the six previous films in the weekend before it, I was as psyched as one could be, and then I finally got into the theater, and I saw it, over two hours of film that seemed to have gone by in five minutes.

That’s because this is a film that goes really fast, everything is intense and it wastes no time in nonsense, while at the same time not really sacrificing that much from the book, though I did hate it that the film didn’t include Dudley’s redemption moment. But still, this was a very very good film, not at the height of Azkaban in my opinion, but still a seriously solid entry to the franchise. Clearly it felt quite a lot like the prelude it was to the bigger and even-more-packed second part that will follow this one in eight months, but on its own right it will still stand strong, David Yates rocked at directing it, the cinematography was gorgeous and it was the first time we got to see our three leads pretty much carry the whole film by themselves, and they killed it, each one of the giving their best performance to date in this one, which including some very heavy and well done emotional scenes.

The real treat will surely be finally getting to watch Deathly Hallows complete, first this and then Part II in a really awesome five hour seating, in that way the result will be epic in every sense of the word. And I’m also guessing that then you’ll be able to appreciate Part I much more, this is a film that serves as the best kind of build-up for the climatic Part II, and that still has a lot of action to be one of the best films of the series on its own.

This obviously represents the culmination of a huge pop culture phenomenon, for people like the meaning of it is even more transcendental. I got to read the first book when I was eight or so, I grew up alongside Harry, when I cried over finishing the last book and knowing his scar hadn’t pained him in years I found comfort in knowing that at least we had more films to look forward to, but now even that’s coming to an end, over thirteen years since the first book’s release will have passed when the final film chapter is released next year, and for us who have literally grown up pretty much at the same rate as Harry, it will be a tough goodbye.

But now, appreciation for the series and emotional blabber set aside, let’s talk about the film. I won’t stop praising Mr. Yates’ direction, I think he has shown he has a lot of skill when handling the source material, always quickening things up without ever losing the essence of it, and even knowing how to skillfully introduce some new scenes that were not in the book to drive a point to the audiences, much like the one in which Harry and Hermione share a dance in this one. His imprint in this film, as well as the fifth and the sixth which he also directed, is truly invaluable.

You all probably know the story for this one, it’s the epic conclusion to the story of The Boy Who Lived, he has to leave with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, his two faithful companions, to destroy the horcruxes introduced in the sixth film to finally be able to fight Voldemort himself. As such, this is a very different film from the rest, if anything, the fact that’s it’s set in its entirety outside of Hogwarts gives this film a very different feel, augmented like crazy by the fact that the tonality is just really somber and just plain sadder. Not to mention that this time around Harry, Hermione and Ron will depend on each other even more so than before, literally having no one else to turn to at times.

As I mentioned before, this is the film in which our three leads all give their best performance in the series thus far, which is just as well, because this is a film in which the adult actors, which are all pretty much part of the upper crust of seriously awesome British thesps, appear in a scene or two and that’s it, and these three are set to carry most of the weight by themselves, and boy do they deliver. All of this is because this is a much more character-driven story, and we get a big glimpse into their feelings, especially thanks to Ron, who feels jealous at being the Robin to Harry’s Batman, and starts believing Hermione maybe always preferred Harry over him. Hermione, for her part, feels lonely, negated by Ron who at one point in the story leaves, and being forced to delete her parents memories in order to protect them, this is all very hard stuff, and Emma Watson does a tremendous job, giving the stand-out performance out of the three, in my opinion.

Everything in this film helps keep this a very dark and haunted film experience, the cinematography, the whole production design and the outstanding score by Alexandre Desplat. But the darkness is helped along with some typical funny lines and light moments, but yes, for the most part this is a much more somber experience than the ones that came before it. And be sure to pay attention to how Mr. Yates decided to tell the story of the Peverell Brothers in some beautiful animation, that was just seriously well done.

I don’t know how well some of the subplots will play for people who haven’t read the book, in which there a whole lot more information as for the causes and effects of some of the minor stuff in here, but for the most part I believe Mr. Yates covered every important thing really well, he obviously has to move fast because of the amount of story he has to tell, but he still manages to get everything through really nicely, which is obviously easier said than done. As for when the infamous “cut” happened, what point would be decided as the split between this and the next, and final, installment, I thought it was done marvelously. It gave us one of the most emotional moments in the books history, and one that never fails to make me cry, just before it happened, and concluded with a scene that paved the way perfectly for the epicness that’s to come in July.

This was a very satisfying film for me, and I went into it with supreme expectations, and you will leave the theater feeling something very strong, it may be because of what you just saw, which was seriously awesome and entertaining, or it may be, as I imagine it is, for what’s left for you to see. Which is the final part of the story, one that will give you action scene after action scene and will tie up all the loose ends and, in the end, will certainly leave you with a hugely bittersweet taste in your mouth as you say your goodbyes to a story you have grown to love, to characters you have grown up with, and to a seriously amazing cast and crew that have spent over a decade brining them to life.

Grade: A-