Showing posts with label Bill Nighy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Nighy. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Review: Prime Video's "ROLE PLAY" Offers an Odd Couple

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 of 2024 (No. 1948) by Leroy Douresseaux

Role Play (2024)
Running time:  101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Thomas Vincent
WRITER:  Seth Owen
PRODUCERS:  Kaley Cuoco, Alex Heinenman, and Andrew Rona
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Maxime Alexandre (ASC)
EDITOR:  Gareth C. Scales
COMPOSER:  Rael Jones


Starring:  Kaley Cuoco, David Oyelowo, Connie Nielsen, Rudi Dharmalingam, Lucia Aliu, Regan Bryan-Gudgeon, Jade-Eleena Dregorius, Stephanie Levi-John, and Bill Nighy



--Role Play is somewhat similar to the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), which was a big-budget action-comedy.  Role Play is a smaller scale action-thriller with darker, edgier humor.

--Kaley Cuoco and David Oyelowo are an odd pairing, and for at least half of this film, they seem miscast in their roles.

--Role Play is an average, entertaining film that is better suited for Prime Video than it is for the big screens of a local movie theater.  Still, the last half hour of the film really intensifies.


Role Play is a 2024 action-thriller and black comedy film from director Thomas Vincent.  The film is an Amazon “Prime Original” that began streaming on “Prime Video” January 12, 2024.  Role Play focuses on an assassin whose secret life intrudes on her life as a suburban wife and mother.

Role Play introduces Emma Brackett (Kaley Cuoco).  She is married to Dave Brackett (David Oyelowo) and is now the mother to his son from his first marriage, Wyatt (Regan Bryan-Gudgeon), and is mother to the daughter, Caroline (Lucia Aliu), she had with Dave.  Emma and Dave have been married seven years and are living in New Jersey.  But Emma has forgotten their anniversary because she was busy overseas killing someone and not in Nebraska, as she told her husband.

To make up for forgetting their anniversary, Emma suggests that they spice things up by engaging in some romantic role play at “the Royal Grand” hotel in New York City.  The fun, however, is interrupted by Robert “Bob” Kitterman (Bill Nighy), who is actually a rival assassin out to claim a bounty placed on Emma by her former agency, Sovereign.  Emma is forced to reveal her real self – Anna Peller, professional killer.  Now, her past has returned to reclaim her.

Dear readers, as soon as you read Role Play's synopsis, you will likely think of the hit 2005 film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  Directed by Doug Liman, the action-comedy film stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  They play a bored upper middle class couple, but both are actually assassins working for competing agencies.  One day, they are assigned to kill each other.

Role Play is described as an action-comedy, but it is truthfully an action-thriller and dark comedy.  The film does have a comic undertone; there are some genuinely funny moments; and the film's musical score by Rael Jones is action-comedy pitch perfect.  Role Play, however, features several violent fight scenes and brutal killings, in addition to its offbeat sensibility.

One reason is the casting.  Kaley Cuoco is best known for playing the role of “Penny” on CBS's long-running, former sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory” (2007-19).  I found it a little difficult to picture her as an assassin or professional killer.  David Oyelowo is known for his serious dramatic roles in such films as Red Tails (2012) and Selma (2014), as well as for his role in the recent Paramount+ Western television miniseries, Lawmen: Bass Reeves (2023).  For about the first hour of the film, I did not find him convincing as the clueless suburban husband.

However, once Anna Peller's cover as Emma is blown, Cuoco is forced to give it her all trying to convince the audience that she is a killer, and suddenly sitcom Penny seems quite dark, indeed.  Also, it is then that Oyelowo can drop the hubby routine and become the spousal partner-in-crime.  In the last half hour to 40 minutes of the film, Emma and Dave actually become funnier characters.  Then, Role Play takes on its action-thriller aspects with gusto.

Director Thomas Vincent makes the most of the film's more intense moments, giving Seth Owen's screenplay, which probably had more juice on the printed page, a jolt.  Role Play is the kind of easy-going film that could not make it as a theatrical release, but it makes for an entertaining streaming film, especially once the leads really start to... play their roles.

5 of 10
★★½ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Amazon Announces a Series of Agatha Christie Adaptations


Ordeal By Innocence—first installment in a series of Amazon Originals—began production this month and will become available exclusively to Prime members in the U.S.

(NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon announced its continued growth of international production, adding a series of adaptations from Agatha Christie Limited to its lineup of dramatic Amazon Original Series in the U.S.

The first adaptation of Christie’s classic stories, Ordeal By Innocence, began production earlier this month in the U.K. and will feature an ensemble cast, including Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean), Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness), Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Matthew Goode (The Good Wife, Downton Abbey), Catherine Keener (Get Out, Capote), Ed Westwick (White Gold, Gossip Girl), Luke Treadaway (Fortitude), Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark), and Morven Christie (The A Word). In Ordeal By Innocence, old wounds are reopened for the Argyll family when a man suddenly turns up and claims that the black sheep of the family, Jack Argyll, could not have murdered its tyrannical matriarch—for which he was accused just one year earlier. The family must come to terms with Jack’s innocence and with the fact that one of them may be the real murderer. Amazon’s deal with Agatha Christie Limited continues its partnership with production company Mammoth Screen and was brokered by WME.

Ordeal By Innocence reunites Agatha Christie Limited and Mammoth Screen with writer and executive producer Sarah Phelps, following the critical success of And Then There Were None (BBC One) in December 2015 and The Witness for the Prosecution (BBC One) in December 2016. Amazon Prime Video will be the exclusive premium subscription streaming home for these series in the U.S.

“We are thrilled to bring to our slate these adaptations from the world’s greatest mystery writer,” said Morgan Wandell, Head of International Series, Amazon Studios. “With terrific talent, in front of and behind the camera, they are sure to delight our customers.”

“We are delighted to be working with Amazon in the TV space. They have obviously played a massive part in our book business over the past few years, and it is exciting to move with them onto Prime Video in the U.S.,” said James Prichard, Chairman and CEO of Agatha Christie Limited.

“The brand of Agatha Christie resonates around the world,” said WME | IMG Partner Chris Rice. “We couldn’t be happier to have Amazon as our U.S. home for this franchise. We think the series of specials will attract great auteurs and actors to create compelling content for audiences everywhere.”

Ordeal By Innocence and the additional forthcoming drama series from Agatha Christie Limited will be available for Prime members to stream and enjoy using the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices including Amazon Fire TV, and mobile devices, or online with other Amazon Original Series online at, at no additional cost to their membership. Eligible customers who are not already Prime members can sign up for a free trial at For a list of all Amazon Video compatible devices, visit

IMG will handle international sales on behalf of Agatha Christie Limited. WME and Sky Vision negotiated the deal with Amazon.

About Amazon Video
Amazon Video is a premium on-demand entertainment service that offers customers the greatest choice in what to watch and how to watch it. Amazon Video is the only service that provides all of the following:

    Prime Video: Thousands of movies and TV shows, including popular licensed content plus critically-acclaimed and award-winning Amazon Original Series and Movies from Amazon Studios like Transparent, The Man in the High Castle, Love & Friendship, and kids series Tumble Leaf, available for unlimited streaming as part of an Amazon Prime membership. Prime Video is also now available to customers in more than 200 countries and territories around the globe at
  •     Amazon Channels: Over 100 video subscriptions to networks like HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, PBS KIDS, Acorn TV, and more, available to Amazon Prime members in the U.S. as add-ons to their membership. To view the full list of available channels, visit
  •     Rent or Own: Hundreds of thousands of titles, including new release movies and current TV shows available for on-demand rental or purchase for all Amazon customers.
  •     Instant Access: Customers can instantly watch anytime, anywhere through the Amazon Video app on compatible TVs, mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire tablets, or online. For a list of all compatible devices, visit
  •     Premium Features: Top features like 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and mobile downloads for offline viewing of select content.

In addition to Prime Video, the Prime membership includes unlimited fast free shipping options across all categories available on Amazon, more than two million songs and thousands of playlists and stations with Prime Music, secure photo storage with Prime Photos, unlimited reading with Prime Reading, unlimited access to a digital audiobook catalog with Audible Channels for Prime, a rotating selection of free digital games and in-game loot with Twitch Prime, early access to select Lightning Deals, exclusive access and discounts to select items, and more. To sign-up for Prime or to find out more, visit:

About Amazon
Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit and follow @AmazonNews.

Agatha Christie Limited
Agatha Christie Limited (ACL) has been managing the literary and media rights to Agatha Christie's works around the world since 1955, working with the best talents in film, television, publishing, stage and on digital platforms to ensure that Christie’s work continues to reach new audiences in innovative ways and to the highest standard. The company is managed by Christie’s great grandson James Prichard.

November 2017 will see the release of 20th Century Fox’s feature film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s acclaimed mystery, Murder on the Orient Express. The film will be directed by five-time Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh, who will also star as Poirot. Branagh helms an all-star cast that includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Olivia Colman, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Tom Bateman, Derek Jacobi, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Sergei Polunin and Lucy Boynton.

ACL’s recent television projects include the critically-acclaimed BBC One adaptations of And Then There Were None (Aidan Turner, Charles Dance, Sam Neill) and The Witness for the Prosecution (Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough, Kim Cattrall), both produced by ACL alongside Mammoth Screen, with screenplays from Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, The Casual Vacancy). Production begins shortly on Ordeal By Innocence, the first of seven new adaptations for the BBC over the course of the next four years.

Globally, ACL works closely with leading screen production companies to deliver territory-specific adaptations. Notable productions include the popular French series Les Petits Meurtres d’Agatha Christie produced by Escazal, and Japanese adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express from Fuji TV (winner of the Tokyo Grand Prix drama award) and the forthcoming And Then There Were None from TV Asahi. Further projects are in development in Europe, the U.S., Asia and Latin America.

In 2016 literary projects included the global publication of the new Hercule Poirot novel Closed Casket, the second continuation novel from bestselling crime writer Sophie Hannah, published in more than 30 languages and distributed in over 100 territories. Sophie will shortly begin work on two more Poirot novels for publication in 2018 and 2020.

About WME | IMG
WME | IMG is a global leader in entertainment, sports and fashion operating in more than 30 countries. Named one of Fortune’s 25 Most Important Private Companies, WME | IMG specializes in talent representation and management; brand strategy, activation and licensing; media production, sales and distribution; and event management.

WME | IMG has led the market in global co-productions recently selling “The Night Manager” and “Dirk Gently” in over 190 territories; handling territorial sales for “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” “The Young Pope,” and the upcoming Sky / Amazon series “Britannia.”


Saturday, February 4, 2017

"Their Finest" and "Chasing Coral" Highlight 2017 Boulder International Film Festival

Opening and Closing Night Films Announced for the Highly-Anticipated 13th Annual Boulder International Film Festival, March 2-5, 2017

Films include the winner of the US Documentary Audience Award at Sundance 2017 and a new film from award-winning director Lone Scherfig

BOULDER, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The 13th Annual Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) has announced Their Finest and Chasing Coral for its opening and closing night film selections.

    Boulder Int Film Fest selects Their Finest and Chasing Coral as opening and closing night films!

“We are so excited about our opening and closing night film selections this year,” said Robin Beeck, Festival Executive Director. “This is a stellar, dynamic duo—a World War II-era romantic comedy about a female screenwriter starring Gemma Arterton, and an award-winning documentary by renowned Boulder filmmaker Jeff Orlowski and producer Larissa Rhodes, about the effect of the shifting climate on the health of our oceans. We’re honored to showcase both of these incredible films in Boulder.” Tickets for Opening and Closing Night on sale now at Full program announced on February 10th.

Opening Night Red Carpet Gala
Thursday, March 2, 2017 $50, Free for Passholders
5:30pm–7:30pm Pre-film parties at Hotel Boulderado and Rembrandt Yard
7:30pm Boulder Theater doors open
8:00pm Opening Night Film – Their Finest

Their Finest
United Kingdom, Feature Film, 116 minutes, 2016

This rousing romantic comedy from director Lone Scherfig (An Education) takes us back to 1940 Britain when the British Ministry turned to movies to hoist the sagging morale of the country. This witty film shows what happens when an industry of men suddenly find themselves catering to an audience of mostly women whose men are off to war. The industry hires a talented copywriter named Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) to write authentic female dialogue. Catrin’s natural ability quickly gets her noticed by charming lead scriptwriter Buckley (Sam Claflin). As bombs are dropping all around them, Catrin, Buckley, and the colorful cast and crew of their movie, Dunkirk!, work furiously to make a film that will lift British spirits.

You can access the trailer here. Directed by Lone Scherfig; written by Gaby Chiappe, based on the novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. Starring Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jeremy Irons, and Richard E. Grant. In select theaters April 7, 2017. An STX Entertainment Release.

Closing Night Film
Chasing Coral
USA, Feature Documentary, 2017, 93 minutes
Sunday, March 5, 2017 $30, Free for Passholders
Doors open 6:30, Film starts at 7:30

Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate—in Chasing Coral, a team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why, and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world. Coral reefs are the nursery for all life in the oceans, a remarkable ecosystem that sustains us. Yet with carbon emissions warming the seas, a phenomenon called “coral bleaching”—a sign of mass coral death—has been accelerating around the world, and the public has no idea of the scale or implication of the catastrophe silently raging underwater. Enter Jeff Orlowski, Boulder-based director of Chasing Ice, which created irrefutable, visual proof of the melting ice caps. With its breathtaking photography, nail-biting suspense, and startling emotion, Chasing Coral is a dramatic revelation that won’t have audiences sitting idle for long.

Produced & directed by Jeff Orlowski, produced by Larissa Rhodes. executive produced by David J. Cornfield, Linda A. Cornfiel, Ryan W. Ahrens, Jill K. Ahrens. Featuring Richard Vevers, Zackery Rago, Dr. John “Charlie” Veron. Edited By Davis Coombe.

Meet the artist video with director Jeff Orlowski at Sundance 2017 here.

About Boulder International Film Festival
The Boulder International Film Festival brings films and filmmakers from around the world to Boulder for a four-day celebration of the art of cinema. The Festival attracts more than 25,000 film enthusiasts, media and industry members each year and takes place March 2-5, 2017. For tickets and more information go to You can follow BIFF on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: "I, Frankenstein" Has a Cool B-Movie Vibe

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

I, Frankenstein (2014)
Running time:  92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of intense fantasy action and violence throughout
DIRECTOR:  Stuart Beattie
WRITERS:  Stuart Beattie; from a screen story by Kevin Grevioux and Stuart Beattie (based on the Darkstorm Studios graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux and the characters created by Mary Shelley)
PRODUCER:  Sidney Kimmel, Gary Lucchesi, Andrew Mason, Tom Rosenberg, Richard Wright, and Johnny Klimek
EDITOR:  Marcus D'Arcy
COMPOSER:  Reinhold Heil


Starring:  Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Mirando Otto, Jai Courtney, Socratis Otto, Caitlin Stasey, Mahesh Jadu, Nicholas Bell, Deniz Akdeniz, Kevin Grevioux, Bruce Spense, Steve Mouzakis, and Aden Young

I, Frankenstein is a 2014 action-fantasy and horror film from director, Stuart Beattie.  This film is based on the comic book, I, Frankenstein: Genesis (2013), which was written by Kevin Grevioux, who serves this movie as an executive producer, writer, and actor.  I, Frankenstein also borrows a few characters and some story from Mary Shelley's legendary novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, which was first published in 1818.  I, Frankenstein the movie focuses on Victor Frankenstein's creature as it finds itself caught in the middle of a centuries-old conflict.

I, Frankenstein opens in 1795.  A voice summarizes the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Aden Young), the man who created a monster.  This was a soulless creature that Frankenstein made by patching together body parts from corpses.  However, he rejected his creation, which began a war between creator and creation that ended with the creation burying the creator.

Even as he buries his creator, Frankenstein, “the monster” (Aaron Eckhart) cannot know peace, because demons attack him in the graveyard.  Two gargoyles rescue the monster and take him to Leonore (Miranda Otto), High Queen of the Gargoyle Order.  She gives the monster a name, “Adam,” and tells him that the Gargoyle Order has been fighting a centuries-old war against demons on Earth in order to protect humanity.  Leonore invites Adam to join their cause, but he declines.

The demons and their leader, Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy), also want Adam on their side.  Naberius wants the secrets behind Frankenstein's creation of Adam, and he has employed a beautiful young scientist, Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski), to discover how to replicate the process that created Adam.  However, Adam also wants to unravel the secrets to his creation, so he too needs Terra.  But will working with Terra threaten to decide the outcome of a war between immortals?

I, Frankenstein currently has a low score with movie review aggregate sites, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.  However, I like it.  I, Frankenstein is a dark, urban fantasy similar to Underworld, which was also originally created by Kevin Grevioux.  For its genre, it has a novel and easy to understand premise, which might seem silly to people who don't like this kind of story or its genre.

The acting isn't particularly great, ranging from overacting (as in the case of Miranda Otto as Lenore) to stiff (as in the case of Yvonne Strahovski as Terra).  Some performances are way too fierce (as is the case with Jai Courtney as Gideon, leader of the Gargoyle army).  Bill Nighy always seems game to play a dark fantasy baddie, and his Naberius is malevolent and cheesy in pleasurably equal measures.

Aaron Eckhart seems lost as Adam/Frankenstein's monster.  It is as if he does not quite know what to do with the character.  Is he bent on revenge?  Is he curious about himself?  Does he just want to be left alone?  If it is all of the above, Eckhart doesn't quite get the mix right.

Still, I like I, Frankenstein, and found it hugely enjoyable.  I want a sequel.

6 of 10

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: First Trip to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" Was Quite Lovely

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 16 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
Running time:  124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual content and language
DIRECTOR:  John Madden
WRITER:  Ol Parker (based on the novel, These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach)
PRODUCERS:  Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin
EDITOR:  Chris Gill
COMPOSER:  Thomas Newman
Golden Globes nominee

COMEDY/DRAMA with elements of romance

Starring:  Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Maggie Smith, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel, Tina Desai, Lillete Dubey, Paul Bhattacharjee, Neena Kulkarni, Rajendra Gupta, and Lucy Robinson

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a 2012 British comedy-drama from director John Madden.  The film is based on the 2004 novel, These Foolish Things, from English author Deborah Moggach.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel focuses on a group of British retirees who travel to India to take up residence in a newly restored hotel that is not quite ready for prime time.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opens in present day Great Britain and introduces a group of British retirees and AARP types.  Recently widowed housewife, Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench), is forced to sell the home she shared with her late husband in order to cover the huge debts he left.  Jean and Douglas Ainslie (Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy) are searching for a retirement they can afford; they lost most of their savings through investing in their daughter's Internet business.

Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) is a retired housekeeper who is need of a hip replacement operation.  Her doctor informs her that she can have it done far more quickly and inexpensively in India than she can in the U.K., but Muriel hates Indians (as well as every other person of color).  Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is searching for another husband.  Aging lothario Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) still wants to have sex with young women, but now, he needs to find a new place to try and re-capture his youth.  These six people decide to spend their retirement at a hotel in India, based only on the pictures on the hotel's website.

Meanwhile, high-court judge, Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson), spent the first eighteen years of his life in India; he suddenly decides to retire and return there.  When these Brits arrive at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, they find it dilapidated.  The hotel's energetic young manager, Sunil Indrajit “Sonny” Kapoor (Dev Patel), promises that he will make the hotel look like what the website promises.  Now, everyone has to deal with the unexpected, and some are better at that than others.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is simply frothy feel-good entertainment – nothing more, nothing less.  The characters are interesting, but not especially well-developed.  There are so many of them that screenwriter Ol Parker cannot really develop them in the amount of the film's running time that actually involves storytelling, which is less than its stated 100 minutes running time.

But, boy, did I enjoy this movie anyway.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is sweet and charming, and its cast of veteran (some would say “senior citizen”) actors makes it a rare treat in a landscape of movies about children and 20-somethings saving the world.  Loving and wanting-to-be-loved are not exclusively the domain of lovelorn teens and the newly-turned middle-aged.  Yearning and striving for the good life:  well, old folks can want that, also.  That is why I am glad that this funny, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking film is here to be enjoyed again and again.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a good place for movie lovers to visit or even to stay.

7 of 10

Friday, March 27, 2015

2013 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Judi Dench)

2013 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (John Madden, Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, and Ol Parker)

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Utah Film Critics Choose "Gravity" as the Best Picture of 2013

The Utah Film Critics Association is an organization of cinema journalists affiliated with publications, broadcasting stations, and online media based in the state of Utah.  The group meets every December to votr on the Utah Film Critics Association Awards.

2013 Utah Film Critics Association Award winners:

Best Picture: "Gravity"
(Runner-up: "12 Years a Slave")

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"
(Runner-up: Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave")

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"
(Runner-up: Oscar Isaac, "Inside Llewyn Davis")

Best Actress: Adèle Exarchopoulos, "Blue is the Warmest Color"
(Runner-up: [tie] Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine" and Sandra Bullock, "Gravity")

Best Supporting Actor: Bill Nighy, "About Time"
(Runner-up: Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave")

Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johansson, "Her"
(Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle")

Best Adapted Screenplay: "Before Midnight"
(Runner-up: "12 Years a Slave")

Best Original Screenplay: "The World's End"
(Runner-up: "The Way, Way Back")

Best Cinematography: "Gravity"
(Runner-up: "Inside Llewyn Davis")

Best Animated Feature: "Frozen"
(Runner-up: [tie] "From Up on Poppy Hill" and "The Wind Rises")

Best Non-English Language Feature: "Blue is the Warmest Color"
(Runner-up: "The Past")


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review: "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" is Inventive, Odd, and Relaxed (Remembering Douglas Adams)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 146 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – PG for thematic elements, action, and mild language
DIRECTOR: Garth Jennings
WRITERS: Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick (based upon the novel by Douglas Adams)
PRODUCERS: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Nick Goldsmith, Jay Roach, and Jonathan Glickman
EDITOR: Niven Howie
COMPOSER: Joby Talbot


Starring: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Anna Chancellor and John Malkovich, with the voices of Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, Richard Griffiths, and Thomas Lennon

The subject of this movie review is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a 2005 British-American comic science fiction and adventure film. It is based on the 1979 novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was written by the late author, Douglas Adams. The film follows the adventures of a man from Earth and his alien companion who is writing a new edition of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Arthur Dent (Sam Rockwell) is an ordinary guy having what looks like another bad day, when he discovers that his house is scheduled for demolition to make way for an expressway. Then, his best friend, Ford Prefect (Mos Def), shows up and tells him that Earth is also scheduled for demolition by aliens to make way for a hyperspace expressway. Ford later whisks Arthur into space where they eventually end up on the super space ship, the Heart of Gold, captained by the dim-witted President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell).

Arthur actually encountered Zaphod on Earth before, when the President stole the girl with whom Arthur had just fallen in love, Tricia (Zooey Deschanel). Tricia, now known as Trillian, is also on board, as is a chronically depressed android named Marvin (Warwick Davis with the voice by Alan Rickman). The unusual quintet search for the answers (and the questions) to the mystery of Life, the Universe, and Everything – with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (voiced by Stephen Fry) as their… well, guide.

First published in 1979, Douglas Adams’ (1952-2001) novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is one of the all-time best selling science fiction novels every published, and perhaps the most popular sci-fi humor book ever. The book became a cycle first known as “The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy,” after the publication of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980) and Life, the Universe and Everything (1982); two more books followed, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984) and Mostly Harmless (1992).

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy began as a radio sci-fi comedy series, and the book series is a non-literal adaptation of the radio series. Hitchhiker’s has also been a British TV mini-series, a stage play, a comic book/graphic novel, record albums, and a computer game. A major motion picture had long been in the planning stages at various times over 20 years with such names as actors Jim Carrey and Bill Murray and directors Jay Roach and Spike Jonze attached to the project.

Finally, in mid-spring of 2005, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy debuted in theatres with director Garth Jennings and co-producer Nick Goldsmith as its filmmaking creative center. Jennings and Goldsmith are the music video directing team known as “Hammer and Tongs.” They directed videos for such musical acts as R.E.M. (“Imitation of Life,” one of my personal favorites as an all-time great music video), Fatboy Slim (“Right Here, Right Now”), and Blur (“Coffee and T.V.”).

Before he died, Douglas Adams wrote the script (a non-literal translation of the books as the books were also not literal translations the original radio show) and added new characters (Humma Kavula played by John Malkovich). Co-writer Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach and Chicken Run) came on to improve the script’s structure and make it more coherent. Not having seen any of Adams’ original script drafts, I can’t say how much or if Kirkpatrick improved on Adams’ work. The film does seem to lack organization and focus, and its plot seems rather inconsequential, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is about eccentric characters in odd settings and situations, not so much about plot. A viewer doesn’t have to have read the books, but being familiar with the various source materials may make him and her more open to the film. Hitchhiker’s is basically a film about a great big sci-fi/fantasy misadventure set in a universe of oddities and abnormal beings (except Arthur Dent).

The cast and crew so obviously love what they’re doing and really buy into the little world that they created, and that passes on to the audience. Martin Freeman makes a great Arthur Dent, playing him as a flustered man frustrated with his world being destroyed and not having the girl who is “the one” loving him back. Sam Rockwell and Mos Def make a great alien combo, with the former as a cocky and kooky, gun-slinging lothario and the latter as the best-dressed straight man/wise man in the galaxy. I enjoyed watching them and the rest of the cast, and while the voice actors don’t seem to be straining themselves to perform, they are oddly appealing.

Part Monty Python, part Jim Henson, part Mel Brooks’ Space Balls (with a much bigger budget), and part David Lynch, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is not an interstellar homerun, but it’s the most visually and conceptually daring sci-fi comedy – probably ever. And I really enjoy how unpredictable this film remains, even through repeated viewings.

6 of 10


Friday, September 7, 2012

"Wrath of the Titans" Mostly Tepid

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 71 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

Wrath of the Titans (2012)
Running time: 99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman
WRITERS: Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson; from a story by Greg Berlanti, David Leslie Johnson and Dan Mazeau (based upon the 1981 screenplay by Beverley Cross)
PRODUCERS: Basil Iwanyk and Polly Johnsen
EDITOR: Martin Walsh
COMPOSER: Javier Navarrete


Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rosamund Pike, Bill Nighy, John Bell, Lily James, Alejandro Naranjo, Sinead Cusack, Spencer Wilding, and Danny Huston

Released earlier this year, Wrath of the Titans is a 2012 American fantasy film. It is a sequel to the 2010 version of Clash of the Titans (itself a remake of the 1981 film of the same name). Perseus, the hero of first film, must free his father, Zeus, from the underworld and also stop an ancient evil from destroying the universe. Louis Leterrier, the director of the 2010 film, acts as one of Wrath of the Titans’ executive producers.

Wrath of the Titans opens a decade after Perseus’ heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken. Since the death of his wife, Io, Perseus (Sam Worthington), the demigod son of Zeus, is attempting to live a quiet life as a village fisherman and as the sole parent to his 10-year old son, Helius (John Bell). Meanwhile, the power of the gods has been fading, and the walls of the underworld prison, Tartarus, are breaking and threatening to free the imprisoned Titans. Both are caused by humanity’s growing lack of devotion to the gods.

Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Poseidon (Danny Huston) travel to Tartarus to meet their estranged brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), hoping that they can reunite and rebuild Tartarus’ walls, but Hades has other plans. He imprisons Zeus and begins to drain him of his divine power, which Hades will use to revive the monstrous Kronos, the father of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. As Kronos slowly revives, the Titans are loosed upon Earth.

Now, Perseus leads a small band of brave souls towards the treacherous underworld to rescue his father, Zeus. He must also gather the three great weapons of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon: Zeus’ Thunderbolt, Hades’ Pitchfork, and Poseidon’s Trident, in order to form the one weapon that can stop Kronos, the Spear of Trium.

I’m not sure what I should say about Wrath of the Titans. I liked some of it, especially the last act, which is mostly action and which mostly held my attention. I strongly disliked the first act, which is mechanical and surprisingly unimaginative. The middle act has some good ideas and moments. Wrath of the Titans lacks the charm of the 1981 film, and in this film, Perseus, lacks the passion he had in the 2010 movie. That is surprising considering that Perseus has something big for which he must fight – a son.

I can say that after seeing this, I am glad that I didn’t go to the trouble of driving to the local cinema and spending money for a ticket to see Wrath of the Titans. I think that it is time to put this franchise to rest.

5 of 10

Friday, September 07, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: "Flushed Away" was the Best Animated Film of 2006

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 234 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Flushed Away (2006)
Running time: 90 minutes; MPAA – PG for crude humor and some language
DIRECTORS: David Bowers and Sam Fell
WRITERS: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, Chris Lloyd and Joe Keenan, and Will Davies; from a story by Sam Fell, Peter Lord and Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
PRODUCERS: Peter Lord, David Sproxton, and Cecil Kramer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brad Blackbourn and Frank Passingham
EDITOR: John Venzon and Eric Dapkewicz
BAFTA nominee


Starring: (voices) Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, Shane Richie, and Jean Reno

The computer-animated feature film, Flushed Away, is the star child of two of the most successful animation studios of the last decade: DreamWorks Animation (Shrek) and Aardman Features (Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit). DreamWorks creates state-of-the-art computer animation. Aardman films are usually done with stop-motion animation, and their characters and sets are made of Plasticene (modeling clay) – called “claymation.” Now, the two studios have created a film with a story and characters that are as inventive as the technical and artistic process that created it.

The story begins in London – specifically the Kensington Gardens house where Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman) lives the pampered life of a pet mouse. Roddy gets an unwanted guest in the form of a rowdy sewer rat named Sid (Shane Richie), after he comes spewing out of the sink. Roddy tries to get rid of Sid by tricking him into taking a whirlpool bath in the toilet, but Sid pushes Roddy in and Roddy gets flushed away.

After a rough trip, Roddy discovers a metropolis in the sewers beneath London, made by industrious rodents out of discarded items. Roddy meets the spunky and resourceful Rita (Kate Winslet), captain of her own boat, the Jammy Dodger. Rita, however, is in the middle of a long-running feud with a local crime lord, the villainous Toad (Ian McKellen, superb as a villain prone to fits of melodrama and theatrics). Toad despises all rodents and has hatched a diabolical plot to destroy all of them during halftime of the World Cup. Roddy and Rita are determined to stop him, but to do that, they have to battle Toad’s henchrats Spike (Andy Serkis) and Whitey (Bill Nighy), as well as Toad’s cousin, Le Frog (Jean Reno), every step of the way.

There are animated films in which the composition in terms of what the viewer sees on screen is prettier – Pixar productions come to mind, but when it comes to pure comedy, I would be hard pressed to find a more successful 3D animated film than Flushed Away. Visually, Flushed Away is true to the signature style of Aardman, as seen in the Wallace and Gromit films and in Chicken Run, but I would be remiss in this review if I emphasized the technical side. Flushed Away is a funny film, a superb achievement in comedy as good as live action.

The strong screenwriting emphasizes wacky, scatological humor and funny characters. The humor isn’t too crude for children; actually, it’s the kind of humor that frequently shows up in children’s entertainment: jokes and sight gags about bodily functions, taking a blow to the loins, and other light innuendo. This is a broad kind of humor, seemingly lowbrow but familiar to all regardless of age. Simply brilliant, the comedy writing is wry yet boisterous and both subtle and blunt. A blend of parody and slapstick, Flushed Away satirizes melodramatic, Hollywood action thrillers, and it still has time to be part romantic comedy.

It’s not as if any one group of people should get credit for Flushed Away being such a fine flick. However, if the voice performers weren’t so good, the excellent work of the directors, writers, animators, and computer guys would have been… flushed away. The vocal performances take this film to the next two levels by bringing the characters to life in such a way that they become more than just kiddie cartoons. Truthfully, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, and Ian McKellan, and Jean Reno are international movie stars and superb actors, and their supporting cast – Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, and Shane Richie – are fine character actors. Indeed, Serkis’ comically inept little brute, Spike, and Nighy’s Zen heavy, Whitey, are so funny and well done that the duo deserves its own flick. In the end, the actors give us the same great work they would in a live action movie, and that is the main reason why Flushed Away may be the year’s best animated feature film.

9 of 10

Sunday, November 12, 2006

2007 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film” (David Bowers and Sam Fell)


Monday, February 6, 2012

2012 Annie Awards Winners - Complete List; "Rango" Wins Best Film

ASIFA-Hollywood, the Los Angeles, California branch of the International Animated Film Society, presents the Annie Awards. The Annie honors achievements in animation as a whole, including current animated productions, as well as career and lifetime achievements. At the beginning of this week, the group announced the nominations and award recipients for the 39th Annual Annie Awards.

Award recipients claimed their trophies at the 39th Annual Annie Awards in ceremony held Saturday, February 4, 2012 at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California.

39th (2012) Annual Annie Awards Winners:


Best Animated Feature
Rango – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production

Annie Award for Best Animated Special Production
Kung Fu Panda – Secrets of the Masters – DreamWorks Animation

Best Animated Short Subject
Adam and Dog – Minkyu Lee

Best Animated Television Commercial
Twinings “Sea” – Psyop

Best General Audience Animated TV Production
The Simpsons – Gracie Films

Best Animated Television Production - Preschool
Disney Jake and the Never Land Pirates – Disney Television Animation

Best Animated Television Production – Children
The Amazing World of Gumball – Cartoon Network in Association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media
& Studio Soi

Best Animated Video Game
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet – Shadow Planet Productions, Gagne/Fuelcell


Animated Effects in an Animated Production
Kevin Romond “Tintin” – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall

Animated Effects in a Live Action Production
Florent Andorra “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” – Industrial Light & Magic

Character Animation in a Television Production
Tony Smeed “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Animation in a Feature Production
Jeff Gabor “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios

Character Animation in a Live Action Production
Eric Reynolds “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – 20th Century Fox

Character Design in a Television Production
Bill Schwab “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Design in a Feature Production
Mark “Crash” McCreery “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production

Directing in a Television Production
Matthew Nastuk “The Simpsons” – Gracie Films

Directing in a Feature Production
Jennifer Yuh Nelson “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation

Music in a Television Production
Grace Potter, Michael Giacchino “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Music in a Feature Production
John Williams “Tintin” – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall

Production Design in a Television Production
Mark Bodnar, Chris Tsirgiotis, Sue Mondt and Daniel Elson “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome” – Cartoon Network Studios

Production Design in a Feature Production
Raymond Zibach “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation

Storyboarding in a Television Production
Brian Kesinger “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Storyboarding in a Feature Production
Jeremy Spears “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Voice Acting in a Television Production
Jeff Bennett as Kowalski “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Voice Acting in a Feature Production
Bill Nighy as Grandsanta “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations

Writing in a Television Production
Carolyn Omine “The Simpsons -Treehouse of Horror XXII” – Gracie Films

Writing in a Feature Production
John Logan, Gore Verbinski and James Byrkit “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions

Editing in Television Production
Ted Machold, Jeff Adams, Doug Tiano, Bob Tomlin “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Editing in a Feature Production
Craig Wood, A.C.E. “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production

Winsor McCay Award —Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring, Ronald Searle

June Foray — Art Leonardi

Special Achievement — Depth Analysis

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oscar-Nominated "Rango" Returns in Limited Engagement


The now Academy Award®-nominated Rango, from director Gore Verbinski and starring the voice of Johnny Depp, saddles up for a one week limited engagement at the ArcLight Hollywood beginning this Friday, January 27th. The original animated comedy-adventure from Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies a Blind Wing/GK Films Production that takes moviegoers for a hilarious and heartfelt walk in the Wild West, was this morning nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature Film.

Rango is the winner of the National Board of Review and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Animated Feature, while top critics’ groups around the country have declared Rango the Best Animated Film of 2011, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

The incomparable Johnny Depp voices Rango, a chameleon living as an ordinary family pet who dreams of being a fearless hero and is challenged to become just that when he inadvertently becomes the sheriff of a lawless desert town called Dirt. Story by John Logan, Gore Verbinski, and James Ward Byrkit, Written by John Logan, Directed by Gore Verbinski, the visionary behind the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Rango delighted audiences of all ages, earning more than $230 million worldwide. The film also features the voices of Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone and Timothy Olyphant.

About Paramount Pictures Corporation
Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. Paramount controls a collection of some of the most powerful brands in filmed entertainment, including Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Famous Productions, Paramount Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., and Paramount Studio Group.

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" Rises on Its Own

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – R for bloody violence and some sexuality
DIRECTOR: Patrick Tatopoulos
WRITERS: Danny McBride, Dirk Blackman, and Howard McCain; from a story by Len Wiseman, Robert Orr, and Danny McBride (based on characters created by Kevin Grevioux, and Len Wiseman, and Danny McBride)
PRODUCERS: Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Skip Williamson, Len Wiseman, and Richard S. Wright
EDITORS: Peter Amundson and Eric Potter
COMPOSER: Paul Haslinger


Starring: Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux, David Aston, and Elizabeth Hawthorne

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a 2009 American vampire/werewolf fantasy film. It is the third film in the Underworld film series and is also a prequel to the first two films, Underworld (2003) and Underworld: Evolution (2006). Rise of the Lycans is part origin story and also depicts how the Vampire-Lycan war (the centerpiece of the original film) began.

Rise of the Lycans opens in the Dark Ages of Europe. Viktor (Bill Nighy) is the ruthless elder lord of a vampire coven. Human nobles pay him to protect them from the ravenous, uncontrollable werewolves that are unable to return to their original human form. One day, a female werewolf gives birth to human child who grows up to be Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first werewolf able to take human form. Viktor uses Lucian to create a new breed of werewolf that can keep guard over the coven during the daylight hours, a breed Viktor calls “Lycans.”

Lucian and Viktor’s daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), are in a relationship that they struggle to keep hidden. Lucian also begins to struggle with the way Viktor and the other vampires treat his werewolf brothers. After he encounters Raze (Kevin Grevioux), a brave human destined to be turned into a werewolf, Lucian is inspired to plot a revolution. Love and revolution, however, may cost Lucian and Sonja everything.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is essentially a stand alone film. One need not have seen the first two films in order to enjoy Rise of the Lycans. In a way, this film’s story is like an aristocratic melodrama in which a noble lord’s precious daughter has a forbidden romance with the help or, in this case, a werewolf slave. This movie is as much about its themes of mixed race romance, racism, discrimination, and exploitation as it is about the tropes of modern vampire versus werewolf fiction. That makes Rise of the Lycans different from the other Underworld films, but not necessarily inferior, although I do think that it is the least of the three in terms of quality.

As a big fan of the series, I can say that I liked Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, and Michael Sheen’s vigorous and physical performance gives the film much dramatic credibility. Rhona Mitra and the reliable Bill Nighy also deliver sturdy performances. Director Patrick Tatopoulos is straight-forward, seeming to care more about the film than showing off to prove what a hotshot fantasy film director he is.

6 of 10

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Underworld: Evolution" Also Slick, Sexy and Cool

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Underworld: Evolution (2006)
Running time: 105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive strong violence and gore, some sexuality/nudity, and language
DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman
WRITERS: Danny McBride; based upon a story by Danny McBride and Len Wiseman (based upon characters created by Kevin Grevioux and Danny McBride and Len Wiseman)
PRODUCERS: Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, and Richard Wright
EDITOR: Nicolas De Toth

FANTASY/ACTION/HORROR with elements of sci-fi

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Bill Nighy, Derek Jacobi, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen, and Steven Mackintosh

After the chaos at the end of Underworld, the war between the vampires and the lycans (werewolves) has taken a backseat to unlocking the secrets to the beginnings of the ancient feud. Vampire heroine, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a Death Dealer (one who hunts lycans), and Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), the human who became a lycan/vampire hybrid, have found their quest to unlock the secrets of their bloodlines hampered by the reawakening of Marcus (Tony Curran), the first vampire – also a powerful hybrid.

Marcus is hunting for the crypt where his brother William, the first werewolf, has been imprisoned for eight centuries. That also means Marcus must uncover the machinations of Viktor (Bill Nighy), the vampire lord who imprisoned William and who was killed at the end of the first film. [Viktor only appears in this film via flashbacks). Marcus is willing to kill anyone who stands in his way, including Selene, Michael… and Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi), who is Marcus and William’s father and the man who was the first immortal.

Underworld: Evolution, as a sequel, is like Superman II to Superman and Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, more kick-ass than the original. I would call Evolution better than its predecessor. Although this film is even more of an action flick than the first, the two films are different. Whereas the first could be seen as some kind of riff on the Blade films with a twist of Goth style and music video cool, Underworld: Evolution has the explosiveness of a Lethal Weapon movie or a Michael Bay film (say, The Rock or Bad Boys II). It’s a fantasy mini-epic, but more video game fantasy than Tolkien.

The acting is as good as before. Kate Beckinsale is as magnetic and as alluring as the sexist action babe or femme fatale, and she can give a beat down that would make Charles Bronson proud. Scott Speedman is a solid leading man, and he plays second fiddle to Ms. Beckinsale without disappearing; he actually makes us miss him when he’s off screen. The music is better, and there is a nice addition to the costumes in the form of the vampire war armor. The film’s hues are warmer than in the first film – the better to fit Evolution’s hot passions and blood feuds.

But the architects of the film’s success remain director Len Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride; they seem to hit all the right notes. Here, it’s the fabulous and intricate back-story of the vampires and lycans that engages the viewer as much as the visual pyrotechnics and theatrics that Wiseman pumps into the film. If there is any reason for this franchise to continue, it’s certainly to see the twists, turns, and surprises that McBride and Wiseman may have in store. In the meantime, Underworld: Evolution simultaneously satisfies and whets the appetite. It will only take a few minutes of this excellent entertainment to make the viewer want to invest himself in the wild ride.

8 of 10

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Underworld" Still Slick, Sexy and Cool

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 145 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Underworld (2003)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for strong violence/gore and some language
DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman
WRITERS: Danny McBride, from a story by Kevin Grevioux, Danny McBride, and Len Wiseman
PRODUCERS: Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, and Richard Wright
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tony Pierce-Roberts
EDITOR: Martin Hunter
COMPOSER: Paul Haslinger


Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles, Danny McBride, and Kevin Grevioux

Underworld is a 2003 action/fantasy film about a war between vampires and werewolves (called Lycans). I believe that this film exists in a fantasy world that looks so good and convincing on screen because of modern cinematic technology.

Quite a few people have come to believe that computers generated special effects have elevated what was once traditional Hollywood B-movie material (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) to A-list status. Once upon a time quality story telling was king because even the best that special effects could do no more than make an obviously fake flying saucer look like an obviously fake flying saucer. Now, special effects can convincingly create fantastic worlds, outlandish creatures, and bizarre scenarios. A plain old movie drama pales next to some two-and-a-half hour vampire, car chase, kung fu, and alien invasion action movie.

I’d like to believe that Underworld, with its straight-forward tale about a centuries-long blood feud between werewolves and vampires, could still be very entertaining without the aid of computer generated effects (CGI) or any kind of SFX, for that matter. There’s no doubt that the movie proudly wears its B-movie heritage on its sleeve, and the creators sold the studio on the movie by pitching the idea, “Romeo and Juliet with vampires and werewolves.” Truthfully, very little about Underworld vampire/werewolf conflict makes much sense. The feud only seems a reason for Vampires to walk around in fancy and expensive leather gear and shoot hundreds of rounds of ammunitions. For the werewolves, or Lycans as they called in this film, the conflict gives them a reason to hide in the city’s underbelly, crawling around like low-rent thugs and thieves and engage in homoerotic intra clan feuds, as there are apparently no female Lycans.

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a death dealer, a Vampire warrior who hunts the Lycans. The Lycans were supposed to be on the run ever since their great leader Lucian (Michael Sheen) was killed six centuries prior, but the war never ended. Selene’s people are clan of secretive, modern sophisticates, as much dilettantes as they are vampires, and she alone seems to hold a hard line against the Lycans. Now, Selene has found the werewolves tracking a handsome young human man named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), and she is determined to discover why, even as she suspects her clan leader Kraven (Shane Brolly) is involved in a great conspiracy that could endanger all of her kind.

Visually, Underworld resembles The Matrix films, and stylistically the story is quite similar to the Blade films (maybe even a bit of The Crow), but director Len Wiseman and his cohorts create their own crazy dish from the various sources they raided to concoct Underworld. It’s by no means a great movie, and the acting is as much unintentionally funny as it is dreadfully serious. It’s oh-so-dark and oh-so-seriously gothic and Goth, and the dialogue is so stiff and formal that I can almost swear that no character spoke one word of contraction.

Still, though this film is ponderous and painfully derivative, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I found Underworld to be quite good, and I’ll see it again. I can’t imagine that many fans of genre films would not see it, though many may actually not like it. For me, it’s one of those “ultimate” popcorn flicks – horror, fantasy, and action all put together and filmed as if it were a very, very, very long music video. It’s gloriously and hilariously dark eye candy for the comic book and sci-fi geeks. The nitpicker in me might sneer, but the film geek in me wants more. I’ll take it warts and all.

7 of 10

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: "Underworld: Unrated Extended Cut" is For Hardcore Fans (Happy B'day, Kate Beckinsale)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 17 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Underworld (2003)
2 Disc Unrated Extended Cut – May 25, 2004
Running time: 134 minutes (2 hours,14 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman
WRITERS: Danny McBride; from a story by Kevin Grevioux and Danny McBride Len Wiseman
PRODUCERS: Tom Rosenburg, Gary Lucchesi, and Richard Wright
EDITOR: Martin Hunter


Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles, Robby Gee, Wentworth Miller, and Kevin Grevioux

In the 2003 film, Underworld, there has been a war between the Vampire and Lycan (Werewolf) clans for about 1000 years. The film focuses on Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a young vampire warrior known as a Death Dealer. The Death Dealers are the ones who hunt, track, and kill Lycans. During a hunt at the beginning of the film, she discovers two Lycans following a young American medical intern, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). Michael is the key to the Lycan leader, Lucian’s (Michael Sheen), plot to unite the two warring species, but Selene discovers that Michael is also advertently a link to a centuries-old conspiracy between Lucian and the Vampire’s current leader, Kraven (Shane Brolly). As the web of conspiracy broadens, Selene must use her resourcefulness and martial skills to save her clan and Michael.

Underworld (2 Disc Unrated Extended Cut) contains 12 minutes of extra footage, which amounts to more backstory on Michael Corvin and the Lycans, a new battle scene at the end, and a subplot involving the sexy and catty, Erika (Sophia Myles). There is also 11 minutes of recut or “replacement footage.” According to Wiseman’s commentary, this is not a “director’s cut,” because he cut the 12 minutes in the original film for pacing, and as he says, you’ll hardly notice the difference, as I didn’t.

I liked the film the first time I saw it and I like it even more the second time. The movie is a blend of Blade, The Crow, and The Matrix. Conceptually, it borrows from the Blade franchise, but visually, it’s takes from The Crow and absolutely leans on and loots The Matrix. However, it is a superbly made bit of fluff that is divinely tasty eye candy. Although the concept and script are full of holes, it’s kind of like a gorgeous looking high-concept music video with much more story than music video normally have. By the way, “unrated” doesn’t mean we get to see skin from Ms. Beckinsale. This is a must-have for hardcore fans of the film, even if it means dumping the first DVD edition.

7 of 10

DVD includes a 48-page Underworld comic book and a 16-page production sketch booklet, which contains several storyboard-to-screen comparisons. Disc 1 contains the extended cut of the film with (1) director and cast (Ms. Beckinsale and Speedman) commentaries; (2) outtakes; (3) the American Movie Classic (AMC) television special “Fang vs. Fiction”; (4) two TV spots; (4) and previews of four (then) upcoming movies distributed by Sony Pictures. Disc 2 has several features including a music video by the band Finch (“Worms of the Earth”) and several looks at designing the look and sounds of the film.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Production Begins on Bryan Singer's "Jack the Giant Killer"

Director Bryan Singer in Production on 3D Epic Action Adventure “Jack the Giant Killer”

Stars Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Principal photography is underway in London on acclaimed filmmaker Bryan Singer’s 3D epic action adventure “Jack the Giant Killer,” with Nicholas Hoult in the title role of Jack, for New Line Cinema and Legendary Pictures.

“Jack the Giant Killer” tells the story of an ancient war that is reignited when a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants. Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing the young man, Jack, into the battle of his life to stop them. Fighting for a kingdom, its people, and the love of a brave princess, he comes face to face with the unstoppable warriors he thought only existed in legend — and gets the chance to become a legend himself.

Hoult and Singer recently collaborated on the Singer-produced “X-Men: First Class,” for release later this year. “Jack the Giant Killer” also stars Eleanor Tomlinson as Princess Isabelle; Stanley Tucci (“Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Julie & Julia”) as the deceitful Lord Roderick; Ian McShane (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” HBO’s “Deadwood”) as the besieged King Brahmwell; Bill Nighy (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) as the giants’ leader General Fallon; and Ewan McGregor (“Star Wars,” “The Ghost Writer”) as palace guard Elmont.

Singer will direct from a screenplay by Darren Lemke and Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney, story by Darren Lemke & David Dobkin. The film will be produced by Neal Moritz, David Dobkin, Bryan Singer and Patrick McCormick.

The creative filmmaking team includes Singer’s longtime collaborators, director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel (“X-Men,” “Superman Returns”) and editor John Ottman (“X2,” “Superman Returns”). The production designer is Gavin Bocquet (“Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”).

“Jack the Giant Killer” is filming on location in and around London, and is scheduled for a summer 2012 release.

A New Line Cinema presentation, in association with Legendary Pictures, the film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: "Notes on a Scandal" is Delightfully Scandalous (Happy B'day, Cate Blanchett)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 70 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Notes on a Scandal (2006)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some aberrant sexual content
DIRECTOR: Richard Eyre
WRITER: Patrick Marber (based upon the book What was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller)
PRODUCERS: Scott Rudin and Robert Fox
EDITORS: John Bloom and Antonia Van Drimmelen
2007 Academy Award nominee

DRAMA with elements of a thriller

Starring: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson, Juno Temple, Max Lewis, and Stephen Kennedy

Notes on a Scandal is a chance to see two of the world’s best actresses delivering tour de force performances. For people who love great acting and great actresses, this film is a treasure trove. It’s rare when two actors are this good in the same movie where the script requires them to perform together during most of the film. Together, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are enough to burn out your eyes.

Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) is a senior faculty member at St. George’s, a decaying, state-run secondary school. Lonely and bitter, she hasn’t connected with the rest of the faculty, but she rules over her class with an iron fist. Barbara does take an interest in the school’s newest faculty member, a pretty art teacher named Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). Sheba ends up in an illicit affair with, Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson), a 15-year old male student.

After Barbara accidentally discovers this, she confronts Sheba, but promises not to tell if Sheba ends the affair. Barbara also plots to use this intimate secret as a way to coerce Sheba into having an affair with her, but when Sheba continues the relationship with Steven, things turn ugly. In a moment of blind jealousy, Barbara does something that will hurt all involved, including Sheba’s husband, Richard (Bill Nighy), and will also bring the secret deceptions and dark obsessions to the surface.

The sign of a quality movie director is his ability to recognize a significant movie script and then, be able to turn it over to great actors and help them bring forth great performances. Richard Eyre (who previously directed Judi Dench to an Oscar nomination in 2001’s Iris) is such a quality film director. Patrick Marber’s script encapsulates what it feels like to be alone even in a crowd of familiar people, including one’s on family, and that’s to say nothing of Marber’s treatise on people so lonely they victimize other people to satisfy their need for connection and companionship. (Sheba calls Barbara a vampire, late in the film) Eyre doesn’t lose the richness of either Marber’s rich narrative or his complex look at the potential selfishness of neediness.

In spite of the good directing and writing, many will remember Notes on a Scandal for the two tremendous performances that literally make and define this film. Indeed, over the years, other movie lovers will seek out Notes precisely to see why so many other fans will still be raving about Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. Dench defines Barbara with a domineering presence, a powerful and direct voice, a demeanor that might give a mugger pause, and the haughty attitude to end haughty attitudes. She makes Barbara so dishonest in her dealings with people that she could give the Prince of Lies a run for his money. Dench intensely uses her skills and still manages to make Barbara feel genuine and authentic as a person.

Meanwhile, Blanchett builds her character physically. The secret life of Sheba and her general unhappiness and malaise are evident in the way Blanchett moves. It is in a gaze or a wave of the arms – in the way she dances, the way she cries, or even how she sits in a chair. Blanchett opens the audience to what is real about Sheba, and what she’s hiding and the lies she’s telling. Movies like Notes on a Scandal that make you appreciate genuine acting and filmmaking talent and the skill to put that talent to practical use.

A horror movie in all but genre, Notes on a Scandal is as scandalous as its subject matter, but this highbrow freak show is a feast of film acting

8 of 10
2007 Academy Awards: 4 nominations: “Best performance by an actress in a leading role” (Judi Dench), “Best performance by an actress in a supporting role” (Cate Blanchett), “Best writing, adapted screenplay” (Patrick Marber), and “Best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original score” (Philip Glass)

2007 BAFTA Awards: 3 nominations: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Scott Rudin, Robert Fox, Richard Eyre, and Patrick Marber), “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Judi Dench), and “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Patrick Marber)

2007 Golden Globes: 3 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Judi Dench), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Cate Blanchett), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Patrick Marber)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Production Begins on "Clash of the Titans" Sequel

Production on “Clash of the Titans 2” Underway for Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Stars Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson Once Again Gods at War

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Principal photography has begun on Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ epic action adventure sequel to “Clash of the Titans,” being directed by Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles”). Returning to star in the film are Sam Worthington (“Avatar”) as Perseus, and Academy Award® nominees Ralph Fiennes (“The English Patient,” the “Harry Potter” films) as Hades and Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List,” “Unknown”) as Zeus.

A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus—the demigod son of Zeus—is attempting to live a quieter life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year old son, Helius.

Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the gods and the Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. The triumvirate had overthrown their powerful father long ago, leaving him to rot in the gloomy abyss of Tartarus, a dungeon that lies deep within the cavernous underworld.

Perseus cannot ignore his true calling when Hades, along with Zeus’ godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramírez), switch loyalty and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titans’ strength grows stronger as Zeus’ remaining godly powers are siphoned, and hell is unleashed on earth.

Enlisting the help of the warrior Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon’s demigod son, Argenor (Toby Kebbell), and fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), Perseus bravely embarks on a treacherous quest into the underworld to rescue Zeus, overthrow the Titans and save mankind.

Jonathan Liebesman directs the film from a screenplay by Dan Mazeau & David Leslie Johnson and Steven Knight, story Greg Berlanti & David Leslie Johnson & Dan Mazeau, based on the 2010 hit “Clash of the Titans” and the 1981 film of the same name, written by the late Beverley Cross.

The film is produced by Basil Iwanyk (“The Town”), who also produced the previous “Clash of the Titans,” and Polly Cohen Johnsen (“Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”). The executive producers are Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, William Fay, Callum McDougall, Kevin De La Noy and Louis Leterrier.

Joining Worthington, Fiennes and Neeson in the international cast are Danny Huston (“Robin Hood”), reprising his role as Poseidon, god of the sea; Edgar Ramírez (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” TV miniseries “Carlos”) as the traitorous god of war, Ares; Bill Nighy (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1”) as Hephaestus, whose twisted, lame figure belies his Olympian origins; Toby Kebbell (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”) as Agenor, imprisoned thief and son of Poseidon who joins Perseus on his journey to Tartarus; and Rosamund Pike (“Barney’s Version”) as Andromeda, the princess whose life Perseus once saved, and who now, as a queen, follows Perseus into battle.

The behind-the-scenes team bringing this mythical epic to life includes director of photography Ben Davis (“The Rite,” “Kick Ass”); production designer Charles Wood (“The Italian Job,” “The A-Team”); Academy Award®-winning editor Martin Walsh (“Chicago,” “V for Vendetta”); and costume designer Jany Temime (the “Harry Potter” films). “Clash of the Titans 2” also reunites several talents from the previous film, including Oscar®-nominated visual effects supervisor Nick Davis (“The Dark Knight,”); Oscar®-nominated prosthetics supervisor Conor O’Sullivan (“The Dark Knight,” “Saving Private Ryan”); and Academy Award®-winning special effects and animatronics supervisor Neil Corbould (“Gladiator”). Also on board are Oscar®-nominated makeup designer Paul Engelen (“Frankenstein,” “Robin Hood”) and hair designer Kevin Alexander (“Robin Hood,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”).

“Clash of the Titans 2” will be filming in studios outside London and will later shoot on location in Surrey, South Wales and in the Spanish Canary Islands on the island of Tenerife. The film is currently scheduled for release in March 2012.

A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation, in association with Legendary Pictures, a Thunder Road Film, “Clash of the Titans 2” is being co-produced by Furia de Titanes II, A.I.E. and COTT Productions and will be distributed in 3D and 2D worldwide by Warner Bros. Entertainment Companies.

Friday, March 11, 2011

First "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" Sets Record for Series

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Conjures International Box Office Magic, Becoming Top Earner of Entire Film Series

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Warner Bros. Pictures’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 has become the highest grossing installment in the Harry Potter franchise in international markets. With just months to go before the release of the finale of the record-breaking film series based on the beloved books by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 has earned a staggering $657.24 million and counting, soaring past the previous record-holder, 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which grossed $657 million. The announcement was made today by Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, President of International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

“It’s tremendously gratifying to reach this benchmark as we enter the final stretch of this remarkable journey,” said Jeff Robinov, President of Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We share this achievement with Jo Rowling, whose books are the foundation of this rich and vibrant world, as well as the talented people who brought her vision to life on the screen.”

“We are also incredibly proud of our teams around the world who have brought a consistent level of excellence, passion and ingenuity to the campaigns for these films,” said Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing for Warner Bros. Pictures. “And, of course, we’re thrilled that longtime fans and new audiences alike have continued to champion each film, resulting in the huge success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.”

Kwan-Rubinek added, “These numbers speak to the phenomenal and enduring strength of this property, which has captivated audiences across all borders, regardless of age or culture. We’re looking forward to releasing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 this summer, which will be a fitting way to bring to a close the movie event of a generation.”

With the success of its first six of seven titles, the Harry Potter series had already achieved the distinction of being the top-grossing film franchise of all time, with a combined worldwide gross of $6.37 billion. This benchmark for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1—which has earned $951.8 million worldwide—as well as the anticipation for Part 2, opening globally on July 15, 2011, should ensure its place in film history for years to come.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Heyday Films Production, a David Yates Film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, a motion picture event in two full-length parts. The film is being distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Heading the cast, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson reprise the roles of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The film’s ensemble cast also includes Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Toby Jones, David Legeno, Simon McBurney, Helen McCrory, Nick Moran, Peter Mullan, David O’Hara, Clémence Poésy, Natalia Tena, Julie Walters, Mark Williams and Bonnie Wright.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 was directed by David Yates, who also helmed “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” David Heyman, the producer of all of the Harry Potter films, again produced the film, together with David Barron and J.K. Rowling. Steve Kloves adapted the screenplay, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling. Lionel Wigram is the executive producer, with John Trehy and Tim Lewis serving as co-producers.

Behind the scenes, the creative team was led by director of photography Eduardo Serra, production designer Stuart Craig, editor Mark Day, composer Alexandre Desplat, visual effects supervisor Tim Burke, and costume designer Jany Temime.

Concurrently with its theatrical release, the film was released in select IMAX® theatres. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 was digitally re-mastered into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® through proprietary IMAX DMR® technology.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: "The Constant Gardener" is Constantly Good (Happy B'day, Rachel Weisz)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 22 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Constant Gardener (2005)
Running time: 129 minutes (2 hours, 9 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, some violent images, and sexual content/nudity
DIRECTOR: Fernando Meirelles
WRITER: Jeffrey Caine (based upon the novel by John le Carré)
PRODUCER: Simon Channing Williams
EDITOR: Clair Simpson
Academy Award winner


Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston, Bill Nighy, and Pete Postlethwaite, Donald Sumpter, Hubert Koundé, Archie Punjabi, Gerard McSorley, and Samuel Otage

Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) fell in love with his wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), when she first confronted him after a speech at a diplomatic conference. Tessa followed the Justin, a member of the British High Commission to Nairobi, Kenya and became his wife, but she remained a dedicated human rights and peace activist on her own, fighting for the health of poor Africans. Eventually, Tess is found brutally murdered, and her companion, a local doctor (Samuel Otage) and close friend of Tessa’s, appears to have fled the seen of the murder

The gossips in the Quayle’s personal and professional circle think this was a crime of passion. Justin’s colleague, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston, in a fine supporting performance), and Justin’s superior at the British High Council, Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy), assume that Justin will leave the matter of Tessa’s murder to their discretion and instead, tend to his passion – the lovely gardens that surround the Quayles’ home in Nairobi.

Much to their chagrin, Justin begins his own investigation, and nothing will stop him from uncovering the truth, not even rumors of his wife’s affairs. But this is a conspiracy much larger and more dangerous than he can imagine, involving giant, multi-national pharmaceutical companies, assassins for hire, and the continent of Africa – rife with civil war, starvation, corrupt governments, and deadly epidemics.

Based upon the best-selling novel by John Le Carré, The Constant Gardener delivers on the promise shown by director Fernando Meirelles in the Oscar-nominated, City of God. It’s a riveting suspense thriller full of conniving agents, evil corporations, and British accents. Its complicated web of bribes, handshake deals, and murder ensnares the viewer with engaging characters in a thrill delivery system that pays off like crack and makes you want more – credit to screenwriter Jeffrey Caine. Meirelles is clever and imaginative with the way he uses camera angles, movements, focus, subject, structure, etc., making the most of the possibilities afforded him by a good script.

But what’s most surprising here is that there is a rather poignant and engaging romance film that weaves through of the scheming and deceptions (keenly embodied by Bill Nighy, a master of playing sly, bold, and cultured bad guys) – basically a political thriller seen through a romance. Meirelles expertly balances this, making the romance as entrancing as the suspense. Through flashbacks that increase the narrative flow and enhances the intensity of Justin Quayle’s search for his wife’s murderers, Meirelles insures that the film’s advertising tagline, “Love. At all costs,” is damn true.

It helps to have a good cast, in particularly strong leads. Rachel Weisz is beautiful, charming, and sexy as the passionate activist. She gives Tessa Quayle an exuberant quality that makes the early stages of Justin and Tessa’s love a bubbly affair. Later, she makes Tessa a proud and strong woman who looks out for her man and for the world, but retains a shy vulnerability that makes us believe she really needs Justin, wants him, and loves him.

Ralph Fiennes is the master of the upper class gentleman characters, always involved in dangerous or controversial love affairs, usually with women who aren’t in his social class or social circles. There is, however, truth in his performances that we can see in his facial expressions and in his eyes. You can buy his characters’ passions; they are real where a lesser actor would make such an affair seem contrived. For some reason, I can believe that this man will be true to his love at all costs, and that’s what sells this poignant drama and gripping whodunit – the thing that takes a good film one step up to the next level.

9 of 10

Monday, January 30, 2006

2006 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Rachel Weisz); 4 nominations: “Best Achievement in Editing” (Claire Simpson), “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Alberto Iglesias), and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Jeffrey Caine)

2006 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Editing” (Claire Simpson); 9 nominations: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Simon Channing Williams, Fernando Meirelles, and Jeffrey Caine), “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Alberto Iglesias), “Best Cinematography” (César Charlone), “Best Film” (Simon Channing Williams), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Ralph Fiennes), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Rachel Weisz), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Jeffrey Caine), “Best Sound” (Joakim Sundström, Stuart Wilson. Mike Prestwood Smith, and Sven Taits), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Fernando Meirelles)

2006 Golden Globes: 1win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Rachel Weisz); 2 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Fernando Meirelles), “Best Motion Picture – Drama