Tag Archives: Ralph Fiennes

Villainous lines series

voldemort-disappointed

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Quick ‘n’ Dirty: February at the pictures

The last month has been mostly about Oscar nominated films… surprise, surprise! So without further ado here’s February selection of speedy reviews:

The Danish Girl: the life of Danish painter Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, pioneer transgender, and his wife Gerda, also a talented painter. I know that this is considered an Eddie Redmayne’s film, whose performance is both convincing and effective, but the one that truly shines is Alicia Vikander as Gerda. She embodied the role of loyal, supporting wife and her struggle to make sense of her life and her husband’s. I must say that she’s the one who really sold me the story and ended up making it convincing and gut-wrenching. Tom Hooper skillfully handles this dramatic tale and beautifully recreates both Copenhagen and Paris in the 1920s. Affecting —7/10

Danish-Girl

 

Carol: Todd Haynes gives us an artfully shot, intense period drama with two great actresses (Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett) at the top of their game. Therese, shop girl and aspiring photographer, meets and falls in love with the titular Carol, an older woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. Set in the fifties, this love story has all the complications that come with the social mores of the time and strongly reminds of Far From Heaven, however it’s a little more hopeful but less powerful. Cate Blanchett should always dress as a New Yorker in the 1950s, she’s spectacular. Kudos also go to Kyle Chandler for his solid performance as the abandoned husband and Sarah Paulson as Carol’s best friend. Interesting —7/10

Carol

 

Anomalisa: the quirky genius of Charlie Kaufman takes the viewer along for a ride in a weird world. Using stop-motion animation he tells a story of alienation and loneliness (which are recurrent themes in his films): a customer service guru, Michael Stone (David Thewlis), feels detached from everything but, on a business trip, meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), his anomaly, and things suddenly change for the better…at least that’s what it seems. While the plot is rather straightforward, the storytelling is multi-layered as is Kaufman’s wont and the different media is meant to add an additional twist. Unfortunately, the latter completely backfires (at least for me) because I found the facial features of the puppets utterly distracting and not in a good way. Unexpected —6/10

anomalisa

 

Hail, Caesar!: Eddie Mannix’s (Josh Brolin) life as fixer for a major Hollywood studio is very complicated and demanding. He has to deal with a difficult director (Ralph Fiennes), a pregnant starlet (Scarlet Johansson), nosy gossip journalists (Tilda Swinton), the kidnapping of a movie star (George Clooney) and his inner demons. The Coens brings back the lights and shadows of Hollywood’s golden era with their usual humour and manage to coax great performances out of Clooney, Brolin, Ehrenreich and the rest of the cast. There’s a cornucopia of references to different film genres and their cliches as well as to the lives of celebrities, mostly what should be kept from the public. I particularly enjoyed the discussion about religion with a rabbi and representatives of the different christian confessions. Lighthearted —7.5/10

hail-caesar

 

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Spectre

Director: Sam Mendes; Main Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa SeydouxRalph FiennesBen WhishawNaomie HarrisDave BautistaAndrew Scott;

spectre

Sam Mendes as director, Christoph Waltz as main villain, Daniel Craig finally owing the role as 007, after good performances in Skyfall and Casino Royal, at least one age-appropriate Bond-girl (Bellucci)… this film had all the ingredients for being a worthy new chapter in the suave spy’s history. Alas, it doesn’t deliver on all its promises. To begin at the beginning: the title sequence with Sam Smith’s song is neither remarkable nor particularly memorable, so no, not a good start (it was difficult to top Skyfall, I know). Our hero is on a mission from M (the deceased one, not the current one) but he doesn’t really know what he’s chasing or looking for. The not-so-greving widow (the above mentioned Bellucci) of the man Bond most recently killed points him to a secret meeting of a secret organisation… and I was waiting for someone to say “Hail Hydra!”… I’m too jaded I guess for a serious take on an all powerful, worldwide criminal syndicate. It did work well in the sixties when the franchise started but now, after so many homages and parodies (I’m looking at you Austin Powers!), I think it lost its aura of menace and uncomprehending evil. Blofeld is not truly convincing as psychopathic megalomaniac, Waltz’s valid efforts notwithstanding, and makes the whole story a little flat. While our globetrotting spy is involved in all the classic Bond-action scenes — foot and car chases in cities,  beating up henchmen, saving the damsel in distress and gathering intelligence — on the home front M (Fiennes), Q (Benshaw) and Moneypenny (Harris) are fighting the ugly face of progress, personified by C (Scott), who wants to bring the British intelligence into the 21st century. Of course, we know from the get go that there’s more to it and it helps bringing the plot full circle in the third act of the film but…really! Demonising the digitalisation process it’s a bit old… Sarah Connor told us decades ago. Anyway, I’ve been very negative so far, so here’s the good part: the  cinematography is spectacular, the action is quite breathtaking and the cat-and-mouse chase during the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City is amazing. All actors give solid performances and the story moves along smoothly, Mendes, after all, knows his job. Maybe my expectations were too high and I felt let down, only time will tell. Spectre wants to be sinister and serious but lacks the more raw and grim elements of Skyfall to be as good as the latter. Unsatisfactory –5.5/10

 

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director:  Wes Anderson, Main Cast: Ralph FiennesTony RevoloriSaoirse RonanF. Murray AbrahamJude LawAdrien BrodyWillem DafoeEdward NortonTom WilkinsonTilda Swinton;

the-grand-budapest-hotel

This is the story of Gustave H. (Fiennes), renown and beloved concierge at the legendary Grand Budapest Hotel between the two wars, and Zero (Revolori), who starts as a lobby boy and then become his protégé and most trusted friend. As is Wes Anderson’s wont a voice-over narration begins the tale, in this movie he chooses to built it as story within a story, using an old writer (Wilkinson) who remembers meeting an aging Zero (Abraham) when he was still young (Law). Old Zero will recall his youth and tell his story to the writer. Gustave takes Zero under his wing from the very beginning and start schooling him in the delicate art of running a luxury hotel flawlessly, while he takes care of every need of the guests: Gustave is a full monty concierge, especially with the ladies. This might be considered the root cause of the adventures and mishaps that follows, with a touch of Buster Keaton’s humor. The death of Madame D. (Swinton), a longtime guest at the hotel and dearly attached to Gustave, sets in motion a battle for her very large estate and the possession of a priceless Renaissance painting (bequeathed to Gustave and stolen by him right after the reading of the will, in a genius move). Dmitri (Brody), Madame D’s son, will not stop at nothing to get it all, including murder by proxis, since his faithful henchman Jopling (Dafoe) will do all the dirty work. He manages to frame Gustave for Madame D.’s murder and send him to prison, allowing the audience to be delighted by a cameo by Harvey Keitel, as fellow conscript and means to Gustave’s escape. Zero and his resourceful girlfriend Agatha (Ronan), the pastry apprentice, are essential in helping Gustave to evade, to clear his name and collect what is due to him, but the secret society of the concierges of European luxury hotels will play a key role as well (and we get a Bill Murray’s cameo). By the end, the viewer will finally be able to piece together all the different parts of the story, it does feel like a bittersweet ending after such a roller-coaster of adventures, but it is always the case when one has to part ways with such great characters. We get all the trademarks of Anderson’s style: static camera, artful use of colours and photography, quirky characters and subtle humor. It is one of his best films to date, also helped by an amazing cast: Fiennes above all. Hilarious, amusing and inspired —9/10

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Skyfall

Director: Sam Mendes, Main Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench , Javier BardemNaomie HarrisBen WhishawRalph FiennesAlbert Finney

Far better than the last installment of the 007 series but that does not really say much. It brings back a little humor with tongue in cheek references to the golden era of James Bond. Our favorite spy is a little worse for wear due to his hobby and his beloved country is under attack. The villain du jour has a personal grudge and a penchant for computers… he even outwits the new Q (brilliant Ben Whishaw)! But his thirst for vengeance has the better of him and he goes overboard, so our hero saves the day. As action goes the film really delivers and the cinematography is pretty spectacular. Judi Dench is always impeccable as M and Daniel Craig can fight like a pro and wear a Tom Ford suit with style (still, he is not my favorite 007). I’ve enjoyed very much Albert Finney’s part: cantankerous and ironic. All in all, a quality Bond movie. —6.5/10

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