Tag Archives: Cate Blanchett

The Monuments Men

17 Feb

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Synopsis:  Directed by George Clooney and based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.

 CAST

George Clooney (Frank Stokes)

 Matt Damon (James Granger)

 Bill Murray (Richard Campbell)

 John Goodman (Walter Garfield)

 Jean Dujardin (Jean Claude Clermont)

 Bob Balaban (Preston Savitz)

 Hugh Bonneville (Donald Jeffries)

 Dimitri Leonidas (Sam Epstein),

 Cate Blanchett (Claire Simone)

 Holger Handtke (Colonel Wegner)

REVIEW: George Clooney has directed a likeable film, in the old school, familiar style reminiscent say of a Guns of Navorone. George, (Frank Stokes),  leads his band of men through Europe during the last days of World War II. His job, as assigned by President Franklin Roosevelt, was to find and return the world’s art and cultural treasures, stolen by the Nazis under Hitler’s orders. It reminds us that Hitler didn’t just want to kill the Jews but destroy their culture and any knowledge of their existence off the face of the Earth. Most of the art was owned by private Jewish collectors, and Jewish families, past down generation to generation, the art priceless, the cost of lives, infamous, heinous and we must never forget the result of the Nazi holocaust.

In the telling of the tale, Clooney treaded the fine line of heavy handedness and lightheartedness. Given the implications of the subject matter these are hard issues to navigate and in this regard the movie becomes uneven. The film remains buoyant by the all star cast, Cate Blanchett as Claire Simone a Parisian who is forced to document every art piece taken by the Germans, also works for the French Resistance. Her performance transcends the material she is given and you understand her as she trusts no one, even Matt Damon, (James Granger), who tries to enlist her help for the Monuments men. Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Jean Dujardin add to the light heartedness of the characters, their mission is clear and they are all experts in their creative fields. Each one has an ironic sense of duty vs. reality.  Murray and Balaban are experts at playing irony and are a joy to watch. John Goodman is always winning and teaming him with Jean Dujardin works on so many levels.

Hugh Bonneville, (Donald Jeffries) is the British counterpart who works with the Monuments Men, and is a friend of Clooney’s. Clooney enlists him as a way of saving him from a fall from grace he has had with bouts of alcoholism. Bonneville, who is so wonderful in Downton Abbey, adds certain class to the film as he tries to recover Michelangelo’s,  Madonna and Child statue.

The story becomes a race against time as the Monuments Men  must recover the last of the art before the Russian Army takes claim to it for war reparations caused by the lives lost by the war. The story could have been more involving, the pace perhaps a little quicker as the sense of urgency, however, the Monuments Men is a good story and deserves a look-see just to be reminded of what could have been, if not for brave men and freedom fighters, like these.

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Blue Jasmine

2 Aug

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CAST

Alec Baldwin-Hal

Cate Blanchett-Jasmine

Louis C. K.-Al

Bobby Cannavale-Chili

Andrew Dice Clay-Augie

Sally Hawkins-Ginger

Peter Sarsgaard-Dwight

Michael Stuhlbarg-Dr. Flicker

Review: Written and Directed by Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine is Allen’s modern telling of Streetcar named Desire.  It is the story of a fallen Manhattan socialite, Jasmine (Blanchett) who moves in with her sister Ginger(Hawkins) after she loses all her money and social standing  because of her investment broker husband  Hal’s  (Baldwin) dirty investment dealings.

Jasmine’s state is post nervous breakdown and when she arrives in San Francisco she is a fish out of water. On the plane ride from NY to California she is talking to herself and the poor lady sitting next to her politely listens. Jasmine arrives at her sister’s home in Frisco’s mission district she asks a stranger  “Where am I exactly.”   This where the story begins and we realize Jasmine is over the edge and hides it by drinking vodka and downing xanax. Blanchette’s performance is masterful as Jasmine clutches to whatever dignity she has left.

Baldwin’s Hal is cold calculating, manipulative and charming. He gives Jasmine the dream life of jewels, furs, a Park Avenue address, a beach house in the Hamptons she has all the superficial trappings and spoils a woman can want. Hal is a philanderer, lives off the spoils of other people’s money and doesn’t care who he brings down to get it. He charms his way all the way into ruination ala Bernie Madoff.

The Stanley Kowalskis’ in this scenario are Jasmin’s sister’s ex-husband Augie, played by Andrew Dice Clay, he nails it, and Chili, Ginger’s new boyfriend played by Bobby Cannavale.

The story is told in flashbacks as Jasmin relives the past in her rantings, as much as she tries to reconcile what she has become each passing day she is haunted by her past. Blanchett’s mood swings are so real as she navigates from sober then drunk to passive on the pills. You are pulled along for the ride and her performance  is the best I ever have seen her do. Allen is known for writing great parts for woman and this role is no exception.

This is Allen’s strongest movie since Match Point and proves once again what a prolific film maker he is. The movie never uses humor as gag  style comedy, the moments of humor scattered throughout come organically from the situations Jasmine finds herself in and the self delusion that goes along with it. You hope throughout that Jasmine’s can turn her life around.

There are moments when you realize that Jasmine’s breakdown has an underlying feeling of betrayal, is she betraying herself, is she hiding a secret, was it Hal’s betrayal and philandering that put her over the edge. Allen who loves Ingmar Bergman’s films, gives this story a  tragic Bergamanesque take on the human condition in the way the film deconstructs inch after fragile inch of Jasmine’s character. Blanchett reveals enough of Jasmine’s demons to root for her to change. Jasmine is in such deep denial that when she castigates her sister for having such losers as a husband and boyfriend, you can’t help but think that she is actually talking about her own situation.

The way Allen writes each character none of them fall into charactures or exaggerations, he pulls great performances out of all his cast members.

This is one of Allen’s finest films and it is apparent Allen is still at the peak of his story telling powers. Blanchett is a tour-de-force and shows us why we like to go to the movies in the first place. I am sure she will see a best actress nod for this one.

 

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The Hobbit an Unexpected Journey

14 Dec

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Synopsis:Based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, the Hobbit follows the adventure of Bilbo Baggins, as he journeys to the Lonely Mountain with a vigorous group of Dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug. The story steeped in fantasy and history of Middle Earth takes us on an Unexpected Journey of courage and self discovery. Peter Jackson directs this prequel to his brilliant Lord of The Rings Trilogy.

CAST

Ian McKellen…………………………Gandalf

Martin Freeman……………..Bilbo Baggins

Ian Holm……………………………..Old Bilbo

Elijah Wood……………………Frodo Baggins

Hugo Weaving…………………………Elrond

Cate Blanchett……………………….Galadriel

Christopher Lee……………………..Saruman

Andy Sirkis………………………………Gollum

Richard Armitage……..Thorin Oakenshield

Review: The Hobbit an Unexpected Journey is a delight. The story begins with Old Bilbo narrating his adventure as he starts to write his memoir for his Nephew Frodo. The first 45 minutes of the film tells the tale of the Dwarves of Misty Mountain and the treasure of gold they have mined for themselves. We learn about the Dwarve King  Thrór and his lust for gold. The Gold drove him mad as his son Thrain felt helpless. The dragon Smaug arrives and destroys the Dwarve’s mountain Kingdom, the king and claims the gold for himself. The Dwarves forced to leave their home and wander in the country side, fight a battle against the evil Orcs.  Thrór  is beheaded by the Orc Lord,  Thorin son of Thrain tries to stop the Orc Lord but only manages to cut the Orc’s hand off.  Thorin leads the remaining Dwarves into battle and manages to chase the orcs away.  Thorin also blames the Elvin King for not coming to help battle against Smaug, thus without their help the dwarves homeland was destroyed.

This begins the tale of Bilbo’s journey with the remaining 13 dwarves to smite the dragon Smaug. Gandalf the Grey once again played by Ian McKellan convinces the Dwarves headed by Thorin that Bilbo will make an excellent burglar and must join their adventure to reclaim the gold.

Bilbo has many adventures including Orc battles, out smarting Trolls, acquiring his first Elvish blade and learning how brave a homebody Hobbit can be. There are many wonders to behold including the famous riddle game Bilbo plays with Gollum when the Ring of Power, Gollum’s precious, finds it’s way into Bilbo’s hands. The CGI is as good as it gets and Ian McKellen’s performance as Gandalf  proves once and for all he was born to play the part.

Director Peter Jackson shot the film in 48FPS and High Definition. Standard Frames per second is 24FPS. The effect is astonishing, the clarity so clear you can see the pores on Bilbo’s face, the details of the buttons on his waistcoat, and the beauty and wonder of the Middle Earth. Rivendell home of King Elrond is especially breath taking.  Cate Blanchett makes a cameo as Galadriel, Christopher Lee is back as Saruman the White wizard and many familiar faces abound.  The 3D engulfs you into Bilbo’s adventure but does not distract. This is the first of a filmed trilogy and even leaves off with a literal cliff hanger ending.

The music is reminiscent of the Lord of The Rings trilogy in the undercurrent of theme music played. The music brings you right back into the story.

This is a must see for Lord of the Rings fans as Peter Jackson proves his adaptation is master story telling.

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