Tag Archives: commentary

Frances Ha

31 May

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Directed by Noah Baumbach; written by Mr. Baumbach and Greta Gerwig

Synopsis: Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but she’s not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named  Sophie, but they aren’t really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. FRANCES HA is a modern comic fable that explores New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure, and redemption.

CAST

Greta Gerwig -Frances

Mickey Sumner-Sophie

Patrick Heusinger-Patch

Adam Driver-Lev

Michael Zegen-Benji

Grace Gummer-Rachel

REVIEW: This delightful, interesting, black and white IFC film, starring the “Queen of Independent” films, Greta Gerwig, tells the tale of a twenty-something woman coming to terms with growing up. Frances is 28 and dreams of being a dancer with the dance company she apprentices with. It becomes apparent what she dreams and what reality is are two different things.  She shares her best friend Sophies’s apartment but as time moves on Sophie faces the real world while Frances is still stuck in her dreams.

There is a bit of Frances in all of us as we have to face adulthood and responsibilities. Frances is the child in us all and she is both reckless and joyous as she naively, almost blindly moves to attain her perceived goals. It is plain to see she is uncomfortable with convention and she knows, even with self-doubt that she must continue after her dreams no matter what other people think. In essence as her friendships grow apart and she builds new ones, they are made with the desperate hope someone will take her at face value. Gerwig gives Frances, humor, an adorable flightiness, charm, insecurity and an enormous amount of likeability. As people she meets see through her, she obviously thinks they are crazy for not taking her offbeat view of life seriously. She almost jokingly is labeled un-dateable, her dance mentor sympathizes with her but understands Frances is not a dancer.  Her adventures through New York City where she lives, are at once humorous and  soul searching. Gerwig gives a remarkable performance.

There is an interesting moment in the film when Frances, on a date, leaves the restaurant she is in, she offered to pay for dinner but the restaurant won’t take her debit card. She leaves the date in the restaurant to find an ATM to pay cash. While running back to the restaurant she trips and falls, when she returns her date notices her arm is bleeding. She was completely unaware of the damage she inflicted on herself.  It seems this moment is a metaphor for how she has lived her life, running from place to place, falling down and not realizing the consequences as she recklessly pursues her dreams.

The film overall has a light touch, and some laugh out loud moments. By the films end you can’t help but feel that Frances is just beginning to get it right. The title of the movie Frances Ha, is also a metaphor for who Frances is, you as an observer can’t take un-dateable Frances seriously, Francis Ha!  No spoilers on how the title becomes relevant. The film is about the search and Frances takes us along for the ride.

The film grew on me as the story progressed and I am sure all of us have met a Frances Halloway at some point or another. Gerwig makes this her own and shares a writing credit with the director.

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Star Trek

16 May

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Synopsis: In this much anticipated sequel to J.J. Abrams Star Trek 2009 reboot , the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

CAST

 Chris Pine – James Tiberius Kirk

Zachary Quinto – Spock

John Cho – Hikaru Sulu

Bruce Greenwood – Captain Christopher Pike

Simon Pegg – Montgomery “Scotty” Scott

Zoe Saldana – Nyota Uhura

Karl Urban – Leonard “Bones” McCoy

Anton Yelchin – Pavel Checkov

Benedict Cumberbatch – John Harrison

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OhTpsUKHTtc

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Review:  For the uninitiated among you, there are several elements in the Star Trek Universe, created by Gene Roddenberry, that have stood the test of time, in what must be close to 50 years of its’ existence:

1) The idea the universe is multicultural and must be celebrated, the first interracial kiss in broadcast history, a multi ethnic and species crew of the Enterprise, Klingons, Vulcans, Humans, Romulans etc, etc.

2) The Prime Directive of non-interference in a species natural development.

3) Most important the triad-relationship between Captain, James T. Kirk, Science Officer, Mr. Spock and Doctor, Bones McCoy. Against all odds and adversaries the three remain close friends.

Regarding the last, this triad can be seen in mostly all the Trek Spin-offs, Voyager for example it’s the friendship between Captain, Janeway and head of security, a Vulcan named Tuvok.. In the film versions of the original series we find Kirk, Spock, McCoy have become a close knit family.

J.J. Abrams changed the Trek Universe in 2009 with his Star-Trek reboot. Although he ultimately kept the Trek core values he eradicated several core Federation planets thus starting from scratch. In the end, that film as the new one was a satisfying  reboot for old trekkies as well as a nod the younger audiences Trek must embrace to stay alive. It is accepting change and going with it that has kept Star-Trek one of the most enduring sci-fi franchises this side of Dr. Who.

Into Darkness picks-up where the last one left off and brings us on a thrill ride of in-jokes, surprise appearances from the past, humor and most of all the development of friendship between Kirk and Spock.

Without giving anything away, the film brings us full circle as Kirk battles an enemy within Starfleet  and an old adversary that Kirk in this timeline, meets for the first time.

Once again Pike’s Kirk, Quinto’s Spock, and Urban’s McCoy, are spot on. Simon Pegg’s Scotty is frenetic, hilarious and polar opposites of James Doohan’s Scotty, which was wise, ironic and a miracle worker. When Nichelle Nichols first played Uhura, it was groundbreaking television, she was the first black woman to break the color barrier, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura, is not groundbreaking,  so as a twist she has been in a romantic relationship with Spock since Abram’s 2009 Trek Reboot. Unfortunately she is not given much to do here until late in the film when she gets involved in the action. Anton Yelchin’s, Checkov, is wide eyed and enthusiastic with extreme Russian accent intact, and John Cho’s, Sulu is also spot on.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays John Harrison, a terrorist that wants to destroy the federation. He is a great villain and his story holds true to Trek-lore and history. Nuff said.

Star Trek was always a mirror of our times, the use of metaphors and other species to depict the human condition, has always been a necessary component of the Trek Universe. J.J. Abrams has a good handle on this and the film is a nod to the past and a look to the future of the franchise. In today’s world the film debates the issues of genetic engineering, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The film works on many levels and I hope it speaks to a younger audience the way the original series has spoken to me all these years. I look forward to Kirk and crew’s 5 year mission that lies ahead as we come full circle in this the second of Abram’s, Trek incarnations.

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The Great Gatsby

10 May

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Synopsis: Baz Luhrmann directs a lavish version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gasby. Leonardo DiCaprio, plays Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man who spends half a decade building a monument to the woman he loves.

Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio (Jay Gatsby)

 Tobey Maguire (Nick Carraway)

 Joel Edgerton (Tom Buchanan)

 Carey Mulligan (Daisy Buchanan),

Isla Fisher (Myrtle Wilson)

Jason Clarke (George Wilson)

Elizabeth Debicki (Jordan Baker)

 Amitabh Bachchan (Meyer Wolfsheim)

Review:  Considering Baz Luhrmann’s excesses in his version of Romeo and Juliet, also starring Leonardo DiCapro and his visual excesses on his film Moulin Rouge, we are also visually overwhelmed by all the sites and sounds of this version of Gatsby. The film runs 2 hours and 40 minutes and it is a long time to be bombarded with fireworks, stunning set design and loud music. On the other hand the same can be said for a Cecil B. Demille extravaganza. What Luhrman does do, and brilliantly I  might add, is let us inside the 1920’s world of Gatsby and his obsession for one woman, the excessive parties and fireworks are just a distraction. Luhrmann also has an apparent appreciation for the source material, when the film gets more serious there are certain moments of diologue and proes right out of Fitzgerald’s novel.

The story is told in flashback from the point of view of Gatsby’s friend, Nick Carraway, played by Toby Maguire. Maguire, as an actor, plays naive young men changed by extraordinary circumstances extremely well.  He is seen as a recovering alcoholic in a psychiatric hospital telling his story to his doctor. When Carraway reaches an impass and won’t talk about his dealings with Gatsby, the doctor encourages him to write about it. This is when the story unfolds as Carraway, who is writing a journal, narrates his writings.

DiCaprio is Gatsby, a mysterious, rich, quiet man owns an estate on Long Island. He throws extravagant parties, collects art, fills his house with strangers and music, but no one has seen him. Rumors abound about his background, he killed a man, his family was prominent and he inherited their fortune, he went to Oxford etc. DiCaprio has a boyish charm and a knowing smile that perfectly encapsulates the Gatsby of the novel.

Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s love interest is played by Cary Mulligan, she is both beautiful and complicated. She love’s Gatsby but is married to a bigot and a brutish adulterer, the rich, Tom Buchanan.

Joel Edgerton plays Tom Buchanan’s menacing bigotry and unfaithfulness with a frightening edge. He loves his wife, Daisy, but his brutish ways keeps her at a distance. It is here that the conflicts in their marriage arise.

There are many secrets to Gatsby as well as to Daisy and her relationship with him.  Each piece of the puzzle fits together as new revelations about Gatsby are uncovered or shared with Carraway. The story is fascinating and holds your attention.

The use of 3D was very effective in the story telling, from the beginning titles that literally draw you into Gatsby’s world, to Carraway’s typing prose that at times fill the screen with fonts that fall like snow. The 3D enhances the majesty of Gatsby’s mansion and well as the musical numbers that are reminiscent of Buzby Berkley.

I must say that as good a movie as this is it falls short of being a great movie.  The film, which takes us to a post WWI New York during the roaring 20’s, is visually recreated with style, mood and the design of the time. When you are taken into that world a big piece of the picture is the sounds and music of the time and place. Luhrmann chose to juxtapose jazz sounds with the loud beats of Jay-Z, covers by Beyonce and Andre 3000,.and Fergie. Frankly this is a distraction when you are mentally focused on the 1920’s décor, color and costumes.  For an example of the contrasts at work here, the scene where Carraway meets Gatsby for the first time, there are cross cuts from Carraway’s face, to the fireworks at the party, to Gatsby himself looking out over the Long Island Sound, the music is Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and the moment is a brilliant use of the language of film. On the other hand as the music swells at a huge Gatsby party, the musician who is reminiscent of the Jazz Great Cab Calloway, sings a hip-hop belter that is so out of place, you are immediately removed from the time and space the film represents.  Luhrmann understands everyone will not like his use of say Fergie singing, so you have to ask is he doing justice to the story or trying to sell us a mix we can find on ITunes, or a Blu-ray DVD version of a long music video?

The movie’s cast of actors more than makes up for the flaws in the musical soundtrack and the story is a classic of modern literature. So for today’s young audience I say, you know what a DVD is, they used to call them books. On the other hand, if this is what it takes to get a young audience to appreciate a novel like Gatsby, then go for it.

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42

26 Apr

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Synopsis: Hero is a word we hear often in sports, but heroism is not always about achievements on the field of play. “42” tells the story of two men—the great Jackie Robinson and legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey—whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball.

Cast

Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson),

 Harrison Ford (Branch Rickey),

 Nicole Beharie (Rachel Robinson),

 Christopher Meloni (Leo Durocher),

 Ryan Merriman (Dixie Walker),

 Lucas Black (Pee Wee Reese),

Andre Holland (Wendell Smith),

 Alan Tudyk (Ben Chapman),

Hamish Linklater (Ralph Branca),

 T. R. Knight (Harold Parrott)

 and John C. McGinley (Red Barber).

Review: 42, written and directed by Brian Helgeland, is a glossy, well presented, old fashion, reverential, bio of the first major league great, to break the color barrier, Jackie Robinson. The year is post WWII, 1947 America. The Americans are home from war and baseball is “white” America’s national pastime. A young Jackie Robinson plays in the “Negro” leagues, and as talented as he was, back then, there would be no future for him in the majors.  Along comes Brooklyn Dodgers GM, Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford and the rest is history.

Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Rickey was honest, passionate and his love for baseball is apparent. His face lights-up when he discusses the game. Rickey understands in order to make money and fill the seats, he must bring up young talent in order to win the coveted pennant. He also understands that in order to do so he must recruit a player from the Negro Leagues. Even when his own staff disagreed him the search begins and it is Jackie Robinson he chooses.

Chadwick Boseman, new to films, brings life to Robinson. We see how much he loves the game and how devoted he is to his wife, Rachel. It is through her faith in him as well as Rickey’s that helps him through the bigotry and hatred he is to face in the majors.

The script tends to gloss over the real pain and anguish Robinson must have felt, and instead, looks at the bigger picture of Robinson’s contribution as the first black American to break through Major League Baseball’s color barrier. When the music swells, or the emotions flair, you know something important is happening, and you get swept up in the myth behind the probable reality. The only draw-back to this is that you never really get a sense of the inner man. That said Boseman does a pitch perfect job, no pun intended.

Nicole Beharie plays Rachel Robinson, a devoted wife, and mother. The story of the Robinsons romance is very sweet and the love they share is at times is so strong, you cry when she does, feel exuberance when she does and understand her concerns. Beharie does this very well in spite, again, of a slick Hollywood script. Even with her, you don’t get a real sense of who she is inside.

Throughout the film, bigotry is shown with liberal use of the “n” word, white bathrooms vs. colored only bathrooms, and fellow ball players losing their jobs over their prejudices. However, rather than portray this in a gritty, realistic manner, the filmmakers chose to give us the cliff note, high school version, of real events.

As history proved Jackie Robinson not only broke the color barrier, but was admired and revered by adults and children. He was a great player and as Branch Rickey points out, “It’s not about what color your skin is all they see is a great ball player.”

Overall the film had the potential to be a really memorable bio, in the end although you do get swept up in the emotional impact of the story, and it’s cultural message, a message that in today’s world, is sorely been missed, the film only scored a triple when it should have been a home run.

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Bond, James Bond PT 11 Daniel Craig

26 Apr

Daniel Craig - New James Bond movie Casino Royale

“I’d never copy somebody else. I would never do an impression of anybody else or try and improve on what they did. That would be a pointless exercise for me.”

Daniel Wroughton Craig (born 2 March 1968) is an English actor, best known for playing British secret agent James Bond since 2006.

Craig achieved international fame when chosen as the seventh actor to play the role of James Bond, replacing Pierce Brosnan. Though he was initially greeted with scepticism, his debut in Casino Royale was highly acclaimed and earned him a BAFTA award nomination, with the film becoming the highest-grossing in the series at the time. Quantum of Solace followed two years later. His third Bond film, Skyfall, premiered in 2012 and is now the highest-grossing film in the series.

In 2006, Craig joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Since taking the role of Bond, he has continued to appear in other films, most recently starring in the English language adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Craig made a guest appearance as Bond in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, alongside Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2005, Craig was contracted by Eon Productions to portray James Bond. He stated he “was aware of the challenges” of the Bond franchise which he considered “a big machine” that “makes a lot of money”. He aimed at bringing more “emotional depth” to the character. Born in 1968, Craig is the first actor to portray James Bond to have been born after the Bond series started, and Ian Fleming, the novels’ writer, had died. Significant controversy followed the decision, as it was doubted if the producers had made the right choice. Throughout the entire production period Internet campaigns expressed their dissatisfaction and threatened to boycott the film in protest.

The 5-foot-10-inch (178 cm) blond Craig was not considered by some protesters to fit the tall, dark Bond portrayed by the previous Bond actors, and to which viewers had apparently become accustomed. The Daily Mirror ran a front page news story critical of Craig, with the headline, “The Name’s Bland – James Bland”. Although the choice of Craig was controversial, numerous actors publicly voiced their support, most notably, four of the five actors who had previously portrayed Bond, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, Sean Connery and Roger Moore, called his casting a good decision. George Lazenby has since voiced his approval of Craig also Clive Owen, who had been linked to the role, also spoke in defence of Craig.

The first film, Casino Royale, premiered 14 November 2006, and grossed a total of US$594,239,066 worldwide, which made it the highest-grossing Bond film to date. After the film was released, Craig’s performance was highly acclaimed. As production of Casino Royale reached its conclusion, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced that pre-production work had already begun on the 22nd Bond film. After several months of speculation as to the release date, Wilson and Broccoli officially announced on 20 July 2006, that the follow-up film, Quantum of Solace, was to be released on 7 November 2008, and that Craig plays Bond with an option for a third film. On 25 October 2007, MGM CEO Harry Sloan revealed at the Forbes Meet II Conference that Craig had signed on to make four more Bond films, through to Bond 25.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extended a membership invitation to Craig in 2006 . Craig sliced off the top of one of his fingers 12 June 2008, while filming Quantum of Solace. The accident was one of a string of incidents surrounding the shoot, including a fire at one of the sets in Pinewood Studios, a car crash that left the stunt driver in a serious condition, and an Aston Martin skidding off the road and plunging into Lake Garda while being transported to the set in Italy. I don’t think it should be confusing by the end of the film, but during the film you should be questioning who he is.”Craig has stated his own favourite previous Bond actor was Sean Connery, but says, “I’d never copy somebody else. I would never do an impression of anybody else or try and improve on what they did. That would be a pointless exercise for me.”

His own favourite Bond film is From Russia with Love. On a James Bond-centric episode of The South Bank Show, Connery divulged his thoughts on Craig’s casting as Bond, whom he described as “fantastic, marvelous in the part”. When told that Craig had taken particular note of his performances, Connery said that he was “flattered” and that Craig really gets the “danger element” to Bond’s character

Craig describes his portrayal of Bond as an anti-hero: “The question I keep asking myself while playing the role is, ‘Am I the good guy or just a bad guy who works for the good side?’ Bond’s role, after all, is that of an assassin when you come down to it. I have never played a role in which someone’s dark side shouldn’t be explored

I am of the opinion that Craig has left an inevitable but permanent change in the Bond character. The film Skyfall, I consider one of the best in the series. Here is a link to my review: https://cinemacommentary.com/2012/11/09/skyfall/

 

Here, also, is a link for the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kw1UVovByw

 

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Bond, James Bond PT 10: Pierce Brosnan

24 Apr

f Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (007) in GoldenEye.

 

“I’d like to do another, sure. Connery did six. Six would be a number, then never come back.”

Pierce Brendan Brosnan (born 16 May 1953) is an Irish actor, film producer and environmentalist. After leaving school at 16, Brosnan began training in commercial illustration, but trained at the Drama Centre in London for three years. Following a stage acting career he rose to popularity in the television series Remington Steele (1982–87).

After Remington Steele, Brosnan appeared in films such as The Fourth Protocol and Mrs. Doubtfire. In 1995, he became the fifth actor to portray secret agent James Bond in the Eon Productions film series, starring in four films between 1995 and 2002. He also provided his voice and likeness to Bond in the 2004 video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing. During this period, he also took the lead in other films such as Dante’s Peak and the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. After leaving the role of Bond, he has starred in such successes as The Matador (nominated for a Golden Globe, 2005), Mamma Mia! (National Movie Award, 2008), and The Ghost Writer (2010).

Brosnan first met James Bond films producer Albert R. Broccoli on the sets of For Your Eyes Only because his first wife, Cassandra Harris, was in the film. Broccoli said, “if he can act … he’s my guy” to inherit the role of Bond from Roger Moore. It was reported by both Entertainment Tonight and the National Enquirer, that Brosnan was going to inherit another role of Moore’s, that of Simon Templar in The Saint. Brosnan denied the rumors in July 1993 but added, “it’s still languishing there on someone’s desk in Hollywood.”

In 1986, NBC cancelled Remington Steele, so Brosnan was offered the role, but the publicity revived Remington Steele and Brosnan had to decline the role, owing to his contract The producers instead hired Timothy Dalton for The Living Daylights (1987), and License to Kill (1989). Legal squabbles between the Bond producers and the studio over distribution rights resulted in the cancellation of a proposed third Dalton film in 1991 and put the series on a hiatus for several years. On 7 June 1994, Brosnan was announced as the fifth actor to play Bond.

Brosnan was signed for a three-film Bond deal with the option of a fourth. The first, 1995’s GoldenEye, grossed US $350 million worldwide, the fourth highest worldwide gross of any film in 1995, making it the most successful Bond film since Moonraker, adjusted for inflation. In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, and said Brosnan’s Bond was “somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete” than the previous ones, also commenting on Bond’s “loss of innocence” since previous films. James Berardinelli described Brosnan as “a decided improvement over his immediate predecessor” with a “flair for wit to go along with his natural charm”, but added that “fully one-quarter of Goldeneye is momentum-killing padding.”

In 1996, Brosnan formed a film production company entitled “Irish DreamTime” along with producing partner and long time friend Beau St. Clair. Three years later the company’s first studio project, The Thomas Crown Affair, was released and met both critical and box office success.

Brosnan returned in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, which were also successful. In 2002, Brosnan appeared for his fourth time as Bond in Die Another Day, receiving mixed reviews but was a success at the box office. Brosnan himself subsequently criticized many aspects of his fourth Bond movie. During the promotion, he mentioned that he would like to continue his role as James Bond: “I’d like to do another, sure. Connery did six. Six would be a number, then never come back.” Brosnan asked Eon Productions, when accepting the role, to be allowed to work on other projects between Bond films. The request was granted, and for every Bond film, Brosnan appeared in at least two other mainstream films, including several he produced, playing a wide range of roles, ranging from a scientist in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, to the title role in Grey Owl which documents the life of Englishman Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, one of Canada’s first conservationists.

Shortly after the release of Die Another Day, the media began questioning whether or not Brosnan would reprise the role for a fifth time. Brosnan kept in mind that both fans and critics were unhappy with Roger Moore playing the role until he was 58, but he was receiving popular support from both critics and the franchise fan base for a fifth installment. For this reason, he remained enthusiastic about reprising his role. Throughout 2004, it was rumored that negotiations had broken down between Brosnan and the producers to make way for a new and younger actor This was denied by MGM and Eon Productions. In July 2004, Brosnan announced that he was quitting the role, stating “Bond is another lifetime, behind me”. In October 2004, Brosnan said he considered himself dismissed from the role. Although Brosnan had been rumored frequently as still in the running to play 007, he had denied it several times, and in February 2005 he posted on his website that he was finished with the role. Daniel Craig took over the role on 14 October 2005. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Brosnan was asked what he thought of Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. He replied, “I’m looking forward to it like we’re all looking forward to it. Daniel Craig is a great actor and he’s going to do a fantastic job”. He reaffirmed this support in an interview to the International Herald Tribune, stating that “[Craig’s] on his way to becoming a memorable Bond.”

During his tenure on the James Bond films, Brosnan also took part in James Bond video games. In 2002, Brosnan’s likeness was used as the face of Bond in the James Bond video game Nightfire (voiced by Maxwell Caulfield). In 2004, Brosnan starred in the Bond game Everything or Nothing, contracting for his likeness to be used as well as doing the voice-work for the character. He also starred along with Jamie Lee Curtis and Geoffrey Rush in The Tailor of Panama in 2001, and lent his voice to The Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror XII”, as a machine with Pierce Brosnan’s voice.

Brosnan’s Bond seemed to set the tone for what was to come, a grittier, more human Bond, named Daniel Craig.

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Bond, James Bond PT 9 Timothy Dalton

24 Apr

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“I was supposed to make one more but it was cancelled because MGM and the film’s producers got into a lawsuit which lasted for five years. After that, I didn’t want to do it anymore.”

 

Timothy Peter Dalton born 21 March 1944 or 1946, depending on who you ask, is a British actor of film and television.

Dalton is known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989), as well as Rhett Butler in the television miniseries Scarlett (1994), an original sequel to Gone with the Wind. In addition, he is known for his roles as Philip II of France in The Lion In Winter; Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1970); Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre (1983); Prince Barin in Flash Gordon (1980); and various roles in Shakespearean films and plays such as Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Henry V, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2. Recently, he had a voice acting part in Toy Story 3 as Mr. Pricklepants, he has also appeared as Skinner in the mystery comedy film Hot Fuzz; portrayed the recurring character of Alexei Volkoff in the US TV series Chuck; and Rassilon in the Doctor Who two-part episode “The End of Time”.

Dalton had been considered for the role of James Bond several times. According to the documentary Inside The Living Daylights, the producers first approached Dalton in 1968 for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service although Dalton himself in this same documentary claims the approach occurred when he was either 24 or 25 and had already done the film Mary, Queen of Scots (1971). Dalton told the producers that he was too young for the role. In a 1987 interview, Dalton said, “Originally I did not want to take over from Sean Connery. He was far too good, he was wonderful. I was about 24 or 25, which is too young. But when you’ve seen Bond from the beginning, you don’t take over from Sean Connery.” In either 1979 or 1980, he was approached again, but did not favor the direction the films were taking, nor did he think the producers were seriously looking for a new 007. As he explained, his idea of Bond was different.  In a 1979 episode of the television series Charlie’s Angels, Dalton played the role of Damien Roth, a millionaire playboy described by David Doyle’s character as “almost James Bond-ian”.

In 1986, Dalton was approached to play Bond after Roger Moore had retired, and Pierce Brosnan could not get out of contractual commitments to the television series Remington Steele. However, Dalton would soon begin filming Brenda Starr and could do The Living Daylights only if the Bond producers waited six weeks.

Dalton’s first appearance as 007, The Living Daylights (1987) was critically successful, and grossed more than the previous two Bond films with Moore, as well as contemporary box-office rivals such as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. However, his second film, Licence to Kill (1989), although almost as successful as its predecessor in most markets, did not perform as well at the U.S. box office, in large part due to a lackluster marketing campaign, after the title of the film was abruptly changed from License Revoked. The main factor for the lack of success in the U.S. was that it was released at the same time as the hugely successful Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Tim Burton’s Batman, and Lethal Weapon 2, during the summer blockbuster season. In the United Kingdom – one of its critical markets, the film was also hampered by receiving a 15 certificate from the British Board of Film Classification which severely affected its commercial success. Future Bond films, following the resolution of legal and other issues, were all released between 31 October and mid-December, in order to avoid the risk of a summer failure, as had happened to Licence To Kill.

With a worldwide gross of $191 million, The Living Daylights became the fourth most successful Bond film at the time of its release. In 1998 the second Deluxe Edition of Bond’s Soundtracks was released. The Living Daylights was one of the first soundtracks to receive Deluxe treatment. The booklet/poster of this CD contains MGM’s quote about The Living Daylights being the fourth most successful Bond film.

Since Dalton was contracted for three Bond films, the pre-production of his third film began in 1990, in order to be released in 1991. What was confirmed is that the story would deal with the destruction of a chemical weapons laboratory in Scotland, and the events would take place in London, Tokyo and Hong Kong. However, the film was cancelled due to legal issues between UA/MGM and Eon Productions, which lasted for four years.

The legal battle ended in 1993, and Dalton was expected to return as James Bond in the next Bond film, which later became GoldenEye. Despite his contract having expired, negotiations with him to renew it took place. In an interview with the Daily Mail in August 1993, Dalton indicated that Michael France was writing the screenplay for the new film, and the production was to begin in January or February 1994. When the deadline was not met, Dalton surprised everyone on 12 April 1994 with the announcement that he would not return as James Bond. At this time, he was shooting the mini-series Scarlett. The announcement for the new Bond came two months later, with Pierce Brosnan playing the role. Unlike Moore, who had played Bond as more of a light-hearted playboy, Dalton’s portrayal of Bond was darker and more serious. Dalton pushed for renewed emphasis on the gritty realism of Ian Fleming’s novels instead of fantasy plots and humor, Dalton stated in a 1989 interview:

“I think Roger was fine as Bond, but the films had become too much techno-pop and had lost track of their sense of story. I mean, every film seemed to have a villain who had to rule or destroy the world. If you want to believe in the fantasy on screen, then you have to believe in the characters and use them as a stepping-stone to lead you into this fantasy world. That’s a demand I made, and Albert Broccoli agreed with me.”

A fan of the literary character, often seen re-reading and referencing the novels on set, Dalton determined to approach the role and play truer to the original character described by Fleming. His 007, therefore, came across as a reluctant agent who did not always enjoy the assignments he was given, something seen on screen before, albeit obliquely, only in George Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In The Living Daylights, for example, Bond tells a critical colleague, “Stuff my orders! … Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.” In Licence to Kill, he resigns from the Secret Service in order to pursue his own agenda of revenge. Steven Jay Rubin writes in The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopaedia (1995):

“Unlike Moore, who always seems to be in command, Dalton’s Bond sometimes looks like a candidate for the psychiatrist’s couch – a burned-out killer who may have just enough energy left for one final mission. That was Fleming’s Bond – a man who drank to diminish the poison in his system, the poison of a violent world with impossible demands…. His is the suffering Bond.”

This approach proved to be a double-edged sword. Film critics and fans of Fleming’s original novels welcomed a more serious interpretation after more than a decade of Moore’s approach However, Dalton’s films were also criticized for their comparative lack of humour. Dalton’s serious interpretation was not only in portraying the character, but also in performing most of the stunts of the action scenes.

After his Bond films, Dalton divided his work between stage, television and films, and diversified the characters he played. This helped him eliminate the 007 typecasting that followed him during the previous period. Dalton was nevertheless for a certain period considered to act in the Bond film GoldenEye. Instead, he played the villainous matinee idol-cum-Nazi spy Neville Sinclair in 1991’s The Rocketeer, and Rhett Butler in Scarlett, the television miniseries sequel to Gone with the Wind. He also appeared as criminal informant Eddie Myers in the acclaimed 1992 British TV film Framed.

During the second half of the 1990s he starred in several cable films, most notably the Irish Republican Army drama, The Informant, and the action thriller Made Men. In the 1999 TV film Cleopatra he played Julius Caesar.

In 2003, he played a parody of James Bond named Damian Drake in the film Looney Tunes: Back in Action. At the end of that year and the beginning of 2004, he returned to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials. In 2007, Dalton played Simon Skinner in the action/comedy film Hot Fuzz.

Dalton returned once again to British television in a guest role for the Doctor Who 2009–10 two-part special The End of Time, playing Rassilon. He was first heard in the role narrating a preview clip shown at the 2009 Comic Convention. In 2010 and 2011, he starred in several episodes of the fourth season of the American spy comedy Chuck as Alexei Volkoff.

Dalton voiced the character Mr. Pricklepants in Toy Story 3, which was released on 18 June 2010.

I saw Dalton as the beginning of a new Bond, he was coming out of the 60’s swing icon and going back to the source.  In both films Dalton certainly left his mark on the Bond franchise.

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Bond, James Bond PT 7: George Lazenby

20 Apr

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“Lazenby’s singular portrayal of the iconic Bond character, and his lack of standing as a favourite in the series, has resulted in his name being used as a metaphor for forgettable, non-iconic acting efforts in other entertainment franchises.”

 

George Robert Lazenby , born 5 September 1939, is an Australian actor and former model, best known for portraying James Bond in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Sadly Lazenby had to follow Bond Icon Sean Connery, he dryly refers to this experience as being, “Pope Paul II to Connery’s Pope Paul I.” Although the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was not bad overall, Lazenby had big shoes to fill.

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As a young man became a used car salesman and eventually moved to Park Lane, Australia to sell new cars. It was here he was spotted by a talent scout who persuaded Lazenby to become a model. He was best remember for a commercial for Big Fry Chocolate.

In 1968, after Sean Connery quit the role of James Bond, producer Albert R. Broccoli first met Lazenby when getting their hair cut at the same barber. He later saw him in the Big Fry commercial and felt he could be a possible Bond, calling him in for a screen test.

Lazenby dressed for the part by sporting several sartorial Bond elements such as a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Savile Row suit (ordered, but uncollected, by Connery). Broccoli offered him an audition. The position was consolidated when Lazenby accidentally punched a professional wrestler, who was acting as stunt coordinator, in the face, impressing Broccoli with his ability to display aggression. Lazenby won the role based on a screen-test fight scene, the strength of his interviews, fight skills and audition footage. Director Peter R. Hunt later claimed:

We wanted someone who oozed sexual assurance, and we think this fellow has that. Just wait til the women see him on screen … I am not saying he is an actor. There is a great deal of difference between an actor and a film star. Didn’t they find Gary Cooper when he was an electrician?

During the production of the film, Lazenby’s voice was dubbed over with George Baker’s in scenes in which Bond impersonated Sir Hilary Bray (Baker’s character), something not traditionally done with a leading actor whose original language is English. According to an interview, Lazenby experienced difficulties on the set stemming from director Hunt’s refusal to speak directly with him, and Hunt’s brusqueness in asking Lazenby’s friends to clear the set before filming.

In November 1969, prior to the release of the film, Lazenby announced that he no longer wished to play the role of James Bond due to his conflict with the film’s producers, about whom he said, “They made me feel like I was mindless. They disregarded everything I suggested simply because I hadn’t been in the film business like them for about a thousand years.”

His co-star Diana Rigg was among many who commented on this decision:

The role made Sean Connery a millionaire. It made Sean Connery … I truly don’t know what’s happening in George’s mind so I can only speak of my reaction. I think it’s a pretty foolish move. I think if he can bear to do an apprenticeship, which everybody in this business has to do – has to do – then he should do it quietly and with humility. Everybody has to do it. There are few instant successes in the film business. And the instant successes one usually associates with somebody who is willing to learn anyway.

Lazenby grew a beard and long hair. “Bond is a brute,” he announced. “I’ve already put him behind me. I will never play him again. Peace – that’s the message now.”

He later elaborated:

Fantasy doesn’t interest me. Reality does. Anyone who’s in touch with the kids knows what’s happening, knows the mood. Watch pop music and learn what’s going to happen. Most filmmakers don’t watch and aren’t in touch. People aren’t going to films because filmmakers are putting out films people don’t want to see. As for the so-called “Tomorrow movies” they are only tomorrow movies with yesterday directors … Actors aren’t all that important. Directors are. I’m terribly impressed with Dennis Hopper. I’d like to work for him. I also like Arthur Penn, John Schlesinger and Peter Yates … What I’m going to do is look for a great director first, a good screenplay second. Meanwhile, no more Bond. I make better money doing commercials.

At the time of the release of OHMSS, Lazenby’s performance received mixed reviews. Some felt that, while he was physically convincing, some of his costumes were inappropriate (“too loud” according to some) and that he delivered his lines poorly. Others, however, have developed differing views in the decades since the film. In the 1998 book The Essential James Bond, Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrell write: “Although OHMSS was routinely dismissed by critics who cited Lazenby as a brave but disappointing successor to Connery, the intervening years have been notably kinder to both the film and its star. Indeed, due in no small part to Peter Hunt’s inspired direction, OHMSS generally ranks among the top films with fans. Likewise, Lazenby has emerged as a very popular contributor to the series and has enjoyed large enthusiastic audiences during his appearances at Bond related events. In summary, OHMSS is a brilliant thriller in its own right and justifiably ranks amongst the best Bond films ever made”.

In Roger Moore’s commentary for a 2007 DVD release of The Man with the Golden Gun, he referenced George Lazenby as follows : “I have a great deal of e-mail contact with George Lazenby; he’s sort of on the joke circuit … that we simply send jokes to each other. OHMSS – very well made film – Peter Hunt – excellent, excellent, excellent fight stuff, excellent snow effects … but I think the end result for George was that it was one of the better Bonds”.

Although Lazenby had been offered a contract for seven movies, his agent, Ronan O’Rahilly, convinced him that the secret agent would be archaic in the liberated 1970s, and as a result he left the series after the release of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969.  After this role Lazenby began to study drama at Durham University’s College of the Venerable Bede.

Lazenby has portrayed James Bond several times over the years in numerous parodies and unofficial 007 roles, most notably the 1983 television movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and an episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, entitled “Diamonds Aren’t Forever”. In 2012 Lazenby made a guest appearance on the Canadian sketch comedy series This Hour Has 22 Minutes, spoofing the 007 series in a skit called Help, I’ve Skyfallen and I Can’t Get Up.

Although Eon Productions attempted on several occasions to cast Americans as Bond (most notably signing John Gavin for Diamonds Are Forever before the services of Sean Connery were obtained. Lazenby remains the only actor from outside the British Isles to portray Bond in a Bond feature film.

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The Odd Life Of Timothy Green

19 Apr

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Synopsis: A small-town couple, Jim and Cindy, grieving over their inability to conceive, write the attributes of their dream child on scraps of paper that they bury in a box in their garden. That night, during a violent storm, a shift in the wind and a little mystery, their dreams are transformed into reality.

CAST

Jennifer Garner……………………………..Cindy Green

Joel Edgerton…………………………………..Jim Green

Dianne Wiest…………………………Bernice Crudstaff

C J Adams……………………………..….Timothy Green

Rosemarie DeWitt…………………………Brenda Best

Ron Livingston…………………….Franklin Crudstaff

M. Emmet Walsh…………………………….Uncle Bub

Odeya Rush………………………………….Joni Jerome

Lin-Manuel Miranda……………………Reggie Marks

Lois Smith…………………………………………Aunt Mel

David Morse……………………………James Green Sr.

Common…………………………………………..Coach Cal

Review: This charming Disney fantasy, centers around a young couple, Jim and Cindy Green. The story begins at an adoption agency, and is told in flashback, as they try to convince the two adoption agents that are fit parents. When asked what experience they had as parents, they tale their remarkable tale.

Cindy retreats into gardening and Jim retreats into his work at the local pencil factory. It seems the factory may shut down and Jim is involved in all the meetings with his fellow workers to discuss their future. The pair becomes depressed as their life together seems unfulfilled. One night Jim had enough of and convinces Cindy they can have a child. For luck they write down all the attributes their child will have, he/she will be musical, have a sense of humor like Uncle Bob,  artistic , perhaps a young Picasso, have heart and compassion…etc.  They take the writings and place it in a wood box which they bury in their garden. After they are asleep a freak storm, over their house, wakes then up and also spreads some magic on the garden.

Jim hears something in the house when he sees the back door open; he notices a whole in the ground where the box was buried. After, a mysterious chase ensues, with flashlights and shadows, we discover the intruder is a boy named Timothy. He is covered in dirt and wet from the rain. After Cindy cleans him up, she notices something unusual. Timothy has leaves growing out of both his legs. When they ask him his name he replies Timothy Green and he refers to the couple as mom and dad. Could this be their dreams coming true.

As time goes by and Timothy is accepted by friends and family and this when the story becomes bitter sweet.  There are many twists and turns in the plot as Timothy falls in love with a young girl, Joni who discovers his secret and bonds with him as she shares a secret of her own.

During the course of the story as Timothy achieves each written attribute, he changes the community in subtle and wonderful ways. He also starts to lose his leaves one by one, as his parents struggle comically to become good parents, they are unaware that Timothy is changing, but Timothy understands what is happening and the story becomes bittersweet.

This is a  wonderful family film that deals with the issues of childhood, parenting, love and adoption. The film will warm your heart.  C.J. Adams is perfect as Timothy and Odeya Rush did a wonderful job as Joni. The rest of the cast was terrific with a stand-out performance by Dianne Weist as the curmudgeonly, matron of the local Pencil Museum.

The film, written and directed by Peter Hedges, is available at Amazon, your local Red-Box and Netflix.

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Oblivion

19 Apr

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“Are you still an effective team?”

Synopsis: Jack Harper is one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs, Jack’s mission is nearly complete. Living in and patrolling the skies from thousands of feet above, his existence is brought crashing down when he rescues a stranger from a downed spacecraft. Her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he knows and puts the fate of humanity in his hands.

CAST

Tom Cruise…………………………..Commander Jack Harper

Morgan Freeman…………………………………Malcolm Beech

Olga Kurylenko…………………………………..Julia Rusakova

Andrea Riseborough………………………………Victoria Olsen

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau……………………………………..Sykes

Melissa Leo……….….Jack and Victoria’s mission control

Zoë Bell……………………………………………………………Kara

Review:  I will cut to the chase about this high concept, sci-fi, allegory about post apocalyptic earth. It is set in the near future, 2077, the planet earth had been at war with an alien species, the aliens lost the war, planet earth was decimated, and the moon destroyed. The film is directed and co-written by, Joseph Kosinski, the director of TRON LEGACY. This is Kosinski’s second film and is miles above the TRON sequel.

I found the film visual stunning, the concept being reminiscent of the end of the earth movies from the seventies. We see NY city in ruins, the Empire State Building buried up to the radio tower that sits atop it, briefly the torch from a now buried Statue of Liberty, (think Planet of the Apes, original version) and the George Washington bridge all destroyed. These images are only the tip of the ice-berg in a story filled with twists, turns and surprises. The imagery also pays homage to Trek, in its high concept themes of alien technology and to Star Wars.

Tom Cruise at 50, plays mechanic 49, Jack Harper, who has been assigned to fix the drones that protect the giant machines that clean the sea water. The fresh sea-water is made drinkable, and necessary to keep safe, for the surviving humans who relocated to the Saturn’s moon, Titan, to survive from the radiation that has destroyed most of earth. Given Cruise’s box office decline in the past several years, and his quick divorce from Katie Holmes, Cruise needs a hit film; let’s just say this could be the right vehicle and character, to stage a come-back. He is likeable, tough and adaptable as he searches for answers to his recurring dreams of a time, and place in NY, before the war. I enjoyed his performance, it wasn’t Cruise being Cruise, like in most his films, he is very believable in this one.

Andrea Riseborough plays Cruise’s mission partner, and lover, Victoria. This British Actress is a young star on the rise. She is terrific in the film, she navigates through her emotions as she sends Cruise on dangerous mission after dangerous mission.

Morgan Freeman is always a joy to watch no matter what character he plays. Here he plays the leader of the rebels, Malcolm Beech. His group are referred to by Cruise as the Scavs, the remaining alien species that live on the planet.

Olga Kurylenko plays Julia Rusokova a woman who is saved by Cruise when her spaceship crashes on the surface of the earth, brought down by a Scav homing beacon, mounted on the top of the Empire State Building. The ship is carrying a number of sleeping capsules containing human beings in hibernation. Her appearance is a turning point in the film and many surprises and revelations will follow.

Unlike Kosinki’s first film, Tron Legacy, this film is packed with emotion, secrets and riveting revelations about the aliens, the human race and its’ survival. Although there are some unanswered questions, like any good allegory about the human condition, this one examines the exploitation of earth’s natural resources, drone technology and super power demagoguery. In our world these are issues that say, Rod Serling, the creator of the Twilight Zone, would cover in a similar fashion.

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