Advertisements

Tag Archive: Keira Knightley


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s the performances of the leading actors that stand out in this weekend’s theatrical release, Colette.  Colette is a biographical story of an avant-garde couple in turn-of-the-twentieth-century France, famed authors who wrote under the pen names Colette (nee Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette) and Willy (nee Henry Gauthier-Villars), and the writing of four popular books by Colette that were published under her husband’s name:  Claudine à l’école (1900), Claudine à Paris (1901), Claudine en ménage (1902), and Claudine s’en va (1903).  In the film, directed by Wash Westmoreland, genre favorites Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Imitation Game, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Never Let Me Go, Domino) portrays the younger spouse Colette and Dominic West (Les Miserábles, Tomb Raider, The Hour, The Wire, 300) her very showy and ostentatious libertine husband Willy.  As a tangent for Star Wars fans it’s a Naboo reunion–Knightley was one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens and her decoy in several scenes, and West one of her royal guards nearly 20 years ago in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

In Colette Knightley and West have great rapport.  It’s a mix of love and conflict that rises to the level of hatred, but along the way their chemistry is quite strong with a carousel of humorous moments throughout their relationship.  It would elevate the writing too much to equate Colette and Willy with Beatrice and Benedick of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, but their back-and-forth repartee is quick and sharp.  They are portrayed to have been a successful (at least financially) if not unorthodox pair.  When Willy courts the much younger Colette in the opening of the movie he has already established fame as a writer (as an early James Patterson-type who took credit for the actual writings of a few employed ghost writers).  But after gambling, over-spending, and other debts catch up to him he turns to Colette to pen the stories she has told him of her youth in pastoral France.  Her work proves to be much more popular than anything he had ever written.  Although he does pout a bit, he spends the large advance for the second book on a country house for Colette.  Not quite Dangerous Liaisons (but close), their equal opportunity games and his spiraling debts ultimately bring their marriage to the breaking point.

Along the way their lifestyle begins to dip even beyond the hedonism and joie de vivre the Belle Epoque, Bohemian, and Decadent movements France was known for, as their marriage branches out to include others: two women (one for both, one for him), played by Eleanor Tomlinson (The Illusionist, Jack the Giant Slayer) and Shannon Tarbet (Inspector Lewis), and ultimately Colette leaves Willy for a third, acting partner Missy, played by Denise Gough (’71, Star Wars: Battlefront, Mass Effect: Andromeda).  Some brief sex scenes and nudity account for the R rating.  Although the film ends with the split of Colette and Willy, Colette would go on to be an early feminist icon, writing many more novels and stories, her best known would be Gigi, the 1944 novel that would become the famous Audrey Hepburn film (Colette specifically selected Hepburn for the role).

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review by C.J. Bunce

Say what you like about the three sequels to 2003’s surprise Disney hit Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, if you love adventures on the high seas, you’ve had a place to come home to, with Dead Man’s Chest (2006), At World’s End (2007), and On Stranger Tides (2011).  If you love the full scope of 3D technology, the series has revealed the potential beauty of the technology as the films provided some beautiful cinematography.  Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales truly brings pirate lore full circle, with Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, and more all coming back and as barnacled as ever.  The fifth entry in the series is now streaming on Netflix and available on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and 4K.

In a year that should see award shows celebrating 17 years of Hugh Jackman fleshing out the story of genre favorite character Logan, also known as Wolverine, 14 of those years saw Johnny Depp create the most memorable character of his career as Captain Jack Sparrow.  Always coming back for more and playing the heart out of his stumbling, distracted, but savvy survivor of visits to the bottom of the ocean and back, Depp solidified what a generation (or two) will always think of first when they hear the word pirate.  Taking a close second for that honor is Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Hector Barbossa, who also graced the screen in each film in the series as an equally interesting but different kind of salty pirate.  When you think of great, modern, master thespians stepping into high-profile genre roles to make them compelling, Rush as Barbossa should be at the top of your list.

Along with the great costumes, weapons, ships, and locations, audiences will find even more Rube Goldberg and Charlie Chaplin-inspired physical comedy in Dead Men Tell No Tales.  For the perennial dose of pirate gravitas, Academy Award winning actor Javier Bardem steps in to the guest star space filled in past adventures by the likes of Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Penélope Cruz, Zoe Saldana, and Stellan Skarsgård.  Bardem is another perfectly cast actor, as a gritty, mighty captain condemned to death with his crew by a young Jack Sparrow.  With some of the series’ best visual effects, Bardem’s Spanish Captain Salazar and his crew roam the high seas looking like they are walking on the ocean’s floor, complete with wet flowing hair and clothes–and missing body parts.  They are ghosts, but a new–and brilliant–take on pirate ghosts (or are they ghost pirates?).  Plus… ghost sharks!

Continue reading

Not many R-Rated movies these days get much attention in a genre world of sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, action, or suspense/thriller films.  The current wave of hit films seems to be targeting the broader, all-age audience, not just the adult set, with Deadpool being the notable exception.  But a new historical romance opening this weekend is so loaded with genre actors it drew our attention.  The background for Tulip Fever is as unusual as its subject matter.  Tulip Fever was initially set to be a Steven Spielberg film with Paramount Pictures starring Jude Law, Keira Knightley, and Jim Broadbent, way back in 2004, but a change in UK tax rules stopped the film in its tracks.  So Harvey Weinstein bought the rights and re-cast the film and production commenced in 2014.

The costumes, from Academy Award winning designer Michael O’Connor (Dredd, The Duchess, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and the set design by Simon Elliott (Bleak House) look quite good, a dark European drama with Les Miserables-esque cinematography.  The film’s premise is unusual.  Academy Award winning actress Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Jason Bourne, The Danish Girl, and next year’s Tomb Raider) stars as Sophia, a young married woman who falls for a portrait artist during Tulip Mania in 17th century Amsterdam.  Her lover is played by Dane DeHaan (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Amazing Spider-man 2).  The comparison of this couple to Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s secret lovers in Titanic is unmistakable.  But can a movie set with the backdrop of Tulip Mania possibly hope to draw the appeal of the sinking of the Titanic?  Probably not where this film is heading.  The film was originally screened at Cannes in 2015.  It’s release has been delayed at least six times.

But the genre actor cast list continues.  Sophia’s husband is played by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Spectre, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Legend of Tarzan, Muppets Most Wanted).  Oscar winner Dame Judith Dench (the James Bond series, The Chronicles of Riddick, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Shakespeare in Love, Henry V) has a cameo role as a nun.  BAFTA winner Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean series, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Muppets Most Wanted, Valkyrie, Gosford Park) plays a doctor.  Primetime Emmy winner Zach Galifianakis plays a friend of DeHaan’s character and DeHaan reunites with Valerian co-star Cara Delevingne.

Here’s a trailer for Tulip Fever:

Continue reading

Hansen on Everest

Review by C.J. Bunce

I am an avid follower of the many chronicles of the May 1996 disaster on Mount Everest But it all comes down to the brilliant storytelling of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air that really sucked me in.  So compelling, his account made me feel like I was having breathing issues reading his novel into the wee hours of the morning.  Russian climber guide Anatoli Boukreev didn’t like Krakauer’s account, so he responded with his own, The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest.  Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest documents Beck Weathers’ story.  Each of these are worthy reads.  Other accounts include Climbing High: A Woman’s Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy, by climber Lene Gammelgaard, After The Wind: 1996 Everest Tragedy–One Survivor’s Story, by Lou Kasischke, High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places, by David Breashears, and the Everest IMAX movie (filmmakers encountered the disaster climbers on their own climb and Brashears was instrumental in saving Beck Weathers).  Krakauer’s story got a less than adequate treatment in the film Into Thin Air, starring Christopher McDonald.  Which brings us to director Baltasar Kormákur’s 2015 theatrical release Everest, now available on streaming services and home video.

Fortunately Everest the movie is not a disaster.  It gets the story right.  The cast is nearly perfect.  Yet it doesn’t match the thrills of the true-life adventure it adapts, and so a detailed critique is warranted.  The screenwriters have pieced together all the key scenes and moments from the various firsthand accounts, sometimes picking and choosing so as not to adapt any single vantage point from another.  Yet it skips over some key climax points that could have made the film so much better.

Jason Clarke Everest

In a story where there are more males than females, why not highlight the two female climbers we do meet (played by Amy Shindler and Naoko Mori), instead of focusing on spouses (played by Keira Knightley and Robin Wright) whose only participation was a series of phone calls?  In the two roles where women get plenty of screentime, Emily Watson and Elizabeth Debicki are left with recurring close-ups where they are supposed to show concern, yet they come off as emotionless.  The actors were given little to work with.  A directorial or screenwriter problem?

Part of the problem also is the missed opportunity for well-edited musical cues.  Composer Dario Marianelli (V for Vendetta, I Capture the Castle) provides a score that is neither thrilling nor matches the emotion of the struggle and despairs depicted in the film.  It’s a sweeping score but never prepares us for what is ahead and never lands where it should.  But the music is secondary to the writing.

Continue reading

Everest movie poster

The more I see of Universal’s latest disaster movie, the more I think this one could be next year’s biggest Oscar nominee.  Next month’s IMAX release Everest looks even better in this new trailer released a few hours ago, better even than the first great preview.  If you’ve read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air or any of the other accounts of the 1996 Everest disaster, no longer the biggest disaster in the history of the mountain, then you can’t help but cringe as each character that doesn’t make it off the mountain utter their lines.

If you know nothing about it, be prepared for a gut-twisting story that will leave you breathless–if director Baltasar Kormákur and writers William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy can reflect the reality here that in this case, is greater than fiction.

One think to note about this preview is how cocky Jake Gyllenhaal appears.  He plays Scott Fischer, and Fischer, as well as the other guides who hiked that mountain multiple times were as cocky as anyone you can imagine–if the accounts of their lives match what we’ve read.  The bottom line?  The 1996 Everest was so harrowing and full of incredible stories that it’s going to be very difficult to screw up.

With an all-star cast including Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke, Sam Worthington, and Robin Wright, and an IMAX production that looks so pristine and real, we’re in for something big.

Here’s the new trailer for Everest:

Continue reading

Everest movie

Twelve climbers died on Mt. Everest in 1996, but the harrowing story of the events that occurred on May 10-11, 1996, have created the most exciting story of human endurance and survival yet documented.  More than 300 hundred documented climbers have died on the mountain, many whose bodies line the road to this day and still are used as checkpoints or mile markers for future climbers.  We don’t know all the details of their stories like we do of the May 1996 disaster.  And that’s thanks primarily to the fact that a master storyteller was on the mountain to be part of what happened.

That storyteller is Jon Krakauer, a journalist who would later document the events in the bestselling account Into Thin Air, one of the most exciting, jaw-dropping books ever written.  Without Krakauer so many people around the world would not know so much about these peoples’ lives we’d otherwise have no reason to know about:  Beck Weathers, Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, Anatoli Boukreev, Doug Hansen, Andrew Harris, Yasuko Namba.  The crossroads where they would all meet is finally coming to the big screen this year in director Baltasar Kormákur‘s Everest.  It will be difficult to screw up this story.  Millions of dollars went into the production.

Josh Brolin is Beck Weathers

Just look at the major league cast alone.  Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Zodiac, Source Code, Homicide) plays Fischer, Josh Brolin (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jonah Hex, Men in Black III, Milk, No Country for old Men, The Goonies) is Beck Weathers, Michael Kelly (House of Cards, Fringe, Law & Order, Unbreakable) is Krakauer, John Hawkes (Deadwood, Lost, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), is Hansen, Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genisys, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) is Hall, Martin Henderson (The Ring, House, M.D.) is Harris, Icelander Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson is Boukreev, and Naoko Mori (Humans, Torchwood, Doctor Who) is Namba.

Check out this first, full-length trailer for Everest:

Continue reading

Keira Knightley in Shadow Recruit

Whether or not Keira Knightley wins the Academy Award this year for her role as a World War II codebreaker opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (which we reviewed previously at borg.com here) we’re confident she will have one or more Oscars on the shelf years from now.  She was one of our picks in our Best of 2014 review.  A lead actress who could pull off any role, she seems to opt for more quirky and challenging roles.  These include her role as a bounty hunter in Domino, but also classic costume drama parts, like Lara in the remake of Doctor Zhivago, Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, and an against-type Guinevere in King Arthur, genre roles like Padme’s double in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, a withering-away clone in the disturbing sci-fi drama Never Let Me Go, or Disney franchise star in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Last year Knightley also co-starred in a major studio release, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, as the future Mrs. Jack Ryan opposite Chris Pine, holding her own with the likes of Academy Award winners Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh.  The first expansion film of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan stories, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is now out on DVD, Blu-ray and On Demand.

Jack Ryan Chris Pine

As Cathy Muller, a role previously played by Gates McFadden, Anne Archer, and Bridget Moynihan, she’s the first actress to take the part beyond emotional support stalwart for Jack.  In a franchise full of large, in your-face-drama: a nuclear sub about to explode in The Hunt for Red October, battling terrorists in Patriot Games or drug kingpins in Clear and Present Danger, and a dirty bomb smuggled into the country taking out an entire city in Sum of All Fears, it’s a big surprise that Shadow Recruit’s big event is tied to a discovery in forensic accounting by Ryan, leading to a potential economic crisis and small scale bombing.  Yet unlike A Good Day to Die Hard, a sequel using a similar plot (proving that once popular franchise is too tired to continue), the prospect of a young couple working together within Ryan’s secret CIA world in Clancy’s universe of global espionage is a bit refreshing.  And Knightley is probably the highlight of the film.

Continue reading

emily-blunt-edge-of-tomorrow

What a busy year!  We took in more content this year than ever before, reading more books, watching more TV series, and reviewing more movies.  Wading through all that Hollywood had to offer, we try to hone in on the genre films and TV series we think are worth our time.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual “Best of the Best” list.  Today we reveal the best content focusing on movies.  Come back for more of our picks tomorrow.  If you missed any of these films this year, check them out when they arrive on video or digital release.

Edge of Tomorrow Omaha Beach scene

Edge of TomorrowBest Film of the Year, Best Science Fiction Fix, Best Action Fix, Best Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Paxton).  The benefit of Blu-rays/DVDs is the ability to go back and verify whether a movie was as good as you remembered it in the theater.  Of all the top genre films of the year, including Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past, it was Edge of Tomorrow that became an addictive re-watch, to see all those great, funny scenes, like Tom Cruise’s demoted soldier rolling under the jeep, and Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski destroying all those aliens.  Rita was the best character we saw this year–anywhere–and Blunt provided the best performance.  Superb sci-fi components?  Check.  Superb action sequences?  Check.  With top-notch acting by Blunt and Bill Paxton.  This will be the movie of 2014 that we one day will re-watch just like we re-watch Aliens and Predator today.

Guardians in prison

Guardians of the GalaxyBest Superhero Fix, Best Actor Runner-up (Dave Bautista), Best Supporting Actress (Zoe Saldana), Best Villain (Lee Pace), Best Soundtrack, Best Rock Album.  It was the perfect blend of B-level superheroes and a space fantasy like we hadn’t seen since the original Star Wars.  A surprisingly fun ride.  Guardians introduced the world to Dave Bautista, who will likely get more and more popular in 2015 and beyond.  His serious but comedic Drax may have been the best part of a great cast of new characters.  Zoe Saldana created her best genre role so far and Lee Pace’s Ronan was a perfect comic book villain.  And those tunes on Starlord’s Walkman!  What was more fun this year than Rocket and Groot?

Continue reading

THE IMITATION GAME

Review by C.J. Bunce

Math?  When am I going to use that in the real world?

Not every mathematician is eccentric like Alan Turing was.  Yet the standout math wizards that make it to the screen have included the likes of math geniuses John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), and Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything), making you think a pattern exists–that quirky is a pre-requisite to mathematical genius.  We discussed before here at borg.com Andrew Wiles, the modern-day problem solving genius who solved Fermat’s Theorem.  Wiles seemed teetering on the edge of sanity as he locked himself away to solve a seemingly impossible math riddle, as documented in the brilliant NOVA film, The Proof.

The common tie between Nash, Hawking, and Wiles is the pursuit of the theoretical.  Fermat’s Theorem was merely a puzzle, sitting untouched for hundreds of years with no real-world application.  The average person doesn’t want to take the time to understand the practical significance of math theory, of solving math problems, and theorizing about scientific answers to the many ways we ask the question “why?”  The story of Alan Turing is different, and his story may be a key to spread understanding of what mathematicians can do to a wider reach, as explored in the holiday weekend release The Imitation Game. 

Mark Strong Benedict Cumberbatch

If you’ve studied World War II or seen the Gregory Peck World War II film Twelve O’Clock High, you’ll recall the unrelenting pounding Allied forces were taking in the middle of the war, losing bombers day after day, flying missions with no end in sight to keep up the momentum against Germany.  It was a job that had to succeed–failure was not an option.  While politicians strategized, generals planned raids, and soldiers fought and died, Alan Turing was trying to build a machine that would break the code machine called Enigma that the Nazis were using to communicate.  Hidden in the open, in front of the world, over encrypted radio waves, were instructions between German commanders and field forces on all their movements.  It’s the practical nature of what Turing accomplished that might sell some on the potential relevance of math.  The fact that his “Turing machine” was the predecessor to the modern computer should attract anyone to this fascinating story.

Continue reading

Pan movie poster

With this past week’s release of trailers for both Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it is no wonder a handful of smaller films’ trailers were lost in the wake of news from those far more highly anticipated films.  Two films are foreign war productions that may appeal to war/action film genre fans, and the other is a fantasy you’ve likely seen many times before, but this time featuring a handful of fan favorite genre actors.

First the fantasy–it’s director Ed Wright’s retelling of Peter Pan, titled simply Pan.  J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is one of those classic tales that stands up there with the likes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Middle-earth novels, and The Chronicles of Narnia.  Peter Pan has been done over and over, including the coming December 4 live-primetime production featuring Christopher Walken as Captain Hook.

Jackman as Blackbeard

Unlike most of the above novels, a definitive visual presentation of Peter Pan has yet to be made, although many would argue the success of the Disney animated version or possibly Steven Spielberg’s Hook.  This newest incarnation has some actors that may serve to entice fans to check it out.  It stars Wolverine Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, Veronica Mars’s Amanda Seyfried as Mary, Tron: Legacy’s Garrett Hedlund as Hook, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily.

Here’s the trailer for Pan:

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: