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Posts Tagged ‘Gemma Arterton’

It is traditional to start a review with a brief synopsis of the movie.  However with this film the story unfolds in such a way that it is best not to know.  This makes it a little hard to review the film, for that reason I will keep my comments to what you can see in the trailer.  Having said that, it would be preferable if you can avoid the trailer.  Based on a novel by M.R. Carey about a dystopian future.  Concentrating on a small group Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) a teacher, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) one of her pupils, Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) a single minded research scientist and Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) a soldier.  The group are central within a zombie outbreak.the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-film-poster

The strength of the film is its multifaceted nature, the surface and the layers are equally as important and interesting.  With a young adult slant the film, or to be precise, its adult characters have a certain fear, mistrust and lack of understanding of the teenage protagonists, this is a universal fear of the next generation.  The next layer is a more general but also overt analogy for the state of mistrust and fear in the world as w whole.  All this would be powerless if the film on the surface wasn’t so good.  On the surface, it is a modern zombie movie given focus and originality by its low budget and a new twist.  There is an air of Greek mythology within the narrative that is nicely mirrored in the stories told in the film.the-girl-with-all-the-gifts

As much as many people try and avoid the zombie debate, it is not only hard to avoid but actually an interesting question.  In 2002 Danny Boyle introduced us to the infected in 28 Days later.  Two years later Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) gave George A. Romero style zombies a new turn of pace.  Where these creatures zombies?  Who cares, they are as different from Romero’s zombies as they were from the zombies of classic movies like White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie.  Simply, if you want to call them zombies, do, if you don’t, don’t.the-girl-with-all-the-gifts

Referred to as “hungries”, as with other infected, the zombie-like antagonists are both villains and victims.  This makes our heroes, both heroes and villains, or more to the point there are no heroes or villains, themes previously the reserve of Guillermo del Toro.  I have not led the book, but am led to believe the race of the two main characters Justineau and Melanie have been switched, while it would be easy of accusing the producers off whitewashing to cast Gemma Arterton, there is a bigger impact.  Arterton’s character is a more passive protagonist with Sennia Nanua’s Melanie being the actual main character, indeed the title character.  I don’t know if the filmmakers were looking for a black girl or simply cast the best child actor they could find.  Either way, Nanua is excellent providing both the heart and the narrative of the film, in her we may be seeing the birth of a new star.  The rest of the cast are also brilliant with nuanced performances form Arterton, Close and Considine.the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-sennia-nanua

On a side note a lot of the film was shot in my home town of Birmingham, a relatively new experience as England’s second city has never had a film industry.  I look forward to seeing more recognisable places, but also hope they become less distracting as they become more common.

Making the most of its small budget The Girl with All the Gifts is a handsome and interesting film that contains moments of both tension and excitement.  Elevated from what could have been a direct to DVD or VOD movie by both casting and originality.   With just enough exposition to keep the story going, the subtext asks more questions than it answers leaving the viewer with lots to think about. 

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I have mentioned in a previous article that Daniel Craig’s James Bond has the biggest story arc of all the incarnations of the character.  This is clear to see, but it can also be observed in his co-stars.  There is a convention in Bond movies of two “Bond Girls”.  The secondary of them often appears first in the movie but is ultimately a disposable character.  Her normal role is to provide some cheap thrills for both Bond and the audience, move the plot forward and is then disposed of, sometimes terminally.  A look at these characters tells us a lot about how Bonds character develops across Craig’s four films. 

WARNING PLOT SPOILERS FOR ALL FOUR MOVIES 

The first such character that Craig’s Bond encounters is Solange (Caterina Murino) in Casino Royale (2006).  The wife of Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian), who is in the employ of the films main villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), Bond sleeps with her to get what he wants then leaves her to clearly knowing that his actions could have fatal consequences for her, ultimately they do! Bond’s cold detachment happens before his heart is thawed but ultimately broken by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).Solange Caterina Murino

Quantum of Solace (2008) is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, but most importantly post Vesper.  Bond has allready met the movies primary character Camille (Olga Kurylenko) before the appearance of Agent Fields (her first name is revealed in the credits if you are interested) (Gemma Arterton).  After putting herself in the firing line of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), she is abandoned by Bond who leaves with Camille to follow a lead.  Her death is clearly an homage Goldfinger.  Bond leaves a none field agent in danger without even thinking about it but does feel the need to avenge her, sending Green to a certain death when he may have been better questioning him.  This is a reckless broken Bond who is yet to find the humanity he must find before he can think about any idea of redemption.strawberry fields Gemma Arterton

Skyfall (2012), is a slightly different proposition, there is no primarily Bond Girl, the slot is instead filled by M (Judi Dench) and to a lesser extent Eve (Naomie Harris) who is later revealed as Moneypenny.  The secondary part is taken by Severine (Bérénice Marlohe).  Her death at the hands of Silva (Javier Bardem) is followed by a quip from Bond that has led to a lot of speculation.  Was this the cold pre Vesper Bond, or a tactic to distract Silva?  I have always believed the latter but understand other point of view.Severine Bérénice Marlohe

This finally brings us up to date with Spectre (2015).  Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci).  In the pre-credit sequence we see Bond killing Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona).  It is later revealed to be an unsanctioned hit, acting on orders from beyond the grave for the previous M (Judi Dench).  At the funeral he meets Lucia Sciarra who in true Bond fashion she falls into his arms (and into bed) before revelling vital information to further the investigation. After he has what he wants, instead of leaving her to die Bond calls in a favour from Felix Leiter of the CIA (who we haven’t seen since Quantum of Solace) to protect her.  The character is has a lot of similarities to Solange in Casino Royale, Bond’s more human and humane treatment is surely testament to the development of him as a person over the four movies.  Is Bond in love with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) at the end of the movie? was Bond capable of love in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall?Sciarra Monica Bellucci

On a side note, A lot was made of an older woman in the part, the first to be older than Bond (Monica Bellucci is four years older than Craig, Bérénice Marlohe eleven years younger, Gemma Arterton eighteen years younger and Caterina Murino nine years younger) this was followed by great disappointed that she isn’t given a lot to do.  While this is true, it is better to have an actress like Bellucci lending a certain class to the part than a typical twenty-something as used in other movies. For example, Bellucci was considered for the par of Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), a part that ultimately went to Teri Hatcher.  Both Hatcher and Bellucci are eleven years younger than then Bond, Pierce Brosnan. 

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After posting my choice for the BAFTA rising star award there have been a few comments suggesting other nominees  deserve to win.  While I stand by my choice of Jack O’Connell I actually believe all the nominees are deserving to demonstrate this I thought I would run through the winners and losers from previous years. 

2006

Winner: James McAvoy

Other Nominees: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gael García Bernal, Rachel McAdams, Michelle Williams

2006

2007

Winner: Eva Green

Other Nominees: Emily Blunt, Naomie Harris, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw2007

2008

Winner: Shia LaBeouf

Other Nominees: Sienna Miller, Ellen Page, Sam Riley, Tang Wei2008

2009

Winner: Noel Clarke

Other Nominees: Michael Cera, Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Hall, Toby Kebbell2009

2010

Winner: Kristen Stewart

Other Nominees: Jesse Eisenberg, Nicholas Hoult, Carey Mulligan, Tahar Rahim2010

2011

Winner: Tom Hardy

Other Nominees: Gemma Arterton, Andrew Garfield, Aaron Johnson, Emma Stone2011

2012

Winner: Adam Deacon

Other Nominees: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Chris O’Dowd, Eddie Redmayne2012

2013

Winner: Juno Temple

Other Nominees: Elizabeth Olsen, Andrea Riseborough, Suraj Sharma, Alicia Vikander2013

2014

Winner: Will Poulter

Other Nominees: Dane DeHaan, George MacKay, Lupita Nyong’o, Léa Seydoux2014

 

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As excitement mounts for Bond 24 I have to ask the question is Quantum of Solace the Perfect Bond film?

After The original announcement that Sam Mendes would not return for the Skyfall follow-up (it appears he will direct Bond 24 and 25, Daniel Craig’s final two films in the franchise) I suggested that it was an impossible film to follow and that the next film should go in a different direction.  Rather than going bigger and better the next film should be a 90 minute action film, a stopgap before the next big storyline. But the more I look at it the more I think this has already been done.  Quantum of Solace isn’t an action film, but it is none stop, one set piece neatly leads into another with little exposition  or explanation.  It is also the shortest of all the Bond films and over half an hour shorter than Daniel Craig’s other two films.Quantum of Solace

After some initial positive reviews (Empire magazine gave it a glowing four star review) it has become the whipping boy of the franchise, unfairly denigrated for lack of coherence and fun.  While it is true that it is darker than we have come to expect from Bond (I seem to remember calling it The Bond Ultimatum in homage to the Bourne films to which it owes a debt) this is a true reflection of the character from Ian Fleming’s source novels.  Having read all the Fleming (and some of the other) Bond novels I often forget that  many of the fans of the films have not read them and have a different image of the character.  While Fleming’s Bond looked a little like Pierce Brosnan, his character is closer to Daniel Craig and Timothy Dalton.  Fleming’s books aren’t John le Carré spy thrillers, they are pulp fiction in the vein of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler with the main character of a private detective substituted from for a spy.  This has been lost over time.Quantum bond and m

Quantum of Solace is slick and stylish but very European and rather than Hollywood.  Directed by Marc Forster and shot by Roberto Schaefer it is possibly the best looking Bond film ever made, Sam Mendes/Roger Deakins’ Skyfall is the only other real contender for that honour.  Despite popular opinion the plot is simple and coherent.  In Quantum, the film also introduces a new criminal organisation, a SMERSH or SPECTRE for the twenty-first century.  Bond needs a co-star to play off, here he has two “Bond Girls” Olga Kurylenko is perfectly cast as Camille but Gemma Arterton doesn’t really work as Agent Fields, not that she is given much to work with the character.  She was clearly ever going to be a secondary supporting character.QOS Plane

The only real valid criticism of the film is that it is the only Bond film that doesn’t work as a standalone film, It depends on Casino Royale to give context and to explain bonds motivation.  But then the whole Bond experience has been enhanced by cumulative  knowledge for years.  If you have avoided the film or didn’t like it first time around, now is the time to watch/re-watch it.

Quantum of Solace isn’t the best Bond film but it may well be a perfect Bond film! 

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Movies seen in May:

Dead Man Down: Two damaged people (Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace) looking for revenge find each other. A disjointed crime thriller that has its problems but gets away with them because they are outweighed by the charms of the leading actors.IMG_5538.CR2

Star Trek Into Darkness: Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise go after a terrorist (perfectly played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Lots of well placed nods to the original series but the movie feels a little hollow and undoes some of the great work of the excellent first reboot movie.Star Trek Into Darkness

Mud: Two young teenage boys find a fugitive living in a boat stranded in a tree on a river island. They agree to help him despite the obvious dangers. Further proof that given a decent movie Matthew McConaughey is one of the most underrated actors of his generation coupled with the emerging talent of Tye Sheridan who you may have seen in The Tree of Life.Mud

The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann’s take on the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is as good as it can be for a story that belongs on the page not the screen. The best things about it are the visually stunning party scenes and the stunning performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. Sadly the best things about the film work against each other not with each other making a good and stunning film but not a great and mesmerising one.The Great Gatsby

Fast and Furious 6: Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner (Vin Diesel & Paul Walker) and their crew are once again hired by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). This time they are after British thief Shaw (Luke Evans) who is working with (back from the dead) Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). The story is rubbish leavening the film feeling flat after the surprisingly good previous film. There is enough car action for fans of the series and the fight between Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano is good.Fast & Furious 6

Byzantium: After being discover by a mysterious organisation who is tracking them a pair of female vampires (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) flee and end up in a rundown English seaside town. Neil Jordan returns to the vampire movie in the atmospheric and melancholic British horror that may just be the antidote to twilight.Byzantium

The Purge: Set in a near future America where on one day every year there is a 12 hour window when murder is legal. A suburban family get caught in the crossfire when the son decides help a man fleeing from a mob. What could have been a great sleazy B movie or a classy allegoric tale tries to be both and ends up being neither. Interesting and fun but flawed.The Purge

Byzantium Just misses out as movie of the month to Mud:Mud Poster

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After being discover by a mysterious organisation who is tracking them a pair of female vampires (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) flee and end up in a rundown English seaside town. It quickly becomes clear that the duo are mother and daughter (posing as sisters) and they are being hunted by other vampires. Living a lonely existence they do what they can to survive, in Clara (Arterton)’s case them means reverting to the only profession she knows, prostitution. Meanwhile Eleanor (Ronan) forms a bond with young local man Frank (Caleb Landry Jones).byzantium poster

It is interesting that in a month when biggest cinema release (The Great Gatsby) tries to get to grips with a character wishing to relive the past that there is a better film that will go largely unnoticed that has a more telling angle on the same idea. While Clara is always looking to the present and the future trying to forget or deny the past, her daughter Eleanor wallows in the misery of the past and is chained to the limitations of it preventing her from enjoying the present and planning for the future. This is explored in a particularly well handled scene when a character who is clinging on to what life he has mocks Eleanor for the desperation and unhappiness she carries with her into immortality. Like Gatsby, the prison the characters create for themselves is in the lies that live by hiding their past, and like Gatsby the freedom that may come honesty is fraught with danger.Byzantium Gemma Arterton

Every vampire story has to create its own “lore” whoever it by Nosferatu’s (1922) invention of sunlight killing vampires (that’s right it wasn’t in Bram Stoker’s novel) or Twilight’s glittering vampires. Other than the drinking of blood Byzantium does away with most conventions of the genre. These vampires don’t even have fangs. They do have another more subtle but equally as effective way of taking their preys blood. They are also more human and vulnerable than we have seen in other vampires in other years, making them more interesting. This vulnerability and humanity along with the tone of the movie and lack of cliché’s helps create a fantasy setting that feels closer to reality and more believable than many other vampires. The difficulty of introducing this lore is handled with the lightest of touches. There is almost no exposition, it is all implied of neatly worked into the plot of the movie. There is a scene where we see Eleanor watching Terence Fisher’s classic Hammer Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), interestingly they show a scene not involving Christopher Lee as the eponymous Count. This is a scene that like the rest of the film is handled supremely well. With a more heavy handed aproch it could have come across as either exposition or could have been an alienation device. These pitfalls are avoided, instead we get to see a nice juxtaposition of the perception of vampires and the reality of them (within the confines of the movie). This is further explored in aspects in reaction to things the characters say for example: When Eleanor explains that she learnt to play piano so well (she plays Beethoven’s complicated Piano Sonata Opus 2, No. 3) by practicing for 200 years, frank brushes it of as it feels like 200 years when you are practicing.Saoirse-Ronan-In-Byzantium

When you see Neil Jordan’s name attached to a vampire movie, you immediately think Interview with the Vampire (1994), while it may have plot similarities, Byzantium feels closer in tone to his earlier film The Company Of Wolves (1984). The story of lonely vampires travelling through a world where they have no place looking for love or acceptance chimes with many other vampire stories. Notably Tony Scott’s movie The Hunger and Mark Burnell’s novel Glittering Savages. Let the Right One In (2008) is certainly (in my opinion) the standout vampire movie of the generation, there are lots of parallels that can be drawn between the movies both in theme and tone. There is something about the seaside in winter that feels bleaker than any other place, this is used to full effect in what is essentially a melodrama of extreme melancholy. The charred remains of Hastings Pier (that burnt down a couple of years ago) give us a foreboding feeling of an inevitable ending. This has a similar effect as the snow and concrete architecture of Let the Right One InGemma Arterton Byzantium

Arterton and Ronan are both perfectly cast and play of each other brilliantly. Arterton is brash, loud and overtly sexual, Ronan is quieter, more reserved and introverted. The difference between the characters forms the crux of the plot and had we not believed in them the whole movie would have fallen flat. As it is the movie works supremely well. It isn’t going to bring any new fans to the vampire genre and those who come with certain expectations will be disappointed. It doesn’t have the action of Blade, the comedy of From Dusk Till Dawn , the sexuality of The Hunger, the horror of Near Dark and it certainly isn’t Twilight, but it does have the tone and style of Let the Right One In. And it is on that level that the movie works, it is beautifully shot, perfectly acted, expertly directed modern gothic melodrama that may just be the antidote to twilight and its imitators.  It lacks the depth or clear subtext that enervates some films to greatness, but don’t let that put you off, it is still a very good movie in a genre that hasn’t had many really good movies in recent years.   

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With all the buzz surrounding Skyfall I recently re-watched Casino Royale and enjoyed it so much I immediately watched Quantum of Solace. It was the first time I have seen the two movies back to back, I don’t know if it benefited from this or if it is just a better movie than I (and many others) have given it credit for, but something has caused me to re evaluate the underrated movie. While Ian Fleming’s books often followed on from each other, there has never before been a Bond movie that was a direct sequel.

Following Casino Royale was always a seemingly impossible task and just about any sequel would have suffered by comparison. It is easy to look back on Casino Royale as the benchmark for Bond, but back in 2006 it was a risky proposition. Daniel Craig wasn’t the first actor to take over the mantle of Bond, and it wasn’t the first time the character was taken in a new direction, but it was the first time the story had been completely rebooted. But it worked, what we got was a modern Bond, that fitted with the modern world, a post Jason Bourne world but who retained the characteristics of what had gone before in the previous movies, but more importantly the original books. It would have been very easy to walk away from the plot threads left by Casino Royale and create an entirely new movie, but that would have been a waste.

The Bond of Quantum of Solace is an emotionally broken man following the death of Vesper Lynd having made her a more sympathetic character than the one in the book. The Bond of the novels is a cold hard bastard, here we are seeing the creation of that character more like the Bond of You Only Live Twice (1964 novel) following the death of Bonds wife Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In his quest for revenge Bond forms an alliance with a similar goal Camille (Olga Kurylenko) whose quest for vengeance overlaps with his. Given the two characters and the place they find themselves in, there is a completely new dynamic to the Bond/“Bond Girl” relationship. This leaves Gemma Arterton’s Agent Fields (read the credits to discover her first name) to fulfil the more traditional Bond Girl role. It would be easy to dismiss her small role, but it is significant to the plot and has a telling nod to the earlier Bond films. The globetrotting nature of the movie is in line with what you would expect but is less important than it was in the earlier films. The problem with Bond in the modern day is how to work around the existence of modern communications technology, contrivances of the plot and the setting make great use of this and it really works. I would however say that this can not work every time and sooner or later it will have to find its place in the world again.

As movies become more bloated it was a brave decision to make a Bond movie lasting little more than a hundred minutes, but it really works. As a direct sequel Bond hit’s the ground running, or driving to be more precise. To the credit of the short running time and the tight concise plot the pre credit sequence is directly relevant to the plot (they aren’t always). Beginning where Casino Royale’s epilogue ended sees Bond’s Aston Martin is chassed along perilous mountain roads between Lake Como and Siena with Mr White (Jesper Christensen) locked in the boot. Many of the less positive reviews criticise the plot, this is unfair, the plot is sound if a little simple. Bent on revenge but also investigating the Quantum organisation (a modern day SPECTRE) Bond’s part in the plot works. The villains, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and General Medrano (Joaquín Cosio) are suitably menacing and loathsome and walk the fine line between caricatures and believable characters. Their intentions, the control of water supplies seems a little low key in comparison to megalomaniacs set on word domination or destruction but is actually both a most timely and realistic one. The one thing that seems to have been overlooked, it is possibly the best looking Bond film. The design and photography is nothing short of stunning, from the old DC-3 plane to the desert landscapes. They also make great use of the Palio di Siena horse race and a performance of Tosca on the floating opera stage at Bregenz, Austria. You don’t watch Bond for the production design but it certainly does no harm to the overall movie.

An underrated and under-appreciated movie that its detractors really should give a second chance. Like me I would recommend you watch it back to back with Casino Royale to best appreciate it in context.

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