Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Mark Strong”

Grimsby

I don’t want to be too humourless about this, because I did laugh a couple of times and frankly if you’re a fan of Borat and Bruno and other Sacha Baron Cohen fare, you’ll know what you’re in for and may find this hilarious. But I have a harder time finding scatological humour remotely entertaining and certainly Grimsby’s endless fascination with genitals and backsides and bodily fluids flogs its jokes to the bitter end – but again, some people like that. So Cohen (who co-wrote the script) gets one star for pushing boundaries.

Grimsby’s other star is divided equally between its supporting cast of foul-mouthed little tykes (whom you wish were completely fictional but similarly-set movies like This is England assure us that sadly they’re not) and the writing team who manage to smuggle in several good ideas amidst the bubble-wrap of tacit fat-jokes and wasted cameos by Oscar-nominees. (Heck, at least this film gives two roles to people of colour. If they weren’t cast as a drug dealer and a maid, that’d almost be worth a half star, right there.)

The good stuff includes the touching brotherly love between Nobby (Cohen) and Sebastian Butcher (Mark Strong, playing it admirably straight) who are wrenched apart as children and don’t find each other for nearly thirty years, when the daft one botches the clever one’s attempt to foil an assassination. Gamer’s-eye action sequences are well-handled, and the story mercifully efficient. That I scrawled in my notebook “Are you serious??” during one outrageous scene is probably all the recommendation Grimsby’s target audience needs.

 

 

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

Since the internet is hotting up about Kingsman and I never did put my view out there, it’s high time I cast my mind back several weeks to the evening I came out of the cinema feeling sullied and woefully disappointed.

It’s a great, if not novel, conceit. Eggsy is an unlikely lad (newishcomer Taron Egerton) who loses his dad in mysterious circumstances when he is small, and grows up on a London council estate with his long-suffering mum. Living in a bad scene (the mum takes on an abusive gangster boyfriend) but not hopeful about being able to change his lot, Eggsy’s evident streetsmarts and a longtime promise see him recruited to a shady, super-secret spy organisation by the impressive Harry Hart (Colin Firth, relishing the opportunity to play against type while retaining his cut-glass accent and sartorial prowess).

What follows is just as you’d hope and expect from the writer of Kick-Ass and the director of Layer Cake: an ordinary guy plays out our superhero fantasies as he avenges his father’s death and attempts to save the world from the despicable vagaries of an over-the-top Samuel L. Jackson. While Firth and his band of Arthurian goodies are Moore-era James Bond, the baddies are Tarantino circa Kill Bill in their flamboyance. It’s a perfectly enjoyable mash-up, with even Jackson bearable thanks mainly to an endearing speech impediment and a fantastic wardrobe of sneakers. Egerton acquits himself superbly against a cast that includes Michael Caine and Mark Strong, imbuing Eggsy with the right amount of cocky-geezer arrogance and something bordering on sympathy as he holds his own amongst a bunch of young toffs.

So far, so fun.

But just past the halfway mark, as I find myself contemplating a possible four stars and praise for screenwriter Goodman’s smart update on the well-trodden genre, Jackson’s evil machinations take over the plot and Vaughn’s movie loses it. A bloodbath in a church is foreshadowed uneasily as a grotesquerie of bigoted characters make us shift in our seats, but even the most objectionable factions of humanity don’t deserve the comeuppance that follows. There is something distinctly distasteful about watching Firth dispensing death in a scene which is over-shot, over-scored and over-hyped – intentionally hyperbolic perhaps, but such a misstep (the film plummeting to a conflicted two and a half stars) and so out of step with the film’s tone thus far, that it shifts the story into a whole other register.

From then on, Eggsy’s story is overpowered by super-villain nonsense of the Austin Powers kind, with an inevitably bombastic finale which will evoke either hysterical delight or grim-faced silence from viewers. And then – to top off the indignity – an appalling moment of misogyny which is no doubt designed to leave the principally young-male audience titillated and sated at the end of what is bound to have been a widely-considered “classic”.

So much potential. So much disappointment. So much box office.

The Imitation Game

This WWII drama traverses similar territory to Robert Harris’ Enigma as one of those true story dramas which, despite our knowing the outcome, still manages to be engaging. Thankfully, 2001’s Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet are today’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and The Imitation Game’s especial strength is in its performances, in particular Cumberbatch’s central role as Alan Turing, the brilliant cryptanalyst who was instrumental in cracking the German codes.

“Mother says I can be off-putting sometimes, on account of being one of the best mathematicians in the world,” Turing opines to a potential employer, oblivious to the fact that being “really quite excellent at crossword puzzles” won’t endear him to others. Yet the very fine Cumberbatch (who does understated like few other actors) delivers Turing from superciliousness by restraining the potential for camp (Turing’s closeted homosexuality becomes a key aspect of his tribulations) and enabling him to show heart.

Knightley does frightfully-frightfully rather well, holding her own in an immensely likeable cast which includes Matthew Goode (Stoker) and a terrific Mark Strong. Even Charles Dance proves he’s still got it.

This is an old-school spy movie (albeit without the on-the-frontline espionage thrills), chaste and proper and decades away from Bourne and Bond. Despite one rather limp Spartacus moment, the narrative moves at pace, energy kept high by the endearingly insensitive Turing who at least knows that he doesn’t know jokes.

The Imitation Game doesn’t quite do justice to its hero’s significant backstory, choosing instead to focus on his enormous contribution to the war. But it should be enormously appealing to crossword puzzlers and code-breakers, and certainly delivers a rather jolly little romp.

Before I Go To Sleep

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 7th September 2014

The promise of a thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth ought to be the greatest thing since Dead Calm and Love..? Actually, no, I can’t think of a Firth thriller but I’m sure he’d have been very good in one a decade ago before he became every middle-aged woman’s (and some men’s) fantasy Sexy-but-Sensible Guy.

What if every night your memory was wiped? And when you woke up, your husband had to explain to you (again. And again) who you were and who he was and what had happened? This is the basic but potentially interesting conceit of Before I go to Sleep, a claustrophobic and initially engrossing film shot in the drab greys of a British Anywhere.

It started, as so many movies do nowadays, as a bestselling book by a first-time writer, and goodness knows how faithful the film script is to the novel’s original dialogue, but as soon as we see Firth explaining to a perpetually startled Kidman what her predicament is, you just don’t buy it. Sure, he’s telling us, the audience, the story for the first time, but given the premise is that the “OK, so what happened was…” has been happening every morning for the last 14 years, Firth is remarkably calm and hasn’t yet begun cutting down the details of a well-trodden anecdote. How he gets ready for work in time each morning is beyond me.

As Christine Lucas, Oscar-winner Kidman is disappointingly one-note, all whispery voice and wide-eyed terror. (Gosh, her daily grind must be exhausting, hearing these revelations anew day after day. At least by the time you’ve gone through the wedding album and examined your middle-aged face in the mirror, it’s time for lunch.) Firth, however, hints at something going against type with his grimly-set jaw and psychotically patient demeanour. (Most couples lose patience on the second “I’ve already told you!..”) Add to this British every-villain Mark Strong as the well-meaning doctor who is helping Christine remember, and the film has all the elements of a much better movie than it turns out to be.

Adapted and directed by Rowan Joffe, who made the recent Brighton Rock which was a better movie from a better book, this film will inevitably evoke Memento for its amnesiac-mystery-solver parallels. Sadly the performances pale in comparison and the big reveal, when finally delivered, is an uncomfortable mix of nasty and yawn-inducing.

“Kick Arse” (sic)

Kick Ass

So much hype! Such controversy! What’s one expected to think about it?? Either I say it’s not-actually-that-great and get lumped in with the knee-jerk ignoramuses at the Daily Mail, or I say it’s awesome and I’m jumping on a not-very-clever bandwagon. *sigh* – what’s a FanGirl to do…  See it for myself, and then over-analyse.

SO – what’s good about it? First off, Kick Ass is quite clever, right from its simple premise: an ordinary kid with no super-powers (unlike SpiderMan) and no means (unlike Batman) decides to create his own super-hero persona and go out and help people.  So far, so fantastic!  Add to this the charisma of our lead actor, Aaron Johnson (John Lennon from Nowhere Boy) and his droopy but witty sidekicks, and some nice set-ups as he tries out the necessities of costuming, attempted martial arts, and the ever-important “attitude”.  Soon Kick-Ass (as he names himself) is renowned for his masked good deeds, and gathering quite a following on YouTube.

Enter the other players in our comic book drama: Mark Strong is the main baddy, luminous in blood orange outfits, all twisted lip and cold calculation.  Nicolas Cage returns to our screens in a (thankfully) decent role, which is hilarious in its juxtaposition between soppy, doting father to the 11-year old Hit Girl, and Big Daddy, his super-hero alter-ego whose falsely-applied goatee disguises a deadly gunslinger completely lacking in empathy.

Hit Girl is one of the gems of the film – the 13 year old actress (from (500) Days of Summer) is Chloe Moretz, sure to become as big a star as Abigail Breslin and Dakota Fanning before her.  Apart from her utterance of the dreaded “C” word (certainly shocking for one so young, yet in fact delivered in so throwaway a fashion that, frankly, if the Mail and other critics hadn’t leapt on it right away, plenty of viewers may not even have noticed), she gets to have the most fun – playing an accomplished female assassin with enormous wit and self-possession. All her scenes are superb, and you can’t help but admire her as totally cool.

The lighting, photography and soundtrack make this film a very exciting watch – the colours are super-vibrant, like Dick Tracy (that is, er, like a comic book) and most of the shots are hyper-stylised, lending to the hyperbolic nature of the story and the action sequences.  This was never meant to be real-life – and so the controversy surrounding the film (including concerns about its being excessively violent) is really a nonsense.  Kick Ass is a teenage boy’s dream sequence, and given there is a teenage boy in most of us, the film is a blast to watch.

So, where does it fall down?  Well… it’s not THAT clever – writer Jane Goldman pretty much pulls together clichés from other films and lobs them at us with a trebuchet.  We’re watching reruns of Spider Man a lot of the time (hiding your identity from friends/the woman you love; going up against a rival super-hero) as we waft towards a pretty-damn-cool fight scene finale reminiscent of The Matrix and Kill Bill.  The music is borrowed from other films (but it’s still awesome – so that’s OK) – so whatever Kick Ass can’t claim in originality, it still delivers in terms of a rollicking night at the flicks.

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