With its grindingly low-key tension and unusual perspectives, this Western has a chance to revamp the genre in intriguing ways. The first-rate cast adds plenty of depth to the usual roles, including a strong female point-of-view from Natalie Portman, who also produced the film. But some rather simplistic thematic touches undermine the originality, and the film never quite cracks through the surface to become something meaningful.
It's set in 1871 New Mexico, where Jane (Portman) lives on a hidden ranch with her outlaw husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) and their young daughter. But Bill's been badly injured, and the notorious scoundrel Bishop (Ewan McGregor) has vowed to track him down. For help Jane turns to her ex-fiance Dan (Joel Edgerton), an angry gunslinger who has never got over being abandoned by Jane all those years ago. He agrees to help her, and of course Bill isn't too happy about this, but he's too injured to protest. And Jane is so fiercely independent that she refuses to let her history with these two men define her future.
The premise is packed with all kinds of intriguing layers, but the script continually over-explains everything with a series of flashbacks to Jane's earlier encounters with Dan, Bishop, Bishop's hotheaded brother (Boyd Holbrook) and a particularly brutal desperado (Rodrigo Santoro). Not one of these people has even a hint of morality about them, which gives the actors a chance to inject a lot of complex texture into their performances. These are tough-minded men who never stop to think about the rule of law. And Portman's Jane is steelier than all of them, a woman who makes her own hard decisions in a place that doesn't let anyone off easily. Portman is terrific in the role, even if director Gavin O'Connor (Warrior) undermines her with his rather straightforward approach. Even so, her scenes with Edgerton and McGregor crackle with subtext.
Continue reading: Jane Got A Gun Review
Rodrigo Santoro - Celebrities attend AFI FEST 2015 Presented By Audi Centerpiece Gala Screening of THE 33 at TCL Chinese Theatre. at TCL Chinese Theatre - Los Angeles, California, United States - Monday 9th November 2015
Director Patricia Riggen tackles a particularly emotional story with the new film The 33. The film is a based on the recent mining catastrophe which happened in Chile in 2010. When a copper and gold mine finally caved in blocking 33 men in the centre of a huge mountain.
Continue: The 33 - Clips
For most people in the modern world, they don't need to think about the consequences of modern day living, it's hard to think that people still need to mine land physically and often in treacherous conditions. In 2010 the world was reminded of just how risky that job can be.
When a 100+ year-old copper & gold mine in Chile suffers considerable damage to the shaft due to a cave-in, the world's news is quick to report the disaster. All life was thought to be lost and there was little hope of finding survivors, however deep inside the mine, a group of 33 men were fighting for survival. As the world learnt of their battle for survival, the onlookers could only imagine the tribulations the men inside faced. Main communication with the outside world was from one miner called Mario who was affectionately named 'super Mario', thanks to his videos, he could relay information to the support crew telling them about the men's wellbeing and progress.
Director Patricia Riggen's The 33 was filmed with the cooperation of the miners and tells their story from 700 meters underground. The 33 is Patricia Riggen's first major directorial role, though in 2012 she shot Girl In Progress starring Eva Mendes.
A very odd blend of caper action, dark drama and romantic comedy, this slickly made con-artist romp never quite finds its stride. There's a merciful vein of sharp wit in the script, thanks to writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love) and a spiky performance from Margot Robbie. But Will Smith's presence leaves everything feeling rather tame, compromising his character by making him a nice-guy crook rather than the unpredictable black-comedy protagonist he really should have been.
It opens as the wide-eyed Jess (Robbie) approaches veteran grifter Nicky (Smith) about learning the art of the con. She follows him to New Orleans for some major pickpocketing and double-crossing in the run-up to a big football championship, but Nicky unceremoniously dumps her afterwards. Three years later, they meet again in Buenos Aires, where both appear to be running scams centred around the Formula One team owned by Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), who's never far from his right-hand goon (Gerald McRaney). With help from his old pal Farhad (Adrian Martinez), Nicky sets out to run his sting. But Jess is a distraction, and the stakes are too high for him to take his eye off the game.
While it's one of the running gags, Nicky's soft centre is a serious problem here, making the movie feel like a vanity project for Smith, who seems far too determined to be sympathetic. (Ficarra and Requa know how to make an anti-hero likeable: see Bad Santa.) Instead, Smith is a jarring combination of beefy physicality, fast-talking thievery and squidgy emotions. Robbie is able to more effectively merge Jess' gung-ho personality with her gleeful criminality, but when they're both together on-screen it's impossible not to feel like everything about the characters' relationship is a big con. So we wait for the script to reveal its clever twists and turns. But they're surprisingly few and oddly inconsequential.
Continue reading: Focus Review
Rodrigo Santoro - A variety of stars were photographed as they attended the World Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' new film "Focus." The premiere was held at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, United States - Wednesday 25th February 2015
While sitting at the bar of a hotel lobby one night, a man catches a glimpse of an attractive young woman and goes over to introduce himself. That man is Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) and that woman is Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie). When the two go back to Barrett's room for the night, a gunman attacks Spurgeon, demanding all of his money. The problem is, Spurgeon is a seasoned conman, and is able to quickly sniff out a scam when it arises. After imparting both Barrett and her assailant with some lessons in the art of conning, Spurgeon leaves. Three years later, Spurgeon and Barrett will be reunited in a dangerous game of deception and theft.
Continue: Focus Trailer
Nicky Spurgeon is a genius when it comes to his work as a con man in the criminal underworld but decides to take on an intern in the form of the beautiful, blonde, aspiring criminal Jess Barrett. However, things soon get a little complicated when a spark ignites between them and Nicky is forced to let her go rather than jeopardise their professional circumstances. They are reunited some years later, however, in Buenos Aires with Jess having gone on to perfect the art of elusive scamming as a grade A femme fatale for another con man and Nicky's interest soon re-awakens when he sees her in action. Unfortunately, this time they are working against each other in their most dangerous operation yet and Nicky is torn between wanting to protect her and wanting to do the right thing.
Continue: Focus - Teaser Trailer
After the snappy, clever 2011 original, this sequel feels rather lazy by comparison: it's still visually colourful and sometimes witty, but the overcrowded story is all over the place, mixing wacky slapstick and corny satire with a political message. And none of this is edgy enough to make it memorable, except perhaps the addition of one new character, a deranged poisonous frog with delusions of romance, voiced by the riotously operatic Kristin Chenoweth.
At the centre again are the rare blue macaws Blu and Jewel (Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway), who now have three feisty kids at their bird sanctuary in Rio de Janeiro. Then their human keepers Tulio and Linda (Rodrigo Santoro and Leslie Mann) spot another blue macaw deep in the Amazon, so Blu and Jewel fly off to investigate with their children and buddies (including Will.i.am and Jamie Foxx). Sure enough, this turns out to be Jewel's long-lost family, overseen by her father (Andy Garcia) and guarded by her heartthrob ex Roberto (Bruno Mars). But there's an evil logger threatening the rainforest, and Blu's old nemesis Nigel the cockatoo (Jemaine Clement) is out for revenge.
After the oddly flat prologue in Rio, the film kicks up a gear when it arrives in the jungle, where the imagery becomes far more dense and colourful, leading to some wonderfully outrageous musical numbers and raucous action sequences. The level of detail is impressive, as is the range of creatures thrown into the story. But the script never quite rises to this level of invention, once again simplistically putting the city-bird Blu in an alien natural environment, with added in-laws and ex-boyfriends. Much more fun is Nigel's interaction with his poison-frog sidekick, even if his subplot never builds any steam.
Continue reading: Rio 2 Review
The fantasy action sequel dominated the US box office during its first weekend.
300: Rise of an Empire had a storming first weekend of release during which the new fantasy action film raked in $45 million. The Zack Snyder-directed sequel battled off competition from Dreamworks' animated Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which took a rather disappointing $32.2 million, as well as the Liam Neeson thriller Non-Stop and the fantastically successful The Lego Movie.
'300: Rise Of An Empire' Has Walloped All Competition Over Its First Box Office Weekend.
300's victory may have been trumpeted but its success falls short of its predecessor's $70 million debut seven years ago and the film hasn't exactly fared well at the hands of critics. Nevertheless, the movie enjoyed a healthy opening with 3D representing 63% of all tickets sold, according to Forbes. As the only R-rated movie currently on release, 300 stands to continue its success for several weeks with only Arnold Schwarzenegger's thriller Sabotage set to pose any threat when it arrives on the 28th March.
Fans of the 2007 Spartan war romp 300 probably won't care that this spin-off is even more chaotic and much murkier to look at. It still features armies of scantily clad muscle men grunting idiotic declamatory dialogue as they charge into cartoon-style battles against all odds. No, this isn't particularly subtle filmmaking: it's loud and brutal. And good for an unintentional laugh.
At the same time as Spartan King Leonidas (a briefly glimpsed Gerard Butler) is leading his 300 men to battle against Xerses (Santoro), Greek General Themistocles (Stapleton) approaches Leonidas' wife Gorgo (Headey) for help facing Xerses vengeful military commander Artemisia (Green) on another front at sea. Themistocles' main officers are Aesyklos (Matheson) and Scyllias (Mulvey), whose son Calisto (O'Connell) secretly joins the army as they set sail for an epic ship-based battle against Artemisia's fearsome forces. And there are two more watery conflicts to come, each more outrageous than the one before, as Artemisia taunts Themistocles seductively while dispensing fiery death and destruction at every turn.
The addition of two strong women adds a bit of interest here, but the focus is still on the bare-chested men, even if only three or for of them actually emerge into proper characters. Headey's chief contribution is a rambling voiceover narration explaining everything for us, while Green's wry smirk and momentous glower let her steal every scene. By contrast, the men seem rather feeble. Stapleton is manly and commanding, but not hugely charismatic. Rising-star O'Connell barely gets two decent scenes. Santoro is hilariously grouchy eye candy. And everyone else is clearly expendable.
Continue reading: 300: Rise Of An Empire Review
When Leonidas and his valiant army of 300 Spartans were wiped out by the vast forces led by Persian God King Xerxes, the rest of Greece now feel that their country has gained honour following their tragic loss. However, their battle is not over yet as Persia is rapidly sailing in for another invasion. Rival cities Sparta and Athens are forced to set aside their bitterness towards each other if they have any hope of victory - though with Xerxes on their tail with immortal power, their lives teeter on the edge. Nonetheless, the Greeks remained filled with a fierce determination following Leonidas' heroism and so Themistocles of Athens leads his naval fleet to war while Sparta's army prepares for another fight. How can they survive against a seemingly impervious God King and his female ally, the just as ruthless, sword-wielding Artemisia? Outnumbered and overpowered once again, there is still hope.
Continue: 300: Rise Of An Empire - Clips
With its grindingly low-key tension and unusual perspectives, this Western has a chance to revamp...
Jane Hammond has always been an independent woman, but living in the developing West is...
Director Patricia Riggen tackles a particularly emotional story with the new film The 33. The...
For most people in the modern world, they don't need to think about the consequences...
A very odd blend of caper action, dark drama and romantic comedy, this slickly made...
After the snappy, clever 2011 original, this sequel feels rather lazy by comparison: it's still...
Fans of the 2007 Spartan war romp 300 probably won't care that this spin-off is...