Tag Archives: Alicia Vikander

Tomb Raider’s Terrible Reboot. (OK it was more ‘meh’ than terrible.)

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London has never looked like a better location for a twee romantic comedy than it does at the start of the rebooted Tomb Raider, a capable origin story and actioner with no sense of humour or wonder.

Kickboxing at a local gym and bantering with her bicycle courier co-workers, Lara Croft is slumming it harder than most; all she has to do is sign some documents declaring her missing father (Dominic West) dead, and she inherits a fortune.

Although he’s been gone for seven years, Lara (Alicia Vikander) adamantly refuses to accept that Richard Croft – superrich business man, adventurer and aristocrat – is no more. Flashbacks show the Crofts in sappier times, where West keeps calling Lara by the nickname “Sprout”, and declaring “Daddy loves you”.

Swede Alicia Vikander is a good actress, whatever those three crazy Michael Fassbender stans say. She makes a tomboyish Lara, whose defining characteristic is bullheaded stubbornness. Having beaten the likes of Daisy Ridley for the role, she’s convincingly English enough to be to the (Croft) manor born.

While participating in an illegal and reckless bike chase through our capital’s streets, Lara crashes into a police patrol car. Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas), an associate at Croft’s company, pops up to post bail and warn Lara that if she doesn’t claim her inheritance, her father’s estate will be sold off.

I must check and see if Scott Thomas did any interviews to promote this artistic endeavour, because I just live for her witchy rants about life as an ageing actress. The still beautiful KST grits her teeth at the sight of Vikander’s dewy prettiness, and wishes the fool had got crunched under those cop car wheels.

Oblivious to the KST death rays, Lara stumps into swanky Croft HQ to meet lawyer Derek Jacobi. She finds her father’s secret office, and his pre-recorded message detailing his research into Himiko, the mythical Japanese queen known as “the mother of death” or something. Richard warns Lara to destroy his work, in case it ends up in the wrong hands.

Hot on the trail of her father’s final destination, Lara heads east but gets captured by mercenaries funded by a shadowy organisation called Trinity, who definitely qualify as the wrong hands. They’d been failing at the task of locating Himiko’s resting place when Lara turned up with Croft’s map, which pinpoints the exact spot the tomb is hidden on the undocumented island of Yamatai.

Earlier in the movie we saw a waifish Ruby Rose lookalike easily put Lara in a headlock, but her survival instinct really kicks in, as she overpowers the hired toughs in hand-to-hand combat, before discovering Richard Croft living as a Tom Hanks castaway. He mutters, “Ignore it, it’s not real, it’ll go away, it always does,” when Lara appears, which is what my dad always says when he sees me.

Seconds later Lara’s dear old pa is back to normal. So did Sprout go to Oxford, or Cambridge? Look, Lord Sprout, this girl keeps landing on her thick skull, and the only reason there’s no damage is because she’s so dense.

Sigh. Croft performs amateur surgery on an injured Lara/Sprout and finally – it’s time to raid some tombs! Or rather, stop other people from raiding them in the case of the Trinity morons versus Himiko.

In what could be the start of an exciting-sounding premise (shame it comes at the end), Lara discovers that Trinity is actually a subsidiary of Croft Holdings, and a front for a secret organisation hunting for mysterious artifacts to control humanity. If Scott Thomas is in on it, believe me, they’ll be looking for the elixir of eternal youth 24/7. I know how she ticks.

The Light Between Oceans is Instagram-worthy, if not awards-worthy

The Light Between Oceans, or as I keep calling it – The Light Between Oscars – was once quite buzzy, tipped to give Alicia Vikander another shot at Best Actress after she lifted the trophy for The Danish Girl in 2016.

Based on a very popular work of historical fiction by M.L Stedman, an Australian serviceman, Tom Sherbourne (Fassy), returns from WWI. He marries Isabel (Vikander), and they go and live in his remote lighthouse.

After Isabel suffers two harrowing miscarriages, a lifeboat with a dead man and a squalling baby washes ashore.

A hesitant Fassy lets his wife keep the baby and raise her as their own. Things then take a Hardyesque twist when Fassy stumbles across Hannah (Rachel Weisz) weeping beautifully beside a memorial at the same church where the Sherbournes are holding their child’s christening.

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Entertainment One

This is, I think, the first big studio film by Derek Cianfrance, director of the indie hit Blue Valentine (skipped it – Ryan Gosling does my head in).

Light is a melodramatic, sweeping romance but Vikander is so intense, and the premise so far-fetched, that early on I wondered if it would veer off into psychological horror, with the lighthouse and the baby manifestations of the character’s break with reality.

After that early, creepy suspense, it gets really overwrought, with an ending that felt badly rushed.

Rachel Weisz is surprisingly a gentle undercurrent to the lighthouse couple; Fassy gives a very reserved, stoic performance as the traumatized veteran, while the new Lara Croft Vikander is a storm to be reckoned with once again.

As husband and wife, they have an interesting chemistry and are quite contrasting onscreen. Vikander is still such an ingénue it looks like Fassbender might have plucked a child bride from the sea. He’s a rarefied thespian; she’s raw and tumultuous.

By all means, I think people should see The Light Between Oceans, just for all the talent on board. It is probably the most beautiful film of last year, with the stunning coast and stark lighthouse interiors. You could Instagram the living daylights out of it.

Kirsten Dunst to direct The Bell Jar? Bring it on!

Speaking to Nylon mag back in 2004, Kirsten Dunst dared to criticize Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of poet Sylvia Plath – and Goop has done nothing to her for this insolence.

Now Kirsten (above in the sublimely terrifying Melancholia) is going to make her feature film directorial debut with an adaptation of Plath’s only published novel, The Bell Jar. Kirsten has already directed two shorts and will also pick up a co-writer credit for this latest project.

For some, Plath’s book ranks as ‘unfilmable’ and is best left well enough alone. A 1979 version seems largely forgotten, probably for good reason. But Kirsten’s a Hollywood veteran, and one of the most talented and confident stars working today.

She broke out around the same time as Natalie Portman – Kirsten the vengeful bloodsucker trapped in a eternal child’s body in Interview with the Vampire, Natalie a juvenile assassin with a killer bob haircut in Léon.

Because they got their starts playing tough adult roles, they were never really pigeonholed as child stars. While Natalie remained scandal-free, famously attended Harvard and bagged an Oscar, Kirsten’s image got a bit tarnished. The gossip blogger Perez Hilton nicknamed her “Kiki Drunkst” – when actresses, more so than their male counterparts, have to be very protective of their reputations.

Kirsten has made movies even a serious fan wouldn’t touch, things that she has said she’d love to erase, and a truly critically celebrated performance escaped her until Lars von Trier’s Melancholia won her Best Actress at Cannes in 2011.

But now there’s also an Emmy nomination for her performance in the second season of the FX series Fargo, which really played to her strengths with its intelligent, sharp dialogue and black comedy. “It’s nice to promote something and not have to lie about it,” she said on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

I kind of admire her more for the messiness of her CV as opposed the careful way less-talented actresses build their careers so precisely.

I used to read one super-knowledgeable film buff who argued that the greatest actresses go through ups and downs with the public. The risks they take and their vulnerability mean audiences don’t always understand and appreciate them.

Kirsten has been candid about her struggles with depression, the pressures put on famous actors and about the lack of guidance she had in her career.

Although The Bell Jar seems like a massive challenge, hopefully Kirsten’s talent and experiences – both personal and professional – will translate to success.

Mini Reviews: Burnt, Paper Towns, Spectre

A very eclectic grouping, I know!

But there are some movies I look forward to watching, like The Revenant. Then there are movies I look forward to, just not quite so much. But I had questions, questions, questions! Is Spectre as silly as Skyfall? How bad is BurntCan Cara Delevingne act?

Paper Towns

Quentin (known as Q) has his whole life mapped out – graduation, college, medical career, marriage, kids. But that’s only if the really cool girl across the street doesn’t get him arrested.

Q (Nat Wolff) has grown up idolizing his neighbour, Margo, but his kooky little playmate is now Cara Delevingne  – waayyy too popular to speak to him.

That’s until one night when she needs him to help inflict revenge on her lying in-crowd pals. Faced with his perfectly understandable reluctance, she gives him some spiel about “living for the now”, and not waiting until you’re 30 to be happy.

We’ve only known her for seconds, but she’s clearly a menace. Does clever Q challenge her, and insist life can be worth living while working towards your goals? He doesn’t, because he’s blinded by her awesomeness, and because he’s a sap.

After a vandalism spree and a slow dance, Margo vanishes. Convinced she’s left clues for the timid lad to follow her, Q leads his geeky friends and Margo’s impossibly beautiful former BFF (Halston Sage) on a road trip.

Nat Wolff is one of those scruffy, shaggy, sort-of-handsome young stars, but the road trip really drags, and a boy urinating into a empty beer can mid-car journey isn’t as funny as the filmmakers think.

Adapted from a John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) YA novel, Paper Towns suffers without the mercurial Margo. Delevingne is really great casting – Margo is a flawed person, but you understand why other teens project enormous mystery and importance onto her.

The lack of parental involvement rings false, as if the film doesn’t know how to work the adults in. When Margo goes all Gone Girl, her parents just shrug. What kind of people just allow their cars to disappear from the driveway, or teenagers to skip school for a road trip? Surely not the parents of this amiable, well-adjusted crowd.

A wholesome teen movie with an edgy star, perhaps Paper Towns just didn’t translate easily to screen. Worth it for Delevingne’s brief performance.

Burnt

Bradley Cooper used to play Jennifer Garner’s housemate on J.J. Abrams’ spy drama Alias. The actor played a clueless chump whose job was to get punched in the face by the CIA.

Now Cooper’s piercing gaze stares out from many a movie poster. He’s been nominated for four Academy Awards – three for acting and one for producing.

Burnt, a star vehicle meant to cash in on the actor’s heat, received a universal panning and a flurry of one-star reviews. But is it a complete turkey? ‘Cos sometimes when the critics sharpen their knives, you find the movie isn’t half-bad, or is only as half-baked as everything else…

Cooper is Adam, a boozy, bad boy chef who got his beloved mentor’s Paris restaurant shut down. After a self-imposed exile shucking oysters, he’s in London, dodging his drug debts and planning a comeback. He rallies his resentful, sceptical old kitchen crew (plus new recruits) like a crime boss back for One Last Job – swiping a Michelin star.

Cooper looks like he knows his way around a kitchen and every dish looks delectable, but the movie isn’t about food or doing the restaurant world justice. It’s about a burnt out, unlikable man with a world class talent. It’s an intense lead performance, but Cooper never gets to explore Adam’s personal demons and raging perfectionism.

Sienna Miller is decent as a sweaty sous chef/single mother/love interest, while Alicia Vikander is glamorous as Adam’s old flame. But it’s a lukewarm romance yoked with a gritty drama about the need for redemption.

Sadly, Burnt has its fingers in too many pies.

Spectre

Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as Bond, and again it appears he outgrew the character after 2006’s Casino Royale. Reportedly sick of Bond, the actor has been ambivalent about reprising the role for a fifth time.

In Spectre, a taped tip-off from his dead boss Judi Dench has Bond chasing a shadowy international crime organisation. He takes himself off to Mexico on a terrorist-hunting vacation, where he causes mayhem in a fantastic opening sequence.

The trail leads first to the iconic Monica Bellucci, whose highly publicized appearance is pretty disappointing. Instead, sleepy-eyed French actress Léa Seydoux is our supposedly strong, savvy female character. She looks very young next to craggy Craig, and can’t compare to the memory of Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Sob.

While Bond is busy moping over the latest love of his life, Ralph Fiennes get to display why he would have been a better fit as Ian Fleming’s spy. As the new M, Fiennes has to deal with a snotty little upstart codenamed “C” (Andrew Scott), who is pushing to shut down the 00 programme and usher in a global surveillance network.

I preferred the Fiennes/Scott confrontations to the ones between Christophe Waltz’s villain and Craig’s 007, who I kept forgetting is a ruthless government assassin.

Look, it’s a Bond movie (the most expensive one ever made), so it’s easy to be entertained by the scale and the stunts. It really isn’t as silly as Skyfall, with its much-mocked Home Alone-style final battle. But it still isn’t the sequel Casino Royale deserved.

Come on Academy, time to change? Thoughts about this year’s awards

I watched the Oscars feeling very ill. I didn’t really watch through choice, but thanks to a miserable cold, I couldn’t sleep!

The ceremony was a bit of an ordeal, and I think I might have hallucinated that there was a bear in the audience?

DiCaprio winning because it was his turn.

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Leo finally won an Oscar! He deserved it for transforming himself and shivering a lot. (I’m shivering right now! Gimme an award!!) And even more importantly, it was his turn!

People were really rooting for Leo. Maybe in three years (around the time Leo’s yacht party finally ends) his triumph could be viewed as less convincing – a “career Oscar”.

There are a lot of people adamant that he should have really won for Gilbert Grape back in ’93 over veteran character actor Tommy Lee Jones (it was his turn) for The Fugitive. They’re forgetting that people at the time felt it should have gone to Ralph Fiennes for Schindler’s List.

Now 2015 was a weak year for the Best Actor race. Michael Fassbender was an early front runner, but Jobs flopped financially. And Leo’s campaign just gained momentum – he really did the PR and worked the events.

However, don’t forget Creed’s Michael B. Jordan and Beasts of No Nation’s Abraham Attah both being passed over – in the year when anger over all-white slates of nominees came to a head:

The so-called category fraud

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Category fraud is an established campaign tactic.  Alicia Vikander’s leading role got lumped in the supporting category because she didn’t stand a chance in the stacked Best Actress race.

The Academy loves its starring performances big and bold, meaning understated portrayals can be overlooked.

And Vikander’s win wasn’t really just for The Danish Girl. A lot of critics/awards bodies preferred her in Ex Machina and even The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Vikander’s become a critical darling over the last year, and the industry wanted to hand her recognition for her successful breakthrough.

The Oscars have always skewed towards younger actresses and older actors. Maybe they should have age categories, or an Oscar for best breakthrough, or rising star, like the BAFTAs.

The Oscars didn’t get Carol.

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Each year, The Hollywood Reporter speaks to different members from some of the Academy’s disciplines. On the condition of anonymity, they reveal their brutally honest take on the year’s nominees.

This year, one of the acting branch members had something to say about Mara’s role in Carol: “That part needed an Audrey Hepburn, an enchanting, alive, beautiful young woman, instead of this depressed person whom I never believed Cate Blanchett would have fallen in love with.”

It’s not about a couple of hotties getting it on! Therese is meant to be withdrawn and numb, before growing into a poised woman like Carol. Mara nailed it, and she was won best actress at Cannes. (She was in the supporting category at the Oscars.)

Vanity Fair did a great piece on why Carol is not the Academy’s type of film.

The public thinks awards voters are omnipotent

“Well, that actress has been nominated for two Oscars,” they’ll harrumph. “I think the Academy knows more about acting than you!”

Ah yes – the mysterious, all-knowing and infallible Academy. One copy of Oscar Machinations for Dummies coming up. Alternatively, this is a pretty good article about membership in the Academy.

Change has been promised, although how it will play out is uncertain. At the moment, white, male (76 per cent), and old (the average age is 63) seems to be the order of the day. I mean, you’d never have guessed by their voting choices right?

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There were a few best actor/actress picks this year (like most years) that likely only got in because those actors’ names (or their directors) easily become part of the awards conversation.

Matt Damon was merely amicable in The Martian, while The Danish Girl was not Eddie Redmayne’s best work. On this entire planet, with all its great storytellers, the voters couldn’t find some fresh faces to honour? I follow bloggers that have more imagination and passion when it comes to film.

It’s nearly over – Oscars 2016: my random musings ;)

Every actor wants to win an Oscar. And nobody wants to win more than Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio.

Either I missed the campaigns for Fassbender, Cranston and Damon, or they all just accepted that it’s Leo’s year. It’s finally “his turn”; that’s the narrative, and it’s unstoppable.

Best Actor

Leo’s campaign centred on how difficult the shoot for The Revenant was.

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I haven’t seen the movie yet, but Leo doesn’t look like he could survive much adversity. He’s been famous since he was a foetus, and his biggest struggle has probably been which model to pick from the catalogue. But it’s his year, so go Leo!

Perhaps his only rival tonight is Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper. Redmayne campaigned so stealthily you didn’t even notice, but his portrayal of a transgender woman was divisive. Personally, I’m on the side of those who say the performance was a sub-par one for the actor.

 

Best Actress

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Alicia Vikander carried The Danish Girl, and got better, more consistent reviews than Redmayne. I understand why she landed in supporting, but truthfully, it was lead.

Amazingly, it wasn’t even her best performance this year.

She was the highlight (along with Elizabeth Debicki) of The Man from U.N.CL.E, but I’d agree with the critics who say she should have got a supporting nod for Ex Machina. 

Vikander’s finest performance, though, was in director James Kent’s Testament of Youth, based on Vera Brittain’s memoir. If Tom Hooper had directed Testament, it wouldn’t have been as good, but it would have garnered Vikander a nomination.

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I’d have rounded out Best Actress with a joint nomination for the magnificent Blanchett/Rooney Mara for Carol, Brie Larson for Room, Emily Blunt for Sicarioand Saorise Ronan for Brooklyn.

Larson will win; it’s probably one of the dead certs of the night. She’s new to the awards circuit, but she’s a total pro. I get the feeling some more established actresses may find her unnerving…

…and last but most most importantly, Star Wars! 

Great to see that The Force Awakens got five nominations, although all in the technical categories like editing and visual effects. It deserves the recognition; TFA was well-made and fun. A huge part of that was how invisible the CG was, making it feel like the Star Wars of old.

REVIEW: The Danish Girl (2015)

Save all your tears for The Danish Girl, a lavish costume drama based on the true story of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe.

The film opens in 1920s Copenhagen, where Einar (Eddie Redmayne) is married to fellow painter and illustrator Gerda (Alicia Vikander). They are shown as devoted to one another, with a circle of friends who love to hear about their blissful wedded life.

An earsplitting, hyper Amber Heard cameos as Ulla, a ballerina and close confidante of the couple. One day, Ulla is late for a portrait sitting with Gerda, who persuades Einar to pose instead.

Wearing silk stockings, satin slippers and gently cradling a beautiful dress against his thin body, Einar realizes his true gender identity. Lili emerges at first only as a sort of private game between the couple, but gradually she supplants the husband Gerda loves.

Of course, it was a different world. The medical profession can offer Lili only radiation therapy, threats of institutionalization and scant sympathy.

Eventually she meets a humane physician named Warnekros (Sebastian Koch) and Lili becomes one of the first to undergo gender reassignment surgery. There were no modern antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs, so the undertaking was highly risky. “I am… entirely… myself,” beams Redmayne from Lili’s sick bed.

While Redmayne gives a technically very able performance there is a lack of inner life. Lili truthfully never makes it to the screen and we’re left with the well-meaning Redmayne in an auburn wig and lipstick.

It’s not really his fault, because although it starts as a two-hander, The Danish Girl becomes more of a blank canvas for Gerda’s emotions as she stays by Lili’s side even as she mourns the loss of a husband.

The Danish Girl – director Tom Hooper’s first movie after Les Miserables – is no masterpiece, but at it’s got its timing right, and it’s bound to find an audience willing to treat it with reverence.

Top movie performances of 2015!

It was a triumphant year for movies. Specifically, it was a benchmark for female-driven stories. Although I confess I’m still catching up, this is my tribute to the best performance(s) of 2015!

Alicia Vikander

How can you not admire Vikander?

She’s phenomenally talented. She’s acted in English, Danish and her native Swedish and she was in some of the best and most anticipated films of 2015.

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There was creepy sci-fi gem Ex Machina, where she played Oscar Isaac’s android invention Ava, her robotic brain whirring as she plotted her escape from her creator’s clutches.

She was heartbreaking in a moving adaptation of Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain’s memoir of the war that wasn’t over by Christmas. Vikander is the unashamedly emotional lead in a story about a generation of doomed young men and the impact WWI had on women.

Then there’s Oscar bait The Danish Girl, where she plays the supportive wife of Eddie Redmayne’s Lili, one of the first transgender patients in the early 20th Century. Advance buzz and a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress suggested it was no mere beautiful suffering spouse gig and that she matched Redmayne.

  • It’s a safe bet that her performance will make her an Oscar-nominee, although whether it is for supporting or lead remains uncertain. I don’t mind so-called category fraud. Supporting seems like a wasteland, with unexceptional performances gaining recognition as a courtesy because they’re in an Oscar contender, when they’d get ignored in anything else. If Vikander is at a disadvantage in the super competitive Best Actress race, put her in supporting.

Rooney Mara

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Although Cate Blanchett is great in everything and Carol is no exception, I found Mara’s portrayal of numb young shop assistant Therese resonated with me more.

She falls in love with Blanchett’s assured and wealthy eponymous character and they begin a relationship. Considering this is set in 1950s America, it’s complicated.

Despite a very restrained performance, Mara expertly communicates Therese’s messy raw emotions, her shyness and uncertainty.

“I barely even know what to order for lunch,” she nervously admits on her first date with Carol.

(Spoiler alert) Her love for Carol helps her discover who she is, her place in the world and a more fulfilling life. Mara deserves every award coming her way.

Adam Driver

My first reaction to news of Driver’s casting in Star Wars: The Force Awakens wasn’t negative. I only knew him from the Lena Dunham-helmed Girls, so let’s just say he wasn’t on my radar.

So there’s something I have to thank J.J Abrams for – Driver is my new favourite actor. To stand out in a cast that good is a feat. Hope to see him square off (round off?) with BB8, and see which one of the two new Star Wars divas comes out on top.

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I’m watching everything Driver has done, although I haven’t managed to face Girls yet. (Dunham’s memoir is going cheap on Amazon Kindle though. Might make some good post-holiday reading!)

Daisy Ridley

The new Star Wars heroine was a revelation.

I’m probably not the only one who looked at Ridley’s resume and awaited a Natalie Portman clone who would give a wooden, half-assed performance like the one Portman gave in…Attack of the Clones.

There was no way Abrams was having a repeat of that. Ridley was superb casting and made the most of the opportunity.

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And…

There are so many performances I haven’t been able to see yet! I’m dying to see Emily Blunt in Sicario, Brie Larson in Room and Saorise Ronan and Domnhall Gleeson in Brooklyn.

Who impressed you with their performances in 2015? Do get in touch in the comments below!