Tag Archives: Mark Strong

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Interview: Director and Cast Talk Controversy, Courage & Torture

Zero-Dark-Thirty-Main-ImageWho’s ready to take on a ton of pressure? Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal certainly must have been. Not only did Bigelow and Boal have to follow-up their Academy Award-winning work in The Hurt Locker, but the pair chose the most challenging material to do it with – the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Forget all the required research, possible political scrutiny and delicacy of the material; making the project even more demanding, bin Laden was actually killed just a short while before Boal completed his script detailing the failed hunt for bin Laden in the Toro Bora mountain range.

While participating in a press conference in New York City, Bigelow recalls, “While Mark was working on the screenplay, actually quite far along in the screenplay, May 1, 2011 happened and we realized, after some soul searching, that it was going to be a little difficult to make a movie about the failed hunt for Osama bin Laden when the whole world knew that he had been killed.” And so the plan changed and Boal refocused his script on the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad – the raid that ultimately resulted in his death.

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Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero-Dark-Thirty-PosterUsing his experience with an American bomb squad to develop a fictitious story for “The Hurt Locker” is one thing, but writer Mark Boal’s decision to tackle the death of Osama bin Laden takes journalistic moviemaking to another level, one that comes with an immense amount of societal and ethical pressure, on top of the challenge of just making a good movie. But it’s a good thing Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow were the pair to take on that challenge because it’s highly unlikely any other duo could have pulled it off quite like them.

“Zero Dark Thirty” focuses on Jessica Chastain’s Maya, a top-notch CIA analyst sent to Pakistan to join a team tasked with tracking down high-ranking members of Al Qaida, with an ultimate goal of taking out Osama bin Laden. At first, Maya doesn’t take to the CIA Black Site’s brutal interrogation tactics, but as the years go on and colleagues lose their jobs and, in some cases, their lives, Maya’s determination peaks and she does whatever it takes to gather solid intel.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is a heavy-duty piece and Bigelow wastes no time putting the audience in the appropriate headspace. The film kicks off with a montage of 9/11 phone calls playing over black and the sequence is cut perfectly, rousing the heartache of that day through a sense of hysteria, but also by giving certain audio clips time to breathe, establishing a personal connection. By the time the film hits the “2 Years Later” title card, your heart is already pounding through your chest.

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Review: Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy

If critics rave about a film, there will still certainly be some folks who aren’t into it and the same goes for a movie that gets panned; every movie out there is going to appeal to some, even if it’s a very select few. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a rather frustrating film to review as it’s a piece of immense quality, boasting impeccable performances, a strong sense of tone and a stellar score, but, in the end, there’s just no denying that this simply isn’t a film for me.

In 1973, in the midst of the Cold War, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6 and code-named the Circus, is desperately trying to stay ahead of other nations via espionage. When the Circus’ top dog, Control (John Hurt), sends Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) to Hungary and the mission goes horribly wrong, both Control and his #2, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), are forced out of the Circus.

Later on, after Control’s passing, Smiley is pulled back into the game in secrecy, asked to look into the government’s concern that a Soviet mole may have infiltrated the Circus. With the help of another agent, Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), as well as key information brought home by the long absent field agent, Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), Smiley strives to reveal the double agent who, thanks to Control, has been limited to just five options, Tinker – Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Taylor – Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Soldier – Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), Poor Man – Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and Smiley himself.

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Review: Green Lantern

You know those ride simulators in arcades or even the ones like the Spider-Man ride in universal? They’re a blast, right? Then again, remove the vehicle that bumps along with the ride and watch that video in another location and it’s probably not particularly enjoyable anymore. Well, consider Green Lantern that displaced amusement park simulator video, tacky visuals, unconvincing and only capable of holding your attention for minutes at a time.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is your average guy. Actually, not really; he’s a test pilot who enjoys taking big risks, flying high and showing off his ego 24/7. Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Hal’s crush, co-worker and the daughter of Carl Ferris (Jay O. Sanders), the big bossman at Ferris Air, is always on Hal’s case, but tolerates his bad attitude. However, when Hal takes it upon himself to show off at work, wrecking his plane and defaming Ferris Air’s latest stealth models in the process, Hal gets the boot.

Meanwhile, out in space, the caged monster Parallax consumes enough fear to break out of his prison and go after the individual who put him there, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) of the Green Lantern Corps. After suffering a fatal wound, Abin Sur crash lands on Earth with just enough time to let his Green Lantern ring pick its new owner, Hal. Before he knows it, the power of the ring whisks Hal away to the home of the Green Lantern Corps, the planet Oa. There he gets some Corps 101 and physical training, but as the group’s first human member, the youngest race in the galaxy, Hal becomes wary of the ring’s selection process. Hal’s forced to decide whether or not he’s worthy of being a Green Lantern fast because Parallax is on the way.

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Review: The Eagle

Who better to star in a swords and sandals movie than Channing Tatum? He’s basically built for the role. However, just because he looks good in Roman soldier garb doesn’t mean he can act like one. In fact, after The Eagle, it’s impossible not to recognize the fact that Tatum might not be able to act at all. Then again, all the blame can’t fall on this film’s star. Not only is director Kevin Macdonald to blame for the incredible amount of missed opportunities, but so is writer Jeremy Brock for adapting Rosemary Sutcliff’s book into a screenplay that, to a point, permits the stars to have the emotional range of a block of wood.

Tatum is Marcus Aquila, the son of Flavius Aquila, the man who led Rome’s Ninth Legion into the tumultuous land of Caledonia only to lose 5,000 men, Rome’s beloved golden eagle and his own life. Twenty years later, in 140 AD, Marcus is determined to clear his family name and begins his attempt to do so by assuming the top post at a disorderly fort. When they’re attacked, Marcus selflessly risks his life for the safety of his men and for that he’s awarded a top military honor, but also receives an honorable discharge. He’s left severely crippled with no chance of achieving his goal.

It isn’t until Marcus spares the life of a slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), that he begins to heal and his hopes to restore his family’s name become a top priority yet again. Marcus’ Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland) purchases Esca and names him Marcus’ personal slave. Insisting he has no need for a servant, Marcus is resistant to Esca’s presence, but the two soon grow close to one another. When Marcus hears a rumor that the golden eagle has been spotted, their newfound friendship is really put to the test. Together, they ride into the brutal land of Caledonia to do the impossible and bring the golden eagle home to Rome.

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Review: The Way Back

No, it’s not right to knock a film for a lengthy runtime, but if a movie is pushing two hours, it better be able to justify it. In The Way Back’s case it does – kind of. While the first portion of the film drags considerably despite impressively effective imagery, it isn’t until over an hour into it that things really become compelling. There’s nothing wrong with a film that saves the best for last, but it still needs to be entertaining while you’re waiting for the good stuff and The Way Back comes a little too close to missing that mark.

In the midst of Stalin’s Reign of Terror, Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is sent to a Siberian gulag after his wife is coerced into convicting him of espionage and criticizing the Communist Party. It doesn’t take long for Janusz to realize he’ll never survive his 20-year sentence and dreams of freedom. As the conditions worsen with the prisoners being forced to brave terrible blizzards and live on measly portions of food, other inmates become aware of Janusz’s plan and together they make their escape.

There’s Mr. Smith (Ed Harris), the stoic American, Valka (Colin Farrell), one of the few real criminals in the camp, Zoran (Dragos Bucur), a former accountant, Tomasz (Alexandru Potocean), a sketch artist who survived in the camp by selling pictures of naked women, Voss (Gustaf Skarsgard), a priest and Kazik (Sebastian Urzendowsky), the youngest of the bunch who suffers from night blindness. Together they must brave the wilderness, the elements and the Communist regime in order to trek south to safety in Mongolia.

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Review: Kick-Ass

Real superheroes are so overrated. Superman is super fast and strong, Batman’s smart and has a serious stash of cash and Spider-Man can scale walls and sling webs, but do any have the geeky innocence of Kick-Ass, a mouth as foul as Hit Girl, an equal affection for firearms and hot chocolate with extra marshmallows like Big Daddy or a Mohawk as out of control as Red Mist’s? Kick-Ass creates a connection between fan and hero like never before. There’s no supernatural prowess, just one average Joe showing another what he can do with a secret identity and two sticks to whack people with.

Who doesn’t walk out of a superhero movie wishing they could don a cape and fight some crime? I’d like to say the large majority, however nobody acts on the impulse. That all changes in Kick-Ass. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides the time has come for the average teenager to go incognito and kick some ass, or, in his case, get his ass kicked. Clad in a green and yellow scuba suit, Kick-Ass ventures out into public to save someone’s day. After a considerable mishap, he returns for another go-around and winds up triumphant. An onlooker videos the entire battle and Kick-Ass becomes the latest YouTube sensation.

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Review: Sherlock Holmes

I’ve got a mystery for Sherlock Holmes to solve, the what-the-heck-is-going-on-in-this-movie mystery. Perhaps the detective work in Sherlock Holmes would have been fun if director Guy Ritchie invited the audience to be a part of it. Instead he delivers a bloated script almost entirely impossible to connect to. Give the basic information, show some action and get on with it!

The film opens with a deviant Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) nabbing Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) in the midst of one of his satanic rituals, stopping him just before he can take the life of another young woman. Case closed, right? Wrong! Blackwood seemingly rises from the dead freaking out just about everyone from the lowliest London resident to lead police Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan). They should be worried because Blackwood has plans to take over the world using potions, booby traps and a whole lot of connivery.

The resurgence of the Blackwood case puts a snag on Watson’s (Jude Law) plan to move out of 221B Baker Street to start a life with the woman he hopes to marry, Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). Holmes isn’t pleased to lose his housemate, doctor, partner and friend, but is satisfied with Watson’s inability to pass on assisting him with the Blackwood case. To complicate matters further, Holmes is visited by his beautiful yet manipulative old flame Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams).  She’s covertly been employed by an ominous dark figure trying to solve the mysteries behind Blackwood’s activities for himself.

If only it were that simple. Sherlock Holmes’ plot is ridiculously complex making it extremely difficult to get into. It doesn’t help that the majority of the first half of the film is only moderately entertaining. You’re forced to put your mind to work in order to keep up with the action only to realize the payoff isn’t even worth the effort. By the time you reach any decent action sequences you’re so exhausted you’d rather just fast forward to the end.

The film’s sole high point comes a little over half way through the film, the slaughterhouse scene. This is a brilliantly shot and perfectly paced sequence guaranteed to get your heart racing. The stakes are high for about twenty minutes, but the exhilaration slowly fizzles out leaving you bored, yet again.

Downey, Jr. puts on a good show, but is drowned in a talk-heavy script. Yes, I know the whole play-by-play during which Holmes dissects the evildoer’s plot is part of his shtick, but after a number of go-arounds it’s enough. Just save the day already and let’s get on with it. Holmes’ bickering with Watson is the toughest material to get through. Their relationship comes across as a cheap and staged bromance, nothing more. Rachel McAdams lands in an ineffectual hole herself. Her costumes are tackier than those featured in a wholesale prom catalogue and her character a mere inadequate nuisance further complicating the story.

The one cast member that makes any impact is Strong. He’s dark, ominous and retains a degree of obscurity that leaves you wondering. His mystifying nature accentuates Holmes’ grandest fault, his lack of mystery. There isn’t one moment in the entire film that you doubt his abilities. Every instance from the ultimate solving of the case down to each mini-battle, you know Holmes will emerge victorious. Take away any insecurity and you wind up with an action film sans peril. Or, in other words, just a plain old dull movie.

Luckily the scenery, cinematography and score are entertaining enough to not make the entire film go by at a snail’s pace. When you’ve got a protagonist like Holmes who feels the need to dissect every hiccup of a situation, you’ve got to pay close attention to the details. Clearly great attention was paid to recreating Victorian London. There’s tons of eye candy to ogle on the streets and loads to be discovered in clutter-heavy locations like Holmes’ apartment and laboratory setups. Other details that appear to have been on the top of Ritchie’s list is Downey, Jr.’s buff bod. The slo-mo beat down shots are fantastic. If only Ritchie didn’t get carried away and feel the need to indulge in the parlor trick one too many times. The element entirely responsible for the film’s barely passable pace is the score. Hans Zimmer’s work deserves a better film. He provides Sherlock Holmes with a fresh but time-appropriate sound that never outshines the action taking place, yet makes it tolerable.

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Interview: Emily Blunt is The Young Victoria

It’s always a challenge to accurately portray a particular character. The actor must appease the expectations of the director, the writer and the producers. Yes, he or she must also gain the approval of the audience, but that’s after the fact. In the case of a period piece, the actor must think beyond the filmmakers and consider the approval of any administrations involved, having the character resonate with unfamiliar foreign audiences and, most importantly, having an in depth knowledge of who this figure really was in every facet.

The Young Victoria stars Emily Blunt as the princess who ascends the throne at just 18 years old. Looked upon as young and easily influenced, an assortment of royals, even her own mother (Miranda Richardson), pressures her to make decisions for their personal gain rather than the good of the country. It isn’t until her budding relationship with her cousin Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) transitions into a marriage that she realizes, unlike everyone else in her life, he has no intentions of being controlling and overbearing, just to be her loving husband and equal.

ComingSoon.net had the opportunity to attend a roundtable interview with the actress who enlightened us on the burdens and joys of taking on such a dynamic and historically significant character.

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Review: The Young Victoria

I tend to avoid costume period dramas. I find them tiresome to the point that British English sounds more like Chinese than the dialectic most similar to American English. It goes in one ear and out the other as my mind dissolves into oblivion. The same thing happens to you? I’m not surprised considering the rotten reception this genre of film typically gets in the U.S. But I implore you, rethink your preconceived notions and give The Young Victoria a chance. Yes, it’s talky and stately, but it has a degree of humanization making it far more enjoyable and relatable than others of its kind.

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