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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