Daniel Craig Takes Role In George Clooney Nazi Art Drama

October 30, 2012 by  
Filed under News

James Bond star Daniel Craig has joined the cast of George Clooney’s Nazi art drama The Monuments Men, according to the Wrap.

The period film, which Clooney is co-writing and directing, is based on a real-life group of men and women who risked their lives to track down art stolen by Hitler during the second world war and prevent its destruction. Oscar-winners Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett are said to have signed on the dotted line, along with Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban.

Clooney is also taking a leading role as US army officer and leading art conservationist George Stout, who repatriated tens of thousands of pieces of art from the Nazis. At this stage it is not clear which role Craig, star of Sam Mendes’s new Bond film, Skyfall, is due to take.

Argo Review: Affleck’s Ascension

October 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Film Reviews

ARGO (15): on general release Wednesday 7th October

Following on from the critical success of 2010’s heist movie The Town, Argo sees Ben Affleck complete his transformation from the smug, hammy actor of Pearl Harbor, Daredevil and Gigli to one of Hollywood’s most exciting young directors.

Argo is based on the true events of November 4 1979, when the US Embassy in Iran was stormed by insurgents, who took 52 Americans hostage. Six managed to escape and found refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, though were sure to be killed if found out, so the CIA turned to “exfiltration” expert Tony Mendez to hatch a plan to spirit them back to home soil.

Inspired by a late-night showing of Battle For Planet of the Apes on television and his son’s love of sci-fi, Mendez (Affleck) goes cap-in-hand to his Hollywood contacts to producers to set up a bogus Star Wars-lite production to be ‘filmed’ in Tehran. The six detainees would then be given false identities as Canadian filmmakers, and snuck out of the country whilst ‘scouting’ set locations.

The film is shot through a grainy ‘70s lens and Affleck’s attention to detail in recreating the event and time period redefines notions of authenticity, with contemporary brand logos and products aplenty including the old Warner Bros titlecard at the beginning of the film. By the time the closing credits come round, images of the actors are placed next to their real-life counterparts and they all look remarkably similar, like bona fide doppelgangers. Stylistically, Argo feels like a long-lost ‘70s New Hollywood relic, and it channels political thrillers like Alan J. Pakula’s All The President’s Men.

Argo is not without its flaws, the characterisation is fairly weak: Mendez is too much of a determined workaholic to have any charisma, whilst the hostages are glum and uninteresting. Affleck fails to truly deal with the complexities of the revolutionary period, with the Iranians generally portrayed as an angry mob. Hollywood veterans John Goodman (as make-up artist John Chambers) and Alan Arkin (film producer Lester Siegel) are on hand to provide a few laughs along the way as the film pokes a bit of fun at the film industry.

The film’s conclusion takes a liberal dose of creative license as the Iranian authorities attempt to prevent the hostages from escaping the country: in real life the rescue mission was a lot less chaotic according to Mendez’s report. The race-against-time finale makes for an exciting third act though.

David Lintott is on Twitter and blogs at Donkey Rhubarb.

Ruby Sparks Review: Stranger Than Fiction

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Film Reviews

RUBY SPARKS (15): on general release Friday 12th October

Imagine you’re a neurotic single novelist, relatively successful but emotionally unfulfilled.

You’ve been suffering from writer’s block for a while and generally crumbling all over the place. After a period of introspection, you base the female protagonist of your latest novel on your dream girl, only for her to miraculously come to life as your lover. And here’s the icing on your love-cake: you’re able to influence everything she thinks, says and does through the words emanating from your typewriter. Flinging ethics to one side for a moment, the ability to wield godlike power would help you to iron out any difficulties the relationship faces. What could possibly go wrong?

Ruby Sparks is husband-and-wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ follow-up to the indie breakout film of 2006, Little Miss Sunshine. The film centres on genius writer Calvin (Paul Dano) who improbably brings to life a girlfriend called (you guessed it) Ruby Sparks, played by Zoe Kazan. He and can construct her to be everything he wants romantically, but will it really bring him happiness?

I’m a huge fan of Dano. He was brilliant as mute teenager Dwayne in Little Miss Sunshine, and more than held his own as milkshake-drinking priest Eli against World’s Greatest Actor™ Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. He’s on top form here as the fallible Calvin, demonstrating joy, bewilderment and despair that really humanises the character. Dano shines alongside Kazan, who also wrote the screenplay. It is no surprise that the pair are involved romantically in real life given the sizzling onscreen chemistry they share.

The film isn’t without its flaws. Though the two central characters of Calvin and Ruby are three-dimensional and engrossing, the other characters feel a bit like filler to pad out the film. Calvin’s brother Harry (Chris Messina) is on hand to offer advice, but he’s annoying and boorish. The extended sequence involving Calvin’s mother and her lover, played by Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas, interrupted the flow of the film and didn’t appear to serve any narrative purpose. Steve Coogan pops up in a mildly amusing cameo as a literary agent, playing a character not a million miles away from the tabloid perception of himself.

Far from your standard romcom fare, Ruby Sparks explores the nature of unbalanced relationships when one person has power to control the other, analysing how difficult relationships between two complex individuals can be. Initially appearing to be an amusing figment of Calvin’s imagination, Ruby becomes a complex, emotional character that is in turns excitable, quirky, needy, moody, disinterested and clingy just like a real life person – essentially an anti-Jennifer Aniston. As the film goes on and the couple’s relationship begins to unravel, the narrative takes a darker turn, exploring the morality of Calvin’s ability to direct Ruby’s actions.

Though ostensibly set in the realms of fantasy, Ruby Sparks is ultimately about how we construct ideas and notions of people we fall in love with based on how we want other people to be, often ignoring who they really are. The film exposes the dangers of attempting to reduce a person down to an imagined ideal.

Highly recommended.

David Lintott is on Twitter and blogs at Donkey Rhubarb.