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Tag: Adrien Brody

QuickView: Asteroid City (2023)

“I still don’t understand the play.”

Augie Steenbeck

Wes Anderson’s recent films have begun to feel like pastiches of his own work. Asteroid City trades his usual literary trappings for theatrical ones, a meta narrative providing monochrome sequences — narrated by Bryan Cranston — about a play that is represented by a full-colour film in traditional Anderson style. The increased artifice makes it more difficult to connect with these characters who are now characters being portrayed by actors who are played by actors (with nothing quite so pithy as Tropic Thunder’s “I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude.”). Ironically the most nuanced performance within the play is probably Scarlett Johanson’s… as a famous actress. The location, a desert town known only for its crater, feels less like a populated location than the empty shell of a theatrical set. It is unclear whether the 60s-era sci-fi technology is a deliberate anachronism or simple suited to Anderson’s aesthetic preferences. Although he blurs the edges at times, Anderson’s approach is neither as convoluted nor as ambitious as, say, Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York. That makes it easier to switch off and enjoy the contrivance for what it is, but there is little substance here.


QuickView: Ghosted (2023)

“She does travel a lot for work.”


After her brief, scene-stealing role in No Time To Die, Ana de Armas has been catapulted to the status of action lead, whilst Chris Evans steps back as the hapless everyman. A romcom action adventure about a farmer who discovers his one night stand is a CIA agent, Ghosted opens inauspiciously with a meet cute more awkward than romantic, and a man unable to recognise his stalkerish behaviour even when directly pointed out by his sister. Red flags aside, any romance is doomed by the independently charismatic leads’ palpable lack of chemistry. From the writers of Deadpool and Zombieland, one might expect a deft blend of violence, emotion and humour but Ghosted instead delivers tonal whiplash as it jumps from Cole’s distress at killing a man to petty “comedic” squabbling in a matter of seconds. Aside from a climactic fight in a revolving restaurant, there is nothing memorable about the action save for the decision to set it to upbeat pop songs — this is palpably a gimmick with none of the creative choreography of last year’s Bullet Train. There is some mild, mindless entertainment to be had with Ghosted but you’re better off taking the hint and moving on: there are plenty more films in the c-inema.


QuickView: See How They Run (2022)

“It’s a whodunit. You see one, you seen ’em all.”

Leo Kopernick

A theatrical whodunit set in London’s West End in the 1950s with a delightful ensemble cast, See How They Run is a comedy drama that draws you along for an entertaining ride rather that setting up a particularly compelling mystery for the viewer to solve as an active participant. Gleefully self-referential with its setting during the initial run of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap and machinations to adapt the play into a movie, it provides light satire of both the theatre and film industries. The ending is structurally foreshadowed without revealling the killer, but having the culprit ultimately reveal themselves unprompted is rarely satisfying. The journey is enjoyable, however, largely due to Mark Chappell’s deftly paced and witty script. Saoirse Ronan stands out as the enthusiastic but inexperienced constable, jumping to conclusions each time a suspect emerges. The cinematography juxtaposes the artificial opulence of the theatre with drab reality of the streets outside, Jamie Ramsey also being responsible for Living‘s recent depiction of period London. Brief split screen cuts are frequently deployed — used stylistically rather than for any narrative purpose — and the sudden changes to the aspect ratio can be jarring, feeling somewhat cartoonish. It is unlikely to be remembered beyond the end of the year, but See How They Run is a droll diversion despite its weaknesses as a whodunit.


QuickView: The French Dispatch (2021)

“There is a particular sad beauty… well-known to the companionless foreigner as he walks the streets of his adopted preferably moonlit, city. In my case, Ennui, France.”

Roebuck Wright

Whilst there has always been a literary chic aesthetic to Wes Anderson’s films, The French Dispatch is an ode to the art of long-form journalism — rather than being divided into chapters, this is really a collection of short films masquerading as articles. The fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé (literally “boredom on apathy”) is fittingly named, and even the colour palette eschews the bold saturation one expects from Anderson; yet within this disaffected community, the writers seek out — and perhaps manifest — absurdly colourful tales. The quality is distinctly uneven, Anderson seeming to have little to say with the content of the stories so much as their loquacious delivery. The most creative is also the most entertaining, a food review that morphs into an unpredictable heist. Although that earns the film a strong closing, it cannot resolve the disconnected narrative of a vapidly kitsch tale of student protest or a bizarrely aggressive travelogue. Fans of Wes Anderson will find plenty of details to enjoy, together with the de rigueur stellar ensemble cast, but The French Dispatch does not rank amongst his strongest work.


King Kong (2005)

director: Peter Jackson
starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody
running time: 187 mins
rating: 12A

King KongIn completing King Kong Jackson both fulfilled a childhood dream and showed just how valuable a well-timed remake can be, even if the original is as iconic a masterpiece as this. Another combination of Andy Serkis’ acting skills with Weta technology, we are granted an utterly real Kong, visually rather than just by drawing us into the fantasy world as with the previous films.

We follow struggling actress Ann Darrow [Naomi Watts] as she meets the untrustworthy filmmaker Carl Denham [Jack Black]. Pursued by creditors, he hires her as the lead for his picture, setting sail for the undiscovered Skull Island by following a map he has received. Scriptwriter Jack Driscoll [Adrien Brody] has also been tricked into joining them for the voyage. Once they reach the mysterious island, Ann is captured by the natives and offered to Kong, a gigantic ape. The ship’s crew mount a rescue mission across this prehistoric world to save Darrow and escape.

Carl Denham is intent on making his film at all costsMost will tell you that at over three hours the film is excessively long: it is not Lord of the Rings. However they will disagree over what should be cut. Over an hour is spent on establishment before we even see the beast, and Jackson delves into the backstories of all our characters. Although a proper understanding of Darrow and Denham’s motives is key, the history of the ship’s crew is somewhat unnecessary. Once the action begins, however, it is utterly riveting. It is any action adventure afficionado’s dream with man versus giant insects, man versus dinosaur, dinosaur versus Kong, and of course, man versus Kong. Skull Island’s creatures are phenomenal, peaking with a ten minute brawl between Kong and three tyranosaurs. For this alone, it is must-see on the big screen.

I cannot understand why Jackson, in the position to select any actor he pleased, took the risk of casting Jack Black. Whether it was a calculated gamble or blind luck I cannot tell, but despite being no fan of Black’s prior acting performances, here his straight performance has a caged intensity which perfectly captures the essence of Denham. Watts does well as Darrow, giving depth to her role and creating brilliant chemistry with a non-existent creature as she displays believable affection for Kong. Having Serkis on set must have aided this greatly. Her relationship with Kong is two-way, following the 1976 telling rather than the 1933 (incidentally for those who worry about continuity and such things, this incarnation of Kong is about 25 feet tall). Brody is an unlikely choice as the action hero and fares somewhat less well. Although he plays the scriptwriter role well, he’s often unconvincing later in the film. One remains incredulous that he could lead Darrow back across the island virtually unharmed when a band of well-armed sailors suffered so many casualties.

Kong inspects Ann Darrow curiouslyThe weakest portion of the film is probably the return to New York City. Although one of the finest special effects is this historical recreation, once Kong breaks loose we have the army called in when the ostensible body count is virtually zero. The closing lines are a horrible and rather abrupt end to a poignant demise. I suspect a director’s cut may alter this closing scene. The scenes which absolutely cannot be cut, and indeed it is doubtful could be improved upon, are the intimate moments between Darrow and Kong. Shots of them watching a sunset together and her dancing for him are astounding in both their beauty and sincere simplicity. The human expressions etched upon Kong’s face will remain with the viewer long after the movie ends.

Jackson has crafted a magnificent version of this tale, although it perhaps falls short of becoming the definitive version. However, for those introduced through this movie it will be difficult to rewatch the older incarnations because the visual standard is simply so high. This is certainly Kong for the current generation and creating a more believable and emotionally captivating Kong on film may well be impossible.

rating: 3/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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