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Posts Tagged ‘Alicia Vikander’

Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender

Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender

“THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS”  My rating: C+ 

  132 minutes | MPAA rating:  PG-13

There’s a world of weeping on display in “The Light Between Oceans.”

The good news is that most of the sobbing is done by Alicia Vikander.  If you’ve got to stare for two hours at a tear-stained face, it might as well be that of this Oscar-winning actress. She makes suffering almost transcendent.

The not-so-good news is that in making its transition from best seller to big screen, M.L. Stedman’s story has lost a good deal of its power.

For all the lacerating emotions displayed by Vikander and co-stars Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz, relatively little of it is experienced by the viewer.

What was deeply moving on the printed page seems mechanically melodramatic when dramatized.  You want to be moved, but can’t shake the feeling that mostly you’re being manipulated.

After four years in the trenches of World War I, Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender) returns to his native Australia a hollow man. Seeking solitude and time to rediscover himself, he signs up as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Island, a windswept hunk of rock 100 miles from the nearest coast.

But he won’t be alone for long. In one of the most satisfying passages in Derek Cianfrance’s film, he meets, woos and weds Isabel (Vikander), a local girl who seems to relish life on the island. Their’s is a civilization of two…the only thing that could make it better would be a baby to share the experience.

Fate has other plans.  Isabel suffers a miscarriage (during a hurricane, no less) and later gives birth to a stillborn child.  Things are looking pretty glum.

And then a rowboat floats in on the tide. Inside is a dead man and a baby girl. (more…)

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Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander

Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander

“THE DANISH GIRL” My rating: B 

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Eddie Redmayne had best clear a place on the mantel for his second (in as many years) Oscar for best actor.

In “The Danish Girl” the chameleonic Brit gives a quietly devastating performance as the world’s first recipient of a sex change operation.

The latest film from director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon (adapting David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel) is, depending upon how you choose to look at it, a story of personal triumph or one of tragedy.

In either case, there’s no arguing with the perfs of Redmayne or Alicia Vikander (another likely Oscar contender).

In the mid 1920s Einar Wegener (Redmayne) is the toast of the Copenhagen art scene. He does landscapes — actually the same landscape, with a grove of trees on the shore of a fiord, but he mixes it up enough that one is reminded of Monet painting the same haystacks over and over.

Wegner’s wife Gerda (Vikander) is a painter, too, albeit a frustrated one. Her portraits of the local bourgeoise aren’t lighting a fire under anyone.

When one of Gerda’s models, a ballerina, fails to show up for a sitting she asks her husband to pull on women’s hosiery and fill in for the missing beauty.  One set of legs apparently is as good as another.

Despite an initial protest, Einar  finds himself strangely moved by the experience. So much so that the couple decide that he will attend a local arts ball in woman’s clothing and a flapperish red wig. Gerda introduces this shy woman as Einar’s country cousin, Lili Elbe.

Einar is shocked and then pleased with a young man (Ben Wishaw) begins paying attention, even taking him/her to a private corner for a tentative kiss.

From that point on the artist prefers to spend his days as Lili. Einar begins to fade away.

Mishandled, this sort of material can come off as vaguely ridiculous, even campy.  Redmayne and Hooper are having none of that. Their thesis is that Lili has always lurked inside Einar. She is his true essence, and now she’s been freed.

(more…)

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Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

“BURNT” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Oct. 30)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There’s plenty of gastro porn on display in “Burnt”: fruits and veggies exploding in vibrant colors, lusciously marbled meats, clouds of steam and rings of blue flame, plates of edibles arranged with the precision/happy chaos of a modernist painting.

In most other regards director John Wells’ film about a megalomaniacal chef working his way toward redemption is standard-issue stuff. Yeah, it accurately captures the politics and pecking order of a high-end restaurant kitchen (as did the recent sleeper hit “Chef”).

But the big story, the big drama, never materializes.

The film has an invaluable asset in Bradley Cooper, who even when playing a dick oozes charisma. But this yarn (screenplay by Steven Knight, story by Michael Kalesniko) relies too much on stock characters and time-tested dramatic devices without ever digging deep.

Adam Jones (Cooper) is a once-acclaimed chef at a top Paris restaurant. But his career ran aground on drugs, drink and women (a common-enough narrative among this breed) and he retreated to New Orleans where he got sober, gave up sleeping around, and got a lowly job shucking oysters.  After working his way through exactly 1 million of the mollusks (he kept meticulous records of his shucking activities) Adam walked out the door and caught a flight to London.

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Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

“THE MAN FROM UNCLE” My rating: C+

116 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Having dragged down the great Sherlock Holmes to our world of short-attention-span cinema, Guy Ritchie now turns his camera on a fondly remembered TV series from the 1960s.

And, to give credit where it’s due, he has had the good sense to go easy on his usual hyperkinesis. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” isn’t particularly memorable, but it introduces some interesting ideas and avoids the most headache-inducing elements of this director’s style.

The original was television’s answer to the James Bond craze. Unlike the overtly satiric “Get Smart,” “U.N.C.L.E.” (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) took a dry, tongue-in-cheek approach to international spying.

And in Napoleon Solo (portrayed back in the day by Robert Vaughn) the series gave us an impossibly unruffled, cooler-than-cool protagonist, who could view his own imminent demise with sardonic indifference.  The series was so huge it spawned action figures, toy guns and much more — one of the lunchboxes even has a home at the Smithsonian now.

Ritchie and a small army of writers give us an origin story that is less impressive for its dramatic elements than for its painstaking re-creation of swinging Europe in the ’60s.

Things get off to a busy start when the nattily dressed Solo (Henry Cavill, the current Superman) enters squalid East Berlin to spirit Gaby (“Ex Machina’s” Alicia Vikander), a tomboyish auto mechanic, over the Berlin Wall to freedom.

Their escape is almost foiled by a Soviet agent (Armie Hammer), who with his slow-burn,  hulking presence and almost superhuman strength seems a close relation to Robert Shaw’s assassin in “From Russia With Love.”

(more…)

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