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Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Hopkins’

Anson Mount

“THE VIRTUOSO” My rating: B- (In theaters)

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The hit man movie occupies a curious corner of the noir world. Invariably these efforts center on a ruthlessly efficient killer who finds himself emotionally involved with a target, experiencing twinges of guilt or generally questioning his choice of professions.

 Nick Stagliano’s “The Virtuoso” works a couple of intriguing variations on the usual setup.

The first and most interesting is voiceover narration that dispassionately describes the daily workings of a professional killer. This narration is provided by leading man Anson Mount, and compensates for the fact that on screen his character says almost nothing. So it’s kind of neat that we get to hear his thoughts as he goes about his deadly business.

“You’re a professional devoted to timing and precision. A virtuoso,” our antihero (identified only as the Virtuoso) offers.

Truth is, the Virtuoso appears to be a mystery even to himself. He lives in an isolated cabin. He seems to have no friends or acquaintances apart from the Mentor (Anthony Hopkins), who farms out contracts to our man and other pro killers. He doesn’t even have a pet, although from time to time he sets out a bowl of kibble for the feral dog that lives among the trees.

Early on the Virtuoso executes a murder, but there is collateral damage in the person of an innocent bystander. Apparently for the first time he feels remorse for killing…indeed, he is so unnerved by the experience that the Mentor — who normally communicates only by phone — shows up in person to check on his charge’s emotional state and to give a long graveyard monologue about how he and the Virtuoso’s father served together on an assassination squad in Vietnam. (This is about as much background as we’ll get on our leading character.)

Anthony Hopkins

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Anthony Hopkins

“THE FATHER” My rating: B (In theaters)

97 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Films about Alzheimer’s usually assume an outsider’s point of view, that of a family member or caregiver who must watch in dismay as a loved one goes through the downward spiral of forgetfulness, cognitive dissolution and physical and mental incapacity.

Florian Zeller’s “The Father,” on the other hand, attempts nothing less than to recreate  encroaching dementia as it is experienced by the patient. It’s an insider’s approach.

The film is less a conventional narrative than a series of disorienting scenes that force the audience — like the film’s title character — to ask what is real and what a delusion.

Adapted by Christopher Hampton from Zeller’s stage play, “The Father” relies on a narrative gimmick, yet Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-nominated lead performance is so compelling — by turns infuriating, puzzling and pathetic — that it bouys the entire production.

Things start out more or less conventionally.  Anne (Olivia Colman, also an Oscar nominee) has come to the spacious London flat of her father Anthony (Hopkins) to discuss his living situation.  The old man has chased off his third visiting nurse, accusing her of theft; Anne (a divorcee) is distraught  as this screws up her plans to move to Paris with her new boyfriend. Who’s going to be there for Dad?

Anthony wants nothing to do with caregivers. He swears by self-sufficiency and resents the intrusion of strangers into his neatly circumscribed world.

Listening to him you want to agree. Anthony is eloquent and even witty (albeit often scathingly critical, his jabs at poor Anne suggest not just indifference but overt cruelty); physically he seems perfectly okay. Yeah, he’s self-centered and often hears only what he wants to hear.  You can say the same about lots of  younger people.

Anthony can be a charmer. Look at the show he puts on for Laura (Imogen Poots), a young woman being interviewed by Anne as a replacement for the latest nurse to bail.  For this attractive visitor Anthony is bright-eyed and amusing, claiming to have been a professional tap dancer (he was an engineer) and even doing a soft-shoe across the living room rug.

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Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins

“THE TWO POPES” My rating: B+

125 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

At its best “The Two Popes” is a monumental acting duel that’ll leave viewers in open-mouthed amazement.

The subjects of Fernando Meirelles’ witty and ultimately heart-tugging drama are the German Joseph Ratzinger (Anthony Hopkins), who would become Pope Benedict XVI, and the Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), our current Pope Francis.

Essentially the tale told by screenwriter Anthony McCarten is one of the passing of power from one pope to the next, and how that exchange heralds a possible new beginning for Roman Catholicism. The details are fictional — the spectacularly wrought conversations McCarten delivers are his own creation — but the overall portrait he paints of these two men and the church they represent feels utterly true.

The film begins in 2005 with a convocation of cardinals to vote on a new pope.  Ratzinger — a dogmatic conservative deeply suspicious of efforts to modernize the Church — actively campaigns for the job.  He views the reform-minded Bergoglio, the favorite of the liberal cardinals, with thinly-veiled contempt.

As the two stand side by side at a sink in a Vatican restroom, Bergoglio absent-mindedly whistles “Dancing Queen.”  Ratzinger asks: “What is that hymn you’re whistling?”  Turns out he’s never heard of Abba.

A small moment, but an illuminating one. Ratzinger is an intellectual, emotionally remote, authoritarian, with little or no interest in popular culture. Even some of the faithful dismiss him as a “Nazi.”

Bergoglio is his polar opposite, a beloved charmer with the common touch, a man whose hobbies include tango dancing and soccer (for an Argentinian they are practically compulsory, he notes).

Ratzinger, of course, becomes the next pope.
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There’s absolutely no reason why any of us must see “Thor,” the latest Marvel Comics big-screen adaptation.

The good news is that if you do see it, there’s no harm done.

This is a surprisingly effective (I’m tempted to call it smart) addition to the superhero canon, a moderate success for a most unlikely filmmaker:  Kenneth Branagh.

The Irish-born Branagh, of course, is the theatrical wiz kid who burst upon the cinema scene with his terrific “Henry V” back in 1989 and who has periodically created and/or appeared in other Shakespearean films, among them “Othello,” “Hamlet” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”

His non-Bard movies, on the other hand, have been flops. While Branagh has proven himself a valuable supporting player in a variety of worthwhile films (“Rabbit Proof Fence,” the Harry Potter franchise), his credibility as a filmmaker for years has been on the skids. (more…)

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