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Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Redmayne’

Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman

“THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7” My rating: A- (Now streaming on Netflix)

129 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In the year’s most fortuitous marriage of filmmaker and subject matter, Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” delivers a superbly scripted and acted mini-epic torn from recent American history.

Along the way it proves conclusively that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” natch) and based on real events of 1968-69, “Trial…” is packed with great moments and knockout perfs. Awe-inspiring in its ability to take a complex subject and examine it from myriad points of view, the film will leave viewers amused, infuriated and inspired.

That it also deals heavily in themes of  official misbehavior only makes it more relevant to a time in which the tools of government are routinely twisted to serve the corrupt whims of the White House.

Sorkin, who both scripted and directed, kicks things off with a kaleidoscopic sequence that explains, in superb cinematic shorthand, the philosophical differences among the various rabble rousers who will come to be known as the Chicago 7.

Middle-aged David Dellinger(John Carroll Lynch) is a suburban family man and literal scoutmaster preparing to go to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago to protest the Vietnam War.  He’s so totally into non-violence that one of his legal team later admits: “You’re a conscientious objector who sat out World War II.  Even I want to punch you.”

In a similar vein, youthful activists Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis (Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp) plan peaceful protests in Chicago. They want to change society through the ballot box.

Yippie leaders Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong of HBO’s “Succession”)  take a more anarchistic view. If punched, they claim, they’ll punch back. In the meantime, they’ll mock authority.

Finally there’s Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who tells us: “Martin’s dead. Malcolm’s dead. Bobby (Kennedy) is dead. Jesus is dead.  They tried it peacefully. We gonna try something else.”

One of Sorkin’s flashes of genius is to not show us the Chicago riots until later in the film, when we see them in flashbacks as testimony is delivered.

Instead the film jumps from the preparations for Chicago to the convention’s aftermath, when Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell (John Doman) orders U.S. attorney Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to indict the leading agitators for conspiring to cross state lines to incite riots against.  Schultz is a reluctant participant; though he has little in common with the men he will prosecute, he doubts the legitimacy of the government’s case. Nevertheless, he forges on.

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Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne

“THE AERONAUTS”  My rating: B  (Now showing at the Glenwood Arts; on  Amazon Prime Dec. 20)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

An aerial thriller packed with gobsmacking visual splendors, “The Aeronauts” is also historically based…though not so much as to let facts muck up our enjoyment.

In 1862 two Londoners — one a sort of female daredevil and the other a stuffy scientific sort — risk their lives on a balloon ride into sky. Their goal is to set an altitude record for human survival…at that time about 20,000 feet.

They’ll go considerably higher than that.

Our protagonists are Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones), an experienced balloonist thanks to her late lamented husband, and James Glashier (Eddie Redmayne), who is something of a laughing stock in the science community for his theories on weather prediction.

For her the ascent is a chance to commune privately with the spirit of her dead love and revel in the wonders of our atmosphere; for him this initial ride into the sky will allow him to take measurements that will bring about understanding of the nature of this envelope of air in which our Earth resides.

There really was a James Glashier, although in 1862 he was an overweight middle-aged husband and father and already respected in scientific circles. Amelia Wren, however, is the fictional creation of director Tom Harper and co-writer Jack Thorne, an obvious attempt to create a heroic female protagonist who will resonate with women viewers.  Not that I’m complaining.

The film begins with the pair’s sendoff before a wildly cheering crowd in a London park.  Amelia arrives in paint and shortened petticoats to do cartwheels before the wicker gondola and pose prettily.  Glashier is embarrassed by all the show-biz hoopla.

But before long they’re airborne for a ride that in just 90 minutes will test them to the limit.

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Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne

“FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM”  My rating: C

133 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

There’s some magic in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” but it’s all courtesy of the special effects and design departments.

Dramatically speaking, this attempt to expand the “Harry Potter” franchise is stillborn. Not even the usually screen-dominating Eddie Redmayne can give it a compelling head or heart.

Based on an original screenplay by “Potter” creator J.K. Rowling (who also produced this film),  “Fantastic Beasts…” is a prequel unfolding in the 1920s. This setting gives the set and costume designers plenty to play with, and their vision of Jazz Age New York City — and the parallel wizarding world that coexists with it — is rich and evocative.

Would that the same could be said for the story and characters.

Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, a British wizard who comes to the Big Apple with a small suitcase filled with fantastic creatures. Eventually we learn that he’s a sort of Marlon Perkins on a mission to preserve magical species on the verge of extinction. Much of the film consists of chase scenes in which Newt tries to recapture escapees from his luggage.

Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell

The first one, involving a platypus-like creature that gobbles up jewelry and precious metals, is mildly amusing. Things go downhill from there.

Newt finds that America’s wizarding world is in crisis. The Magical Congress of the U.S.A., the governing institution, has been fighting a losing battle to keep wizardry a secret from the Muggles (only the Yanks call them No-Mags…as in “no magic”). But their cover is being blown by the depredations of some sort of malevolent magical creature that is leveling entire blocks of Manhattan.

Newt’s guide through North American wizardry is Porpetina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a sort of bob-coiffed lady detective who has taken it upon herself to police these mysterious happenings.

And he unwittingly gets a sidekick, a roly poly and somewhat bumbling human named Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, who immediately begins stealing scenes from his Oscar-winning costar. In fact Fogler’s disbelieving No-Mag is the single best thing in the film, and his romance with Porpentina’s psychic sister  Queenie (Alison Sudol) provides the only charm and genuine emotion.

Something’s amiss when the second bananas eclipse the leads.

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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.

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Mila Kunis...saving Earth

Mila Kunis…saving Earth

 

“JUPITER ASCENDING” My rating: D+

127 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Fate does no favors for filmmakers by giving them early artistic or commercial success.

Two words:  Orson Welles.

Two more words: The Wachowskis.

Their latest, “Jupiter Ascending,” is borderline unwatchable.

Siblings Andy and  Larry (now Lana) Wachowski hit the big time in a big way in 1999 with “The Matrix,” which was hailed as both terrifically popular entertainment and hugely savvy moviemaking.

It’s pretty much been downhill since then: Two “Matrix” sequels of rapidly deteriorating quality, the flawed “V  for Vendetta,” the awful “Speed Racer,” the ambitious but muddled “Cloud Atlas.”

Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne

“Jupiter Ascending” throws together a bunch of ideas cobbled together from pop culture and science fiction sources, revs them up with an assault of noise and visuals, and makes some pretty good actors look like amateurs.

It begins way out in space where the three immortal Abrasax siblings — the imperiously evil Balem (Eddie Redmayne), the scheming-but-charming Titus (Douglas Booth) and the seemingly empathetic Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) — are arguing over the inheritance left by their late mother.

Among her holdings is a planet called Earth, whose residents are unaware that they soon will be harvested for the essential juice that allows the Abrasax to retain their youths indefinately.

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Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe

“MY WEEK WITH MARILYN” My rating: B- 

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

An actress portraying Marilyn Monroe faces the same daunting obstacles as an actor playing Jesus.

No matter how good your performance, it pales in comparison to the real thing.

Michelle Williams, one of our finest young actresses, does a perfectly credible job as the  immortal blonde sex symbol in “My Week with Marilyn,” a melodrama unfolding during the filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl” in London in 1957.

But as good as Williams is, not once did I mistake her for Marilyn. It’s a passable impersonation, but no one will ever fill the screen the way Monroe did.

Simon Curtis’ feature directing debut  (after a long career in television)  is based on “The Prince, The Showgirl and Me” and “My Week with Marilyn,” Colin Clark’s memoirs about his experiences as a young production assistant on the film. (more…)

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