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Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Redmayne’

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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