Forget that the latest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping romance novel comes from the man who brought us the slick-but-stuffy Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Every frame of director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is a wonder to behold overflowing with visual spectacle and roaring performances. Keira Knightley Jude Law Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the rest of the cast fit perfectly in the high drama epic but it's really Wright's playground. Following Hanna an artful spin on the action movie Wright returns to the period drama but injects it with dazzling daring choices. A book like Anna Karenina could once fit in reality but its larger-than-life legacy precedes it. Wright acknowledges that from frame one approaching the film like a grand ballet or opera where grand gestures broad emotions and overt theatrics are commonplace. That vision clicks transforming Anna Karenina into an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
The storyline of Anna Karenina isn't far off from a daytime soap: It's 1874 and Anna (Knightley) is floating through existence as the wife of influential government player Karenin (Law). But when her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) summons her to Moscow to save his marriage Anna's entire world is shaken up. She meets Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) a cavalry hunk who finds himself smitten with the taken lady. She's in the same boat: The two strike up a flirtatious relationship that evolves into one of sexual passion. A scandalous affair would incite trouble in the preset day but in the 19th century it's the ultimate crime. Quickly Anna's life comes crumbling down.
The intertwining melodrama of Anna Karenina earned the novel its classic status but Wright uses the material as a launching pad for imagination rather than a tome to translate to screen. Many of the scenes are staged in a theater creating an instant awareness of the production. Sets shift and are reconstructed into new rooms; actors costume change in the span of single shots; action sequences like a thrilling horse race are conducted on stage with special effects you might see on Broadway. Wright works this sort of stylization in the other direction too; a character could walk an empty stage open a door and suddenly be on a snow-covered hill. Anna Karenina isn't the first film to use the effect but in Wright's hands it's exhilarating.
The movie is Wright's third collaboration with Knightley and easily their most successful. Knightley never struggles to stay on the same page as the heightened material whether she's nailing a dance sequence or breaking down in a flood of tears. Casting an ensemble around Knightley is no easy task but Taylor-Johnson gives his best work yet as the debonair love interest and Macfadyen steals the show with moments of physical comedy.
We have expectations of the texture and structure of period romances. Anna Karenina defies them. Masterpiece Theater it is not.
It’s never a pleasant thing to be standing on the outside looking in. This is no less true of film fandom. No matter what the object of widespread cinephile affection, if the fanbase is large enough, a nonfan can feel as if there is something they are fundamentally missing. Take the Resident Evil franchise, a spate of films that began life as a videogame series before being adapted for the screen not once, five times. This is a remarkable feat when one considers how the vast majority of videogames adapted to film do not enjoy more than a single, often spectacularly underwhelming, entry.
Critical beatings notwithstanding, none of the previous four Resident Evil films failed to rake in at least $100 million worldwide; the last installment earning a formidable $296 million in total box office gross. So with Resident Evil: Retribution about to invade theaters, the lingering question remains for those who don’t count themselves fans: what is the appeal? Rather than cram in another round of viewings, once again letting personal biases color objective understanding, it seemed more logical to ask the fans themselves.
One of the most overwhelmingly recurring reasons most fans tended to voice support for this film series has to do with its lead character Alice and the actress who plays her: Milla Jovovich. Resident Evil proponent Noah Lee states that the heart his appreciation was “watching Milla kick the [stuffing] out of zombies.”
“I have a thing for hot women that kick ass,” adds fan Jen Morocco. This sentiment is likewise held by Rod Paddock, who affirms, “It’s fun watching Milla kick ass.” Apparently, Milla’s propensity for connecting boot to enemy posterior is a major draw. Even those who have begun to check out as the franchise has progressed acknowledge this. “Milla is the only reason I’m still watching,” admits Mico Low.
This is an argument that’s easy to understand, and probably represents the most legitimate root cause for the franchise’s continued financial success. The sad truth is that far too few actresses have been given the opportunity to shine in action films since the genre was created. That’s not to say there haven’t been females featured prominently, some even in formidable leads, but the frequency of something like, say, a woman headlining an action franchise was abysmally low. Enter Resident Evil. Though the films may fall well short of capturing the imaginations of scores of detractors, it is impossible to deny the new age of gender equality in action cinema it ushered in.
The action itself, not surprisingly, also appears to be a big draw for fans of the Resident Evil series. “They can be a bit cheesy at times, but the blood and guts and action is why I keep watching,” confesses Brandon Jones. There’s no doubt violence is a prominent costar in the franchise, something fans of this genre can certainly appreciate, no matter the individual film.
One fan, Matthew Marko, constructs an interesting simile for what it is that makes the action of these particular films so appealing: “It's like a kid playing with very expensive action figures,” he says. The action figure comparison may be especially apt, as many would argue the franchise’s emphasis on spectacle over-trifling things like story plays to more juvenile sensibilities. “They are just so much fun if you are willing to check your brain smarts at the door,” offers Dan Hatton.
One evident misconception to which an outsider may be beholden is that a key element to the appeal of the Resident Evil movies is fandom of the Resident Evil games. The assumption is reasonable; the truth, however, is far less simplistic. “There are elements from the games, but that's about it. I wouldn't refer to them as faithful adaptations in the slightest,” says First Showing’s James Wallace, with Michael Scally adding, “They are so far removed the games.”
Is this divergence really such a bad thing, considering certain content from the games? Some would argue attempts at faithful adaptation have actually hurt the film franchise in the past. “Jill being mind-controlled by a cleavage bugbot was stupid within the game's own universe. Why bring it over?” ponders Scally. Movies.com’s Peter Hall points out, “I've liked the entire series. [It] gets increasingly sillier, which puts it closer to the games.” So while a few elements have been ported over from the game, perhaps it’s a similarity in tone that appeals to both the gamers and the action fans.
There seems to be plenty within the Resident Film universe to engender fondness within a fanbase. It is also interesting to note how fans defend the entries they feel to be superior. Among the many reasons Brian Broadus enjoys the first film is his conviction that “the soundtrack is badass, the ending is killer and it's the only Resident Evil movie that even tries to be a horror flick.” Others, however, feel the third entry is the best. “It was directed better," claims Denis McElwaine. "It had no bad looking rubber suits and it had an almost credible The Birdsem reference." Actor A.J. Bowen also champions third installment Resident Evil: Extinction, as he notes, “it has an actual post-apocalyptic tone and the aesthetic doesn't work against itself.”
The fans have spoken, and their support for this franchise is far from unreasonable. The root causes of their appreciation for the Resident Evil movies echo those at the heart of so many beloved action films. Some of us may still reside on the outside, but after hearing the insights of diehard fans like these, we may be ready to kick down the barriers that preclude our affinity and give Resident Evil: Retribution a fair shake.
[Photo Credit: Screen Gems]
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Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
Russell Crowe allegedly lost his temper with a New York hotel employee this morning after the man failed to connect the actor's phone call to his family in Australia.
Crowe had just arrived in New York following a seven-hour flight from Manchester, England, where he had spent Sunday watching a boxing match between Kostya Tszyu and Ricky Hatton, to spend several days in the Big Apple promoting his new film Cinderella Man.
Crowe was arrested at 4:20am and charged with second-degree assault after allegedly throwing a telephone at the Mercer Hotel worker, who was treated at St Vincent's Hospital for a minor cut.
The Oscar-winning actor was reportedly desperate to phone his wife Danielle Spencer and 16-month-old son Charlie at home in Australia.
New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Michael Wysokowski says, "He was upset because he couldn't get a call out to Australia. He threw a phone at the employee hitting him in the face and causing a minor laceration."
Crowe hit the headlines twice in 2002 for his violent temper. At February's BAFTA Awards in London, he admitted to being "abusive" and "behaving unreasonably" towards the event's director Malcolm Gerrie, after he learnt Gerry had edited his Best Actor acceptance speech for broadcast.
The following November Crowe fought with fellow New Zealander, Eric Watson, in a London restaurant, although no police charges were filed.
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