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.
Breaking and Entering is sometimes contrived as films of this sort tend to be but is executed smoothly enough by screenwriter/director Anthony Minghella to succeed on some levels. Will (Jude Law) is an architect whose office in the seedier King’s Cross area of London is ransacked by thieves. He tracks one of them down and encounters Amira (Juliette Binoche) a Bosnian immigrant single mother with whom he becomes infatuated. Their illicit relationship ultimately has unforeseen consequences for all concerned including Will’s girlfriend (Robin Wright Penn) and Amira’s son Miro (Rafi Gavron). There aren’t many laughs but the film does try to offer an insight into what drives – and impedes – its characters’ emotional impulses Law is good Binoche is better than good and Wright Penn is better than usual. If there’s one element that elevates Breaking and Entering to a higher level it’s the performances. Vera Farmiga who played the only female role of any consequence in The Departed delivers a scene-stealing turn as a resilient Bosnian streetwalker while the always-welcome Ray Winstone turns up (all too briefly) as a canny cop. Given the success of Paul Haggis’ Crash and the films of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu it’s no surprise that other filmmakers are adopting the same attempting to cure (or at least address) various social issues by having disparate characters whose seemingly random interactions have consequences (both good and bad) for all concerned. Minghella an Oscar winner for The English Patient does have a knack for bringing out the best – or at least the good – in his actors even those in smaller roles. At least Breaking and Entering is more comfortably paced than Minghella’s last film the picturesque but lugubrious adaptation of Cold Mountain.
Miller plans white wedding
Actress Sienna Miller will fulfill her childhood dream when she marries film hunk Jude Law-- and wed in a traditional white wedding gown. The Alfie beauty accepted Law's proposal on Christmas Day after he presented her with a glistening diamond engagement ring, and she's already excitedly planning her wedding day. Miller--who yesterday said she was "the happiest girl alive"--is also determined to exchange vows in the presence of God. She says, "I want a big church wedding--it's always been my dream to marry in white. We haven't set a date, but I'm ecstatic."
Wahlberg considers Marky Mark return in Germany
Mark Wahlberg fears he'll have to one day return to the stage as rapper Marky Mark to repay a debt he owes in Germany. The movie star turned his back on his Marky Mark alter ego years ago but admits he left one former business manager demanding one more show. He says, "They'll probably call me saying I owe them from the last time. "A buddy of mine was running this company. I told him I would do a record if he gave me the money to go in the studio and mess around and it never came out." Wahlberg admits if the pal ever calls him on the favor, he'd consider bringing Marky Mark out of retirement for just one show. He adds, "If they'll pay me, (I'll do a) 35 minute set."
Renee planning a New England move
Renee Zellweger is planning to quit Los Angeles for good after she's finished promoting her new movie The Cinderella Man and set up home in New England. The actress tells the new issue of W magazine that she's had enough of life in Hollywood and wants to concentrate on writing books and music in the New England countryside.
Cruz found loneliness in Hollywood
Penelope Cruz led a "very lonely" existence when she first moved to Hollywood, because she didn't have any friends or family nearby. The actress abandoned a successful acting career in her native Spain to seek fame and fortune in Tinseltown, and soon landed roles in 2000 films Woman on Top and All The Pretty Horses. She further shot to prominence starring alongside Johnny Depp in 2001 blockbuster Blow. But she insists fame and success didn't come easily: "If you don't have friends in Hollywood, you can feel very lonely. I certainly did at the beginning, you know, it was really hard for me then. "I was living at a hotel for a long time and didn't know anybody, so it was pretty hard."
Clooney beats Pitt in sex appeal poll
George Clooney has triumphed in the latest round of his sex appeal battle with pal Brad Pitt, having topped a new poll listing Hollywood's hunkiest men. The Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve cast mates are regular competitors for the number one honor in similar surveys across the world--a light-hearted rivalry they've allowed to enter their friendship. But on this occasion it's Clooney who'll have the opportunity to stand proud in the presence of his pal, after scoring the most votes in a survey of 700 visitors to London's waxwork museum Madame Tussauds. Meanwhile, recent mum Julia Roberts was crowned the sexiest woman.
Branson in mile-high club
Virgin tycoon Richard Branson once had sex on a plane with a complete stranger. The star of reality TV show The Rebel Billionaire was just 18 when he got passionate with the passenger sitting next to him in the economy class section. Their brief encounter ended when they landed and he discovered she had a boyfriend. Branson recalls, "I was about 18-years-old and it was with somebody I met on the plane going to Los Angeles. "We were sitting in economy, and we had a blanket and one thing led to another. I remember her getting off the plane and rushing into the arms of her husband or boyfriend."
Baby and Sideways share honors at Texas Awards
Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and wine drinking comedy Sideways shared the spoils at the Dallas-Fort Worth Critics Association's 11th annual prize giving in Texas. Eastwood's boxing drama claimed the Best Film prize and the movie's star, Hilary Swank, was named Best Actress, while Sideways stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen claimed the remainder of the acting awards. Other winners in Dallas and Fort Worth were French film A Very Long Engagement (Best Foreign Film), Fahrenheit 9/11 (Best Documentary) and The Incredibles (Best Animated Film).
Stone blames Alexander flop on 'homophobic' America
Director Oliver Stone has slammed American audiences as homophobic, and blames this prejudice as the reason why his latest movie Alexander flopped in the US. Stone expects the epic biopic, which stars Colin Farrell as bisexual Alexander the Great, to perform better in Europe as he believes Europeans have a better understanding of ancient history. He says, "Americans don't read about ancient history like the Europeans. And in America there is a raging fundamentalism and morality. From day one the Bible Belt people did not show up because there was one phrase throughout the media and that was 'Alex the gay'. So you can bet your a*s the Americans aren't going to see a war hero who in their heads has something wrong with him. But I don't regret what I have made here for a minute. It's the epic of my life."
Movie bosses warned to accurately portray albinism
Movie director Ron Howard is being advised to tread carefully when filming the movie adaptation of novel The Da Vinci Code this year, by not permitting albino stereotypes. The National Organization For Albinism And Hypopigmentation (NOAH) has asked film bosses to make sure the upcoming movie doesn't portray its albino character as a red-eyed psychopath. NOAH president Mike Mcgowan says, "One huge problem with (author Dan Brown's book) The Da Vinci Code is how (the character of) Silas is described with red eyes. That's a myth. Most often in people with albinism the eyes are light blue or even hazel. "Ron Howard can make a big difference for people with albinism by continuing the trend away from a hack device if they adjust the Silas character to not be an evil albino. "Over the years the stereotyping and misinformation foisted on the albinism community by film-makers does real harm to real people." Tom Hanks has signed up to star in The Da Vinci Code, which is slated for a mid-2006 release.
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