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.
The idea of bringing a singing show contestant's life to screen may conjure up horrible memories of From Justin to Kelly, but based the talent lined up for One Chance, the story of Britain's Got Talent breakout Paul Potts, reality TV may be a deeper well of drama than one might think. Speaking to Hollywood.com in an interview for his new movie Hope Springs (which hits theaters August 8), director David Frankel revealed his approach to turning the story of a mobile-phone-store-manager-turned-opera-singer to life, along with new casting that solidify the project as one to watch.
"I don't know if all the deals are set, but I can tell you that it's Julie Walters, Colm Meany, Mackenzie Crook and a lovely young actress who actually worked [with Meryl Streep]," says Frankel. "Well, they didn't work together because she actually played the young Maggie Thatcher in the Iron Lady. Alexandra Roach. I have a text [from Meryl]: 'Hire her!'"
The quartet join James Corden, set to take on the role of Potts. The actor most recently won the Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his role in One Man, Two Guvnors.
"He can sing. I don't know if he can sing opera," says Frankel. "I don't know exactly how we're going to do the singing yet, we're still working on it. It's just a great Billy Elliot/Fully Monty-ish little British movie that will really surprise people by in its universal appeal."
Potts wowed Britain's Got Talent audiences in 2007 with a performance Puccini's famed aria "Nessun dorma." News of the tear-jerker rendition quickly went viral — to date, a video of his stirring number has been viewed 97.7 million times. Spinning that bite-sized drama into something longer and interesting may be Frankel's biggest task for Once Chance. "That challenge is the Apollo 13 challenge. It's the 'how' of it. Enjoying the journey with him. Really, what we're familiar in the YouTube clip is the last three minutes of the movie. It's everything up to that point."
Frankel is heading to Europe this week to begin pre-production on the film, with a potential for a 2013 release.
Watch the original clip from Britain's Got Talent below and check back this week for our full interview with director David Frankel.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: WENN.com]
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"Boyfriend offically moved in today..Found this in his stuff. Erm.... He brought this with him.. Where's he hoping this is going?!" The Iron Lady star Alexandra Roach is baffled by her boyfriend's poster of Anne Hathaway dressed as Catwoman for the upcoming movie The Dark Knight Rises.
The star lost his battle with prostate cancer at the age of 82, and fellow Welshman Brydon has offered up his condolences.
In a post on his Twitter.com page, he writes, "So sad Victor Spinetti has died. The funniest story teller I've ever met and a lovely warm man. Proud to have been his friend."
The Iron Lady star Roach revealed a personal connection to Spinetti in her tribute, adding, "Sad news that Welsh actor Victor Spinetti has passed away. Memories of him reciting me poetry and by chance he was my Nan's first boyfriend!"
British actor Michael Ball declares, "My lovely friend Victor Spinetti has passed on, One of the kindest, funniest, most generous people in this business."
Roach, who is receiving praise for her portrayal of a young Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, will play the Queen in her twenties for Girls' Night Out - and she went to great lengths to impress producers.
She tells Britain's Daily Mail, "I went through the same process as when I auditioned for the part of Maggie so I arrived dressed as the Queen.
"I went to the same hairdressers where I live in Crouch End (north London) and they put my hair in hot rollers so I had a Forties wave. Then I bought a prom dress and kitten heels from my local charity shop.
"The producers were quite taken aback. People think I'm crazy taking on the Queen after Maggie, but I love playing real people."
Jagshemash! (Note: Excuse please any and all Borat-isms in this review. They've infiltrated our vernacular--just like they will yours! Chenquieh.) Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) a noted celebrity and TV talking head in his native Kazakhstan is set to travel to U.S. and A. for well make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan. With a camera crew and his show's director Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian) along for the ride Borat stops first in New York City. It is a nice! Like anyone from a faraway land he is amazed that his hotel room is larger than an elevator and by all the peoples on the subway and by Pamela Anderson. In fact he is so smitten after watching his first Baywatch episode that his mission has changed: He will go to California and marry Pamela and hopefully make a sexy time! Of course he and Azamat will still have to cross the country--in their ice cream truck--to get there stopping along the way in the biggest cities and smallest towns and seeing everything from "vanilla faces" and "chocolate faces" to women who get to choose their sexual partners. If Academy voters had any "khram" whatsoever they'd give Cohen an Oscars invite...which he'd promptly parlay into the opening scene for Borat 2. And who in their right mind wouldn't just kill to see that acceptance speech?! But I optimistically digress. Any breakdown of Cohen's inhabitance of his alter ego Borat--one of three from his beloved Da Ali G Show; he's reportedly set to immortalize Bruno his gay Austrian fashionista from the show next--reveals what is stealthily one of the best performance in years. Before you scoff consider the indisputable facts: In Borat Cohen is (a) pretending to be if not totally becoming someone else and (b) has positively just one take to nail each scene and nail each scene he does. If those don't comprise an amazing performance in the most fundamental sense then what's the criterion? And not to be forgotten in all that Cohen pulls off here is Borat's entire straight-faced diction--from the accent to the word usage--which audiences could appreciate more in earnest if their howls of laughter didn't overpower some of the dialogue but who can blame 'em? Lest we forget veteran actor Davitian (a California native!) has a hand in quite a bit of the madness as well. One of his scenes in particular will be burned into your memory for a long time to come. Oh you'll know it when you see it--it's the one that makes a Steve-O stunt look like PBS programming. Borat is admittedly not for everyone because some people just don't like to laugh! In all seriousness--and more so as an obligatory disclaimer--the movie is beyond offensive and some people will walk out. But the worst thing you can do is dismiss it even if you just skip it. Because underneath Cohen's mustache that puts Earl Hickey's to shame his soiled suit and his who's-gonna-know-it's-faux? Kazakh accent the British comedian is interested not in attacking America but rather in exposing its underbelly that is rarely vulnerable--in other words if he didn't want to wake people up with this film it would've been called Cultural Learnings of Switzerland (which still would've been pretty funny). Thus his intentions while not necessarily educational fall somewhere between hilarity and eye-opening satire--not vitriol. Director Larry Charles (Seinfeld Curb Your Enthusiasm Entourage) must have some stories to tell his grandchildren about the guerilla-style hit-and-run filmmaking that was executed but as co-writer star and character creator Cohen shoulders all the onus credit and death threats. His anonymity and privacy might take some hits too. Speaking of which he is indeed Jewish. Unfortunately for Cohen however he's not also black mentally or physically handicapped gay a female a gypsy a Kazakhstani or an animal. Which is to say loosen up people! Nobody goes untouched here least of all the man perpetrating the offenses.