Kenneth Branagh @ IFI

 

The Irish Film Institute has announced that acclaimed director Kenneth Branagh will visit the IFI on Friday, February 8th to take part in a Q&A following the 18.10 screening of his new film, All Is True. The five-time Oscar nominee will speak with Donald Clarke of The Irish Times.

All Is True explores the human story behind a dark and little known period in the life of William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh). The year is 1613 and Shakespeare is the greatest writer of the age. When his beloved Globe Theatre is burned to the ground, he decides to return to his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. There, he faces his neglected family. Still haunted by the death of his only son, Hamnet, he struggles to mend broken relationships with his wife, Anne (Judi Dench) and daughters. In so doing he is forced to examine his own failings as an absent husband and father. In the search for peace, he must also finally confront the dark heart of his family’s secrets and lies.

Based on an incisive script by Ben Elton, Branagh’s film is a melancholic, restrained portrait of the Bard’s final years.

Tickets, costing €14, are now available at www.ifi.ie or from the IFI Box Office on 01-6793477.

 

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Cinderella

 cinderella-trailer-new-ftr

DIR: Kenneth Branagh • WRI: Chris Weitz • PRO: David Barron, Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur • DOP: Haris Zambarloukos • ED: Martin Walsh • MUS: Patrick Doyle • DES: Dante Ferretti • CAST: Lily James, Hayley Atwell, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett

For viewers who are au fait with recent animation and fairy tale adaptations aimed at young children, Cinderella may come as something of a shock. Here, there are no winking jokes and pop culture references to keep parents entertained while their offspring awe at flashing images and oscillating soundtracks that will improve impossible-to-evade for years to come. No, what writer Chris Weitz and director Kenneth Branagh present us with here is a film that prefers to get by on its charm alone.

Charming it is. From the settings, which owe as much to the Jane Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et La Bete, as they do to the legacy of Marie Antoinette and Belle Epoque-era France, to Cinderella and Prince Charming, this is a film that entertains its audience by being as pleasing and inoffensive as possible.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, of course, but Cinders’ compliancy with the demands of her controlling step-mother – masterfully played here by Cate Blanchett – and idiotic step-sisters does seem questionable to modern audiences raised in the post-feminist, post-Bechdel test era. Why in God’s name does she put up with them without at least resorting to passive aggression? To honour her deceased mother’s advice to always be to kind in this situation is to allow herself to be, at the very, least used.

It is the job of Downton Abbey alumna Lily James, who plays Cinderella, then to convince viewers that her core goodness is such that in spite of such treatment her spirit will never be broken. James is an excellent choice for Cinderella possessed with the kind of pure-skinned beauty and seeming lack of guile that could very much belong to both country girl and princess, and could no doubt charm a Prince into searching a kingdom for her.

Audience members aware of the fairy tale’s original metaphorical use for the glass slipper being the perfect fit for Cinderella’s dainty feet (they have sex) will no doubt be rewarded by the breathy ecstasy exhibited by James when Scots actor Richard Madden as the Prince (or ‘Kit’ as he prefers and if you really must) places the shoe on her foot. Perfectly safe for children to watch, it’s snortingly amusing in context.

Other joys to behold are the costumes worn by Cate Blanchett in a villainous turn as Cinders’ step-mother and the outfits worn by Sophie McShera and Holliday Granger as her step-sisters. Here, Blanchett not so much channels Joan Crawford as Faye Dunaway playing Crawford in Mommy Dearest, while wearing a range of acidically-toned New Look by Dior-style dresses – she really is quite fabulous. Meanwhile, the costumes her daughters wear appear to have been inspired by chi-chi lap dogs and made from discarded Quality Street wrappers. They too are fabulous in wholly horrifying ways.

These outfits though are not the ones audience members will have been waiting for. That privilege, of course, belongs to the sparkling blue ball dress worn by James when her fairy godmother (an oddly toothy Helena Bonham Carter) transforms her for a night at the ball. The blue glittery piece of silk chiffon puff with corset waist is meant to pay beautiful tribute to the gown worn in Walt Disney’s animated version of this story from 1950, and probably does. It also looks like something Sarah Ferguson, the notoriously badly dressed Duchess of York would have worn circa 1987 but, unlike, Cinders and her Prince, we cannot have it all.

 

Alisande Healy Orme

G (See IFCO for details)
105 minutes

Cinderella is released 27th March 2015

Cinderella – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

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DIR: Kenneth Branagh WRI: Adam Cozad, David Koepp PRO: David Barron, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mace Neufeld, Mark Vahradian DOP: Haris Zambarloukos  ED: Martin Walsh MUS: Patrick Doyle  DES: Andrew Laws  Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh

I imagine writers of espionage thrillers must miss the Cold War terribly. A collective baddie of such implied menace as the socialism-wielding mother-Russians that ambled behind the Iron Curtain for the better part of fifty years last century has not been since. In such a manner may the Kenneth Branagh (helmed and starring) Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the latest in a series of attempts to kick-start Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst’s adventures as a franchise ongoing since his 1984 inception, be called a work of nostalgia; There is no shortage of big bad Russians or the sort of non-cynical plot structuring and exposition that was kicked unceremoniously to the curb by a certain Bourne lad a little over a decade ago.

The set-up and plot are nothing awe-inspiring to wow at. Jack Ryan (Chris Pine taking most of his cues from the highly watchable Harrison Ford outings) falls in love with his doctor (a surprisingly endearing Keira Knightley) moments before being recruited by a shady CIA operative (the always excellent Kevin Costner) to keep an eye on Wall Street for terrorism funding. Skip ten years and meet Branagh’s forgettable big bad who’s been doing something with stocks and bombs and looks like he may be trouble and we’re revving to go.

What is most surprising in this film is the places it soars and fails. The hidden career tension between Knightley’s Cathy and Ryan is surprisingly engaging but anything else occurring on American soil falls relatively flat. In fact, any credit this film is due is earned, for the most part, from the moment Ryan’s plane touches down in Russia.

Branagh’s camera has fun swooping around the city, through opulent hotel lobbies and shiny bank offices. Well over half the decor of each interior gleams a potentially offensive red and brings one to mind of Tony Monatana’s office. There is a sense in the scale of the city that Ryan is truly alone there and this is nicely helped along by the sheer lack of Russia on-screen in most Western cinema. It is an excellent spot for some rough-and-tumble and Branagh delivers this in spades.

There is a one-on-one hotel bathroom fight that barges on screens and drags our bums to the edge of their seat a moment or two, very much the aesthetic descendant of Casino Royal’s opening and Torn Curtain’s midway murder, which Hitchcock famously shot with a mind to show how difficult it is to take life, an ideal ably communicated here. The remainder of Ryan’s Russian holiday is nicely decorated by a talky restaurant scene that might be a heist and a genuinely thrilling car chase. The Americans thankfully depart moments before it becomes clear we’re watching Mr and Miss American Pie vs. The Russian Stereotype, though this is a taint that lingers on the edge of every frame shot in Moscow.

The finale is constructed with all the surprise and intrigue of an actual Tom Clancy novel, which is to say there is not a great deal; it manages to abruptly pull the punch from what shaped up to be a rather rollicking second act and thus defuses the film’s purpose.

In making Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, esteemed Shakespeare guru Kenneth Branagh, as he did with Thor, has stepped out of his comfort zone and into that of commercial movie marketing. As the unsolicited offspring of James Bond and Ethan Hunt it barely succeeds, as a fun action romp it has as many hits as misses but as a film in general it brings nothing new to the table and may aptly be counted as Branagh’s least interesting work to date.

Donnchadh Tiernan

12A (See IFCO for details)
105 mins
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is released on 24th January 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Official Website

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Midday Movies

Two Irish films make this year’s Cannes slate

The key programmes for Cannes, which begins on 11th May, have all now been announced. The good news for the home industry is that two Irish productions have secured prominent spots. Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be the Place, starring Sean Penn as an ageing rock star hunting a Nazi war criminal, will compete in the main competition. Rebecca Daly’s debut film, The Other Side of Sleep, a spooky thriller concerning a lifelong sleepwalker, will play in the semi-official Directors’ Fortnight strand.

Read more at www.irishtimes.com

Charlie Sheen dumped by text message

Adult film star Rachel ‘Bree’ Olson sent the actor a short message saying she wanted to end the two month long relationship. Olson, 24, has been by Sheen’s side since he was fired from the hit TV show Two and a Half Men. She has been part of his ‘Torpedo of Truth’ tour along with another of the goddesses, Natalie Kenly.

Read More at www.telegraph.co.uk

Thor was ‘irresistible’ says Kenneth Branagh

Noted Shakespeare director and actor Kenneth Branagh talks about his latest film – a comic book blockbuster about Marvel superhero Thor. Rada graduate Kenneth Branagh was already an established stage and television star when he directed and starred in his 1989 film of William Shakespeare’s history play ‘Henry V’. The critically acclaimed result earned him Oscar nominations for his work both behind and in front of the camera, a best director award from Bafta and a slew of other honours…

Read more at www.bbc.co.uk

Mirren wasn’t keen on first Arthur

Arthur star Dame Helen Mirren has revealed she wasn’t a fan of the original film. The Oscar-winning actress plays long-suffering nanny Hobson alongside Russell Brand’s title character in the remake of the 1980s comedy which starred Dudley Moore. The 65-year-old admitted: ‘I didn’t like it very much. I found I’ve always been a bit of a feminist and I just found the female role although brilliantly played by Liza Minnelli, just annoying.’

Read more at www.independent.ie

Star to statesman: Interview with George Clooney

With five years’ involvement in Sudan, George Clooney has begun to define a new role for himself: 21st-century celebrity statesman. ‘It’s harder for authoritarian regimes to survive, because we can circumvent old structures with cell phones and the internet,’ says Clooney. ‘Celebrity can help focus news media where they have abdicated their responsibility. We can’t make policy, but we can “encourage” politicians more than ever before.’

Read more at www.irishexaminer.com

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Valkyrie

Left to rr: TOM CRUISE, JAMIE PARKER and CHRISTIAN BERKEL  star in VALKYRIE

DIR: Bryan Singer • WRI: Christopher McQuarrie, Nathan Alexander • PRO: Gilbert Adler, Nathan Alexander, Lee Cleary, Christopher McQuarrie, Henning Molfenter, Bryan Singer, Jeffrey Wetzel, Charlie Woebcken • DOP: Newton Thomas Sigel • ED: John Ottman • DES: Lilly Kilvert, Patrick Lumb • CAST: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp

 

Take a moment to understand the degree of stigma surrounding the subject of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Now, add the tension of a cinematic portrayal of the mid-1940s that looks to the German population for acceptance. But then, unexpectedly, a different story reveals itself: Still 1940s, still Germany, but now proclaiming an unsung hero. Quite the sigh of relief…

Until we learn that Scientology is considered a dangerous cult in Germany. Suddenly the story of Valkryie’s production becomes a lot more complicated.

Here’s the history lesson in a nutshell: Along with the majority of the world at the time, there were a lot of Germans not happy with Hitler’s endeavours around the time of the Second World War. This led to the formation of a small group of military officials who plotted a coup against the Führer. The leadership of this group eventually fell to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, played by Tom Cruise, who is determined to rid them of ‘Germany’s arch-enemy’. To do so involved an assassination attempt on Hitler, and a follow up plan-of-attack (Operation Valkyrie), which entailed convincing the reserve army force that the SS had staged the coup, and thus relieve the Führer’s chain of command completely.

Valkyrie sees a shift in duties from regular collaborators Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie who have hooked up to form The Usual Suspects and X-Men previously. Director Singer has been focussing on box-office monsters of late, with X-Men, X2 and Superman Returns his three most recent projects. Writer McQuarrie meanwhile has been on the other end of the spectrum, writing The Way of the Gun as in-your-face as possible, a two-fingered gesture toward the major studios who wouldn’t allow him creative control. Valkyrie serves as the happy medium.

Although focussing on the 20th July 1944 plot, the film begins in North Africa where we see an Allied air-attack inflict the injuries that will leave Colonel Stauffenberg without his right hand, two fingers from his left, and his left eye. Stauffenberg continues forth, duly eye-patched, and over the forthcoming years, rises through the ranks of the German military and leads the opposition against the Nazi Regime in a powerful tale.

However, this is not a character portrait, and although the political implications are dealt with early on, what begins as an intriguing tale, well told, becomes a reasonably basic action film. This is unfortunate, as Stauffenberg seems a captivating fellow with enough intelligence to single-handedly stage a mutiny and enough ballsy grit to reveal his devious plans from the outset to new military colleagues. Also, the deeper politics of the scenario are wholly substituted by moral dilemmas, and although it is quite the mind-boggling experience – rooting for the allies while still passionately patriotic – this context is lost after thirty minutes.

Cruise is adequate in what is not ultimately a demanding role. The support cast pack a punch or two, with the shuffle of Adolf Hitler (David Bamber) creating genuine unease, both Tom Wilkinson and Terence Stamp are persuasive as usual and Jamie Parker deserves note for his nervous portrayal of Stauffenberg’s adjutant Lieutenant Werner von Haeften. Disappointingly, Christian Berkel’s authentic accent is the only one to grace the screen, apart from Cruise’s three-line German voiceover and some extras. There are a handful of beautiful shots: a roofless church making do as a rendezvous point, and the Wolf’s Lair (as the name suggests, Hitler’s bunker), which is blanketed in a dense wood and incomparable security.

You know what to expect from such an action film: some explosions, tense musical crescendos and an attempt at a moving finale. Valkyrie is not to be proclaimed a national treasure, but it has been welcomed by German military officials and critics nonetheless and is a fitting tribute to a soon-to-be icon. The end product, like the original story, brings some wiles and a tense moment or two, but fails to pack the punch intended.

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