REVIEW: ANGELS & DEMONS

 

CAST

Tom Hanks (Sully)
Ewan McGregor (Bigt Fish)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Pierfrancesco Favino (World War Z)
Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Murk)
Armin Mueller-Stahl (12 Angry men)
Thure Lindhardt (Fast & Furious 6)
David Pasquesi (Year One)
Carmen Argenziano (Stargate SG.1)
Rance Howard (Nebraska)

Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård in Angels & Demons (2009)Under the watchful eyes of Father Silvano and Dr. Vittoria Vetra, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) initiates the Large Hadron Collider and creates three vials of antimatter particles larger than any ever produced before. Almost immediately, Father Silvano is killed and one of the vials of antimatter goes missing. At the same time, the Roman Catholic Church is mourning the sudden death of Pope Pius XVI in Rome and prepares for the papal conclave to elect the next Pope. The Camerlengo, Father Patrick McKenna, assumes temporary control of the Vatican. Before the conclave enters seclusion, four of the “preferiti” (the favorite cardinals to be elected pope) are kidnapped by a man claiming to represent the Illuminati. In a video message, he threatens to kill one candidate every hour starting at 8pm and to destroy all of Vatican City at midnight, using the missing vial of antimatter as a bomb. The Vatican summons symbologist Robert Langdon from Harvard University and Vetra to help them save the four preferiti and locate the vial.Tom Hanks and Victor Alfieri in Angels & Demons (2009)Langdon listens to the Illuminati’s message and deduces the four cardinals will die at the four altars of the “Path of Illumination”, marked by statues of angels in locations relevant to the four classical elements. Over the objections of Commander Maximilian Richter, head of the Swiss Guard, but with McKenna’s consent, Langdon is granted access to the Vatican Secret Archives. He examines Galileo Galilei’s banned book with Vetra. Following the clues and accompanied by Inspector General Ernesto Olivetti and Claudio Vincenzi of the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps, they arrive at the Chigi Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. There they find Cardinal Ebner dead, suffocated with soil and branded with an ambigrammatic word “Earth”. They verify the second location is the crowded Saint Peter’s Square and arrive just as a bloody Cardinal Lamassé emerges with his chest branded with “Air”. Vetra unsuccessfully attempts to perform CPR on him, only to discover his lungs had been punctured, while the assassin slips through the crowd.Tom Hanks, Pierfrancesco Favino, David Pasquesi, and Ayelet Zurer in Angels & Demons (2009)While Vetra studies Silvano’s diaries, Langdon, Olivetti and Vincenzi locate the third church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, and arrive to see Cardinal Guidera, branded “Fire” and suspended above a burning pile of wood. A gunfight erupts between the assassin and the officers, with Olivetti and Vincenzi being killed in the process. Langdon manages to escape, but not before being spotted by the assassin. Langdon convinces two Carabinieri officers to take him to the next location and the trio race to the Water altar, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, just as the assassin arrives in a van. The assassin murders the officers and drops a bound and weighted Cardinal Baggia into the fountain before bidding farewell to Langdon and driving off. With the help of bystanders, Langdon rescues the cardinal, who tells him the Illuminati’s lair is Castel Sant’Angelo. There, Langdon and Vetra discover a hidden passageway leading to the Vatican, being used as a hideout for the assassin. Discovering a case with marks for five branding irons, they realize the fifth brand is for the Camerlengo but are confronted by the assassin before they can alert McKenna. The assassin spares their lives once more, stating killing them is not a part of his mission unless they pursue him. He then cryptically warns them to be careful as his contractors are “men of God” before departing. He escapes to a car left for him by his contractor, but is killed immediately when it explodes upon ignition.Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons (2009)Langdon and Vetra rush back to the Vatican where they find Commander Richter hovering over McKenna with a gun, the Vatican symbol branded into McKenna’s chest. Richter and Archbishop Simeon are shot by the Guards. As Richter dies in front of Langdon, he opens his hand to reveal a key which Langdon takes. The stolen antimatter vial is found in St. Peter’s Tomb below the church, but the battery life is too low to risk re-connecting it to a battery. McKenna, a former military pilot, seizes the vial and uses an awaiting helicopter to fly above the Vatican. At a high altitude, he parachutes out as the antimatter bomb explodes overhead. McKenna is hailed a hero and savior, and the cardinals move to elect him pope. Langdon and Vetra use Richter’s key to watch a security video showing McKenna speaking to Richter before the attack. The video reveals it is McKenna, not the Illuminati, who masterminded the scheme. McKenna reveals he murdered the previous pope because he felt the pope had betrayed the church by trying to bridge the gap between science and religion. After McKenna had killed the pope, he intended to have himself elected to the papacy whilst rallying the most conservative Cardinals to his side. The recording is shown to the Papal conclave, and it dawns on McKenna that he has been exposed. He flees to a remote recess in the building where he is able to commit suicide by setting himself on fire.Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in Angels & Demons (2009)The Vatican officially announces McKenna died due to internal injuries suffered during his parachute landing, and Cardinal Baggia is named Pope Luke I, with Cardinal Strauss as the new Camerlengo. Strauss thanks Langdon for his assistance and gives Langdon Galileo’s “Diagramma Veritatis” for his research as a gift from himself and Pope Luke, requesting only it be returned to the Vatican by Langdon’s testament, and any future references he may make about the Catholic Church in his future publications be done gently, to which Langdon replies, “I’ll try.” As the film ends, the new Pope Luke shares a grateful nod with Langdon and Vetra, and walks out onto the balcony to greet the crowd waiting for him in the Square.Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons (2009)Overall Angels and Demons is a fun thrill ride for the summer. Its a superior movie to Da Vinci Code.

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REVIEW: JANE GOT A GUN

CAST

Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Joel Edgerton (The Gift)
Noah Emmerich (Super 8)
Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld)
Boyd Holbrook (Logan)
Ewan McGregor (The Men Who Stare at Goats)

Natalie Portman in Jane Got a Gun (2015)Jane and her husband Bill “Ham” Hammond live in an isolated house with their five-year-old daughter Katie. One day Ham returns home with several serious bullet wounds. As Jane is attending to his injuries, Ham tells her that “the Bishop Boys are coming”. This is a gang of vicious criminals, led by John Bishop, that Ham himself used to ride with. Realizing that she is going to need help in order to defend her home and family from the Bishops, as Ham’s injuries have rendered him helpless, Jane takes her daughter to a place of safety, with a woman friend whom she trusts. She then rides to the home of a neighbor, Dan Frost, and asks him if he will help her to protect her property from the Bishop Boys. Dan, a somewhat surly man who lives in a squalid, dirty house, refuses to help. It is obvious from their brief conversation that there is some past history – and bitterness – between Dan and Jane.Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton in Jane Got a Gun (2015)Jane rides into town to buy guns and ammunition and hopefully find someone who will help her family. As she is leaving the gun shop, she is waylaid and dragged into an alley by one of the Bishop gang. He threatens her at gunpoint and – despite Jane protesting that she “hasn’t seen Hammond in years” – he demands that she take him back to her house, as he is convinced that Ham is there, having recognized the gun Jane is carrying as one belonging to Hammond. However, at this point Dan Frost suddenly appears and tells the thug to leave Jane alone. While the two men are distracted, Jane draws her gun and kills the outlaw. Leaving the body in the alley, Jane and Dan ride back to her house. Ham is still alive, but very weak. Dan has changed his mind about helping Jane, so they start preparing for the expected attack from the Bishop gang.Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton in Jane Got a Gun (2015)Meanwhile, Bishop has already set out with his gang to find Ham. His men spread out over the area to extend their search, and one of them chances upon Jane’s house. He recognizes Jane, but Dan kills him before he can raise the alarm. Dan digs a shallow trench in Jane’s front yard, and they fill this with jars containing kerosene, nails and pieces of glass. As they work, we see flashbacks of their previous lives. Jane and Dan were once engaged, but he enlisted in the army to fight in the American Civil War. Captured by the enemy, he was held for years in a prison camp, and when he finally returned home, Jane had left. He travelled from state to state trying to find her, showing her photograph in every town. Eventually, he heard that she had moved west on a wagon train led by John Bishop. Dan talked to Bishop, who told him that during the journey Ham and Jane ran off together. He said he would gladly help Dan to track them down, as he had his own scores to settle with Ham, but Dan refused, saying that he preferred to ride alone. Dan eventually found Jane, but by then she was married to Ham, and they had had a child. Dan realized that he had lost her forever and was left broken-hearted by the discovery.Natalie Portman in Jane Got a Gun (2015)Later, Jane tells Dan her side of the story. After Dan left to enlist, she discovered she was pregnant. When Dan did not return, or write, she assumed he was dead. By the time their child, a little girl called Mary, was two or three years old, life in Jane’s war-torn town had become so wretched that she decided to take Mary and move West on the Bishop wagon train. Too late, she and the other women on the wagon train realized that Bishop’s intention was to start a brothel in another town, and he intended to force the helpless women into prostitution. A further flashback shows that Ham, having taken a fancy to Jane during the wagon train journey, tells Bishop that he would like to marry her. But Bishop tells Ham that Jane is his “property”. Later, Ham finds that Jane and her daughter have gone missing; searching for Mary, he sees a child’s boot in the river, and thinks the child has drowned. He goes to the brothel where Jane has been forced to work, and rescues her. Jane is distraught when Ham tells her that Mary is dead.Natalie Portman in Jane Got a Gun (2015)Back in the present time, the Bishop gang finally arrive at Jane’s house, under cover of darkness. Dan and Jane fire into the booby-trapped ditch, igniting the kerosene “bombs”. Most of the gang are killed, but some – including Bishop himself – escape. Jane and Dan manage to move the dying Ham into a shallow storage space beneath the floor, to protect him from the gunfire, but the strain is too much for him and he dies. Dan and Jane continue to fight it out with the remaining gang members, although both are wounded. Finally, Bishop (the only gang member left alive) manages to corner Dan and is about to kill him, when Jane sneaks up behind Bishop and draws her gun on him. Trying to persuade her not to kill him, Bishop tells Jane that Mary is not dead, as she had thought. Jane shoots him several times, wounding him badly, until in his agony he reveals that Mary lives at the brothel. Jane then kills Bishop. Jane and Dan go to the brothel and find their daughter, Mary, who is working as a servant. Jane takes the bodies of John Bishop and his gang to the sheriff and collects a huge reward. Then she, Dan, Mary and Katie ride off together to start a new life as a family.Natalie Portman in Jane Got a Gun (2015)The story’s simple, but Portman and Edgerton carry the film nicely. They have a believable sense of history between them. It’s not an action-packed film, but it delivers well when it gets to the climax. There are some weaknesses in the details of the film, especially in the flashbacks, which often seem skeletal in their scripting (Joel Edgerton co-wrote the screenplay with two others). Not great, but good.

REVIEW: BEGINNERS

CAST

Ewan McGregor (Cassandra’s Dream)
Christopher Plummer (The Forger)
Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds)
Goran Višnjic (Elektra)
Mary Page Keller (Timecop 2)
Kai Lennox (Green Room)
China Shavers (The Glass House)
Lou Taylor Pucci (Evil Dead)

Ewan McGregor and Mélanie Laurent in Beginners (2010)The film is structured as a series of interconnected flashbacks. Following the death of his father Hal from cancer, Oliver reflects on their relationship during the five years since the death of Oliver’s mother, Georgia. Shortly after her death, Hal came out to his son and began exploring life as an openly gay man. He becomes active in the gay community, finds love with a much younger man and becomes more honest with himself and with his son. As a result, Oliver and Hal become closer during this time. Shortly after Hal’s death, Oliver meets Anna, a French actress, at a party. Inspired by his father’s attitude towards the end of his life and their relationship, Oliver decides to pursue a romance with her.Ewan McGregor and Mélanie Laurent in Beginners (2010)This is a film with a heartfelt story to share with us, technically well made, with some risky directorial choices that for the most part succeed in their purpose, and with some noticeable performances to round it up, especially Christopher Plummer’s affecting turn, undoubtedly deserving of Oscar recognition in the Best Supporting Actor category.

REVIEW: THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS

 

CAST

George Clooney (The Monuments Men)
Ewan McGreggor (Beginners)
Jeff Bridges (Tron: Legacy)
Kevin Spacey (Horrible Bosses)
Stephen Lang (Avatar)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Waleed Zuaiter (London Has Fallen)
Stephen Root (Get Out)
Glenn Morshower (Transformers)
Nick Offerman (21 Jump Street)
Rebecca Mader (Lost)

George Clooney in The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)In a short prelude, U.S. Army General Hopgood is painfully thwarted in an attempt to pass paranormally through a solid wall by simply running into it. The film then follows Ann Arbor Daily Telegram reporter Bob Wilton, whose wife leaves him for the newspaper’s editor. Seeking an escape, Bob flies to Kuwait to report on the Iraq War and to prove to his wife and himself that he is a man. However, he stumbles onto the story of a lifetime when he meets a retired U.S. Army Special Forces operator, Lyn Cassady, who reveals that he was part of a U.S. Army unit training psychic spies (or “Jedi Warriors”) to develop a range of parapsychological skills including invisibility, remote viewing, and phasing. The back story is told mainly through flashbacks.George Clooney and Kevin Spacey in The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)In 1972, Army officer Bill Django, after accidentally falling out of a “Huey” helicopter in Vietnam’s Bình Dương Province, found his newly recruited men to be unable or unwilling to fire on a female Viet Cong soldier before she shot him in the chest. He then underwent a fact-finding mission prompted by a vision where the Viet Cong soldier says, “their gentleness is their strength.” The bulk of Django’s mission immersed him fully into the New Age movement so that, when he returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1980, he had long braided hair and a tattoo of a third eye surmounted on a pyramid on his chest.Jeff Bridges in The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)Facilitated by the credulous General Hopgood, Django led the training of a New Earth Army, with Lyn Cassady and Larry Hooper as his top students. The two quickly developed a lifelong rivalry because of their opposing views on implementing the New Earth Army’s philosophy. Lyn wanted to emphasize the teachings’ positive side, such as the ability to resolve conflict peacefully, whereas Larry was more interested in the “dark side” and its military applications.George Clooney and Kevin Spacey in The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)Prompted by a doodle in Bob’s notebook (of an eye on a pyramid), Lyn takes him into Iraq. They are kidnapped by criminals who want to sell them to insurgents but escape with fellow hostage Mahmud Daash. They are rescued by a private security detail led by Todd Nixon. The trio flees when the detail is caught in a firefight fiasco with another American security detail. Bob and Lyn then continue on Lyn’s alleged “mission”, stating he had seen a vision of Bill Django.George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, and Waleed Zuaiter in The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)After taking the wrong fork in the road their car is disabled by an IED. The other fork in the road actually leads to al-Qaim, Lyn’s destination, but neither of them was able to read the Arabic on the roadsigns. Bob and Lyn wander in the desert where Lyn reveals that he had stopped a goat’s heart to test the limit of his mental abilities and believes this evil deed has cursed him and the rest of the New Earth Army. It’s also revealed that Hooper conducted an unauthorized LSD experiment which resulted in a soldier killing himself, and therefore forced Django out of the Army. Eventually, Bob and Lyn are rescued and rehabilitated at a camp run by PSIC, a private research firm engaged in psychic and psychological experiments on a herd of goats and some captured locals. To Lyn’s dismay, Larry runs the firm and employs Django, now a depressed alcoholic. Bob spends time with Django and learns the ways of the New Earth Army. They spike the base’s food and water with LSD and free both the goats and captured locals, in an attempt to remove the curse. Following this, Lyn and Django fly off in a helicopter, never to be heard from again, disappearing into the sky “like all shamans”.George Clooney and Ewan McGregor in The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)Bob returns to work as a reporter and writes an article about his entire experience with Lyn. However, he’s frustrated in that the story’s only portion to be aired on the news is how the captives were forced to listen to the Barney & Friends theme song for 24 hours. This dilutes his story to the level of a joke, and Bob vows to continue trying to get the bigger story out. In the film’s final scene, Bob exercises his own psychic abilities and, following some intense concentration, stands up and runs headlong through a solid wall in his office.George Clooney and Kevin Spacey in The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)The Men Who Stare at Goats is a very fun movie to see. It is a movie for casual movie goers and film aficionados alike.

REVIEW: THE GHOST (AKA THE GHOST WRITER)

CAST

Ewan McGregor (Cassandra’s Dream)
Pierce Brosnan (The World’s End)
Olivia Williams (An Education)
Kim Cattrall (Big Trouble In Little China)
Timothy Hutton (The Dark Half)
Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins)
Jon Bernthal (The Punisher)
James Belushi (Red Heat)
Robert Pugh (Game of Thrones)
Eli Wallach (The Godfather – Part II)

Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer (2010)A British ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) is hired by the publishing firm Rhinehart, Inc. to complete the autobiography of former Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). His predecessor and Lang’s aide, Mike McAra, has recently died in an apparent drowning accident. The writer travels to Old Haven on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where Lang and his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) are staying, along with Lang’s personal assistant (and implied mistress), Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall). Amelia forbids the writer from taking McAra’s manuscript outside, emphasising that it is a security risk.Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer (2010)Shortly after the writer’s arrival, former Foreign Secretary Richard Rycart (Robert Pugh) accuses Lang of authorising the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by the CIA, a possible war crime. Lang faces prosecution by the International Criminal Court unless he stays in the US (or one of the few other countries that does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction). While Lang is in Washington, the writer finds items in McAra’s room suggesting he might have stumbled across a dark secret. Among them is an envelope containing photographs and a phone number the writer discovers is Rycart’s.Pierce Brosnan in The Ghost Writer (2010)During a bike ride, the writer encounters an old man (Eli Wallach) who tells him the current couldn’t have taken McAra’s body from the ferry where he disappeared to the beach where it was discovered. He also reveals a neighbour saw flashlights on the beach the night McAra died, but later fell down the stairs and went into a coma. Later, Ruth admits to the writer Lang had never been very political, and until recently always took her advice. When he tells her the old man’s story, she suddenly rushes out into the rainy night to “clear her head.” Upon returning, she reveals Lang and McAra had argued the night before the latter’s death, and the ghost writer and Ruth have a one night stand while Adam is away.The next morning, the writer takes the BMW X5[5] McAra used on his last journey. Unable to cancel the pre-programmed directions on the car’s sat-nav, he decides to follow them. He arrives in Belmont at the home of Professor Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson). Emmett denies anything more than a cursory acquaintance with Lang, despite the writer showing him two pictures of the pair among photographs found in McAra’s possessions, as well as another on the wall of Emmett’s study. When the writer tells Emmett the sat-nav proves McAra visited him the night he died, Emmett denies meeting McAra and becomes evasive. The writer leaves, and successfully eludes a car that is pursuing him. He boards the ferry back to Martha’s Vineyard, but when he sees the pursuit car drive aboard, he flees the boat at the last moment and checks into a small motel by the ferry dock.Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams in The Ghost Writer (2010)With no one else to turn to, the writer redials Rycart’s number, asking for help. While waiting, the writer does research on Emmett and links his think tank to a military contractor. He also finds leads connecting Emmett to the CIA. When Rycart arrives, he reveals McAra gave him documents linking Lang to so-called “torture flights,” where terrorist suspects were placed on private jets owned by Emmett’s company, to be tortured while airborne. Rycart further claims that McAra found new evidence, which he wrote about in the “beginning” of the manuscript. The men cannot, however, find anything in the early pages. The writer discusses Emmett’s relationship with Lang, while Rycart recounts how Lang’s decisions as Prime Minister uniformly benefited US interests. When the writer is summoned to accompany Lang on his return flight by private jet, he confronts Lang and accuses him of being a CIA agent recruited by Emmett. Lang derides his suggestions.Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, and Olivia Williams in The Ghost Writer (2010)Upon leaving the aircraft, Lang is assassinated by a British anti-war protester, who is in turn shot by Lang’s bodyguards. Nevertheless, the writer is asked to complete the book for posthumous publication, as in light of Lang’s death it will be a certain best-seller. Amelia invites him to the book’s launch party in London, where she unwittingly tells him the Americans tightened access to the book, as the “beginnings” contained evidence threatening national security. She also tells him Emmett, who is in attendance, was Ruth’s tutor when she was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard. The writer realises the clues were hidden in the original manuscript in the opening words of each chapter, and discovers the message: “Lang’s wife Ruth was recruited as a CIA agent by Professor Paul Emmett of Harvard University.” He concludes Ruth shaped Lang’s every political decision to benefit the USA under direction from the CIA.Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer (2010)The writer passes a note to Ruth revealing his discovery. She unfolds the note, and is devastated. When she sees the writer raising a glass, she is kept from following him by Emmett and other assistants. As the writer leaves the party he attempts to take a taxi, without success. As he crosses the street off-camera, a car accelerates in his direction to an impending collision. As witnesses react in horror, the pages containing McAra’s manuscript are blowing in the wind, leaving the writer’s fate unconfirmed.Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer (2010)Polanski is a master of subtlety, grace, and wit. His eye creates breathtaking and beautiful shots. His ear adds a malevolent and demented humor to the score of a film. There is most always something unspeakable, indescribable beneath the surface of a Polanski film. Something unnerving about the tone but never overbearing, or pounding the audience over the head with it. This is certainly true of The Ghost Writer. What I found surprising, not being familiar with the novel on which it is based, was the political statement being made. Humorously portraying certain key figures in the political environment of the last decade. In any other hands, this could never have been done so believably and deftly. All the key performances are on target. And how could they not be. For Polanski knows how to work with actors and guide them in creating such memorable characters. Ewan McGregor certainly fits his role seamlessly as does Olivia Williams. So many could learn from Polanski how a thriller needs to be constructed in order to hold an audience to the very end. The word entertainment means to ‘hold in between’ which is what The Ghost Writer does from beginning to its haunting and inevitable conclusion.

REVIEW: JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

CAST

Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class)
Eleanor Tomlinson (The White Queen)
Stanley Tucci (The LVoely Bones)
Ian McShane (Hercules)
Bill Nighy (Underworld)
Ewan McGregor (Big Fish)
Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes)
Ewen Bremner (Wonder Woman)
Warwick Davis (Leprechaun)

In the Kingdom of Cloister, Jack, a young farm boy, is fascinated by the legend of Erik, an ancient king who defeated an army of invading giants from a realm in the sky by controlling them with a magical crown. At the same time, Princess Isabelle becomes fascinated with the same legend.Ten years later, Jack goes into town to sell his horse to support his uncle’s farm. There, Jack spots Isabelle and becomes enamored with her after defending her honor from a group of hooligans. Meanwhile, Lord Roderick returns to his study, only to find that a monk has robbed him. The monk offers Jack some magic beans he stole from Roderick as collateral for Jack’s horse. Back at the castle, Isabelle quarrels with her father King Brahmwell as she wants to explore the kingdom, but he wants her to stay and marry Roderick. Likewise, Jack’s uncle scolds him for being foolish before throwing the beans on the floor and leaving the house.Determined to be free, Isabelle sneaks out of the castle and seeks shelter from the rain in Jack’s house. As it rains, one of the beans takes root and grows into a massive beanstalk that carries the house and Isabelle into the sky as Jack falls to the ground. Jack, Roderick, and Roderick’s attendant Wicke volunteer to join the king’s knights, led by Elmont and his second in-command, Crawe, and climb the beanstalk in search of Isabelle. As they climb, Roderick and Wicke cut the safety rope, intentionally killing some of the knights. At the top, they discover the giants’ realm and decide to split into two groups: one with Jack, Elmont, and Crawe, and the other including Roderick and Wicke, but not before Roderick forcibly takes the remaining beans from Jack (although Jack manages to save one for himself).Jack’s group is trapped by a giant, who takes everyone prisoner except Jack. Meanwhile, Roderick’s group encounters two other giants; one eats Wicke, but before the other can do the same to Roderick, Roderick dons the magic crown. Jack follows the giant to their stronghold, where the two-headed giant leader, Fallon, has killed Crawe. Jack finds Isabelle and Elmont imprisoned there. As the giants prepare to kill their remaining prisoners, Roderick walks in and enslaves the giants with the crown. He tells the giants they will attack Cloister at dawn and gives them permission to eat Isabelle and Elmont. Jack rescues Isabelle and Elmont as one of the giants prepares to cook Elmont as a pig-in-a-blanket. The trio makes for the beanstalk, where Jack causes the giant guarding the beanstalk to fall off the realm’s edge. Seeing the giant’s body, Brahmwell orders the beanstalk cut down to avoid an invasion by the giants.Jack and Isabelle head down the beanstalk, while Elmont stays to confront Roderick. Elmont kills Roderick, but Fallon takes the crown before Elmont can claim it, and Elmont is forced to escape down the beanstalk. Jack, Isabelle, and Elmont all survive the fall after the beanstalk is cut down. As everyone returns home, Jack warns that the giants are using Roderick’s beans to create beanstalks to descend down to Earth and attack Cloister. The giants chase Jack, Isabelle, and Brahmwell into the castle, where Elmont fills the moat with oil and sets it on fire. Fallon falls in the moat and breaks into the castle from below. As the siege continues, Fallon captures Jack and Isabelle, but Jack throws the final bean down Fallon’s throat, causing a beanstalk to rip apart his body. Jack takes the crown and sends the giants back to their realm. Jack and Isabelle marry and tell the story of the giants to their children. As time passes, the magic crown is crafted into St Edward’s Crown and is secured in the Tower of London.This was a lot better than I was expecting, so that was quite a pleasant surprise.  I was prepared to make an early exit from watching the retelling of another favourite fairy tale. But it was actually done very well, with a wonderfully impressive CGI beanstalk and superb giants. All in all, it was a very enjoyable film to watch.

 

REVIEW: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

CAST

Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)
Julia Roberts (Mirror Mirror)
Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity)
Ewan McGregor (Big Fish)
Margo Martindale (Orphan)
Sam Shepard (Swordfish)
Dermot Mulroney (The Grey)
Julianne Nicholson (Kinsey)
Juliette Lewlis (Natural Born Killers)
Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Newell Alexander (Sordid Lives)

The title designates time and location: an unusually hot August in a rural area outside Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), an alcoholic, once-noted poet, interviews and hires a young native American woman Johnna (Misty Upham) as a live-in cook and caregiver for his strong-willed and contentious wife Violet (Meryl Streep), who is suffering from oral cancer and addiction to narcotics. Shortly after this, he disappears from the house, and Violet calls her sister and daughters for support. Her sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) arrives with husband Charles Aiken (Chris Cooper). Violet’s middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is single and the only one living locally; Barbara (Julia Roberts), her oldest, who has inherited her mother’s mean streak, arrives from Colorado with her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). Barbara and Bill are separated, but they put up a united front for Violet.After five days, the sheriff arrives with the news that Beverly took his boat out on the lake and has drowned. Youngest daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) arrives with the latest in a string of boyfriends, Steve Huberbrecht (Dermot Mulroney), a sleazy Florida businessman whom she introduces as her fiancé. Mattie Fae and Charles’s shy, awkward son “Little Charles” (Benedict Cumberbatch) misses the funeral because he overslept and is met at the bus station by his father. Charles loves his son, whereas Mattie constantly belittles him. Ivy confides to Barbara that she is in love with her cousin, “Little Charles”, who plans to move to New York, and she cannot have children because she had a hysterectomy. She feels this is her only chance to finally marry.The family sits down to dinner after the funeral, fueled by Violet’s brutal “truth telling”, which results in Barbara pouncing on her mother. She decides she has had enough of her mother’s drug addiction and confiscates all her several kinds of pills. Later, after Violet has had a chance to sober up, she has a tender moment with her daughters and shares a story that demonstrates how cruel her own mother was when she longed for a new pair of cowgirl boots when she was in her early teens.As “Little Charles” sings Ivy a song he has written for her, Mattie Fae walks in and berates him. This exhausts Charles’s patience with his wife’s lack of love and compassion for her son, and he threatens to leave her if she keeps it up. Mattie subsequently reveals to Barbara, who unintentionally listened in, that she had a long-ago affair with Beverly, and Charles is in fact their younger half-brother and that is the true reason why Ivy and “Little Charles” cannot be together. That evening, Steve and Jean are playfully sharing a joint of marijuana. Johnna sees this and, sensing that he intends on molesting her, goes after him with a shovel. Barbara confronts Jean and slaps her. This impels Bill to take Jean back to Colorado, leaving Barbara. Karen also leaves with Steve.Later, Ivy tries to tell her mother about her love for “Little Charles”. Barbara tries to deflect the admission. Violet tells Ivy Charles is actually her brother, something she knew all along. Ivy leaves and promises to never come back. In the last confrontation between Violet and Barbara, Violet admits she was contacted by Beverly from his motel the week after he had left home, but did nothing to help him until after she removed money from the couple’s joint safe deposit box. By this time he had already drowned. This revelation leads Barbara to depart, realizing that her mother has slipped beyond help. Violet is left with only Johnna. Barbara is driving through the plains, stops, gets out of the car, cries then gets back in the car and follows signage showing highways and number of miles to Wichita, Salina and Denver.Fantastic film – see it if you enjoy witty, clever writing, a strong storyline and a first rate cast.