REVIEW: THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS

CAST

Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Lily Cole (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Johnny Depp (Public Enemies)
Colin Farrell (Intermission)
Jude Law (Spy)
Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Verne Troyer (Austin Powers 2 & 3)
Tom Waits (Mystery Men)

Doctor Parnassus’ theater troupe, which includes sleight of hand expert Anton, confidant Percy, and Parnassus’ daughter Valentina, performs outside a London pub. The troupe’s main attraction is a magical “Imaginarium”, which offers whoever enters it a choice between difficult self-fulfillment or easy ignorance. After a drunkard is swayed to the latter, Parnassus says he has lost another one to Mr. Nick, a suave personification of the Devil. Mr. Nick reminds Parnassus that in three days Valentina turns 16, and her soul will be his. Hundreds of years ago Mr. Nick tricked Parnassus into gaining immortality, after making a wager similar to his current predicament.As the troupe crosses a bridge, Anton spies someone hanging beneath it. They rescue the man, who spits out a golden pipe when revived. Claiming to have amnesia, he joins the troupe as a barker. Parnassus becomes despondent over the impending loss of his daughter. Mr. Nick visits Parnassus, revealing the hanging man is a disgraced philanthropist named “Tony”. He offers Parnassus a wager: Valentina can stay with whoever wins five souls first.Tony convinces the troupe to remodel the show into a more modern act. While performing, Tony lures a posh woman into the Imaginarium and follows her, where they enter a pastel-coloured dream-world representing the woman’s imagination. The woman’s imagination also changes Tony’s face; upon discovering this, he dances elegantly with her, and they spy a motel run by Mr. Nick. Tony convinces the woman to take a gondola toward a pyramid alone, winning a soul for Parnassus. Tony falls back out of the Imaginarium, returning his face to normal; the woman exits shortly after and gives the troupe a vast sum of money. When three other women enter, each emerges elated; and thus Parnassus wins three more souls. Four Russian gangsters, to whom Tony owes money, are taken by Mr. Nick when they chase Tony into the Imaginarium. The score becomes four souls apiece.With the bet nearing its end, Parnassus reveals Valentina’s conception to her: after ageing from immortality, Parnassus made a new pact with Mr. Nick to be youthful again, in order to win the heart of a woman he loved. In exchange, any child he fathered would become Mr. Nick’s property at age 16. Valentina attempts to run away, but Tony enters the Imaginarium to give his soul to Parnassus; in exchange, Parnassus must teach him the trance that powers the dream world. Valentina returns as he tries to enter the mirror, but Anton blocks them, having discovered that Tony is a fraudulent charity scammer.Tony fights off Anton, pushes Valentina into the Imaginarium and joins her. Influenced by Valentina’s desires, Tony’s face changes again, and they float along a beautiful river in a gondola. After an impoverished child disrupts their boat trip, Tony transforms into a philanthropist speaking at a fundraiser. Anton, following the pair into the Imaginarium, appears as an outspoken child and exposes Tony as a fraud. A mob pursues Tony as the landscape disintegrates, causing Anton to fall into a void. Distraught and angry over her father’s bargain and a lifetime of hiding of the truth from her, Valentina gives her soul to Mr. Nick. Disillusioned by the easy victory, Mr. Nick offers Parnassus to trade Valentina for Tony. Chased by the mob, Tony flees to a gallows, but Parnassus confronts him, holding Tony’s pipe and a copy. Parnassus challenges Tony to choose which pipe is genuine. He chooses wrongly, inserts the copy in his windpipe, and is hanged. Mr. Nick keeps his word and Valentina is freed, but Parnassus is not told where she is, and is abandoned to wander in the Imaginarium.Parnassus emerges years later, finding Valentina is married to Anton and they have a daughter. He watches them from outside a restaurant window, but when tempted to join them, he is stopped by Percy. Teaming up once more, Parnassus and Percy sell toy theatre replicas of the Imaginarium and the troupe on a street corner. Mr. Nick invites Parnassus over to him, but Percy puts an end to the temptation.The acting is good, with Lily Cole surprisingly impressive and old hands Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits leading by example. Terry Gilliam direction combines the fantastical and the ordinary in a way that only he can. It is the first time he has participated in the writing process for two decades and this film has an autobiographical feel as Doctor Parnassus tries to entice with stories and the imagination only to be met by cynical crowds. This effort to wow the public may not move them away from CGI and is short of his best, but it is still entertaining and favourable over films which lack charm, imagination and storytelling.

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REVIEW: ANNA KARENINA (2012)


CAST

Keira Knightley (Pirates of The Caribbean)
Jude Law (Spy)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla)
Matthew Macfadyen (Enigma)
Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
Alicia Vikander (Jason Bourne)
Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Olivia Williams (Dollhouse)
Ruth Wilson (The Lone Ranger)
Emily Watson (The Theory of Everything)
Michelle Dockery (Hanna)
Raphaël Personnaz (Three Words)
Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad)
Bill Skarsgård (Allegiant)
Alexander Roach (The Huntsman)

In 1874 Imperial Russia, Prince Stephan “Stiva” Oblonsky’s wife, Princess Daria “Dolly”, banishes her husband from their home due to his infidelity. Stiva’s sister, Anna Karenina, a well off and liked socialite living in St. Petersburg with her older husband, Count Alexei Karenin, and their son, Seryozha, travels to Moscow to persuade Dolly to forgive Stiva. Meanwhile, Stiva meets his old friend Konstantin Levin, a wealthy land owner and aristocrat who is looked down upon by Moscow’s elite for preferring country life to city life. Levin professes his love for Stiva’s sister-in-law, Princess Katerina “Kitty” Alexandrovna, and Stiva encourages him to propose. However, Kitty declines as she hopes to marry Count Alexei Vronsky. Later, Levin meets with his elder brother Nikolai, who has given up his inheritance and taken a prostitute named Masha as his wife. Nikolai suggests that Levin marry one of the peasants on his estate. On the train to Moscow, Anna meets Vronsky’s mother, Countess Vronskaya, and once there Anna meets Vronsky himself, and they have immediate mutual attraction. When a railway worker is killed in an accident at the station, Vronsky is seen by Anna, Stiva, and the Countess giving a large sum of money to the worker’s family. Anna convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At a ball that night, Kitty attempts to dance with Vronsky, but he dances with Anna, attracting the attention of everyone in attendance and leaving Kitty heartbroken. Anna boards a train to St. Petersburg, but at a rest stop notices Vronsky, who declares that he must be wherever she goes. She tells him to go back to Moscow, but he refuses.
In St. Petersburg, Vronsky visits his cousin Princess Betsy Tverskaya, a friend of the Kareninas, and begins to show up at all the places Anna and Betsy visit. Vronsky flirts openly with Anna at a party, which catches Karenin’s attention. He suggests they go home, but Anna chooses to stay. Vronsky tells her of his intention to take a promotion in another city but Anna persuades him to stay and the next day they meet at a hotel and make love.
Stiva visits Levin at his country estate and informs Levin that Kitty and Vronsky are no longer to be married. Levin focuses on living an authentic country life, working in his fields with his workers and contemplating taking one of their daughters as his wife, as his brother had suggested.
Karenin hears that his wife and Vronsky are in the country estate and surprises them there, after she reveals to Vronsky that she is pregnant. Later she encounters Karenin who suggests he join them for the horse races that evening. The races begin, and Anna betrays her feelings for Vronsky as his horse falls and injures him. On their way home Anna admits to Karenin that she is Vronsky’s mistress and wishes to divorce him. Karenin refuses and instead confines her to home. Levin sees Kitty in a passing carriage and realises that he still loves her. Anna receives Vronsky at her house in St. Petersburg and as she complains about why he failed to come earlier, he tells her that his duties as an officer have delayed his visit. Karenin comes back home to find out that Vronsky was visiting Anna, as seen from the love letters found in her desk. Meanwhile, Levin and Kitty are reunited at Stiva’s house, and Karenin announces he is divorcing Anna, who begs him to forgive her, which he refuses. After dinner, Levin and Kitty announce their love to each other and decide to marry. Anna goes into premature labour. With Vronsky at her side, she berates him, saying that he could never be the man Karenin is. Karenin comes back knowing that she is going to die and forgives her. Anna survives and initially decides to stay with her husband. Princess Betsy calls on Anna to discuss what will happen with Vronsky now that he is back in Moscow. Anna suggests that Betsy better discuss it with Karenin, who believes that they will be reunited as a family. However, upon Anna’s recovery, she chooses to be with Vronsky. Karenin refuses to grant her a divorce, but releases Anna from her confinement. She and Vronsky soon leave for Italy with Anya.
Levin and Kitty return to his country estate, where the sickly Nikolai and Masha have been given a storeroom to live there. Levin tells Kitty that she doesn’t have to live under the same roof as the former prostitute, but the newly matured Kitty ignores social norms and assists Masha in nursing Nikolai.
Anna returns to St. Petersburg to see Seryozha on his birthday, but Karenin makes her leave after a short time. Anna now begins to suspect Vronsky of unfaithfulness. She attends the opera where the upper class audience regard her with disdain as someone who “has broken the rules”. Though humiliated, she retains her poise, only to break down once back at her hotel. The next day, Anna has lunch at a restaurant where the society women avoid her. Dolly, however, joins her and tells her that Kitty is in Moscow to have her first child. Dolly says that Stiva’s behavior has not changed, but she has come to accept and love him for who he is. Later, Vronsky informs Anna that he has to meet his mother to settle some accounts, but there Anna sees Princess Sorokina picking him up. Anna becomes upset, and takes the train to see if Vronsky is truly with his mother. On the way, she has hallucinations of Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love and laughing at her. Arriving at Moscow station, Anna says to herself, “Oh God… ” and jumps under an oncoming train that kills her. The scene then flashes to Vronsky who has a shocked face as if knowing his true love has died. Levin returns home from working in the fields to find Kitty bathing their child. Stiva and his family eat with Levin and Kitty. Karenin, retired by then from serving his country, is seen in his estate, with Seryozha and young Anya playing nearby.Although I sympathise with those who may find the director Joe Wright’s approach too contrived, this film held my interest, and gives scope for a good deal of discussion.

REVIEW: SIDE EFFECTS

 

CAST

Jude Law (Spy)
Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Catherine Zeta-Jones (Entrapment)
Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street)
Vinessa Shaw (The Hills Have Eyes)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)

After her husband Martin completes a four-year prison sentence for insider trading, Emily Taylor drives into a wall in an apparent suicide attempt. Jonathan Banks, assigned her psychiatrist, prescribes a series of antidepressants, but none work. Jonathan contacts Emily’s previous psychiatrist, Victoria Siebert, who suggests an experimental new drug, Ablixa. The drug seems to help Emily, but gives her sleepwalking episodes as a side effect.
One night, Emily stabs Martin to death while sleepwalking. Jonathan fights for Emily’s acquittal in court. She pleads insanity and is declared not guilty on the condition that she stays in a psychiatric hospital until cleared by Jonathan. The publicity destroys Jonathan’s reputation, and his colleagues assume negligence on his part.
Jonathan discovers evidence that Emily is lying; she was not depressed and faked her suicide attempts. He also discovers someone may have profited from Ablixa’s fall in stock value. He interviews Emily after administering what he claims is a truth serum that will make her drowsy. Though the serum is actually a placebo, she feigns drowsiness, confirming Jonathan’s suspicion that she is deceiving him. When he confronts Victoria with his findings, she mails photographs to his wife Deirdre implying he had an affair with Emily. Deirdre leaves him, taking her son with him.
Jonathan calls Victoria’s bluff by telling her Emily told him about their plot. He threatens Emily with electric shock treatment and tells her Victoria is paying him to keep her incarcerated so she can keep a bigger cut. Emily explains that she hated Martin for losing their opulent lifestyle, and began plotting to kill him, get away with it and profit by his death. She began seeing Victoria for counseling, and the two women became lovers. Emily taught Victoria about the financial world, while Victoria taught Emily how to fake psychiatric disorders. They plotted to kill Martin and use the negative Ablixa publicity to manipulate stock prices. Jonathan accepts Emily’s offer to give him a cut of her money if he releases her from the ward.
Emily meets Victoria wearing a wire. After Victoria mentions details of the plot, she is arrested for conspiracy to commit murder and securities fraud. Emily, due to double jeopardy, cannot be charged as criminally responsible for her part in Martin’s murder. As retaliation for Emily’s part in the plot, Jonathan, who still oversees her case, prescribes her Thorazine and Depakote and describes their unpleasant side effects. She is sent back to the mental ward for refusing treatment, and Jonathan regains his family and reputation.It’s an edge-of-your-mind thriller rather than an edge-of-your- seat thriller. Never really scared, always questioning the moral and psychological behaviour of these characters. The ending takes some strange, sexually-charged turns, and perhaps a bit more conclusive than I was originally expecting, but don’t worry, you can still question where the line is between right and wrong and when each character crossed it.

REVIEW: ROAD TO PERDITION

CAST

Tom Hanks (The Terminal)
Tyler Hoechin (Supergirl)
Paul Newman (The Hustler)
Jude Law (Spy)
Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Liam Aiken (The Frontier)
Dylan Baker (Changing Lanes)
Ciarán Hinds (The Woman In Black)
Anthony LaPaglia (The Custodian)

In 1931, during the Great Depression, Michael Sullivan, Sr. is an enforcer for Irish mob boss John Rooney in Rock Island, Illinois. Rooney raised the orphan Sullivan and loves him more than his own biological son, Connor. Rooney sends Connor and Sullivan to meet with disgruntled associate Finn McGovern, but Connor shoots McGovern, resulting in Sullivan gunning down McGovern’s men. Sullivan’s twelve-year-old son Michael, Jr. had hidden in his father’s car and witnesses the event. Despite Sullivan swearing his son to secrecy and Rooney pressuring Connor to apologize for the reckless action, Connor murders Sullivan’s wife Annie and younger son Peter. At the same time, he sends Sullivan to an ambush at a speakeasy. Sullivan realizes it’s a set-up, kills two men at the bar, and escapes. He goes to Chicago with his son to seek Al Capone, for work and to discover the location of Connor, who has gone into hiding.Capone’s underboss Frank Nitti rejects Sullivan’s proposals, before informing Rooney of the meeting. Rooney reluctantly allows Nitti to dispatch assassin Harlen Maguire, who is also a crime scene photographer, to kill Sullivan. Maguire tracks him and his son to a roadside diner, but fails to kill Sullivan; realizing Maguire’s intentions, Sullivan escapes through the bathroom and punctures Maguire’s car tire before fleeing. In reaction to the ordered hit, Sullivan begins robbing banks that hold Capone’s money, hoping to trade it for Connor. Sullivan is impeded when the mob withdraws its money, so he visits Rooney’s accountant Alexander Rance at his hotel. The encounter is a set-up, with Rance stalling Sullivan until Maguire enters with a shotgun. In the ensuing crossfire, Rance is killed, Maguire is injured by flying glass shards, and Sullivan escapes with the ledgers; as Sullivan flees, Maguire shoots him in his left arm.When his father collapses from his wound, Michael Jr. drives his father to a farm, where a childless elderly couple help him recover. Sullivan bonds with his son and discovers from the ledgers that Connor has been embezzling from his father for years, using the names of dead men. As the Sullivans depart, they give the couple much of the stolen money. Sullivan confronts Rooney with the information while they attend Mass. Rooney already knew about the embezzlement and that Connor was likely to die, if not by Sullivan’s hand then by the Chicago Outfit once Rooney dies. He still refuses to give up his son. He encourages Sullivan to leave with his son. Later one night, cloaked by darkness and rain, Sullivan dispatches Rooney’s entire entourage with his Thompson submachine gun and walks directly up to Rooney. As Rooney mutters that he is glad his killer is Sullivan, a reluctant Sullivan pulls the trigger. Seeing no further reason to protect Connor, Nitti reveals his location, after making Sullivan promise to end the feud. Sullivan goes to the hotel where Connor is hiding and kills him.Sullivan drives his son to stay at his Aunt Sara’s beach house in Perdition, a town on the shore of Lake Michigan. However, he is ambushed and shot by a disfigured Maguire. As Maguire prepares to photograph the dying Sullivan, Michael, Jr. appears and points a gun at Maguire but cannot muster the will to fire. Sullivan pulls out his gun and kills Maguire, before dying in his son’s arms. Mourning his father’s death, Michael, Jr. returns to live with the elderly farm couple. Growing up, Michael, Jr. reflects that his father’s only fear was that his son would become like him. Michael states he has never held a gun since the fatal encounter between Maguire and his father. When asked if Sullivan was a good or bad man, he replies “he was my father.”Based on a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, “Road to Perdition” is a powerful, atmospheric crime thriller that blends “Godfather”-style mayhem with philosophical meditations on the nature of good and evil, and the relationship between sons and their fathers.

REVIEW: HUGO

CAST

Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game)
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)
Ben Kinglsey (Iron Man 3)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Ray Winston (Elfie Hopkins)
Emily Mortimer (Lars and The Real Girl)
Helen McCrory (The Woman In Black 2)
Jude Law (Spy)
Michael Stuhlbarg (Men In Black 3)
Christopher Lee (The Hobbit)
Frances de la Tour (The Lady In The Van)
Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter)
Michael Pitt (Murder By Numbers)

In 1931, 12-year-old Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in Paris with his father (Jude Law), a widowed, but kind clockmaker who also works at a museum. One day his father finds a broken automaton, a mechanical man designed to write with a pen, at the museum, and he and Hugo try to repair it, his father documenting the automaton in a notebook. When his father is killed by a fire at the museum, Hugo is forced to live with his resentful, alcoholic uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), and made to learn how to maintain the clocks at the railway station of Gare Montparnasse. When Claude goes missing for several days, Hugo continues to maintain the clocks, fearing that he would be sent away as an orphan by the vindictive Station Inspector Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen) if Claude’s absence is discovered. Hugo attempts to repair the automaton with stolen parts, believing it contains a message from his father, but the machine still requires a heart-shaped key that his father could not find.Hugo is caught when stealing from the toy store owner Georges (Ben Kingsley), who looks through his father’s notebook and threatens to destroy it. Hugo encounters Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) who offers to help get the notebook back. Hugo learns Georges has forbidden Isabelle from going to the cinema, and introduces the medium to her as his father had done for him. As their friendship grows, he shows her the automaton, and is surprised when Isabelle inadvertently reveals she wears the key as a necklace given to her by Georges. When started, the machine draws out a scene that Hugo recognizes from his father’s description of the film A Trip to the Moon. Isabelle identifies the signature, that of a “Georges Méliès”, as her godfather. She sneaks Hugo into her home, where they find a hidden cache of more imaginative drawings of Méliès, but are caught by Georges, who banishes Hugo from his home.Hugo and Isabelle go to the Film Academy Library and find a book about the history of cinema that praises Méliès’ contributions. They meet the book’s author, René Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg), a film expert who is surprised to hear that Méliès may still be alive, as he had disappeared after World War I along with nearly all copies of his films. Excited at the chance to meet him, René agrees to meet Isabelle and Hugo at Georges’ home to show his copy of A Trip to the Moon, hoping it will invigorate Georges. On the scheduled night, Georges’ wife Jeanne (Helen McCrory) tries to turn them away, but René compliments Jeanne as Jeanne d’Alcy, an actress in many of Méliès’ films, and she allows them to continue. As the film plays, Georges wakes up at the sight, and Jeanne finally convinces him to cherish his accomplishments rather than regret his lost dream. Georges recounts that as a stage magician, he had been fascinated by motion pictures and used the medium to create imaginative works through his Star Film Company, but was forced into bankruptcy following the War, closing his studio and selling his films to be turned into raw materials. He laments that even an automaton he made that he donated to a museum was lost. Hugo recognizes this is the same automaton he has, and races to the station to retrieve it. He is caught by Gustave, who has learned that Claude’s body was found some time ago, and threatens to take Hugo to the orphanage. Georges arrives and tells Gustave that he will now see to Hugo, adopting him as his son.Some time later, Georges is named a professor at the Film Academy, and is paid tribute through a showcase of his films recovered by René. Hugo joins in with his new family as they celebrate, while Isabelle starts to write down Hugo’s story.Martin Scorcese’s Hugo is one of the best cinematic experience, I’ve had in years.  The visual effects, cinematography, art direction, just technically superb. Finally a smart, awe-aspiring family film, which are really rare nowadays. A definite surprise coming from legendary director, Martin Scorcese, who’s known for movies with a lot of swears, violence, drugs and other adult-themed subjects.

REVIEW: COLD MOUNTAIN

 

CAST

Nicole Kidman (Bewitched)
Renee Zellweger (Jerry Maguire)
Jude Law (Spy)
Natalie Portman (Thor)
Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood)
Brendan Gleeson (Troy)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job)
Ray Winstone (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands)
James Gammon (The Iron Giant)
Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl)
Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim)
Jena Malone (Sucker Punch)
Lucas Black (Fast & Furious 7)
Taryn Manning (The Breed)
Emily Deschanel (Bones)
Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins)
Richard Brake (Hannibal Rising)

Cold Mountain Screen

When North Carolina secedes from the Union on May 20, 1861, the young men of a rural, provincial, North Carolina backwater known only as Cold Mountain hurry to enlist in the Confederate military. Among them is W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a carpenter who has fallen in love with Ada (Nicole Kidman), a minister´s daughter, and finds their whirlwind courtship interrupted by the American Civil War.

Cold Mountain 550
Three years later, Inman finds himself in the trenches of Petersburg, Virginia, during the Battle of the Crater. Union soldiers tunneling beneath Confederate fortifications detonate over 300 kegs of gunpowder, in a futile attempt to undermine the position prior to their assault. As the ill-fated attack begins, Oakley (Lucas Black) an old acquaintance of Inman’s from Cold Mountain, is impaled on a bayonet and mortally wounded. Inman rescues him from the fighting and takes him to a field hospital. Later that day Oakley dies in the hospital, with Inman and Stobrod Thewes (Brendan Gleeson) beside him. The next night, Inman, along with his Cherokee friend Swimmer (Jay Tavare), are sent to flush out surviving Union troops trapped behind their lines. During the raid, a burst of friendly fire kills Swimmer and seriously injures Inman. As Inman lies in the hospital near death, he has a letter from Ada read to him in which she pleads with him to stop fighting, stop marching, and come back to her. Inman recovers, and—with the war drawing ever closer to an inevitable Confederate defeat—decides to go home to Cold Mountain.

On his journey he meets the corrupt preacher Reverend Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is about to drown his pregnant slave lover. Inman stops Veasey, and leaves him tied up to face the town’s justice. Exiled from his parish, Veasey later rejoins Inman on his journey. They help a young man named Junior (Giovanni Ribisi) butcher his cow, and join him and his family for dinner. Junior leaves the house after the feast, the women in Junior’s family seduce Veasey, and Junior’s wife, Lila, tries to seduce Inman. Junior returns home with the Confederate Home Guard, and both Inman and Veasey are arrested and led away with other deserters. During a subsequent skirmish with Union cavalry, Veasey is killed and Inman left for dead. An elderly hermit living in the woods (Eileen Atkins) finds him and nurses him back to health.
Cold Mountain
Inman later meets a grieving young widow named Sara (Natalie Portman), who is raising her infant child Ethan alone; he stays the night at her cabin. The next morning, a party of Union foragers arrive demanding food. Sara orders Inman away for his protection, but he hides only a few feet away from the house. The leader, Nym (Richard Brake), and his lieutenant harass Sara, steal her livestock, and leave Ethan in the cold, though the third soldier (Cillian Murphy) attempts to keep the baby warm. Nym tries to rape Sara but both he and the lieutenant are killed by Inman. Inman forces the kind forager to surrender and lets him go, but as the latter flees, an enraged Sara fatally shoots him. In parallel with Inman’s adventures, the film follows Ada’s wartime experiences. Ada is a city gentlewoman who only recently moved to the rural farm named Black Cove. She met Inman on her first day at Cold Mountain and had a brief, chaste romance with him the night before he left for the army. Shortly after Inman leaves, Ada’s father (Donald Sutherland) dies, leaving her alone on the farm with no money, food, or livelihood, and with little prospect for help, as the young, able-bodied men are off at war.
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Ada is completely inept at working the farm, having been raised as a southern lady. She manages to survive thanks to the kindness of her neighbors, one of whom eventually sends Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger) to her. Ruby is a young woman who has lived a hard-scrabble life and is very adept at the tasks needed to run the farm. Ruby lives at the farm with Ada, and together they take the farm from a state of disaster to working order. Meanwhile, Ada writes constant letters to Inman in hopes of meeting him again and renewing their romance. The two women form a close friendship and become each other’s confidantes. They also are friends with the Swangers (James Gammon and Kathy Baker), who live down the road from Ada’s farm Black Cove. It is at the Swangers’ well that Ada “sees” a vision of Inman coming back to her in the snow, surrounded by crows.

During the war, Ada and Ruby, and other members of their community, have several tense encounters with men of the Home Guard. This branch of the Home Guard is led by Captain Teague (Ray Winstone), whose grandfather once owned much of Cold Mountain. He and his deputies hunt deserters, partially with the goal of Teague’s seizing their land. Teague also lusts after Ada. Although the purpose of the Home Guard was to protect the South and its citizen population from the North, they have become violent vigilantes who hunt and often kill deserters from the Confederate Army, and terrorize citizens who they believe are housing or helping the deserters. This includes the Swangers’ sons, who, by torturing their mother, they coax out of hiding and kill. Esco Swanger—the family patriarch—is also killed protecting his sons.

Ruby’s estranged father Stobrod, a Confederate deserter and a violin player, arrives, reconciles with her, and convinces her to make a coat for his intellectually challenged banjo player Pangle (Ethan Suplee). Ruby finds herself drawn to mandolin player Georgia (Jack White). While camping, Stobrod, Pangle, and Georgia are cornered by the Home Guardsmen led by Teague. Pangle unintentionally reveals the band as the deserters Teague is seeking. Georgia is hidden a few feet away and witnesses the shooting of Pangle and Stobrod. He escapes to Black Cove Farm and informs Ruby and Ada, who rush to the campsite to find Pangle dead and Stobrod badly injured. Ada helps Ruby remove a bullet from Strobrod’s back, and they decide to take shelter in some cabins in the woods to avoid Teague and his men.

At this point the two story lines come together. Inman, half-dead from starvation, finally reaches Cold Mountain and is almost killed by Ada before she recognizes him. They later consummate their love and spend the night together.  The Home Guardsmen, however, soon find them, having captured and tortured Georgia to learn that the women are harboring deserters. In the ensuing gunfight Inman ambushes and kills Teague and most of his band, but Teague’s violent young lieutenant Bosie (Charlie Hunnam), escapes up the mountain. Cornering him near the top, Inman urges him to surrender peacefully, but Bosie draws, forcing him to fire; both men are mortally wounded. Ada goes after Inman, and finds him just as she saw him in her vision at the well… coming back to her in the snow surrounded by crows. He dies in her arms. The film ends several years later with Ada, Ruby and their families celebrating Easter. Ruby has married Georgia, and the two have a young daughter and an infant child. It is also revealed that Ada’s night with Inman has produced a child, Grace Inman.

 

A very intense and sometimes moving movie experience with a brutal battle sequence, and indeed many further violent incidents both at Cold Mountain itself and indeed on ‘Inman’s’ journey. The film harbours many fine performances from it’s star-studded cast-list. Well worth a re-visit or indeed a first viewing.

REVIEW: I ♥ HUCKABEES

CAST

Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
Jason Schwartzman (Scott Pilgram vs. The World)
Naomi watts (Insurgent)
Isabelle Huppert (Amour)
Jude Law (Spy)
Lily Tomin (Orange County)
Mark Wahlberg (Transformers 4)
Kevin Dunn (Small Soldiers)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Said Taghmaoui (American Hustle)
Jean Smart (Garden State))
Jonah Hill (Cyrus)
Isla Fisher (Grimsby)
Talia Shire (Rocky)
Kamala Lopez (Total Recall)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)

huckabees_1

Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is a young man who heads the local chapter of an environmental group, the “Open Spaces Coalition”. One of their current projects is an attempt to stop the building of a new Huckabees store, a chain of “big-box” department stores. Albert is a rival of Brad Stand (Jude Law), a shallow power executive at Huckabees. Brad infiltrates Open Spaces and charismatically displaces Albert as the leader. Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts) is Brad’s live-in girlfriend and the face and voice of Huckabees; she appears in all of the store’s commercials.

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After seeing the same conspicuous stranger three times, Albert contacts two existential detectives, Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin). The detectives offer Albert their optimistic brand of existentialism—they name it universal interconnectivity (which has some tenets of romantic and transcendentalist philosophies)—and spy on him, ostensibly to help him solve the coincidence. Bernard and Vivian introduce Albert to Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), an obsessively anti-petroleum firefighter. Tommy is assigned to Albert as his ‘other’.

Tommy grows dissatisfied with the Jaffes, feeling that they are not helping him. Seeking out other possibilities, Tommy ends up abandoning and undermining the Jaffes by introducing Albert to Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), a former student of the Jaffes who espouses a seemingly opposing nihilistic/absurdist philosophy. She teaches them to disconnect their inner beings from their daily lives and their problems, to synthesize a non-thinking state of “pure being.” Being lifted from their troubles, they wish to keep that feeling forever, yet she tells them that it is inevitable to be drawn back to the human drama, and to understand that the core truth of that drama is misery and meaninglessness. In order to prove her point, Caterine takes Albert to go and have sex in the woods, leaving Tommy behind. Tommy finds out about the two of them being together and feels hurt. Caterine tells him that they found each other through all of the human suffering and drama. Tommy rejects this idea and leaves them furious and lost. Meanwhile, in Brad’s further attempts to undercut Albert, he and Dawn meet with and are influenced by Bernard and Vivian. In the following days, Brad and Dawn rethink their entire lives: Dawn rejects the modeling world and looks for deeper meaning, and Brad realizes that his whole ascent on the corporate ladder is meaningless, as he has lived his whole life just trying to please others and not himself.

All the storylines collide when Brad’s house catches fire. While the fire trucks get stuck in a traffic jam, Tommy comes on his bicycle to put out the fire, which incidentally trapped Dawn inside. As he saves her life, the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Brad despairs at the destruction of his house, the symbol of his material success. Albert attains a sort of enlightenment when he synthesizes the two opposing outlooks of the Jaffes and Vauban to realize the cosmic truth of everything. Brad, meanwhile, is fired from Huckabees, leaving him rudderless. Albert reveals to Brad that he burned Brad’s jet skis, and the fire spread to the house. Albert understands that he and Brad are no different, that everything really is inextricably connected, but that these connections necessarily arise from the often senselessly painful reality of human existence. Having realized this, he refers Brad to Caterine, hoping she will help him as she did Albert and Tommy. Albert and Tommy talk later about everything that has happened. As the two talk, Caterine and the Jaffes watch them, concluding that they can close both of their cases.

This film manages the delicate balance of being thought provoking while simultaneously quite funny, as our protagonist navigates the different philosophies that other characters come up with. Aided by a cast of stars, it is really a great film and a must see for all those who like to think outside the box.