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.

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REVIEW: THE THREE MUSKETEERS (2011)

CAST

Matthew Macfadyen (Robin Hood)
Logan Lerman (The Number 23)
Ray Stevenson (Thor)
Milla Jonovich (Resident Evil)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Christoph Waltz (The Green Hornet)
Orlando Bloom (Lord of The Rings)
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)
Gabriellla Wilde (Carrie 2013)
James Corden (Into The Woods)
Freddie Fox (St Trinians 2)
Juno Temple (The Dark Knight Rises)
Til Schweiger (This Means War)
Carsten Norgaard (The Man In The High Castle)
Dexter Fletcher (Kick-Ass)

In Venice at the beginning of the 17th century, the Three Musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans), with the help of Athos’ longtime lover, Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich), steal airship blueprints made by Leonardo da Vinci. However, they are betrayed by Milady, who gives the blueprints to the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). Upon returning to France, the Musketeers are forced to disband by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) for their failure, and they end up on the streets of Paris.

A year later, a young man named d’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) leaves his village in Gascony for Paris in hopes of becoming a Musketeer as his father was, only to learn that they no longer exist. At a rural bar, d’Artagnan accuses Captain Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen), the leader of Richelieu’s guard, of offending his horse, and challenges him to a duel. Rochefort shoots him while he is distracted but he is saved by Milady de Winter. Arriving in Paris, d’Artagnan by coincidence separately encounters Athos, Porthos and Aramis accidentally offending all three, then scheduling duels with each at 12:00, 1:00 and 2:00 pm respectively.

Athos brings Porthos and Aramis to the duel as his seconds. d’Artagnan realises they are the Musketeers he is seeking. He is prepared to continue with the duel but Richelieu’s guards break it up. The three are inspired by d’Artagnan and fight together and defeat the soldiers, but later are summoned before the young King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and his wife, Queen Anne (Juno Temple). Richelieu asks the king to execute the four, but the queen is impressed by their bravery and the king congratulates them and invites them to an event, which to Athos’ anger, turns out to be Buckingham’s arrival (who comes in an airship built following da Vinci’s blueprints).

Later, Richelieu orders Milady, who is actually working for him, to plant false love letters among Queen Anne’s possessions, steal Queen Anne’s diamond necklace, and take it to the Tower of London to frame Queen Anne as having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham. The affair would force King Louis to execute Queen Anne and declare war on England. At this point, the people would demand a more experienced leader: Richelieu himself. But Milady demands that Richelieu declare in writing that she is working on behalf of France, to protect herself in case of palace intrigue.

The false letters (saying that the necklace has been given to Buckingham) are found by a maid and are given to King Louis, who is advised by Richelieu to set up a ball at which Queen Anne would be forced to wear the necklace. If she doesn’t, then her affair is real, and there will be war against England. Queen Anne’s lady-in-waiting Constance Bonacieux (Gabriella Wilde) discovers Richelieu’s plan and asks the Musketeers to stop him. The Musketeers plan to sail to England and retrieve the jewels before the ball. However, at the dock, Rochefort sets up a blockade to prevent anybody from boarding the ships. Constance takes d’Artagnan’s hat, cape and horse to divert the guards standing in front of the boat to allow the Musketeers to board undetected.

In London, Milady warns Buckingham that the Musketeers have arrived to take revenge on him. Milady instructs Buckingham of all their tendencies in battle, but Athos predicts this and the Musketeers resolve to do just the opposite. Buckingham captures d’Artagnan, but he was a decoy to let the Musketeers steal the airship. The Musketeers rescue d’Artagnan, demolishing the top floor of the Tower in the process. Athos was sure that Milady would have fled, taking the necklace with her as insurance, so he planted the Musketeers’ manservant Planchet (James Corden) as her carriage driver to take her to an isolated spot where the airship could pick up the carriage. As retribution for betraying them, Athos prepares to execute Milady. However, Milady leaps off the airship before Athos can shoot, apparently dying on her own terms.

The Musketeers fly back to Paris with the necklace, but they are attacked by Rochefort in another airship, as Milady had given Richelieu copies of da Vinci’s blueprints. Rochefort then reveals that he has Constance, and threatens to kill her if they don’t hand over the necklace. d’Artagnan agrees to exchange the necklace for Constance, with whom he is infatuated, but Rochefort knocks him out and captures him as soon as the necklace is in his possession. Rochefort then proceeds to attack the Musketeers’ ship, at first gaining the upper hand due to the superior size and weaponry of his airship. However, the Musketeers lure Rochefort into a storm cloud, burst the balloon of the airship and make the ship crash onto the Notre Dame Cathedral. On the roof, d’Artagnan duels and stabs Rochefort, who falls to his death. Meanwhile, Constance returns the necklace to Queen Anne.

The Musketeers arrive at the ball in Buckingham’s damaged airship. However, for the sake of King Louis and his people, they claim that Richelieu had it built for the king, but an attempt was made by Rochefort to sabotage it, also showing King Louis the authorization Richelieu had given Milady, pretending that it was given to them. The King then congratulates the Musketeers, and thanks d’Artagnan, who he sees as his best friend, for everything. Richelieu, impressed by how the Musketeers handled the situation, offers them places in his employ, but they refuse. Richelieu threatens them by saying they will one day regret their choices, but they laugh him off. As Louis and Anne dance, d’Artagnan and Constance kiss. The Musketeers then leave, promising that they will protect France as Musketeers when they are needed.

At sea, Milady (who survived her fall) is rescued by Buckingham, who reveals that he knows that she was working for Richelieu and says that he is going to fight against France. The camera backs away and shows Buckingham advancing towards France’s shore with a massive fleet of battleships and airships.

This is a good fun romp, the latest version of the classic tale is not to be taken seriously in any way whatsoever. Done very tongue in cheek with good action scenes and decent performances, this is a good fun film the whole family can enjoy though it has to be taken with a huge pinch of salt as 17th century airshps do battle. Yes, you read that right, airships. The cast are all good, all the classic characters are there, D’artagnan, Porthos, Aramis, Athos, Milady, Rocehfort & the Cardinal. The film is daft, yes and takes liberties with the plot of the novel but as i said it’s all done very tongue in cheek with everybody involved hamming it up like there’s no tomorrow. And the end screams sequel.

REVIEW: ENIGMA

CAST

Dougray Scott (Misison Impossible II)
Kate Winslet (Insurgent)
Saffrom Burrows (Deep Blue Sea)
Jeremy Northam (The Net)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones)
Tom Hollander (Muppets Most Wanted)
Donald Sumpter (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Matthew Macfadyen (Anna Karenina)
Anne-Marie Duff (The Virgin Queen)

The story, loosely based on actual events, takes place in March 1943, when the Second World War was at its height. The cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, have a problem: the Nazi U-boats have changed one of their code reference books used for Enigma machine ciphers, leading to a blackout in the flow of vital naval signals intelligence. The British cryptanalysts have cracked the “Shark” cipher once before, and they need to do it again in order to keep track of U-boat locations.

The film begins with Jericho returning to Bletchley after a month recovering from a nervous breakdown brought on by his failed love affair with Claire. Jericho immediately tries to see her again and finds that she mysteriously disappeared a few days earlier. He enlists the help of Claire’s housemate Hester Wallace, to follow the trail of clues and learn what has happened to Claire.

Mr. Jericho and Miss Wallace, as they formally address each other, work to decipher intercepts stolen by Claire and determine why she took them. Jericho is closely watched by an MI5 agent, Wigram (Jeremy Northam), who plays cat and mouse with him throughout the film. Meanwhile, U-boats closing in on one of the ship convoys from America allow Jericho and the team to work on breaking back into reading Shark. Jericho and Hester’s research uncovers the British government’s cover-up of the Katyn Massacre out of fear that the knowledge of it might weaken American willingness to remain in the war on the same side as Joseph Stalin.

Cryptanalyst Jozef ‘Puck’ Pukowski (Nikolaj Coster Waldau), working at Bletchley, learned of Katyn from Claire and was so incensed by the massacre – which claimed the life of his brother – that he set about betraying Bletchley’s secrets to the Nazis in order to take revenge on Stalin. Claire is presumed dead as Jericho trails Puck to Scotland and catches up with him just as he is about to be taken on board a U-boat, but Wigram and the police have been waiting for the sub and it is bombed and sunk. A short scene after the war sees Jericho and Hester married with a child on the way. As Jericho waits for her in London, he notices Claire walking across the square.

It’s historical fact that the war effort against Hitler was greatly facilitated by the Brit’s ability to decode German military encryptions. Enigma is a richly photographed and costumed period piece – an intriguing glimpse inside the congregation of geniuses, misfits and eccentrics gathered together by the War Office to win the war in their own unique way.

REVIEW: ROBIN HOOD (2010)

CAST

Russell Crowe (Gladiator)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Max Von Sydow (Minority Report)
William Hurt (The Host)
Mark Strong (John Carter)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars – Episode VII)
Danny Huston (30 Days of Night)
Eileen Atkins (Cold Mountain)
Mark Addy (Game of Thrones)
Matthew Macfadyen (Frost/Nixon)
Kevin Durand (Dark Angel)
Scott Grimes (American Dad)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Arthur Darvill (Legends of Tomorrow)

In 1199 A.D., Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). A veteran of Richard’s crusade, he now takes part in the siege of Chalus Castle. Disillusioned and war-weary, he gives a frank but unflattering appraisal of the King’s conduct after the King asks him to answer him honestly. Though the Kings commends him for his honesty Robin and his comrades – archers Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and soldier Little John (Kevin Durand) – find themselves in the stocks.
When the King is slain during an attack on the castle, Robin and his men decide to free themselves and desert. They come across an ambush of the English royal guard by Godfrey (Mark Strong), an English knight who has conspired with King Philip of France to assassinate the King. As Godfrey flees Robin attempts to shoot him but only succeeds in wounding Godfrey’s face with an arrow. Robin decides to take advantage of the situation by having his men impersonate the dead English knights to return to England. As they depart, Robin promises one of the dying knights, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge), to return a sword to his father in Nottingham.
As Robin and his men become drunk on the voyage, they awake too late to flee unnoticed and Robin is forced to assume the identity of the slain Loxley and publicly inform the royal family of the King’s death. He witnesses the coronation of King John (Oscar Isaac), who orders harsh new taxes to be collected, dispatching Sir Godfrey to the North to do so – unaware that Godfrey will instead use French troops to stir up unrest and create an opening for Philip to invade England.
Robin and his companions head to Nottingham, where Loxley’s elderly and blind father, Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), asks him to continue impersonating his son, to prevent the family lands being taken by the Crown. However, Loxley’s widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), is initially cold toward Robin, but warms to him, when he and his men merrily recover tithed grain for the townsfolk to plant. Godfrey’s actions incite the northern barons, who march to meet King John. Speaking now for Sir Walter, Robin proposes the King agree to a charter of rights to ensure the rights of every Englishman and unite his country. Having realized Godfrey’s deception, and knowing he must meet the French invasion with an army, the King agrees. Meanwhile, the French marauders plunder Nottingham and Godfrey murders Sir Walter. Robin and the northern barons arrive and stop Godfrey’s men.

As the French begin their invasion on the beach below the Cliffs of Dover, Robin leads the now united English army against them. In the midst of the battle, Robin duels with Godfrey, who attempted to kill Marion and flees until Robin finally succeeds in shooting him with an arrow from afar. Philip realizes that his plan to divide England has failed and calls off his invasion. When King John sees the French surrendering to Robin instead of himself, he senses a threat to his power. In London, John reneges on his promise to sign the charter, instead declaring Robin an outlaw to be hunted throughout the kingdom. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) announces the decree as Robin and his men flee to Sherwood Forest with the orphans of Nottingham. Marion narrates their new life in the greenwood, noting that they live in equality as they right the many wrongs in the Kingdom of King John.

Helgeland wrote a clever script, showing Medieval ideology and a complex political situation. His previous Medieval film was A Knight’s Tale, which he wrote and directed. But with Robin Hood he seems to have grown up as a writer and gives this film a little more of a complex plot and shows a bigger picture. He also cleverly mixes different aspects about how the legend has changed, like how Robin starting as a commoner and pretends to be a higher ranked man. The film also covers its bases by showing the two sites places that claim to be Robin’s home, Nottingham and Barnsdale. However this film felt like an origins story, a start to a new film series. This is Robin Hood that has not been seen on screen like this before.  Robin Hood is also historically suspect, with events and dates being changed and made up, some ideas and culture also seems to be the victim of artistic license. But Scott knows that storytelling requires character development and show a more balanced picture, particularly with historically set films. At least this film does accept that it is a piece of historical fiction.