REVIEW: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE

CAST

Tom Cruise (Vanilla Sky)
Jon Voight (Pearl Harbor)
Emmanuelle Beart (8 Women)
Henry Czerny (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Jean Reno (Leon)
Ving Rhames (Julia X)
Kristin Scott Thomas (The Golden Compass)
Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement)
Emilio Estevez (Rated X)

Years after the events of the series, Jim Phelps and his team, the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), attempt to retrieve the CIA non-official cover list from the American embassy in Prague. Their mission fails: Phelps is shot, his wife Claire dies in a car bombing, and the rest of the team except Ethan Hunt are eliminated by unknown assassins. Meeting with IMF director Eugene Kittridge, Hunt reveals his awareness of a second IMF team sent to monitor them, and learns the job was a setup to lure out a mole within IMF, who is believed to be working with an arms dealer known as “Max” as part of “Job 314.” As Hunt is the only member left, Kittridge suspects him of being the mole, and Hunt flees.Returning to the Prague safe house, Hunt realizes “Job 314” refers to Bible verse Job 3:14, “Job” being the mole’s code name. Claire arrives at the safe house, explaining she escaped the bomb after Phelps aborted the mission. Hunt arranges a meeting with Max, and warns her that the list she possesses has a tracking device. He promises to deliver the real list in return for $10 million and Job’s identity. Hunt, Max, and her agents escape just as a CIA team arrives.Hunt recruits two disavowed IMF agents: computer expert Luther Stickell and pilot Franz Krieger. They infiltrate CIA headquarters in Langley, steal the real list, and flee to London. Kittridge, detecting the theft, has Hunt’s mother and uncle falsely arrested for drug trafficking. He provides media coverage of the arrest, forcing Hunt to contact him from Liverpool Street Station. Hunt allows the CIA to trace him to London before hanging up, but is surprised to find Phelps nearby. Phelps recounts surviving the shooting, naming Kittridge as the mole. Hunt realizes Phelps is the mole, having discovered that Phelps stole a Gideons Bible from a Chicago hotel. He also suspects Krieger as the one who killed the other IMF members on the Prague job, but is unsure whether Claire was involved. Hunt arranges with Max to exchange the list aboard the TGV train to Paris the next day.On the train, Hunt remotely directs Max to the list. Max verifies it and gives Hunt the code to a briefcase containing the payment along with Job in the baggage car. Ethan calls Claire and tells her to meet him there. Meanwhile, Stickell uses a jamming device to prevent Max from uploading the data to her servers. Claire reaches the baggage car, finds Phelps and tells him Ethan will arrive shortly. She questions the idea of killing Ethan, since they will need a fall guy for the money, when Phelps reveals himself to be Ethan in disguise, exposing her as a co-conspirator. When the real Phelps arrives and takes the money at gunpoint, Hunt dons a pair of video glasses that relays Phelps to Kittridge, blowing Phelps’ cover as the mole.Phelps threatens to kill Ethan, but shoots Claire instead when she intervenes. He climbs to the roof of the train, where Krieger is waiting with a helicopter and a tether. Hunt connects the tether to the train itself, forcing the helicopter into the Channel Tunnel after the train. Hunt places an explosive chewing gum on the helicopter windshield, killing Krieger and Phelps. Kittridge arrests Max and recovers the list, then reinstates Hunt and Stickell as IMF agents, but Hunt is unsure if he’ll accept. As he flies home, a flight attendant approaches him and asks, through a coded phrase, if he is ready to take on a new mission, just as she asked Phelps at the beginning.Fabulous cast, especailly strong support from Henry Czerny, Jean Reno and Jon Voight, and a great plot which alas was too complex for some but which weaves a web of deceit and intrigue as it unravels.

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REVIEW: THE BUTLER

CAST

Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)
Oprah Winfrey (Before Women Had Wings)
David Oyelowo (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Elijah Kelley (Take The Lead)
Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four)
David Banner (Black Snake Moan)
Mariah Carey (Glitter)
Terrence Howard (Iron Man)
Adriane Lenox (The Blind Side)
Yaya DaCosta (Ugly Betty)
Vanessa Redgrave (Mission: Impossible)
Clarence Williams III (Puprple Rain)
Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Jerry Maguire)
Lenny Kravitz (The Hunger Games)
Colman Domingo (Freedomland)
Robin Williams (The Crazy Ones)
James Marsden (Westworld
Minka Kelly (The Roommate)
Liev Schreiber (The 5th Wave)
Alan Rickman (Dogma)
John Cusack (Identity)
Jane Fonda (Barbarella)
Stephen Rider (Daredevil)
Danny Strong (Buffy)
Jesse Williams  (The Cabin In The Woods)
Nelsan Ellis (True Blood)

In 2009, an elderly Cecil Gaines recounts his life story, while waiting at the White House to meet the newly inaugurated president. In 1926, at the age of seven, Gaines is raised on a cotton plantation in Macon, Georgia, by his sharecropping parents. One day, the farm’s owner, Thomas Westfall, rapes Cecil’s mother, Hattie Pearl. Cecil’s father confronts Westfall, and is shot dead. Cecil is taken in by Annabeth Westfall, the estate’s caretaker and owner’s grandmother, who trains Cecil as a house servant.In 1937, at age eighteen, he leaves the plantation and his mother, who has been mute since the incident and presumably dies of old age by the time the plantation shuts down. In desperation from hunger, Cecil breaks into a hotel pastry shop, elects sympathy in the elderly master servant, Maynard, asks for a job and is, unexpectedly, hired. He learns advanced serving and mostly interpersonal skills from Maynard, who, after several years, recommends Cecil for a position in a Washington, D.C. hotel. While working at the D.C. hotel, Cecil meets and marries Gloria, and the couple has two sons: Louis and Charlie. In 1957, Cecil is hired by the White House during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration. White House maître d’hôtel Freddie Fallows shows Cecil around, introducing him to head butler Carter Wilson and co-worker James Holloway. At the White House, Cecil witnesses Eisenhower’s reluctance to use troops to enforce school desegregation in the South, then his resolve to uphold the law by racially integrating Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.The Gaines family celebrates Cecil’s new occupation with their neighbors, Howard and Gina. Louis, the elder son, becomes a first generation university student at Fisk University in Tennessee, although Cecil feels that the South is too volatile; he wanted Louis to enroll at Howard University instead. Louis joins a student program led by Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) activist James Lawson, which leads to a nonviolent sit-in at a segregated diner, where he is arrested. Furious, Cecil confronts Louis for disobeying him. Gloria, who feels that Cecil puts his job ahead of her, descends into alcoholism and an affair with the Gaines’s neighbor, Howard.In 1961, after John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, Louis and a dozen others are attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan while on a freedom ride to Birmingham, Alabama. Louis is shown participating in the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, where dogs and water cannons were used to stop the marchers, one of the movement’s actions which inspired Kennedy to deliver a national address proposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several months after the speech, Kennedy is assassinated. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, enacts the transformative legislation into law. As a goodwill gesture, Jackie Kennedy gives Cecil one of the former president’s neckties before she leaves the White House.Louis is later shown participating in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement, which inspired Johnson to demand that Congress enact the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson also gives Cecil a tie bar. In the late 1960s, after civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Louis visits and tells his family that he has joined the Black Panthers. Outraged, Cecil orders Louis and his girlfriend, Carol, to leave his house. Louis is soon arrested, and Carter bails him out. Cecil becomes aware of President Richard Nixon’s plans to suppress the movement.The Gaines’ other son, Charlie, confides to Louis that he plans to join the Army in the war in Vietnam. Louis announces that he won’t attend Charlie’s funeral if he is killed there because while Louis sees Americans as multiple races, Charlie sees the country as one race. A few months later, Charlie is killed and buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Louis does not attend. However, when the Black Panthers resort to violence in response to racial confrontations, Louis leaves the organization and returns to college, earning his master’s degree in political science and eventually running for a seat in Congress.Cecil repeatedly confronts his supervisor at the White House over the unequal pay and career advancement provided to the black White House staff. With President Ronald Reagan’s eventual support, Cecil prevails and his professional reputation grows to the point that he and his wife are invited by President and Nancy Reagan to be guests at a state dinner. At the dinner and afterwards, Cecil becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the class divisions in the White House. Finally, after witnessing Reagan’s refusal to support economic sanctions against Apartheid South Africa, Cecil resigns. Cecil and Gloria visit the defunct, abandoned Georgia plantation where he was raised. Gloria agitates for Cecil to mend his relationship with Louis. Realizing his son’s actions are heroic, Cecil joins Louis at a Free South Africa Movement protest against South African apartheid, and they are arrested and jailed together.In 2008, Gloria dies shortly before Barack Obama is elected as the nation’s first African-American president, a milestone which leaves Cecil and Louis in awe. Two months, two weeks and one day later, Cecil prepares to meet the newly inaugurated President at the White House, wearing the articles he had received from presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Stephen W. Rochon approaches Cecil and tells him the president is ready and prepares to show him the way to the Oval Office. Cecil tells him that he knows the way, and, as he walks down the hallway, the voices of presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson are heard, then President Barack Obama’s famous “Yes we can” quote is heard as Cecil walks through the doors of the Oval Office.Some superb performances here noteably from Forrest Whittaker giving one of his best performances as The Butler himself and Operah Winfrey giving her best performance ever as his loyal wife with excellent support from Terrance Howard and John Cusack, Robin Williams, James Marsden and Alan Rickman give good cameo appearances as presidents Nixon, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan respectively with Jane Fonda also appearing as Nancy Reagan. Yes it gets very sentimental but this is ultimately a powerful piece of filmmaking from Lee Daniels the director of Precious.

 

 

REVIEW: ATONEMENT

CAST

James McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Keira Knightley (The Duchess)
Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones)
Romola Garai (I Capture The Castle)
Vanessa Redgrave (Nip/Tuck)
Harriet Walter (Babel)
Patrick Kennedy (Mr. Holmes)
Brenda Blethyn (The Storyteller)
Juno Temple (Horns)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Nonso Anozie (Cinderella)
Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones)

In 1935, Briony Tallis is a 13-year-old girl from a wealthy English family and has just finished writing a play. Briony attempts to stage the play with her three visiting cousins, twin boys and their teenage sister, Lola; however, they get bored and decide to go swimming. Briony stays behind and witnesses a significant moment of sexual tension between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, a servant’s son (a man that Briony has a childish infatuation with). Robbie returns home and writes several drafts of letters to Cecilia, including one that is explicitly sexual and erotically charged (specifically, it uses the word “massive pudenda”). Initially written for the sake of humour, he does not intend to send it and sets it aside. On his way to join the Tallis family for dinner, Robbie asks Briony to deliver his letter, only to later realise that he has mistakenly given her the prurient draft. Briony secretly reads the letter and is simultaneously disgusted and jealous. She tells Lola of its contents and they call Robbie a “sex maniac” while debating whether to turn him into the police. That afternoon, Lola and her younger brothers meet a friend of the Tallis family, a wealthy chocolate manufacturer named Paul Marshall. Though he is much older than her, he excites Lola by flirting with her and treating her like an adult.

That evening, Cecilia confronts Robbie about the letter which she has since read. They meet in the library where they make love and tenderly confess their love for one another. During the act, Briony watches through the partially open door and her confused emotions about Robbie become heightened. At dinner it is revealed that Lola’s twin brothers have run away; a search party is sent out and Briony goes off alone into the woods looking for them. She eventually stumbles upon a man running away from apparently raping Lola. Lola claims that she does not know the identity of her attacker, but then claims it was Robbie after Briony suggests that it must have been the “sex maniac” who attacked her. In a fit of pique, the still-hurt Briony tells everyone (including the police) that she saw Robbie commit the act. She shows Robbie’s shocking letter to her mother and the police. Everyone believes Briony’s story except for Cecilia and Robbie’s mother; Robbie is arrested and sent to prison.
Four years later, Robbie is released from prison on condition that he join the army. He is assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment and sent to France, where he is separated from his unit and attempts to return to them at Dunkirk on foot. He is then shown reuniting with Cecilia (who has not spoken with her family since the incident) in London six months earlier, where they renew their love before he is shipped off to the French front. Briony, now 18, has joined Cecilia’s old nursing corps at St. Thomas’s in London because she wants to be of some practical use to society after giving up an offer she received from Cambridge. Her attempts at contacting her sister go unanswered as Cecilia cannot forgive her for Robbie’s unjust imprisonment. Robbie, gravely ill and wounded, finally arrives at the beaches of Dunkirk where he waits to be evacuated.
Sometime later, Briony—at last fully understanding the consequences of her false accusation—visits the now-married Cecilia and Robbie to apologise to them directly. However, her apologies are rather weak and ineffectual; Cecilia coldly replies that she will never forgive her, while Robbie, in a rage that almost becomes physical, confronts Briony and demands that she immediately tell her family and the authorities the truth. Briony admits she knew all along that the real rapist was Paul Marshall, but that Lola cannot testify against him in a court of law because they have recently been married.
Decades later, an elderly Briony (now a published author) gives an interview about her latest book, a semi-autobiographical novel called “Atonement.” She reveals that she is dying of vascular dementia and states that this last book is one she has been working on for most of her adult life. Briony confesses that the book’s ending (in which she apologises to a married Cecilia and Robbie) is fictional: Cecilia and Robbie were never married and never saw each other again once he left for war. In reality, Robbie died at Dunkirk of septicemia while awaiting evacuation and Cecilia died a few months later as one of the flood victims in the Balham tube station bombing during The Blitz. Briony hopes that by reuniting them in fiction she can give them the happy ending they always deserved. The last scene of the movie shows a happy Cecilia and Robbie together once again as imagined by Briony.
It is a delightful film, well paced, with a beautiful background, strong emotions and remarquable actors. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

REVIEW: VENUS

CAST

Peter O’ Toole (Lawrence of Arabia)
Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch)
Leslie Phillips (The Jackal)
Vanessa Redgrave (Nip/Tuck)
Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter)
Cathryn Bradshaw (Like Minds)
Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow)

The plot concerns Maurice (Peter O’Toole), an elderly actor who finds himself increasingly attracted to his friend Ian’s great-niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) while simultaneously finding himself in deteriorating health due to prostate cancer. Maurice’s friend describes the great-niece as a trouble maker and a nuisance, but Maurice discovers that Jessie warms up to him when he starts interacting with her. He takes her to the National Gallery in London to view his favourite painting, the Rokeby Venus, by the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez.
Jessie had expressed interest in modelling (Maurice initially mis-hears this as “yodelling”) and Maurice arranges for Jessie to model nude for an art class. As a result of Jessie posing for the art class, and inspired by his favourite painting, Maurice decides to give Jessie the nickname “Venus”. Maurice and Jessie develop a passive/aggressive relationship over the course of the film. Maurice is forward in terms of his attraction towards Jessie while Jessie occasionally indulges his whims to a limited extent, such as touching her hand and smelling her neck, but also retracts the indulgences when she feels that he has gone too far. The plot of the film revolves around the evolving friendship or relationship between the two characters. For Maurice, this appears to be the last attempt at something approaching a love life, as his prostate operation has left him impotent. For Jessie, it is less clear what she sees in Maurice. During the course of the film we see her do everything from exploiting him (trying to get him to buy her presents, trying to use his flat to have sex with a boy), taking care of him, flirting with him, and rejecting him sexually to engaging with him as a friend. During the course of the film we learn that she has been rejected by her mother and great-uncle for her promiscuous life style; it is implied that she is drawn to Maurice because he does not judge her as harshly as her family members have.
The plot comes to a head when Jessie becomes involved with a boy. The two young lovers convince Maurice to take a walk so that they can have sex. Maurice initially obliges, but returns to kick them out of his flat. A scuffle ensues and the boy knocks down Maurice, injuring him. Jessie leaves with the boy but she later returns to check on Maurice. When the paramedics arrive, Maurice claims he cannot remember who attacked him, much to Jessie’s surprise. Then Maurice calls for “Venus” to take care of him. Jessie, remorseful, agrees to look after Maurice. Some time later, after Maurice has at least partly recovered, he takes Jessie to the seaside at Whitstable in Kent.[2] As they sit down by the water Maurice says to Jessie “Now, we can really talk”, and dies, leaning on her. At the memorial services, Jessie meets Maurice’s ex-wife Valerie (Vanessa Redgrave), who could not find satisfaction in Maurice’s love life either. The last scene shows Jessie and others posing as models for the Venus character.
This film is amazing. The acting is superb and story very moving. It manages to be happy, sad, funny and uplifting all at once. The ‘disturbing’ moments work and are integral to the story.