Tag Archives: Helen Mirren

Anna (2019) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

Anna Review

Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson (screenplay)
Stars: Sasha Luss, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans

If you’re a fan of French director Luc Besson, chances are you’ve already seen Anna, even if you haven’t yet actually watched Anna.

Which isn’t necessarily intended as criticism. It’s just that he’s made this type of action movie before…more than once. Instead of a French junkie or hapless American drug mule, we have an abused, suicidal Russian girl who’s transformed into a one woman wrecking crew.

Anna (Sasha Luss) is a sad product of her seedy environment before being “rescued” by agent Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans) to be trained as a Russian assassin, tutored and supervised by crotchety KGB operative Olga (Helen Mirren, terrific as usual). She’s initially promised her freedom in exchange for five years of service, but it’s soon obvious her superiors will never let that actually happen. Meanwhile, she engages in a variety of elaborate missions, including one where she goes undercover as a supermodel to kill an arms dealer. That hit catches the attention of the CIA, headed by Leonard Miller (Cillian Murphy). Caught red-handed, she agrees to become a double agent. And of course, both Tchenkov & Miller end up in the sack with her.

However, the high point of the film has to be an early scene in which Anna – now lethally trained – is required to enter a restaurant and kill an enemy target. What should be a simple hit instead sees Anna squaring-off against a few dozen henchmen in an impressively choreographed bloodbath of guns, fists and fine china. But as impressive as it is, the scene also illustrates one major issue with the film: It’s titular character is so smart, deadly and indestructible that there’s never a moment when her survival is in doubt, negating most of the suspense.

Though Anna could almost be considered a remake of La Femme Nikita, Besson does jumble the narrative through frequent flashbacks, extrapolating important details from previously straightforward scenes to provide numerous – perhaps too many – story twists. Anna herself isn’t nearly as interesting as Nikita, Lucy or Mathilda, nor does Luss provide much more than sexy window dressing. Still, kick-ass female anti-heroes have been the centerpieces of Besson’s best films, so one can forgive him for taking yet-another trip to the well.

As such, Anna doesn’t contain a bevy of surprises or genuine tension, but it’s certainly watchable. It’s a movie directed by a man who’s well-within his comfort zone, and though he underuses an impressive supporting cast, Besson still knows his way around an elaborate action scene. That alone makes it worth checking out on a dull evening.

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Winchester (2018) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Winchester Review

Directors: Michael Spierig (as The Spierig Brothers), Peter Spierig (as The Spierig Brothers)
Writers: Tom Vaughan, Michael Spierig (as The Spierig Brothers)
Stars: Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey

Plot:  Ensconced in her sprawling California mansion, eccentric firearm heiress Sarah Winchester believes she is haunted by the souls of people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle.

Running Time:  99 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 14%   Audience 35%

Why I Watched It: Spierig Brothers are very good horror/genre filmmakers I’ve seen all their films and of course the cast.

Random Thoughts: This film took a huge beating with the critics, 14% that’s got to hurt.  Now I don’t get scared off by bad reviews for genre movies it happens, not everyone likes horror and I do think there’s the piling on effect, once it becomes the popular opinion that a film sucks then everyone piles on and it becomes one of the worst films of the year.

What I Liked: I’ll get it out of the way, I didn’t hate this movie and I will thank everyone for lowing my expectations.  Now this isn’t great and it’s easily my least favourite of the Spierig brothers films but I kind of liked it.  The main selling point of the film is that not only is it based on a true story but the house is all kinds of strange and let’s be honest it’s the selling point of the movie.  It sounds like a Poe story, I house that is consistently being built and haunted, more rooms more ghosts.  At it’s heart this is a haunted house ghost story and it comes with all those cliches that are in every ghost story.  What I like here is that it’s more than a mystery of why the ghost is haunting the house because we know why, we are told why but the story here is, are their ghosts or is this a story of a women who has gone mad.

Helen Mirren is good here and give her tons of credit for not going over the top, she gives a mannered performance, the thing that is interesting about her is that either way this story comes out she loses, she’s either haunted or crazy.  The idea that a women who has made her money from guns being haunted by the guns victims is a very cool and very horror idea.  I also want to give credit to Jason Clarke who I sometimes really don’t like as an actor but here I liked him and I was surprised, I actually liked his back story and also liked the fact that he really wasn’t closed minded as we thought he was, he could have come off as a cliche and twirled his moustache but he plays it down the middle with a man dealing with the prospect of ghosts.

The atmosphere was good, it’s shot well but it’s a tad dark I get why but the house is hard to make out at times.  The house is cool and it plays it’s part but it could have been more much more.

What I Didn’t Like: Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a great horror movie it has major flaws, for me the Spierigs phoned this in, it’s solid but I don’t feel the passion or the intelligence that are in their other films also it feels like your standard ghost story set in a cool house and that’s all they did with it.

The script isn’t great cause we kind of know early on the answer to the film’s only question is the house haunted with “real ghosts” once we know the film kind of spins it’s wheels. Also putting a child at risk is getting very tired it’s become a cliche of a cliche now.  Also what a waste of Sarah Snook, she’s a great actor and this is a nothing role please go watch Predestination to see what she can do with good material. I liked some of the finale but it does lose a lot of steam like I said I think the film needed more energy and needed a quicker pace and tone, the film plays too much like a period piece than a horror film.

Final Thoughts: I won’t die on the hill for Winchester, but I did like it a lot more than most and I will say that over used line “It wasn’t that bad, I’ve seen a lot worse”

Rating: 6/10

Red 2 (2013) Movie Retro Review by Darrin Gauthier 

RED 2

Director: Dean Parisot
Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Stars: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich

Plot:  Retired C.I.A. Agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.

Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 43%   Audience 63%

Why I watched it: The cast and I actually enjoyed the first one.

Thoughts: Going in even though I enjoyed the first one I didn’t see any sane reason for a sequel, the first one was a fun all-star cast silly movie but it didn’t leave unanswered questions and really did leave anything open to sequel about.

What I liked: If you’re being kind this film can be called a romp, a silly time waster and if you’re not kind then it’s a mess.  I’ll be kind today this is for the most part a harmless film, the big selling point is the cast, lots and lots of names, granted some have very little to do but they’re on screen for our enjoyment.  I really liked John Malkovich in these movies and this one he goes further and he’s clearly having fun and just playing and he’s very funny and really he’s the only thing funny here.  I have a soft spot for Mary-Louise Parker she’s likeable and she’s cute here she’s those things but her character is paper thin.  I also liked Byung-Hun Lee he’s younger and he brings a different energy to the film and helps pick up the energy level. This is a fine popcorn film, it hurts that it’s a sequel cause really it comes off as a knock-off of the first one but it’s pleasant enough, the action is over the top and the film did make me smile a few times.

What I didn’t like: The running time, good lord why is this film almost two freaking hours, it drags badly in the middle and the pacing is pretty much off for the whole film. I’ve almost given up on Bruce Willis, does he have it written in his contract that he can’t enjoy himself while he’s earning a paycheque, I would call this sleep walking but that’s an insult to those that do that.  Almost everyone else knows what they’re in and seems to be giving it a go, just having a laugh at it look at Anthony Hopkins, I liked half his performance then he started playing to type and then he bored me.

All lot of the actors are wasted they have nothing to do and they do it.  Helen Mirren has nothing to do here but she’s Helen Mirren so I’ll leave her alone. The biggest weakness of the film besides the script is that the main villains are very weak, calling them stock villains doesn’t do it justice. Also the twist they throw in is so obvious you could call it by reading the credits, you see the name and go i bet they’ll turn out to be a bad guy and you would be write.  This is a harmless film but it doesn’t mean they could have put some more effort into it.

Final thoughts: It’s not ambitious enough to get me to hate it, it was just one of those “it was what it was” take it at face value and enjoy.

Rating: 5/10

Trumbo (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

TRUMBO

Director: Jay Roach
Writers: John McNamara, Bruce Cook (book)
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman

The year is 1947 and Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) one of Hollywood’s top Screenwriters along with other artists and colleagues are jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.

Although Dalton Trumbo was one of the most successful and highest paid writers in Hollywood in this era it wasn’t illegal to be a member of the Communist Party in the United States of America, he actually went to prison because he wouldn’t “name names” before the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee)

As always Bryan Cranston continues to impress me in his various roles over the last few years. I reviewed his performance as Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator (2016) a few months back and I was looking forward to watching him portray another complex character in Dalton Trumbo. Again Cranston has the charm and delivery to intrigue the audience early on in the film and John McNamara (writer) although mostly writes for Television did a fantastic job in writing the true story based on the book by Bruce Cook.

Although Cranston is supported by a star studded supporting cast in Mirren, Lane and Goodman he owns all of his scenes and his delivery in the face of confrontation is an important factor in my opinion why he was casted to the lead role.

In a particular memorable scene involving a confrontation between Trumbo and Screen Legend John Wayne I can’t think of any other actor who could portray a man in the face adversity handling the pressure and the situation with gentle and articulated behaviour and coming off the better man in the scene.

I use the word pressure as the HUAC were supported by columnist Hedda Hopper portrayed by Helen Mirren and my impression of the HUAC was that they weren’t just satisfied with sending these men to prison. They wanted to bury them. Mirren although has limited screen time doesn’t waste a second in her role as Hopper. A manipulative and spiteful character in this film and I have to say it is very rare to have that feeling of dislike towards a character played by Helen Mirren but she plays the character convincingly and although I don’t know enough of Hedda Hopper I did get the impression that she held a lot of weight in her day in control and input within the HUAC.

A little brief history on the HUAC was their task to create a blacklist of people within the business who had affiliations with the Communist Party preventing them finding employment in Hollywood which led to a lot of writers etc losing their homes, some divorced due to money struggles and others losing the will to live. Some had to make their way over the seas to Europe for work.

Trumbo wrote and directed using substitutes or false names and in some cases credited some of his work to close friends working in Hollywood who weren’t on the Blacklist and winning academy awards. He would have to take a step down in pay to distribute his writings to Frank King who was a studio owner who mostly worked in “B” movies. King was portrayed by the brilliant John Goodman and although he knew of Trumbo and his alliances, he didn’t really care about that as he knew he had a first class writer working for his studio. Goodman is at his best in these roles as the hard hitting, nothing to lose characters and here he is no different.

Playing Cleo Trumbo is Diane Lane as Dalton’s long suffering but supportive wife and does a fine job. Lane to be honest doesn’t have much to do in the movie. There are a few domestic arguments between Lane and Cranston in particular the stress of his writing and forgetting at times that he has a family. Lane is portraying the Wife and Mother trying to hold her family together in these harrowing times and she always manages to pull off these roles with conviction.

Director Jay Roach manages to keep the flow of this movie moving along at a reasonable pace that highlights the viewpoint of many in the United States at this time and also illustrates the difference in beliefs among the characters without portraying Trumbo as a victim to himself but a victim of circumstance at a time when the “Cold War” was brewing and showing how manipulative the media could be to the masses. Roach also manages to not bog the audience down with a political drama but more a human and family drama.The Director also should be applauded for demonstrating the great mind of Dalton Trumbo and his courage throughout the adversity. His story is inspiring and along with his family’s (mostly his wife and oldest daughters characteristics seem to support his pride, bravery and dedication to his cause.

I’m glad the filmmakers decided to include a montage of historical facts that took place after the events of this film and what happened in Trumbo’s life up to his passing in 1976.

I highly recommend watching Trumbo as a great piece of cinema and a must watch.