There have been at least thirteen film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s darkest, most brooding tragedy, Macbeth, since 1908. At an average rate of one point something productions per decade, over the last century, only a filmmaker with an innate flair for re-telling stories of the bloody and macabre therefore, could make a fourteenth film suitably compelling.
Emerging Australian film director Justin Kurzel’s chilling, yet stunning, 2011 debut feature, Snowtown, established his credentials in this regard, and his variation, trailer, of what is considered one of Shakespeare’s finest plays, that is thought to have first been performed in 1611, will surely take its place among the most memorable big screen turns thus far.
Set in Scotland in the late sixteenth century, the story chronicles the grisly ascent of Scottish general Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) to the throne, after three witches prophecise that it will be his. When his manipulative, ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) hears of their words, she goads Macbeth into murdering King Duncan (David Thewlis) almost immediately.
Duncan is not the last to die at Macbeth’s hand though, and indeed the killing only intensifies, even after he is crowned, as Macbeth attempts to eliminate a growing number of nobles, suspicious of Duncan’s untimely demise. Before long however, guilt begins to weigh heavily on him, and Lady Macbeth, and both begin to spiral into a self-destructive madness.
Kurzel’s Macbeth is ethereal and atmospheric, earthy and dense, and bestows a modernity on the old play without dispensing with the much cherished Shakespearean verse. Topped off with spellbinding performances from Fassbender and Cotillard, this work is certain to be compared favourably with the adaptations of Roman Polanski, Orson Welles, and Akira Kurosawa.
Fed up with retirement, and at a loose end following the death of his wife, seventy year old Ben Whitaker (Robert DeNiro) decides to return to work. Things are a little different this time around though. Rather than taking on a senior role, he is hired as an intern at a New York City fashion start-up, in The Intern, trailer, directed by Nancy Meyers (“The Holiday”, “It’s Complicated”).
Although the idea of hiring senior, or retired interns, was the idea of company founder Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), she is initially reluctant to engage much with Ben, until he inadvertently becomes her driver, after he discovers the existing chauffeur is drinking on the job. It is only then that the two begin to form a bond, and the story becomes interesting. Expect it doesn’t.
Before long Ben has not only become Jules’ workplace confidant, but also virtually part of her family, where her stay at home husband, Matt (Anders Holm), and young daughter, Paige (JoJo Kushner), quickly warm to him. It is a situation that sees Ben and Jules form a mutual admiration club, and genially trade feel-good compliments for the next ninety minutes.
Problems stare this fairy tale like production in the face, but everyone involved simply turns a blind eye. A seventy year old takes the job of a university graduate, with nary a snide word from anyone? Not a problem. Ben becomes aware of a serious issue with Jule’s and Matt’s marriage, but keeps it all on the down low, and still remains in Jules’ good books? Not a problem.
And that’s the problem, there are no real problems, no tension, no drama, and precious few conflict points. And those that do make their way to the surface are quickly dispatched, by way of a few soothing piano notes. I spent the two hour run-time wondering what the point was. Without success. This one’s strictly for fans of DeNiro, Hathaway, and feel-good movies.
In the opinion of Reddit member Erik V. Olson, it is the world’s second highest mountain ranges that pose the real challenge when it comes to scaling them. He contends for instance that Mount Kenya, in Africa, requires rock climbing, while Kilimanjaro, the continent’s highest, is a “walk up”. The same situation also applies for mainland Australia.
Here Mount Townsend, the second highest peak is trickier than the tallest, Mount Kosciusko. Ditto when it comes to Asia’s K2, versus Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. That’s not to say Everest is a mere “walk up”, even if there are only a couple of difficult spots. As Olson notes, a lack of oxygen and the cold, are the real challenges facing those attempting the climb.
It is these factors, lack of oxygen, the cold, together with a sudden change of weather, that prove perilous to a group of climbers in Everest, trailer, the latest feature of Baltasar Kormákur (“The Sea”, “2 Guns”), that retells the tragic 1996 ascent made by New Zealand mountaineer and entrepreneur, Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), and a party of seven other climbers.
Adventurers including Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), and Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), assemble in Nepal, and under the guidance of Hall, and base camp manager Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), prepare to make the climb. While eventually reaching the peak, disaster strikes as they begin to descend, when a violent storm hits.
Based on the book Into Thin Air, written by journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) who was part of the group, “Everest”, while offering a realistic depiction of conditions faced by the climbers, is let down by shallow characterisations, and a hope on the part of the filmmaker, perhaps, that the memory of actual tragedy can be left to tell the real story telling.
San Fernando Valley based guitarist, and leader of covers band, The Flash, Ricki Rendazzo (Meryl Streep), once known as Linda Brummel, was determined to pursue her dream to become a rock star, whatever the cost. Accordingly, she had no qualms in leaving her husband, Peter (Kevin Kline), and young children decades earlier, to go in search of a spot in the limelight.
Instead of playing sold out stadiums though, she finds herself performing at neighbourhood bars, and bagging groceries at a supermarket, so as to keep a roof over her head, while thoughts of the family she abandoned unsettle her, in Ricki and The Flash, trailer, the latest feature of Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”, “Rachel Getting Married”).
When Ricki learns her daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer), has attempted suicide, following the breakdown of her marriage, she flies back to the family in Indianapolis. It is not an easy homecoming though. Julie is resentful of her presence, while Maureen (Audra McDonald), who Peter later married, thinks Ricki can only make matters worse, not better.
For all the merit that the premise of the story has though, what audiences are meant to make of what happens next is not clear. Is Ricki’s return as the ageing rock rebel to the conservative Midwest town, meant to shock and outrage? Is Ricki, against the odds, and the anger of those she walked out on years ago, going to win the day, and console the troubled?
The answer to both questions appear to be “sort of, but who knows”. In the end “Ricki and The Flash” bites off more than it can chew. There are too many issues the fractured family has to deal with, something that seems to dawn on Demme well into the third reel, and sets up a finale that while papering over the cracks, is neither convincing nor satisfying.
Walking the Appalachian Trail, a wilderness hiking pathway, spanning some two thousand two hundred miles, or close to three and half thousand kilometres, of the eastern United States, is an undertaking that has likely been on many a person’s bucket list, since its conception by US forester Benton MacKaye, almost one hundred years ago.
While that isn’t quite the reason that accomplished travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) decides to make the trek, he nonetheless becomes interested in the trail when he realises a section of it passes near his New Hampshire home, in A Walk in the Woods, trailer, the latest feature by Ken Kwapis, (“He Said, She Said”, “He’s Just Not That Into You”).
The prospect however mortifies his wife, Catherine (Emma Thompson), who insists he not do the walk alone. Finding a companion prepared to give up the six months required to traverse the trail, however, proves to be another matter, but finally Bill’s estranged, and well out of shape pal, Stephen (Nick Nolte), offers to go along with him.
Based on the book of the same name, written by Bryson in 1998, Kwapis’ comedic adaptation is a meandering stumble through the forest, that bears little resemblance to the actual journey made by Bryson. That’s not to say the story isn’t short of a laugh or two, but otherwise the words trite, contrived, and predictable, quickly spring to mind.
Take out the age and fitness related gags, and the apparent multitude of annoying and obnoxious hikers criss-crossing the track, and what’s left is pretty hollow, despite the presence of old hands Redford and Nolte. The Appalachian Trail, or as much of it as we’re shown, is the real star though, so even if the hike isn’t pleasant, at least the scenery is.
Even though he only starred in three films, made some sixty years ago now, US actor James Dean remains, if not a household name, then certainly one that quickly comes to mind. Dead, at the age of just twenty-four, as the result of a car accident in 1955, Dean’s bright flame was extinguished far too early.
And if hadn’t have been for the tenacity, and persistence, of up and coming freelance photographer, Dennis Stock, there may have been far fewer images of the awkward, withdrawn, actor’s home and family life, to say nothing of the iconic Times Square photo depicting Dean trudging the rain soaked streets of New York City.
We meet the two emerging, yet frustrated, talents in Life, trailer, the latest feature by Anton Corbijn (“The American”, “A Most Wanted Man”), as Dean (Dane DeHaan) waits to hear if he is to be cast in what would be his defining role, Rebel Without A Cause, while Stock (Robert Pattinson), yearns to be more than a photojournalist.
After meeting at a party, Stock is keen to collaborate with Dean, but the actor is reluctant. He soon changes his mind, and invites Stock along on a visit to see his family in rural Indiana. It is this trip that is meant to be a turning point for both, and the story’s decisive moment, but the momentum is already flagging.
The despair of Dean and Stock, becomes our despair. Corbijn attempts to make something of the dynamic between the two, one that perhaps, in reality, was far less substantial. Sadly not even Joel Edgerton, and Ben Kingsley, in a showy part as film producer Jack Warner, are able to do much to lift the mood either.
For six years Reay lead a double life, rubbing shoulders with the rich and glamourous at parties, fashion shows, and the best restaurants, while sleeping, homeless, on the rooftop of a New York City building. He had it all thought out though:
I remembered this friend’s rooftop where we used to have cocktails. So, one night, I snuck into the building and went to the rooftop. I figured I’d stay there for a few days. I didn’t leave for six years. All I had were a few items of clothing and a thrift store blanket. I got a cheap poncho, which I used to cover myself so I couldn’t be seen, and I put up a tarpaulin. It was September and it was manageable. I started getting a bit more work from Dazed, but not enough to afford rent, so I figured I’d just stay there until I worked something out. I managed to renew my gym contract – I know that sounds mad, but it was $70 a month and it had showers, electricity and a toilet. Plus, I could leave my camera and clothes in there safely.
It wouldn’t be an easy task trying to choose what might be the ten most beautiful films ever made, and that’s something the CineFix people, in putting together this list of ten movies that might belong in such a category, make clear.
No surprise though to see the work of filmmakers such as Woody Allen, Terrence Malick, Stanley Kubrick, and David Lean, included.