A Hologram for the King (2016)

A Hologram for the King
Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer: Tom Tykwer
Based on: Dave Eggersnovel
Cast: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Tom Skerritt, Ben Whishaw
Seen on: 9.5.2016

Plot:
Alan’s (Tom Hanks) life has fallen apart quite quickly. He and his wife separated, there’s a weird growth on his back, and his position in his company is being called into question. To at least keep his job, Alan has to go to Saudi Arabia to convince the king to invest in the company’s holographic conference software. When he gets there, though, the king is nowhere to be seen and Alan is completely overwhelmed by the way business is being done. But with the help of driver Yousef (Alexander Black) he starts to find his way, literally and figuratively.

A Hologram for the King feels completely inconsequential. It’s nice enough that I could have liked it, it’s problematic enough that I could have gotten angry about it, but instead it simply didn’t seem to affect me at all.

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The Tempest (2010)

The Tempest
Director: Julie Taymor
Writer: Julie Taymor
Based on: William Shakespeare‘s play
Cast: Helen MirrenFelicity JonesDavid StrathairnAlan CummingChris CooperBen WhishawDjimon HounsouRussell BrandAlfred MolinaReeve CarneyTom Conti
Seen on: 16.3.2016

Plot:
Many years ago Prospera (Helen Mirren) was betrayed by her brother Antonio (Chris Cooper). He sent her and her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) off on a ship so that they may die, but they managed to survive and have been stranded on an island ever since. They are almost the only inhabitants of the island, apart from Caliban (Djimon Hounsou), the spiteful son of the former island ruler, and the sprite Ariel (Ben Whishaw) who both have been enslaved by Prospera’s magic. Their existence is severely disrupted though when a ship sinks just off the island – a ship carrying not only Alonso the King of Naples (David Strathairn), his brother Sebastian (Alan Cumming) and his son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney), but also Antonio. Prospera knows that her time has come at last.

The Tempest is a visually impressive film with a great cast, but it never quite takes off – there are simply too many things that don’t work.

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The Lobster (2015)

The Lobster
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Cast: Colin FarrellRachel Weisz, John C. ReillyBen Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Michael Smiley, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, Jessica BardenAshley Jensen
Seen on: 15.2.2015

Plot:
David (Colin Farrell) was recently divorced. As a single person, he has to check into the Hotel and find a new suitable partner in 45 days. If he doesn’t, he will be turned into an animal – like his brother was turned into a dog – and if nobody is there to take him in, he will be set loose in the woods surrounding the Hotel. So David tries to find somebody who is like him, but that’s easier said than done.

My history with Lanthimos’ movies has been mixed so far but The Lobster might be his best film yet. It’s certainly his most accessible film, although it is still very, very weird and not easy to get into, and my personal favorite.

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Suffragette (2015)

Suffragette
Director: Sarah Gavron
Writer: Abi Morgan
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie DuffHelena Bonham Carter, Romola GaraiGrace Stottor, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Meryl Streep
Seen on: 09.02.2016

Plot:
Maud (Carey Mulligan) has spent more or less her entire life working as a washer woman in a factory. Quite to the contrary to her co-worker Violet (Anne-Marie Duff), Maud is trying to keep her head down. Violet, on the other hand, is a passionate suffragette, fighting for women’s rights. But the longer Maud hears about this fight, the more she finds herself drawn to it, slowly stumbling into the movement until she herself has to make some hard choices about her life.

The reactions to Suffragette I encountered so far were lukewarm at best – and I’m the next person with that reaction to add to the list. It’s not really a bad film, but it isn’t very good, either.

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The Danish Girl (2015)

The Danish Girl
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: Lucinda Coxon
Based on: David Ebershoff‘s novel, which was in turn a ficionalized version of Lili Elbe‘s life
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, Adrian Schiller, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sebastian Koch
Seen on: 25.1.2016

Plot:
Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are both painters and a happily married couple. While Einar may be more successful than Gerda, at least for now, that doesn’t keep her from continuing to work. When her dancer friend Ulla (Amber Heard) is late for modelling, Gerda asks Einar for help. He feels silly at first, but as he gets in the role, something happens. Einar creates Lili and slowly Lili fights her way to life inside of him.

The way I just described the plot already shows that The Danish Girl is a deeply problematic film – because that is actually an accurate description of how it portrays being trans*. It boils down to a film that is completely misguided and misinformed about what transgender actually is and tears everything apart that stands in the way of that distorted vision, even the basis in reality that it supposedly has.

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In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

In the Heart of the Sea
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Charles Leavitt
Based on: Nathaniel Philbrick‘s book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, Tom Holland, Paul Anderson, Frank Dillane, Joseph MawleJordi Mollà
Seen on: 9.12.2015

Plot:
Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) finds the last survivor of the Whaleship Essex, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) and interviews him about what happened out there. Nickerson tells him how Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), who was promised a capitaincy by the whaling company, gets sidelined in favor of George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), an inexperienced young captain who brings the right pedigree to the table. Chase is pressured into being Pollard’s first mate and despite strong tension between the two men, they set out to go whale hunting. But pretty much everything that can go wrong on the whaling trip, does.

When I saw the first trailer for In the Heart of the Sea, I thought that it was actually a prequel movie for Moby Dick. Turns out, that’s not true: instead it’s the fictionalized story of the real life ship wreck that to some extent inspired Melville to write Moby Dick. And while I don’t care much for Moby Dick itself, so I have the suspicion that I wouldn’t have liked a prequel story better. At least if it was a boring reiteration of a story we’ve seen a million times alread like this film turned out to be.

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Spectre (2015)

Spectre
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
Based on: Ian Fleming‘s James Bond novels
Sequel to: Casino Royal, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Judi Dench
Seen on: 10.11.2015

Plot:
The 00 program is still reeling from recent (forced) restructures. Now M (Ralph Fiennes) has to fight to keep it going at all as C (Andrew Scott) tries to establish a more technological data gathering approach to spying. Meanwhile, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on a mission. A mysterious message from the old M (Judi Dench) reaches him, sending him to a funeral in Italy and with it right in the middle of Spectre – a secret organization that seems to have its hand in every major global event.

I’m not a huge Bond fan – which is probably why I enjoyed the most recent efforts in the franchise (well, apart from Quantom of Solace) as it seemed a step away from the worst of Bond’s inherent sexism. Plus, they were good actions films. Spectre, unfortunately, is a jump back into the 70s and with it, into all the Bond-pitfalls that the Craig-Bond-era has at least partly avoided. I was disappointed.

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Paddington (2014)

Paddington
Director: Paul King
Writer: Paul King
Based on: Michael Bond‘s books
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Julie Walters, Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Matt Lucas, Steve Oram, Alice Lowe

Plot:
The bear Paddingtion (Ben Whishaw) was happily living with his aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) in the Peruvian jungle. But when their home gets destroyed, Lucy sends Paddington to London, hoping that he will find a safe home there, as promised by an explorer who visited them a long time ago. Thankfully shortly after his arrival in London, Paddington meets the Browns –  Mary (Sally Hawkins), Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and their children Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin). Together they start to look for the explorer to find Paddington his safe place. But not everyone is out to help Paddington.

The trailer for Paddington looked awful, full of unfunny slapstick and grossness. I wanted to see it despite the trailer, but was prepared for the worst. And (apart from the general postcolonial qualms I have about the story) I was pleasantly surprised by the film that is much sweeter and funnier than the trailer made me think it was.

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The Zero Theorem (2013)

The Zero Theorem
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer: Pat Rushin
Cast: Christoph Waltz, Lucas HedgesDavid ThewlisMélanie ThierryMatt DamonGwendoline ChristieRupert FriendRay CooperLily ColeSanjeev BhaskarPeter StormareBen WhishawTilda Swinton

Plot:
Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) works as an entity cruncher for a huge corporation. The hours away from home are torture for Qohen as he is waiting for a call, so he has been trying to convince the corporation that he could work from home. When his supervisor Joby (David Thewlis) tells him that Management (Matt Damon) will be at his party, Qohen decides that he has to go there and talk to him. And he actually succeeds in that plan and a little while later, he starts working on the Zero Theorem from home.

Gilliam knows how to make a world look cool and a film look pretty. The cast is wonderful, too. Other than that though, the film is a boring, sexist mess.

the-zero-theorem

 

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The World’s End (2013)

The World’s End
Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy ConsidineMartin Freeman, Rafe SpallEddie MarsanRosamund PikePierce Brosnan, Bill Nighy, Michael Smiley, Steve Oram, Alice Lowe, David Bradley, Julia Deakin, Reece Shearsmith, Peter Serafinowicz, Mark Heap, Ben Whishaw (at least I’m pretty damn certain it was him)
Part of: The Cornetto Trilogy
[Here are my reviews of the other two movies in the trilogy.]

Plot:
When they were still young and living in Newton Haven, Gary King (Simon Pegg) and his friends Andy (Nick Frost), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Ollie (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine) tried themselves at a pub crawl and came short. 20 years later, Gary is still obsessed with the idea of finishing and convinces the old gang to come. But things are a little weird in Newton Haven – weirder than in other small towns.

Since I love both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I was very worried that it this film wouldn’t be able to fulfill my expectations. But fortunately it did. It was awesome.

The-Worlds-End

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