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Tag: Christian Bale

Editorials

American Psycho: 19 Years On

June 13, 2019
American Psycho Screenshot

It’s been nineteen years since Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho was released. A violent(ish) film filled with debauchery and materialism, it helped create and shape the careers of its actors. Here’s what they’ve been up to since.

Christian Bale

Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman (Lionsgate Films)

Before American Psycho, the films on Christian Bale’s résumé were relatively squeaky clean, starring in such films such as Pocahontas, Little Women and the musical The News Boys. Stepping into the role of the titular psycho, Patrick Bateman was a far cry from his other roles, but since then he has gone from strength to strength, displaying a wide range of diversity and going to extreme lengths in order to fully delve into whatever character he is playing. From the rapid weight loss to show the effects of insomnia and paranoia in The Machinist to working out enough to suit the physique of the Dark Knight, Bale has shown his dedication towards any role.

Perhaps his most well-known role is now Batman, however, there is so much more to Bale’s repertoire than the Caped Crusader. Since American Psycho premiered, Bale has been nominated for four Oscars, one of which he won for Best Supporting Actor in The Fighter. It seems he’ll only be starring in one film this year, Ford vs Ferrari (or Le Mans ’66 depending on where you are in the world), however, I’m sure we’ll see him again very soon.

Jared Leto

Jared Leto - American Psycho
Jared Leto as Paul Allen (Lionsgate Films)

Perhaps most well known for his music rather than his acting for a while, Jared Leto didn’t really have a starring role in many films. It seems for a while he was most well known for his roles as Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life, Angel Face in Fight Club and Tobias Jacobs in Girl, Interrupted before he was hired to be Paul Allen in American Psycho, a colleague of Bateman’s, unaware that he is also his nemesis. Though his most memorable scene belongs to Bale more than it does to him (you know the one, where Huey Lewis and the News is playing just before Allen gets struck in the head with an axe), Leto has since become a lead actor in his own right, starring in films such as Requiem for a Dream and Mr Nobody.

Leto has also been nominated for and won an Oscar, for his role as Rayon, a transsexual diagnosed with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club. Though Leto doesn’t act as often, he has starred in the Blade Runner sequel, has an upcoming Marvel film where he’s starring as a living vampire in Morbius and, of course, who can (or rather, who will) ever forget his Joker. According to Leto’s IMDB, there are two upcoming Joker films he is attached to so… we all have those to look forward to.

Willem Dafoe

Willem Defoe - American Psycho
Willem Defoe as Donald Kimball (Lionsgate Films)

Willem Dafoe is one of those actors where every time he pops up in a film, I always find myself saying to anyone I’m with (or even if I’m alone), “Hey look, it’s Willem Dafoe!” With over 129 credits to his name, Dafoe is one of those actors that I think surprises people with his range and the depth that he can bring to a role. Before becoming Donald Kimball, an NYPD detective that is suspicious of Bateman as starts to really get into his violent spree, Dafoe starred in Clear and Present Danger, Born of the Fourth of July and the incredible The Boondock Saints.

Though Dafoe has been in a wide range of films since, such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, Antichrist and even Mr Bean’s Holiday, it is hard to deny his take on the Green Goblin. Though Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy didn’t always have its best moments, I think its fair to say that Dafoe’s performance was one of the better things about the films. Since his performance as Norman Osborne, Dafoe became Vulko in Aquaman, a friend and mentor to Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry. Dafoe has five films coming out this year and at least two coming out next year, which shows there is clearly no slowing this man down.

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon as Evelyn Williams (Lionsgate Films)

Reese Witherspoon already had three big films under her belt before American Psycho came around. She was a teenage runaway getting revenge in Freeway, a naïve and sweet girl in Cruel Intentions and as a manipulative, over-achieving girl in high school in Election. So although her role as Evelyn, Bateman’s as equally narcissistic, materialistic, cheating fianceé, was diverging from her usual ‘teenager’ role, it was worth it in the long run. Though like Leto, her best scene belongs to Bale (their inevitable break up scene), it still showcased her comedic timings as she over-dramatically cries in the restaurant.

From there, Witherspoon embraced and twisted the dumb blonde image at the same time in Legally Blonde, a film that cemented Witherspoon as a star. She went on to a win an Oscar for Best Leading Actress for her part as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line and was nominated again for Wild. Witherspoon has since delved in producing, her biggest producing credit thus far being the hit show Big Little Lies in which she also stars. Though it seems she’ll only be in Big Little Lies and The Morning Show this year, she’ll also be stepping into her iconic Elle Woods character once more, as Legally Blonde 3 will be heading our way in 2020.

Also Read: Women In Horror: An Ode to Laurie Strode

Editorials

Well I Didn’t Vote For You – Fictional Leaders In Films

February 10, 2019

Whether good or bad, competent or useless, noble or corrupt what do fictional politicians tell us about how we view politics?

Christian Bale has a history of dramatic physical transformations for roles and his latest performance as former American Vice-President Dick Cheney in Vice is one of his best as he is almost unrecognisable. Gone is the chiselled physique of a man who once portrayed Batman replaced by a great deal of weight and a lot less hair. A lot of films have been made about real presidents but they have to contend with things like facts, what about fictional leaders who can be as brave, unhinged or greedy as you like?

Politician Type One – The Action Hero

Since the 90s it is seemingly not enough for a president to be an intelligent and honest public servant – they have to kick ass too. Past presidents may have sufficed in giving the motivational speech but Thomas J. Whitmore (Bull Pullman in Independence Day) got very much involved in fighting aliens. Oddly enough at the beginning of the film it seems his presidency is not going well so maybe this alien invasion worked out well for him. I haven’t seen the sequel so have no knowledge of his future political career.

Air Force One (IMDb)

It’s a mystery why President James Marshall (Harrison Ford in Air Force One) even needs Secret Service protection as he’s clearly perfectly capable of looking after himself. Marshall pursued an aggressive interventionist foreign policy which mirrored his aggressive killing-terrorists-trying-to-kill-him-and-his-family policy.

So popular is this trope of the action hero president two films came out at roughly the same time with the same plot – narrative twins White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen saw Jamie Foxx and Aaron Eckhart trying to save their presidential lives while the White House is attacked. Admittedly each film has a separate action hero star that takes charge of most of the fighting but each president has their moments.

Politician Type Two – The Incompetent

Being a world leader is hard. Really, really hard. And that’s at the best of times but films don’t get made about the best of times, they are made about things like alien invasions, nuclear Armageddon or a collapsing civilisation brought about by rampant stupidity. President James Dale (Jack Nicholson, Mars Attacks!) is a man not up to the job of handling first contact with Martians, constantly asking for advice from similarly incompetent advisors (and wife) and virtually giving up when things get tough, with his primary concern being about approval ratings rather than, you know, stopping the alien invasion. He even manages to mess up his last-minute saving the world speech.

Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove) was given a tough time by a rogue general who under his own authority launches a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union but he perfectly satirised the insanity of Cold War brinkmanship. No matter how close the end of the world was the East vs West paradigm continued with advisors shouting about the best way to “win” the battle for control over their radiation poisoned world.

Idiocracy (fictionbrands.org)

Perhaps my favourite fictional president is the wonderfully named Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews, Idiocracy). He is a flamboyant and extravagant man which is to be expected of a former professional wrestler and porn star. He runs a future America where stupidity is destroying pretty much everything and Luke Wilson’s “average” intelligence character is the smartest man in the world. At least Camacho had the sense to spot good talent.

Politician Type Three – The Tyrant

The incompetent leaders are usually found in comedies and many of them ones are at least trying to do a good job and help people. But there are also tyrants – the people who have seized power and will not give it up. President Snow (Donald Sutherland,,The Hunger Games) is an expert manipulator of the population using both fear and hope to control people. Dapper, polite and rather presidential-looking at first glance he may have appeared a perfectly good leader but very quickly his brutality and cruelty are laid bare.

V for Vendetta (onemovieavenue.com)

British politicians are certainly rarer in films than their American counterparts but they have a tyrant of their own – Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt, V For Vendetta); an angry shouting tyrant constantly having himself projected onto huge screens and raging about all the people he doesn’t like which even includes Stephen Fry. The final reveal of what Sutler is really like when things get difficult is very satisfying.

What does this mean for “real” leaders?

So we have three different tropes of politicians in films (and there are many more) but what does this tell us about how we see politicians? The Tyrants obviously exist to show us what could go wrong, indeed V For Vendetta has several sequences taking us step-by-step through the process.

The Incompetents are an important satirical part of culture and it is crucial to be able to laugh at politicians and people in power and be aware that they too panic, get overwhelmed and do stupid things. Looking at three leaders I’ve mentioned each speaks to their time – in 1990s people thought everything became style over substance, in the 1960s it did seem like the world could be destroyed at any moment by arrogant politicians and in the early 2000s people were worried about the “dumbing down” of society.

The Action Heroes are certainly an odd cultural item as most real life politicians are not going to be very good in a fight (with the possible exception of Theodore Roosevelt who once delivered an 84 minute speech after getting shot in the chest). They tend to be older people who have spent more time in boring budget meetings than in highly choreographed gun battles. I think it is that politics is rarely obviously heroic – there is a lot of compromise, a need to understand very complicated issues where there is no easy answer, a requirement to listen to committees and opponents and judges instead of doing what you want. On the other hand if terrorists take over Air Force One and are trying to kill you then it’s very easy to get behind your hero president throwing people off his plane.



Reviews

Review: Vice [Spoiler Free]

January 24, 2019

Following 2015’s The Big Short, the trio of writer / director, Adam McKay and actors Christian Bale & Steve Carell join forces for the biographical political drama, Vice. The film details the rise to power of former U.S Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Story

Based on the biography of Dick Cheney, as well as interviews with known associates, Vice tells the life story of Dick Cheney (played by Christian Bale). The film documents the period of him being kicked out of Yale University to the end of George W. Bush’s administration, for which he served as Vice President. The viewer is guided through his life story by the narrator, Kurt (Jesse Plemons), we later discover how these two individuals are connected.

The supporting cast includes Amy Adams (Arrival, Justice League) as Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney; Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy, Welcome to Marwen) as Donald Rumsfeld; Tyler Perry (Nobody’s Fool) as Colin Powell; and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) as President George W Bush.

Hitting The Mark

Christian Bale & Amy Adams (Vice)

Over the years, Christian Bale has proven himself to be a master at immersing himself in the characters he plays, fortunately, this remains true with his depiction of Dick Cheney. From the stoic demeanour and gravelly voice, Christian Bale’s performance is on par with previous performances in American Hustle & The Fighter.

Lynne Cheney is very much the backbone of the Cheney family. Her motivations are often a lot clearer than Dick Cheney’s, which allows Amy Adams to play her role with greater depth. Her need for a sense of security in her relationship, based on her parent’s abusive relationship and her wishes to realise her own ambitions, at a time women couldn’t so easily do, gives her character a sense of drive. One that is felt constantly throughout the film.

Sam Rockwell’s depiction of George W Bush largely stays true to the former president and is as equally believable as Christian Bale’s Cheney. One of the stronger points of Vice is exploring the relationship between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. George W. Bush once described his relationship with Dick Cheney as “cordial” and that’s largely how their relationship is shown on screen.

Most of the film revolves around three periods, which has defined modern-day Conservative politics in the U.S: The power-vacuum formed after the resignation of President Nixon because of the Watergate Scandal, the rise of the Bush family in the Republican Party & 9/11.

The film also makes references to how the wider landscape of how Conservative politics developed: from Roger Ailes’ initial wish to form a Conservative Party News Channel, which then became Fox News; to billionaires, the Koch brothers and their influence on the party.

Thought Process

Despite being accurate on key events, a downfall of the film is understanding Dick Cheney’s motivation in the first place. Early on in the film he is described as a “so-so student” and having been expelled from Yale and battling drinking, his decision to study and enter into politics, much less the long ascent to becoming the United States’ most powerful Vice President ever, isn’t given the on-screen time that it should have.

Is Dick Cheney motivated by hatred? fear? Or atriotism? Without this explored it can make light of the ruthlessness in which the real Dick Cheney moulded the Republican Party over the past decades. And whilst the director, Adam McKay, does present some facts and figures, it does little to show the motivating factors in pursuing the “War on Terror” as viciously as Dick Cheney did.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a fan of The Big Short, you’ll certainly enjoy this. The supporting cast is great and Christian Bale is believable in his depiction of Dick Cheney. Even though it doesn’t quite reach the captivating heights of a film like Wolf of Wall Street in describing a “rise to power” story, it’s an intriguing look at how the political landscape of Republican politics has changed over the last four decades.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Reviews

Review: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

January 12, 2019

A new year is upon us, and very little is out in cinemas at the moment. So it’s the perfect time to catch up on films that passed us by last year. So, I watched a Netflix title I had long been interested in. And because the animated Disney film holds a special place in my heart, I decided to review Andy Serkis’ much delayed Jungle Book adaptation, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.

The story

Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is left alone in the wild after the tiger, Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) kills his parents. The panther Bagheera (Christian Bale) brings him to a wolf pack for protection. He, the wolves and Baloo the bear (Andy Serkis) agree to raise Mowgli as their own and protect him from Khan. As he grows older though it becomes clear that Mowgli will not survive in the wild. But he is too accustomed to jungle life to live as a human. With, a human hunter stalking his friends in the jungle and Shere Khan out for blood, can Mowgli find a way to survive and bring peace to the jungle?

What did I like?

Firstly, I will briefly contextualize this review by sharing my thoughts on Disney’s live-action version of the Jungle Book. Because the Disney version had a large impact on Mowgli’s production and the audience reactions that accompanied it, so I think it bears commenting on. Personally, I found the 2016 Jungle Book disappointing. The cast was great and the mix of CGI and live action looked amazing, but the 2016 Jungle Book was a supposedly dark adult movie, that clogged up the runtime with constant references to the original movie, including bizarre out of place musical numbers and lacked any sense of threat or growth for the main character.

Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book (2016)

The Disney versions success delayed Mowgli’s post-production, with Netflix eventually claiming the rights to the film. Personally, I think this helped the film. After the safe blockbuster Disney film, I found myself craving something different. As Netflix is less restrictive (according to Serkis) this allowed the film to be just that. Different.

From the beginning this film sets a bleak tone. We see Shere Khan attack Mowgli’s parents and later threaten to kill him. Only deterred by the ferocity of the wolf pack banding together. This version is not about the Bear Necessities. This version is about survival and how harsh and unforgiving the world can be. Make no mistake; this is not a film for young children. This movie contains blood, violence that affects even the younger characters and scenes that seem ripped straight out of a horror film. There are light moments that allow respite from the horror and give personality to the characters but importantly these moments do not detract from the overall tone. They do not overstay their welcome and the brevity feels like it fits each character’s personality. It is a taxing experience but a well-done and worthwhile one.

The film’s also well crafted. Quickly absorbing us into this world. The film tells a classic underdog story. Mowgli is an outcast in both the human and jungle world but he has strong ties to them both. So he tries his best to live life his way, but the ferocity of man and nature constantly beat him down. Giving us a hero that we can easily root for and a good challenge for him to overcome. All of the supporting characters are engaging, have their own show stealer moment and feel integral to the story. And the animation used to bring the world to life looks mostly stunning.

Finally, the acting from everyone is great. All the voice actors add so much personality to their characters. Christian Bale’s Bagheera feels stately and wise, which greatly contrasts with the savage nature he tries to keep covered up. Andy Serkis gives his Baloo the temperament of a drill sergeant, an incredibly refreshing take on the character. And Benedict Cumberbatch instils terror every time Shere Khan is on screen. With his growling, angry inflections adding so much menace to him.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)

What I do not like?

One of the big hindrances that Mowgli has is the way it uses motion capture. The film uses facial capture technology to record the nuances of the actor’s performances. Later transposed onto animals. While this is an interesting idea, it’s practical use is quite jarring. Because the animal characters look realistic, the combination of an animal’s face with the recognizable features of a real-world actor, creates a striking disconnect that can often take viewers out of the experience.

Star Rohan Chand also shows himself to be the weak link of the film. Not to say that he is wholly bad. He does a good job for a young actor and shows that with more training he will grow to be a fantastic actor. But he is asked to convey a lot. And when he is asked to show raw emotion, he shows his limits.

Finally, the film does have some editing problems. The first half flows smoothly. But just before Mowgli’s jungle expulsion, it feels like significant portions of the movie were cut. Many crucial events are not shown. Such as Shere Khan taking over the wolf pack and Mowgli going to find his friends. We also don’t get enough time to feel Mowgli’s growing fondness for the humans in the man village. So the idea that he is the champion of both worlds does ring a little hollow. And several characters feel like they needed at least one more scene to fully realize their purpose, such as Kaa the snake (Cate Blanchett). The movie is ultimately satisfying but I would love to see a longer version.

Verdict

Mowgli, at it’s weakest, shows some of the hindrances of motion capture. As well as Rohan Chand’s limitations as an actor. And the problems of not giving a project enough time to breathe in the edit. But at it’s best Mowgli is an engaging, thoughtful and terrifying coming of age movie.

Like Watership Down, Return to Oz and Dark Crystal, Mowgli uses traditionally family friendly story tropes to tell a tale for adults. It’s destined to be a film that scars children for life when unsuspecting parents put it on. But it treats its characters and mythos seriously without becoming laughably overbearing. Every one of the voice actor’s performances is amazing and invests so much personality into the proceedings. Although he sometimes struggles, Rohan Chand shows that he has a bright future ahead of him. The story and action is gripping and intense and at the core is a relatable story about an outcast finding his purpose in the world.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)