Tag Archives: Cate Blanchett

The Monuments Men

It’s wartime 1944 and signs of weakness are appearing in the Germans’ stronghold across Europe. The German Armies start to retreat east, back to their homeland – but they don’t leave things as they’ve found them. Their Führer, Adolf Hitler, a lover of fine art, has ordered that all art treasures (mostly paintings and sculptures) across Europe be collected from the churches and galleries in France and Belgium and brought to him in Linz, for his own personal collection and exhibition. His orders are carried out and those pieces that the Germans can’t take with them, they destroy in their wake, leaving a trail of empty halls and wreckage behind them. At the same time, art expert Frank Stokes (played by George Clooney) initiates an operation to find and retrieve as much of the art as he can. He forms a special squad of experts – art restorer James Granger (by Matt Damon), architect Richard Campbell (by Bill Murray) art teacher Jean-Claude Clermont (by Jean Dujardin), sculptor Walter Garfield (by John Goodman), British art expert Donald Jeffries (by Hugh Bonneville) and Preston Savitz (by Bob Balaban). Stokes has worked with all these men before and, although none are in active military service and they’re all out of shape, he knows this is the best team to get the job done. They must get to the front line and rescue the priceless art pieces before the Germans destroy them as they leave or the Russians steal them when they arrive. Quite straightforward really …

I enjoyed this movie. It’s sort of a Boy’s Own wartime jaunt through Europe, crossed with an Indiana Jones style search for art icons that dodges the inevitable Germans, features wartime exploits and is punctuated by strong mateship during combat. A meaningful piece it isn’t, but an enjoyable movie it is. None of the action scenes are believable, but overall the story is there. I’m not really sure what the “cold as ice” French Museum Curator, Claire Simone (played by Cate Blanchett) adds to the story, except perhaps to provide a source for one or two clues in the search and I guess as a token female character, but she plays the role well and does look great in the forties French fashion. The ensemble cast are very entertaining and the script is delectable – I love the way Clooney bounces off Matt Damon in this – as in several movies they’ve done together (obvious examples are “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Ocean’s Twelve”) and of course both Bill Murray and John Goodman are masters at this. It’s refreshing and entertaining to see Hugh Bonneville here, in a role other than his recent efforts as Lord Grantham in television’s “Downton Abbey”, which may well have typecast him. The movie does make some important points about the value of life compared to art, the deep respect and honour amongst soldiers and the futile wastefulness of war.  Even though George Clooney has directed much better movies than this one, it was awarded the 2014 Heartland Film “Truly Moving Picture” award.

Made in 2014. Directed by George Clooney.

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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Movies


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Blue Jasmine

Things are going so well for Jasmine (played by Cate Blanchett) – her significantly rich husband Hal (by Alec Baldwin) is a successful businessman, she has a busy social life, a beautiful house, designer clothes, expensive jewellery … but suddenly it all falls to pieces and Jasmine finds herself rather down on her luck. She’s had to move away from her high life in New York to stay with her sister Ginger (by Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco – it’s not quite the life she’s been used to … no money left for rent – and now she even has to get a job!!  She doesn’t really know Ginger very well, except that her husband Augie (by Andrew Dice Clay) was a loser and she doesn’t exactly live the same way Jasmine does. Such is the dramatic come-down Jasmine is enduring. Life is stressful, Ginger’s two sons are utterly intolerable and Augie hasn’t provided well for her – her place isn’t exactly “Park Avenue” either … but it’s at least somewhere to stay until Jasmine gets herself back on her feet.  She’s neurotic and anxious, with the past flooding back to crowd her thoughts when anything tips her memory that way.  She relies on pills and drink to get her through the day. Oh how will she ever survive and adjust to such a comedown?

This is a good movie.  Cate Blanchett is excellent as the self-centred Jasmine – totally focussed on her own life, self and utterly unaware of anyone else’s needs. She is dressed in the finest designer clothes and behaves as the perfect spoilt rich bitch. There is certainly something “Blanche Dubois” from “A Streetcar Named Desire” about her character and to some extent about this story – but only in the opening few scenes – it’s not a remake of that movie at all. I was captivated by them all – it’s easy to get wrapped up in the world of these people. Woody Allen has cast this movie exquisitely – as Ginger, Sally Hawkins is just as strong as Blanchett – she is a marvellous counterpoint to the classically styled Jasmine – these sisters were actually born of different parents and just adopted by the same couple, hence their “sister” status but total lack of anything in common, either physically or in lifestyle. Ginger’s boyfriend, Chilli, is played well by Bobby Cannavale and both Alec Baldwin and Peter Sarsgaard are great. It’s easy to forget that both these lead actresses are non-American, Blanchett is Australian and Hawkins is British but they play Americans with complete conviction. This is one of Woody Allen’s finest in the last few years and as usual he has shot it beautifully. Well done everyone involved.

 Made in 2013.  Directed by Woody Allen.

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Movies


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In Morocco, American Richard Jones (played by Brad Pitt) is on holiday with his wife, Susan (by Cate Blanchett). In Tokyo, a young teenage girl, Chieko Wataya (by Rinko Kikuchi) is facing the challenges of adolescence, while she deals with the sudden death of her mother. In San Diego, Mexican housekeeper Amelia (by Adriana Barraza) is busy caring for two young children Debbie (by Elle Fanning) and Mike (by Nathan Gamble), while her son’s wedding approaches and she hopes to find someone to care for them while she attends back in Mexico. In a poor mountainous war-torn region, two mischievous young shepherd boys Yussef (by Boubker Ait El Caid) and Ahmed (by Said Tarchani) are playing near their home as they tend their herd of goats. These four totally independent stories explore a range of emotions, challenges and decisions in the lives of their participants. In every case, trivial or insignificant decisions and actions brought about by fate cause high impact outcomes that are emotionally charged, difficult and life-changing. As the drama progresses, we learn how the stories are actually strongly interlinked and there are marked parallels in them all.

This is a stunning film filled with compelling drama, authentic characters, deep emotions and excellent performances. In every of the four scenarios, everything is very real – in some cases very hard to watch. The decisions made by the people – innocuous at the time but with significant results, are just jaw-dropping. On the one hand, the scenarios are mysterious and the viewer is drawn into them, mostly to find out what will happen – but on the other hand, the viewer also watches with detachment (sometimes utter disbelief) at the actions of the characters. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett don’t play “big, blockbuster, movie star” roles here, they are simply part of the magnificent ensemble cast. The cinematography is very well done and brings the landscape and environment to the audience very graphically, while the music brings the raw emotion in each scenario into stunning focus. In 2007 at the Academy Awards (Oscar) presentation, this movie won the award for Best Music Original Score – it was also nominated for several other awards. By necessaity, this is a multi-lingual movie, so several scenarios are presented with English subtitles. It’s a really great movie. 

Made in 2006. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Movies


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The Talented Mr Ripley

In 1950’s America, Tom Ripley (played by Matt Damon) is a charming and personable young man, with a low-paying janitorial job. He’s also a natural con-artist and in any situation he always finds the most lucrative angle. Dickie Greenleaf (by Jude Law) is the son of a millionaire shipyard owner (by James Rebhorn) and he’s somewhere in Italy, living the high life with his girlfriend Marge (by Gwyneth Paltrow). One day, Tom is serving at a garden party and manages to convince Mr Greenleaf that he knows Dickie from his Princeton days. He gladly accepts a paid assignment in Italy to find the misbehaving Dickie and bring him home. When they meet, the handsome and confident Dickie isn’t fooled by Ripley for a second, but he plays along for a while rather than face being back at home and the reality of the family business. Tom soon settles in to the luxury Mediterranean playground and into Dickie and Marge’s friendship. As well as a good liar, Tom is also adept at imitation and forgery, so when Dickie tires of Tom, Tom goes to extreme lengths to adopt every privilege that Greenleaf’s life offers. He makes his way on the goodwill of affluent friends and acquaintances Meredith (by Cate Blanchett) and Freddie (by Philip Seymour Hoffman).

This film is engaging and vivid. The Italian Riviera sparkles like a gem and the main characters shine right out of the screen. It demonstrates the marvellous 1950’s lifestyle for rich Americans particularly well and you can feel the warm sun beating down on your back just as Jude Law, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow soak it up on the Italian beach. Matt Damon is very intuitive as the destitute Ripley who will do anything to adopt a more affluent lifestyle. Jude Law is perfectly cast as the superficial Dickie, who will “play” with Tom for as long as he’s interested then cast him aside like an old shoe. Cate Blanchett’s performance as the rich tourist, Meredith, is marvellous and she demonstrates exquisite timing. However, for all that, the film does go on for too long and I feel it could have ended sooner with a more effective arrival at the same conclusion, but the story is entertaining and the movie is a pleasure to watch.

This movie is a dramatisation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel,

Made in 1999. Directed by Anthony Minghella

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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Movies


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Robin Hood

You might describe this movie as “Robin Hood – the prequel”. It is the story of the time leading up to the declaration of Robin Hood as an “outlaw” by King John, when he and his band of Merry Men began their legendary acts to “steal from the rich to give to the poor”.

It is 1199, Robin Longstride (played by Russell Crowe) is an archer and a soldier of King Richard (by Danny Huston), who is returning from the Crusades but is killed in France. Meanwhile, in the Tower of London, Richard’s brother, John (by Oscar Isaac) plots with Sir Godfrey (by Mark Strong) to strip the northern barons of taxes. Robin escapes France with a handful of his supporters Allan-a-Dayle, Will Scarlet and Little John (by Alan Doyle, Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand respectively) and they travel north through England. Robin has promised a dying knight (Sir Robert Loxley) he will return his sword to his father (by Max von Sydow) in the farming community of Nottingham. Here Robin meets the feisty Lady Marion (by Cate Blanchett) and Friar Tuck (by Mark Addy). We also meet Sir William Marshal (by William Hurt) who is a supporter of the dead Loxley. Robin and his friendly followers become involved in the turbulent political times and eventually settle there.

I enjoyed this adventure. Russell Crowe is fabulous in these kind of roles and this is no exception. Ridley Scott has made a great movie which (at over 2 hours) is on the long side, but doesn’t labour any points. The relationship between Robin and Marion is only developing, which is a pleasure to watch and the cinematography throughout is grand.  Also watch for Robin’s stunning marksmanship (and the awesome camera-work) as we see the various battles (particularly in the beach battle when Robin fires his last arrow at Sir Godfrey!!).  It’s a good, family movie.

(Made: May 2010)

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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Movies


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We meet Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan), who is around 14 years old, in a winter forest where she has just hunted, killed and gutted a reindeer – presumably for her own dinner. She is obviously a highly skilled bushwoman, hunter and survivor.  She has been raised in this environment by her father Erik (by Eric Bana) who has basically kept her isolated from the outside world since she was a 2 year old. He has educated her with information (from encycopaedia) and she has obviously been taught to fight and survive. She is knowledgeable, but immature and inexperienced. She lets her father know she’s ready to explore more of the world and he allows her to do that. Then we learn that Erik is a CIA agent in hiding, on the run from his former CIA co-agent, the warped Marissa (by Cate Blanchett) – who is keen to find Erik, since an incident in their past. Once Hanna makes their whereabouts known, it is only a matter of hours before “they” come looking for them and here is where the story unfolds further. Erik and Hanna go separate ways and the plot develops into a chase across Europe and North Africa with a lot of action scenes, high drama and a very interesting conclusion.

The story also involves naive Hanna’s gradual introduction to the ways of the world – this is delightful and entertaining to watch, particularly when she meets up with a travelling English family and makes friends with their daughter Sophie (by Jessica Barden) when a contracted sssassin (by Tom Hollander) begins to catch up with her.

This movie got me “in” during the first scene and kept me there until the end. It’s a sort of “Bond – but much better” type of movie. I had very little idea of what it was about before I saw it and I’m glad that was the case. I really enjoyed how the story played out – which would have been spoilt had I already known much of the plot.

There were some places where I felt the drama starting to wane, but almost instantly another component in the story would emerge which kept my interest up.  It was very well made in that regard and the action scenes are just the right duration.  I was glad that I didn’t know the whole story before I watched it.  I decided I’d “stick with it” if there were parts that seemed implausible to me (e.g. the answer to why Hanna behaves almost like a robot is interesting – more than just because she’s been isolated in the forest for so long).

Give it a go – it’s a good one.

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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Movies


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