By: Vincent Camilleri
A HEROINE OF OUR TIMES
Michelle Yeoh Aung San Suu Kyi
David Thewlis Dr Michael Aris
Directed by Luc Besson
Running time: 135 minutes
The Nobel Peace Prize for 1991 was awarded to Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi for her non violent battle for democracy and human rights in her country. The award citation went on to describe her struggle as “one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades. She has become an important symbol in the struggle against oppression.” She was first put under house arrest by the Burmese military dictatorship in 1989 and released and re-arrested many times until her final release in 2010, having spent a total of 15 years in detention, never allowed to leave the country. She was given a passport only a few weeks ago and will be making her first trip abroad next week to address an economic forum in Bangok. Her story puts her in the realm of freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and others who became legends in their lifetime.
Dr Suu Kyi’s ordeal which galvanised world attention was a film crying to be made. It fell on French Director Luc Besson to take up the challenge. Taking a radical departure from his bullet ridden action movies like The Fifth Element, La femme Nikita and Leon, Besson presents a poignant love story between Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) and her husband Dr Michael Aris (David Thewlis) against the wife’s determined love for freedom and democracy in her country. The story written by TV screen writer Rebecca Frayn for her feature film debut focuses on the pains of separation suffered by Dr Aris who comes out as a great man behind a great woman. The anguish and psychological torment to insufferable limits inflicted upon Suu Kyi by the Burmese military dictatorship is shown particularly in the sequence when she decided not to accept their offer to leave Rangoon to be at her husband’s deathbed in London, knowing that she would not be allowed to go back and thus give up her struggle.
To tell the Suu Kyi’s private family story, Luc Besson had to skim over some very important episodes in her public life. This is also the case in the treatment of the international support she rallied for her cause. But this is pardonable. The director managed to extract two great performances from Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis. The Malaysian Chinese actress, once a Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Comes and a martial arts heroine in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon bears an uncanny resemblance to Ms Suu Kyi and gives a heart rending interpretation of an amazing character who paid a very dear price for her ideals. David Thewlis who has a double role as Michael Aris and his twin brother Anthony, gives an equally convincing performance. He plays the chain smoking scholar who divides his time between his academic life in London, fighting for his wife’ cause – he was instrumental for her Nobel Peace Prize Award- and a few visits to his wife in Rangoon while battling with prostrate cancer which killed him in 1999.
TIM BURTON’S VAMPIRE STORY
Johnny Depp Barnabas Collins
Michelle Pfeiffer Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Helena Bonham Carter Dr Julia Hoffman
Eva Green Angelique Bouchard
Directed by Tim Burton
Running time: 113 minutes
Johnn Depp’s work with director Tim Burton began in 1990 with the critically acclaimed cult movie Edward Scissorhands, the film that launched Johnny Depp’s amazing film career. Twenty two years down the line they are still at it with Dark Shadows, their seventh film together, a dark humorous take on the vampire genre. The Burton – Depp duo were responsible for the eerie Sleepy Hollow (1999) , the macabre horror musical Sweeny Todd, two children’s fantasy stories Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010) with the quirky biopic Ed Wood (1994) thrown in for good measure.
Dark Shadows is Tim Burton’s big screen adaptation of a popular gothic soap opera that ran on ABC television between 1966 and 1971. Hollywood legend has it that Tim Burton was on of the fans of the series about vampires, werewolves , witches and zombies and young Johnnie Depp was fascinated with the vampire Barnabas Collins, who became the main character of the series that he dreamt that one day he would be him. We could say that Mr Depp’s dream came true, at least in the make believe world of cinema he gets to play Barnabas Collins. We meet Barnabas as the scion of an English family who, in 1760, leaves Liverpool for Maine to expand their fishing empire in America. The Collins make it big in America. The fish business develops into a family run town called Collinsport with Collinswood, a massive 200 room mansion becoming the family’s own little Versailles. Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) is a witch who works with the family with a bad crush on Barnabas who is in love with a girl named Josette. Angelique, blinded with jealousy, exposes Barnabas as a vampire and leads a wild mob to bury him alive.
Fast forward 200 years and we see workers on a building site in Collinsport in 1972 digging up the coffin containing Barnabas still alive and kicking. This is when all the fun begins.
Barnabas finds his way back to Collinswood to find the last members of the Collins dynasty. These are Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her precocious daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), Roger Collins and his son David (Gulliver McGrath) who still sees the ghost of his drowned mother and other ghosts lurking in the corridors of the manor and Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) an alcoholic resident psychiatrist hired to take care of young David’s troubled mind. As if this motley crew was not enough, Angelique is also around as much as Josette, who is now living in a different person still charming Barnabas and driving Angelique mad with jealousy.
Forget the Adams Family. The Collins clan, with Barnabas back in the saddle, is the weirdest of them all. Johnny Depp has a ball playing Barnabas. Of course he remembers all the secret passages and tunnels of the mansion, a work of art with its grandiose ceiling high fire places, imposing portraits of the Collins family and a chandelier the likes of which was last seen crashing to the ground in The Phantom of the Opera. Tim Burton borrows from many of his former ‘dark’ films to create his own unique atmosphere. He also makes excellent use of hits from the seventies ranging from Nights in White Satin backing the opening credits to Barry White’s haunting You’re, the First the Last, My Everything as Barnabas and Angelique literally bring the house down in a hilarious sex scene. Alice Cooper is invited to perform live in a party thrown by Barnabas to curry favour with the locals and the Carpenters appear singing Top of the World live on TV. Tim Burton also pays homage to Christopher Lee living king of Hammer horror films with a short cameo appearance.
Dark Shadows is heavy on dialogue at times but the story flows pleasantly through the film’s fun packed 113 minutes.
Watch trailer: http://www.imdb.com/rg/s/4/title/tt1077368/#lb-vi397582361
Mark Wahlberg Chris Farraday
Kate Beckinsale Kate Farraday
Ben Foster Sebastian Abney
Giovanni Ribisi Tim Briggs
Directed by Baltasar Kormakur
Running time: 110 minutes
Mark Wahlberg leads the cast of Contraband, an action-thriller about a man trying to stay out of a world he worked hard to leave behind and the family he'll do anything to protect. Set in New Orleans, the film explores the cutthroat underground world of international smuggling - full of desperate criminals and corrupt officials, high-stakes and big payoffs-where loyalty rarely exists and death is one wrong turn away. Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), Chris is forced back into doing what he does best-running contraband-to settle Andy's debt. Chris is a legendary smuggler and quickly assembles a crew with the help of his best friend, Sebastian (Ben Foster), to head to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit bills. Things quickly fall apart and with only hours to reach the cash, Chris must use his rusty skills to successfully navigate a treacherous criminal network of brutal drug lords, cops and hit men before his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and sons become their target. Chris Faraday once smuggled illegal items or contraband into the country on freighters. He left that life behind, got married has a family and went legit. But when his brother-in-law got involved with Briggs, a drug dealer and when he blew a deal, Briggs demands restitution which he can't deliver. So Chris offers to find a way to pay him but the he threatens Chris' family if he doesn't deliver.
(Production notes Universal Pictures)
Watch trailer: http://www.imdb.com/rg/s/4/title/tt1802197/#lb-vi2072682777
Top Ten Films in Malta
16 - 20 May 2012
1. MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
2. AMERICAN PIE REUNION
3. THE LUCKY ONE
4. THE HUNGER GAMES
5. JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
6. TITANIC (3D)
7. MIRROR MIRROR
8. ACT OF VALOUR
10. THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
With acknowledgements to KRS Film Distributors Ltd