‘The Favourite’ review: Elegant spoof on period piece

‘The Favourite’ director Yorgos Lanthimos beautifully crafted a film that shows three remarkable women twisted in different ways.

The Favourite is set in the early 18th century where England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time-consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics (or rabbit) stand in her way.

The film highlights the emptiness and lovelessness of chasing human power and control. Abigail uses covert passive-aggressive tactics to chase human power, whilst Sarah uses overt control and aggression to gain human power and control in the political court in favor of her husband’s position as the leader of the Britain army. However, the final scene brings home the emptiness of the power game that all three women are engaged in, as Queen Anne finally realizes that both Sarah and Abigail have used her to gain human power in some form. In many ways, it’s an elegant take on the evils behind power, politics, manipulation and ambiguity in pursuing richness. Not pretty, at times, but it is real, well-acted, and demonstrates the fragility of human power and control.

What is refreshing about this film is that it only focuses on Queen Anne and its maids – Abigail and Sarah. The men add a little bit of texture, but this is about the rather unusual love triangle among three women. It feels so fresh that there are times you forget it is set in the 18th century. This is the film for those who are looking for entertainment, stellar performances and great direction. Adding up adultery, violence, blackmail, and sex, this film has it all and a lot more to offer. You’ll be hard-pressed to pick a favourite out of the three leading actresses.

The gradual evolution of the three main characters and the story is beautifully crafted. Olivia Coleman and Rachel Weisz deliver performances that are pitch perfect, falling in line with the often-absurdist tone of the film yet nonetheless strikingly emotional. While Emma Stone beautifully portrays a character that you can root for and despise in turns. Peppered alongside them is a wonderful supporting cast, including a scene-stealing Nicholas Hoult and all manner of extras that work as fuel for pleasure at the hands of the leads.

The victory of this film is that it does not feed you the story; it lets you interpret it in your own way. It’s brilliant how Lanthimos gives everything right on the screen, but it is still not all. The film is complete when viewers add their own understanding. It is just brilliant.

The Favourite is by far one of Lanthimos’ greatest films. Taking a real historical figure, his unique directing style and a script full of memorable lines capped off with remarkable performances by Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Very enjoyable from beginning to end, it moves slow almost intentionally to pause and give you time to fully understand why and what is going on. Perfectly-timed jokes and silly physical humor also counter-balance the sinister goings-on among people making you realize that this film is both royally fun and entertaining.

Overall, it is a brilliant piece unlike anything you’ve seen before. A masterclass in directing, editing, and acting, The Favourite is a must-see with a very strong ending for it provides so much ‘silent’ talking in our hearts – giving all the meaning of the film in one scene.

4 out of 5 stars
‘The Favourite’ is produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Film4, and Waypoint. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, and starring Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weiz, Emma Stone, Joe Alwyn, and Nicholas Hoult. Runtime 119 minutes

‘Aquaman’ hits $800-M worldwide, P582-M in PH box office

Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Aquaman” has hit new heights at the international box office, with tickets pushing the DC Super Hero past the $800 million mark.  The announcement was made February 19 by the head of Warner Bros. Pictures International Distribution, Tom Molter.

The impressive box office run overseas has propelled the film to become the highest grossing DC title ever both globally and internationally, as well as in 36 territories, including the Philippines (at Php 582-million), China, Spain, Brazil and Taiwan.  

“Aquaman” is already the second-highest grossing Warner Bros. title internationally, behind only “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” and also stands as Warner Bros.’ biggest earner in 24 international markets, including the Philippines, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Taiwan and the UAE.  The benchmark international number also drives the global box office figure to $1.13 billion and counting.

Industry-wide in the Philippines, “Aquaman” ranks as the eighth overall biggest grossing film ever in PH history, including both local and foreign titles.

Molter stated, “‘Aquaman’ began its journey in China and has made its way around the globe through every major international market, most recently landing in Japan in early February to great success.  Its remarkable box office throughout the world is a measure of the film’s ability to entertain across cultures and in every language, and we congratulate James Wan, Jason Momoa and the entire team for creating such a hugely entertaining cinematic experience for audiences everywhere.”

From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes “Aquaman,” the origin story of half-surface dweller, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry that takes him on the journey of his lifetime—one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be…a king.  The action-packed adventure spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, and stars Jason Momoa in the title role.

The film also stars Amber Heard as Mera, a fierce warrior and Aquaman’s ally throughout his journey; Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”) as Vulko, council to the Atlantean throne; Patrick Wilson as Orm, the present King of Atlantis; Dolph Lundgren as Nereus, King of the Atlantean tribe Xebel; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the revenge-seeking Black Manta; and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (“The Hours”) as Arthur’s mom, Atlanna.  Also featured are Ludi Lin as Captain Murk, an Atlantean Commando, and Temuera Morrison as Arthur’s dad, Tom Curry.

Wan directed from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, story by Geoff Johns & James Wan and Will Beall, based on characters created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger for DC.  The film was produced by Peter Safran and Rob Cowan, with Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Jon Berg, Geoff Johns and Walter Hamada serving as executive producers.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents a Peter Safran Production, a James Wan Film, “Aquaman.”  The film has been released in 3D and 2D and IMAX, and is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.

‘To All The Boys’ star steps into another love triangle in ‘Happy Death Day 2U’

Hot-off the smash success of Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before where he played the boy-next-door Josh, Israel Broussard now reprises the role of Carter in Universal Pictures’ new suspense thriller Happy Death Day 2U, the sequel to the 2017 acclaimed box-office hit Happy Death Day.  

In the film, no sooner has Tree (Jessica Rothe) said goodbye to the endless loop and begun a promising new relationship with Carter (Broussard) than she realizes that solving the puzzle of her bizarre murder has had unintended consequences—on a scale that will send shockwaves through the multiverse.

The moral compass in Tree’s life—and the one ally she can constantly depend upon to do what’s right—is Carter, played again by Israel Broussard. Once more, Broussard brings to Carter an honesty and charm that makes audiences understand why Tree couldn’t help but fall for him.

The performer shares which elements of the series brought him back for the new chapter, and it boils down to the guessing game that writer-director Christopher Landon has created. “In the first movie, Tree and Carter were trying to figure out who the killer was, and there were a lot of jump scares,” says Broussard. “You still have those elements in this film, but it’s heightened with ‘Wait! We thought this was the killer, and it’s not.’ The mystery’s back, but once you add all the other dimensions, now we’ve got a whole booklet of possible murder suspects.”

Broussard particularly appreciated how Landon gave his character and our heroine another obstacle to climb in the sequel. “Tree went through hell and woke up right back in it,” he says. “They are in an inter-dimensional love triangle, one where Tree wakes up in this other dimension—where Danielle and Carter are a thing. Still, Carter has this undeniable attraction to Tree. He’s dancing around being respectful toward Danielle, but still acting out of his heart. He’s having this internal fight and dialogue of ‘What am I going to do with Tree?’”

In Philippine cinemas February 13, Happy Death Day 2U is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

About Israel Broussard

Israel Broussard (Carter) began acting after playing the role of Percy in Biloxi Little Theater’s production of The Miracle Worker in 2006. In 2010, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting as a career. Broussard had supporting roles in Flipped (2010) and The Chaperone (2011), before being cast in the lead role in Sofia Coppola’s crime film The Bling Ring (2013). He followed this with roles in Perfect High (2015), H8RZ(2015), Jack of the Red Hearts (2015), Good Kids (2016), Happy Death Day (2017), Netflix’s Extinction (2018) and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018).

About Happy Death Day 2U

Jessica Rothe leads the returning cast of Happy Death Day 2U, the follow-up to Blumhouse’s (Glass, Split, Get Out, The Purge series) surprise 2017 hit of riveting, repeating twists and comic turns. This time, our hero Tree Gelbman (Rothe) discovers that dying over and over was surprisingly easier than the dangers that lie ahead.

When last we left Tree, she saved herself from a certain death at the hands of her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine, Showtime’s Shameless) as she kicked the psychopath out of the Kappa Nu sorority window. Tree’s never-ending birthday was FINALLY over, and she managed to start an entire new life…swearing to never repeat her old mistakes again.

Or so she thought.

Toothless finds love in the final ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

When director-writer Dean DeBlois considered the engine of change for DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, he began to wonder what coming-of-age would look like for the Night Fury aka Toothless…as the dragon grows to yearn for a life beyond humans.

“For so long, he has been Hiccup’s constant companion,” says the director. “But he has begun to stray from that bond as he is drawn by the call of the wild—and by instinct and maturity.” To stay true to the narrative, the storytellers had to contemplate the unthinkable. “We asked ourselves if we could have their relationship completely fall apart, but still bring them back together, stronger than ever,” DeBlois says.

Once Toothless first encounters the Light Fury (so named by Astrid)—a stunning and shimmering all-white dragon who exists on pure instinct—our alpha male finds himself pulled to the wild world from which she comes and will assuredly return.  “Toothless is conflicted by loyalty, but he’s drawn to what is so natural,” says DeBlois. “For him, that’s embodied by the Light Fury; she offers an innocent existence untainted by humans.”

That said, DeBlois admits that any stranger breaking up our star couple had to be both likable and spectacular. “The Light Fury promises a family and the propagation of Toothless’ species,” he says. “She’s essentially there to lure Toothless back into the wild and to his rightful home. To make sure the audience is not resentful of Light Fury, we had to give her such a charming and distinct personality that she’d win us over. These are wordless transitions in animation, and imbuing her with these characteristics required our hitting familiar marks for humans.”

One of the more iconic moments in The Hidden World was one of the first sequences to be led into production: Toothless and Light Fury’s first date on the beach. Set to playful, romantic chords from series composer John Powell, the scene is primarily music-driven and largely a dance. While Toothless fumbles through his amateurish knowledge of the opposite sex, he must rely upon the creature in his life who loves him more than any other: Hiccup.  

Toothless first captures the attention of his feral love by adopting a behavior he learned from humans, specifically Berk’s new chieftain. “We based this on the story of Cyrano de Bergerac and gave it a lot of love and care,” DeBlois says. “Hiccup encourages Toothless to replicate dragon courtship behaviors he’s observed. Still, this is a stunning female of the wild who expects Toothless to know what he’s doing. Of course, he’s a bumbling amateur…with Hiccup cringing on the sidelines.”  

So what’s a dragon to do when he’s head-over-heels in love? “Toothless has no references; he’s the last of his kind, and there’s underlying sadness to that,” DeBlois says. “Ironically, the one thing he learns from a human—drawing in the sand—is what wins her over.”

In Philippine cinemas February 20, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. #HowToTrainYourDragon #HTTYD3

About How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

From DreamWorks Animation comes a surprising tale about growing up, finding the courage to face the unknown…and how nothing can ever train you to let go.  What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon has become an epic adventure spanning their lives.  Welcome to the most astonishing chapter of one of the most beloved animated franchises in film history: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.  

Now chief and ruler of Berk alongside Astrid, Hiccup has created a gloriously chaotic dragon utopia.  When the sudden appearance of female Light Fury coincides with the darkest threat their village has ever faced, Hiccup and Toothless must leave the only home they’ve known and journey to a hidden world thought only to exist in myth.  As their true destines are revealed, dragon and rider will fight together—to the very ends of the Earth—to protect everything they’ve grown to treasure.

For How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, series director Dean DeBlois returns alongside the all-star cast led by Jay Baruchel (This Is the End), America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Cate Blanchett (The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Thor: Ragnarok), Gerard Butler (Den of Thieves, Geostorm), Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters), Craig Ferguson (Doc Martin), and F. Murray Abraham (Homeland) as the villain Grimmel.