Nicole Kidman plays headmistress in sexually-charged ‘The Beguiled’

Nicole Kidman delivers a fierce performance as Miss Martha, the headmistress of an all-girls boarding school, in Sofia Coppola’s thriller The Beguiled (now showing exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas’ Greenbelt 1, Trinoma, Alabang Town Center, Centrio).

Adapted from the novel by Thomas Cullinan, The Beguiled is a sexually charged tale that unfolds during the Civil War, at a Southern girls’ boarding school. Its sheltered young women take in an injured enemy soldier (Farrell). As they provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, and taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events.

Kidman comments, “I thought it was exciting to work with a group of women and then put Colin in the equation. I was so happy to support Sofia as a female director, and I always thought that she made such atmospheric movies in such a signature style. That was the main thing which drew me to working with her.”

As it happens, when director Sofia Coppola approached Colin Farrell with The Beguiled, he had only just completed production on another movie with Kidman. He quips, “Nicole and I are now each 50 percent of a small film repertory company. Nicole is a joy to work with. When she comes on the set, everyone gets a little bit better, from the actors to the electricians!”

“Everyone stands up straighter,” adds co-star Elle Fanning. “Especially when Nicole was being Miss Martha.”

For Coppola, Kidman is uniquely qualified to play Miss Martha as the former had reconceived the character. “I’ve loved Nicole’s performances – especially when she plays a little bit twisted, like in To Die For. I’ve always wanted to work with her, and when I was writing the screenplay I pictured her and that helped me. I knew she would bring a lot to Miss Martha, including humor and emotion. Nicole can play it so commanding that you know she’s in charge of the whole group.

“But I didn’t want the cliché of the scary headmistress,” adds Coppola. “At all ages in this movie, the women are Southern beauties – although Miss Martha’s moment as a Southern belle has passed, and the parties are over. What’s become real for her is protecting these girls; she’s had to be strong in difficult times.”

Kidman returns the compliment, “Sofia is so softly spoken and sweet and lovely to be around. Everyone has such respect for her. I was also fascinated by how Sofia put together the look of The Beguiled; she had such strong ideas for how it should look, including the costumes and sets – and she had to work within the parameters of the low budget.”

The Beguiled is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

MOVIE REVIEW: Lion (2017)

Lion is a reminder of what storytelling is all about: capturing a man’s soul, and letting the audience experience his journey first-hand, as narrated in Garth Davis’ film about loss, hope and survival.

In a nutshell, Lion isn’t necessarily a monumental achievement in terms of cinematic technicalities, but what this film has is a genuine and heartfelt purpose that not all celebrated artsy films have. Lion has emotional depth as deep as the ocean; moving, like its waves; it’ll sway you, but it won’t drown you. The tide of this film’s journey will take you someplace else, making it an experience rather than just another movie to watch. That is more than enough for a film to stand tall.

Director Garth Davis’ biggest achievement is perhaps giving the film a soul as the actors give it a heart. Also, an honorable mention to its sublime cinematography for a visually stunning picture — alluring yet gritty, colorful yet dark — a manifestation of a lost child’s journey towards finding his home: eventful, oftentimes dangerous, but ultimately hopeful.

Remember those days when simple, clean, thoughtful narratives like Forrest Gump (Zemeckis, 1994) are well-renowned? They fully rely on iconic characters and inspiring storylines about a journey of a person — more so a character study of a man’s heart and soul, tackling every emptiness and every joy. Lion gives such nostalgia to that era of filmmaking that contemporary cinema is often prejudiced of. It is a reminder that the most important element of cinema as art is how it affects and transcends emotions across the screen. Lion does just that without the clichés of a conventional melodrama.

This is Nicole Kidman’s best since her role as grieving Becca in Rabbit Hole (2016). Kidman’s performance is universal; she epitomizes maternal instinct and unconditional love that radiates even with such limited screentime. Dev Patel’s performance as adult Saroo is the core of this film. You will root and hope for him, until you find yourself clinging to his search for life. Again, another universal performance that isn’t difficult to sympathize with.

On a side note: Dev Patel has bagged (deservingly so) Best Supporting Actor nominations, including a BAFTA win. There’s one problem: he is not a supporting character. He is the Lion of this film.

Another note: some parts of the film, particularly its weaker second half, do come across as a very lengthy (but very good) Google Earth Ad. Despite playing a major part of the film’s premise, the whole Google concept could’ve been done a lot smoother without making it a total product placement commercial. Perhaps, it might’ve worked if Google Earth wasn’t endorsed or talked about every 5 minutes or so.

Overall, despite its flaws, Lion proves that a film’s genuine purpose and intentions could go a long way, and that sometimes, it is about the soul more than anything else.

You must see this movie.


4 out of 5 stars


Now showing in the Philippines exclusively at Robinsons Movieworld, Lion is distributed by Viva International Pictures.

Robert Pattinson returns to big screen via ‘Queen of the Desert’

Robert Pattinson, best known for his role in the highly-successful young adult blockbuster “Twilight” films, essays a more mature role starring with Nicole Kidman and James Franco in the true-to-life story of trailblazing woman in “Queen of the Desert” directed by award-winning Werner Herzog.

Nicole Kidman plays Gertrude Bell aptly referenced as the “Queen of the Desert,” bring to the big screen the true-life story of Bell, who was a British political officer and archaeologist but ultimately a trailblazer on her terms. The story details the extraordinary adventures of Bell wrestling with the conflicts of love and tragedy, enemy and friend, and foreign and familiar as she sought to understand and unify people from different cultures.

Gertrude Bell, a real-life British woman who was alternately a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché for the British Empire at the dawn of the twentieth century. While only a commoner herself, Bell was nonetheless a kingmaker, helping found the modern states of Iraq and Jordan and installing their first rulers, King Abdullah and King Faisal.

Another legendary character that appears in this film is T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, played by Robert Pattinson. His role as T.E. Lawrence is a British Army officer whose writing earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia, on whom David Lean’s 1962 classic blockbuster movie epic is based. Lawrence was a good friend to Bell over the years, as the duo helped establish the Hashemite dynasties in Jordan and Iraq. “I needed an Englishman, who still has the air of a schoolboy, but who is very intelligent. He plays Lawrence of Arabia, but at age 22, on an archaeological site. Pattinson is very good in this role. He is an intelligent man and the choice was quite natural”, says Herzog of casting Pattinson.

Pattinson says landing the role was “just crazy”. “I’ve been a fan of Herzog since I was 16. I met him for that job three years ago; I thought it was never going to happen and when it finally did, it was amazing. Riding around Morocco on a camel, it was pretty great,” says Pattinson in his previous interviews.

Of working with the director, Pattinson says, “It’s insane because he wrote the script as well and it’s one of the most difficult scripts I’ve ever read. Werner’s great. He’s exactly what you’d expect. He’s got so many amazing stories. He’s got insane confidence as well. I think that’s where all his creativity comes from. He’s got 100% belief in himself.”

From Axinite Digicinema, “Queen of the Desert” opens March 2, 2016 exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas.

Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Robert Pattinson star in ‘Queen of the Desert’

Opening on March 2 exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas is “Queen of the Desert” starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Robert Pattinson, a true story of the life of British explorer and adventurer, Gertrude Bell (Kidman).

“Queen of the Desert” chronicles Bell’s journeys of love and loss in the Middle East during the early 20th century. Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman stars alongside Academy Award nominated James Franco, Golden Globe & Emmy Award winner Damian Lewis and Robert Pattinson. A curious and adventurous young woman eager to explore the world outside of England, Gertrude Bell (Kidman) goes to the British embassy in Tehran where she quickly falls in love with a secretary of the embassy, Henry Cadogan (Franco). This sparks the beginning of a life-long adventure among the beautiful but misunderstood peoples and cultures of the Middle East. Along the way, her path intersects with archaeologist T.E. Lawrence (Pattinson) also known as Lawrence of Arabia, and Major Charles Doughty-Wylie (Lewis), the British Consul General in the Ottoman Empire.

“Queen of the Desert” is written and directed by Werner Herzog. “I call it Werner World. Werner World is just a different realm. It’s glorious. I said to him, ‘Werner, I feel like I’ve been in a dream with you for the past two-and-a-half months, and now I’ve got my feet back on earth.’ I’m at a place where I’m so interested in exploring things and going places that I haven’t been. I want my life to be full, so that means all of us – my family – up and moving to Morocco and doing this so we can have the experience,” shares Kidman on working with the director.

Kidman’s interest in exploration mirrors Gertrude Bell’s own adventurous spirit. While Kidman admires Bell greatly, she also shares her insight of why Bell pursued travelling and adventure, “She went off and lived a life that I would only dream of living. What she did is amazing, but she did it through motivations that, I believe, come from huge loss so that’s fascinating in itself, too. And the landscape and what the desert gave her was her salvation.”

As Kidman discovered that while Bell was a true trailblazer in a time when women were not treated as equals, especially in politics, she also had ambiguous aspects. “There’s an interesting fact about Gertrude though, is that she was not a supporter of the suffragette movement, so that was fascinating,” says Kidman. Her extensive research of
Bell enables her to bring a realistic and nuanced performance to this legendary character.

Of Kidman’s performance as Bell, director Herzog says, “Now, Nicole Kidman. Wait for that one. Wait for it. I make an ominous prediction: How good she is.”

“Queen of the Desert” opens March 2, 2016 exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas as distributed by Axinite Digicinema.

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‘The Hunger Games’ writer Billy Ray directs ‘Secret in Their Eyes’

Billy Ray, an Academy Award nominee known for his stirring screenplays of box-office smash hits such as “The Hunger Games,” “Captain Phillips” and “Flightplan” takes director’s seat in Secret In Their Eyes where he has assembled an award-winning cast and for the first time brings together Academy Award winners Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman with Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor.

“Secret in Their Eyes” is based on “El Secreto de Sus Ojos,” the 2010 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, directed by Juan Jose Campanella. In the movie, a parent’s worst nightmare happens when investigator Jess Cobb (Roberts) finds her daughter brutally murdered, along with his best pal in the force, Ray Kasten (Ejiofor), the two set out to uncover the elusive killer with the aid of district attorney Claire Sloan (Kidman). Years passed and the killer is still lose on the streets of Los Angeles, beneath the missions, Jess tries hard to cover the pain that has haunted her for years after her daughter’s death.

The movie is also produced by Academy Award winner Mark Johnson (“Rain Man,” “Breaking Bad”) who has known Ray’s works for decades but it’s the first time that Ray and Johnson work for “Secret In Their Eyes.” When they saw the Argentine thriller “El Secreto de Sus Ojos,” neither of them could stop talking about it. “El Secreto de Sus Ojos, is spectacular,” says Billy, “I was completely floored by it, had a reverence for it that bordered on awe. Then Mark asked me if I wanted to adapt it. At first I was hesitant because you don’t want to take on anything that is so great that you feel dwarfed by it before you even start. But I did feel there was an American version of the story worth retelling and exploring.” Every time the pair got frustrated tackling the weighty subject matter, they had an unabashed cheerleader in Juan Campanella, who directed the Argentine film. “Here was a man who wanted to solve a cold case but the reason why he wanted to solve it was not only to find the culprit but to find the root of his own loneliness,” Campanella says. “That to me was very original. Contrary to what people might think, I really like it when somebody takes a piece of work and turns it into something different.” Billy says an impetus for the American version lay in the events of 9/11. ”The horror of that event was so big and so indelible for anybody who was in America at that time. But it created a story opportunity for our movie that no other context could have.” “Billy found a great twist on the story,” Campanella says. “He respected a lot of the emotion of the original but found a very American way of telling it.” Billy admits that he initially thought he was writing a movie about loss. “But it turns out that I was writing a movie about obsession. Stories do that sometimes, they tell you what they are about.

For Julia Roberts the essence of the story is about the evolution of people who were taken off track by destiny. “I was very taken with Billy’s script. I don’t read a lot of scripts that I like and I don’t work very often. But I read this and thought it was truly interesting. “Billy has been remarkable for me as an actor. He’s so available and he’s like Encyclopedia Brown. He knows everything, he’s calm and he’s super-loving. He’s always taking care of all of us in these very fragile scenarios that he’s created. I think he probably feels bad for putting us through all this,” she laughs.

Nicole Kidman says that the plot intrigued her when she first read the script. “Rarely do you get scripts that have three strong protagonists and a really, really strong storyline. I’ve known Billy for a while now and I wanted to work with him and the idea of doing this with Julia and Chiwetel was compelling. “For me writer-directors are the best combination. Billy is so collaborative and he has a great sense of structure and a great sense of humor. He frequently would rewrite or change things a little bit in order to adapt to what Chiwetel and I needed. I call him Professor Billy because he also teaches writing and has so much knowledge of film.”

Secret in their Eyes opens December 2, 2015 in theaters as distributed by Axinite Digicinema.

Oscars best foreign language film ‘Secret in Their Eyes’ gets 2015 reboot

Academy Award winner Julia Roberts stars in her latest and another yet Oscar-worthy role in the crime thriller Secret In Their Eyes based on the 2010 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film directed by Juan Jose Campanella “El Secreto de Sus Ojos.”

This year’s “Secret In Their Eyes,” directed by blockbuster filmmaker and Academy Award nominee Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips,” “The Hunger Games”), and produced by Academy Award and Emmy winner Mark Johnson (“Rain Man,” “Breaking Bad”) brings Julia Roberts in a surprising mystery that explores the personal themes of loss, betrayal, and a parent’s undying will to right a profound wrong.

DA investigator Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts), FBI investigator Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Deputy District Attorney Claire Sloan (Nicole Kidman) are rising stars, having been selected to serve on an anti-terrorism joint task force in post 9/11 Los Angeles. Jess and Ray are tight-knit partners who share a deep respect and an easy friendship both on the job and off. Ray and Claire come from opposite walks of life, but have a complicated attraction that is a constant undercurrent in their day-to-day encounters. After Ray and Jess are called to investigate a murder scene, they discover the unthinkable — the victim is Jess’s daughter, Caroline. Ray and Jess join forces with Claire to bring the killer to justice. Their mission, however, meets a cold reality when they discover their suspect is a protected federal witness, and is set free. Thirteen years later, despite their attempts to find an even keel to their lives, Ray, Claire and Jess still bear wounds that won’t heal. But when Ray uncovers a new lead, he returns to L.A. to convince Claire to revisit the case. Despite the risk all face by reopening emotional issues — Jess’ life has been in stasis for more than a decade; Ray’s affection for Claire has never waned — they join forces to pursue the killer: this time vowing to take matters into their own hands to avenge Caroline’s brutal murder. None, however, is prepared for the shocking secret that lurks behind the manhunt and illuminates the emotional cost of vengeance and justice.

Billy Ray and Mark Johnson had known each other and each other’s work for decades, but had never worked together. When they saw the Argentine thriller “El Secreto de Sus Ojos,” neither of them could stop talking about it. “El Secreto de Sus Ojos, is spectacular,” says Billy, “I was completely floored by it, had a reverence for it that bordered on awe. Then Mark asked me if I wanted to adapt it. At first I was hesitant because you don’t want to take on anything that is so great that you feel dwarfed by it before you even start. But I did feel there was an American version of the story worth retelling and exploring.” Every time the pair got frustrated tackling the weighty subject matter, they had an unabashed cheerleader in Juan Campanella, who directed the Argentine film.

“Here was a man who wanted to solve a cold case but the reason why he wanted to solve it was not only to find the culprit but to find the root of his own loneliness,” Campanella says. “That to me was very original. Contrary to what people might think, I really like it when somebody takes a piece of work and turns it into something different.” Billy says an impetus for the American version lay in the events of 9/11. ”The horror of that event was so big and so indelible for anybody who was in America at that time. But it created a story opportunity for our movie that no other context could have.” “Billy found a great twist on the story,” Campanella says. “He respected a lot of the emotion of the original but found a very American way of telling it.” Billy admits that he initially thought he was writing a movie about loss. “But it turns out that I was writing a movie about obsession. Stories do that sometimes, they tell you what they are about.

Secret In Their Eyes opens December 2, 2015 in theatres nationwide as released by Axinite Digicinema.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM AXINITE DIGICINEMA

Secret in Their Eyes - Official Poster

Roberts, Kidman, Ejoifor star in crime-thriller ‘Secret in Their Eyes’

Hollywood’s heavyweights and A-list actors Academy Award winners Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman along with Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejoifor star for the first time in the event thriller of the year Secret in Their Eyes.

“Secret In Their Eyes” a remake of the 2009 Oscar-winning Argentinian  film of the same name, is written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips,” “The Hunger Games”), and produced by Academy Award® winner Mark Johnson (“Rain Man,” “Breaking Bad”), “Secret In Their Eyes” is an intense, powerful and haunting story of a tight-knit team of rising FBI investigators.  Ray (Ejiofor) and Jess ( Roberts), along with their District Attorney supervisor Claire (Kidman) – is suddenly torn apart when they discover that Jess’s teenage daughter has been brutally and inexplicably murdered.

Now, thirteen years later, after obsessively searching every day for the elusive killer, Ray finally uncovers a new lead that he’s certain can permanently resolve the case, nail the vicious murderer, and bring long-desired closure to his team. No one is prepared, however, for the shocking, unspeakable secret that will reveal the enduring, destructive effects of personal vengeance on the human soul.

Interweaving past and present, this deeply layered mystery explores the murky boundaries between justice and revenge, and asks the question: how far would you go to right an unfathomable wrong?

This year’s most anticipated exciting film ensemble, Secret In Their Eyes opens this December 2, 2015 in Philippine theatres as released by Axinite Digicinema.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM AXINITE DIGICINEMA