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Monday, September 3, 2012

Early 'Anna Karenina' Film Reviews

Some early critics film reviews for Joe Wright's Anna Karenina (starring former Pride & Prejudice stars Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen) has come out early ahead of its UK Cinema release this Friday, September 7th. Two months later in November (16th), it'll open in select US Theaters!

For now, lets focus on its UK Cinema release and some of the early reviews for this film are great, rave reviews (thus far) and a few other not so good reviews (ie. Digital Spy obviously does not like Keira Knightley, but whatever floats that harsh reviewer's boat...was her opinion and does not mean Keira's performance wasn't good because others clearly saw different than what she saw of her had good to rave reviews of her performance in AK), which is expected with JW's bold approach on the titular AK adaptation, it'll be divisive (people will either love it or don't...but that's how it usually is for most movies anyway, you can't please everyone no matter what the result of the product is...). So far, most of the early reviews has been positive and pretty good for Keira, Matthew, Joe, and the rest of the cast and crew of Anna Karenina. The following reviews are already making me excited and can't wait to see this movie already. Is it November yet? lol...

Anyway, check out and read some of the positive Anna Karenina reviews (so far) I've compiled below...
Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina, review via The Telegraph
(FYI: this is the same writer who reviewed for Thompson on Hollywood with slightly different wording, but still raves this film twice, nonetheless...)
4 stars (out of 5) Keira Knightley is a fine Anna - alternately charming, haughty, and dispirited in Joe Wright's new adaptation of Anna Karenina, writes David Gritten.

But magically and playfully, Wright’s cameras open up the confines of the stage to expansive, exterior vistas. It’s dazzling to watch.
All this is accomplished while keeping the sweep of the novel and its diverse themes just about intact. With Shakespeare in Love, Stoppard showed a flair for teasing the earnest reverence accorded to literary giants; unsurprisingly he doesn’t tiptoe around Tolstoy. It’s a shrewd instinct. After all, Anna Karenina was originally published in instalments, complete with what we now call cliff-hangers – its melodramatic aspects are never totally absent.

Keira Knightley, who seems forever doomed to be sniped at by people more obsessed by celebrity values than acting skill, is a fine Anna – alternately charming, haughty, and dispirited. She raises her game under Wright’s direction, as her work in Atonement and Pride and Prejudice have already confirmed.
In an all-British cast, Matthew MacFadyen stands out as Anna’s randy, insouciant brother Oblonsky, while Jude Law pleasingly reins himself in as her husband Karenin – a dull, virtuous public man. Read full review here.
Review: 'Anna Karenina' Is A Bold Reimagining Of A Classic That's (Mostly) Thrilling & Inventive via The Playlist (with a B+ rating)
When it was announced that Joe Wright was going to direct a new film version of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina," starring his cinematic muse Keira Knightley, most people probably knew what to expect. After all, the two had collaborated on both Wright's debut "Pride & Prejudice" and "Atonement" (both also produced by Working Title Films) and it was easy to assume that their take on the Russian classic would be along similar lines; a handsome period piece taking advantage of the best British actors available, and with a few showy camera touches that would set it apart from your average costume drama.

And in some ways, they would be right. But as it turns out, Wright, presumably let free a little by his experimental pop-art action movie "Hanna" last year, was up to something bolder: a heavily stylized, theatrical version that takes the story and sets most (but not quite all) of it within the confines of grand, but faded, theater, making sure the artifice is never concealed. Would it be an ingenious reimagining of an oft-told tale (last seen on the big screen in Bernard Rose's 1997 version, starring Sophie Marceau and Sean Bean)? Or a style-over-substance take that attempts to fix what was never broken? Despite a conceit that isn't 100% watertight, it's happily closer to the former, thanks to Wright's bold vision, a tremendous adaptation by Sir Tom Stoppard, and a superb cast.

Almost without exception, the cast are terrific too. Knightley continues to go from strength to strength with each project, giving Anna a flightiness and impulsiveness that feel almost more like an Ibsen heroine than a Tolstoy one, but it's a smart take on the character, and she truly impresses when she lets the fireworks fly towards the end.

Matthew MacFayden is enjoyably broad, a world away from his Mr. Darcy, as Oblonsky, threatening, but never quite managing to, tip into caricature, and his approach pays off beautifully with a single heartbreaking shot near the end. And as his wife, Kelly MacDonald perhaps doesn't get as much screen time as we'd like, but she's also warm, sweet and smarter than she might at first appear. Read full review here.
'Anna Karenina' Early Review: Visually Splendid, Audacious, Swoony Epic Romance Heads for Oscars via Thompson on Hollywood
The long-standing UK production company Working Title often walks a fine line, finding ways to make lavish-looking films with an original, even indie sensibility. Over the years they have benefited from being bankrolled by a Hollywood studio (Universal) but have earned themselves the creative freedom that prevents their films from ever looking like cookie-cutter studio product.

Their confident habitation of this middle ground is evident in the startling new adaptation of Tolstoy’s great novel "Anna Karenina," with Keira Knightley in the title role. It’s as visually splendid as any studio epic, even if it plays with audience expectations of what lavish looks like. It’s a respectable adaptation of a huge story, encompassing a wealth of ideas; yet it also has the direct, heartfelt appeal of what Hollywood once called ‘a women’s picture.’

Keira Knightley is an actress who, in Britain at least, sharply divides opinion. This is partly "tall poppy syndrome," a London-based aversion to Brits who make it big abroad, and especially in Hollywood. It’s also a troll thing: she seems doomed to be sniped at by anonymous people more obsessed by celebrity values and actresses’ looks rather than their skill. In fact, she’s a fine Anna – in turns charming, haughty, and dispirited. As usual, Knightley raises her game under Wright’s direction, as her work in "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice" has already confirmed.

Knightley, incidentally, looks resplendent in costumes designed by Jacqueline Durran, who also dressed her in those other two films of Wright’s and was Oscar-nominated each time. This may be her third time lucky.
In an all-British cast, Matthew MacFadyen stands out as Anna’s horny, insouciant brother Oblonsky, while Jude Law pleasingly reins himself in as her husband Karenin -- a dull, virtuous public man. Read full review here.
Anna Karenina - Film Review via Variety
Wright's decision to stage much of the aristocratic action in a stage-like space -- complete with illusionistic drop curtains, catwalks and flies crowded with costumed stagehands -- may confuse some auds. But it starts to make sense when an opened door unexpectedly reveals an actual landscape in scenes concerning Levin, the character least swayed by social norms. The courtly circles of St. Petersburg and Moscow, by contrast, are all about artifice, a perpetual theater that affords no real privacy, where everyone is always on view, like the doll houses that crop up frequently as motifs in the Oblonsky household. Even the trains, so crucial to the story, morph between obvious life-size mock-ups and toy-train sets, encrusted with fake powdery snow.

Once again demonstrating that Wright knows how to get the best from Knightley (arguably her best work has been in "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement"), the actress's angular beauty, declamatory line delivery and air of self-doubt all work in her favor here. Knightley's Anna is a silly little flirt, playing at being a romantic heroine, but incapable of thinking through the endgame. Not unlike her turn as Sabina Spielrein in "A Dangerous Method," this is a femme more tortured than pleasured by her own uncontrollable desires.  

Technically, however, this "Anna" is glorious, from Seamus McGarvey's bejeweled lensing and Dario Marianelli's delicate score, to Sarah Greenwood's exquisite Faberge-egg production design. Layered thick with detail, her sets go hand-in-calf-leather-glove with Jacqueline Durran's striking costumes, which blend period-accurate skirt silhouettes and haberdashery with 1950s bodice shapes and accents. There's something particularly evocative in the way Anna's outfits favor asymmetric detailing, lending her easily unbalanced personality a touch of 2012 modernity. Read full review here.
Film review: Anna Karenina via The Upcoming (with a rating of 3 stars)
Wright had his work cut out for him with Anna Karenina.  Far from the idyllic, sedate world of Austen, this film is a harsh reality check for women who, around that time, would have to give up everything, including their children, if they strayed from the path cut out for them by their husbands.  Wright tackles the sad story with vigour.

With the majority of the film set on a literal stage – a nod perhaps to previous stage performances, or to the fact this is a storybook – Anna Karenina is brought to the audience as a visual feast.  Moving between scenes in a dream-like sequence, the characters dressed exquisitely, according to their personalities, Anna Karenina brings something diverse to the screen
.

Knightley handles the role of Anna with perhaps a few too many tear
s, but it is Law’s Alexei, the weak and forgiving husband, who really surprises in his role – when did Jude Law step down from the role of heart throb, to the man being cheated on?
As Anna and Vronsky move away together, Anna transforms from a social butterfly to the paranoid mistress of Vronsky; a transformation that brings out some quality acting from Knightley.
Anna Karenina is bold.  It tells a very tragic story in an unusual format, bringing a familiar storyline to life in a unique and successful way.  

The feature length does seem a little excessive, with the entwining of a couple of other storylines, but overall, this is one film worth watching, particularly if you are knowledgeable of Tolstoy’s work, or a fan of Wright’s directing.
Read full review here.
Film Review: 'Anna Karenina' (2012) via Cine-Vue (with a 3 stars rating)
British director Joe Wright is certainly no stranger to sweeping period adaptations, having taken on both Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice and  Ian McEwan's Atonement in recent years. His latest film, Anna Karenina (2012), is easily his most daring costume drama to date, utilising all manor of theatrical devices to bring Leo Tolstoy's novel-come-paperweight to life on the big screen. Wright may not quite be the new David Lean, but his undeniably inconsistent efforts demand both respect and admiration.

Wright regular Keira Knightley stars as the titular Anna, a privileged 19th century socialite in St. Petersburg, married to Jude Law's widely respected aristocrat Alexei Karenin. On a visit to Moscow to visit her womanising - though loveable - older brother Oblonsky (a welcome return to screens for Matthew Macfadyen), Anna catches the eye of spoken-for officer Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson). So begins a treacherous love affair that threatens to inextricably alter the lives of everyone involved.

Heavily flawed and unapologetically indulgent, strong performances from its all-star cast (Macfayden, Law and the ever-impressive Domhnall Gleeson all on good form) and several sumptuous set-pieces just about set Wright's Anna Karenina aside from the madding crowd of bland costume romps. Here's hoping others take note of such risk-taking, bravado tactics in future adaptations. Read full review here.

Anna Karenina (12A): Keira's tsar is shining as she nails Tolstoy classic via UK's Mirror
Lush, lyrical and effortlessly sumptuous, this elegant big-screen version of the epic Russian classic is a striking take on the power – good and bad – of love, and brings out the best in Keira Knightley.
At times breathtakingly beautiful, its ­swirling plot and clever staging offers a fresh vision of the Tolstoy classic.

And while even its hefty running time can never hope to encompass all of the book’s stories, it is moody and moving as it tackles Anna’s ­obsessive affair.

Anna is one of the great fictional roles and Knightley is excellent.

Often an easy target for critics – possibly ­because, quite simply, the camera loves her face – she is growing into an elegant and astute actress who isn’t afraid of challenging roles.

Director Joe Wright bravely moves away from the traditional cinematic vision of ­imperial Russia and for much of the film sets the story within a massive theatre, rich with painted backdrops, elevated riggings and mirrored stages.

The film is blessed with a terrific cast. Jude Law is impressive as Anna’s proud husband Karenin; Aaron Taylor-Johnson (all blond hair and twirling moustache) ­is ­suitably dashing as Vronsky, Matthew ­Macfadyen is a ­comedy delight as plump but philandering Oblonsky and Kelly ­Macdonald sweetly dowdy as his loving but frustrated wife.

With its beautiful cinematography and costumes, bold choreography and perfectly judged performances, it’s a real ­success.
 Anna Karenina - Film Review via Screen Daily
Dir: Joe Wright. UK. 2012. 130mins
A bold, evocative and stimulating theatrical – in many senses of the word – version of Leo Tolstoy’s much filmed novel, Joe Wright’s vision of this obsessive love story set against the opulent backdrop of high society in imperial Russia in the 1870s will challenge audience expectations while also thrill those willing to go along with the swirling cinematic style.

Anna Karenina, which opens in the UK on September 7 prior to a North American premiere at Toronto, also features a captivating lead performance by Keira Knightley as Anna. A lyrical and elegant production, the clever staging brings the best out of Tom Stoppard intelligent, amusing and complex script, and while the structure and affectations may not appeal to purists it allows Wright to tell an epic love story in a lush and sumptuous manner.

It is the third time she and Wright have worked together – she also starred in his films Pride & Prejudice and Atonement – and he clearly brings out the best in her. Knightley is an actress who divides opinion, but there is no denying the camera loves her face and in period frocks there in no one to beat her. Her Anna impressive here – strikingly beautiful when filmed in a veil looking longingly at a young man who captures her heart, but also driven by a fierce logic and intelligence that makes her want to strive for the love she thinks she deserves even though deep down she knows she can never survive the harsh glare of society.

Beautiful Anna Karenina is married to staid but loyal Karenin (a buttoned-up Jude Law, whose solidity is the perfect balance to Anna’s wilfulness), a high-ranking government official, and they have a young son and a strong social standing in St Petersburg. Called to Moscow by her errant brother Oblonsky (a terrific performance by Matthew Macfadyen, offering genial comedy to the role), whose philandering ways have final caused havoc to his marriage to Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), and he hopes Anna can try and ease the problems between them.Beautifully shot by Seamus McGarvey (a rather change of pace and style from Marvel’s The Avengers) and with elegant production design by Sarah Greenwood, Anna Karenina is likely to divide opinion – in a similar way Keira Knightley seems to divide audiences – but while the story is a familiar one the new production at very least offers a bold, stirring and at times entrancing version. It is long certainly, and at times the Levin subplot hampers the flow of the story, but the performances are all impressive and as stories of obsessive love go it is a gripping and moving film. Read full review here.
Anna Karenina Movie Review via Empire Online
4 Stars (out of 5) Verdict If it doesn’t ultimately engage your heart as it might, Anna Karenina is period drama at its most exciting, intoxicating and modern. Spellbinding.

There are numerous reasons to welcome, if not cherish, Joe Wright’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s 1873 socialite-shags-a-soldier doorstop. Despite eye-popping period finery, longing looks a-plenty and Olympic standard fan waving, Anna Karenina militantly doesn’t want to be just another costume drama; it attacks the heavyweight concerns of Russian literature (hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, the pastoral vs. the urban, huge moustaches) with wit and verve; most exciting of all, it is filmmaking of the highest order, channeling every other art form from painting to ballet to puppetry while remaining completely cinematic.

Around the central couples, a clutch of familiar faces help navigate the dense dramatis personae — stand-outs include Law as Anna’s staid spouse (you’ll shudder at his little box) and a boisterous Macfadyen as Anna’s brother — but this is really its director’s movie. Bold, imaginative, thought-provoking and passionate, Anna Karenina puts Wright at the forefront of filmmaking in Britain. Or anywhere. Read The Full Empire Review
UPDATED 9/4/12: More AK Film Reviews (to come....stay tune!)

Anna Karenina Review via DIY
(gave it an 8 out of 10 rating!)

Released in cinemas 7th September 2012.

A wildly ambitious adaptation of Tolstoy's classic, director Joe Wright and celebrated writer Tom Stoppard make the most of a modest budget by cleverly filming the lush epic within the confines of a theatrical stage setting.

Wright's muse Keira Knightley gives another luminous performance following the pair's hugely successful collaborations on Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. The director captures Knightley's timeless, classic appeal and regal elegance as she takes on literary heroine Anna Karenina, with the youthful star finally given the chance to portray maturity as an aristocrat, wife and mother in Imperial Russia. With Anna a starlet of society, Wright exposes her character in many an elaborate ball - the world is literally a stage. Married to the older, staid, devout statesman Alexei Karenin (a sombre, restrained Jude Law), Anna causes a scandal when she falls for cocky young cavalry officer Count Alexei Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, credited with his new surname) and tragically gives up everything for love.


With such a huge cast, many receive short shrift. Casualties include Emily Watson as Countess Lydia and This Is England's Vicky McClure - a wordless glimpse sadly proves plenty was left on the editing room floor. Successes are a bombastic Matthew Macfadyen as Anna's roguish brother Oblonsky (Wright ensures P&P fans come away happy, with a number of affectionate scenes between Knightley and Macfadyen) and Kelly Macdonald as his long-suffering wife Dolly.


The bewitching Knightley's intuition is brought to the fore as she compassionately portrays a woman belittled by social mores, a remarkable everywoman.

Jacqueline Durran's costume designs are without equal, and Wright adores them with lingering, longing shots. The production design is never better than when shown off in several heart-stopping and brilliantly conceived scenes involving trains and a racetrack within the confines of the stage. A technical achievement, bolstered by classic, witty performances and a concise, smart script. Dazzling and exhilarating, yet worryingly disconcerting at first, once you embrace Wright's confident stride, 2012's Anna Karenina is a unique and captivating experience.
Read full review here.

In other related KK/AK article, Check out this Daily Mail beauty article on Keira as Anna Karenina

And this interesting article about Keira Knightley: Love or loathe?
She may well be slightly too young to play Anna Karenina, but as Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice in 2005, she was close enough in age to Austen’s creation.
I couldn't agree more with this part (and the writer's overall analysis on people's perception of Keira Knightley...), though one thing that this writer should've checked a bit more on Keira's filmography as KK has played Lara in Doctor Zhivago (2002) TV Mini-series.

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