Posts Tagged ‘Alec Baldwin’

You Will Never Be Alone

A Star is Born

 

Director: Bradley Cooper

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Alec Baldwin, Ron Rifkin

Three time Oscar Nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, American Hustle) gives a superb no holds bar performance as the frequently inebriated singer Jackson Maine in the third remake of A Star is Born, which he also boldly directs.

The key to the 2018 version of A Star is Born is to fill the part played by Barbra Streisand in the 1976 version in which she starred opposite Kris Kristofferson who won a Golden Globe for Best actor Musical Comedy in the 1970’s version.

Enter pop icon and music superstar Lady Gaga who plays the significant role of aspiring singer Ally who is discovered by Jackson Maine in a Gay Bar (it’s not what audiences think!) as she enters on stage amidst a bevy of Drag Queens singing Edith Piaf.

The onscreen chemistry between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sizzles and it’s what makes the 2018 version of A Star is Born so palatable and such entertaining viewing.

Besides some fantastic cutting edge cinematography by Black Swan Oscar nominee Matthew Libatique, who really captures the chaotic energy of live music performances, the actual songs, the music and Bradley Cooper’s superb Oscar worthy acting makes this version of A Star is Born worth seeing.

As the awards season approaches, I am sure that both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will get Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor and Actress in a Musical or Comedy. As for the 2019 Oscars, it’s too early to predict, but this is without a doubt the best performance I have seen Bradley Cooper do onscreen as he inhabits the complicated role of Jackson Maine a singer whose addictive personality cannot handle the sudden and glittering fame bestowed upon his protégé Ally.

Ally is egged on at every turn in her rise to fame by a ruthless music manager Rez played by Rafi Gavron. Audiences should also watch out for a solid supporting performance by Sam Elliott as Jackson’s older brother and manager Bobby.

A Star is Born is superb viewing, fantastic singing and a brilliant film to watch ably assisted by Oscar worthy performances by its two main leads whose onscreen chemistry dazzles from the first musical number.

A Star is Born gets a film rating of 9 out of 10 and is a musical treat. Highly recommended viewing.

Deconstructing Howard Hughes

Rules Don’t Apply

Director: Warren Beatty

Cast: Lily Collins, Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Matthew Broderick, Candice Bergen, Annette Bening, Haley Bennett, Hart Bochner, Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Taissa Farmiga, Oliver Platt

Legendary actor Warren Beatty returns after an almost fifteen year screen absence with his Hollywood film Rules Don’t Apply as he deftly deconstructs the later years of Howard Hughes in Hollywood in the mid-1960’s.

If Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning film The Aviator about reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes is the starting point then Rules Don’t Apply should be the bookmark on an extraordinary man whose legendary eccentricity almost exceeded his insurmountable wealth.

Unfortunately despite a handsome production design, Rules Don’t Apply should have garnered more critical acclaim than it got. The Warren Beatty film got released in the midst of Hollywood’s diversity debate and then to add to unwarranted attention Beatty and Bonnie and Clyde co-star Faye Dunaway got caught in one of the biggest live Television mix-up’s in Oscar history – the mistaken announcement of Best Picture at the 2017 Oscar Awards when they incorrectly announced that Damien Chazelle’s La La Land had won Best Picture when in fact Barry Jenkins’s film Moonlight walked away with the coveted trophy much to the world’s astonishment.

Personally I loved Rules Don’t Apply and have always been a fan of Warren Beatty’s work from his Robert Altman film McCabe and Mrs Miller opposite Julie Christie to his later work opposite his wife Annette Bening in Bugsy.

What really shines through in Rules Don’t Apply are the outstanding performances of the two young stars Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich who was so brilliant in the Coen brothers skit film Hail, Caesar!

Beatty’s performance as Howard Hughes is superb and he captures the idiosyncratic obsessive compulsive nature of the truly eccentric billionaire who invested his inherited Texan oil drilling wealth in films and aviation, even becoming acquiring a majority share in Trans World Airlines TWA. However, Hughes developed a severely debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) so aptly portrayed by both Beatty in Rules Don’t Apply and by Leonardo diCaprio in The Aviator. Howard Hughes’s OCD  caused his lifestyle to become increasingly erratic and reclusive.

Hughes’s continuous occupation with flying around the world, his bizarre womanizing and his globetrotting adventures are all perfectly captured in Rules Don’t Apply as the film’s action moves from California to Acapulco to Nicaragua and to London then back to Washington D. C.

With his immense wealth, Hughes hired dozens of would be starlets to come to L. A. and be in one of his films, all expenses paid including accommodation at lavish Hollywood Hills homes. Lily Collins plays Marla Mabry a pampered and conservative young girl who comes to Hollywood to be wooed by Hughes and star in one of his pictures. Her natural attraction for her dashing young chauffeur is clearly evident upon their first meeting. Alden Ehrenreich plays Frank Forbes, the young entrepreneurial chauffeur who immediately takes a fancy to the naive star-struck Marla.  Although both of these young people are living in the shadow of an eccentric billionaire who is supporting their stay in Los Angeles.

A bizarre love triangle develops between Marla, Frank and Howard Hughes, the latter being three times the age of the naïve young starlet who is seduced in a bungalow at the Beverley Hills Hilton after imbibing copious amounts of champagne.

Rules Don’t Apply has a fabulous and glamorous old fashioned charm which is conveyed throughout the film ably assisted with smooth direction by Beatty who also casts some veteran supporting actors including Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), Candice Bergen (Gandhi) and an excellent performance by Matthew Broderick (The Producers).

This Hollywood biopic which deconstructs the eccentric Howard Hughes gets a rating of 9 out of 10.

Essentially, Rules Don’t Apply about an extraordinarily bizarre billionaire makes for fascinating viewing. Highly recommended especially if viewers have seen The Aviator.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Hughes

 

 

 

Burden of Proof

Concussion

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Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Hill Harper, Eddie Marsan, Luke Wilson, Arliss Howard, Stephen Moyer, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paul Reiser

Oscar Nominee Will Smith (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness) revives his career with a superb performance as the diligent Nigerian doctor Dr Bennett Omalu in the medical thriller Concussion directed by Kill the Messenger screenwriter Peter Landesman and based upon a GQ article called The Game Brain written by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Concussion takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2002 where Dr Bennett works as a County forensic pathologist under the guidance of his mentor and sponsor Dr Cyril Wecht played by Albert Brooks (Broadcast News, Drive). After a legendary footballer Mike Webster dies suddenly at the age of 50, Dr Bennet discovers a condition known as repetitive head trauma which effects the brain over a long period of repeated trauma, especially common in those playing major league American Football. Webster, briefly played by David Morse first consults the team’s doctor Julian Bales played by Alec Baldwin before committing suicide.

Concussion as a medical thriller really takes off when two other players suddenly die under suspicious circumstances which leads to more questions than reasonable explanations. Soon Dr Bennett and his persistence in establishing the root cause of their deaths, gets the assistance of two other neuro surgeons Dr Steven DeKosky played by Eddie Marsan and Dr Ron Hamilton played by Stephen Moyer to name the symptom as Repetitive Head Trauma. Medically there is a more complicated name.

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Running concurrently to these medical discoveries, is Dr Bennett’s own plans to become a fully-fledged American citizen who dreams of owning his own home with his Kenyan born wife Prema Mutiso played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw last seen in Belle. However, the immigrant couple’s aspirations are cast into jeopardy when Dr Bennett takes on the most powerful and wealthiest sporting body in America: The National Football League who, Dr Wecht dryly refers to, an organization that next to God owns a day of the week.

As a film, Concussion operates on two levels one as a medical thriller taking on an enormously powerful sporting organization (The NFL) and also as a personal drama of two immigrants Dr Bennett and Prema Mutiso whose pursuit of the American dream is thwarted, not only by racial prejudice but also by a medical discovery which could put into question the potential recruitment of young men to play in the NFL and more significantly what the consequences are for retiring Football players whose days of glory are overshadowed by madness and suicidal tendencies when they reach middle age.

Will Smith delivers a superb performance, mastering a Nigerian accent and Albert Brooks, last seen in Drive, is brilliant as his acerbic yet encouraging mentor who urges Bennett to pursue his medical discoveries despite the consequences and the threats from the NFL, especially when the findings are made public, gaining considerable media attention across America.

Former investigative journalist turned director Peter Landesman’s Concussion is an absorbing medical thriller which should gain a wide audience both in the sporting and medical worlds. By no means a masterpiece, Concussion is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed such films as Moneyball, Thank You for Smoking and the excellent film Michael Clayton about exposing corporate greed in America. It’s also reassuring to see Will Smith back on form tackling a more dramatic and nuanced role.

 

Manifestation of Destiny

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Sean Harris, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hollander, Ving Rhames, Simon McBurney

Tom Cruise reunites with Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie in the fifth instalment of the hugely successful Mission Impossible franchise with the latest film, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Unlike the Brad Bird directed Ghost Protocol, which was lavish and outlandish, Rogue Nation is a more grittier and muscular spy thriller, both written and directed by McQuarrie, with pristine cinematography by Robert Elswit and returns to a more European feel which the original Mission Impossible film had back in 1996 classically directed by Brian de Palma.

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Cruise is joined again by Jeremy Renner (Ghost Protocol, The Avengers), Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible 1,2 and 3) and Simon Pegg (Ghost Protocol, Star Trek Into Darkness).

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The female role is brilliantly taken up by the blue-eyed Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules) as the femme fatale British agent Ilsa Faust who gives her male counterparts a run for their money.

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Sean Harris (Prometheus) plays the sinister silver-haired villain Soloman Lane with a steely reserve and a distinctly British coldness, who is the mastermind behind the syndicate controlling several rogue agents hence the term rogue nation.

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Alec Baldwin (The Cooler, Still Alice) plays the exasperated IMF chief who has to answer to the bigwigs at Langley, Virginia and orders Brandt played by Renner to find the elusive Ethan Hunt, still expertly played by Cruise who is on a covert mission in Vienna, Austria to uncover the sinister syndicate, a supposed spook organization made up of international ex-spies which are responsible for all sorts of nefarious worldwide events from plane crashes to assassinations. The Vienna sequence during a performance of Turandot at the Opera House is clearly inspired by The Quantum of Solace, and earlier Bond films and is superbly choreographed.

The action moves swiftly to the exotic location of Casablanca, Morocco to what must be one of the best sequences in the film, the breaking in at a desalination plant on the outskirts of the city, which naturally leads to a spectacular chase sequence involving BMWs and motorbikes ending up along a desert highway.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation has all the hallmarks of a classic British spy thriller and as the nail biting narrative returns to London in the closing section of the film, the brittle spy jargon is superbly written by McQuarrie with such lines as “Ethan Hunt is the Manifestation of Destiny”.

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Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is highly recommended, beautifully paced, eloquently written and the muscular action sequences will not disappoint right up to the suspense filled climax. Fans of the previous films will enjoy Rogue Nation and hope that this is surely not the end of a hugely successful and fascinating film franchise which has always had amazing stunts, brilliant action sequences and exotic locations, the bespoke ingredients of any spy thriller.

 

 

From Nouns to Neurons

Still Alice

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Directors: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland

Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, Kristen Stewart, Hunter Parrish

The hugely talented Julianne Moore (Shortcuts, The Hours, The End of the Affair, Magnolia) excels in this quiet film Still Alice about the devastating effects of early onset Alzheimer’s based upon the novel by Liza Genova.

Having already won a 2015 Golden Globe and Bafta award for her nuanced and crushing performance of Alice Howland, Julianne Moore’s acting talents are definitely confirmed as she takes on the complex role of this Columbia University professor of Linguistics who suddenly has to confront a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s after she forgets her running route around campus and even her lecture notes on phonology in front of her graduate students.

Still Alice sensitively portrays what this disease can do an individual so educated and whose life has been devoted to the study and assimilation of words and language. Alice’s seminal doctoral thesis was entitled from Neurons to Nouns and now this esteemed linguistics professor has to grapple emotional and spiritually with a disease which gradually erodes her much cherished brain power to a point of complete and utter forgetfulness.

Moore’s performance is utterly entrancing as she has to deal with breaking the news to her husband John Howland wonderfully underplayed by Alec Baldwin and her grown up children, the sensible daughter Anna Howland-Jones played by Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, Straw Dogs), her doctor son Tom played by Hunter Parrish (It’s Complicated) and her wayward and artistic youngest daughter Lydia beautifully played by Kristen Stewart (Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman).

It is really the scenes between Alice and Lydia that are so touching and poignant as Lydia realizes that her mother’s reasoning powers will soon simply disappear through familial Alzheimer’s disease and offers the most support. A devastating loss indeed for an accomplished woman like Alice who is only 50 years old.

Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland ensure that Still Alice remains Julianne Moore’s film and rest of the cast are merely supporting its star as she significantly unravels despite every effort to stop the onset of this cruel disease. In one scene Alice says, “I feel like my brain is falling out”.

Like Canadian director Sarah Polley’s nuanced film Away from Her, featuring a superb performance by Julie Christie, Still Alice features a stunning and intelligently researched portrayal of a highly educated and independent woman who suffers a cruel fate indeed. Julianne Moore is phenomenal in this film and although Still Alice can be watched on the small screen, the film remains a gem of a movie exceptionally well acted by its supporting cast and by its leading star.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Away from Her, Still Alice is a nuanced and touching portrayal of a woman who slowly but surely loses her ability to remember words and pronounce them. Still Alice highlights the importance of memory, images and essential familial support when a patient, whatever their age, gets diagnosed with any form of Alzheimer’s.

 

The Unravelling Socialite

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Blue Jasmine

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Max Casella

Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) gives a tour-de-force performance as the lead character in Woody Allen’s brilliant new American drama Blue Jasmine. Audiences get introduced to Jasmine French a blue-eyed blond hair designer clad Park Avenue socialite as she flies first class to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger. Jasmine is all Xanax-popping, Vodka drinking glamour but underneath all the loquaciousness is a woman who has clearly unravelled from a series of financial and social setbacks. Director Allen gradually peals back the layers of Jasmine through a series of flashbacks to her former life in Manhattan and New York where she shared a sumptuous marriage with her shady hedge fund manager cheating husband Hal played by Alec Baldwin and an event which has caused Jasmine to lose everything from her social status to her mind as she clearly flees the East Coast to seek refuge with her non-biological sister Ginger wonderfully played by British actress Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Great Expectations) in Northern California.

The contrast between Jasmine and Ginger soon becomes apparent in their diverse taste of men amongst other things. Where Jasmine is clearly drawn to the smooth talking affluent alpha males who will shower her with gifts so as long as she does not need to care about anything embodied by the slimy Hal  (Alec Baldwin), Ginger on a far reduced significant living standard is clearly drawn to the more working class, emotional men from her ex husband Augie played by Andrew Dice Clay and to her new more passionate boyfriend a car mechanic named Chili in a superb performance by Bobby Cannavale (from Boardwalk Empire fame).

Jasmine that has lost everything financially while still retaining her designer wardrobe and always attempts to look glamorous as she clearly delusional realizes that her life has irrevocably changed forever. Soon she is forced to take a job as a receptionist in a dentist surgery in San Francisco with an amorous dentist played by Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) while attempting to improve her computer literacy skills. Her down to earth impoverished sister Ginger carries an affair with Chili as she works in a suburban grocery store.

Director Woody Allen shows a very incisive portrayal of two women, one constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown while the other is happy to pursue an elusive yet sustainable dream of survival and happiness. Blue Jasmine clearly belongs to Cate Blanchett as she is almost in every scene of the film and this is a new collaboration between Allen and Blanchett which has proved to be quite masterful, a legendary film director who has rediscovered a more sophisticated and brilliant muse who tackles the flawed but vulnerable Jasmine.

vicky_cristina_barcelonaAfter the recent success of Woody Allen’s European films, mainly Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris and Matchpoint, the famous and hugely talented director turns back to his first love Manhattan, but viewed through an angle of San Francisco, an oblique and poignant point of view that is almost showing signs of a farewell. What makes Blue Jasmine so masterful is Blanchett’s wonderfully poignant portrayal of the unravelling of a socialite, a performance that is Oscar worthy to say the least, not to mention absolutely riveting. Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen at his best directing one of the most talented actresses of the 21st century, Cate Blanchett, who I was fortunate to see years ago in a London West End production of David Hare’s play Plenty.

A highly recommended film, Blue Jasmine is sure to garner both Blanchett and Hawkins much praise and attention at the imminent 2014 awards season.

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