Posts Tagged ‘Amy Landecker’

Transactional Dynamics

Beatriz at Dinner

Director: Miguel Arteta

Cast: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass, Chloe Sevigny, Amy Landecker, David Warshofsky

Puerto Rican director Miguel Arteta directs Oscar nominee Salma Hayek (Frida) in an insightful comedy of manners Beatriz at Dinner which also stars Connie Britton, Chloe Sevigny and John Lithgow.

It is so refreshing to see Salma Hayek take on a more unconventional role in an arthouse film which had its premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival http://www.sundance.org/festivals/sundance-film-festival/

Beatriz is a struggling massage therapist, a Mexican immigrant to a California who also works at a Cancer centre in Santa Monica. Beatriz loves animals and is deeply distressed when her goat dies, supposedly killed by a neighbour. After spending most of the day at the Cancer centre she has one last appointment: at the home of a wealthy woman Kathy’s whose plush and spacious residence in a gated community overlooking the Pacific in Newport Beach, California, which proves to be Beatriz’s emotional untangling.

Connie Britton from the hit TV show Nashville plays sickly sweet Kathy who initially treats Beatriz as one of her special paid friends even though she is essentially her Mexican massage therapist.

Things go haywire when Beatriz’s old car fades on her and she is left stranded at this gorgeous home where Kathy insists she must stay for a very glamorous dinner party. Caterers have been brought in, the Mexican maid is ready to answer the door and the well-heeled guests include ruthless property developer Doug Strutt wonderfully played with that obnoxious temperament by Oscar nominee John Lithgow (Terms of Endearment).

Among the other guests are Alex played by Jay Duplass and his fabulous wife Shannon played with the cool American chic by Oscar nominee Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry).

Kathy’s husband Grant is hosting Doug Strutt to celebrate the ground breaking of a massive property development. As the evening progresses, Beatriz, a cat among the pigeons, sets everyone’s affluent artificiality on edge when she begins questioning their extravagant lifestyles and dubious moral choices.

The scenes between Salma Hayek and John Lithgow are particularly illuminating and form the backbone of a razor sharp film about class and socio-political transactional dynamics. About them and us.

About Beatriz realizing that in corporate America, ruled by a Trump presidency, there exists ruthless businessmen who will stop at nothing to obtain obscene wealth despite the environmental impact of building commercial resorts and hotels in poverty-stricken paradises like Guatemala and parts of Mexico, which have absolutely no benefit to the indigenous communities.

Salma Hayek is sensational in Beatriz at Dinner a return to her dazzling ability to portray eccentric characters like she did as the title role of Frida, director Julie Taymor’s colourful film about the acclaimed Mexican artist and revolutionary Frida Kahlo. Salma Hayek definitely needs to make more arthouse films whereby her unique acting abilities can really shine through.

Beatriz at Dinner is a wonderfully poignant film, a gentle reminder that when seated at a dinner table everyone’s true identity is revealed especially after a three course meal coupled with several glasses of Californian chardonnay.

Despite the contrived plot device of a broken down car, Beatriz at Dinner is an insightful portrayal of contemporary America and receives a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

 

 

Mastering your Demons

Doctor Strange

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Director: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stulbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Chris Hemsworth

Marvel is certainly expanding their cinematic universe at a rapid rate. First it was The Avengers and then The Guardians of the Galaxy and now they have turned their attention to the mystical antihero Doctor Strange, transforming the comic book character into a visually dazzling film version by director Scott Derrickson.

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Heavily influenced by Christopher Nolan’s surreal city scape bending visuals in his 2010 blockbuster Inception, Doctor Strange is a spectacular anti-hero film centred on an arrogant neurosurgeon wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).

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As the film begins, audiences catch a glimpse of Doctor Strange medical expertise as well as his supreme arrogance and wealth. However all that suave egotistical bravado comes crashing down when he plunges his sports car off a cliff outside New York City and soon loses all nerve sensations in his hand.

At first he is naturally devastated and despite being comforted by sometime lover and co-worker Dr Christine Palmer, played by Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Doctor Strange sets off for an alternative cure prompted by a meeting with a miracle paraplegic Jonathan Pangborn played by Benjamin Bratt (Love in the Time of Cholera, Traffic).

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Naturally the action shifts to Kathmandu, Nepal, where Doctor Strange is introduced to the mystical arts by the shaven head guru The Ancient One, superbly played by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton). The best dialogue in the film are reserved for Cumberbatch and Swinton as The Ancient One strips Doctor Strange of his arrogance and he discovers a mystical world of parallel universes and scriptures written in ancient languages.

Soon Doctor Strange takes a liking to a flying crimson cape and has sideburns to match Frankenstein. With a new mystical persona, Doctor Strange delves into pure fantasy with brilliant mind bending visual effects to match.

The Visual Effects are so inspiring that they should get an Oscar on their own. In this case Doctor Strange has come up trumps with a perfect cast, most of them Oscar nominees and winners and a strong narrative which establishes more films in the Defenders Universe.

As the action shifts to Hong Kong, Doctor Strange with the help of Mordo played by Oscar Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Wong played by Benedict Wong, this diverse mystical trio must battle the evil and embittered Kaecilius played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) who is intent on unleashing dark forces on planet earth in a bid to achieve immortality.

Doctor Strange is visually brilliant and superbly acted by the cast, due to some clever casting choices by Marvel Studios. The fact that Tilda Swinton, initially known for her art house films like Sally Potter’s Orlando and Benedict Cumberbatch seen in British period films like Atonement and Creation are both in a Marvel’s Anti-Hero movie is testament to how seriously the film studio takes their brand as they continuously expand all the various superhero franchises and even delve into quirky Sci-Fi.

Audiences must stay seated after the credits as Doctor Strange has an unexpected meeting with Asgard’s protector…

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy all of Marvel’s films or would love to visit Comicon.

 

 

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