Posts Tagged ‘Hailee Steinfeld’

What’s Up Bitches!

Pitch Perfect 3

Director: Trish Sie

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Ruby Rose, Guy Burnet, Esther Dean, Hana Mae Lee

The Barden Bella’s are back for a third instalment of the hugely popular Pitch Perfect franchise which sees the all-female a cappella singing group suffering from a mild quarter life crisis as the gang of struggling young girls all battle to hold down jobs, their fluctuating self-esteem and their friendships which were so tightly wound in Pitch Perfect 2.

While actress Elizabeth Banks directed and starred in Pitch Perfect 2 and that sequel proved to be absolutely hilarious, this third instalment doesn’t quite reach the same levels of hysteria or conformity. Most of the jokes are provided by the ever adventurous fat Amy wonderfully played by Rebel Wilson as her and the rest of the group travel to Southern Europe to help boost American troop morale at the various army bases in Spain and France, which is especially pertinent in a Trump era presidency.

Fat Army also has to content with her slimy Australian father Fergus, played with a dodgy accent by acclaimed American character actor John Lithgow who was so brilliant as Winston Churchill in the stunning Netflix series The Crown. What was he thinking appearing in Pitch Perfect 3?

Fergus, keen to get his hands on Amy’s stashed millions in the Cayman Islands, kidnaps the group of girls  and imprisons them on a luxury yacht aptly named Fat Dingo Bitch in the Mediterranean which Amy and the ever optimistic Bela played by Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) plan on rescuing the group from Amy’s evil father.

Admittedly, Pitch Perfect 3 is not as funny as the first two films but enjoyable enough and is recommended for audiences that loved the previous films.

Audiences should watch out for a cameo by Ruby Rose as the lead singer of a rival group. Unfortunately, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) does not have enough screen time in Pitch Perfect 3 to showcase her true talents, but makes the most of her fun-filled role as Emily.

The man candy is supplied by Matt Lanter as Lieutenant Chicago, a dashing army liaison officer and British actor Guy Burnet (Mortdecai) as music producer Theo who falls for Beca.

Pitch Perfect 3 is fun-filled and an ideal holiday movie especially the closing number a vibrant cover of singer George Michael’s hit song Freedom performed with exuberance by the Barden Bella’s.

Pitch Perfect 3 gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is the perfect film for taking a bunch of bored teenage girls to watch who will no doubt enjoy its delightfully comic moments.

The Beautiful Barden Bellas

Pitch Perfect 2

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Director: Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Hailee Steinfeld, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Skylar Astin, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Esther Dean, Hana Mae Lee, John Michael Higgins

As an actress I first noticed Elizabeth Banks in the hilarious and very risqué comedy Zach and Mary Make a Porno and then she went onto make a string of films including The Next 3 Days before being cast as the zany Effie Trinket in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Then Banks was cast as the hilarious announcer in Pitch Perfect so is perfectly suitable that she should take over as director for the highly anticipated and hilarious sequel.

It is wonderful to see so many female directors becoming prominent recently in Hollywood especially in an international film business which is predominantly populated by men. Cinema traditionally was accustomed to seeing film through the eyes of men. But recently all that is changing.

So it’s perfect that Elizabeth Banks become director of Pitch Perfect 2 which in essence is a film about girls, aimed at girls and directed by a woman.

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The girls in question are the Beautiful Barden Bella’s, a high school a cappella singing group which affords an opportunity for a variety of talented young actresses to be seen together on screen including Anna Kendrick Oscar nominee for Up in the Air, Australian comedian Rebel Wilson and newcomer to the Barden Bella’s, Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld who was so extraordinarily impressive in the Coen brothers version of True Grit.

Pitch Perfect 2 basically picks up where the first film left off and after a hilariously funny wardrobe malfunction curtsey of Fat Amy, played by Rebel Wilson occurs  unexpectedly at the Lincoln Centre in front of a distinguished audience including the US President and the First Lady, the Barden Bella’s are naturally banned from performing nationally or entering competitions as they have quite literally fallen into ill repute.

This film does not dwell on their misfortunes and soon the Barden Bella’s have to regroup and practice as they plan on entering the international a cappella championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.

So Banks as director, takes the audience on a self-parodying and satisfying journey of the Barden Bella’s as they attempt to reclaim their title and most importantly their dignity as well as highlighting many of the insecurities that young female school leavers face as they have to contend with choices about College, chauvinistic male bosses and a competitive workplace which is essentially still ruled by men. This is particularly highlighted in Beca experiences, (played by Anna Kendrick), as she attempts to secretly forge her own career as a music producer in a big Atlanta studio.

Hailee Steinfeld is superb and brings a certain vivaciousness to the Barden Bella’s but admittedly I could not help wondering what such a talented actress is doing in a film like Pitch Perfect 2 after seeing her in True Grit and Romeo and Juliet. Then it was her casting which is a stroke of genius as with Banks as director, she adeptly uses Steinfeld to showcase the rest of the Bella’s cast including Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson and Alexis Knapp.

The fact that Pitch Perfect 2 did so phenomenally well at the Box Office during its opening weekend is testament to the growing realization that the young teenage female cinema going audience is not a demographic to be overlooked for Box Office success.

Let’s face it most summer blockbuster films like the upcoming Jurassic World and Terminator reboots are aimed at a purely male audience.

Elizabeth Banks does an admirable job of directing Pitch Perfect 2 making a reasonably light and often hilarious comedy sequel about a group of girls aiming for international fame. Watch out for some brilliant scenes with Rebel Wilson besides the infamous opening number and also for guest appearances by various celebrities including Rosie O’Donnell, Rosie Perez, Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine.

Pitch Perfect 2 is highly recommended viewing for a fun filled two hours in the cinema, not to be taken too seriously but to be enjoyed just enough so that Girl power in all its forms is a formidable force to be reckoned with. The songs are fabulous and I am sure even some of the guys will enjoy this hilarious and brilliant sequel. Hats off to Elizabeth Banks, as she scored a hit with the Beautiful Barden Bella’s.

 

Serendipity Sings

Begin Again

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Director: John Carney

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Mos Def, Rob Morrow

Irish director John Carney touches on the contemporary world of music production in the lyrical and whimsical romantic comedy Begin Again featuring Mark Ruffalo as a middle aged music producer Dan who after a bout of heavy drinking lands up meeting British ex-pat and aspiring song writer Gretta, played by Keira Knightley singing a ballad at an open mic night in a chance encounter.

Dan soon imagines the potential in Gretta’s Bohemian voice and convinces her that she could become the next big thing. The film’s title comes after both characters Dan and Gretta are at a crossroads in their lives, with Dan on the verge of losing his reputation as a music producer whilst his non-committal relationship with his daughter Violet, played by Hailee Steinfeld is tenuous at best. There is also Dan’s collapsed relationship with his ex-wife Music Journalist Miriam Hart, played by Indie film expert Catherine Keener (The Oranges, Please Give).

Gretta is about to catch a plane back to the UK leaving behind her shattered dreams in the Big Apple after a terrible split from Rock star boyfriend Dave Kohl ironically played by Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine in his first movie role. The chemistry between Ruffalo and Knightley is undeniable and it’s refreshing to see her in a contemporary role, shedding off those stuffy characters she is famous for playing in such period films as Anna Karenina, Atonement and The Duchess. Ruffalo is at home in this type of film having played similar characters in The Kids are Alright and Rumour has It.

Whilst the script also by John Carney could have been more solid, his direction of Begin Again is more structured, easily showcasing off the mis-en-scene of New York’s music scene and his clever way of making Manhattan a character in the film in a clearly influenced Italian Neo-Realist style.

Carney makes the most of his leading lady, lavishing extra camera time on the beauty of Keira Knightley and leaving Mark Ruffalo more as a middle aged clown who is trying to get his act back together. It’s a pity that the script did not flesh out the development of Violet and Miriam as supporting characters, as Steinfeld (True Grit) and Keener are both superb actors.

Begin Again is a whimsical musical comedy supported by a wonderful cast including Hip Hop artist Mos Def (16 Blocks) and rising British star James Corden as Steve, a bohemian street performer and fringe artist who facilitates the serendipitous meeting between Gretta and Dan. Recommended viewing for those that prefer light musical comedies which is all the more enjoyable when viewers can see that the actors had fun making Begin Again.

Parisian Reunion

3 Days to Kill

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Director: McG

Cast: Kevin Costner, Connie Nielsen, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Tomas Lemarquis, Richard Sammel

French screenwriter and director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) teams up with This Means War, Charlies Angels and action TV series director McG in an uneven tale of a professional CIA hitman, Ethan Renner, expertly played by an aged Kevin Costner who after a botched operation in Belgrade returns to Paris to reunite with his estranged wife and daughter, Christine and Zooey Renner, played by Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) and a brilliant Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). Renner learns that he has a rare form of brain cancer which prompts his sudden and awkward reunion with his Parisian family while discovering that he has really been an absent father to the now teenage and rebellious daughter Zooey.

In the scenes between Costner and Steinfeld, the narrative works beautifully but in between all this familial reunion is a spy plot involving a femme fatale CIA agent Vivi Delay seductively played by Amber Heard (The Rum Diaries) who coerces Renner back into operations as a professional assassin in a bid to discover the whereabouts of The Wolf played by German actor Richard Sammel (Casino Royale, Inglourious Basterds) who is viciously protected by a henchman The Albino, played by crystal clear blue-eyed rogue Icelandic actor Tomas Lemarquis.

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In between the vicious action sequences and Renner’s constant attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter is an elliptical narrative which will often confuse and confound audiences, but nevertheless entertain them. Overall impression of 3 Days to Kill was that is was a typically European action film in the vein of Taken or Unknown, directed by the wrong director. If Luc Besson himself had directed 3 Days to Kill, the uniformity of vision in the films narrative would help bolster the general credibility of the story, that of an aged assassin who wants to reconnect with his family before his dying days commence. As screenwriter Besson as displayed in the Taken franchise definitely has a penchant for setting his stories about tough old fathers reconnecting with their vulnerable daughters.

3 Days to Kill is slick, flashy and generally entertaining especially with such stars as Costner and Steinfeld playing father and daughter in a rather tender scene on the steps of Le Sacre Coquer, but generally the Parisian locations do little to bolster the overall vision of this Nikitaesque type film. Naturally Amber Heard makes the best of her roles as the lethal CIA operative Vivi, complete with dazzling outfits and sleek sportscars. 3 Days to Kill is not a terrible film, but it could have been so much tighter, better plotted and conceptually driven if Besson (The Lady, Leon, The Professional) had taken the reigns as director.

American action director McG (also known as Joseph McGinty Nichol) should stick to the type of comic action films like This Means War and The Charlie Angels franchise and avoid delving into a far more European aesthetic. It simply does not suit his episodic style which he naturally got as TV director for the popular action series Chuck and Nikita. 3 Days to Kill is a fun, but not a provocative or gripping thriller.

Revenge is a Snake Pit

True Grit

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Joel and Ethan’s Coen rendition of True Grit is a classic Western with the cowboys unshaven, filled with whiskey swigging gun-slinging characters who all appeared to have been beaten by the harsh environment of Arkansas in the 1870s frontier towns.

True Grit is a revenge tale with pitfalls both figurative and literal and as the old Chinese saying goes, when seeking revenge, it’s always best to dig two graves. At the centre of this Western, is Mattee Ross a determined 14 year old girl who is beset on avenging the death of her father.

Hailee Steinfeld delivers a superb performance, rightfully getting an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Ross hires Rooster Cogburn, an unsavory US Marshal who drinks too much whiskey and is not very fond of personal hygiene. Cogburn in his rough and scraggly demeanor is brilliantly portrayed by Jeff Bridges. A third character who makes up the unlikely trio of adventurers is La Boeuf, a dandified Texas Ranger, played with panache and egotism by Matt Damon, who quite frankly looks like a fellow who takes pride in his appearance.
This darkly comic journey reminiscent of the Coen brothers earlier film Oh Brother Where Art Thou? is more richly textured with symbolism and myth, complimented by beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins. With the occasional spats of violence which as always in Coen Brothers films are swift, untimely and always shocking are tapered down in comparison to their Oscar winning masterpiece No Country for Old Men, which was drenched in the suspense of inevitable violence and pervading menace.

A Gritty Game of Rancher and Outlaw

As Westerns goes, this is not 3:10 to Yuma, James Mangold 2007 action packed gun tottering film featuring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale as the cattle rancher and captured outlaw, but True Grit is closer to a period piece, shot in sepia colours complimented with stark black costumes and musing more on the legends of the Old West as opposed to the violence that characterized the era.

True Grit is more a homage to the film genre, a respectful and beautifully directed representation of a mythical error of the Wild Frontier, where the only real law of the land was each individual’s right to seek revenge where injustice had occurred, whatever the consequences. Nominated for 10 Oscars, unfortunately True Grit was beaten at the Academy Awards by the more technically brilliant film, Inception and the popular David Fincher film, The Social Network. In the acting stakes, Hailee Steinfeld is definitely a rising star, since receiving an Oscar nomination at age 15, a testament to her talent. Of all the Oscars True Grit should have won, it should have been for cinematography which was flawless.

Besides the accolades not heaped on the latest Coen Brothers film by this past Awards season, True Grit is nevertheless a terrific film about revenge, mortality and the myth of the Wild West. Watch out for a great cameo by Barry Pepper, all disheveled and wearing sheepskin chaps as the outlaw leader Lucky Ned Pepper.

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