Posts Tagged ‘John Lithgow’

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.

 

 

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.

Solving the Jigsaw Puzzle

The Accountant

accountant

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jean Smart, Alex Collins

American director Gavin O’Connor likes to show the sources of fraternal fiction in his films. His most notable film Warrior was about two estranged brothers who reconnect over their hapless and heavy drinking father, in an Oscar nominated performance by Nick Nolte, who trains both his sons in a mixed martial arts tournament in New Jersey.

Now with a bigger budget and sleek production design, O’Connor teams up with A-List star Ben Affleck in the tense action thriller The Accountant set in Chicago enhanced by crisp cinematography by Seamus McGarvey.

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Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo, Good Will Hunting) plays the autistic and highly efficient Christian Wolfe, a maths savant who is hired by a shady Robotics company to do their books. While accounting does not sound sexy, The Accountant makes spreadsheets lethal and thrilling as he soon uncovers massive discrepancies in the company’s financials with the assistance of Dana Cummings played by Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air).

Meanwhile, Treasurer Financial crimes investigator Ray King superbly played by Oscar winner J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) enlists the help of Marybeth Medina played by British actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Colombiana) to investigate the mysterious maths savant who has a perfect shot.

Medina soon uncovers who the real Christian Wolfe is, a money launderer and racketeer to some of the most dangerous organised crime syndicates internationally, the real reason why some of Wolfe’s clients can pay him in original paintings by Renoir and Jackson Pollock.

Through a series of flashbacks, O’Connor takes audiences into the troubled childhood of Wolfe who was brought up by his military trained father in a variety of exotic cities and teaches Christian and his younger brother Braxton how to survive in a hostile world.

The Accountant is a revealing action thriller held together by a tightly wound performance by Affleck as he battles not only the demons in his past but the current enemies in the shady corporate world, who will stop at nothing to silence the financial intrigue and cover up involved in taking a robotics company onto the New York stock exchange as a lucrative initial public offering.

Audiences should watch out for inventive cameo’s by Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor as Francis Silverberg and Fargo star Jean Smart as Rita Blackburn.

This is an engaging thriller which never loses hold of its numerous plot twists. The Accountant is an edge of your seat action movie in which all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle finally fit together at the end. An absorbing and gripping film with excellent sound effects.

 

The Lazarus Missions

Interstellar

interstellar_ver3

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn, David Oyelowo, Topher Grace, Timothee Chalamet

Memento meets Gravity in director Christopher Nolan’s epic space opera, Interstellar, a convoluted time travel astrophysical fantasy about a NASA astronaut who gets caught up in a mission to travel to an alternative Galaxy in a bid to save the remaining humanity on earth from a dwindling supply of oxygen.

2001 a_space_odyssey_ver2

Assembling an all star cast is what director Nolan does best at insuring that his films have credibility as a blockbuster and with a range of stars, yet unlike Inception or The Prestige, his earlier films which dealt with dreams and magic, Interstellar tends to emulate the great director Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece: 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet falls short of its celestial aspirations, by not being a touch more sinister.

In parts, Interstellar is brilliant and ambitious, wonderfully scored with atmospheric music by Hans Zimmer and incredibly shot with those signature spiralling shots that Nolan is so fond of. However, Interstellar suffers from two shortcomings, taking the films weighty significance too seriously and secondly a serious lack of editing. The first and last sections of Interstellar weighs down the brilliance and absolute clarity of the middle section.

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With McConaughey fresh from his Oscar win on Dallas Buyers Club coupled with Hathaway fresh from her win in Les Miserables it seems like a perfect casting choice, but it’s flawed by its very contrivance. The part which does stand out so brilliantly is that of Murphy superbly played by the underrated Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain as Cooper’s grownup and embittered daughter who is hell bent in following in her father’s footsteps and traveling beyond the black hole to discover the reason for the earth’s imminent demise. Watch out for cameo appearances by Ellen Burstyn, Wes Bentley and David Oyelowo.

Fellow Oscar nominee Casey Affleck is also good as the stubborn yet stoical brother of Murphy in a part which is severely underwritten along with that of Oscar winner Michael Caine as Professor Brand who plays Hathaway’s enigmatic father, a scientist who masterminds the space exploration from the outset knowing that the intended consequences of such a doomed mission are dire and certainly revelatory at best.

Interstellar ‘s post-structural narrative gets more blurred, the further the astronauts travel through a celestial wormhole, around a vast system known as Gargantuan, soon realizing that their mission much like their own destiny is doomed to fail, resulting in a multitude of Lazarus missions.

The only subversive element is a rescued astronaut Mann, wonderfully played by Matt Damon, found on a frozen wasteland of a planet which seems to be the only alternative to the dust clad environment of a doomed earth, who is wily in his attempts to escape his icy predicament.

With a script by Jonathan Nolan, Interstellar suffers from too little said and not enough explained, while most of the narrative rests on some remarkably clever visual clues which only make sense in the last section of the film, which resembles a pastiche of Inception mixed with an unquantifiable mystical factor.

The cast with a threadbare script had little else to work on besides their own doomed destinies and the terrors of space. Thus there is loads of human anguish thrown in along with some stunning visuals, but at nearly three hours long Interstellar could have been expertly edited to make a more concise tale of 21st century doomed space exploration. Besides Anne Hathaway just doesn’t cut it as an astronaut and should stick to period dramas, where at least the claustrophobia is explained by historical context and not subliminal infinity.

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As an avid fan of Christopher Nolan films and trust me I loved The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, I personally found Interstellar fascinating yet an ultimately flawed and slightly contrived piece of cinema crippled by its unendurable length, without enough plot twists to generate sufficient audience excitement. Like Inception, Interstellar will certainly be open to discussion.

 

Retail Therapy at its Best!

confessions_of_a_shopaholic1If viewers loved the Devil wears Prada then with a more muted less robust story, go and watch Confessions of a Shopaholic – its like Muriel’s Wedding on acid with costumes by Patricia Field the costume designer for the hit TV series Ugly Betty.

Best Line: You speak Prada?

Best scenes:  The bridesmaid dress and the baglady & the Credit card in the freezer!!!

Confessions of a Shopaholic is an irreverent comedy about one girl’s ability to shop up a storm and also try and deal with climbing the corporate ladder of New York’s publishing industry. Featuring a wonderful performance by Isla Fisher along with Hugh Dancy, John Goodman and Joan Cusack, this film is a light and fun romp about the pleasures associated with retail therapy. Recommended for some light entertainment and loads of fun.

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