Posts Tagged ‘Liev Schreiber’

How To Ruin Your Life Brilliantly

A Rainy Day in New York

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Elle Fanning, Timothee Chalamet, Selena Gomez, Liev Schreiber, Jude Law, Diego Luna, Rebecca Hall, Cherry Jones, Will Rogers

Oscar winning director and veteran scriptwriter Woody Allen (Hannah and Her Sisters, Annie Hall) delivers another witty slice of New York life filled with paranoia, lust and intrigue featuring all the hot young stars of the Instagram generation: Elle Fanning (The Beguiled) Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) and music celebrity turned actress Selena Gomezn (Rudderless) in his new film A Rainy Day in New York.

Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) plays Gatsby Welles a disgruntled privileged millennial who accompanies his sweet and sometimes naïve girlfriend Ashleigh Enright wonderfully played with a bubbling effervesce by indie film darling Elle Fanning (Mary Shelley, The Beguiled, Maleficent)  to New York City to interview the difficult middle aged film director Roland Pollard superbly played by Live Schreiber (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Spotlight) who goes off the rails after the screening of his latest film and suffers an artistic breakdown.

As Ashleigh and Gatsby get inadvertently separated in the Big Apple, Ashleigh gets caught up with the foibles of hot movie star Francisco Vega played by Mexican star Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Milk, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and scriptwriter Ted Davidoff wonderfully played with just the right amount of neurosis by Oscar nominee Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) who confronts his wife Connie played by Rebecca Hall (Frost/Nixon, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) for having an affair.

Gatsby meets the wise cracking Shannon in a breakout performance by Selena Gomez on a student film project and they hit it off while afterwards he attempts to drown his sorrows at a glamourous cocktail bar in Manhattan where he meets a mysterious beautiful blond woman.

Back in his own territory, Woody Allen delivers a very funny scripted film about a day in the life of paranoid New Yorkers as the weather deteriorates along with their moral values. Chalamet and Fanning are brilliant as the two main protagonists proving once again director Allen’s ability to cast the hot young stars of contemporary cinema.  

There are some terrific cameo performances especially by Cherry Jones (Boy Erased, Whisky Tango Foxtrot) as Gatsby’s supposedly snobbish society mother who reveals to him her rather bizarre past much to her son’s utter despair.

For those that love classic Woody Allen films, make a plan to watch A Rainy Day in New York – it’s hilarious, funny and smart with a suitable twist at the end.

 A Rainy Day in New York gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is superbly scripted by Woody Allen with some great one liners including how to ruin your life brilliantly and ably uses all of New York’s legendary locations including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Breaking the Cardinal Rule

Spotlight

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Director: Tom McCarthy

Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, Jamey Sheridan

Spotlight refers to a team of investigative reporters stationed at the Boston Globe. Just months before 9/11 in mid-2001, The Boston Globe hires a news editor fresh from Miami, Marty Baron played by Liev Schreiber (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) who subsequently instructs the Spotlight team headed up by Robby Robinson played by Michael Keaton (Birdman) to investigate the systematic child abuse which is happening in the Catholic Church specifically in the Archdiocese of Boston, a strongly Irish Catholic community as highlighted by a recent case pending at the criminal court.

Director Tom McCarthy’s film Spotlight is compelling viewing, a riveting tale of tough investigative journalism by a team of men and woman who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. The Spotlight team also consists of journalists Sacha Pfieffer brilliantly played by Rachel McAdams  (A Most Wanted Man) who pursues testimony from the alleged victims of child abuse and Portuguese descendant Mike Rezendes superbly played by Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) who goes after the legal aspects of the case that lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci is making against a particular Catholic priest John Geoghan.

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As the investigation continues, the journalists realize that what they are uncovering is a much wider scandal of how the Catholic Church not only knew about errant priests committing sexual abuse preying upon vulnerable minors but also how this powerful institution discreetly got these priests transferred or they were given supposed sick leave to avoid exposure or damage to the Church’s reputation.

As they investigate all the priests in the Boston area, the Spotlight team uncovers a much wider pattern of abuse by several priests. However, before they can publish a damning expose they need to have irrefutable proof that this was occurring.

That proof comes in the form of victim testimonies that Garabedian attached as legal documents in a case that he is building against Geoghan and that the Church tried to cover up these legal documents, thus breaking Cardinal Law.

McAdams and Ruffalo are particularly brilliant in Spotlight as journalists who not only uncover a massive and systemic scandal but are forced to question their own religious and spiritual convictions.

What actor turned director McCarthy avoids doing is standing in judgement of the Catholic Church, but rather focuses on the relentless pursuit of facts and absolute proof that investigative journalism is based upon, both of which need to be authenticated before any expose is subsequently published. With a screenplay by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is a superb indictment against one of the most powerful religious institutions in the world but also emphasizes the absolute necessity for responsible and comprehensively researched investigative journalism.

When the Spotlight story eventually does go to print, the expose points to a much wider problem in many archdioceses across America and other parts of the world, something which news editor Marty Baron alludes to in the beginning of the investigation.

The cast of Spotlight are phenomenal and deservedly won a 2016 Screen Actors Guild award for best cast and the intelligently crafted story is essential viewing. Spotlight is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed such films as All the Presidents Men and Frost/Nixon.

 

Taking off the White Gloves

The Butler

The butler

 

Director: Lee Daniels

Starring: Forest Whitaker, David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, John Cusack, Alex Pettyfer, James Marsden, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lenny Kravitz, Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey.

The Oscar nominated director of Precious, Lee Daniels assembles an all star cast in the elegant and brutal chronicle of the American Civil Rights Movement from the Georgia cotton picking days of 1926 to the historic election of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States in 2008.

With a screenplay by Danny Strong based on Wil Haygood’s article “A Butler Well Served by this ElectionThe Butler follows the life of Cecil Gaines, a loyal and trusted African American butler to seven American presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower (played by Robin Williams) in 1957 to Ronald Reagan (played by Alan Rickman) in 1986 at the White House and features a staggeringly Oscar worthy performance by Forest Whitaker, Oscar winner for the extraordinary film The Last King of Scotland, whose sturdy and nuanced performance makes this historical film a must see. Alongside Whitaker portrayal of Gaines, is another wonderful performance by Talk Show Queen Oprah Winfrey as his hard drinking wife Gloria Gaines who along with her husband has to live through the turbulent sixties and seventies watching helplessly as one son Louis Gaines brilliantly portrayed by David Oyelowo gets involved in the civil rights movement in the Deep South whilst their youngest son Charlie joins up to fight in Vietnam.

During the Butler’s time at the White House he serves a range of American Presidents from JFK (played by James Marsden) to Nixon during the Watergate scandal, from Lyndon B. Johnson (played by Liev Schreiber) during the Vietnam War through to Ronald Reagan and his vetoing of sanctions against Apartheid South Africa in the mid 1980’s.

Whilst Daniels film is a clear tribute to the huge impact made by the American civil rights movement, the viewer at times will feel like they are watching a History Channel documentary. Yet despite the racial politics, at the heart of The Butler is the equally tumultuous yet tender relationship between Cecil Gaines and his family. Gaines employed as a White House Butler cannot jeopardize his job employed in service at the iconic seat of American power where ironically there is no room for politics. He cannot participate himself in the increasingly active American civil rights movement of the sixties, whilst his son Louis gets politically involved as he attends Fisk University in Tennessee.

From Gandhi inspired sits ins at segregated restaurants in Alabama to Freedom Bus rides through Klu Klux Klan riddled Mississippi, Louis finds his own identity as a civil rights activist only stopping short of joining the increasingly militant Black Panther movement which plagued the Nixon Administration in the early 1970’s. Gloria Gaines, wonderfully played by Winfrey has to manage two sons, an absent husband and an increasingly reckless lifestyle whilst adjusting to the ever changing race relations in contemporary American society.

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The Butler takes off the white gloves in examining the contentious issue of America’s history of race relations. Director Daniels expertly splices scenes of a brutal attack by white students on members of the civil rights movement at a Tennessee diner with images of Cecil Gaines and his fellow butlers Carter Wilson played by Cuba Gooding Jr and James Holloway played by Lenny Kravitz laying an immaculate table for White House state dinners, reminiscent of Merchant Ivory’s superb period drama Remains of the Day about the crumbling of the British class system in the late 1930’s prior to the outbreak of World War II.

What really makes The Butler so utterly absorbing is Forest Whitaker’s powerful performance as Cecil Gaines who whilst in service humbly retains only one constant request of equal wages from his White House employers. The rest of the star studded cast including veteran actors Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End) and Jane Fonda (On Golden Pond) really only have very brief scenes. John Cusack stands out as a troubled hard drinking Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal in 1972.

For lovers of period dramas with an expansive historical context, The Butler is recommended viewing. Director Lee Daniels expertly manages a huge and contentious time span of American history along with an impressive ensemble cast while extracting superb performances by Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo, making The Butler like his previously provocative film Precious a firm Oscar favourite.  A highly recommended and masterful piece of cinema.

 

Focus on the Fundamentals

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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Director: Mira Nair

Cast: Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, Martin Donovan, Riz Ahmed, Om Puri

Indian director Mira Nair’s elegant and gripping film adaptation of the brilliant Mohsin Hamid novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a riveting tale of cross cultural clashes which occur when a wealthy Pakistani Changez, played by Riz Ahmed goes abroad and studies at Princeton and then pursues a cutthroat career in global economics at a prestige New York firm, Underwood Samson.

Hamid’s novel takes place as a dialogue between Changez confessing his love affair with America  to a yet unidentified man at a cafe in Lahore amidst growing tensions in the wake of 9/11 and America’s war on terror in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. It is an elegant and evocative tale of how Changez, was offered the American dream on a platter and then see it disintegrate before his eyes under the horrific aftermath of the Manhattan terror attacks. In the midst of his shifting view of the American dream, from being strip search at JFK to being humiliated in America’s corporate and artistic worlds, Changez’s embarks on a cross cultural relationship with a liberated Upper East side conceptual artist Erica.

Nair’s well crafted film version of The Reluctant Fundamentalist differs in parts to Hamid’s novel, exploring the inherent dangers of pursuing a Capitalist dream in a Western society which turns its back on you, in the wake of a Terrorist attack and the resulting shifts in American and Pakistani  perspectives. The film delicately portrays the backlash suffered by many American Muslims living and working  in the US, particularly New York in the aftermath of 9/11.

Changez as one of the bright young stars, recruited directly out of Princeton for the international corporate fixer agency Underwood Samson by the sexually ambivalent Jim Cross as his mentor, gorgeously underplayed by Kiefer Sutherland (Flatliners, The Sentinel), is sent on global excursions from Manila to Atlanta to Istanbul to assist companies in downsizing their labour force and maximizing profits with their corporate maxim being focus on the fundamentals.

At the start of his professional Manhattan career, Changez meets the dynamic and liberated Erica and soon embarks in a passionate affair. In Hamid’s novel , this complex romance is evocatively  told as part of Changez’s confessions to a supposed stranger at the Lahore cafe. In Nair’s film version this doomed relationship reaches a climax in a particularly poignant scene at a swish Manhattan gallery opening when Erica’s displays her vision of conceptual art and inspired by her own relationship with Changez through the title: I slept with a Pakistani once.

I slept with a Pakistani once.

Erica, awkwardly played by an auburn haired Kate Hudson (Nine, The Skeleton Key), unburdens her own guilt by embarking on a rebound affair, as a way of dealing with the sudden death of her boyfriend Chris of which she was the supposed cause. While the relationship between Changez and Erica is not as well sketched out in the film, the ambivalent dialogue in the Lahore cafe is fully realized in the scenes between Changez and Bobby Lincoln an experienced CIA operative played by Liev Schrieber (Defiance, Salt and the excellent TV series Ray Donovan) who is trying to get vital information out of him about a suspected Al Qaeda kingpin operating in Pakistan, whilst also suspecting him of masterminding an established or imagined terror network.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist expertly delves into the disillusion of the American dream from a Pakistani perspective. Like other Mira Nair films always with a flair for the dramatic most notably Vanity Fair and the award winning Monsoon Wedding has stunning  production values, compliments this visually rich film with a wonderfully evocative soundtrack.

The film’s script by Ami Boghani intelligently explores the common ties of humanity despite different cultures and the journeys of self discovery required to fully appreciate the fundamentals of a fulfilled existence. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a an ultimately flawed but brilliantly told international thriller which is better appreciated if viewers have first read the novel. Recommended viewing.

 

Mata Hari Jolie Style

Salt

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Salt is a fast paced action thriller which is intriguing and admirable for the wonderful casting of Angelina Jolie as the title character and Liev Schrieber so refreshing in this female version Mission Impossible style thriller set in Washington DC and New York, shot with the same vigour and energy as the Bourne trilogy less the exotic locations.

Australian Director Philip Noyce whose impressive credits include the brilliant Rabbit Proof Fence and The Quiet American directs Salt with panache and a strong control of the pace, plot and environment of shady double agents and counter-intelligence. Noyce has worked with Jolie before on the serial killer thriller The Bone Collector back in 1999, so he returns to familiar territory with the new thriller Salt set in the murky world of US counter-espionage with a superb supporting cast including Liev Schrieber and the hugely underrated Chiwetel Ejiofor of the famed Stephen Frears film, Dirty Pretty Things and Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.

Salt is a combination of the Boys from Brazil and In the Line of Fire with a fast-moving plot and fantastic action sequences reminiscent of Angelina Jolie’s earlier roles in Tomb Raider, Wanted and Mr and Mrs SmithSalt is a riveting thriller and worth the twist in the tale.

Seduction and Salvation in China

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The Painted Veil

This beautiful film gorgeously directed by John Curran and based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham is set in China in the 1920’s is a sumptuous tale of seduction and salvation told with an ironic eye about a young woman who marries a micro-biologist and bacterial specialist featuring superb performances by Naomi Watts and Edward Norton.

The young scientist needs a wife and the young woman needs to escape the confines of her suburban Chelsea family. Initially the young couple live in the exotic city of Shanghai and then due to an indiscretion on the wife’s part, as punishment the Doctor takes her to a cholera infected village in rural China, where she learns with humility about atonement and the true sacrifice involved in staying married at whatever the cost. The Painted Veil is shot in gorgeous colours making the most of the dramatic Chinese landscape and with a beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat (who was hailed for his original music for the Oscar winning Stephen Frears film, The Queen.) and consequently won a Golden Globe award for Best Original Score for this film.

Most notable is the strong performances by the two leading actors, both entirely underrated, Edward Norton playing the brutal and slightly calculating doctor who learns to treat his wife as more than a personal assistant, and Naomi Watts who plays Kitty the naive young Englishwoman who finds salvation in the most unlikely locations and with the assistance of Mother Superior, a wonderful cameo by Diana Rigg.

This 2006 film surely did not get all the praise it was worth upon release but will remain an undiscovered cinematic gem. The Hollywood Foreign Press described The Painted Veil as one of the most beautiful films ever made. The cinematography and the mesmerizing music by Alexandre Desplat withstanding, this film is well worth watching and could easily be considered a 21st century classic.

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