Posts Tagged ‘Rene Russo’

Grey is the New Green

The Intern

intern Nancy Meyers film

Director: Nancy Meyers

Cast: Robert de Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Nat Wolff, Adam DeVine, Celia Weston, Anders Holm, Andrew Rannells, Zack Pearlman

American director and screenwriter Nancy Meyers has always been brilliant at churning a reasonable collection of romantic comedies touching quite often on the social nuances of contemporary American culture. The director of What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give, now teams up two Oscar winners the legendary Robert de Niro (Raging Bull, Silver Linings Playbook) with Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Devil Wears Prada) in a wonderful romantic comedy The Intern focusing on a widower Ben Whitaker who finds after his wife’s death has far too much time on his hands.

Whitaker, fastidious, presentable and dependable, expressively played by de Niro applies for a position as an intern at an online fashion site, which is young chic start-up which basically sells and delivers new clothing bought on the internet much like the South African versions Zando and Spree.

The start-up aptly named About the Fit is managed and owned by the driven entrepreneur Jules Ostin played by Hathaway who at first channels too much of her character from The Devil Wears Prada, but then finds her own form for the successful working mother with a stay at home husband, Matt, played by Anders Holm.

Initially, the internship program is designed to give senior citizens a chance to work in the digital era and exposure to the 21st century work environment, which Meyers accurately draws some brilliant observations between the baby boom (born during or after World War 2) generation and the millennial generation (born in the 1990’s), a divide made all the more problematic with the fast acceleration of digital and online technologies. The fact that Whitaker spent most of his career printing New York telephone directories and one of the naive receptionists asks if they still make phone books, is testament to this generation gap.

The narrative of The Intern takes on some more serious issues in the second half of the film, after a rather languid beginning punctuated only by some jokes and a caper involving stealing a laptop. The film is brilliantly enlightened by the accessible Rene Russo (Nightcrawler, Thor) as the company masseur Fiona in a wonderful scene where she massages Whitaker at his desk, much to the delight of the twenty year olds sitting on either side of him.

As the film progresses, director Nancy Meyers gives more scope for her two main leads to show some real acting talent even though the script at times is slightly saccharine. De Niro’s character Whitaker really is used as a vehicle, both literally (he becomes Jules’s driver) and figuratively as a means of Jules realizing that her career is not as important as her marriage and that sometimes its wisdom not business acumen that can help save a company which is threatening to become too successful too soon. A pitfall of many start up tech companies especially in the increasingly attention demanding digital age.

The Intern is recommended viewing for those that enjoy romantic comedies with a bit more depth, reasonably well written and soothingly directed by Meyers. This is a great, feel good comedy without resorting to crude language or stupid antics.

 

The Fabricated Image

Nightcrawler

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Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Kevin Rahm, Ann Cusack

The opening shot of Dan Gilroy’s gripping thriller Nightcrawler is of a blank bill board set against the glittering skyline of downtown Los Angeles.

The introduction of the anti-hero Lou Bloom, expertly played against type by Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain) is of a lonely scavenger in a hostile metropolis desperate to make a quick buck. Bloom is even stealing manhole covers to sell to scrap dealers. Bloom claims he is desperate for a job, any job and spends his days flicking through the multitude of local TV News channels and surfing the internet, an epitome of loneliness and desperation, an ideal sociopath.

Nightcrawler picks up the pace when Bloom drives past a horrific accident and he sees a videographer Joe Loder played by Bill Paxton filming the bloodied carnage. Loder tells Bloom that he sells the accident scene footage to any of the city’s seedier local news networks for cash. By its definition Nightcrawler is a scavenger filming the underbelly of a city as there are car accidents, housebreak-ins, plane crashes and shootings and any footage from the previous night makes the Morning News on one of the Los Angeles TV News channels.

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After pawning a stolen bike from Venice Beach, Bloom buys a camcorder and soon begins the night prowl where he is quick to pick up the art of framing an image, showcasing all the evening’s carnage to Nina Romina, a glamourous slightly ruthless news editor wonderfully played by Rene Russo (Lethal Weapon, Thor, The Thomas Crown Affair). Upon their first meeting the electricity between Bloom and Romina is electric, two amoral characters caught in a sort of dysfunctional older woman younger man relationship based on mutual infatuation and shared amoral vision of a heartless society.

The hardened Romina recognizes Blooms uncharacteristic drive, his insatiable thirst for disturbing news imagery and his ruthless lack of empathy for any of the victims involved in these awful occurrences from home invasions to traffic accidents to domestic disturbances.

Director Gilroy brother of Tony Gilroy who did the acclaimed film Michael Clayton is adept at showing the gritty underbelly of the American dream, a world where it really is each man for himself in a ruthless race to survive in the post-recession free market capitalist economy which has stripped many of these American cities of its lustre.

Los Angeles with all its film noir qualities becomes a central landscape in Nightcrawler, a dystopian inspiration for an American dream gone awry captured soon brilliantly in Paul Schrader’s The Canyons and Quentin Tarantino’s post-modern crime epic Pulp Fiction.

Nightcrawler’s intensity gains traction when Lou Bloom, ever the ruthless entrepreneur hires a desperate drifter, Richard as his assistant and co-driver, wonderfully played by Riz Ahmed from The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a needy relationship which is ripe for exploitation right till the bitter and shocking end.

What makes Nightcrawler so unique is that its theory that what viewers consume on 24 hour television news channels is a collection of fabricated images, ever reminding us that however real that Television footage looks, it’s is still constructed and edited to maximum visual effect, primarily to shock the audiences into a dull yet primordial complicity unique to human fascination.

Let’s face it, everyone loves watching an accident scene but hates actually being the victim of one. 21st century contemporary viewers of TV and film have become desensitized to carnage. As Nina Romina so brilliantly puts it:

“Think of our news broadcast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat slit”.

Gyllenhaal delivers a deadpan performance as the vile antihero, Lou Bloom, certainly one of his career bests, where above all his sociopathic tendencies he emphasizes the dangerous power and fatal attraction of loneliness exemplified in director Nicholas Winding Refn’s excellent film noir classic Drive.

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Dan Gilroy’s thriller Nightcrawler features a narcissistic, brutal and sociopathic amoral central character set in a gritty, crime ridden Los Angeles throwing up a disturbing view of contemporary American cities as being entirely devoid of emotion or community. Gilroy’s flair for cutting dialogue is influenced by Tarantino and his visual language is influenced by such luminous directors as David Lynch and Paul Schrader.

Nightcrawler is a first rate film recommended for viewers that enjoyed Drive, Mullholland Drive and Pulp Fiction with Jake Gyllenhaal giving one of his most creepiest performances in ages as the ruthless videographer and ambulance chaser Lou Bloom.

 

 

 

A Poisonous Universe

Thor: The Dark World

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From Asgaard to Greenwich, Thor and his hammer are back in the Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World, moving the action from the arid plains of New Mexico to the nine universes along with London and Stonehenge. The immensely successful Thor in 2010 directed by Kenneth Brannagh assembled a fabulously competent cast including Oscar Winners Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) as Thor’s father Odin, King of Asgaard and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) as physicist Jane Foster along with Rene Russo as Thor’s mother Frigga and Shakespearian actor Tom Hiddleston as malevolent and destructive brother Loki.

Thor: The Dark World reassembles this cast along with Kat Dennings of Two Broke Girls TV series fame as the sharp talking Darcy Lewis for some comic relief, Stellan Skarsgaard as the mad scientist Erik Selvig seen running naked around Stonehenge and newcomer Christopher Eccleston as Malekith the evil Dark Elf who is bent on destroying all known universes through an ethereal substance known as Aether which has the power to envelope all worlds in eternal darkness constituting a thoroughly poisonous universe.

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Moving the action from sunny New Mexico in Thor to murky and grey England was a smart move for Thor: The Dark World, however this sequel whilst it has stunning visual effects but not quite to the same level as Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, is certainly entertaining as superhero films go that the rival  Marvel studios are successfully releasing in quick succession after the huge commercial success of The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

Needless to say much of the action of Thor: The Dark World does not take place on earth so the plot is mostly action driven and there is naturally very little new character developments in the various CGI created universes with elegant and glossy Asgaard  taking the centre stage. Chris Hemsworth is naturally good as Thor, a role that will surely become synonymous with his name, but his real acting can be seen in films like Rush. Natalie Portman is fantastic and Anthony Hopkins is going through the character motions. Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as the ambivalently evil Loki set on revenge for his incarceration on Asgaard and look out for rising star Idris Elba as the celestial Asgaard gatekeeper Heimdall.

Basically Thor: The Dark World has stunning visuals, lots of action, a twisted plot without too much characterisation and basically retains its popcorn teenage audience that all the Marvel films are aiming for.

For fans of Thor, this glossy sequel not as tightly directed by Alan Taylor is thin on plot, and will not disappoint fans of the hammer wielding hunk who is part of the Avengers group. Watch out for a brief cameo by Chris Ryan as Captain America. The action is fantastic but not on the level of Pacific Rim or Man of Steel. Also starring Zachary Levi from Chuck fame along with Ray Stevenson and Jaimie Alexander. See Thor: The Dark World in a 3D cinema if possible.

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