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Posts Tagged ‘Alec Baldwin’

“BLACKkKLANSMAN” My rating: B-

145 minutes | MPAA rating: R

As confirmed by the six-minute standing ovation it received at May’s Cannes International Film Festival, Spike Lee’s “BlackKKlansman” is the right movie at the right time.

The film so effectively punches certain cultural hot buttons, so taps into the current political zeitgeist that it takes an hour of its 145-minute running time to realize that as drama it’s pretty weak stuff.

Based on the real story of Ron Stallworth, a black police detective in Colorado Springs who in the late ’70s infiltrated and even joined the Ku Klux Klan, the film is an uneasy melding of suspense, liberal uplift and  satire in which every element — performances, writing, pacing — is subservient to the delivery of a political message.

I’m down with that message. The film opens with a 50s-era “educational” film in which a eugenicist (Alec Baldwin) rants against the threat posed by race mingling. It closes with news footage of neo-Nazis marching last year in Charlottesville VA (and President Trump giving them a pass).

Even so, the movie (Lee co-wrote the screenplay with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz  and K.U. teacher and filmmaker Kevin Willmott) is notably heavy handed. Yeah, today’s audiences haven’t much use for subtlety, but even so…

We encounter Stallworth (John David Washington…Denzel’s son) when he applies to become the first black officer on the Colorado Springs force.  He’s warned by the Chief (Robert John Burke) that he’ll have to have a Jackie Robinson-level of tolerance for abuse.  It’ll come at him not just from the public but from  his fellow officers.

But Stallworth is ambitious. So when Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael is booked to address African American students at a local college,  the department’s sole black cop jumps at the chance to go undercover. He’s assigned to attend the rally and report back on Carmichael’s speech (the activist was long a target of Hoover’s FBI).

The fallout from the event is considerable.

First, Stallworth exhibits his value as a plainclothes officer, leading to his elevation to the rank of detective.

Second, he meets and eventually falls for Patrice (Laura Harrier), the student activist who organized the event — although it will be some time before he confesses that he’s one of the “pigs” she so despises.

Third, he finds himself unexpectedly inspired by Carmichael (Corey Hawkins), whose message of black pride/power hits hard. But did Lee really have to punctuate this scene with artsy montages of young black faces transformed by the speech? Aren’t Carmichael’s words powerful enough?

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Diane Lane

“PARIS CAN WAIT”  My rating: C+

92 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“Paris Can Wait” is piffle. But it’s pleasant piffle.

Written and directed by Eleanor Coppola — yes, Francis’ wife and Sofia’s mom and the director of the killer doc “Hearts of Darkness” (about the making of “Apocalypse Now”) —  it stars Diane Lane as an American wife thrown together with a charming French fellow for a road trip from Cannes to Paris.

The film will appeal to women looking for a romance with a distinctly feminine perspective…and of course to guys who just like watching Diane Lane.

The film begins on the Riviera where Anne and her producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) have been attending the film festival. The plan is for the couple to fly to Budapest where Micheal has a movie in production, but an ear ache grounds Anne.

Michael’s business associate Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive Anne to Paris. He’s got a spiffy sporty convertible (which he drives like a teen on his first solo cruise); why doesn’t Anne take the scenic route as his co-pilot?

What was supposed to be a one-day drive turns into an extended trek.  The bachelor Jacques has a decidedly Gallic take on time management and cannot pass an attraction without showing it to Anne. And he has an encyclopedic knowledge of every good restaurant along the route.

“I can’t remember the last time I played hooky in the afternoon,” Anne marvels.

There are stopovers for an awesome ancient Roman acquaduct, and for museums dedicated to the Lumiere Brothers (the fathers of cinema) and textiles (one of Anne’s passions).

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Warren Beatty

Alden Ehrenreich, Warren Beatty

“RULES DON’T APPLY”  My rating: C

126 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

If “Rules Don’t Apply” is a comedy, why aren’t we laughing?

If it’s a romance, why don’t we feel something?

If it’s a tragedy, why don’t we care?

Warren Beatty’s latest feature as writer/director (his fifth, and the first since “Bullworth” in 1998) might be charitably described as a highly polished question mark.

It’s good looking,  competently acted and mildly affable. Basically it’s two hours of narrative  noodling that never scores an emotional or intellectual point.

Ostensibly the film provides an opportunity for Beatty to tackle the character of real-life  billionaire Howard Hughes — though Beatty doesn’t make an appearance as the nutjob recluse until nearly 40 minutes into the movie.

“Rules…” is, at its most basic level, a love triangle involving Hughes and two of his employees.

Marla (Lily Collins), a virginal Virginia beauty queen, has come to late-‘50s Los Angeles  after being signed to an acting contract by the mysterious Mr. Hughes.  (In addition to his oil and aviation interests, Hughes is a Hollywood producer.)

Lily is but one of two dozen aspiring actresses stashed by Hughes in posh digs all over LaLa Land. These stars of tomorrow — or harem members , if you will — are given a weekly stipend, acting and dance classes, and are ferried around town by a small army of limousine drivers whose behavior is strictly proscribed (no canoodling with the girls, no talking about Mr. Hughes’ business, etc.).

Marla and her driver, Frank (Alden Ehrenreich), have enough in common — including a shared religiosity — that Marla’s hovering mom (Annette Bening, aka Mrs. Warren Beatty) warns her daughter against any attraction to the handsome young chauffeur.  (more…)

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Tom Cruise...just another day at work

Tom Cruise…just another day at work

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — ROGUE NATION”  My rating: B-

 131 minutes  | MPAA rating:  PG-13.

The latest “Mission: Impossible” film doesn’t offer much for the brain. The rest of your nervous system, though, will get a thorough workout.

Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie — helming only his third feature after a long career as a screenwriter (“The Usual Suspects,” “Valkyrie,” “Edge of Tomorrow” and the lamentable “The Tourist”) — builds on the spectacular/visceral approach Brad Bird employed to such solid effect four years ago in “M:I — Ghost Protocol.”

There’s not much talk in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” and what there is is confusing and forgettable.

The big action set pieces, though, just keep on comin’.

McQuarrie announces his intentions with the opening sequence — already heavily publicized through the film’s marketing campaign — that finds Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging on for dear life to the exterior of a huge military-type transport plane as it takes off. (There’s something important inside that Ethan doesn’t want the bad guys to have, dontcha know.)

Unable to stop the takeoff by hacking into the plane’s electronics, Ethan has no choice but to ride the big bird like that gremlin in the old “Twilight Zone” episode.  Much has been made of the fact that Cruise actually did that stunt…he was strapped to the fuselage of an airplane.

Well, that’s only the beginning. Ethan must foil an elaborate political assassination attempt during opening night at the Vienna Opera House (clearly inspired by a similar setup in Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”). I especially like the firearms disguised as woodwind instruments.

He must hold his breath underwater for, like, four minutes to break into a computer data storage facility deep below the Moroccan desert. (Not to be a killjoy, but where did all that water come from? It’s a DESERT.)

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Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone

Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone

“ALOHA” My rating: C (Opens wide on June 5)

105 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Aloha” can mean either hello or goodbye. Thus it’s an appropriate title for a movie that doesn’t know if it’s coming or going.

That the latest from writer/director Cameron Crowe isn’t a total disaster can be credited to players whose charisma helps paper over the screaming holes and loopy notions marring the doddering screenplay.

These performers are just good enough to wrest a few memorable moments from the general chaos of an eccentric romantic comedy that isn’t particularly romantic or funny.

Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) is a near-legendary former Air Force officer who was deeply involved in the U.S. space program.  But after a long career decline and injuries incurred while a contractor in Afghanistan, he’s now a mere shadow of his former self.

He’s returned to his old stomping grounds in Hawaii as an employee of multi-billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), who has invested heavily in a private rocket program and needs the blessing of native Hawaiian leaders to pave over some public relations potholes.

Brian’s assignment is too look up his old friend, the king of the nativist Nation of Hawaii (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele, playing himself), and secure said blessing.

Meanwhile Brian is torn between two women.  First there’s Tracy (Rachel McAdams), the love he unceremoniously dumped 13 years earlier. She’s now married to an Air Force Officer (John Krasinski) and the mother of two.

The arrival of her old flame — even in his semi-decrepit condition — exacerbates Tracy’s doubts about her marriage and a husband whose verbal communications are painfully  limited.

The other woman is Allison Ng (Emma Stone), a hotshot fighter pilot and one-quarter Hawaiian who is assigned as Brian’s military escort.  Allison starts out all spit and polish with a salute so sharp it snaps air molecules — but after a few days as Brian’s wingman  her military bearing turns all gee-whiz girly.

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Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore

“STILL ALICE” My rating: B+

101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Still Alice” deals with such a disturbing topic — early-onset Alzheimer’s — that most of us will decline to watch it, and those who do will take their seats with the butterflies of trepidation in full flight.

It is well, then, that a big reward awaits those who take the plunge.

Julianne Moore has won the best actress Oscar for her performance in Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s drama, and it takes only about 10 minutes to see why. She delivers a brilliant turn that buoys “Still Alice” just when it seems too much to bear.

Moore plays Alice, who at age 50 seems to have it all. She’s a professor of linguistics at Columbia University and the author of a respected book. She has a husband (Alec Baldwin, doing a 180 from his frequent sleazeball portrayals) who clearly adores her.

The couple have two overachieving offspring: a lawyer (Kate Bosworth) and a doctor (Hunter Parrish). Their third (Kristen Stewart) blew off college to become an actress — not that anyone is paying her to act.

It is while guest-lecturing at a West Coast university that Alice suddenly loses her train of thought. After a tense moment she recovers nicely (“I knew I shouldn’t have had that Champagne”) and continues.

A moment of forgetfulness, nothing more.

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