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Posts Tagged ‘Ed Harris’

“RESISTANCE” My rating: C (Now available on Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms)

120 minutes | MPAA: R

Fiercely earnest but curiously unaffecting, Jonathan Jakubowicz’s “Resistance” is an inspired-by-fact World War II drama that shows a generally unrecognized side of Marcel Marceau, world’s most famous mime.

In pre-war France Marcel Mangel (Jesse Eisenberg) works in his father’s butcher shop but dreams of a life in the arts. At night he takes the stage at a local cabaret…we see him doing an act based on Charlie Chaplin.

Marcel is Jewish…nominally so.  His obsession with performing overshadows even the encroaching threat of Hitler’s forces.  His brother Sigmund (Edgar Ramirez) must shame Marcel into helping deal with newly-arrived German Jewish orphans who have been ransomed from the Nazi government.

Marcel claims to hate children, but warms up when he realizes that these traumatized kids are receptive to his mime routines…he at least can take their minds off the horrors they have endured. He forms a special bond with Elsbeth (Bella Ramsey, the tweener scene-stealer from “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”). He also sticks around because he has the hots for Emma (Clemence Poesy), who is dedicated to the relief effort.

With the arrival of the Germans the young people in Marcel’s circle go underground, joining the Resistance and risking their lives to hide Jewish children (often by passing them off as Catholic orphans) and leading the youngsters on dangerous treks to sanctuary in Switzerland.

Though it has been sumptuously mounted and features several suspenseful sequences, “Resistance” is a dramatic mess.  Jakubowicz’s screenplay has no real center…it zigs and zags between numerous characters, including the infamous Gestapo torturer Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighofer), who has made it his mission to wipe out these Hebrew agitators.

There’s also a clunky framing device, a post-war segment featuring Ed Harris as American Gen. George S. Patton (the multi-lingual Marcel, reborn as Marcel Marceau, actually served as a liaison on Patton’s staff).

The major stumbling block here, though, is the film’s leading man.  Jesse Eisenberg just isn’t right as Marcel. He lacks gravitas, and would need Brando-level charisma to keep this sprawling yarn centered. He gets to recreate a couple of Marceau’s famous mime routines, but the results are uncomfortable…like swimming in a three-piece suit.

Also, he looks really uncomfortable in a beret.

| Robert W. Butler

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Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem

“MOTHER!” My rating: C 

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Darren Aronofsky is a master filmmaker whose grasp of movie technology and cinema’s esthetic possibilities has few equals.

But  you’ve got to wonder about his choice of subject matter.

There are moments of pure genius on display in “mother!”,  along with a sustained depiction of madness to equal anything ever seen on the screen.

But they are in the service of an eschatological puzzle that will leave most audience members scratching their heads.  The movie is clever to a fault, but at the risk of emotionally alienating all but the most die-hard theological geeks.

You know we’re in the world of heavy-duty (if not pretentious) metaphor when all the characters are denied names and identified in the credits as Mother, Him, Man, Woman, Younger Brother, etc.

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a remote, formerly splendid country home with her husband, the considerably older Him (Javier Bardem). Him is a novelist with a bad case of writer’s block; he can’t make the ideas flow and it’s making him pathetic and cranky.

Mother, meanwhile, busies herself with restoring the old mansion, a job she has taken on singlehandedly.

Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris

Their isolated lives are interrupted by Man (Ed Harris), who claims to be a physician doing research nearby. He’s been misinformed that Mother and Him are running a b&b.  When Him learns that Man is a big fan of his writing, he invites the visitor to move into a guest room.

Mother isn’t thrilled, and is even more upset when Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), shows up as well.  They are the guests from hell:  smoking, drinking, acting like they own the joint and making out like horny teens. This part of “mother!”, at least, is wickedly funny.

Woman is a nosy meddler who wants to know the nature of her hosts’ sex lives and presses Mother for an explanation of their childless state.

Mother pleads with her husband to evict the interlopers, but his ego is desperate for their fawning praise. Moreover, Man appears to be dying of lung cancer. What kind of person would toss him out?

The first half of the film climaxes with a murder.

In its wake Him finds inspiration, writes a new novel and impregnates Mother.

All seems copacetic until the night thousands of Him’s fans descend upon the house and begin a riot, holding orgiastic ceremonies, stripping the house for souvenirs and, eventually, turning their attention to the infant  Mother delivers in the midst of these cabalistic reveries. (Shades of “Rosemary’s Baby”!) (more…)

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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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Ed Harris

Ed Harris

“FRONTERA” My rating: B- (Opening Sept. 26 at the Screenland Crown Center)

103 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

As first features go, “Frontera” is hugely ambitious.  Too ambitious.

Writer/director Michael Berry seems to want to do for illegal immigration what “Traffick” did for drug smuggling.  But he’s trying to touch so many sailiant features of the issue that his film feels frustratingly busy, as if it has been shoehorned into its 90-minut running time.

There’s no time for the film to breath, to take stock. If only “Frontera” had been produced as a three-night cable miniseries…it would have been a whole different — and much more satisfying — experience.

As it is it features some good acting, terrific cinematography of the rugged American Southwest, and a slowly tightening aura of suspense. It’s okay…it could have been so much better.

It starts south of the border with Miguel (Michael Pena), his pregnant wife Paulina (Eva Longoria in decidedly non-glam mode) and their young daughter traveling north.  They spend a night at the home of Paulina’s parents just a few miles south of the Arizona border. And then Miguel strikes out for the long walk into the U.S.A. The plan is for him to find work, send the dollars back to Paulina, and hopefully bring his family across the border.

On an Arizona ranch abutting Mexico, former lawman Roy (Ed Harris) and his wife Olivia (Amy Madigan) are having a happy retirement. Illegal immigrants regularly cross their land, but Olivia has come to an accomodation with the visitors, riding out with her horse to pass out bottled water and blankets to the trekkers in search of a better future.

Cut to a trio of bored teens who take their rifles out to the brush with the intention of taking potshots at any Mexicans they spot. Their prank goes bad, a death results, and the innocent Miguel finds himself facing a murder charge.

(more…)

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Ed Harris, Annette Bening

Ed Harris, Annette Bening

“THE FACE OF LOVE” My rating: B- (Opening March 28 at the Rio)

92 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Great performances can trump great pretentiousness.

That’s the story on “The Face of Love,” an eye-rollingly improbable yarn that, thanks to some very fine acting and terrific dialogue, rises above its contrivances and gets under your skin.

In the opening moments of Arie Posin’s film we get scenes from the life of married couple Nikki (Annette Bening) and Garrett (Ed Harris). Theirs appears to be a perfect relationship…although we may be getting an overly rosy view.

Because before too long Garrett drowns while vacationing at a Mexican resort and Nikki is left to rebuild her life. Those flashbacks may represent her idealized view of her marriage.

Five years later Nikki is visiting an L.A. art musuem when she spots a man who looks exactly like Garrett (Harris again). At first she’s stunned, then curious.

She returns to the museum hoping to see him again, then begins stalking him. Discovering that the man — his name is Tom — teaches art at a local college, she approaches him about taking some private art lessons. One thing leads to another and soon they’re dating — although Nikki never lets Tom know that he’s her late husband’s doppelganger.

(more…)

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