Posts Tagged ‘Kate Winslet’

Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet

“THE DRESSMAKER” My rating: B-

119 minutes | MPAA rating: R

So many stories, moods and contradictory elements are swirling around in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s “The Dressmaker” that it’s no wonder it never settles down into a coherent whole.

Parts of this Down Under oddity, though, are delightfully memorable.

Adapting Rosalie Hamm’s novel with her husband, filmmaker P.J. Hogan (“Peter Pan,” “Muriel’s Wedding”), Moorhouse has given this period piece a distinct visual look and no shortage of eccentric characters.

And almost everywhere you look, “The Dressmaker” is paying homage to other films and literary works.

There is, for starters, the film’s basic setup: A woman returns to the provincial town of her childhood, not so much to be reacquainted with old friends as to explore her tormented past and perhaps take revenge on those who made her youth a living hell.  That, combined with its blend of absurdist humor and angry drama, makes “The Dressmaker” a sort of modern-day clone of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s often-revived 1956 tragicomedy “The Visit.”

At the same time “Dressmaker” borrows freely from the spaghetti Western tradition. Though it’s in Australia, the town to which our heroine returns looks like nothing so much as a barren Wild West burg, complete with dirt main street, weird rock formations, ramshackle buildings and  a few leafless dead trees.

David Hirschfelder’s musical score is heavy on ersatz Ennio Morricone, right down to the electric guitars, pounding tympani and clanging chimes.

It’s 1951 and after an absence of nearly 20 years Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) has returned to dusty Dungatar (emphasis on the “dung”). She moves back in with her half-cracked mother Molly (Judy Davis), who lives in bag-lady squalor in a crumbling hovel overlooking the town.

Tilly reintroduces herself by attending a local football match in a flaming red evening gown that must be the brightest object within 100 square miles.

In the years she was away Tilly worked in the fashion industry in London, Paris and Milan and she relishes the opportunity to rub the townspeoples’ faces in her sophistication.

Some locals aren’t buying this vision in their midst.  As a child Tilly was suspected of murdering a classmate and was shipped off to a boarding school in Melbourne for her own safety. She’s not exactly everyone’s favorite person.

But others, mostly long-put-upon women, see her arrival as a godsend.  Especially after Tilly uses her dressmaking and makeup skills to transform a drudge of a shopgirl (Sarah Snook) into a glamorous fashion plate capable of luring and hooking the wealthiest young man in town.


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triple-9-dom-195_192_T9_KA_R34_RV_3_W10_SL_rgb-e1444670190309“TRIPLE 9” My rating: C+

115 minutes |MPAA rating: R

John Hillcoat’s new crime thriller “Triple 9” is only slightly less apocalyptic than his film of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” And “The Road,” of course, was about the literal end of the world.

With a big cast of fine actors (few of whom, oddly, get to do much acting) and a sprawling urban canvas reminiscent of Michael Mann’s “Heat,” this is the story of one-time good guys who are now bad guys.

Terrell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell (Norman Reedus) are former military special forces types now earning a living planning big capers on behalf of the Russian mob.  As the film begins they’re pulling off a daring bank robbery that almost goes south (and leaves them covered in red dye) thanks to Russell’s loser brother, Gabe (Aaron Paul).

Chietol Ejiwifor

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Terrell and Russell are so effective at what they do because they have inside help. Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge (CliftonCollins Jr.) are police detectives gone rogue. They not only help in planning these crimes, they suit up to participate. And then they help the thieves cover their tracks.

To say that these guys lack a moral compass is an understatement. Matt Cook’s screenplay never asks why or how our protagonists were corrupted; certainly the characters aren’t into soul searching.

But the result is a taut film that feels weirdly uninhabited…as a viewer I’d be at least as interested in how these guys came to this low ethical state as I am in the mechanics of their heists.

Their saving grace is that as bad as they are, they aren’t as bad as the Russian crime tsarina Irina (Kate Winslet), who’s about as hard a lady as you could ever meet.  For this tough cookie pulling the teeth of a couple of miscreants, locking them  in a car trunk and setting the whole thing on fire is all in a day’s work.


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Michael Fassbinder

Michael Fassbender

“STEVE JOBS” My rating: A- 

122 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Love him or hate him, Steve Job’s life was epic…so epic that any attempt to encompass it in a traditional movie biopic is doomed to failure. (Exhibit A: 2013’s lackluster “Jobs” with Ashton Kutcher as Apple’s genius in residence.)

Leave it to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network,” TV’s “West Wing”) to find a way to embrace the salient features of Jobs’ life and personality while inventing a near-perfect narrative structure.

“Steve Jobs” works on just about every level, with a near-brilliant central performance by Michael Fassbender as Jobs, a jaw-droppingly good supporting cast, and effortless direction by Danny Boyle.

But it’s the script — not just the snappy dialogue but the way the story is told — that makes the film a small classic of operatic intensity.

“Steve Jobs” is essentially three one-act plays, each unfolding in real time and centering on the debut of one of Jobs’ landmark products.

The first 40-minute segment takes place in 1984 with the unveiling of the Macintosh computer. The second unfolds in 1988 when Jobs, having been fired by Apple’s board of directors, debuts his renegade effort, the ill-fated NeXT work station. Finally there’s the presentation in 1998 of the original iMac…by this time Jobs has returned to Apple in triumph.

Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet

There’s an element of show-biz pizzaz and ticking-clock suspense at work here.  Jobs views each product debut as a sort of Broadway opening involving sound, video and his own central performance. And then there’s the not inconsequential fact that these various Apple products are often unfinished and still plagued by bugs.  When Jobs flips the switch will they perform or just sit there?

In a sense, the film is a sort of backstage drama. As with last year’s “Birdman,” the story is captured with a roving camera (the cinematography is by Alwin H.Kuchler) following Jobs as he stalks the theaters wings and subterranean passages, always in motion, always shouting orders and making demands.

Common to all three segments is a recurring cast of characters who grow older and evolve over more than a decade:

Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) is Apple’s head of marketing and apparently the only person on staff who can tell the domineering and arrogant Jobs when he’s full of shit. OK, she’s more politic than that, but basically she is Jiminy Cricket to Jobs’ Pinocchio.

Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) is the computer dweeb who cofounded Apple with Jobs, spearheaded the Apple II (for many years the only Apple product that made money) and over time was nudged out of the company (albeit with a huge golden parachute). Despite the betrayal and hurt, Woz still cares about his old partner.

“It’s not binary,” Wozniak cautions Jobs. “You can be decent and gifted at the same time.” (more…)

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Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Cristoph Waltz

“CARNAGE” My rating: B  (Opens Jan. 13)

79 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Wickedly funny and maddeningly claustrophobic, Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” is a sort of pretention-free “No Exit” in which four characters are trapped in a hell from which there appears to be no escape.

Actually it’s a nicely-appointed Brooklyn apartment owned by Michael (John C.Reilly) and Penelope (Jodie Foster).  Visiting are another couple, Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz).

Nancy and Alan’s 11-year-old son Zachary has ended a playground argument by smashing Michael and Penelope’s son Eliot in the face with a stick.  Now the parents are coming together to make amends in a nice, civilized fashion.

Good luck with that.

Almost from the beginning you can tell that this attempt at reconciliation is not going well.


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Gwyneth Paltrow...not feeling so good

“CONTAGION’’ My rating: B (Opening wide on Sept. 9)

105 minutes |MPAA rating: PG-13

There’s no shortage of big names in the cast, but the real star of “Contagion” is filmmaker Stephen Soderbergh.

His latest is a hypnotic juggling act, a carefully calibrated mashup of characters and situations that proves him a master storyteller.

This time the maker of “Traffic,” “Erin Brockovich,” “Che” and “Out of Sight” (and, yes, the “Ocean’s” flicks) delivers a “what if?” thriller about a killer flu pandemic that puts mankind on the ropes.

“Contagion” paints a grim but fully-detailed picture of how we’d react in such circumstances, and it’s not pretty.


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