Posts Tagged ‘alec baldwin’

In the 1950’s, Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a detective investigating the murder of his mentor Frank Minna. (Bruce Willis) Minna was undertaking a secretive corruption investigation involving some of New York City’s most powerful politicians, but he was shot before could finish it. So now, it’s up to Lionel to pick up Minna’s investigation, and try to find out who killed his boss. Using Minna’s notes, Lionel tracks down Laura Rose, (Gugu Mbatha Raw) a crusading lawyer fighting urban renewal. Posing as a reporter, Lionel talks to an idealist named Paul (Willem Dafoe) who says the real power in the city is Parks Commissioner, Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin) a developer, who doesn’t mind displacing a few minorities to see his vision realized. Moses has more than a few secrets as does Paul, but where does Laura fit in, and can Lionel find all the answers, and solve the murder of Frank Minna?

First, and foremost Motherless Brooklyn is a period piece. that makes the storytelling difficult as it is, but the story is a long, meandering story that tries to reinvigorate the noir genre of filmmaking. It tries to combine the film Cotton Club with a Bogart type detective, except that Lionel is not a tough guy, he’s a sensitive guy with Tourette’s Syndrome, unfortunately Lionel is not given many character traits, besides Tourette’s and an eidetic memory, so there’s not much to make the character memorable. The other characters are similarly one dimensional. Motherless Brooklyn could actually be a conscious or unconscious biography of Robert Moses, the master builder of modern New York city. One of the main characters is named Moses Randolph, he is Parks Commissioner, and he’s bullying the mayor for more power. Even if Motherless Brooklyn was a story about Robert Moses it was sloppily told, with a half-hearted romance, and it limps to an anticlimactic finish.

The acting is sub-par. Edward Norton is a good actor, who hit his peak in Fight Club and American History X, but with Lionel, he goes to the well too often with the Tourette’s Syndrome. If he was trying to engender some kind of sympathy for Lionel, it doesn’t work. The Tourette’s utterances after almost every sentence becomes grating, and actually works against him and makes him less likeable. Gugu Mbatha Raw’s character Laura is central to the plot, but her character has very little to say or do, besides be a lukewarm love interest, and that’s not much. Bruce Willis is in this film for a thankfully short time, his whatever charm he had seems to have faded with his looks and he’s not a good enough actor to play character roles. Willem Dafoe can’t help but play a bad guy even when he tries to play an idealist, and that’s what happens here. Alec Baldwin does a passible job as a power-hungry parks commissioner, who wants to be a prime mover in modernizing the city. Baldwin’s voice starts as a guttural groan, and then returns to his normal speaking voice. There are more than a few similarities to another power-hungry New York developer, but he’s done such good comedy work on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, that it’s difficult to take him seriously, even when he’s playing a serious role.

Second-time director Norton makes the mistake many actor/directors make. He thinks that none of the screenplay that he wrote should be edited, so what the viewer ends up watching is a slowly paced, labored piece of filmmaking, that takes forever to come together, and once all the plot points come together, the ending is hardly worth the wait. He doesn’t get inspired performances from his fellow actors, and so the project Norton worked so hard to bring to the screen ultimately falls flat.

Motherless Brooklyn: Not the rebirth of noir that was hoped for.

30 Rock: A One-Time Special - Season 2020

Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBreyer) once an NBC page, is now in charge of NBC Universal, and he wants a reboot of TGS, the show whose cast he grew very fond of.  Jack Donaghy (Alex Baldwin) really misses being a television executive, and would even work for Kenneth if it meant getting back into television.  Jack calls TGS head writer Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and proposes a TGS reunion.  Liz is initially hesitant, but gets the writers on board, but the stars of TGS might be more difficult to corral.  Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) is living in Canada, and not doing movies anymore. Jenna Molroney (Jane Krakowski) is in celebrity hell after defecating in Mandy Moore’s thermos, and Liz is actively interviewing replacements. Will the reboot happen?  Can Liz get her Prima Donna stars to do TGS one last time?

30 Rock was a reliably funny show in the mid-2000’s, it was a satire of tv, comedy, the star culture, the corporate culture, politics, at its best, it was easily the funniest show on television, so there  was some anticipation when this special was announced, and now that it’s over, there is disappointment.  This special had a few laughs, especially around the characters of Jenna, and Tracy, who are reliable laugh getters.  It also tried to be topical doing the show with a Covid 19 backdrop, it even threw in an anti-mask joke.

But unfortunately this special felt more like an infomercial for NBC’s new streaming channel, Peacock, than it did an actual comedy.  More on the channel later.  There were actual plugs written into this show for the steaming channel. It was hard to tell sometimes where the show ended and the commercials began.  A show that would regularly lampoon celebrity excesses, was now sadly fawning over recent celebrities or internet stars in order to seem relevant, and hip.  What they did to Kenneth’s character, giving him an “assistant” was perhaps more embarrassing  than the constant plugs for new NBC shows, or were they fake shows, it was hard to tell.  Liz Lemon was reduced to a one joke character.  Tina Fey should hide her head in shame for this sad excuse for comedy, hope she was well compensated.

The acting was good, all the actors were playing their characters well.   Tracy Morgan is always funny playing Tracy Jordan, he could literally say anything and get a laugh, and it’s good to see him fully recovered from his accident.  Jane Krakowski was probably the funniest part of this special as Jenna, who wants her fifteen minutes of fame extended to 20 or 30, and her interludes of singing were as funny this time as ever.  Alec Baldwin gave the same deadpan delivery as always, but the character which was a satire of corporate culture, was missing being an authority figure and so the character wasn’t nearly as funny.  Poor Jack McBreyer, were people laughing with him or at him in this special? And Tiny Fey didn’t write any stinging retorts for her character, too bad.

The channel, Peacock is a good idea, a free streaming channel, with lots of good content, The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Cheers, but this channel so shamelessly marketed on this 30 Rock special, suffers from awful execution.  I tried to sigh in with my desktop, no go, my older Ipad, no go, a newer Ipad I got as a birthday present, no again.  So all those commercials, and this 30 Rock infomercial, doesn’t mean didly squat unless people can log in and enjoy all that good free content. Right now I can’t and that is a huge executional error, so a big NO to the channel for now.  I watched this special on CNBC first and then online on NBC.com, because Peacock was grounded on whatever device I tried.  This was truly a weird viewing experience for a weird special.
30 Rock:  A One Time Special:  Fans were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

 

 

stillalice

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore)is a highly accomplished linguistics professor at Columbia University, with a motivated and successful husband, John (Alec Baldwin) who’s a doctor, and three kids. Her son Tom, (Hunter Parrish) is a doctor, her older daughter Anna,(Kate Bosworth) is a lawyer, and younger daughter, Lydia (Kristen Stewart) is a struggling actress.  Alice just turned 50, and feels like there is nothing she can’t accomplish.  But while jogging, Alice forgets where she is, and struggles to get home.  Soon thereafter, she visits her neurologist, Dr. Benjamin (Stephen Kunken) and finds out she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Alice learns to overcompensate for her memory loss, but soon there is no hiding the ravages of the disease.  It is hereditary, so Alice worries about Anna who is pregnant with twins, and whether Tom or Lydia will pass the gene on. She worries about Lydia’s career choice, and wants her to go to college, an idea Lydia bristles at.  John gets an offer to go to the Mayo Clinic, and wants to move Alice to Minnesota with him, but as Alice’s mind deteriorates, who will give her the care she needs?

Still Alice is a wonderfully sober look at memory loss and dementia.  There are no magic pills or panacea offered, just a gripping look at how a strong, vital and woman loses all her mental acuity.  It’s sad, but not depressingly so, the characters are real, and not just instantly supportive of Alice.  John has his own career to worry about, Lydia wants to be an actress, with no safety net.  Anna has to suddenly worry about herself or her kids having this debilitating disease.  All the subplots are woven seamlessly into the main story, and it all works.

The acting is superb, Julianne Moore won the Oscar for her performance and deservedly so, she gives a riveting performance as Alice, the viewer can’t help but follow her on her journey to dementia, she portrays the character so realistically, that the viewer feels every memory lapse as if it was happening to them.  There is not one false note in her performance.  Moore somehow fills the performance with hope, Alice’s speech to the Alzheimer’s association is spellbinding.  Alec Baldwin is equally strong as the likeable but somewhat self-centered husband, he’ll take care of Alice but he also wants to fulfill his goals,  Kristen Stewart gives a surprisingly strong performance, as the prodigal daughter, who is headstrong and still fighting for her own identity in this overachieving family.

The direction was also effective, every time Alice would have one of her memory lapses the picture would get fuzzy and the music would become discordant, so it became both a visual and auditory signal that something was wrong.  There were flashbacks to Alice’s childhood that looked like home movies, so there was a lot of effort to make this a visual movie as well as a character study.  The directors got great performances from Moore and Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart, who’s probably just happy to be done with the Twilight films.

Still Alice:  A shadowy trip down  Memory Lane.