Posts Tagged ‘amy adams’

arrival

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is living a life of quiet anonymity as a linguistics professor in a small college.  She is also mourning the loss of her daughter Hannah (Abigail Pniowsky, Jadyn Malone, Julia Scarlet Dan) who died of cancer.  The silence of her quiet life is shattered by the arrival of the Heptopods, aliens from far beyond our own galaxy.  After listening to a snippet of the aliens’ language on a tape, Louise  is tasked by the American military, specifically Colonel Weber (Forrest Whittaker) to translate the Heptopods language, find out why they came to earth and what they want with us.  Louise works diligently with Theoretical Physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to translate the Heptopds language, he tries to decode it mathematically, she with words. She suggests it’s easier to communicate with the aliens using words and not sounds, she writes human on a whiteboard, the Heptopods, separated from the humans by a glass wall, respond with a splash of ink, like an octopus, the ink turns into a symbol and, Louise starts to study the symbol and translate it into English.  Louise and Ian’s mission becomes more urgent, because the arrival of the Heptopods is a worldwide phenomenon, and the Chinese are starting to act more bellicose towards the Heptopods on their territory, and other nations are starting to act on their own as well.  What began as a cooperative effort is rapidly falling apart.  Can Louise and Ian translate this language before another nation acts rashly?

At first glance, Arrival seems like a mash-up of two older stories of alien invasion , Independence Day, with Will Smith  for its non-humanoid aliens, and worldwide presence of the alien landing and an episode of the classic show Twilight Zone “To Serve Man” in which aliens present humans with a book which the humans try to translate.  But Arrival is a much quieter, more contemplative story than these.  There are lots of scenes where Louise is thinking, or reflecting on her daughter’s life and death.  All of the elements of Louise’s life and her daughter’s life are important, and play a role in the final outcome.  The story even manages to ask a big philosophical question, which adds to the intellectual nature of the film.  The use of flashbacks is very effective in this film, the flashbacks tell a story in themselves and pack an emotional wallop.  But then the film tries too hard to wrap everything neatly in a bow and the ending went too far in that regard. There were some elements that weren’t very logical, like how giant 7 legged aliens could navigate a spaceship, but Arrival was a pretty ambitious film, and it hit the mark on almost all its lofty goals.

The acting is good, but Amy Adams is great.  She should have been nominated for an Oscar for sure.  She had a complex role, where she was emotionally torn by her daughter’s death, yet intellectually sharp in her professional capacity.  She carried this movie and was always believable as both mother and linguist.  Jeremy Renner, on the other hand, has all the personality of a wet dishrag, he and Adams should have had great chemistry, but had none.  Forrest Whittaker has an ersatz authority figure look, the casting director could have gotten someone like JK Simmons, and he would have been much better.

The direction is no great visual extravaganza, there are some decent exterior shots of what is supposed to be Montana, but this is not a special effects movie, and that works to its advantage.  It’s a contemplative movie, not one filled with explosions or photon torpedoes.  The pacing is good, and he gets at least one good performance.  Not a big fan of Denis Villeneuve’s earlier work.  Prisoners and Sicario are among his work, but I like the work he does here.

Arrival:  Take me to your linguist?

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Big-Eyes

In 1958, Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) escapes an abusive husband with a daughter in tow, and settles in withthe beatnik crowd in San Francisco, where she becomes a street artist, and meets a charismatic street artist named Walter Keane. (Christoph Waltz)After a whirlwind romance, the two get married.  Walter tries to get Margaret’s art in a gallery, by passing it off as his own, but the gallery owner, a man named Ruben (Jason Schwartzman) is only enamored with  abstract art, he is not impressed with the doe-eyed children, so Walter makes a deal with a bar owner named Banducci (Jon Polito) to hang Margaret’s art in his bar, again he takes credit for her work, which annoys her, but since he is an extraordinary salesman, and she prefers to paint, she relents and gives tacit agreement to Walter putting his name on her paintings. The partnership works, Walter is a master marketer, instead of selling one painting for 500 dollars, he mass produces prints of her work, and makes them both wildly rich.  But Margaret is not happy, and when Margaret paints a self-portrait, and puts her own name on it, Walter gets verbally abusive, and tells her to keep painting her doe-eyed children.  But one day, Margaret discovers something about Walter that is unforgivable.  What is his secret?  What effect does the revelation have on their marriage, and their business arrangement?

I wanted to like this movie.  I like Amy Adams, I like Christoph Waltz, but I did not like this movie.  My dislike starts almost immediately with the narration that accompanies this film minutes after this movie begins, this movie does not need narration right from the start, it does not need narration at all.  Moreover, the narration is done by a tangential character and that makes it all the more confusing.  The story starts off encouragingly enough, with Margaret Ulbrich finding peace in the pre-hippie days of San Francisco, with a seemingly kindred spirit, but soon enough the story goes off the rails and becomes as exaggerated as the eyes on Margaret Keane’s paintings, and since I didn’t know how much is true and how much is cinematic puffery.  The whole movie has the feel of a Lifetime Network movie, complete with laughably predictable ending.

The acting is shockingly bad from two such talented actors.  Amy Adams dons a blonde fright wig, and a bad Southern accent, it’s shocking to me that she was considered an Academy Award nominee for this role.  I expected more from Waltz, but he too struggles with an American accent and lays the ham-handed performance on thick with his portrayal as the mercurial manic Walter Keane.  I understand he has to show the duality of the character, but a little subtlety would have gone a long way here.  And Delaney Ray who plays the younger version of Keane’s daughter is precocious to an annoying extent, why must children be wise beyond their years, every single time?

This was a Tim Burton movie, but only one scene really had the look of a Tim Burton film, otherwise it was conventionally bland.  Why have Tim Burton direct if he can’t add visual flourishes to his films, the pacing was dull.  The movie lasts longer than it should by about 10 minutes, and Burton only gets mediocre performances from his cast.

Big Eyes:  I wasn’t too keen on it.

american-hustle

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) runs a dry cleaner’s store in the Bronx.  Irving then branches out into making loans, where he doesn’t loan any money but is guaranteed a non-refundable payment of 5,000 dollars.  Irving also dabbles in selling forged art.  Irving is basically a con man. He meets a woman named Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party and the two all in love with each other.  Sidney adopts an English accent and becomes Lady Edith, and they con more local businessmen of their money.  One day, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) walks in to Irving’s establishment and asks for a loan.  Richie is really an FBI agent, looking to root out local corruption.  He will let Irving and Lady Edith walk if they give him four corruption convictions.  Irving gets Carl Elway (Shea Whigham) convicted, but DiMaso has his eyes on a much bigger target, the mayor of Camden New Jersey, Carmine Polito. (Jeremy Renner)  Richie is planning on a scam to trap Polito using a fake Arab Sheik, Sheik Abdullah (Michael Pena) to provide one million dollars in funding to renovate Atlantic City, using Polito as an intermediary. Richie has a suitcase of money waiting to give Polito as a kickback, but Polito gets squeamish, and it’s up to Irving to close the deal.  Does he succeed?

I like American Hustle, but it’s largely because it does a good job approximating the 1970’s and because of strong performances by Bale, Cooper, and Renner.  For all the good in this movie, I’ve noticed a troubling trend.  Movies are taking scandalous behavior and making it seem frivolous and lighthearted.  ABSCAM was a serious scandal in the late 70’s, many politicians went to jail for bribery, ABSCAM was another example of the dysfunction between government and the governed in the wake of Watergate.  But writer/director David O. Russell chooses to fictionalize ABSCAM, and make it seem like the FBI is running amok and it portrays Polto as a hero.  Russell uses the word entrapment several times in his script .  Frankly, that is editorializing and that is something a fictional movie should never do.  Russell trivialized mental illness in Silver Linings Playbook and that bothered me, now he trivializes political corruption, and that is too much, because now he is dealing with reality and not just a fictional story.  Russell is not the only one who is guilty of this, Martin Scorsese does much the same in the Wolf of Wall Street.

The acting by the male leads is superb.  There are three aspects of the characterization of Irving that made it stand out.  The first is the comb-over, Irving’s comb over becomes a metaphor for the character. Irving goes to great lengths to hide that he’s bald, just like Irving goes to great lengths to hide the fact that he’s a con-man.  In the end both the fact that he’s bald and a con-man become glaringly obvious.  Second is Bale’s weight gain, call it method acting or whatever you want to call it, the weight gain was effective, it helped the viewer forget that this was Christian Bale, and put the focus back on the character.  Third, Bale’s Bronx accent was impeccable, it’s a very easy accent to get wrong, and he nailed it, further adding to the believability of the character.

Bradley Cooper continues his strong string of performances going back to Silver Linings Playbook.  Cooper plays Richie as a megalomaniac, who puts his hair up in curlers to maintain a certain look.  Richie’s hair is also a key to understanding that character.  He’s vain and self-important and has delusions that he can root out corruption on a large scale.  Jeremy Renner plays Carmine sympathetically, a little too sympathetically, the viewer actually believes that Carmine is working for the best interests of his town and his state.  The female leads don’t fare as well.   Amy Adams has trouble switching between an American and British accents, and Jennifer Lawrence is too young to play such a mature and worldly character.  Lawrence also has trouble with the New York accent.

The direction is nothing outstanding, there are no iconic scenes or quick edits, but the pacing is good, the two hours and 18 minutes goes by quickly.

America Hustle: Bale et al. do the hustle in the 1970’s.

trouble with the curve

Gus (Clint Eastwood) is an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves, who is losing his eyesight from macular degeneration.  Gus’ daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams) is a lawyer, whose workaholic personality has her in line for a partnership at her law firm.  Mickey tries to maintain a relationship with gruff old Gus, but he keeps his distance,  just as she keeps her distance from perspective suitors.  Gus has two months left on  his contract as a scout, and the Braves ask him to go to North Carolina to scout a can’t-miss prospect named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingil).  The Red Sox have sent a scout, Johnny,(Justin Timberlake) to scout Bo.  Johnny was a big-league pitcher until he ruined his arm.  Now his last shot at glory is being a good scout which may lead to a job as an announcer.  Mickey comes to North Carolina a few days later to help scout Bo with her ailing father.  Johnny approaches the emotionally distant Mickey socially, but she seems disinterested.  What does Gus think of the hot prospect?  Does he resolve his issues with his estranged daughter?

I found Trouble With The Curve disingenuous and insincere.  When I think of my favorite baseball movies, Bull Durham and The Natural to name two, they seem to revel in baseball lore.  Bull Durham contrasts the dreams of minor leaguers to make it to “The Show” to the  vision with a grizzled veteran, who’s been to the big leagues and wants to go back, and does so with a lot of laughs.  The Natural evokes an almost mystical vison of the mythic skills of a an aging veteran, just the histrionics of Roy Hobbs hitting a home run into the light tower and watching those lights exploding, the music, the magic bat, it all plays into the mythology of baseball, from farm boy to legend.  Trouble With The Curve is just a series of clichés about baseball that are so obvious and so ham-handedly delivered, that it is obvious how the plot will unwind and how it will resolve itself.  I like Clint Eastwood a lot as an actor and director, and have for a long time, but he’s gone to the grumpy curmudgeon well once too often.  I compare this movie unfavorably to Gran Torino, Eastwood plays the same grumpy old man character, but that character is a lot more unpredictable and the resolution of that plot is a lot more satisfying.  One more thing, the idea that the short, overweight Bo Gentry would be on any scouting list is an insult to even a casual baseball fan.

Amy Adams plays tough girl again, but this time the acting seems staged she is clearly uncomfortable with the baseball lingo, and she even seems uncomfortable with Eastwood.  The romance with Timberlake does not work, and she has no chemistry at all with Timberlake.  Timberlake is an awful actor, who has no natural cadence when he tries to act.  The guy has a look on his face that says,” Look at me, I’m cool.”  Trust me, his acting is not cool.  The pacing is slow and the movie is long, and in the end, this movie is not worth the effort it takes to watch it.

Trouble With The Curve.  Don’t fall for this pitch.

the master

 

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is in the Navy during World War II.  After the war ends, he drifts aimlessly from experience to experience.  Freddie works as a photographer in a department store but gets fired for getting into a fight with a customer.  Freddie then finds himself picking cabbages and making his own liquor with Filipino migrant workers.  The workers chase Freddie off for trying to poison one of the workers.  Tired from running and drunk, Freddie stows away on a ship called The Alethia, where he meets Lancaster Dodd  (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Mr. Dodd seems to have discovered some universal truths that he wishes to impart upon young Freddie. Dodd also seems interested in Freddie because of his ability to mix drinks.

Dodd begins a series of mind control exercises with Freddie,  called processing and by the time Freddie and Dodd get to a party in New York, Freddie is Dodd’s unquestioning disciple of Dodd’s group called The Cause.  When a man called John More (Christian Even Welch) dares to question Dodd’s teachings which seems like nothing more than hypnosis, and speculation about past lives, Freddie and Dodd’s daughter’s boyfriend, Clark, (Rami Malek) unleash a beating on More that silences him as a critic.  Dodd and his followers move to Philadelphia, where Dodd is arrested for practicing medicine without a license, and Freddie is arrested for assaulting the policemen who arrest Dodd.   In jail, Dodd and Freddie get into a raucous shouting match and Dodd’s older daughter, Peggy (Amy Adams) is instantly suspicious of Freddie’s intentions.  Is Freddie ready to leave his life in The Cause behind?  Or is he trading one addiction, alcoholism for another, The Cause.

The Master is clearly a critique of cults, specifically Scientology.  It is at its most intriguing when illustrating how a follower is programmed.  Freddie is stripped of his individuality, by a series of increasingly probing questions and repetitive exercises. Freddie is made to believe that only Dodd can save him from his self-destructive habits.  There is a confrontation building, but then the movie inexplicably moves away from the collision course promisingly laid out in the first half of the movie and wanders aimlessly through a series of events, in other words the movie behaves much like its main character, I blame writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson for not taking the subject head on.  I hope he wasn’t intimidated by the fact that several  major Hollywood stars are Scientologists, that would be disappointing. There is a lot of nudity in this movie, I mention this only because the nudity seemed completely unnecessary, and didn’t add to the storyline whatsoever.

The acting is very good, for two of the principles anyway.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is riveting as Dodd, drinking, joking and even singing one minute and spouting New Age-y sounding philosophy the next.  I’m perplexed by all the buzz over Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, I found his performance disjointed and barely coherent.  He was great in the Gladiator, Walk The Line, and To Die For, but something was lacking here.  I realize he’s playing an alcoholic, but I think he overplays his hand.  Amy Adams gives a strong, powerful performance, light years away from her usual saccharine romantic comedy persona.  This performance is closer to her tough girl role in “The Fighter.”  Adams is building quite a dazzling resume.  The pacing is slow, slow, slow.  Again I lay this at the feet of Paul Thomas Anderson, he could have easily edited 2 ½ hours down to a more manageable length.

The Master.  Not Masterful.

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Walter (Peter Linz) is a Muppet, with a human brother named Gary (Jason Segel) Gary has a human girlfriend named Mary. (Amy Adams) Mary is deliriously happy on the outside, but inside, she is seething about sharing her boyfriend with his brother.  Walter’s dream is to go see the Muppet Studio when the three visit Hollywood, so naturally that’s the first thing they do.  They visit the now decrepit theater and the tour guide tells them hat billionaire oil magnate Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) is going to turn the Muppet Studio into a Muppet museum, which seems nice, until Walter hears what Tex is really up to. He wants to drill for oil under the Muppet studio, unless the Muppets can raise ten million dollars to buy him out.  The problem is, the Muppets haven’t performed in years, and are scattered all over the country and the world.  Walter and Gary find Kermit (Steve Whitmire) and implore him to bring the gang together for one last performance. Fozzie (Eric Jacobson) is in a Muppets knockoff group called the Moopets in Reno.  Piggy (Jacobson) is in Paris as editor of Paris Vogue.  Mary just wants some alone time with Gary.  Will the Muppets get back together for the telethon to save their studio?  Will Piggy stop carrying the torch long enough to do the show with Kermit?  Will Gary’s relationship with Mary survive the strain of Gary spending all his free time with Walter?

This is a glorious movie, I thought it really captured the essence of the old Muppet show and movies, which is part silliness and part pathos.  Anyone who has heard “It’s Not Easy Being Green, or “Rainbow Connection”, knows there’s a lot more going on with Kermit than just being the genial host of the Muppet Show.  The movie actually reminded me a lot of Mel Brooks “Silent Movie,” the plot lines are essentially the same.  There is enough to keep the adults laughing, there’s a dead on parody of the documentary “The September Issue.”  Emily Blunt does a wicked impression of Anna Wintour’s assistant right down to the haircut. Amy Adams is wonderful as the cheery yet frustrated Mary, and Chris Cooper is delightful as the evil Tex Richman.  There are also enough cameos to make everyone happy, including Jack Black, Alan Arkin, Zack Galifinaikis, and Sarah Silverman, although a Selena Gomez cameo in a Disney movie is hardly necessary.  I’m sad that Frank Oz and the other Muppeteers didn’t like this movie.  It takes nothing away from the classic Muppet movies and modernizes the story a bit.  Jason Segel did a great job writing the movie and the songs, anyone who’s seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall knows about Segel’s fascination with the Muppets, and it pays off big time.

The Muppets.  Give them a hand.

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Nate Holden (Alec Newman) is a stock broker by day, who’s a jazz pianist by night.  Nate specializes in short selling stocks, which means if stocks go down, he and his firm make money.  Short selling sort of suits Nate, he’s a cynical hard-bitten type.  His mother died, seemingly from a alcohol or substance problem, and he doesn’t have a girlfriend, nor does he thinks he needs one.  He is a rising star at the brokerage firm, but to relax he goes to her jazz at a local club, and plays jazz standards on his piano at night.  One night while playing standards on his piano at home, Nate hears someone singing along, the voice belongs to a girl named Chloe (Amy Adams) who turns out to be a coat check girl at the local jazz club which Nate frequents. Their first meeting ends in an argument.

Chloe desperately needs someone to play piano for her for her one big break at the club, and Nate agrees.  Chloe stipulates that it be a professional arrangement alone, she has a boyfriend and even though he has some substance abuse problems of his own, Chloe is determined to stick with him.  But the more she and Nate play music together, the harder it is to deny an attraction.  They finally give in and consummate their relationship.  The change in Nate is almost immediate, instead of short selling his clients’ portfolios, he actually invest in those companies for the long term.  Things are looking up for Nate.  But just as quickly as things turn positive for Nate, he loses everything.  Chloe goes back to her boyfriend, and Nate’s investments go bad, and he gets fired.  What happens next?

This is a good movie, not your average romantic comedy.  I really enjoyed the contrast of the stuffy, uptight world of corporate America, and the non-structured world if jazz.  I also like how Nate’s relationship changes his investment strategy to a more positive one,  There is also a little subplot about unrequited love, between Nate and a co-worker, Angela, who he treats as a platonic friend, but who might actually have feelings for Nate.  The acting is very good, especially by Amy Adams, she plays a vulnerable girl, with a great voice, who is determined to make a bad relationship work.  She really did not seem to like the Nate character at first, and that seems genuine, not at all contrived.  The music is wonderful, all standards and Amy Adams sings all of them.  Alec Newman can be annoying, but can sing so that makes up for his acting. The production values aren’t great, but an innovative idea, great songs and good acting makes this a cut above the average romantic comedy.

Moonlight  Serenade: Good acting, good singing and all that jazz.