Posts Tagged ‘nicole kidman’

lion

Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is a five year old boy growing up in rural India.  Saroo and his brother, Guddu (Abishek Bharate) are so poor, they collect rocks to sell for money.  One day, while tagging along with Guddu, Saroo and Guddu get separated and Saroo ends up asleep alone on a train.  By the time Saroo wakes up, he is lost in the Bengali city of Calcutta.  He tries to tell people where he lives, but is too young to remember the proper name of his village.  He wanders the streets of Calcutta for a few days, until a woman named Noor (Tannishtha  Chatterjee) takes him in and introduces Saroo to a man named Rama (Nawazuddin Saddiqui)  who promises to take him to a nice place.  It doesn’t take Saroo long to realize Noor and Rama are up to no good.  Saroo runs away, and eventually ends up in an orphanage.  He is adopted by an Australian couple, John Brierly (David Wenham) and Sue. (Nicole Kidman)

Saroo Brierly (Dev Patel) grows up comfortably in Australia, goes to a hotel management class, finds a girlfriend, Lucy (Rooney Mara) and his future seems bright.  But Saroo is haunted by the memory of his birth mother, brother, and sister.  At the same time, Saroo does not want to cause his adoptive mother any undue pain.  He is torn.  What does Saroo do?  Does he look for his birth family or does he remain in his comfortable life in Australia?

Lion has a compelling story to tell.  It is especially compelling in the first hour, where it conveys the confusion and despair of a boy who is lost in a big city very well.  The second half of the movie is not as successful because it gets bogged down in Saroo’s conflicts with his adoptive brother, and his relationship with his girlfriend, or is Lucy his wife?  The writing concerning both Lucy and Saroo’s adoptive brother was maddeningly vague.  Did the brother have emotional problems or a mental disability?  These are details most people wouldn’t care about but they bothered me.  However, the ending did have an emotional punch, and was satisfying.

The acting was good, but one person stood out, and it’s not the one who got the Oscar nomination.  Little Sunny Pawar gave a powerful performance as young Saroo, he carried the movie on his little shoulders, for as long as he was in the movie, and gave an emotionally varied performance.  He was a happy go-lucky kid one minute, and desperately searching for his brother the next.  It was a surprising range of emotions for such a little boy.   Another great performance was given by Tannistha Chatterjee, who is kind but sly, and plays the duplicitous role well.  Dev Patel is ok, not great, because he doesn’t convey the angst of his pain with as much intensity as Sunny Pawar.  Nicole Kidman has a role with surprisingly little impact, which is the writers’ fault, not Kidman’s fault.  Similarly, Rooney Mara is given little to do.

The pacing seems to match the storyline, the first hour us fast paced and exciting, the second hour slows down considerably.  The director does get good performances from most of the cast, and does make the ending worth watching, but maybe more of the Australian scenes could have been edited to get to the ending faster.

Lion Roars out of the gates, is tame later.

To Die For

Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) is a weather girl at a small cable station in New Hampshire, but she dreams of hitting it big one day and becoming a national news personality like Barbara Walters.  Suzanne’s had her eye on handsome and successful businessman Larry Moretto, (Matt Dillon) they get married in short order.  Suzanne never loses the desire for stardom, however.  She films a documentary featuring  three high school kids, a stoner burnout named Jimmy, (Joaquin Phoenix) a wise-ass named Russell, (Casey Affleck)  and a lonely sexually confused girl named Lydia (Alison Folland)  Suzanne pitches the idea of the documentary to station manager, Ed Grant (Wayne Knight) but the idea goes nowhere.

As Larry gets more enamored with the idea of a domestic life with Suzanne, Suzanne gets less and less enamored with Larry.  She starts a sexual relationship with Jimmy, and hatches a murder for hire plot with Jimmy, Russell, and Lydia.  Suzanne tells Jimmy that Larry abuses her, and if Jimmy would only kill Larry, they could run away together.  Jimmy gets a gun from Lydia, but does he actually go through with killing Larry?

To Die For is an excellent movie.  It’s a black comedy, a satire of those people so hungry for fame that they don’t know where to stop.  It also satirizes the tabloid media culture that saturates this country these days.  It’s also a fascinating character study of a manipulative woman who has tunnel vision about her goals and how to get there.  She will step on, over, or through anyone who gets in her way.  I know this is a work of fiction but I couldn’t help but think of people like Casey Anthony or Jodi Arias when I was watching this movie, women so hungry for glory, they don’t care how dubious their claim to fame is.  The media that is only too willing to sensationalize people like this, and this movie illustrates that vicious cycle perfectly.

Nicole Kidman is luminous as a smiling, sunny, media savvy psychopath.  When the viewer sees this movie, he or she wonders if Suzanne has been cooking up the whole murder for hire plot from the beginning just to make a name for herself.  This is one of the best performances of her career.  Joaquin Phoenix gives another great performance as a stoner kid who fantasizes about Suzanne, and is over the moon in love with her when she decides to have sex with him. He is a great actor.  It’s also interesting to see Casey Affleck early in his career, Affleck plays a standard issue male adolescent jerk, but it’s nice to see that someone named Affleck can actually act.

The writing is by Buck Henry, who created the tv show Get Smart, and directed the movie Heaven Can  Wait.  It is excellent, funny and biting at the same time. Gus Van Sant, who also directed My Own Private Idaho, keeps things moving along at a brisk pace.

To Die For:  Brings the tabloid media to life

dead calm

John Ingram (Sam Neil) is a naval officer.  He decides to take his wife Rae, (Nicole Kidman) on a sailing vacation to help her forget the horrific death of their son, in an auto accident.  They are alone on the water until they spot a black schooner named The Orpheus, seemingly abandoned in the water.  Seconds later, John spots a solitary man rowing a lifeboat, away from the Orpheus.  The man’s name is Hughie, (Billy Zane) he boards John and Rae’s boat, and says that the rest of the passengers on the Orpheus died of botulism.  John is immediately suspicious of the handsome stranger, and tells Rae to keep a gun with her while he boards the Orpheus to see for himself what happened to the rest of the passengers on the Orpheus?  What does John find on the boat Hughie just left?  What does Rae do when Hughie wakes up while John is away?

I liked Dead Calm a lot, it’s a very simple movie, no unnecessary characters or subplots that go nowhere. This is a very Spartan movie,  very suspenseful, a movie that keeps the viewer guessing most of the time.  It has a very claustrophobic feel to it thanks to the camerawork, the viewer gets the feeling that things are closing in, in both boats. The movie is also short enough not to lag, it moves along at a nice pace, there are no wasted scenes.

The acting is superb.  I believe this is Nicole Kidman’s first Hollywood role, and she seems so natural in this movie, it’s easy to see why she became a big star. No shrinking violet Ms. Kidman, she was very resourceful in this movie.  It’s also nice to hear her Aussie accent and see her curly red hair, before she became a glamour queen. Sam Neill is also very good, calm and steady, no matter what is going on around him.  This is also before he hit it big in Jurassic Park.  Billy Zane was terrific, he was very mercurial in this role, and that’s what made him fun to watch.  Zane was unpredictable, sometimes charming, quick with a smile, sometimes brooding. This was also before he played Kate Winslet’s aristocratic boyfriend in Titanic.  You can see for yourselves, enjoy these stars and find out what made them stars in the first place in this enjoyable thriller.

Dead Calm.  Not a dead spot in the film.

Movie Review: The Paperboy (2012)

Posted: February 3, 2013 in Drama
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paperboy

Two newspapermen from the Florida Times, Ward Jansen, (Matthew McConaughey) and Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo)  are investigating a murder in the 1960’s.  Hillary Van Vetter (John Cusack) is accused of murdering Sherriff Thurman Call (Danny Hannemen) The first person Ward and Yardley interview is Hillary’s pen pal, Charlotte Bless. (Nicole Kidman) Charlotte has a thing for incarcerated felons, and Ward’s brother Jack (Zak Efron)  has a thing for Charlotte.   Hillary says he was stealing sod at the time the sheriff was murdered. The newspapermen interview Hillary’s uncle, Tyeee (Ned Bellamy) who corroborates Hillary’s story.  The more people Yardley interviews, the more Hillary’s story seems to be true, but did Hillary really kill the sheriff?  Or is he being set up for a murder he didn’t commit?

The Paperboy could have been a good movie, something like In The Heat of The Night, but it seems intent on exploring the unseemly underbelly of the characters sexual practices more than telling a straightforward murder mystery, and the sad part is that none of the smarminess is necessary.  Nicole Kidman plays trailer trash, badly.  She struggles with a Southern accent mightily, and just seems noticeably uncomfortable with the character she’s playing.  I’m scratching my head over her Screen Actors Guild nomination for this role.  It’s just puzzling.  Zak Efron doesn’t even attempt an accent.  He thinks he can parade around without a shirt and call it acting.  It doesn’t work.  Matthew McConaughey is the only one who puts some effort into his role, and it pays off, but again he is undermined by lousy writing.  John Cusack, who I genuinely like as an actor, plays over the top crazy in this film, and it comes off looking cartoonish. This is a good cast, very good, and it deserves better material than is put forth here.

The writer here is Lee Daniels who also wrote and directed Precious.  Daniels apparently thinks he can write anything based on the success of one movie, he can’t.  In addition to the numerous and gratuitous sex scenes, there’s gratuitous violence thrown in.  There’s also the technique of amateurish narration used in abundance.   This is just a lousy movie on all counts, don’t think that because Kidman was nominated, that there’s anything worth watching here.  There isn’t.

The Paperboy. Yellow Journalism.

Image

The famous writer/ director Giudo Contini (Day-Lewis) has writer’s block.  He’s agreed to do a large scale musical, named Italia, but he’s run dry on ideas.  Guido tries to spend the night with his mistress, Carla, (Cruz) to stir his creative juices, but the only thing he stirs up is trouble with his current wife (Courtillard) who finds out he’s cheating on her, and finally leaves hm.  He tries to find solace in his muse, Claudia (Kidman) but even she is tired of his shenanigans with women.  Guido has nothing left to do but conjure up memories of his sainted mother (Sophia Loren) and a village prostitute from his childhood Saraghina (Fergie) to decide if women are to be put on a pedestal and admired or thrown in a gutter and ravaged.  Does Guido get his wife back?  Does Guido get rid of his writer’s block? Or does he move on to new starlet in waiting Stephanie? (Kate Hudsin)

This is a pointless, mindless, wreck of a movie.  It’s hard to imagine that this dreck was co-written by Anthony Mingella, and directed by Rob Marshall who directed the eminently better Chicago.  Guido is not a sympathetic character so it’s hard for anyone to feel badly for him.  It’s hard for anyone to feel anything for any of the women in this movie, they’re just glamorized strumpets and harlots, conquests for the Great Contini.  Why would Penelope Cruz and the formerly great Nicole Kidman and even Judi Dench play such degrading, demeaning roles?  It will take me years to wipe the memory of Judi Dench in a camisole from my mind but I will try.  The lobotomy begins tonight. Only Coutillard redeems herself as the wronged wife, and even she is forced to do a strip-tease number.  And what is with those accents?  Guido is supposed to be Italian, but Daniel Day Lewis lets his British accent slip in too often.  Courtillard is French, but sounds British , Kidman is Australian, god knows what accent she was doing, and Dench who’s  British is trying to do a French accent.  Penelope Cruz sounded Spanish, but she always does. This is dialect coach hell. And just when you thought the acting couldn’t get worse, along comes Kate Hudson, and Fergie,  Mamma Mia, no wait that was a good musical. Nine fails as a movie, it fails even more as a musical, the songs are not memorable and they are badly sung.  Most of the songs are bad because most of them start with the word Guido. Just skip Nine and hope this fine cast learns a lesson from this movie. Just because it’s a hit on Broadway, does not mean it will be a good movie.

Nine. More like a 1.

Movie Review: Rabbit Hole (2010)

Posted: December 4, 2011 in Drama
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rabbit hole

Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie  (Aaron Eckhart) have lost their four year old son, who was run over by a car, while chasing the family dog into the street.  They try to cope with the loss the conventional way, through group therapy with other parent with dead children.  Group therapy does not work fir Becca, who doesn’t like people using God to get through the grief process.  Becca’s sister Izzy, (Tammy Blanchard) is pregnant and not married, Becca is resentful of her, because Becca feels that Izzy doesn’t deserve a baby.  Becca’s mom Nat (Diane Wiest) is still mourning the loss of her son, who died of a drug overdose.  Becca resents her mom because she compares the loss of Becca’s brother to the loss of Becca’s son.  After both Becca and Howie drop out of group therapy, they both find unconventional ways of coping with the loss.  Becca starts meeting with Jason (Miles Teller) the teenager who ran over her son.  Jason is trying to cope with the loss himself, by writing a comic book, called Rabbit Hole about a scientist looking for his dead son in parallel universes. Howie starts meeting Gaby (Sandra Oh) who also dropped out of group therapy, and whose husband left her.  Does Becca find solace talking with the boy who killed her son?  Does Howie find solace by having an affair with Gaby?

This is an unavoidably depressing movie.  Maybe I’m used to conventional movies about grief, someone loses someone, they cry, the move on.  But this is one long slog, one painful jolt after another,  and it dismisses religion as a coping mechanism quite early, so there’s nothing to give comfort, and so the viewer just has to sit there and watch them deal with the pain and loss, very slowly, and maybe that’s how the grieving process works, I don’t know, I’ve never lost anyone.  But I also know that this is a movie, and a movie is supposed to be entertaining, and there is very little entertainment here, lots of sadness, some yelling like Revolutionary Road.  There’s just too much here to deal with and precious little answers on how to deal with the grief.  The acting is fine, Kidman and Eckhart try their best, but they are given this morose material and they trudge through it gamely.  But for anyone who hasn’t lost a child, this is a chore.  If I knew what this movie was about, I would have never rented it. Thank God for Diane Wiest, who at least brings some humor into this movie.

Rabbit Hole:  Don’t fall for it.