Posts Tagged ‘portman’

Movie Review: Jackie (2016)

Posted: April 23, 2017 in Drama

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After her husband John F. Kennedy , (Caspar Phillipson) has been assassinated, First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) reflects on events before the assassination, like her tour of the refurbished White House,  and the time during the actual assassination.  To unburden her guilt and mourning Jackie talks to her brother-in-law Bobby, (Peter Sarsgaard) a reporter, (Billy Crudup) and a priest. (John Hurt) She simultaneously tries to protect her husband’s legacy, even as new President Lyndon Baines Johnson (John Carroll Lynch) has been sworn in, and is waiting to move in to the White House.  Jackie wants a public procession to precede her husband’s funeral, but people around her are concerned that there is a danger presented by a public procession.  Who wins that argument?

Jackie is not a flattering portrait of Jackie Kennedy.  On the contrary, Jackie Kennedy is portrayed as a cold, calculating, conniving person who works hard to cultivate a public persona which is much different from her private persona.  She is shown drinking heavily, chain-smoking, and also trying to censor those things from the reporter trying to cover her. The film also makes at least one outlandish claim, but as usual with these pseudo factual biopics, the filmmakers will claim poetic license.  It will be up to the viewer to determine what the truth is, if he or she chooses to do so.

Natalie Portman overdoes her role as Jackie Kennedy, she tries to do Mrs. Kennedy’s voice, and sometimes the voice overwhelms the performance itself.  She does a good job of conveying the pain of a widow who has to grieve in public, but the film version of Jackie Kennedy is so unlikeable that it’s difficult to appreciate Portman’s performance.  Peter Sarsgaard is awful as Bobby Kennedy, he doesn’t try to do Kennedy’s voice, so his own voice, which grates on my ears is on full display here.  It’s a small role, and I’m grateful for that.

Pablo Larrain is well known in Chile for his violent and aggressive portrayals of life in Chile Thankfully, the movie is relatively short, 1 hour and 40 minutes, but it’s still packed with arthouse techniques.  Larrain tries all kind of visual tricks close-ups, dramatic music, flashbacks, and fantasy sequences, to turn up the intensity, but the story of the President Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath,  doesn’t need tricks to make it intense.

Jackie: Hijacked by overzealous acting and directing.

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Maleikith (Christopher Eccleston) leader of the Dark Elves possesses the Aether, a weapon with which he intends to destroy Asgard.  Thor, (Chris Hemsworth) prince of the Nine Realms, doesn’t want to be King of the Nine Realms, but neither does he trust his evil brother Loki (Tom Huddleston) to be King of the Nine Realms either.  When trying to slip through a wormhole to try to meet Thor, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is infused with the Aether, and given supernatural powers.  Malekith wants to retrieve the Aether from Jane to destroy Asgard and the Nine Realms.  Thor can’t kill Malekith by himself, he needs the help of his brother Loki.  Does Loki help Thor or join forces with Malekith?  What happens to the Aether?

Thor is when the Marvel cannon of characters hits the bottom of the barrel.  Thor is the weakest of all the Marvel superheroes in my opinion, a Norse god with a hammer as a weapon.  What’s so super about that?  The mythology around him is weak, Asgard is not exactly Krypton, Thor is hardly Batman, or even Spiderman, there is nothing compelling about the character, and unlike Iron Man, neither the story nor the character draw the viewer in.  I don’t care about Thor, or his rivalry with Loki, so what is left is a story with no plot development, no character development, and a movie that jumps form action sequence to action sequence, from special effect to special effect, with no rhyme or reason. And the terminology just sounds like so much gobbledygook. What the heck is Aether, the convergence, the Dark Elves, the Nine Realms?  What do the Dark Elves do?  Bake evil cookies? This movie suffers from the same problem as the Avengers, a scant plot, underdeveloped characters, and a rush to get to the action scenes and special effects.  Again, it took six people to write this dreck,  did they take turns writing in crayon?

Chris Helmworth is a wooden actor, he brings no dimension to this character.  Hemsworth seems only interested in creating a larger than life character, but he brings nothing else to the role. Tom Huddleston is not a menacing presence, neither is Christopher Eccleston.  Natalie Portman can be a good actress when given a good script, but she’s back in Queen Amidalla mode here, she has very little to say, trying to sound important but is only used as a love interest and damsel in distress. Anthony Hopkins is brought in once again to try to class up the proceedings, it doesn’t work.

Thor:  The Dark World.  The writers must have been hammered.


In the near future, Britain is the last remaining superpower, America has been saddled with an ongoing civil war and is no longer the dominant power in the world.  Unfortunately, England has turned into a dictatorship, enforced by Fingermen, armed, roving, extensions of the surveillance state.  Evey (Natalie Portman) is walking down the street when she is accosted by three Fingermen, but she is saved by V, (Hugo Weaving) a man in a Guy Fawkes mask, who kills the Fingermen, and saves Evey.  It is November 4, and V invites Evie to watch him blow up the Old Bailey as a sign of defiance against the dictatorship of Adam Sutler. (John Hurt)  After the Old Bailey is blown up, the police want to track down Evey as a witness to the destruction. V promises to blow up Parliament in a year, as Guy Fawkes tried to, the race is on to stop him, but V has a plan to bring down the corrupt government.

V’s next target is Lewis Prothero (Roger Allam) a tv show host, who was also in charge at the Larkhill resettlement camp, a camp for anyone the current regime deems unacceptable.  Prothero ends up dead, as does Father Lilliman, (John Standing) a pedophile priest, who was also at Larkhill.  When V kills Delia Slurridge (Sinead Cusack), a scientist at the resettlement camp, Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) is intent on arresting Evey, thinking that she will lead him to V.  Evey is detained at Larkhill, will she give up V?  What happened at Larkhill that set V on his murderous course against corrupt dictator Sutler?  Does V keep his promise to blow up the Parliament building?

I love this movie.  The reason why is that it asks a very intriguing question, is it justifiable to use violence to bring down a violent autocratic dictatorship?  The answer is no, in my humble opinion, history is replete with examples of situations where non-violence brought down corrupt leaders or systems.  Gandhi ended British colonialism in India, Martin Luther King ended segregation in the American South, the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were relatively non-violent and even the sectarian strife in Ireland ended as a result of peace accords.  Nonetheless, the question is an interesting one, as are the stories of the people deemed unacceptable at Larkhill, there are effective echoes of concentration camps in Nazi Germany.  Where the story goes a bit off the rails is when it engages in a conspiracy theory involving the dictator Sutler.  Conspiracy theories always make me wince, this is no exception.  What makes me think this is a classic is the excellent acting of Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman, both who make the viewer believe there is no alternative to bring down this corrupt government.   Weaving delivers his lines with an almost Shakespearian cadence, and his voice is almost lyrical.  Portman sometimes lays the British accent on a bit too thick, but she gives a very emotional and wide ranging performance.  There are a lot of very good supporting performances by Stephen Rea, as Finch, and Roger Allam as a loud-mouthed tv host.

The violence, and there is a lot of it is a product of the Wachowski brothers, who became famous for their over-the-top violence in the Matrix trilogy.  If you have a problem with violence, and lots of people do, please do not watch.  I believe that there are enough redeeming elements in the other parts of the story to make a certain amount of violence acceptable.

V for Vendetta.  V for Very good.

Movie Review: Hesher (2010)

Posted: March 2, 2013 in Drama
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A 13 year old boy named TJ (Devin Brochu) has just lost his mom ((Monica Skaggs) in an auto accident.  TJ now lives with his devastated father, Paul, (Rainn Wilson) and his sweet as pie grandmother.  (Piper Laurie) TJ gets bulled by a kid named Dustin (Brendon Hill) in school.  As if that’s not bad enough, TJ earns the ire of a headbanger named Hesher, (Joseph Gordon Levitt) by breaking a window in his house.  Hesher subsequently threatens to kill TJ and somehow moves in with TJ’s dad and grandma.  TJ  meets Nicole (Natalie Portman) when she breaks up a fight between TJ and Dustin.  Nicole works in a  supermarket, and TJ brings her an ice-cream to thank her for saving him.  Hesher meets Nicole when she gets into a car accident, and Hesher gets her out a ticket by acting like a raving lunatic.

TJ wants to buy his father’s car, the one that was wrecked in the accident that killed his mother, but the used car dealer won’t sell it to him.  So he takes the 1,800 dollars he got from stealing his father’s ATM card and plans to bring it to Nicole’s house.  TJ has a schoolboy crush on Nicole.  But TJ sees something when he goes to Nicole’s apartment that makes him run away in an angry fit.  What does he witness?

I did not like Hesher, because it is in no way grounded in reality.  No father would let a heavy metal stoner guy into his house, and let that guy take over the house, no matter how catatonic with grief he is.  No grandmother would let a stranger into the house, and serve him dinner, no matter how sweet she is.  Hesher is an unrelentingly depressing story that never lets the poor 13 year old protagonist have a moment of happiness, every dream is crushed, every happiness is dashed.  Everyone has problems, every life is full of them, we go to movies to escape our problems, and let a little light shine through.  But no light shines through this dreary tale. Draw the curtains and let the depression wash over you, that’s what this movie does, wallow in its own self-pity.   There are laughs, but they are the cringe-worthy inappropriate type of laughs, and there weren’t enough of those to sustain this movie.

The writing for this movie is poor. The main character is a heavy metal guy, and he’s a pot smoker and he’s angry.  That is a very superficial portrait of a person who likes heavy metal music.  That’s a stereotype, no different than any other stereotype.  Why is Hesher so angry?  What was his childhood like?  How about some insight into what causes him to be the way he is?  Unless the writer believes that all metalheads are angry rebellious youth who drink and use drugs.  That is the epitome of a stereotype.

I like Joseph Gordon Levitt, a lot.  I like Natalie Portman a lot, I like Rainn Wilson a lot.  I’m old enough to remember Piper Laurie from Carrie.  So why don’t I like this movie a lot?  The writing constricts these great actors into such a tight shoebox hat their characters never grow.  Levitt can’t show the least bit of humanity, because he’s Angry Unpredictable Stoner Guy.  Natalie Portman looks like a librarian in training with her frumpy clothes and oversized glasses.  Rainn Wilson is not the edgy Dwight Shrute from The Office, he is the ineffectual father, so neutered by grief that he can’t kick a bad and possibly dangerous influence on his son, out of his mother’s house.  Piper Laurie is so sweet, she can’t possibly have a suspicious thought about Hesher. The writing leaves these actors stranded.

Hesher.  Mega-death.

Movie Review: Black Swan (2010)

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Drama

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a dancer obsessed with having the lead role in a ballet. She gets her chance when Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) gives her the lead role in his new production of “Swan Lake” called “The Black Swan”  Thomas believes she is a good dancer, technically, but wants her to loosen up and give in to the emotions of the music.  Nina’s mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) is a former dancer and is very overprotective of her only child.  Beth (Winona Ryder) the ballerina who Nina replaces is profoundly jealous of Nina, and thinks she slept with Thomas in order to get the role.  The other dancers hold Nina in disdain too, only one will even talk to her, a ballerina named Lily, but is Lilly (Mila Kunis) a friend or a rival, waiting to take Nina’s place when she falters?  Can Nina put all the pressure behind her and dance both roles, the White Swan and Black Swan with equal ease?

This movie is a cliché or a series of clichés.  The virginal ice princess ballerina, lives with her demanding overprotective stage mother who’s a former dancer.  The pure Nina wants to break out of her shell, and live a little and she can’t understand why everyone hates her.  There’s a fellow ballerina, they are friends or are they rivals, or is there sexual tension between the two.  The action is too frenetic, every problem is magnified and overwrought, and everything is just too intense.  The writers could have made a real movie about the pressures of being a prima ballerina, instead everything was larger than life, blown out of proportion, and verging on the nonsensical, and by doing that the writers undercut their own theme.  Portman did what she could with the role, but she was playing a caricature, a cartoon.  None of the other actors fare that well either.  Barbara Hersey is an overprotective stage mother with a mean streak, who looks like a botox nightmare, Winona Ryder is a screaming diva shrew, Mila Kunis is the writer’s lesbian fantasy apparently, and Cassel is just another smarmy director with a casting couch.  But because this is about the ballet, we’re supposed to overlook all of the shortcomings and call it great.  It is not great, it plays like a third rate soap-opera and what anyone saw in this movie, beyond Basic Instinct dressed up as an  arthouse film is beyond me.

Black Swan: An Ugly Duckling.