Thursday, August 14

Robin Williams: RIP

The Film Fatales would like to share their deepest sympathies to the Williams family, his friends, and his colleagues. His talent, energy, and incredible humor will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. 

ROBIN WILLIAMS
1951-2014



Wednesday, August 13

A MOST WANTED MAN



The Film Fatales try to hunt down A Most Wanted Man. 

A Most Wanted Man. 2014. Rated R. 122 minutes. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Defoe, Grigoriy Dobrygin, and Homayoun Ershadi. Based on the novel by John le Carre. Directed by Anton Corbijn



A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror. [IMDb]



Nicole: One would have hoped that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last starring role would have been a revelation…a performance that would epitomize his stellar career as one of America’s finest actors. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Hoffman plays a misunderstood and betrayed spy who operates a highly covert small band of Hamburg spies, tasked with tracking down terrorists. By description, one might assume this involves a lot of cloak and dagger, with high-speed chases and Bond-esque high-tech trickery. A Most Wanted Man, however, is more cloak than dagger. But, that is not unusual for film adaptations of le Carre’s novels. His are quiet, cerebral dilemmas solved by navigating by tip-toe through intricate webs of deceit. And, in keeping with the tone of le Carre’s novels, Hoffman’s performance is equally quiet. 


elizabeth: All through this dull as a doorknob movie, I couldn’t get away from the fact that the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman was playing a man with many addictions – addictions that plagued his real life and ultimately took his life. I was somewhat appalled and horrified that he took on this role. Then I got caught up with what responsibility should studios take when hiring actors for certain roles. He drank too much, smoked too much and ate a lot of crap. He was playing his own life. His battle with addictions was well known, so I left the theatre feeling that this role could have led to his own demise. A little overly theatrical on my part? Well, if I had to play a role that called for inhaling one herbal cigarette after another, I would be back to smoking the killer cigs. I have no doubts.


Nicole: It was, at times, tediously dull. I’m on the fence. It held my attention, certainly, but it is definitely a film I’d never watch again. No one actor stood out. The direction wasn’t spectacular, counter to what was predicted. And, the plot was less than gripping. There are certainly better stories to be told, and I’m not quite sure why Hollywood chose to make this one. 

elizabeth: I also had problems with Hoffman’s accent. I have no problems with him taking on one, but I wished he had enunciated his words. I was giving up even trying to follow the plot because I was getting annoyed.  I think the movie picked up at the end, but it was for about 57 seconds and then back to so bloody dull.  I hate blasting a movie that starred some great actors. I will give slight kudos to Defoe, McAdams and Wright and I apologize to the late Hoffman for not caring about this movie.


Nicole: I’d say, unless you’re a hardcore le Carre or Hoffman fan, wait to see this movie on DVD. Perhaps the extras will be more of a draw than the film itself. 

The Film Fatales give A MOST WANTED MAN

INTO THE STORM



The Film Fatales head Into the Storm, with little protection from the elements.

Into the Storm. 2014. Rated PG-13. 89 minutes. Starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Max Deacon, Matt Walsh, Nathan Kress. Directed by Stephen Quayle.



Storm trackers, thrill-seekers, and everyday townspeople document an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes touching down in the town of Silverton. [IMDb]



Nicole: It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 20 years since Hollywood has produced a large-scale tornado disaster film. Twister still remains very present in everyone’s minds, and for that reason Into the Storm has a lot to live up to. Most audience members will probably come out on one side or the other in the argument over which film is better. For many, it’s going to rest on the special effects (let’s not forget the advancements that have occurred over the time span), but others will argue over which story was more compelling. 


elizabeth: I am one of those crazy people who wants to go out with storm chasers. There is something about Mother Nature and her fury that mesmerizes me. But I only want to go out when there are no injuries or property damage. I am a storm chaser with a heart.  I can’t believe that it has been almost 20 years since Twister came out. Makes me think that it might be better to leave things alone. But Hollywood can’t do that.

Nicole:  As for the story, like most disaster epics, the story comes rather secondary to the special effects. These types of films usually offer a very simple setup so the audience can instead be thrilled rather than weighed down by a complicated plot. In this case, the story revolves around three sets of people: a storm chasing team, which is led by Pete (Matt Walsh, from pretty much everything you’ve ever seen) and Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead); the Fuller family, father and Vice Principal Gary (Richard Armitage, The Hobbit Trilogy, North and South), Donnie (Max Deacon, Summer in February), and Trey (Nathan Kress); and two amateur, thrill-seeking storm chasers who are only interested in scoring  YouTube hits. (Of the latter, I was sincerely hoping the storm system would swallow them up first. Spoiler: It, unfortunately, did not.)


elzabeth: You are being too kind about the setup,  but correct that it was very simple and might I add…just  awful.  The actors seemed to have lost their ability to act (maybe their years of crafting their acting skills were sucked up into the vortex) and I quite honestly would have liked them all to see the eye of the storm at about 50,000 feet above sea level. When you don’t care about the characters in a movie, you know that is a near fatal flaw to the movie—with or without winds clocking in at over 100 MPH.


Nicole: Ouch. I think the acting, in this case, hinges on the style of film making. The film is structured around the premise that the main characters are also filming the events of the day, when a never-before-seen storm system delivers its deluge on the town of Silverton, Anywhere USA. This quasi-found footage concept kind of holds the film back in a few ways. First, it limits the perspective of the characters and the storm. (Quayle does, however, include a “God” camera, for those scenes that require large shots to show the magnitude of the various types of tornadoes the protagonists encountered.) Second, it limits the performances. The “home movie” quality of the film means that the actors are often seen reacting to the storm and not given the time to really sink their teeth into their performances. Let me say this to vouchsafe their credibility: I’ve seen many of these actors in other roles, so I know their skills are stellar. (Unlike, say, Bill Paxton in Twister…ooooh, I went there.)

elizabeth: I agree 100% about the “home movie” quality and storyline.  If people react to the storm to end all storms without hardly an ounce of fear (maybe they missed their coffee that morning), then nothing can save this movie. And that makes me a little sad because the scene at the airport scared the hell out of me every time I saw it during the previews.



Nicole: As for the chill factor – let’s just say, I spent 90% of the film with every muscle in my body tensed to capacity. I was literally exhausted afterward. The special effects are astounding. And, many of them are practical – not digital – which is pretty impressive since a lot of directors have been taking the shortcut by going solely green screen. So, if you’re looking for a visually stunning, tension-filled disaster movie…you’ll likely enjoy this movie. Just don’t go alone, because all the shouting and jumping you’ll be doing will look just a bit deranged. 

elizabeth: Yes, there are scenes that will make you go “Whoa” but most of the time I followed that with, “I can’t wait to see them all die.”


The Film Fatales split decision for Into the Storm...

Nicole: 
elizabeth:

Saturday, August 9

GET ON UP



The Film Fatales get down and get funky.

Get On Up. 2014. PG-13. Rated R. 138 minutes. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Nelson Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer. Directed by Tate Taylor. 


A chronicle of James Brown's rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history. [IMDb]
Please note: Elizabeth was digging tunnels from her house to Fox news while Nicole was seeing this film, and therefore unavailable to post her review.





Oh, I hate to do this. I really do. I had such high hopes for this movie, because if anyone is deserving of a good biopic (in the tradition of and possessing of the same quality of Ray and Walk the Line), it’s the Godfather of Soul himself, Mr. James Brown. But…Get On Up was a real disappointment. And, not – I repeat – not because of the performances (both musical and acting). 


All of the problems with this film derive from its “trying to be too clever” direction and editing. It’s a tricky maneuver, to attempt producing a biopic in anything other than a linear fashion. Some directors are up to the task. Unfortunately, Tate Taylor is not one of those directors, which is astounding, really – considering his work on The Help (2011). I do get what he was trying to do, I do. By jumping back and forth between Brown’s childhood and adulthood, he was establishing how much of the jilted, abandoned, and wounded little boy remained with him his entire life. He was trying to prove why Brown’s arrogance and “go it alone” attitude left him unable to form and retain meaningful relationships, both personal and professional. However, the choppy and stylistic editing and art direction, along with the messy and incoherent structure only served to tire the viewer and leave them with the responsibility to fill in blanks. 


One pet peeve of mine is when the actors are directed to break the fourth wall. Don’t get me wrong, I love that technique when it’s cleverly done—and usually works best in comedies. But, when done incorrectly, it can the viewer feel uncomfortable and bring them out of the film instead of inward. 


Despite that, the performances were all well done, but far and above the rest of the cast is Chadwick Boseman, whose portrayal of James Brown was somewhat paranormal. He must have channeled Brown from the great beyond, because it was at times difficult to tell the difference. His stage moves were impeccable and he nailed the speaking voice. Also, the musical performances were staged well and performed well – and thank God, since so much of this movie revolves around music, it would have been a real shame if those were as terrible as the direction. Fortunately, that is not the case. 


One-half of The Film Fatales give Get on Up 

Thursday, July 3

BEGIN AGAIN




The Film Fatales are big believers in beginning again and again.

Begin Again. 2013. Rated R. 104 minutes. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, Mos Def, Cee Lo Green. Written and directed by John Carney (Once).


A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents. (IMDb)





Nicole: I didn't think I was going to like this movie nearly as much as I did. I think the reasons I enjoyed it have to do with the performances, both acting and musical. This movie is very much a love letter to the art of making music unfettered by corporate intervention. Through music, the main characters Greta (Knightley), a fledging songwriter, and Dan (Ruffalo), a down-on-his-luck record producer, bond and grow to understand each other...and help each other heal the wounds brought upon them by love's betrayals. They come out of their shared experience better, stronger people…and watching their journey was a pure delight. 

elizabeth: I did go into the movie believing I was going to like this movie for several reasons: A) Can Mark Ruffalo make a bad movie? B) Keira Knightley sings her own songs and she is pretty good in a Nora Jones/Suzanne Vega way. C) While Adam Levine is a tad stiff, he did portray a very believable cad. No “Moves Like Jagger”, but that road kill on his face needs to go. 


Nicole: By “road kill” I take it you’re referring to his beard. I may be in the minority here, but I thought it was a sexy beard and it worked for him. Most things work for Adam Levine… I’d like to work for Adam Levine. Just sayin’. But I digress. Watching Greta, Dan, and a host of starving musicians make music with New York City providing ambient sound and a gritty backdrop was as original as it was a pleasure to watch. Dan starts off rough around the edges, but through his unique brand of charm ends up successfully redeeming all his faults. Ruffalo really goes a long way to make this character likable. Another actor may not have been able to pull it off with such finesse. Greta, though shy and lacking confidence because she lives in the shadow of her boyfriend Dave (Levine) eventually finds herself and her voice. Greta's transformation is handled aptly by Knightley's performance. 


elizabeth: The love story to the city made me want to spend my 401K on a fifth floor walk up again. If you lived in certain parts of Manhattan at a certain time, these would be some of the people you would run into. They were just that believable. Ruffalo looks like men I have met at parties when I lived in the city. He was so Mr. New York City. His Dan is cool with a self-destructive bitterness, but when he lets his defenses down you know there is a man with heart and soul looking for permission to resurface again. And, I liked how the strong one in this movie is Knightley’s Greta. She takes her pain and makes beautiful music. Who needs men? I do.


Nicole: *shakes head, smirks, and agrees* After seeing the trailer for Begin Again, I figured it would be a decent film as long as the music, which features prominently throughout, was good. I'm really happy to say unlike some movies that center around fictional bands and feature original music, this movie ticks all the boxes. So, if you're worried that you will have to sit through 104 minutes of excruciatingly corny, amateurish music...don't be. You'll walk out wanting to own the soundtrack. And, on that note, who knew Keira Knightley had such a lovely voice? And, why has she been hiding that fact all these years? What a totally pleasant surprise. Adam Levine's songs are infectious ear candy as well. I suspect “Lost Stars” will be a number one hit in no time. 


elizabeth: I ordered the soundtrack this morning and both versions of “Lost Stars” are on it. I don’t think I am revealing too much of the plot, and I am so happy to see music become a starring role in a movie again. Another movie that multi-generations can like. I got to lie down.

The Film Fatales give Begin Again 

Watch the video for LOST STARS...