Tag Archives: dramedy

Stretch

Director: Joe Carnahan; Main Cast: Patrick Wilson, Ed Helms, James Badge DaleJessica AlbaChris Pine;

Stretch

Joe Carnahan has a knack for wacky, convoluted stories. I liked the wild ride that was Smokin’ Aces and Stretch doesn’t disappoint! It reminded me a bit of Into the Night, since this movie follows the misadventures of the titular character (Wilson), a down-on-luck limo driver, for roughly 24 hours and most of the crazy stuff happens during a long night. Stretch is plagued by a big debt with his bookie (who wants all his money back by midnight) and by a pushy competitor limousine service; in addition he’s still heartbroken since his girlfriend left him for a pro football player… and his day has just started. Clearly matters don’t improve and the viewer goes down the rabbit hole along with Stretch. After the short appearances of David Hasselhoff and Ray Liotta as themselves, both over-the-top and funny, the real treat and revelation is Chris Pine: absolutely hilarious as eccentric demanding billionaire that involves Stretch in a shady and dangerous deal with a promise of a hefty tip. I won’t add more to avoid spoilers. The film flows quite well with twists and turns that keep you interested and eager to know what crazy thing will happen next. The ending is a little predictable but it is still enjoyable and doesn’t detract from the overall fun of the film. Wilson is well cast as underdog that fights his way out of troubles, he gives a solid performance that carries the film from start to finish. If you like something weird in your entertainment this film is what you’re looking for. Zany —7/10

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Oldies but goldies: State of the Union (1948)

state-of-the-union

Director: Frank Capra; Main Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Van JohnsonAngela LansburyAdolphe Menjou;

Formidable Kay Thorndyke (Lansbury) has a mind to use her clout as important press publisher to convince the Republicans to nominate her lover, Grant Matthews (Tracy),  a principled industrialist, as the presidential candidate to the 1948 elections. After the first, small hurl of convincing Grant himself that he would be a great President, for which Kay enlists Jim Conover (Menjou), eminence grise of the party, and Spike McManus (Johnson), political journalist and campaign expert, the next big step is to obtain his wife’s support. Mary (Hepburn) should join her husband on the campaign trail for the primaries to help sell the image of wholesome family man. Up to this point, Hepburn’s character has not been seen yet, but it comes out as an outspoken and strong woman, which is fully confirmed by her sudden arrival and settling in in a whirlwind of talk and action. The perfect description of this introductory scene is the exchange between Spike and Kay while she stealthily goes out:

Kay: Has she moved in there?

Spike: She established a beachhead!

What follows is Grant’s journey, both physical and spiritual, in which he slowly compromises himself to win over the party delegates while he loses the admiration and respect of his wife and the common people. The best angels of his nature will in the end prevail (of course!) and he will regains his self-respect and the love of his wife. This is the only film in which the talents of Capra, Hepburn and Tracy are joined and it’s also the first one that tells a story about political campaigning and the complex mechanism and back room maneuvers of American power. It’s both a captivating and mordant tale that sapiently blends the tones of comedy, of satire and human drama, in Capra’s unique style. The script is simply brilliant and it’s one of the stronger points of the film: witty and touching at the same time. Clearly the cast has a lot to sink their teeth in and they all give solid performances. Tracy has three outstanding monologues, but Hepburn has amazingly sassy rejoinders that make her a scene stealer. My favorite of all is: ” No woman could ever run for President. She’d have to admit she’s over 35″. Inspiring —8.5/10

This post is my contribution to The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon (2015 edition, my last year entry can be found here), organised by the lovely Margaret of  margaretperry.org. Go to her site to read all the other amazing entries to this blogaton:

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Relatos Salvajes

relatos_salvajes

Director: Damián Szifrón; Main Cast: Darío Grandinetti, María Marull,  Ricardo DarínLeonardo SbaragliaOscar MartínezErica Rivas,  Diego GentileJulieta ZylberbergRita Cortese;

Damian Szifron wrote and directed this multi-segmented film that explores the dark and wild side of human nature. Each of the six episodes starts from a very simple premise: a plane trip, a new customer at a truck-stop restaurant, an overtaking on the motorway,  a car towed away, a hit-and-run accident and a wedding celebration; each story however evolves into something far more extreme than usual with a morbid humour and, in a few cases, very grim endings. The common denominator is always the loss of control, the refusal to be logical or sensible while facing the facts and just giving in to a more visceral and primal reaction. The first two stories are strictly about vengeance: long and carefully planned like the count of Montecristo or more in the spur of the moment like Beatrice Kiddo in Kill Bill (and equally bloody); both episodes are told with a slow pace and a mounting sense of foreboding. The fourth and fifth tales are more about “the insolence of office, and the spurns
that patient merit of th’ unworthy takes“, the former taking a very extreme turn reminding me of Michael Douglas’s character in Falling Down. The third and the sixth episodes are centered on what can happen if you cross the wrong person and how things might escalate (very quickly!) into violence. It is not a surprise that Pedro Almodovar is the producer since the mood and the flair of this film strongly remind of his early dark comedies (e.g.¡Átame!), he probably recognised the genius and the potential of these grim but very entertaining  parables. The whole cast is quite brilliant but a special mention should go to Erica Rivas for her role as deranged bride. I must say that when the film ended I was surprised, I would have watched at least another hour of these tales of ordinary folly. Impressive and riveting. —8.5/10

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August: Osage County

Director:  John Wells, Main Cast: Meryl StreepJulia RobertsChris CooperMargo MartindaleEwan McGregorSam ShepardJulianne NicholsonJuliette LewisBenedict Cumberbatch;

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Tracy Letts adapted his Pulitzer winning play for the screen and it is a very interesting study of characters and family dynamics. With John Wells at the helm, an old and honest hand at the craft, we get, alternatively, dark, stuffy interiors and burning summer light on the plains of Oklahoma, nice juxtaposition that underlines the inner turmoils and difficult relationships of the Weston family. The family members reunites under rather gloomy circumstances: the disappearance and then death of the patriarch, Beverly (Shepard). It appears clear to his eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts) that he committed suicide, having made arrangements such as hiring a help for his cancer-suffering, pill-popping wife, Violet (Streep), two days before vanishing. The audience slowly learns about the past of each character and how they became what they are, in particular we get an deep insight into Violet: the harsh childhood and difficulties of her early life, and her sister Mattie (Martindale), turned them both into strong-willed, unforgiving women and relentless mothers and wives. It is a rather dismal portrait of what people can do to the psychological health of their children. Barbara is the eldest and clearly the favorite but, being an opinionated, strong woman herself, keeps locking horns with her mother, unfortunately, in turns, she is alienating her soon-to-be ex-husband Bill (McGregor) and teenager daughter (Abigail Breslin). Ivy (Nicholson) is the mild-mannered, submissive daughter, who does everything to help her mother (she is the only one who lives nearby) and avoid confrontations (which seems a self-defense technique). Karen (Lewis) is the free-spirit but insecure one, always undervalued and dismissed by Violet, who either runs away from her problems or desperately tries to fix them finding the “right” man. Among this gallery of “terrible” women the men seems both helpless (and hapless) and the only ones who can achieve some redeeming qualities. While longtime alcoholic and poet Beverly finds that the only way through is to walk out of this raw deal, his brother-in-law Charlie (Cooper) attempts to be level-headed, patient and kind, proving to be the most balanced person of the whole family. Little Charlie (Cumberbatch) is the most pitiful of the lot: disliked and verbally abused by his mother Mattie, with zero self-worth and self-esteem, still shows a gentle nature and a kind soul. As always, family reunion will bring up old stories and things that rub the wrong way, including long-kept secrets. It is very far from the Brady bunch and not a edifying picture of familiar relations but, nonetheless, an amazing study of human nature with all its ordinary flaws. The cast as an ensemble is spectacular and makes the film, the lion share is, of course, taken in equal parts by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both stretching their acting chops very effectively. Special kudos to Cooper and Cumberbatch for their portrayal of decent men. Intriguing —7.5/10

Buy it from Amazon:

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The Way, Way Back

Directors: Nat FaxonJim Rash, Main Cast: Liam JamesSam RockwellSteve CarellToni ColletteAllison Janney

14-year-old Duncan (James) goes on vacation with his mother Pam (Collette), her boyfriend Trent (Carell) and his daughter. They are staying in Trent’s summer house in a small town on the coast of New England, in a well-to-do neighbourhood. Duncan is rather introverted with low self-esteem and matters are made worse by Trent’s overbearing and unkind attitude. His mother is not particularly helpful, being submissive and too involved in a “spring break for adults” with Trent and his friends. Duncan finds some solace in his lonely bike rides, during which he meets and befriends Owen (Rockwell), the manager of the local water park, who is an easy-going guy with a great sense of humor and a kind streak. Owen gives Duncan a job at the park and helps him to come out of his shell and build his self-confidence. This film might seem a rather typical coming-of-age story but the balance between drama and humor is so well calibrated, the cast, starting with young James, is just brilliant that is much more than that. Faxon and Rash are great at both writing and directing, I’m curious to see what they will come up with next. A nice surprise and heartwarming treat. —8.5/10

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The Kids Are All Right

Director: Lisa Cholodenko, Main Cast: Annette BeningJulianne MooreMark Ruffalo

The children of a lesbian couple, brother and sister, are curious about their “sperm donor”. When they finally meet, he turns out to be an easy-going, charming guy but with a bit of a peter pan complex. His presence in their life upsets the family balance and drama ensues. The strong performance of the cast is not enough to make it a good movie, it seems a little ambivalent about the moral of the tale.– 6/10

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