Tag Archives: Josh Brolin

Quick ‘n’ Dirty: February at the pictures

The last month has been mostly about Oscar nominated films… surprise, surprise! So without further ado here’s February selection of speedy reviews:

The Danish Girl: the life of Danish painter Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, pioneer transgender, and his wife Gerda, also a talented painter. I know that this is considered an Eddie Redmayne’s film, whose performance is both convincing and effective, but the one that truly shines is Alicia Vikander as Gerda. She embodied the role of loyal, supporting wife and her struggle to make sense of her life and her husband’s. I must say that she’s the one who really sold me the story and ended up making it convincing and gut-wrenching. Tom Hooper skillfully handles this dramatic tale and beautifully recreates both Copenhagen and Paris in the 1920s. Affecting —7/10

Danish-Girl

 

Carol: Todd Haynes gives us an artfully shot, intense period drama with two great actresses (Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett) at the top of their game. Therese, shop girl and aspiring photographer, meets and falls in love with the titular Carol, an older woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. Set in the fifties, this love story has all the complications that come with the social mores of the time and strongly reminds of Far From Heaven, however it’s a little more hopeful but less powerful. Cate Blanchett should always dress as a New Yorker in the 1950s, she’s spectacular. Kudos also go to Kyle Chandler for his solid performance as the abandoned husband and Sarah Paulson as Carol’s best friend. Interesting —7/10

Carol

 

Anomalisa: the quirky genius of Charlie Kaufman takes the viewer along for a ride in a weird world. Using stop-motion animation he tells a story of alienation and loneliness (which are recurrent themes in his films): a customer service guru, Michael Stone (David Thewlis), feels detached from everything but, on a business trip, meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), his anomaly, and things suddenly change for the better…at least that’s what it seems. While the plot is rather straightforward, the storytelling is multi-layered as is Kaufman’s wont and the different media is meant to add an additional twist. Unfortunately, the latter completely backfires (at least for me) because I found the facial features of the puppets utterly distracting and not in a good way. Unexpected —6/10

anomalisa

 

Hail, Caesar!: Eddie Mannix’s (Josh Brolin) life as fixer for a major Hollywood studio is very complicated and demanding. He has to deal with a difficult director (Ralph Fiennes), a pregnant starlet (Scarlet Johansson), nosy gossip journalists (Tilda Swinton), the kidnapping of a movie star (George Clooney) and his inner demons. The Coens brings back the lights and shadows of Hollywood’s golden era with their usual humour and manage to coax great performances out of Clooney, Brolin, Ehrenreich and the rest of the cast. There’s a cornucopia of references to different film genres and their cliches as well as to the lives of celebrities, mostly what should be kept from the public. I particularly enjoyed the discussion about religion with a rabbi and representatives of the different christian confessions. Lighthearted —7.5/10

hail-caesar

 

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Sicario

Director: Denis Villeneuve; Main Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro;

Sicario

Kate (Blunt) is a FBI agent used to kick down doors and catch bad guys for the good of all American people. She follows the rules but, on a rescue operation, she stumbles on something that it’s beyond understanding:  dozens of dead bodies ensconced inside the walls of a house. It belongs to a major player in the drug traffic between US and Mexico and it has the additional perk of backyard shed booby-trapped with explosive that kills two policemen. Spurred by righteous indignation, Kate joins an inter-agency task force led by Matt (Brolin), soi-disant consultant for the Department of Defense, who will show her how the war on drugs is really fought. Mat is helped by Alejandro (Del Toro), another “consultant” of the US government, who is enigmatic, apparently all-knowing and rather shady, also not American. The viewer goes along with Kate on this grim ride, discovering facts and getting information as she does, slowly realising that she stepped into a very dangerous world where police work is substituted by covert military operations and rules and boundaries are very different from what she knows and believes in. Villeneuve seems to have a knack for making films that keep you engaged and uncomfortable at the same time. The foreboding mood of the story, the constant feeling that something is not right is difficult to shake off even for the jaded, cynical viewer, all thanks to Villeneuve’s ability in combining excellent performances with a good script and expert cinematography. Brolin and Blunt sell very well their respective characters but Del Toro is the one that truly shines! I did miss him in a role he could sink his teeth in and give us something remarkable. The other interesting aspect of this film is the fact that doesn’t really give an answer to the questions it raises on the “war” on drugs, it just depicts the situation in all its stark, disheartening reality, reminding me of a very illuminating exchange in an episode of The Wire:

Carver: You can’t even call this shit a war.

Hauk: Why not?

Carver: Wars end.

Gripping —7.5/10

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Inherent Vice

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson; Main Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen WilsonKatherine WaterstonBenicio Del ToroReese Witherspoon;

Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice

The lastest film by Paul T. Anderson is somehow a crossover between The Big Lebowski and Chinatown.  This slightly surreal and meandering story starts like a classic noir: an ex-flame comes back into Doc Sportello’s (Phoenix) life asking for help. Our hero is a private detective with glorious sideburns and a penchant for smoking pot. His ex, Shasta (Waterston), once a flower child with the same proclivities, has since moved on to greener pasture: her current lover is a real estate magnate.  After her cryptic visit, Shasta disappears and Doc begins a strange journey following weird clues, stumbling on the kidnapping of said magnate, searching for a phantom ship and dealing with all sorts of crazies. He’s helped by faithful friend and lawyer Sauncho (Del Toro), deputy district attorney and occasional lover Penny (Whiterspoon) and he ends up making common cause with Dirty-Harry like detective Bigfoot Bjornsen (Brolin). Set in 1970, this strange and rather convoluted tale, based on the eponymous book by Thomas Pynchon, might be slow-burning and very unlike Anderson’s previous film (The Master) but it’s captivating to follow. Doc is an oddball character and, most of the time, he’s stoned but, improbable as it may seem, he’s also pretty good at his job. In addition there’s Bigfoot, he starts out as a “benevolent nemesis” or “evil guardian angel” to Doc, but he reaches an understanding with him after their investigations  cross path. In a way, Bigfoot has similar traits to Doc: loner, determined and capable (with a visceral hate for hippies but that’s just a colorful side of his persona). This film with its eerie atmosphere and intricate plot turns out to be more  a character study on acid and it really works due to the superb performances of Phoenix and Brolin. Anderson has managed again the difficult task of keeping the viewer engaged with a star-studded, 2.5 hour-long movie based on a pretty wacky premise: chapeau! The cast in general is rather spectacular: curious, unexpected cameos and intriguing portrayals, it is clear that there’s a sure hand at the helm. The soundtrack and the photography complement the story and contribute greatly to the bizarre feeling that pervades the film throughout. Anderson’s style might not be everyone’s cup of tea and this film is even stranger than his usual fare so consider yourself warned. Mesmerizing –9/10

 

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