Movie Review ~ All I See Is You


The Facts
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Synopsis: A blind woman’s relationship with her husband changes when she regains her sight and discovers disturbing details about themselves.

Stars: Blake Lively, Jason Clarke, Yvonne Strahovski, Danny Huston, Ahna O’Reilly, Wes Chatham

Director: Marc Forster

Rated: R

Running Length: 110 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review: Here’s a strange little movie for you, not necessarily a bad one, just a strange one. At a time when we’re coming out of a slump summer at the box office and into the terrain of Awards Season, All I See Is You has the visual panache of a major blockbuster helmed by smart filmmakers but is ultimately more interested in the art-house vibe. This creates a discord between two distinct notes that never totally synch up, though it does have a few fleeting moments of harmony that have kept it lingering in my mind several days after seeing it.

Blinded by a childhood accident that left her parents dead, Gina (Blake Lively, The Shallows) lives with her husband James (Jason Clarke, Lawless) in Taiwan. She’s adjusted to her life living in the shadows, only able to see brief glimpses of light (fabulously photographed by cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser) but when an opportunity presents itself for an experimental surgery that could give her back her sight in one eye, she grasps the opportunity with both hands.

As her sight returns, her relationship with her supportive husband changes as she becomes less dependent on his care and more independent in her needs. The life she thought she was going to lead now has more opportunities and both husband and wife start to realize at the same time that their union may have been fortified by her disability. A visit to her sister and brother-in-law (Ahna O’Reilly and Miquel Fernández) raises more marital strife, compounded by a painful trek to the place where she lost her sight many years earlier.

As the movie develops, it becomes less of the psychological thriller it feels like it wants to be and more of an erotic drama that pushes the boundaries for both Lively and Clarke. Lively seems especially game and she’s continuing to become an actress unafraid of a little risk in her roles. Clarke, too, brings some painful pathos to the part, culminating in a wordless exchange between the two in a very public setting that’s awkwardly intimate though they are surrounded by a crowd unaware of the matrimonial fissure that has cracked wide open.

Director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, World War Z) co-wrote the script with Sean Conway and as mentioned above it’s a sometimes off-balance mix of soapy melodrama and kinky canoodling. Up until the last moment, I kept waiting for one tone to come out clearer than the other but it never happens. Even the ending fails to dig its feet in and put a period on its lengthy rambling sentence. While it’s hard to empathize with the two leads that live in a fantastic apartment and jet-set to luxury locales, it’s not easy to write them off for the same reason. Flawed through its characters may be, there’s a voyeuristic interest at play in All I See Is You which makes most everything you see watchable.

Movie Review ~ Wonder Woman (2017)

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Connie Nielsen, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock

Director: Patty Jenkins

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 141 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review: As a child, every few weeks my parents and I would travel 115 miles south to visit my mom’s family.  Getting up early and missing Saturday morning cartoons wasn’t that big of a deal to me…it was the Sunday return trip that caused great anxiety in our car.  You see, Sunday afternoon at 4pm is when reruns of Wonder Woman were on.  Capping off a block of programming that included The Six Million Dollar Man followed by The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman was Must See TV for this fella and my parents came to the understanding that come hell or high water, we had to be home by four.  Now, several times this didn’t happen and let’s say…things got messy.

That context is helpful to you, dear reader, in understanding why this long planned big screen adaptation of Wonder Woman was more than just another anticipated summer blockbuster for me.  This was the arrival of a character I truly grew up with, maybe more so than Batman or my ultimate favorite, Superman.  I came to Wonder Woman via the Lynda Carter television show and not like many did by way of DC Comics.  Created by William Moulton Marston, the Amazonian Princess first appeared in 1941 and quickly became a popular symbol not only of strength but of a woman with the ideals to be a natural leader of all.

A reboot of the TV show was attempted but failed at the pilot stage several years back and while Wonder Woman was hinted at being a part of the planned Warner Brothers DC Universe at some point, it wasn’t until the character was a surprise addition to 2016’s Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice that fans finally saw the light at the end of a long dark tunnel.  While many (including me) had their own issues with BvS, most agreed that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a memorable highlight of that film and looked forward to the stand-alone movie that would be released before Justice League later in 2017.  Then the deplorable Suicide Squad was released late summer 2016 and people began to worry that Wonder Woman’s bright beacon of hope would be unfashionably oppressed by DC Universe’s strangely dark style.

Fear not, though, because not only does Wonder Woman make a most excellent showing in her first solo big-screen adventure, but it’s by far the best comic book adaptation in almost a decade.  Besting the best of the boys club that came before her, this heroine has brains and brawn in addition to her beauty.  It’s more entertaining than you can possibly imagine and would make even the hardest non-fan of comic book movies buckle in their resolve.

While longtime fans may be bug-eyed that the screenplay by Allen Heinberg from a story by Zac Snyder, Heinberg, and Jason Fuchs moves the action from WWII to WWI, it plays into the overall success of the picture by showing Wonder Woman’s superhero emerge at the same moment that war-time weapons took a strikingly modern leap forward.  Why wouldn’t a solider be just as amazed at a woman deflecting bullets as they would be by the automatic machine gun that’s firing them at her?

Wonder Woman is a classic origin story that manages to breeze quickly through the lore while satisfyingly hitting all the right notes at the same time.  Living among the Amazon women on Themyscira (Paradise Island), young Princess Diana is a force of nature ready to learn to fight but kept at bay by her overprotective mother (Connie Nielsen, Gladiator).  Secretly trained by her aunt (Robin Wright, Everest, buff as hell) over the ensuing years, her skills are put to good use when a plane carrying U.S. spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, Into the Woods) crash lands in the sky blue waters off the coast.  Soon, Diana is accompanying Steve back to jolly old England (“This place is hideous”, exclaims Diana upon seeing the gloomy London harbor) and embarking on a quest to stop a crazed General (Danny Huston, Big Eyes) and his evil scientist comrade (Elena Anaya, The Skin I Live In, frightening in a Phantom of the Opera-esque ceramic mask) from releasing a chemical weapon onto their enemies.

Proving that maybe more females should be in charge of high caliber action films, director Patty Jenkins should be lauded for crafting one of the best entries in recent memory.  Not only does she stage her battle scenes with grand flare but she manages to never over sexualize her star as I fear her male colleagues would have.  There’s no gratuitous shots looking up at Wonder Woman (and up her skirt in the process), no scenes framed with her cleavage taking center stage, no temptation to give fanboys an opportunity to linger too long on the exposed skin.  Instead, she presents Wonder Woman and all of the characters (male and female) as equals in the eyes of the camera.  In fact, the most skin on display here is from Pine as he emerges from a healing spring on Themyscira, providing for some fun dialogue between Diana and Steve.

Gadot (Keeping Up with the Joneses) was a star on the rise going into this film but she firmly cements her justified ascent with a fully layered flesh and blood performance.  Her delightful naiveté when entering the modern world reminded me of Daryl Hannah’s fish out of water exuberance as a mermaid on dry land in 1984’s Splash.  We’ve seen this stranger in a strange land done before but never with such charm.  As she grows to see that humans are deeply flawed, Gadot admirably portrays the disappointment of someone learning the truth after realizing they had believed too long in fiction.

Though he already has a strong foothold in the Star Trek franchise, Pine turns in one of his best performances as the American solider striving to do what’s best for his country.  Pine and Gadot have excellent chemistry and when the inevitable sparks begin to fly, it turns into a courtship during combat that feels well earned.  As for the bad guys and gals, Huston is his typical smarmy villain while Anaya memorably makes for a more interesting foe to our heroes.

The film has a lot packed into its 141 minute run-time but never feels long or taxing.  Yes, the last half hour delves into the kind of special effects heavy finale that tends to assist my eyes in glazing over at double speed but so much was excellent up until then that Wonder Woman’s battle royale (with an enemy revealed in a nice twist)  managed to hold me at the edge of my seat.  While there’s no post-credit scene, the film doesn’t need one because the correct edges have been rounded off and just the right amount of loose ends remain for future installments to easily pick up and run with.

Some say that summer blockbusters begin in May but for me the summer has truly begun in June with Wonder Woman’s much appreciated arrival.  There’s no regret to be had for seeing this one in the biggest theater possible with a packed audience.  Enjoy!

The Silver Bullet ~ Wonder Woman (2017)

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Synopsis: An Amazonian princess leaves her island home to explore the world and, in doing so, becomes one of the world’s greatest heroes.

Release Date: June 2, 2017

Thoughts: Wonder Woman’s journey to the big screen has taken a looooooooooooong time. The popular female superhero has had life on the small screen but hasn’t used her lasso of truth to snag a major motion picture until now. While many audiences and critics reviled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (not me, I thought it was great), the one consensus was that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the highlight of that film.  Gadot (Keeping Up with the Joneses) made good use of her brief screen time and boy does this new trailer for her origin pic look like a winner. Directed by Patty Jenkins and co-starring Chris Pine (People Like Us), June 2017 seems so far away…but it seems like the wait will be worth it.  Fingers crossed.

Movie Review ~ Big Eyes

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A drama about the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.

Stars: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, Krysten Ritter

Director: Tim Burton

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 105 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review: When I was young I was always frightened of these two paintings in my grandmother’s house.  They were tall, slim paintings each of a ballerina with large eyes and I made it a point to skirt by them without making eye contact with their black orbs.  Now, I’m not sure if these were paintings by Margaret Keane or entries from the numerous knock-offs that came about after the phenomenal success of the Keane Big Eyes movement; but seeing Tim Burton’s film on the life of the woman behind the eyes brought back these memories in full force.

It’s nice to see Tim Burton (Dark Shadows, Frankenweenie) make a film featuring not one actor he’s worked with before (thanks for sitting this one out, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter) based on a subject that has some curio cultural significance.  However, the film feels de-Burton-ized so much that it’s hard to pick out much of anything that indicates the man behind Batman, Beetlejuice, or his much better biopic Ed Wood was running the show here.

Early buzz indicated that Amy Adams (American Hustle, Her) would land another Oscar nomination and win for her role as painter Margaret Keane and she just may have stood a fighting chance had the script from Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski not presented Keane as such a wet noodle.  As the picture opens she’s leaving her husband and taking her young daughter hundreds of miles away to San Francisco with no real prospects.  In that time that would have been considered a fairly gutsy move so it’s odd that no sooner has she set up a home, a job, and a weekend painting gig in a local park that she’d succumb to the charms of the first man that comes calling.  Adams is a bright presence on screen but comes off rather dull here.

Margaret’s relationship with Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained…more on him later) may have been a saving grace for the young mother but when he starts to indicate to the outside world that he is responsible for the big eyed waif paintings she’s created it’s an amazement that it takes her over a decade to break free of his slimy grip and even longer to lay claim to her work.  Keane herself acknowledges that she was fairly complicit in the charade but the film always makes it seem like she was under duress (literally being locked in an attic with a paintbrush and easel) and helpless.

If anything really puts a pin in the underwhelming nature of it all it’s Waltz’s bizarre performance as the duplicitous Walter.  The usually reliable Waltz is totally on a raft out to sea here, barely hiding his German accent (Walter was born in Nebraska) and devouring every bit of scenery and several of Colleen Atwood’s (Into the Woods) striking costumes.  By the time we get to a courtroom denouement Waltz is in full Joan Crawford mode, acting the hell out of a cross-examination of himself as he’s acting as his own attorney.

Burton’s penchant for CGI effects is thankfully kept on a tight leash here and the picture is lovely to look at, but it’s an overall shallow affair that finds Adams gamely treading water through a Waltz storm of melodramatic acting.

The Silver Bullet ~ Big Eyes

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Synopsis: A drama centered on the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.

Release Date:  December 25, 2014

Thoughts: Tim Burton (Dark Shadows, Frankenweenie) is a director that I’ve admired for quite some time.  Bouncing from the lunacy of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice to the dramas of Big Fish and Ed Wood, I’ve always been more drawn to his work that doesn’t involve (or rely) on special effects and it’s nice to see the director taking a break from his collaborations with Johnny Depp.  That’s why Big Eyes looks so promising to me; not only does it sport two honest-to-goodness A-listers as leads but the true life tale of artist Margaret Keane is one that seems right up Burton’s alley.  Those early Oscar hounds are saying this might be the movie that Amy Adams (Her) takes home an Oscar for and, wrong or not, the role seems tailor-made for the actress.  Joined by two time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), I’d be on the lookout for this one if I were you.

The Silver Bullet ~ The Congress

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Synopsis: An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn’t consider.

Release Date:  TBA 2013

Thoughts: I’ve always found Robin Wright to be one of the more interesting actresses working in Hollywood.  Since her film debut in 1987 with The Princess Bride, Wright (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has amassed a diverse roster of roles that thankfully never allowed her to fit into a certain niche market.  She seems to take on characters that speak to her heart rather than her pocketbook and her latest film looks to be a wonderfully bizarre meta experience.  Adapted from Stainslav Lem’s 1971 darkly humorous sci-fi yarn, Wright is playing a version of herself: an aging actress that has chosen family over fame tempted to make a comeback.  How she does it and what it entails provide the framework for a piece that I hope follows through on its promises to ask a lot of questions about celebrity, culture, and how much of oneself those that achieve fame actually have to give over to the public.

Movie Review ~ Hitchcock

The Facts:

Synopsis: A love story between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.

Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Michael Stuhlbarg, James D’Arcy, Michael Wincott, Richard Portnow, Kurtwood Smith

Director: Sacha Gervasi

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 98 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (5.5/10)

Review:  After a disastrous first screening of Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s agent (Stuhlbarg) suggests “Maybe we should cut it down and release it as a two-part special for television”.  It was at that point in this breezey but hollow biopic of the Master of Suspense that I thought what a great suggestion that is that the filmmakers should have taken to heart.  Instead of giving us a film that feels like a full meal, we are served appetizers that don’t totally cure our hunger.

That’s not to say Hitchcock (adapted by John McLaughlin from Stephen Rebello’s biography “Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”) doesn’t have its saving graces because it does acquit itself somewhat with several fine performances and a dishy behind the scenes vibe that movie buffs will enjoy.  On the other hand, I left the film feeling like I watched a movie made up of anecdotes rather than a fully formed idea.  The synopsis indicates it’s a love story between Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville…OK…but then it veers off into a psychoanalysis of Hitchcock and his hang-ups on blonde bombshells….OK…yet it turns again to a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Psycho…OK…or is it really about the greater price of fame and notoriety both Hitchcock and Alma encountered?  All interesting ideas for a picture on their own but somehow they don’t work when layered on top of each other.

Being the movie buff I am, I quite enjoyed peeking into how Hitchcock discovered Psycho and against all odds made one of the classic pictures in American cinema.  Recreating the experience of filming the movie was interesting to watch unfold…as were the performances of D’Arcy (Cloud Atlas) as Anthony Perkins and Scarlett Johansson (Marvel’s The Avengers) as Janet Leigh.  Both actors steer clear of outright imitations and instead deliver convincing performances that really do remind you of these stars.  Johansson in particular doesn’t resemble Janet Leigh but I’ll be darned if I didn’t do a few double takes when hearing her speak in Leigh’s voice and nail her softly nuanced facial expressions.  Biel (Total Recall, The Tall Man) too doesn’t remind me of Vera Miles but the actress is nicely restrained in her brief scenes. 

Supporting actors get the job done, I s’pose but I’d love it if Huston could get out from under these boorish types of characters.  Collette is delightful as always and Wincott is effectively creepy acting as a bizarre muse to Hitchcock in the guise of an imagined Ed Gein. 

In promotional materials and trailers, Hopkins gave off the proper vibe as the famous director of the title.  Still…something about seeing the full performance didn’t ring true if I’m really being honest.  The dimensions are all correct and if you close your eyes the voice is almost there…but it was close but no cigar for me.  With the aid of a portly fat suit, Hopkins fills the room with his presence…but his wildly inconsistent hair and facial make-up spoil it all and you may find yourself wondering why half his face is one color and the other half is another.  While not a big budget film, I think more attention to the make-up detail would have helped Hopkins come to a more fully realized performance.  I’ll add that while the voice was going in the right direction…something about his slow delivery suggested the man was mid-stroke.

That leaves us with Mirren who simply towers above all else in the film.  As inconsistent as the film may be, it’s absolutely saved by her contributions as Hitch’s burdened wife.  Clearly his biggest supporter and best confidant, she never got the recognition she deserved and many credit her influence as the true genius behind the man.  Mirren understands this and never plays the role as so put-upon you couldn’t understand why she’s sticking around.  This is a woman who knows that with every film her husband will obsess over details and fret about success…and she takes it all in and helps him through.  The film is most successful when Mirren is taking control of whatever situation needs to be leveled off.  It probably helps that since Alma isn’t a familiar Hollywood figure, Mirren’s performance isn’t held under the same magnifying glass that Hopkins is. 

Director Gervasi achieves a nicely period looking film that does feel like it was meant for the small screen due in no part to its trim running time.  Had this been released on television (like the recent HBO Hitchcock piece, The Girl) I think it would have been a bit easier to forgive some of the film’s faults.  Like 2011’s My Week with Marilyn and The Iron Lady, this is an uneven film with a powerful female performance at the center.  Everything else just feels like window dressing.

The Silver Bullet ~ Hitchcock

Synopsis: A love story between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.

Release Date:  November 23, 2012

Thoughts: The master of the thriller seems to be a hot topic this year.  From a new box set of his work released on BluRay and a HBO biopic on his obsession with Tippi Hedren coming in late October, Alfred Hitchcock is having a nice little renaissance.  This big screen adaptation of Stephen Rebello’s novel “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” is high on my list of anticipated 2012 films.  The preview is a nice blend of cheeky exchanges and dramatic fodder that Hitchcock was so very fond of.  Assembling a stellar cast led by two Oscar winners, first time feature director Sacha Gervasi appears to have done his homework and paid homage to the legend.  I have a good feeling about this one.