Movie review: This might not be your brand of ‘Crisis’

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 new movie reviews in brief: Truth, Suffragette, Our Brand is Crisis and more.

This weekend, there’s an unusual face-off at the box office: A-listers Bradley Cooper and Sandra Bullock are headlining new movies, “Burnt” and “Our Brand Is Crisis,” respectively, both about geniuses who strive to make a career comeback after a meltdown.

Halloween weekend looks to bring more misery at the North American box office, where David Gordon Green’s dramedy Our Brand Is Crisis may not clear $4 million in its debut, according to early Friday returns.Though reporters bemoan the state of journalism today, in the movies, it’s the golden age again as films like Spotlight and Truth revisit the theme of hard-charging reporters fighting the good fight.If you’ve been following the drama in the House, the inability of most every Republican presidential candidate to lift off, or really any news from American politics over the last 10 or 239 years, you might have noticed that politics is difficult. There are too many balls in the air, too many uncontrollable outside factors, for any singular figure to get all of this under control, be 10 steps ahead of the curve, and successfully and confidently blaze a trail from pre-candidacy to election to dignified leadership. And because of the ways both the Republicans and the Democrats are dealing with their own collections of nominees, it’s even better that the film is a satire.

From the screenwriter of Zodiac (and The Amazing Spider-Man) comes a dramatization of the Memogate controversy over a 60 Minutes report concerning documents critical of former U.S. president George W. The reality of U.S. politics is dominated not so much by incompetent leaders as mortals who lack the requisite superpowers needed to steer the ship of state. While it is often very funny, it’s less successful in the satire department, meaning that despite its cynical subject matter, David Gordon Green’s film is, oddly, not so cynical itself. Based on a 2005 documentary of the same name, the film stars Bullock as Jane Bodine, a hotshot political strategist who’s hired to resuscitate the sagging campaign of a Bolivian presidential candidate.

Questions of authenticity swirling around photocopied letters eventually took down news producer Mary Mapes and helped end Dan Rather’s career at CBS. Instead of superhuman strength or projectile spider-webs, this puppet master has in her arsenal a penchant for drinking and smoking, instant access to the perfect quip at the perfect time, and a convenient lack of morality. The proper term would be “suggested by” an actual story, one that was captured in the 2005 documentary with the same title, in which American marketing was used in a 2002 foreign presidential election. She’s left politics behind, though, following a breakdown of sorts, but money is tight, so when Ben (Anthony Mackie) and Nell (Ann Dowd) track her down and offer her a gig trying to win Pedro Gallo (Joaquim de Almeida) the Bolivian presidency, she takes it, only to find that her candidate is unpopular and desperately low in the polls.

Backed by an orchestra swelling with moral rectitude, Truth is so convinced of its righteousness that it turns a fascinating issue into a story about martyrdom. On top of that, his first impression of her comes when she’s vomiting into a wastebasket due to altitude sickness, and worst of all, her nemesis, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), is trying to help the other guy win. In his directorial debut, James Vanderbilt is so busy painting Mapes as the victim, he rarely stops to question her certainty or how facts become irrelevant in the 24-hour tweeting and blogging world we live in. But now a public relations team from her past comes calling because they need her expertise, and she’s talked into at least thinking about signing on to her first presidential campaign in six years.

Via Rotten Tomatoes: “‘Burnt’ offers a few spoonfuls of compelling culinary drama, but they’re lost in a watery goulash dominated by an unsavory main character and overdone clichés.” Recent box office performance: Cooper shot to film stardom in 2009 thanks to “The Hangover” franchise, and over the past few years he has had some big hits: “Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle” and “American Sniper,” all three of which earned him Oscar nominations. Cate Blanchett channels a little of her earlier Blue Jasmine role as Mapes, while Robert Redford’s iconic status leads to a wooden portrayal of Rather. Screenwriter Peter Straughan has a history of intriguingly offbeat work, and his dialogue and characters, especially in the form of strategists Buckley (Scoot McNairy) and LeBlanc (Zoe Kazan), zing with cleverness. Scouts — starring Tye Sheridan, David Koechner, Cloris Leachman and Halston Sage — is being released by Paramount in the same way Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension was, going out in a limited number of theaters after many cinema owners refused to carry both movies because of Paramount’s deal with AMC and Cineplex to make the pair of genre titles available earlier than usual on VOD. Suffragette tells the story of women seeking the right to vote from the viewpoints of a poor laundress (Carey Mulligan) and a police inspector (Brendan Gleeson) charged with stopping the insurrection. (Steffan Hill/Focus Features/Associated Press) On the surface, appears to be a film about feminism, but it’s also about the slippery slope between agitator and what some would label terrorism.

In a bid for redemption, Jones tries to keep his emotions in check and repair his interpersonal relationships. “Burnt” is currently at 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer; check out some of the reviews here: Rotten: “Screenwriters Steven Knight and Michael Kalesniko pack as much stuffing as possible into this rubbery squid of a film — and then jam in yet more, and the movie gets duller and less focused as it wears on.” — Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice Rotten: “With such a strong cast, the film has the right ingredients but it doesn’t quite make a perfect meal.” — Jody Mitori, St. The failure of the three new offerings to rally sizeable business means that holdovers The Martian and Goosebumps will continue to top the box-office chart. Potential impact of a flop: One one hand, Cooper has had a rough year, he’s also the kind of actor who has too many projects lined up to truly be affected by this one. Carey Mulligan is Maud Watts, a woman who has been working in a laundry since the age of seven and goes from reluctant supporter to frontline soldier as her personal situation worsens.

When she’s recruited for a chance to face off in Bolivia against her longtime and similarly depraved rival, Pat Candy—portrayed convincingly enough as a stock Billy Bob Thornton character by Billy Bob Thornton—she signs up. When Jane and her team arrive in La Paz, 90 days before the election, Pat’s candidate, Rivera, is ahead of their candidate, the much-disliked former President Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida, who you’ll recall as the vile Ramon Salazar on “24”), by 30 points. Jane’s own behavior is ethically questionable, in terms of the way she frames the discussion once she’s on the ground, turning Gallo’s talking points from prosperity to crisis, thereby giving the film its title. Bodine’s character loosely channels celebrity political consultant James Carville, one of the Americans who worked on the 2002 Bolivian campaign and a consistent fascination of Hollywood. But “Crisis” isn’t actually all that interested in ethics, and it doesn’t really explore the quandary of whether freelance political consulting, the hiring of outsiders from another country, is noble and just.

Jane, who knows her stuff, wants to popularize Castillo by letting him show his true colors – that he’s a strong, even belligerent candidate who will help the people of Bolivia. Role: Bullock plays a sharp political strategist who suddenly drops off the map, but heads back to politics to run a campaign during the fiercely competitive 2002 Bolivian presidential election. Still, the combination of Gavron’s urgent, hand-held shooting style and Mulligan’s face – a mixture of pain and determination – create a stirring experience. Their history of working against each other is well told, but there might be something else going on there, perhaps something of a less professional nature.

Pre-movie buzz: This part was originally for George Clooney, who’s a producer on the project; but Bullock was interested in the role, so it was rewritten. Green’s glossy new take on the subject matter doesn’t dig that deep with the material, not unlike “The Blind Side,” for which Bullock won her Oscar. Directed by August: Osage County’s John Wells, Burnt transports us into the kitchen of the high-end restaurant where Adam bullies and berates his staff into a quivering crew churning out perfection. And Bullock and Thornton each give terrific performances as characters that remain unpredictable concerning how far they’ll go to make their candidate win. She landed an Oscar win for “Blind Side” and nomination for “Gravity.” “Sandra Bullock found herself in an odd situation where she was basically a bigger star in 2013 than she was back in 1993/1994 when she first broke out,” Forbes wrote.

Still, that Oscar has allowed Bullock, who’s an executive producer on “Crisis,” to pick and choose her roles, and she has, for the most part, made strong choices since. Leather jacket-clad Cooper tooling like a Top Gun stand-in can be hard to swallow, but Burnt’s excellent supporting cast, including Sienna Miller and Daniel Bruhl, elevate the film to cinematic comfort food of the highest order.

She’s appealing as ever as Calamity Jane, who is eventually rewarded with a bit of redemption that might seem endearing, though if you’re a cynic, you might not think she’s deserving. Even though it still stings given that it’s a film that, as Post movie critic Stephanie Merry points out, had all the ingredients for an awards-season favorite, from big names to an all-star producing team.

Still, Bullock is considered enough of a draw (and has built up enough goodwill over the years) that her star status can be forgiven for a critical failure. Sometimes the portrayal is satirical—Robert DeNiro’s spin doctor in Wag the Dog, the assassin-like Dylan McDermott in The Campaign, the sex-addicted Kathryn Hahn in television’s Parks and Recreation. Sometimes it’s melodramatic—think the sinister Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Ides of March, or most notably, Kevin Spacey’s snaky Frank Underwood, the master strategist and politician bundled into one on House of Cards.

She’s also attached to a movie with “Proposal” director Anne Fletcher, which Variety reports is “said to combine elements of ‘An Unmarried Woman’ and ‘Saturday Night Fever.’” As their late-night walking tour takes an ominous turn, the unbroken cinematography keeps the tension high, while the largely improvised script leaves room for expressive moments. We’re not supposed to earnestly admire any of these people, but we are supposed to guiltily admire their unfailing ability to guide impossible undertakings, such as the practice of politics, to victory through whatever means. Some of her pranks, specifically one ploy to feed her candidate’s unsuspecting competitor a Nazi quotation during the campaign’s final debate, are good for a laugh.

That’s the problem with focusing a story on the diabolical strategist, the one mythical figure in this godforsaken political system who’s got it all figured out. Among the many achievements of HBO’s Veep is its discovery of a new, post-Carville political consultant character, one that’s just as cuttingly entertaining but truer to reality. (Vice) President Selina Meyers (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a stable of advisers including Dan Egan (Reid Scott) and Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) who have internalized and aspire to the Carville cult; it’s just that reality interrupts to remind them that things don’t work like that. There just aren’t enough cigarettes or bottles of Scotch in the world to give any political consultant the power that we, in our fits of frustration, guiltily wish they had.

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