‘Our Brand Is Crisis’ Movie Review: Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton Star …

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.

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.

Except for Sandra Bullock, this fictional film based on Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary about U.S. influence on the 2002 Bolivian presidential election, is just not a very good movie.PHILADELPHIA- WTXF – The idea behind Our Brand is Crisis is simple: Take one of the more acclaimed documentaries of ten years ago, put in Sandra Bullock giving a strong character performance, and hope sparks fly.

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. Trying to satirize politics in the modern world is nearly an impossible task, particularly when the likes of Donald Trump are a parody in and of themselves.

In one moment, it offers a humorous take on the sleazy underbelly of presidential elections by using ridiculous stereotypes and over-the-top slapstick. 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. It was conceived as a humorous satire of the cynical campaign tactics used by the Greenberg Carvill Shrum consultants, a U.S. group hired by Sanchez de Lozada in a bid to improve his image after a tense first presidential term.

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. This year’s Our Brand, directed by David Gordon Green, is “suggested by” Rachel Boynton’s documentary of the same name, about American political consultants working on the presidential campaign of a neoliberal political has-been in Bolivia. Green’s constant switching between these two scenarios during the film becomes exhausting, and diminishes Sandra Bullock’s strong performance and the genuinely funny moments the film possesses. 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. It does have Sandra Bullock in its favor, playing a James Carville-like campaign strategist (who is actually based on James Carville) traveling to La Paz to attempt to re-energize the faltering presidential bid of a stuffy, unpopular presidential candidate who’s the Bolivian version of Jeb Bush. Jane Bodine (Bullock), a once-famed campaign strategist famous for getting the unelectable elected, has retired and taken refuge in a mountain-side cabin.

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 Oct. 17, 2003, he fled the country on a commercial jet, after the “Black October Massacre” in which over 60 people including men, women, and children were indiscriminately mowed down by the military’s bullets – under Sanchez de Lozada’s command. 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. Bolivian protesters from El Alto were then demanding the nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, and rejected the export of the country’s reserves to Chile. And it shows these supposedly brilliant, hyper-competent people in a strange land, totally out of their depth and looking like out-of-touch idiots, who are pretty much humiliated by how things shake out in the end.

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. One critic at the time called it “the rare left-wing documentary in which George Bush isn’t the villain.” The new film takes the sketches of this basic premise, adds touches of comedy that rarely work, along with a lead performance by Bullock that, while impressive, seems like it’s from a totally different movie (Bullock’s character didn’t exist in the documentary.) Bullock is Jane Bodine, a veteran campaign fixer with a history of mental illness, alcoholism and various other problems, as well as a recent political losing streak. Now, Jane must use her unorthodox methods to secure the election while also internally debating the ethics of what could happen to the country after getting her candidate elected. 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.

A Bolivian extradition request filed with the U.S. government insists that he return to Bolivia to face trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. Sure, it shows the struggles of the Bolivian people, but Green only has the characters say how politicians’ actions affect their lives rather than actually showing it.

Gallo starts far behind in a 7-way race, but Jane uses some old-fashioned political cynicism- namely, creating a “crisis” where one doesn’t really exist- to move him towards the top of the polls. 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. It’s scratched at, in the form of Eddie (Reynaldo Pacheco), an optimistic volunteer who comes from nothing and whose brothers think he’s a fool for signing on to Gallo’s campaign. 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. The twist, if this movie indeed contains one, is that the tried-and-true strategy of winning at all-costs via attack ads and character assassinations, has snuck past the U.S. border into South America, where candidates – and their U.S. advisors – believe it’s more important to win than to lead.

Bullock’s take as the irreverent, manic Jane is funny and manages to liven up a sluggish first act, but it’s hard to take her seriously as a political shaker capable of moving mountains. 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.

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. The film is also not particularly interested in how politics in South America differ from those of the U.S.- it seems to conclude that they’re pretty much the same. 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. 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. Victoria, a German film directed by Sebastian Schipper and which played this week at the Philadelphia Film Festival before a local release this weekend, follows the adventures of a Spanish girl (Laia Costa) in Berlin, who stumbles into a group of men who are getting ready to carry out a robbery.

One scene demonstrates just how far Candy will go to sabotage Jan’s campaign, including getting a driver to slam into a poor llama just to sabotage a simple campaign commericial. 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. 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. I don’t remember much of what her character, “Calamity” Jane Bodine, did or said over the course of the mercifully short 108 minutes, but I do remember enjoying watching her work.

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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As movie breaks every box office record, one ‘Star Wars’ crowd goes crazy as …

20 Jan 2016 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Star Wars’ sets N. America opening weekend record with $238M.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” set a record for the highest-grossing opening weekend at the US and Canadian box office with an estimated $238 million in sales, industry monitor Rentrak said Sunday. Opening day earnings had previously been estimated at $100 million, which would already have been a record, but Walt Disney DIS -3.83% and Rentrak just upped that number.

Globally, the latest “Star Wars” space epic raked in an estimated $517 million, falling in second behind “Jurassic World,” which earned $524.9 million worldwide in its first weekend, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Abrams’ movie scores the biggest North American opening of all time in addition to breaking numerous records overseas; ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip’ and ‘Sisters’ escape getting crushed by the Force as overall box-office evenue hits a record high. When the first trilogy began back in the late 70s, I was old enough to be wedded to the darker, moodier sci-fi of Solaris, Silent Running and Soylent Green, and young enough to believe that gave me the right to dismiss this latterday Buck Rogers nonsense out of hand.

Last week, it was already handsomely in profit from its new range of toys and knick-knacks even before the massive two-hour commercial for them had come out. Since acquiring creator Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, Burbank, California-based Disney has expanded the “Star Wars” merchandise lines, produced new TV shows and mapped plans for themed lands at parks in California and Florida. The trio of heroes who appeared in the first of the blockbusters in 1977 — smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), leader of the rebel alliance, and her twin brother Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) — are all back and played by the actors that “Star Wars” first made famous. The studio has as many as five more “Star Wars” films in the works. “Disney has rebooted the ‘Star Wars’ franchise,” said Robert Marich, author of “Marketing to Moviegoers.” “The reviews from critics and fans were excellent. Now, as Episode VII rolls around, ushering in a new generation of sequels, I find myself at an age so out of whack with the film’s target demographic that what I think about it matters not a jot.

The current record holder for an opening weekend is this past summer’s Jurrasic World with $208.8 million. “It’s definitely, no question, a new all-time weekend record,” Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst for Rentrak, told USA Today. “It’s just a matter of how big this weekend number will get. People say John Lewis has been canny by making an annual mawkish short film instead of having someone shouting: “It’s deals deals deals at John Lewis this Christmas!”, but this is really taking it up a level.

A lot of that will depend on how the movie does on Saturday.” This news comes as no surprise: Fortune earlier reported that by mid-day FridayThe Force Awakens had already sold more tickets than any other movie of 2015. You couldn’t ask for anything else.” “The Force Awakens,” which started showing in international markets on Wednesday, brought in an added $279 million overseas, lifting the worldwide total to $517 million as of Sunday, Disney said. With a film whose existence is rooted in fan culture, describing the movie is perilous; even revealing the cast list runs the risk of providing potential plot spoilers.

Suffice to say that the action takes place some years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and involves scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) teaming up with renegade “First Order” Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and globular droid BB-8. Force Awakens doesn’t debut in the world’s second-largest moviegoing market until Jan. 9. “Our sole focus has been creating a film that delivers that one-of-a-kind Star Wars experience, and director J.J. Lots and lots of toys obviously – figures and ships and costumes and Lego and versions of Monopoly – but other crazy stuff like Darth Vader waffle makers, Millennium Falcon Bluetooth speakers, furry Chewbacca slippers, and endless mugs and T-shirts and pens and Christmas decorations.

Abrams, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and the Lucasfilm team have outdone themselves,” Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said in a statement. As always with this director, the film feels very physical, scenes of dog-fighting TIE fighters and a relaunched Millennium Falcon crashing through trees possessing the kind of heft so sorely lacking from George Lucas’s over-digitised prequels. Having co-written the series’s previous high-water mark, The Empire Strikes Back, Lawrence Kasdan here shares credits with Abrams and Michael Arndt on a screenplay that is steeped in the dark lineages of the originals (and does not sidestep moments of genuine tragedy), but which subtly realigns its gender dynamics with Rey’s proudly punchy, post-Hunger Games heroine.

The movie’s stunning performance sets a new standard for how much the North American box office can expand when the right movie comes along, and puts even more pressure on Hollywood studios to eventize their tentpoles. The return of stars such as Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher from the original 1977 “Star Wars” film with younger actors in prominent roles has been cited by critics as a reason for the new film’s appeal across a range of moviegoers. The spectre of Vader may live on in Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, but it’s Rey in whom the film’s true force resides, likable newcomer Daisy Ridley channelling Carrie Fisher’s Leia and carrying the heavily-mantled weight of the new series with aplomb. They were my equivalent of tin soldiers, Lego, fresh air or any of the other things that little boys are encouraged to obsess over and I would play out endless battles and adventures on various thickly carpeted planets, where the only cover from an incoming TIE fighter attack came from the giant coffee-table- and magazine-rack-like natural features of the weird extraterrestrial landscape.

Looking back, there is no doubt that, scintillating though I found the films, I derived many times, and many hundreds of hours, more pleasure from the merchandise. Abrams’ movie, buoyed by nostalgia, glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore, obliterated the previous December record set by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which debuted to $84.6 million in 2012. Abrams has always been a fan first, and there’s a palpable affection in his staging of scenes that recall the varied alien wildlife of Tatooine’s Mos Eisley Cantina. Just as he proved himself a worthy successor to Spielberg with Super 8, so Abrams here breathes new life into Lucas’s epochal creations in a manner that deftly looks back to the future. At this rate, there’s no telling how high Force Awakens will ultimately fly in terms of box-office revenue, since films over the year-end holidays can see huge multiples.

Watching the film in a packed auditorium with an audience almost incandescent with expectation, I found myself listening to a chorus of spontaneous gasps, cheers, laughs, whoops and even occasional cries of anguish. Overseas, Force Awakens also made history in a raft of key markets, including the biggest opening weekend in the U.K. ($48.9 million), Germany ($27.3 million), Australia ($18.9 million) and Russia ($12.3 million) And it was the second biggest in a handful of countries, including France ($22.7 million). The market for hilariously apt dust-gatherers is vast and growing – it makes up a significant proportion of the Christmas shopping spike and we probably can’t do without it.

There was a huge sale at Christie’s of the former prime minister’s stuff, some of it fetching absurd sums: £37,500 for a signed copy of a speech, £266,500 for a ceramic eagle given to her by Ronald Reagan and £242,500 for an old dispatch box. In total, the sale made millions, which must have made the Thatcher heirs wonder what might have been if only they’d found the right brand partners. Margaret Thatcher’s father was a grocer and George Lucas’s ran a stationery store, so neither of them would think there’s anything grubby about retail. And, as my parents can attest from my requirements of Father Christmas throughout the 1980s, Star Wars’s primary role as a moulded-plastic merchant long predates Lucasfilm’s takeover by Disney. The livelihoods, fun and last-minute present ideas that all the Star Wars crap has given millions of us were just a serendipitous side-effect of an adventure story that people liked.

However, Road Chip has a shot at earning close to $100 million all in domestically, since it’s the only new family offering heading into Christmas stretch. Just as Alvin 4 has the advantage of being a family play, Sisters has the advantage of appealing to females, who made up a striking 76 percent of the opening-weekend audience.

Johnson is the latest in a long line of politicians charged with the funding of academic research who thinks it needs to prove its worth in advance; that highly educated people working hard to fill the gaps in human knowledge never got us anywhere, and what those spendthrift boffins need to do is direct their research towards a readily monetisable goal. “The government has committed to protect science and research… and we need to make sure we’re getting the most from this investment,” he said, as he commissioned Lord Stern to breathe down the necks of the whole well-meaning, under-resourced academic sector. New offerings at the specialty box office included Sony Pictures Classics’ Oscar player Son of Saul, Laszlo Nemees’ harrowing holocaust drama that won the Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It may seem like a frivolous example but it’s worth considering (had Lord Stern’s review been around then) which elements of the prodigious output of 19th-century mathematician Charles Dodgson would have found favour with the spending review. Adam McKay’s The Big Short, another awards player, continued to see good results in its second weekend, grossing $350,000 from eight theaters for a location average of $43,750 and cume of $1.3 million for Paramount Pictures.

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