Sandra Bullock, George Clooney talk ‘Our Brand Is Crisis’

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

Cate Blanchett, left, portrays producer Mary Mapes, while Robert Redford stars as Dan Rather in the journalism drama Truth. (Lisa Tomasetti/Sony Pictures Classics/Associated Press) 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. Whatever gets the point across is fine with the woman who comes out of retirement and seclusion to join the campaign for an unpopular presidential candidate in Bolivia in the satirical “Our Brand Is Crisis.” She hopes to elect him — is being paid to do just that — but really wants to crush the smug American political consultant Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) working for a rival.An infantile message movie coming 40 (if not 100) years too late, Our Brand Is Crisis hammers home the patently obvious message that politics are a cynical game.

Two decades ago in “The War Room,” Bill Clinton’s campaign staffers preached “It’s the economy, stupid!” After Jane’s candidate, Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), punches a man who hit him in the face with raw eggs, Jane spins the fisticuffs. They’re also (to use just a few analogies culled from the film) a cynical carousel, a cynical war, a cynical form of advertising, a cynical popularity contest and a cynical bus race around the lip of a Bolivian mountain cliffside. 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. 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.

There’s the re-branding of Castillo, a graphic showing how many days until the election and where Castillo is at in the polls, and even Jane rising to the occasion to create a winning campaign. Variety described it as a “fascinating docu on the Bolivian presidential campaign of Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada (aka Goni), an unpopular candidate whose run for office was flamboyantly stage-managed by the U.S. spin team of James Carville and company.” Much of “Our Brand” is played for laughs, including Jane’s early altitude sickness, opponents pranking one another and the reckless, rowdy sight of competing campaign buses racing along narrow roads. If you’re nine years old – and have never seen Wag the Dog, or JFK, or Blow Out, or All the President’s Men, or The Parallax View, or any of the countless docs and dramas having to do with the Nixon administration – maybe it’s all very revelatory. 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. The movie turns serious, however, when players face — or dodge — the consequences of their actions and that was the point where the story lost me.

To any adult with an even reasonably functioning brain, who has watched CNN or Fox News for more than a combined 30 seconds in their life, it’s a mawkish chore. For too long, the stakes play second fiddle to the strategists and even the candidates remain too elusive to make the audience care as much as it should. 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. 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.

No matter what these fictional hired guns do, though, it’s hard to compete with the real world where one candidate reveals he tried to stab a classmate (and others then accuse him of lying) and another insults all comers along with the press. The chemistry between Bullock and Thornton is the film’s only real merit, carried along as much by implications of their previous relationship as the cheesy will-they-or-won’t-they tension. Otherwise, for 100-plus minutes the film follows the duelling campaign of dirty tricks and misdirection, all in service of the guiding maxim that, in politics, “There’s only one wrong: losing.” The film is loosely adapted from the 2005 documentary about similar attempts by U.S. strategists (including Carville) to intervene in a South American 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. A gourmet version of a familiar Hollywood recipe, Burnt finds Bradley Cooper and his immaculately groomed chin stubble cast as Adam, a broken but genius chef in London searching for redemption as well as his third Michelin star. Jane even gives a rousing speech saying, “I’m not going to stand by as this nation falls apart”, but it’s a speech to get people to campaign harder so she can beat Candy. So in aid of leavening things somewhat, hit-or-miss helmer David Gordon Green (the guy behind the affectingly homespun American indie George Washington, but also the stoner fantasy comedy Your Highness) and screenwriter Peter Straughan (whose script feels like it was co-authored by passages about the nature of politics and power) pull a last-ditch left-turn into hopefulness.

Eventually exhausted by her own professional cynicism, Bullock’s Bodine makes a Norma Rae-ish stand, joining a protest against the leader she helped get elected. 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.

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. It’s all hand-me-down Obama (or Justin Trudeau) stuff that comes off as totally insincere, as Bullock’s character blossoms from corrupting white devil and noble white saviour.

Inspired by the documentary of the same name, the film mixes sometimes-biting satire with somewhat-bubbling farce – where llamas are used as punch lines. Laia Costa is shown in a scene from the German film Victoria, director Sebastian Schipper’s film about a late-night adventure that takes an unexpected turn. (TIFF) Filmed in a single continuous shot, the German film Victoria comes across as a mix of Birdman, Bonnie and Clyde and Before Sunrise. 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.

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