Tag Archives: Anne Hathaway

Diamond Life

Locked Down

by George Wolf

If you’re gonna be quarantined, you could do worse than being stuck with Anne Hathaway or Chiwetel Ejiofor. They’re both extremely talented and – inexplicable internet hate notwithstanding – easy to like.

But in Locked Down, their characters don’t like each other much anymore. In fact, Linda and Paxton were just about to split up when the stay-at-home orders came down. So now he’s been furloughed, she’s been firing people via Skype, and they keep to opposite ends of their (pretty sweet) London townhouse.

But fate is a funny thing, and though Paxton thinks it’s long been against him, suddenly he and Linda have the opportunity to steal a priceless diamond from Herrod’s without anyone noticing.

In writer Steven Knight’s resume of big ups (Locke) and major downs (Serenity – I mean wtf?) Locked Down is a creamy middle with a pleasant enough aftertaste.

Though the dialogue is filled with too-perfect banter and characters who casually drop references to Norse mythology while getting tripped up over “implode” and “explode”, everyone involved seems like their having fun. Expect a couple laugh out loud moments as well, so there’s that.

Hathaway and Ejiofor exude effortless charisma, and a parade of cameos (Ben Stiller, Ben Kingsley, Mindy Kaling, Stephen Merchant, Claes Bang) adds to the comfort food feeling.

And since this is a true socially distant production, most of those famous faces are seen only on computer screens, with director Doug Liman making sure there are plenty of Zoom glitches and other overdone reminders of our interesting times.

But though Liman is best known for action flicks (Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) this is no Ocean’s Two. The heist is small scale and forgettable fun, but it’s when we’re gently reminded about the things the pandemic hasn’t changed – only revealed – that Locked Down finds a relevant voice.

Locked Down is available now on HBOMax

Better Living through Chemistry

Dark Waters

by Hope Madden

Todd Haynes hasn’t written one of his own films since 2007’s I’m Not There, a biopic that refuses to fit neatly into that genre (making it a perfect fit for its subject).

The director’s collaboration with other writers has been both sublime (Carol) and spotty (Wonderstruck), the content sometimes feeling as if it simply is a mismatch for his own often gorgeously subversive vision.

So, yes, it’s a bit of a shock to witness the filmmaker who depicted Karen Carpenter’s battle with anorexia via Barbie dolls (Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story) tackle the blue collar true story of a corporate defense attorney who grows a conscience and hits DuPont Chemical where it hurts the most.

Shooting again in southern and central Ohio, Haynes turns in the buttery glamour of Carol for a grimmer image of America.

Dark Waters sees Mark Ruffalo as Robert Bilott, a good guy who also happens to be a corporate lawyer. I guess he’s proof those two concepts need not be mutually exclusive.

A keep-your-head-down kind of colleague, Bilott is confronted at work by a friend of his grandmother back home, a curmudgeonly West Virgina farmer (Bill Camp) who is offering VHS proof that his cows are being poisoned.

The corporate lawyer in Bilott wants to ignore this problem. The salt-of-the-earth Midwesterner in him cannot.

Few actors play the scrupulous good guy as reliably or believably as Ruffalo, who leads the film with a quiet, fragile dignity.

Anne Hathaway co-stars as Bilott’s conflicted wife Sarah. It’s a small and somewhat thankless role for the Oscar winner, but she gives it some meat and, better still, a much needed edge that strengthens the film.

She’s not alone. William Jackson Harper (Midsommar) continues to prove that he’s really good at playing a dick. Meanwhile, veteran “that guy” Camp offers a perfectly off-putting, guttural performance. A number of other sharp turns in small roles, including those by Tim Robbins, Bill Pullman, Mare Winningham and Victor Garber, help Haynes shade and shadow what could easily have become a paint-by-numbers eco-terror biopic.

He can’t entirely break free, though, and Dark Waters in the end—however stirring, informative and timely the tale—feels far too safe to be a Todd Haynes film.

Third Time Charmless

The Hustle

by George Wolf

1964’s Bedtime Story begat 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and now, after begettin’ a gender switch, the con is on again as The Hustle.

This third time is not lucky, or charming, or funny. Mostly, it’s just painful.

Anne Hathaway is high-class grifter Josephine, who’s wary of newcomer Penny (Rebel Wilson) trying to work the same bit of French Riviera turf. Josephine’s attempts to drive Penny away go nowhere, so the two hatch a wager to decide just who will have to find new hunting grounds.

Hathaway is a worthy Oscar winner, and though Wilson’s pony could really use more tricks, she can be funny. What either one of them saw in this inane script is beyond me and beneath both of them.

The film seems overly proud of itself for the girl power wokeness, while director Chris Addison bases the updated gags on such contorted silliness that when Penny exclaims “That makes zero sense!” it feels like we just learned the identity of Keyser Soze.

If you’ve seen either of the first two go ’rounds, you already know how the con winds up, and it’s never been less fun getting there.

But if the heart of The Hustle is new to you, see steps one or two.

Fish Story

Serenity

by George Wolf

NIGHT. FISHING BOAT CABIN. DESPERATION HEAVY IN THE AIR:

McConaughey takes a long, emphatic drag on a cigarette, then downs a shot of rum, his constantly wet t-shirt screaming for mercy.

Hathaway vamps in from the thunderstorm, wearing a hat pulled down low and a raincoat from the “nothing underneath” collection at Victoria’s Secret.

“I still love you, high school sweetheart, and now you have to save me…and our child,” she purrs. “Take my abusive husband Jason Clarke out on your fishing boat, feed him to the sharks, and I’ll give you ten million dollars.”

SMOKE, DRINK, STARE, T-SHIRT SOMEHOW WETTER INSIDE.

Yes, the noir is strong with Serenity, with familiar tropes laid so heavy you know something must be up. So when writer/director Steven Knight finally does make his pivot a la Gone Girl, the real eyebrow-raiser is why.

Knight, whose career has shown flashes of brilliance (Eastern Promises, Locke), takes his latest in some wild directions, almost none of which make much sense. There’s plenty of pretty island scenery, “fish on the hook” and “one that got away” symbolism, along with some random supporting talent (Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou) that feels as wasted as the leads.

The spoon-feeding that’s waiting at the end of Serenity is well-intentioned but structurally misguided, landing so far from the mark that just embracing that early Body Heat wave and riding it out might have made for a better crash.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbrOMrjhyvI

 

 





Family Jewels

Ocean’s 8

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

More than 15 years ago, Steven Soderbergh recast the Rat Pack, pointing out a set of Hollywood A-listers led by George Clooney who were as stylish and cool as Sinatra and the fellas.

Three films later (four, if you count Soderbergh’s hillbilly version Logan Lucky, and you should) and the Ocean family is drawn once again to the big payoff.

This time it’s Danny Ocean’s sister Deb (Sandra Bullock). A life of crime runs in the family, it seems. Fresh from incarceration, Deb is looking to execute the con she’s been fine tuning over the last 5 years in lockdown.

What Debbie needs is a team, and she knows what kind.

“A ‘him’ gets noticed. A ‘her’ gets ignored.”

That’s a line well-placed and well-played, and though the film seems awfully familiar from the jump, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The music bumpers, throwback scene segues, strategy meetings and comfortable pacing set the cool vibe, and Ocean’s 8 is cheeky enough in its outright impersonation of the previous installments to shrug off feeling derivative. Instead, it comes off as second class, which may be more disappointing.

Though director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) can crib the style—his cast (including Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna and a spunky Awkwafina) can’t generate the same chemistry. No one does a bad job, far from it, but Ocean’s 8 lacks the overlapping dialogue and easy rapport of earlier efforts. They have the talent, they just don’t have the material.

Anne Hathaway is the real thief in this caper, stealing every scene with a fun and funny send-up of the Hollywood diva persona (including her own). James Corden, popping in as a fraud expert investigating the theft of a multi-million dollar Cartier necklace during the Met Gala, brightens up the third act as well with his fresh perspective and savvy delivery.

Otherwise, the side characters are neither as meaty or as interesting as in previous franchise efforts. Surprisingly it’s Blanchett who disappoints most. Too dialed down, her Lou lacks the color and definition to be effective as Debbie’s second banana, and Blanchett’s casual greatness feels wasted.

The best of the Ocean’s films rely on sharp characterizations and sharper sleight of hand. You believe you’re watching the con unfold only to find that …whaat?….the real heist was somewhere you weren’t looking. It is you who’s been conned.

While 8 follows that formula it succeeds only to a degree, its script simply not crisp enough to charm you into buying all in. The con itself is not believably intricate and Ross, who co-wrote the screenplay with Olivia Milch, cops out in act three with heavy exposition.

But hey, heist movies are fun, and movies with this much star power are fun. Ergo, Ocean’s 8 is a fun time at the movies.

Glitzy, forgettable fun.





I’m a Monster

Colossal

by George Wolf

Ten years ago, writer/director Nacho Vigalondo made his feature debut with Timecrimes, a wonderfully ironic and wacked-out bit of time travel head gaming.

Nacho is back with Colossal, bringing irony that’s a little sharper, comedy that’s a good bit darker…and a great big scary monster.

Anne Hathaway is fantastic as Gloria, a frequently drunk party girl in New York who loses her job, doesn’t get the wake up call and does gets the boot from her live-in boyfriend. Moving back to her hometown, she reconnects with Oscar (a solid Jason Sudeikis), a childhood friend who happens to own a bar where Gloria is welcome to work part-time.

Wait a minute – what’s this in the headlines? A giant monster has appeared in downtown Seoul, Korea, and after watching all the viral videos of the beast in action, Gloria realizes that she alone is controlling its carnage or, in some cases, its awkward dance moves.

Colossal could also describe the height of Vigalondo’s latest concept, but despite some shaky interludes, it’s one worth the investment. Hathaway and Sudeikis make a compelling pair, and as secrets of the monster’s history are revealed, Vigalondo lands some solid satirical blows about self-absorption and personal demons.

Perhaps best of all is how Colossal works out of the conceptual corner it backs into. Much like the Koreans who keep coming downtown no matter how often the monster appears, Vigalondo is committed to the end, delivering a strange but satisfying in-the-moment fable.

Verdict-3-5-Stars





It’s No Tea Party

Alice Through the Looking Glass

by Hope Madden

One billion dollars. That’s global money, keep in mind, but still, who’d have thought Tim Burton’s utterly banal and forgettable 2010 acid trip Alice in Wonderland had made so very much money? Too much – and not just because the film had no genuine merit, but because that kind of sum necessitates a sequel, however wildly and wholly unnecessary – even unwanted – that kind of muchness must be.

And so, back to Underland we go, accompanying an adult(ish) Alice who returns from a stint as sea captain to find Victorian England just as restrictive as it had been when she was a child escaping into her imagination. And so, to her imagination she returns.

Director James Bobin (The Muppets) has the unenviable task of following Burton into the rabbit hole – not unenviable because he may suffer by comparison, but because his options are somewhat limited based on the film’s predecessor. Expect garishly overdone visuals that offset weekly drawn characters.

Familial tensions are at the heart of the tale, penned by Linda Woolverton and based on some of Lewis Carroll’s most dreamlike and incongruous storytelling. Too bad Woolverton and Disney insisted on hemming Carroll’s wild imagination inside such a tediously structured framework.

The Hatter is depressed to the point of death and Alice has to go back in time to save him. Basically. But you can’t change the past – a lesson she’d allegedly learned in her first fantastic voyage, but I guess it didn’t stick. So, let’s learn it again, with the help of Time himself, as played by Sacha Baron Cohen with a Schwarzenegger-esque accent.

Aside from that new face, the same forgettably wacky group returns to the future/past. The talented Mia Wasikowska struggles to find life inside the bland Alice while Helena Bonham Carter pointlessly chews scenery.

An underused Anne Hathaway brightens certain scenes, and Johnny Depp – reliable as ever inside a fright wig and exaggerated make up – does bring a wistful humanity to the otherworldly events.

But imagination and tiresome capitalism butt heads from the opening sequence, and without the foundation of compelling characters or the requirement of engaging storytelling, Through the Looking Glass proves to be a pointless, though colorful, bore.

Verdict-1-5-Stars





Five More Remakes in Need of an All Female Cast

Rumors of an all-female Ghostbusting team got us A) excited for the reboot, and B) thinking of other movies we’d love to see reimagined with women in the lead. Here are the 5 films we think could benefit from some gender-retooling, along with our dream casts.

Jaws

Steven Spielberg’s 1975 great white classic benefitted from one of the best buddy trios in cinema with Roy Scheider’s reluctant shipmate Sheriff Brody, Richard Dreyfuss’s on-board scientist, and salty sea dog Quint played to perfection by Robert Shaw.

Who has the gravy to run nails down a chalkboard, frighten the locals and bark that she’ll find the shark for $3000, but “catch him, and kill him, for 10”? Nobody but Jessica Lange. We’d flank her with Anne Hathaway as the transplanted cop who wants a bigger boat and Emily Blunt as the oceanographer willing to take the risk when the cage goes in the water.

Easy Rider

How fun would this be? Let’s rework the classic American outlaw motorcycle ride! Who’s the laid back badass looking for an unsoiled America? We’d put the great Viola Davis in Peter Fonda’s role. For the thoughtful square up for an adventure, we swap Amy Adams in for Jack Nicholson. And who could fill legendary wacko Dennis Hopper’s motorcycle boots? We want Melissa McCarthy. (Come to think of it, she’d give Blue Velvet an interesting new take as well.)

Glengarry Glen Ross

Who on this earth could take the place of Alec Baldwin with perhaps the greatest venomous monologue in film history? Jennifer Lawrence – can you see it? We really, really want to see a movie with JLaw chewing up and spitting out this much perfectly penned hatred.

“Put that coffee down!”

And at whom should she spew? The wondrous Meryl Streep should take Jack Lemmon’s spot as loser Shelley Levine. We’d put Kate Winslet in Pacino’s slick winner Ricky Roma role and Kristin Scott Thomas in Ed Harris’s shadowy Dave Moss spot. Then we’d pull it all together with the magnificent Tilda Swinton in the weasely role worn so well by Kevin Spacey.

Predator

We knew we needed an action film, but who could be the new Schwarzenegger? Our vote: Michelle Rodriguez. We then put the ever formidable Helen Mirren in the Carl Weathers boss role. Obviously. The ragtag group of soldiers sent to, one by one, to be skinned alive? Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington and Gina Carano. Done.

Reservoir Dogs

Picture it:

Ms. Orange (Tim Roth): Rosamund Pike

Ms. White (Harvey Keitel): Julianne Moore

Ms. Blond (Michael Madsen): Charlize Theron (Cannot wait to see her get her crazy on.)

Ms. Pink (Steve Buscemi): Lupita Nyongo

Ms. Brown (Tarantino): Shailene Woodley

Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn): Cate Blanchett

Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney): Kathy Bates

 

All right, Hollywood. We’ve done the hard part. Now get on it! All we ask is executive producer status and points on the back end.





Song Sung Blue

Song One

By George Wolf

Song One is a lot like the indie folk music that permeates it: pleasant, well-intentioned, and a bit bland.

Anne Hathaway stars as Franny, an anthropology student working overseas who must rush back home to New York after a family tragedy. Her brother Henry, an aspiring musician, is struck by a cab while walking in traffic, and Franny returns to find him in a coma, fighting for his life.

Searching Henry’s apartment for familiar items that might help revive him, Franny finds concert tickets to see a folkie named James Forester (Johnny Flynn). She attends the show, and waits in the autograph line to tell Forester about her brother’s admiration for him. The conversation sparks a sweet friendship, and James is soon visiting Henry and hanging out with Franny and her ex-hippie mom (Mary Steenburgen).

Will friendship turn to romance? Will James find inspiration to cure his songwriter’s block? Bet you can guess.

It’s the debut feature for writer/director Kate Barker-Froyland, and predictability is not what ultimately keeps Song One from resonating. Yes, the terrain is plenty familiar, but this love letter to the power of music suffers most from contrivance and precious few powerful moments.

Flynn’s performance is tender but tentative, and though is he obviously a talented musician, the original songs elicit little more than the nod you give that guy at a party who suddenly finds a guitar. He’s in way over his head alongside Hathaway, who dials it down but can’t keep her natural talent from casting a big shadow over her co star.

There is some promise here. The film is well shot and Barker-Froyland often seems to sense how thin the drama is, pumping it up with enough good intentions to keep any eye-rolling at bay. When her storytelling talent catches up with her technical skills, then she may have a hit on her hands.

 

Verdict-2-5-Stars