Tag Archives: Antonio Banderas

They Don’t Like Me, They Really Don’t Like Me

Official Competition

by George Wolf

Who’s more full of it: The cinema snob who dismisses whatever’s popular, or the escapist fan wary of any whiff of highbrow? Awards shows, or those who protest them too much? Film festival agenda twisters, or film festival attention whores?

Official Competition is here to nominate them all. Co-directors Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat (both also co-write with Andrés Duprat) come armed with plenty of knives, and their mischievous and wonderfully witty satire has them out for pretty much everyone involved in movie making.

When an 80 year-old millionaire (José Luis Gómez) decides his legacy should involve producing the film version of a Nobel prize-winning novel, critic’s darling Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz) gets the call to direct. But Lola insists on adapting “La Rivalidad” with a unique vision, one that starts with casting polar opposites in the lead roles.

Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) is the worldwide box office star, while Iván Torres (Oscar Martinez) is the legendary thespian. They will play warring brothers, while their own philosophical clashes grow more volatile – and more dryly hilarious – by the day.

And don’t bother looking to Lola for cool-headed problem-solving. She’d rather provoke the tension with a variety of creative exercises – such as wrapping her two stars in restraints and threatening to destroy their most prized awards right in front of their panic-stricken faces.

Subtle it ain’t, but funny it is.

And even when a joke or two lingers a beat past its expiration, this sublime trio of actors makes nearly every frenzied interaction a joy to behold.

Is Lola a motivational genius or a complete fraud? Does Félix have the chops to go toe-to-toe with the prestigious Iván? And does Iván secretly admire Félix’s success? Cruz, Banderas and Martinez are clearly having as much fun acting it out as we are trying to sort it out.

And like much of the best satire, Official Competition is talking about one thing, but saying something else. Its barbs aimed at the movie business may be silly, acerbic and insightful, but none can hide the respect this film has for the entirely mad nature of the creative process.

Call it a love letter, with a completely entertaining ‘smidge of hate.

Green Screen, New Deal

Uncharted

by George Wolf

Just like most – if not all – video game adaptations, Uncharted suffers from being driven more by cheat codes than character. And then later when some people you don’t really care about take time for flippant quips while free-falling over the Banda Sea, the stakes are never going to feel consequential.

But if you set all that aside and give in to the brazen ridiculousness of the latest Indiana Jones knockoff, there’s some fun to be discovered.

Tom Holland steps into the adventurin’ boots of Nathan Drake, a wannabe explorer who’s tending bar in New York when he’s recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) for a big score.

Sure, Nathan knows all about the legend of the “biggest treasure never found.” Somewhere there’s about $5 billion in gold that was stashed away eons ago by Magellan himself, and you know what that means!

It means they’re gonna be short one barkeep come Happy Hour, because Nate’s going globetrotting.

Of course, Nate and Sully aren’t the only ones calling for this booty, and in no time they’re battling a familiar mercenary known as Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), the mysterious Chloe (Sophia Ali), and various goons sent by the villainous Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas).

Holland proves adept at parkour and trading mildly amusing barbs with Wahlberg, leaving director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) to keep his foot on the gas and let the green screen whizzes go to Funkytown.

Not all of that greenery carries ready-for-prime-time polish, but the film’s second half makes sure there’s so much of it in your face you’ll hardly have time to notice.

And if you’re game to keep the brain unplugged, stay put during the credits to notice some extra derring-do that maps out directions for the next Uncharted course.

For A Good Time Call

The Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard

by George Wolf

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is not a great movie – heck it’s barely a good movie – but it is a fun movie. And that last part means the film does have pretty great timing.

Because with so many of us returning to movie theaters for the first time in a long time, what is the majority looking for?

A good time. And this film does deliver it, even if it is just one Fat Bastard away from parody.

In case you’ve forgotten, this is a sequel to 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and returning writer Tom O’Connor gets us up to speed via Michael Bryce’s (Ryan Reynolds) final therapy session with a doctor who can’t wait to be rid of him.

Bryce has lost his AAA bodyguard license, which is going to make it difficult to win the Bodyguard of the Year award he dreams of. Bryce has also sworn off guns, which becomes a problem once the bullets start flying and director Patrick Hughes (also back from part one) rolls out more direct head shots than a zombie apocalypse.

Bryce doesn’t let the lack of licensing stop him from guarding Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek), a spitfire who has no problem shooting first – from the hip or from the lip. Plus, she happens to be married to Bryce’s old nemesis Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). So while Bryce and Darius are bickering about old grudges, Sonia and Darius argue about starting a family (don’t bother thinking about their ages – just go with it).

The dangerous games come from an evil tycoon (Antonio Banderas on a steady diet of scenery) who’s fighting back against E.U. sanctions on Greece, and from a frustrated federal agent (Frank Grillo) who decides his best bet is to work with bad guys in hopes of catching worse guys.

Hughes proves adept at quick-paced action and satisfying set pieces full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but excess. There’s plenty of globe-trotting to beautiful locales, lo-cut costume changes for Hayek and enough all around ridiculousness to make you wonder when Reynolds and Jackson are going to switch faces.

But the starring trio seems to be enjoying it enough to be in perfect sync – with each other and the level of material they’ve been handed. All three may be on auto-pilot, but their banter is an expletive-laden, rapid fire hoot that’s consistently mischievous and sometimes downright hilarious.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard isn’t high art, but it isn’t trying to be. In the words of Bret Michaels and Sam Jackson: it ain’t nothin’ but a good time, motherf^*%$#.

Dolittle Jones

Dolittle

by George Wolf

Man, when I was a kid I wanted a Pushmi-Pullyu so bad.

I would try to get all the way through “If I Could Talk to the Animals” without messing up a lyric, and imagine how fun it would be to get one of those mythical Pushmis delivered in a crate, just like Rex Harrison in 1967’s original Dr. Dolittle.

Over thirty years later, Eddie Murphy ditched the tunes for a more straightforward comedic approach in two franchise updates, and now Robert Downey, Jr. steps in to move the doctor a little closer to Indiana.

Jones, that is.

But’s it’s Indy by way of Victorian-era Britain, as Young Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) calls on the famous animal-taking doctor with a dispatch from Buckingham Palace and an urgent plea to help the deathly ill Queen Victoria herself (Jessie Buckley).

As suspicions arise about Royal Dr. Mudfly (Michael Sheen) and the true nature of the Queen’s ills, Dolittle and friends (some human, most not) set sail on a grand adventure to acquire the cure from King Rassouli (Antonio Banderas), who just happens to be the father of Dolittle’s dear departed Lily (Kasia Smutniak).

Plus, there’s a big dragon.

Director/co-writer Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) re-sets the backstory with an animated fairy tale, then ups the ante on action while letting Downey, Jr. and a menagerie of star voices try to squeeze out all the fun they can.

From Emma Thompson to John Cena, Octavia Spencer to Rami Malek, Tom Holland, Ralph Fiennes and Kumail Nanjiani to Selena Gomez and more, the CGI zoo juggles personalities, while Downey curiously chooses a whispered, husky delivery that sometimes makes his Do a little hard to understand.

But, of course, he still manages to craft an engaging character, even centering the Dr. with a grief just authentic enough for adults without bringing down the childlike wonder.

This is a Dr. Dolittle set on family adventure mode, with plenty of talking animal fun for the little ones and a few clever winks and nudges for the parents. But as the start of a possible franchise, it’s more of a handshake than a high-five. It may not leave you with belly laughs or tunes stuck in your head, but it’s eager to please manner doesn’t hurt a bit.

Dig Deeper

The 33

by Hope Madden

Few true events lend themselves more perfectly to film than the 2010 Chilean mine collapse. There is more drama, peril, resilience, and joy in the facts of this incident than anything that could believably be created in a piece of fiction.

Director Patricia Riggen tackles the story of the miners trapped about half a mile below ground. With food enough for three days, all 33 men survived an impossible 69 days. The story that mesmerized the world is not just of the unbelievable perseverance of the miners themselves, but also of the tenacity of an international team of engineers who worked against both overwhelming odds and an urgent timeclock to save them.

There is no end to the cinematic possibilities available in this deeply moving, thrilling story, which is why it’s so unfortunate that Riggen layers on so much artificial melodrama.

Antonio Banderas and Lou Diamond Phillips anchor a cast saddled with one-dimensional characters, each allowed a particular flaw to overcome or an inspiring trait to benefit the group. Riggen undermines the miners’ struggles by inexplicably skirting a claustrophobic feel, allowing no one the chance to truly panic or lose hope without Saint Mario (Banderas as inspirational leader Mario Sepulveda) swooping in with a word of wisdom to put everyone back on the right track.

Events above ground are treated with even less integrity, as engineers undergo lengthy, obvious epiphanies, and families offer little more than tearfully unwavering support. Riggen’s script, adapted by a team of writers from Hector Tobar’s book “Deep Down Dark,” leeches the human drama and complexity from all the events surrounding the collapse, replacing it with by-the-numbers disaster flick clichés and easy answers.

Most of the actors struggle with accents (I’m looking at you, Gabriel Byrne), and the back and forth use of Spanish and English only further exacerbates the film’s lack of authenticity.

And yet, when that first miner is lifted from his would-be tomb, it is impossible not to be moved. Because this really happened. Thirty three humans spent more than two months 2300 feet below ground, all the while understanding that their chance for survival was infinitesimal. Their ordeal is incomprehensible, and the fight against hopelessness and financial complacency to free them is genuinely inspiring.

The miners received no compensation from the company that stranded them, and this is the best Hollywood can do?

Verdict-2-0-Stars