Tag Archives: Peter Dinklage

Tongue Tied & Twisted

Cyrano

by Hope Madden

Filmmaker Joe Wright hits and misses, but always with panache, which is why I look forward to each of his films. His take on Cyrano was especially appealing because Peter Dinklage plays the titular poet, and he never misses.

If your only experience with this material is Steve Martin’s 1987 rom-com Roxanne, prepare yourself. Wright’s reimagining is a musical version of Edmond Rostand’s 19th Century play, with an adaptation courtesy of Dinklage’s wife, Erica Schmidt. And it’s definitely not funny.

Originally, Cyrano de Bergerac was a man with a massive nose. Too ugly for his beloved Roxanne, he agrees to feed brilliant lines to the dim-witted Christian so that he may instead woo the lovely lady.

Molding the tale to fit Dinklage is the film’s greatest accomplishment. The brash, angry romantic has never been so heartbreaking or sympathetic, with every flash of pain, indignation and outrage playing across Dinklage’s face. Plus, he can sing!

Wright’s staging sometimes beguiles, sometimes bores. One musical number boasts intoxicating theatricality, the next resembles a seasonal fragrance ad. Still, the set design is astonishing throughout, and there is no denying this cast.

Haley Bennett’s sumptuous Roxanne cannot help but seduce you, while Ben Mendelsohn’s unseemly De Guiche drips with villainy. Kelvin Harrison Jr. brings sincere tenderness to the role of Christian, and the infamous scene where Cyrano speaks for Christian, winning him the first exquisite kiss, takes on a beautiful tenderness thanks to Harrison Jr.’s chemistry with Dinklage.

Schmidt’s script streamlines wisely enough, but something feels unbalanced in the material. The result is unwieldy and messy, though Wright captures a number of remarkable sequences. Every moment between Cyrano and Roxanne is exquisite, and the balance of the cast wrings emotion from each interaction.

Aside from one, the songs by Aaron and Bryce Dressner of The National are forgettable, and the one that does hit feels contextually tangential—as if they had a great song that had little to do with the story, but they wedged it in, anyway.  

This new Cyrano is another hit and miss for Wright, but Peter Dinklage retains his crown as the most endlessly fascinating and watchable actor on the screen. He’s reason enough not to miss this movie. 

Search for Tomorrow

The Croods: A New Age

by George Wolf

At least two things have happened since we met The Croods seven years ago. One, we’ve forgotten about the Croods, and two, Dreamworks has plotted their return.

A New Age gets the caveman clan back together with some talented new voices and a hipper approach for a sequel that easily ups the fun factor from part one.

The orphaned Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) has become part of pack Crood, which is fine with everyone except papa Grug (Nicolas Cage), who isn’t wild about the teen hormones raging between Guy and Eep (Emma Stone).

The nomadic gang is continuing their search for the elusive “tomorrow” when they stumble onto the Stone Age paradise of Phil and Hope Betterman (Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann, both priceless). The Betterman’s lifestyle puts the “New Age” in this tale, and they hatch a plan to send the barbaric Croods on their way while keeping Guy for their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran).

But a funny thing happens along the way. Check that, many things happen, and plenty of them funny, in a film that nearly gets derailed by the sheer number of characters and convolutions it throws at us.

The new writing team of Kevin Hageman, Dan Hageman and Paul Fisher keeps the adventure consistently madcap with some frequent LOLs (those Punch Monkeys are a riot) and even topical lessons on conservation, individuality and girl power.

Or maybe that should read Granny Power, since it is Gran’s (Cloris Leachman) warrior past that inspires the ladies to don facepaint, take nicknames and crank up a theme song from Haim as they take a stand against some imposing marauders.

Director Joel Crawford – an animation vet – keeps his feature debut fast moving and stylish, drawing performances from his talented cast (which also includes Catherine Keener and Clark Duke) that consistently remind you how important the “acting” can be in voice acting.

By the time Tenacious D drops in to see what condition the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” is in, the whole affair starts to feel like some sort of animated head trip.

Yeah, a little sharper focus wouldn’t hurt, but A New Age delivers the good time you forgot to remember to wonder where it’s been.

In the Name of the Son

Three Christs

by Hope Madden

“Three grown men who believe they are Jesus Christ—it’s almost comical,” reads Bradley Whitford’s Clyde, a Ypsilanti mental patient who happens to be one of those three men. There is something bittersweet and meta about his reading that particular line from Dr. Stone’s (Richard Gere) report on the experimental procedure the doctor is undertaking with his three chosen patients.

On its surface, Three Christs itself seems almost comical. Whitford, Walton Goggins and Peter Dinklage play real life patients institutionalized in Michigan in the 1960s, each of whom believed they were Jesus. Just below the surface is a sad, lonesome story of a medical system ill-equipped and unwilling to treat the individual, and of the peculiar, touching struggles of three souls lost within that system.

Director Jon Avnet, writing with Eric Nazarian, adapts social psychologist Milton Rokeach’s nonfiction book on his own study, “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.”

Whitford’s performance is fine, but he’s somewhat out of his league when compared to Dinklage and Goggins. Dinklage is the film’s heartbeat and he conveys something simultaneously vulnerable and superior in his behavior. He’s wonderful as always, but it’s Goggins who steals this film.

Walton Goggins continues to be an undervalued and under-recognized talent. He can play anything from comic relief to sadistic villainy to nuanced dramatic lead (check out his turn in Them That Follow for proof of the latter). Here the rage that roils barely beneath the surface speaks to the loneliness and pain of constantly misunderstanding and being misunderstood that has marked his character’s entire life.

Gere is the weakest spot in the film. He charms, and his rare scenes with Juliana Margulies, playing Stone’s wife Ruth, are vibrant and enjoyable. But in his responses to his patients and in his struggles against the system (mainly embodied by Stephen Root and Kevin Pollak), he falls back on headshakes, sighs and bitter chuckles.

Aside from two of the three Christs’ performances, Avent’s film looks good but lacks in focus, failing to hold together especially well. The point of the extraordinary treatment method is never very clear, nor is its progress. Stone’s arc is also weak, which again muddies the point of the film.

Three Christs misses more opportunities than it grabs, which is unfortunate because both Dinklage and especially Goggins deliver performances worth seeing.

Truth in Advertising

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

by George Wolf

In any form, great writing is a joy to behold. On the movie screen, pair it with skilled actors and you’re more than halfway home to a memorable experience.

Three Billboards… gets all the way home.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh provides his stellar ensemble with smart, insightful dialog that crackles with bite, poignancy and scattershot hilarity. His tale is offbeat but urgent and welcome, speaking as it does to grief, compassion, and navigating the contrasts between the good and evil in our flawed selves.

Frances McDormand is sensational as Mildred, a woman still haunted by the unsolved murder of her daughter seven months earlier. Passing by a series of abandoned billboards on her rural drive home one evening, Mildred decides to rent them, publicly asking Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, capping off a year of multiple great performances) why there have been no arrests.

This is not a popular move, not with the Sheriff, his violent deputy (Sam Rockwell – fantastic), Mildred’s abusive ex-husband (John Hawkes), her embarrassed son (Lucas Hedges) or…who else ya got?

Only an enthusiastic co-worker (Amanda Warren) and a hopeful suitor (Peter Dinklage) offer support, leaving Mildred as a small-town pariah.

She is unmoved, and McDormand crafts Mildred with meaningful layers, as a foul-mouthed firebrand lashing out at injustice and sorrow with a defiant lack of concern for consequence. She is absolutely award-worthy, as are Rockwell and Harrelson, and as their character arcs take unexpected detours, the film displays its relevant social conscience through both subtlety and aggression.

McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) compliments his usual knack for piercing wordplay with well-paced visual storytelling and some downright shocking tonal shifts. We are constantly engaged but never quite at ease, as McDonagh demands our attention through brutality and dark humor, holding the moments of humanity until they will be most deeply satisfying.

Behind Three Billboards..are performers able to create rich, indelible characters and a bold filmmaker whose vision and instincts have never been more on point.





Anger Mismanagement

The Angry Birds Movie

by Rachel Willis

There have been a number of movies based on video games. From 1993’s Super Mario Brothers to the upcoming Tomb Raider movie, Hollywood has not shied away from mining video games as source material for film.

One of the latest in the video game to movie genre is The Angry Birds Movie, a film that seeks to explain why those birds who love to launch themselves at green pigs with enormous slingshots are so angry.

The focal character of the movie is Red, voiced by Jason Sudekis, an already angry bird living in a community of happy birds. Red’s anger gets him in trouble and he finds himself placed in anger management where he meets Bomb, Chuck, and Terence.

The arrival of a large number of green pigs to the birds’ island sets off warning bells for Red, but the other birds are happy to welcome the newcomers and chastise Red for his quickness to antagonism.

The major problem with Angry Birds is the lack of story. At 97 minutes, the movie has a lot of time to fill, and in the first half, the audience has to sit through quite a few montage sequences that are boring even for the youngest viewer. It isn’t until the second half of the movie, when the pigs reveal their true motives for landing on the birds’ island, that the movie starts to pick up. Where the first 45 minutes of the movie drag, the second 45 minutes make up for it with the action we know and love from the video game. The plot comes together, and children and their parents can both find something to enjoy.

The voice actors are myriad and lend their talents well to the film. Danny McBride as Bomb, and Peter Dinklage as Mighty Eagle, both stand out in their roles, providing much needed humor throughout. Jason Sudekis manages to carry a lot on his shoulders as the leading angry bird, but far too often the jokes he’s given to work with fall flat.

It’s unfortunate that the film isn’t 20 minutes shorter, as it might have been more appealing to both young and old had the screenwriters recognized the limitations of their source material.

Verdict-2-5-Stars





Like a Boss

The Boss

by Rachel Willis

The Boss is a comedic story of one woman’s fall from the top and her struggle to regain her position in the world.

Melissa McCarthy is Michelle Darnell, a high powered executive who writes a brand of self-help books. Her fall comes at the hands of former lover and business rival, Ronald (Peter Dinklage).

Kristen Bell is Michelle’s long suffering assistant, Claire, who is forced to find a new employer when Michelle is incarcerated for insider trading. The early setup foretells the redemption of Michelle, though the ways in which it happens are unpredictable and provide the bulk of the movie’s many jokes.

As a vehicle for Melissa McCarthy, The Boss has a number of laughs. Sharp wit, foul language, and bodily humor combine to offer an appealing repertoire of McCarthy’s talents. However, the movie itself falls flat. The supporting cast is underutilized. Kristen Bell, herself a witty and capable actress, is lackluster against McCarthy. The chemistry is non-existent, and the two characters never seem to foster a believable relationship.

The screenplay doesn’t know what to do with anyone other than McCarthy. Though a decent portion of the film revolves around Bell’s character, her scenes independent of McCarthy are mildly tedious.

Peter Dinklage, another actor with an incredible range of talent, has a woefully small amount of screen time, and though he plays Michelle’s former lover who both hates and still wants her, he has no sexual chemistry or tension with McCarthy. The interaction between the characters frequently feels forced.

The only actor who plays well of off McCarthy’s humor is Cedric Yarbrough, the “yes man” Tito, who appears briefly in the beginning of the film, but sadly, doesn’t return after Michelle’s release from prison.

On the whole, the film is disjointed. What could be a cohesive story of Michelle’s fall and attempted rise back to the top is unfortunately punctuated with scenes that don’t really fit the narrative: a comic book style slow motion fight scene between girls from two warring Girl Scout-like troops, a scene where Michelle has a bad reaction to puffer fish, and others.

Despite the movie’s flaws, it’s not without appeal. Ella Anderson who plays Claire’s daughter, Rachel, is a delightful foil to Michelle’s brash and sarcastic nature. Her emotions based on Michelle’s actions come across as genuine. Her joys and pains are felt by the audience. McCarthy’s humor and flair carries the film in places where in another’s hands it might suffer.

It’s a shame so many of the other characters are without appeal, as The Boss could have been a much stronger comedy.

Verdict-2-5-Stars

NOTE: NSFW trailer (but funny!)