Monthly Archives: December 2016

Collateral Beauty

Movie:  Collateral Beauty

Rating:  3 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:    Howard (Will Smith) is an advertising genius.  He is the majority owner of a successful ad firm along with his best friend Whit (Edward Norton), and life is good.  That is, until someone close to him dies.  From then on, Howard dives into a depression so deep that no one, including his friends and co-workers, can reach him.  He shows up at the office but can no longer function as a boss, or even converse like a normal human being.  He spends weeks building intricate chains of dominoes for reasons that are unfathomable.  He retreats so far inside of himself that his employees begin to doubt he can ever pull out of his mental tailspin.

After three years of Howard’s decline into self exile from the company, the ad firm is teetering on the precipice of financial ruin.  Minority owner Whit concocts a desperate plan to try and force Howard to sign legal papers that will allow the sale of the company.  The plot requires the complicity of Howard’s other best friends Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena).  The three ad company people hire some small time theater actors to interact with Howard to convince him that he is dealing with Love (Keira Knightley), Time (Jacob Latimore), and Death (Helen Mirren).  Much will depend on the acting ability of these little known thespians.

This film teeters dangerously close to getting classified as a “highbrow” movie.  What does that mean?  Usually highbrow movies are made to be intentionally intellectual and deep, and want very much to force the viewer to “get a message” out of it.  These movies are often pretentious, and considered Oscar bait, which is why they open in December to be most visible for awards.  Does that mean a movie is not worth watching for mainstream movie fans?  Not necessarily.  This film has its good points, but it also feels like a conscious effort to get Will Smith that Oscar that eluded him last year when he was not nominated for Concussion.  The cast of heavy hitters make Collateral Beauty worth watching.  It is akin to a Murderers Row of actors with Will Smith having 2 Oscar nominations, Edward Norton 3 nominations, Keira Knightley 2 nominations, Helen Mirren 4 nominations and 1 Oscar, and Kate Winslet with a whopping 7 nominations and 1 Oscar.  Although she has no Oscar nominations to her name, one of the best reasons to see this film is the lovely and talented Naomie Harris.  She gives a winning performance and deserves bigger roles in the future.

Mini Trailers:  Howard – “Why did you get out of bed this morning?  …We’re not just here to sell shit.  Advertising is about connecting.  Everything is about Love, Time and Death.  We long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death.”

Simon – “Half our billings are based on Howard’s relationships.”

Private Investigator – “Howard doesn’t write letters to people.  He writes to things.”

Amy – “Shed your skin, find your life.”

Actor – “You want to gaslight your boss?”

Love – “I’m the fabric of life.  If you accept that, than maybe you can live again.

Howard – “It turns out Death is an elderly white woman.”

“Just make sure you notice the collateral beauty.”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:  No one can continuously ride a ten speed bike the wrong way on crowded New York City streets without quickly becoming tire jam.




Miss Sloane

Movie:  Miss Sloane

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Will Rogers once said, “We have the best Congress money can buy.”  Where do you think that money comes from that flows to elected officials in hopes of swaying their votes for particular bills?  From lobbyists, of course.  And no lobbyist is better at the game than Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), ace of the Cole/Kravitz/Waterman firm led by the amoral George Dupont (Sam Waterston).  When the U.S. Senate was preparing to vote on a Brady Bill for gun control, the gun lobby folks with their bags of money come courting  Miss Sloane to engage her to snuff out the gun legislation bill, but they get a major shock when she turns them down flat.  Even worse, she jumps ship with her young team of eager beaver assistants to join forces with the anti-gun forces, in the person of Rodolpho Schmidt (Mark Strong), head of the Peterson/Wyatt firm.

Schmidt’s firm is much smaller and has almost no capital to wage this war.  It’s a classic David versus Goliath battle, and the anti-gun side’s only ace card is Miss Sloane.  She is considered the best in her field because she is a brilliant tactician, unpredictable in her strategy, and is totally committed to the point of being ruthless.  Her success has come at a cost; she has no personal life to speak of, she pops mysterious pills to get her through the day and endures insomnia at night.  In short, she is a driven workaholic.  Her main assistant in the fight is Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a young woman committed to the cause and hiding a dark secret about her past.  Together the young team fighting for the Brady Bill desperately try to secure the 60 votes they need for victory in the Senate, while contending with the ploys of their unscrupulous gun opponents.

In some respects this film is a bit predictable, as they portray the gun lobby in a very negative light.  But then again, they are making vast amounts of money off of weapons, so screw them.  Jessica Chastain is brilliant in this role, willing to present Miss Sloane as a cold and calculating operator with few redeeming qualities.  Look for Chastain to secure a Best Actress nomination.  This is a political thriller packed with suspense, and does not disappoint with the ending.  Solid entertainment.

Mini Trailers:  Sloane – “The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition, and plays their trump card after the opposition plays theirs.”

Lawyer to Sloane – “They will rile you so bad they’ll make Gandhi want to cut their tongues out.”

Gun Lobbyist – “We want to change the narrative from mothers losing their children to guns to mothers protecting their children with guns.”

George Dupont – “Christ, this is the Gun Lobby.  Do you have any idea how long I’ve been trying to reel them in?”

Esme Mahucharian – “For every dollar the Brady people spend, do you know how much the Gun Lobby spends?  Thirty-eight dollars!”

Sloane – “Does anyone in this room think the government should do away with the requirement for drivers licenses?  So why should we expect less for gun ownership?”

Rodolpho Schmidt to Sloane – “You compared the U.S. Constitution to a horoscope?”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:  Attention you evil people out there.  Beware of cockroaches….