Tag Archives: Helen Mirren

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.




Eye In The Sky

Movie:  Eye In The Sky

Rating:  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   We all know about the War On Terrorism, but it is an undeclared war.  We are not at war with a country, but on an ideology of terror, so nations fighting these terrorists must act under certain protocols.  The military act under Rules Of Engagement (ROE), and can only resort to military action if certain legal parameters are met, and civilian authority approves the use of force.  These restraints are necessary, but can lead to dicey situations where decision making is difficult at best.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) wakes up in Surrey, England one morning to be advised that British national Susan Danford (Lex King), a terrorist that has been hunted for six long years, has been spotted in Nairobi, Kenya.  This information has been provided by Kenyan special forces coordinating with the British military, and facial recognition support provided by the U.S. Image Analysis Office at Pearl Harbor.  There is masterful coordination of real time data among the three countries, with audio and visual signals whipping around the world via satellite imagery.  And of course the “eye in the sky”, a high flying unmanned drone  that is flying over Nairobi piloted by a U.S. Air Force officer at Creech AFB, Nevada by one Lt Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), who alone has the ability to release the devastating power of a Hellfire missile.

In addition to the British terrorist, there are several other high ranking terrorists all gathered in one location, clearing plotting to create mayhem in the city within a short time interval.  Time is of the essence to stop them, but Col Powell must seek authority to take military action, and calls Lt Gen Benson (Alan Rickman) at Whitehall in London, who in turn must deal with an escalating array of civilian authorities in England as well as the United States, all concerned with the issue of collateral damage.

This is a fantastic movie, as timely as it is well done.  This is not an action movie, but rather a story that could easily be true, and accurately shows all the moving parts of how difficult decisions have to play out when deploying force in a foreign land.  The acting is brilliant, and the tension is slowly and continuously ratcheted up until the viewers are holding their breath for an outcome.  Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman give bravura performances.  A must see film.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Col Powell – “This is an operation to capture, not kill.  You’re to be our eye in the sky.”

Col Powell – “We need to put a Hellfire into that room right now!”

British Government Official – “Has there ever been a British led drone attack on British and American nationals in a friendly country?”

Lt Watts – “Is my government aware we are targeting a person with a U.S. passport?”

British Legal Officer to Col Powell – “The law is not here to get in your way.  It is here to protect you.”

Lt Gen Benson – “Minister, do we have authority to prosecute the target?”

Lt Gen Benson to Civilian Minister – “I have attended the aftermath of five suicide bombings on the ground.  Never tell a soldier he does not know the cost of war.”

Nitnoid Criticism:  Helen Mirren was dynamic and perfect in the role of Colonel Powell, though realistically a bit old in real life at 70 to be in the military.  Ditto for Aaron Paul, despite his boyish face, at 36 too old to be a second lieutenant.


Woman In Gold

Movie:  Woman In Gold

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Around 1938 in Austria, it is a bad time for the Jewish population.  Nazi Germany has annexed Austria, and the Jews are being subjected to the same brutal tactics as in the Fatherland, especially where the wealthy are concerned.  The Altmann family is very rich and live in a fine house full of expensive art works.  One in particular, Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer, is stolen by the Nazis and never returned to the family after the war.  Sixty years later in 1998, a feisty 80 year old Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) marches into a Los Angeles law office and asks for help to force an art museum in Austria to return her family’s painting, commonly referred to as The Woman In Gold.  A young American lawyer of Austrian ancestry, Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) takes on the case.

So begins a quest that goes on for several years, taking Maria Altmann back to Austria, a country she vowed to never return to.  Randol Schoenberg believes in the merits of the case, despite the career and financial hardship it costs him to pursue the matter.  Their David and Goliath legal fight took them all the way to the United States Supreme Court (Austria v. Altmann) before it was decided.

This is one of those wonderful small films that come along just a few times a year that have a great cast and a compelling story.  This one has the added benefit of being true.  I would urge movie goers to see this picture before it is squeezed out of theaters to make room for the action laden summer blockbusters in May.

Actresses To Watch:  Of course Helen Mirren is magnificent in this role, as she always is.  She is one of the grand dames of films along with Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.  But pay attention to the 29 year old actress Tatiana Maslany that plays Maria Altmann as a young woman.  She is truly an up and coming star, and you should watch her amazing television show on BBC America, Orphan Black, where she plays at least five separate characters.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Randol to Maria – “Against my better judgment I like you.”

Maria – “The Austrians welcomed the Nazis with flowers and open arms.”

Austrian – “The Woman In Gold is Austria’s Mona Lisa.  They will never let it go!”

Austrian Man to Maria – “Why don’t you just go away?  Everything is not about the Holocaust!”