Tag Archives: Will Smith

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.





Movie:  Focus

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Nicky (Will Smith) is a thief.  But he’s no smash and grab, pull a gun for a liquor store hold-up kind of crook.  Nicky is a gentleman thief, a smooth talking sleight-of-hand master artist who can sweet talk you while he is emptying your wallet.  Nicky has confederates that work with him as well, up to a 30 person crew who hit the streets during a big event, such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or a Super Bowl week, and they pluck the valuables out of people in crowds like taking candy from a baby.

One night the stunningly beautiful Jess (Margot Robbie) fumbles her way into Nicky’s life as she tries an amateurish con game on him.  Nicky takes Jess under his wing, teaching her skills to pluck the marks, and finds her to be a quick study.  And from there, the game is afoot.

Visually this is a fun ride.  The actors, especially Will Smith and Margot Robbie, are extremely attractive, and the New Orleans and Vegas setting are appealing.  The first 30 minutes of the movie are probably the most entertaining, as we see the crew employ various stratagems to distract the marks and clean them out.  It is fast paced, entertaining, and authentic, as the actors have been trained by real life security expect and master sleight-of-hand artist Apollo Robbins.  But then things get bogged down, as an elaborate big con unfolds.  Expect some of the usual twists and turns, things are never as they seem.  Some plot twists are actually pretty good here.  Bottom line:  not a bad way to spend two hours.

Actor To Watch For:  Gerald McRaney is the most interesting actor in the film.  He has come a long way from his Simon And Simon TV days.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Nicky – “At the end of the day, it’s a game of focus.  You get that focus, you take whatever you want.”

Gunman:  “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you?”  Nicky – “I’m drawing a blank.”

Jess – “Who was the cop with the wandering hand?”  Nicky – “Oh, he was real.”

Nicky – “There’s no earth shattering hump in the works?”

“In spite of all my hard work, you turned into a good person.  Love will get you killed in this racket.”