Ep. 144 – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (spoiler-filled), Cats, Bombshell

December 22, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod have a spoiler-filled discussion of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the insanity of “Cats,” and the pulled punches of “Bombshell.”

Click here to download the episode!

Beatriz at Dinner

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton
Directed by: Miguel Arteta (“Cedar Rapids”)
Written by: Mike White (“School of Rock”)

Personalities and political opinions clash in superb fashion in director Miguel Arteta’s satirical, dark dramedy “Beatriz at Dinner,” a film that is thematically timely in the volatile partisan climate the country finds itself in today, but doesn’t overstate its message one way or another. Arteta and screenwriter Mike White (“School of Rock”), by staying vague about their personal political views, keep the narrative ambiguous and provocative, which fares well for its polar-opposite main characters.

In “Beatriz at Dinner,” Salma Hayek, giving her best performance since her Oscar-nominated title role in the 2003 biopic “Frida,” stars as Beatriz, an Los Angeles masseuse a holistic healer who has recently felt more alienated as a Mexican immigrant after one of her neighbors purposefully kills her pet goat. Emotionally drained, Beatriz finds herself at a client’s home in an upscale L.A. neighborhood for a massage appointment. Beatriz has known her client, Cathy (Connie Britton), for a while now. She used to give therapy to Cathy’s cancer-stricken daughter. There is an obvious history and a quasi-friendship present—at least a superficial type, since Beatriz is there providing a service.

The dynamic of their relationship is altered, however, when Cathy invites Beatriz to stay for a dinner party after Beatriz’s car won’t start and she has to wait for a friend to pick her up. Cathy’s husband Grant (David Warshofsky) really doesn’t think it’s a great idea that she stays, since they are hosting a couple of his business partners, including billionaire real estate mogul Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), so they can talk about the new shopping mall they’re going to build.

Ideologies come to a head when Doug, a Donald Trump-esque character (although “Beatriz at Dinner” was written before Trump ran for President), and Beatriz find themselves sitting across from each other at the dinner table and later in another part of the mansion for dessert and drinks. Beatriz is dismayed when she realizes that Doug might be the real estate tycoon who ruined her home town in Mexico with his invasive construction projects. Their conversation comes to a boil when Doug shares pictures with the group of his recent safari expedition where he killed a rhino.

Hayek and Lithgow are perfectly cast in their roles. The moments they share of brazen offensiveness and sheer discomfort might leave audiences squirming in their seats as they witness two strong characters who refuse to back down from confrontation. The film is reminiscent of two other character-driven movies released 20 years apart, the 1995 dark comedy “The Last Supper,” and the 2015 Brazilian film “The Second Mother.” The first pits a group of left-wing young adults who host dinner parties for conservative guests and end up poisoning them if their politics are too offensive to their liberal sensibilities. The other, focuses on the way a well-to-do family’s dynamic shifts when they invite their housekeeper’s daughter to live with them before she gets ready to go to college.

In “Beatriz at Dinner,” Arteta and White keep the dialogue biting without allowing either Doug or Beatriz to maul each other with their incompatible beliefs. The open-ended final minutes of the film might turn some viewers off, who were hoping for some kind of final showdown, but like life, there are usually no winners when it comes to politically-charged discourse and discord.

Love is Strange

September 26, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei
Directed by: Ira Sachs (“Keep the Lights On”)
Written by: Ira Sachs (“Keep the Lights On”) and Mauricio Zacharias (“Keep the Lights On”)

It’s difficult not to find “Love is Strange” likeable despite its many flaws. Anchored by moving and understated performances by Oscar nominee John Lithgow (“Terms of Endearment”) and Alfred Molina (“Frida”), it’s the kind of film that demands respect, especially since it’s filling a void in LGBT cinema where stories tend to be more about a younger generation and their struggles to find or confront their sexual identity. When is the last time you saw a love story between two men around the age of 65-70? Unless we’re talking about smaller documentaries like “Before You Know It,” “Gen Silent,” or “88 Years in the Closet,” it’s extremely rare. Even when actor Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for playing a gay octogenarian in the 2010 comedy/drama “Beginners,” the lover he chose was much younger. With that said, “Love is Strange” breaks some important barriers, but not without writing itself into some messy scenarios that feel way more complicated than they had to be.

The film opens with Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina), two older gentlemen dressed to the nines, walking through the streets of Manhattan as if they were going to a nearby café to have a cup of coffee like it was any other morning. This is far from any other morning, however. This is Ben and George’s wedding day. After a nearly 40-year relationship, the couple has decided to make it official. Their joy is short-lived, however, when George, a music teacher at an Archdiocese-run school, is fired from his position since his marriage violates the Christian Witness Statement he signed when he was hired. Now on an extremely fixed income, Ben and George are forced to sell their apartment and temporarily sleep under different roofs until they can find a new home (none of their family or friends who live in the city can accommodate both men, a plot point that is hard to swallow, but important to the overall narrative). With Ben staying with his nephew and his family (Marisa Tomei plays the overly annoyed wife) and George staying with younger gay friends, the two men must do something they’ve never had to do during their entire relationship: live apart.

“Love is Strange” is best when Lithgow and Molina share the screen. Of course, this only takes place a handful of times during the film since their situation keeps them separated. When the two talk about their lives and the sometimes painful past, it’s a beautiful way to show just how comfortable and sensible 40 years of companionship has molded their relationship. Ben and George have known for a long time that they work better as a couple. Director/co-writer Ira Sachs (“Keep the Lights On”) makes sure audiences can feel that security and compassion when they interact.

Where “Love is Strange” struggles is in the secondary family story it tries so desperately to fit into Ben and George’s difficult circumstance. It’s especially true with Lithgow who somehow ends up becoming a burden on his nephew’s wife and their teenage son. The fact that everyone gets so aggravated so quickly rings immensely false. It’s almost as if Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias felt they had to impose some sort of conflict to make the film find another emotional layer it could’ve easily done without (or done without the exaggeration).

Lithgow and Molina’s chemistry, however, is all the emotion “Love is Strange” needs. The deeper Sachs and Zacharias could’ve delved into that touching story and focused more on the quieter moments, the more the film would’ve felt true to form.