After the Wedding

September 3, 2019 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

A remake of writer-director Susanne Bier’s 2006 Oscar-nominated Danish film of the same name, the American version of After the Wedding is repackaged and scrubbed of all emotional value. Despite earning nine career Oscar nominations and one win between them, actors Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) and Julianne Moore (Still Alice) are bogged down by the film’s lethargic storytelling, not to mention a narrative brimming with artificial family melodrama.

It’s difficult to discuss After the Wedding without giving away the major reveal in the script, so apologies for sounding vague in the description. Williams stars as Isabel Andersen, the head of an orphanage in India who’s doing everything in her power to make a good life for the children under her care. When rich New York media mogul Theresa Young (Moore) offers to donate $2 million to her cause if Isabel travels to America to meet in person, she makes the trip and, in turn, is invited to the wedding of Theresa’s daughter Grace (Abby Quinn), so they can “get to know each other better.”

Characters’ intentions begin to blur when Isabel shows up to the wedding and sees that Grace’s father Oscar (Billy Crudup) is a man from her past. Is the coincidence merely that, or was there something amiss with Theresa’s initial invitation? What’s the connection between Oscar and Isabel that makes her react like she was just socked in the stomach? Screenwriter and director Bart Freundlich (Wolves) doesn’t handle the mysterious nature of their relationship well. He drags out the inevitable twist to an unbearable degree, only to let it land with a thud.

Once the big announcement is made, Freundlich proceeds to unpack his screenplay in frustratingly short scenes, which fail to expand on anything that would realistically solve the issues the characters are thrown into. For example, in one scene, Grace shows up to Isabel’s hotel room to talk about their situation, but the conversation lasts just long enough for them to exchange numbers so they can talk later.

After the Wedding continues to flounder around like this for the rest of its run time. Freundlich tries to give the remake a reason to exist by swapping genders with the Danish film’s two leads, but the change-up creates plot problems rather than providing unique contrast.

Despite their satisfying performances, Williams and Moore aren’t given enough depth to explore their complex circumstances. Their conflict feels forced and underdeveloped. There’s talent in front of the camera, but very little in the firm rings true — even as a glorified soap opera.

Ep. 116 – Venom, A Star is Born

October 7, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

The CineSnob Podcast returns from its summer abroad, with reviews of “Venom” and “A Star is Born.” Cody also gives us a recap of Fantastic Fest, and we remind you to go download our friend Greg Sestero’s movie “Best F(r)iends: Vol. 1.”

Click here to download the episode!

Venom

October 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams
Directed by: Ruben Fleisher (“Zombieland,” “Gangster Squad”)
Written by: Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) and Kelly Marcel (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) and Will Beall (“Gangster Squad”)

Do you remember the old days, post-Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe, when comic book movies were these weird standalone things, and studios were pulling out all the stops to try and get them to stick? We got mediocre to terrible movies like “Hulk,” “Daredevil,” and “Ghost Rider” out of the deal that each had to build a world where the main character was humanity’s first superhero. It sucked.

Apparently Sony, with their Tom Holland Spider-Man on loan to the MCU, looked back fondly on this era and realized they had the rights to Spider-Man’s arch nemesis Venom and thought “fuck it, let’s just make a ‘Venom’ movie with no Spider-Man whatsoever – that should be fine.”

It isn’t. “Venom” is the opposite of fine.

Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a hotshot investigative journalist in San Francisco with a hit TV show who dresses like I imagine Tom Hardy dresses all the time. When he’s given the chance to interview rocket-obsessed tech billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) after his latest spacecraft crashes on re-entry, Brock instead sneaks into the email of his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams, paying for a new vacation house, I guess) and notices people are dying in some human trials Drake is conducting (because, you see, Anne is one of his lawyers).

Anyway, instead of asking Drake about the spaceship (that, oops, brought back violent alien “symbiotes” that take over people’s bodies), Brock grills him about the human testing and promptly gets thrown out on his ass from the interview, his job and his relationship. Six months later, a down-and-out Brock is approached by Dr. Skirth (Jenny Slate), a whistleblower in the company who wants to put an end to Drake’s experiments. She sneaks him into the company headquarters (on property overlooking Horseshoe Bay that will apparently once become Starfleet HQ) where, in an effort to save a woman he knows from being experimented on, Brock becomes infected with a wise-cracking, head-eating symbiote known as Venom.

While “Venom” nakedly wants to be like “Deadpool,” the way it’s been clearly hacked into a PG-13 rating and the weird desire to turn the inky black monster into a do-gooder almost immediately blunts the whole thing from the start. Still, Hardy gives a wonderfully batshit if dimwitted performance at times, but alas that’s nowhere near enough to overcome the utter stupidity of Drake’s motivation or the unintentional comedy peppered throughout the film, be it an odd push in on a background scientist’s troubled reaction or making four-time Academy Award-nominee tenderly deliver the line “I’m sorry about Venom.”

No, Michelle, Sony is the one who should be sorry about Venom.

Manchester by the Sea

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count On Me”)
Written by: Kenneth Lonergan (“Gangs of New York”)

Tragedy and grief are some of the universal occurrences that every human on the Earth experiences. It is where we, as people, often find ourselves at the lowest. It is also a test of strength. Many films this year will deal with how people, sometimes normal, sometimes in the spotlight, deal with that tragedy. “Jackie” for example, follows Jackie Kennedy in the hours and days following her husband’s assassination. But perhaps no film this year quite explores the wake of tragedy like “Manchester by the Sea,” a powerful ensemble character study of a devastated family.

After the death of his brother, Lee (Casey Affleck) must return to the Massachusetts fishing village that he left years ago to take care of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Reluctantly, Lee tries to deal with his current situation while simultaneously dealing with past experiences with his now estranged ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams). Through these experiences, Lee and Patrick try to bond and make the best of an unenviable situation.

Leading the way of the ensemble is Affleck, who is primed to nab his first Oscar nomination since 2008 and is likely the frontrunner to win. It’s a subtle and subdued performance, but also one that has nuance and depth. There’s a certain pain in Affleck’s face that is visible in almost every scene. His character has lost the ability to interact and function on a normal level and Affleck displays this perfectly with vacant eyes that stare off into the distance. Not to be outdone, Affleck’s performance is matched by newcomer Hedges who employs a fantastic Boston accent, and is at times reminiscent of a young Matt Damon. Hedges’ character is a bit rascally, but the way he is able to maintain a level of sweetness as well as display some serious acting chops make for a really empathetic character.

Credit should be given to screenwriter/director Kenneth Lonergan for refusing to pull any punches. Make no mistake: “Manchester by the Sea” is not an easy watch. There are some devastating revelations throughout and many characters face impossible situations. It would be easy for the film to teeter towards melodrama, but it’s a testament to the strength of the screenplay that Lonergan is able to balance these heavier moments with levity and humor, mostly between Affleck and Hedges who continually butt heads.

The film slowly reveals its details, and despite the enormity of the situations, consistently feels grounded and extremely realistic. Perhaps it’s the working class look of the picturesque landscapes of Manchester, or even Affleck’s blue collar job as a handyman, but “Manchester by the Sea” feels authentic and true. Some may find it slow, but those parts are important to show the depths of Affleck’s despair, which is the most important narrative factor of the film.

As Oscar season heats up, “Manchester by the Sea” is undoubtedly a player. Acting nominations will be aplenty and Lonergan’s absorbing script is sure to get some notice. It’s a pretty basic story, with some pretty dramatic turns and although the plot may seem slight, the film is certainly anything but.

Oz the Great and Powerful

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams
Directed by: Sam Raimi (the “Spider-Man” trilogy)
Written by: Mitchell Kapner (“The Whole Nine Yards”) and David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rise of the Guardians”)

There aren’t many movies that your grandparents could have enjoyed as small children that are still capable of entertaining audiences today, but the 1939 MGM classic “The Wizard of Oz” defies convention and remains enjoyable 74 years later. Despite displaying very little of the grammar present in modern filmmaking (like cutaways and performances that aren’t constantly projected toward the back of the theater), “The Wizard of Oz” endures. It’s curious, to say the least, that the last three-quarters of a century has failed to deliver another universally-acclaimed film set in L. Frank Baum’s enchanted Land of Oz. Yeah, sure, there was “The Wiz” and “Return to Oz,” but those remain cult hits at best. Why hasn’t some studio stepped up, eager to craft a modern classic that would also earn them enough cash to build an actual Emerald City?

Twenty-eight years after their aforementioned “Return to Oz” flopped, Disney, um, returns to Oz with the prequel “Oz the Great and Powerful.” James Franco stars as carnival magician Oscar “Oz” Diggs, a low-rent huckster working a sideshow in the dusty Kansas countryside. With the help of his put-upon hype man (Zach Braff), Oz fools the yokels with his sleight of hand and charms the ladies with a never-ending supply of his grandmother’s one-of-a-kind antique jewelry boxes. When one of his romantic encounters comes back to bite him, Oz books it for a hot air balloon. One tornado later, however, and Oz finds himself in Oz. Stumbling out of his wrecked balloon, Oz meets the witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) who tells him of a prophecy wherein a wizard named Oz will defeat the Wicked Witch. Who is the Wicked Witch, you ask? Is it naive, love struck Theodora? Her conniving sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz)? Or their rival, glittery, good-hearted Glinda (Michelle Williams)?

Of course it’s not Glinda. I mean we’ve all seen “The Wizard of Oz,” right? Anyway.

Try as he might, director Sam Raimi can’t overcome two big problems that bog “Oz” down. First, the screenplay, credited to Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, creaks and lumbers under the weight of too much exposition and almost-certain corporate interference. It too-often lazily mirrors the plot structure of the 1939 classic. Second, and most disappointing, is that Franco is completely wrong for the part. The movie needed a natural flim flam man – someone with smarmy charisma to spare; someone like Robert Downey Jr., who was originally cast and dropped out. Franco can be a great actor, but when he’s called upon to laugh heartily like a vaudevillian rascal and shout “prestidigitation!”  he sounds more like a high school drama student getting ready to tie a classmate to cardboard railroad tracks while he twirls his mustache. “Oz” is far from a total blunder, though, and a handful of bright spots stand out. Williams’ warm and radiant Glinda, the magnificent and fragile living doll China Girl (voiced by Joey King), and the whiz-bang climax all point toward the rousing adventure the bloated script and James Franco are keeping hidden behind the curtain.

Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

December 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Interviews

If, like me, you were a teenager in the late-’90s, you know Michelle Williams first and foremost as Jen Lindley, the big city bad girl who shook things up in Capeside on The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek.” Since then, her career has taken daring turns, earning her critical acclaim to go along with two Academy Award nominations for her roles in “Brokeback Mountain” and “Blue Valentine.” William’s latest role has her playing none other than Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn.” During my interview, Michelle spoke about the challenge she faced in playing one of the most famous women in history.

Was there any hesitation on your part in taking on such an iconic role, playing Marilyn Monroe?

I knew the moment that I closed the script that I was going to say yes, and that I wanted to play that part and I wanted to make that movie. And that was followed very closely by a feeling of dread because I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I knew I was in for maybe the challenge of my adult work life. So there was hesitation but I kind of had to ignore it because it wasn’t going to help me or get me anywhere good. So I tried to just flip it off like a switch in my head.

I feel like our generation knows Marilyn Monroe strictly as the icon and isn’t really familiar with her films. How familiar were you with her work before you took on this project?

Not at all, really. I was familiar with her from her image. I had pictures of her in my bedroom when I was growing up, and I’ve always been drawn to her image, even recently. I think a lot of people are, though. She transmitted so much through just a simple photograph. But I really wasn’t familiar with her film work at all.

The film takes place over the course of a week. Was it a challenge to distill the essence of Marilyn into such a small time frame, story-wise?

Actually, in some ways, it was a real comfort. This movie isn’t a “biopic.” We don’t start at the beginning and end at the end. Its not a tragedy. There are tragic elements to Marilyn Monroe. She carried them with her. But the movie itself isn’t a tragedy. Its a moment in time, and some of that moment in time is a real fairy tale. Its a treat, a confection, its a fun ride. And so I felt comforted by the fact that I didn’t have an obligation to her whole life story. And really, she’s a character in this movie. It’s not “The Marilyn Monroe Show.” She’s one of a cast of colorful characters that tells this story.

You open the film singing the song “Heat Wave.” Was this your first time singing on camera?

Yes, [it was] my first time probably singing and dancing on camera. The last time singing and dancing was on a stage when I was 8 or 9.

Blue Valentine

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance (“Brother Tied”)
Written by: Derek Cianfrance (“Brother Tied”), Cami Delavigne (debut), Joey Curtis (“Brother Tied”)

As difficult as it is to watch at times, the contemporary relationship drama “Blue Valentine” doesn’t come without reward.

In “Blue Valentine,” Academy Award nominees Ryan Gosling (“Half Nelson”) and Michelle Williams (“Brokeback Mountain”) play Dean and Cindy, a hopeless couple on marital life support. The lack of intimacy between husband and wife is uncomfortable. Even taking a shower together is a searing reminder that there’s nothing left to salvage.

Written as an uncompromising nonlinear narrative (think “500 Days of Summer” with a mean streak), director/screenwriter Derek Cianfrance puts emphasis on the dysfunctional interaction between its emotionally-depleted characters. By doing this, he allows Gosling and Williams to lumber through this loveless marriage with so much attention to detail in every move and expression they make.

“Blue Valentine” features characters at their emotional low points. It’s almost as if they are addicted to each other’s unhappiness. Watching this unfold is both depressing and gripping. With heart-wrenching performances by the leads and an intensely affecting script, “Blue Valentine” proves that misery truly does love company.