“West Wing Story” | THE SIMPSONS

Feel free to sing along.

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Preview, “Bombshell” exposes the Fox News “war on women” this December

Lionsgate has a holiday movie that features Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie

Think anybody will show up for this?

Should’ve gotten Russell Crowe to play sexual harasser news chief Roger Ailes. He’s good at it.

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Movie Review: Williams and Moore show us that “After the Wedding” is when the fireworks start

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There are several common problems that come with the territory when a challenging film from abroad is remade and given “a Hollywood ending.”

The remake is inevitably neat and pat, some nuance is lost as the remaking filmmaker seems in a rush to a conclusion that seems forgone. And that’s not just something viewers who remember the original film experience.

I reviewed Susanne Bier’s “After the Wedding” when it came to the U.S. in 2007. All I clearly remember about it was the Danish star Mads Mikkelsen was the Indian orphanage manager shocked at who he meets at the wedding of a possible benefactor of the orphanage. The genders have been changed for the Bart Freundlich remake.

The memory of the rest of the first film is fuzzy, but watching the remake, reveling in the performances of two great actresses in all their glory, that whole “neat and pat” thing dulls some of the impact. The twists are so big and yet muted that you wonder if they ever shocked, even way back when.

Michelle Williams is Isabel, the devoted manager of an Indian orphange that is forever short of funds. She dotes on the children, one little boy in particular, as they play and learn and even partake in their own charitable work — helping feed the hungry outside their gates.

A chance for “a suitcase full of cash” puts Isabel on a plane to New York to meet with an advertising mogul, Theresa (Julianne Moore). “She is very impressive,” Isabel is warned, as she’s fetched from the four-star hotel suite where she’s been parked.

Indeed she is. Theresa is high-powered, rich, used to getting things done and having schedules bent to meet her needs.

Isabel is rushed into a meeting, and barely has time to reiterate the data on child prostitution, the hundreds of thousands of kids who are malnourished “dying of minor illnesses” when Theresa’s endless interruptions reach a crescendo.

This “very busy time” for her is consumed with the showcase wedding she’s throwing for her daughter Grace. Isabel is taking body blows due to the disconnect between acquisitive, status-grabbing affluence and someone, like her, simply trying to feed the hungry, and the patroness who summoned her for this audience is...distracted.

“My work is all consuming” is followed by a hint of judgement. Theresa has “leaned in” to get where she is — a multi-million dollar “landscape changing” media (ad sales) company, two little boys, an estate in the suburbs. And Isabel? No husband? No children of your own?

No matter. “Very very impressive, the work you’re doing.”

The woman with her hand held out has to tamp down the fury as she is all but blown off, her time discounted by the rich woman who “has it all.”

“Come to the wedding. I’ll get to know you better.”

Williams has several such scenes in “After the Wedding” — knocked back on her heels, in need, forced to swallow her bile at the rudeness, tactlessness and judgementally direct questions Theresa, her sculptor-husband (Billy Crudup) and the daughter getting married (Abby Quinn) fire her way.

The four-time Oscar nominee lets us see each fresh wound, Isabel’s deflated recovery, the tactful “I still need a check from these awful rich people” response to every blow.

Because there are surprises at that wedding — shocking ones. And Isabel, out of place at the lavish meal, the shallow guests talking “paleo” diets and “training for a tri…in Hawaii,” tone deaf and hitting on her, or catty other guests gossiping and questioning the groom’s devotion, physically shrinks before our eyes.

And it’s not just the experience of all this free-flowing cash, that “I think we could get 100 beds for what they’re paying” for her hotel suite.

Isabel knows Oscar (Crudup), the father of the bride. Or knew him in a previous chapter in her life.

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Crudup and Williams have a “Who can look more shocked?” face-off, and that’s just for starters. Bring Moore into the mix, perfectly cast as a control freak used to bossing others around, getting her own way and “damn your inconvenience” as she does, and you’ve got the makings of great drama.

Or, well, melodrama. Because the further this picture plows along, the more “Isn’t that convenient,” in terms of plot twists, comes into play.

The scenario takes on complications, too many of them humiliating to poor Isabel, as one and all engage in the pop psychology that gives them their understanding of what has happened, why, and how those involved evolved after it did.

Williams makes us weather these slings and arrows with her. Moore’s ironically-named boss and “mother,” Theresa, even at her most “considerate,” is brittle and demanding and controlling, making one long for a catfight as Isabel gets her back up.

And Crudup makes us grasp the logic of Oscar’s actions, feel just a pang of empathy (he makes a good heel) for his situation.

Quinn’s performance cleverly includes hints of the personalities of every person who had anything to do with her being there, on this day, getting married.

Perhaps its not the movie that will win Williams her Oscar, and perhaps it was wisest to park this solid but flawed melodrama as summer counter-programming, sparing it competition with the true awards contenders of the fall.

It’s still worth seeing for the clinic its dazzling cast puts on, the bite they bring to their showdowns and the heartbreak Williams lets us see — judged, hurt, insulted and tested — time and again, “After the Wedding.”

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MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and some strong language.

Cast: Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn

Credits: Written and directed by Bart Freundlich, based on the Susanne Bier, Anders Thomas Jensen script for the 2006 Danish film of the same title.

A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Running time: 1:52

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Preview, Pitt–sci Fi, “Ad Astra” has a third trailer now

This look more conventional than the film the first trailer promised.

We are a month from finding out the truth.

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Movie Review: The director of “Gook,” goes back to Koreatown for “Ms. Purple”

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“Ms. Purple” isn’t a movie you review. It’s a character study you put on the psychoanalyst’s couch.

Justin Chon’s tender, intimate followup to his bracing, gritty and sometimes funny “Gook” shows us the shattered remains of a Koreatown family and makes us ponder what broke them.

Kasie (Tiffany Chu of TV’s “Artificial”) is a pretty 20something whose almost expressionless face might crack if she ever managed a geuine smile. She is a karaoke hostess, a “doumi,” piling into a van every night, just another pretty-enough face in a little black dress. At the bars where they work, they are lined up — “Turn around!” — and selected by groups of men out for a night of drinking, singing and pawing.

Judged (harshly), used, misused and sometimes cheated, it is a particularly degrading line of work. It’s prostitution by almost any definition of the word. And every now and then, that last sexual line is crossed.

What put her here? The desperation becomes clearer when she gets home. Her comatose father (James Kang) is in home hospice care, waiting to die. Flashbacks tell a story of fatherly love, an obligation passed down. When their mercenary mother fled, he dutifully raised Kasie and her brother, soldiered on.

The crisis that begins “Ms. Purple” is one any American can relate to — healthcare. The soul-crushing work of bathing, monitoring and changing IVs on her father has also broken his nurse, Juanita (Alma Martinez). “I can’t do this any more. When’s he going to die? He needs to be in a hospice!”

Kasie loses her poker face in this argument. She’s desperate enough to beg nurses, in the parking lot, going into the nearby hospice to take on the job she can’t handle on her own. And there are no takers, only “Do yourself a favor, put your dad in hospice” advice.

This is as sad a scene as you’ll see in a movie this year.

Kasie’s last hope is the brother she’s still close to, but who won’t return her calls. Carey (Teddy Lee) has the same emotionally-drained visage. He has no visible means of support, only an addiction. He can’t stay away from the PC Bang a den of multiplayer gaming sin.

Kasie needs to hear from him, needs his help or at least support. Carey surprises her by finally returning a call, and then shocks her, and maybe himself, by saying he will watch their father, take care of him while Kasie works the bars and, crossing one more line, takes up with a rich, callous and yet generous client (Ronnie Kim).

Kasie has a sugar daddy, someone to be arm candy for when he attends functions — weddings, etc. But it’s a loveless, cruel arrangement.

The one break in her life of misery might be Octavio (Octavio Pizano), the valet at one of the bars where she works. He’s not much on first glance — broke, bottom-tier job, over-eager. But he is everything important that her life lacks — kindness, a young man happily ensconced in an upbeat, loving family.

Carey, who stormed out of their house as a teen, is atoning for his broken relationship with Dad. But his “care” includes sneaking him out, in his hospital bed, to rooftop sunbathing sessions, even into Carey’s favorite PC Bang.

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That impulse is underscored with The Proclaimers’ “500 Miles,” and it is a jarring moment in a movie that is otherwise forlorn, set to weepy strings or plaintive Southwestern guitar music. It’s seriously off key.

But that one scene highlights how drained of energy Chon’s film is. The arguments (often in Korean with English subtitles) have heat. The sister-brother dynamic, re-established when Carey moves back in, has a teasing charm. They never grew out of razzing and calling each other “Dude.” But most of what we’re shown by the characters is the exhaustion that comes after brooding, endlessly, on an overwhelming problem that is devouring every life it is allowed to touch.

The singular vitality of Chon’s work is as a tour guide to this undiscovered culture admidst the roiling, multi-cultural life of L.A. He’s almost a throwback to regional filmmaking, specializing in a small corner of America, directors like Victor Nunez (“Ulee’s Gold”) and Leslie Harris (“Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.”).

That Koreatown Travelogue is still in evidence in “Ms. Purple.” And the performances work, despite their requisite flatness. It’s just that the few flashes of heightened drama and the gentleness of the Kasie/Octavio scenes aren’t enough to lift the weight these characters and this story carries.

It’s almost relentlessly downbeat.n “Ms. Purple” can’t help but leave you a little blue.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, sexual situations, nudity, smoking.

Cast: Tiffany Chu, Jake Choi, Teddy Lee, James Kang, Octavio Pizano

Credits: Directed by Justin Chon, script by Justin Chon, Chris Dinh. An Oscilloscope Labs release.

Running time: 1:27

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Disney finally gets too greedy — It wants all the Marvel marbles

They bought Fox so they could retire the X-Men and revive them under their own banner.

They own the box office like no studio that has come before. And they are plainly irked at goosing Sony’s Spider-Man in Avengers movies only to have him earn a billion that Disney wants for itself.

No more “sharing” the Marvel Universe with Spider-Man. Whatever deal that allowed Tom Holland to play an Avenger, financial and otherwise, is kaput.

It is interesting to note that Disney has gambled its entire film slate on Marvel, “Star Wars” and inferior remakes of animated hits of the past. All about brands, and original content be damned. What happens when audiences reject one or two or all three legs of this tripod?

The greed is showing, and this could be the hastening of a general fatigue in the whole comic book movie enterprise. Or not.

Via THR

“Sony Pictures is vowing to carry on the #SpiderMan franchise without Marvel Studios’ involvement, placing the blame on Disney for cutting the successful inter-studio co-operation short” https://t.co/DGNmZHURGS https://twitter.com/THR/status/1164021312999890944?s=17

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Next screening? Gerard Butler is back. Again. One more time. “Angel Has Fallen”

He keeps putting in the effort, giving us fair value in his action franchse long past the point when he or any of us should care anymore.

These Secret Service super agent code name movies — “Olympus has Fallen,” “London has Fallen” and now the one about the agent himself taken down, “Angel has Fallen,” have an audience and Butler & Co. do right by that audience.

This is Butler’s “Expendables” or “Fast & Furious,” a lingering connection to the status he once enjoyed.

Could be good. And in any event, the films keep Morgan Freeman out of trouble.

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Bond, James Bond has ‘No Time to Die’

That’s the title of the last Daniel Craig Bond outing.

Let’s hope he doesn’t get hurt…again…filming it.

Everybody who played lays Bond gets hurt. He just has to read about it on the Interwebs.

Coming not soon enough to a Cineplex near you.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/no-time-die-end-daniel-craigs-james-bond-1233452

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Preview, Demi, Jessica Williams, Karan Soni and Ed Helms are “Corporate Animals”

I wonder if Ed Helms has invested his “Hangover” checks wisely? Or his “Office” residuals?

Because the stuff I see him in (check out what happens to his character in this Sept. 20 release, “Corporate Animals”) makes me wonder.

Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Dan Bakkedahl are other TV-famous actors in the cast of this “127 Hours” laugher.

 

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Movie Review: Muslim woman discovers the freedom of “Becoming Burlesque”

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Her rebellion begins with curiosity, which is what brings her to Club Lulu. She makes the leap into full-fledged revolt in the restroom there.

Taking off her hijab, shaking out her long, flowing hair, Fatima tells us and the bathroom mirror “You’re going to BOTH your parents’ Hell for this!”

Some movies walk a fine line between comedy and drama, or between melodrama and farce. There is no “fine line” where “Becoming Burlesque” is concerned. It’s about a Toronto college student who discovers the liberation and empowerment in burlesque.

Did I mention she’s Muslim, niece of a local Imam?

Actress turned writer-director Jackie English has cooked up a laugh-out-loud Islamic East/Hedonistic West culture-clash comedy with an edgy, almost menacing undertone. It’s not subtle, but not as scary as you might expect either.

Fatima is an engineering student who “Googled” that name once. “It means ‘captivating,’ I think.”

That suits, as Fatima (Shiva Negar, in a career-launching turn) is a great beauty, something not obscured by her wearing of a traditional hijab.

OK, “traditional” is a stretch. Her scarves are pretty, something her Anglo-Canadian mother (Severn Thompson) scolds her about. As tolerant as Dad (Hrant Alianak) can be, Mom is unironic when she quotes her Imam brother-in-law, who already regards Fatima as a “half-breed.” For the love of Allah, let’s at least appear to be “devout.”

Dad is prone to heart-attacks. Let’s not give him one. Uncle Yousef (Sam Kalilieh, terrific) is the Iman, even more conservative, a man who sees himself as a bulwark against not just the temptations of the West that they’ve relocated to. Yousef is a strict but not strident uncle merely trying to illuminate his faith’s path in a city of “lost and confused people,” riding his extended family to stick to that path.

Maybe moving to Canada (from Syria) has softened the men. Yousef is patronizing, sexist, overbearing and insufferable. But he’s nobody’s idea of a wild-eyed nut.

He just, you know, insults Fatima’s white Christian-born Canadian mom right in front of her.

“Your wife might be the shame of the family, but she makes excellent lamb!”

Fatima is too young, smart and Canadian to put up with that. None of his “You’d be happier with a man to take care of you.”

She bolts from dinner and marches into rebellion. Earlier that day, Fatima silently intervened when a pushy, aggressive man attempted to put the moves on a voluptuous overly-made-up redhead at the bus stop.

That’s a near-perfect introductory scene, because after young Fatima has introduced herself to Texas Red Tempest (Courtney Deelen), the Muslim and the burlesque dancer have a brief, awkward conversation that sets the entire film up.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to dress, you know, a little more…” Fatima wants to know.

“Easy is no reason to do something,” the defiant redhead snaps back.

“Wow, you’re a stripper!”

“And you’re a terrorist!”

The message? Don’t judge. Don’t stereotype. And never, ever call a burlesque dancer a “stripper.”

“In stripping, the observer imposes his fantasies on the dancer. In burlesque, we impose our fantasies on the crowd.”

Fatima is just open-minded enough to find her way to Lulu’s, to meet choreographer and star attraction Catcha Foxx (Pastel Supernova). And she’s just rebellious enough to let herself get talked into things. Filling in as “kitten” for starters.

That’s the non-dancer in skimpy burlesque-wear who picks up the clothes, garters and gloves that the strippers — sorry, burlesque dancers — leave on stage.

We don’t need Fatima’s panicked “This isn’t going to end well” to know this isn’t going to end well.

Writer-director English finds, if not a happy balance in which way the script’s cultural biases lean, at least a pleasant one. The movie, like most of the characters in it, errs on the side of tolerance.

“This is a new time and place,” Waleed, Fatima’s father counsels in his endless Koranic debates with his brother. “Evolve!”

We get a sense that Fatima’s fellow dancers get a thrill out of converting or at least corrupting her. Texas Red, in particular, seems to know the sexist patriarchy that women in the the Islamic world have to cope with.

Fatima may bond with this sisterhood of sin — “You guys feel more comfortable naked than I do clothed!” She underlines the fact that she’s intellectualizing this whole “empowering through art” experience by dropping a Schrödinger’s Cat joke into conversation with them.

And that “How’re you gonna keep’em in the mosque after they’ve seen the lights of Club Lula?” thing extends to Fatima’s older brother Mahmoud (Khalid Klein). He’s supposed to keep an eye on her, and that involves stopping in your neighborhood cabaret for a drink.

“Looking for my sister. Strip joint’s a bit of a stretch. But with her, I’ve learned to be thorough.”

The dialogue often sparkles and the situations, although generally far-fetched, teeter on the edge of “Well, that’s at least possible.”

For a movie that loses itself in a lot of nearly nude onstage and backstage (Got to put the glitter on!) antics, “Becoming Burlesque” has room for little acting flourishes, the funniest involving Negar’s virginal Fatima learning to walk like a burlesque dancer, in stilettos (“Knees together, chin UP. Butt OUT. And smile!”) or flirt.

As I said at the outset, there’s nothing subtle here, no “fine line” is walked. But “Becoming Burlesque” makes a cute fictional introduction to the art form, the reason women practice it and what can happen when cultures this far apart run smack into each other — pastie to pastie.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, nudity, profanity

Cast: Shiva Negar, Courtney Deelen,  Alex Harrouch, Hrant Alianak, Severn Thompson, Khalid Klein, Sam Kalilieh.

Credits: Written and directed by Jackie English. An Ammo Content release.

Running time: 1:36

 

 

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