Saturday, October 18, 2014

St. Vincent



Wildly funny Comedy
Review by James Colt Harrison
Directed by: Theodore Melfi

Cast: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard, Nate Corddry, Ann Dowd, Donna Mitchell

Bill Murray appeals to an elite group of film fans. However, in the new comedy St. Vincent Murray revives his curmudgeonly persona and takes it to new heights and wins kudos for characterization. Murray is a mess, a shambles, an unshaven alcoholic and a war veteran. He doesn’t give a hoot about much of anything except drinking and relaxing in his home that looks as though it has not seen a vacuum cleaner in 25 years. There hasn’t been a point to his life until now. 

New neighbors move in next door and Vincent could care less. When the moving van crushes his picket fence and a tree branch falls onto his car and smashes the hood, it gives him an excuse to emerge from his cocoon and rail against the new neighbors. Melissa McCarthy as Maggie, is a newly divorced nurse with a son Oliver, played by terrific new-comer Jaeden Lieberher. It’s an auspicious meeting that annoys Vincent . You can see by Vincent’s actions and body language that he is going to hate his new neighbors. 

Lurking somewhere in that gruff exterior is a man who may have a heart. His idea of fun is to play the horses---and lose. His bookie, played by a menacingly charming  Terrence Howard, wants his money. Vincent is broke and needs money to pay his bookie and the Russian hooker (Naomi Watts) who also is a source of pleasure. Watts hilariously lays on the Russian accent as the no-nonsense business woman who plies her wares for hard cash. 

When Maggie needs to work two shifts at the hospital, she asks Vincent to watch her 10 year-old boy. Vincent is willing to be Oliver’s babysitter for an hourly wage to earn some money. McCarthy is good in this role that is not exactly a comedy role but one that she can play as a real woman who has concerns for her son. Vincent becomes an unconventional mentor to little Oliver, who is smart as a whip. Oliver has some funny scenes with his Catholic teacher ( an amusing and fun young Chris O’Dowd) because he is Jewish! 

Murray’s character thaws somewhat toward the boy and becomes his mentor. Naturally, he corrupts the boy by taking him to the race track to learn about gambling and has him sitting in bars with Daka the “woman of the night,” (Watts). Oliver loves all this excitement and he adores Vincent like a father. 

Young Oliver is played by newcomer Jaeden Leibher and is a wonderful foil to Murray’s laconic comedic style. The boy holds his own with the master Murray, and the two play off each other like pros. Murray so loved the boy he signed on to do his next picture with him as directed by Cameron Crowe. They make a terrifically funny pair. 

Yes, the film is loaded with some sappy scenes and the pathos is slathered on thickly like frosting on a chocolate cake. But that’s what makes it so yummy! 

Murray is a revived comic hero in St Vincent. With so many great supporting actors such as the beautiful Donna Mitchell as his ill wife, O’Dowd as the funny Catholic teacher, Nate Corddry as a frustrated banker and Ann Dowd’s all-business assisted living administrator, the film is a triumph for first-time writer/director Melfi.

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‘The Judge’

The law rules
By James Colt Harrison

It’s refreshing to see Robert Downey in a film where he isn’t wisecracking, flying through the air as Ironman, and defeating the most horrific of space aliens. In the new Warner Bros. drama “The Judge” from director David Dobkin, we see Downey’s dramatic side  the one which can act. The film is based on a story by Dobkin and Nick Schenk, with the script written by Schenk and Bill Dubuque. 

Downey is Hank Palmer, a hotshot Chicago lawyer, who returns to his hometown in bucolic Indiana to attend his mother’s funeral. It’s obvious from the very outset that Hank doesn’t get along with his do-good father, Judge Joe, played by the magnificent Robert Duvall. Before production began, the part of the judge was offered to Jack Nicholson, but he’s too happy being semi-retired and he turned down the meaty part. No matter, Duvall is probably more appropriately cast as the nasty, curmudgeonly old man. We’re sure Nicholson would have made us laugh. 

Old wounds resurface between Downey and his father, a past neither want to remember. Was the Judge harsh with his son when he was a boy? That’s a foregone conclusion. It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s not overbearing. Downey and Duvall go at it and each tries to outdo the other with the dramatics, the screaming, the yelling, and the chewing of the scenery. Duvall wins on that score and may be in line for an Oscar® nomination come Academy Award® time. 

Wouldn’t you know there is an event that serves to bring the father and son together, albeit reluctantly on both their parts? A man who was sent to prison by the Judge turns up dead on the side of the road. With blood spattered on the Judge’s car, Judge Joe becomes the prime suspect and is arrested. It’s now up to son Hank to defend his father, a complete reversal of their roles as relatives. Dad fights it all the way and is very angry at this turn of events. Is he guilty or not? That’s what has to be proven in a court of law, and son Hank must pull out all his lawyerly tricks to defend good old dad. 

Billy Bob Thornton plays Dwight Dickham, a prosecutor who is determined to put the judge behind bars. Billy Bob cleans up nicely and wears designer suits, just like a society lawyer would. He plays his part with authority, and one can believe he is actually a defender of the law. 

Vincent D’Onofrio plays Downey’s pathetic loser brother Glen who, because of an accident as a teen, he lost his ability to play sports and have a winning professional career. He has now turned to fat and mopes around the house. D’Onofrio elicits sympathy from the audience and makes us feel his pain. Dax Shepard plays the doofus co-defender to Downey and provides the few laughs in the picture. He’s an engaging character and actor and always adds a little spark to what he does. 

Other actors making a favorable impression are veteran Ken Howard as the presiding judge, Leighton Meester as the beautiful young thing about town, Vera Farmiga as her mother and Downey’s past love,  and TV favorite David Krumholtz as Mike.
 
The film was shot in and around the Massachusetts small towns of Worcester, Shelburne Falls, Waltham, Dedham, and Millers Falls by the artist’s eye of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. He was nominated six times for the Academy Award® and won twice for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Story twists keep “Gone Girl” fascinating

Review by James Colt Harrison

Director David Fincher’s film version of the Gillian Flynn best-selling novel is a spine-tingling, twisted thriller that never loses its grasp on the audience. The screenplay has been written by Flynn, so any deviations from the book can be laid at her doorstep. However, there are no complaints. The film stands on its own, and the casting of the main characters is impeccable.

Those of you who have not read the novel will not be told about the fascinating turns within the story. And those of you who have read the book faithfully already know what happens. But it serves no purpose to give away the secrets to those not baptized with the sprinkles of truth, horror, astonishment, and nastiness Flynn has conjured up in her screenplay. She has a corrosive look at the institution of marriage, that is for sure. Whether that comes from personal experience or just an imaginative mind is not certain. But Flynn certainly has a razor sharp pen when setting down exchanges between Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne and Rosmaund Pike as his wife Amy.

Right from the beginning scenes of the film we know Nick’s wife has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. All fingers point at Nick. But he is affable enough to convince the town he is bereft at finding his wife missing and needs their support to find her. At first the townspeople get behind him, but slowly their attitude changes as the crowd turns a bit nasty. His biggest supporter is his twin sister Margo, played gallantly by actress Carrie Coon. Margo is standing up for her brother, but she definitely wants to hear the truth from him on whether he had anything to do with Amy’s disappearance. Coons is strong in her actions and is believable as a sister who wants to know if her brother is innocent---or not.

Fincher has cast his characters with finesse and has chosen the spot-on Kim Dickens as police detective Rhonda Boney. She lends just the right amount of fascination for Nick and yet retains a police officer’s skepticism about the circumstances surrounding Amy’s disappearance and the part Nick may have played in it. Assisted by her side-kick Jim Gilpin ( a quiet but sharp-tongued Patrick Fugit), Rhonda wants to get to the core of what exactly happened.

Just when you think you have things figured out, Flynn’s clever script throws another curve ball at you and you are left befuddled. Things are not what they seem, and there-in lies the key to this jaw-dropping  film. Not having read the book, we did not know what was lurking around the corner. Good thing, too, as the film would not have been as enjoyable and stimulating if all its secrets were known.

Ben Affleck has his best part in years. He’s handsome and somewhat goofy and completely likeable. But he also has a dark side that pops up when you least expect it. But here there is a reason for the black clouds. Just what is it that triggers the storm in his eyes? Affleck continues to prove he has become one of Hollywood’s top players, both as a direct and as an actor. He will probably be one of the men considered as Best Actor this year.

Rosamund Pike is the find of the year. Although she has made appearances in such films as Pride and Prejudice and Jack Reacher, she is not a well-known commodity in the United States. She seems like a newly-minted, fresh face with talent to spare. She reminds one of Australia’s Cate Blanchett, herself not a piece of chopped liver. Pike is beautiful and scary at the same time. She plays sweet and evil in the blink of an eye. She commands a scene without chewing the sets. She dispatches lover boy Neil Patrick Harris in a flash you don’t see coming. It’s a stunning scene that definitely jolts you out of your seat. Is she simply paying a role, is she misunderstood, or is she just plain bitchy? Pike envelops herself in her character, becomes the woman, and makes us cringe in the process. Ms. Pike should definitely be nominated as Best Actress this year.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM” MYSTIFIES

Review by James Colt Harrison

We won’t pull any punches on this dreary film. It wins my choice as Worst Film of the Year, hands down. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them is part of a trilogy as written by first-time director Ned Benson. Perhaps if we’re lucky, it will be his only venture into directing.

Benson originally conceived the film as a three-parter called Him, Her and Them, each part as seen through the eyes of James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain and then rolling it all up into one lump of dough in Them. It’s the story of the couple’s attempt to reclaim their lives after something (what is never explained until the end of the movie) tears them apart.

There are massive holes in the plot as big as the Grand Canyon. For instance—and this is not a spoiler--- in the very beginning of the film we see Chastain jumping off a bridge in a suicide attempt. There is no motive, no build-up to the event and therefore we are totally puzzled as to why she is doing it. Why, what caused her to come to this point? Was she having a Bad Hair day? It is not explained in the next scene or the next 10,000 scenes. The script is a bafflement of innuendoes, mysterious silences and dialogue that doesn’t explain why either McAvoy or Chastain signed on to do this movie. If anything, it will put the nail into the coffin of their careers.

The 122 minutes of the film seem like four hours as there are massive pauses in the dialogue, seemingly five minutes between each word spoken. By the time they cough up their lines you have gotten in a good twenty minutes of a nap. It is rumored movie mogul Harvey Weinstein cut the trilogy into the 122 minutes. He would have been more charitable had he cut out all 122 minutes except for the credits and ended up with an Orson Welles masterpiece with only the titles.

Ireland’s Ciaran Hinds plays McAvoy’s successful restaurant-owner father. Mr. Hinds is a fine actor and does what he can with his part of a man who is also giving up. Perhaps he read the rest of the script.

The only actor to come out on top is the lovely Viola Davis as a campus professor. She could read the phone book and get a stunning performance out of it. She acts as a much-needed mentor to Chastain’s befuddled character. Go see the part with Ms. Davis in it; skip the rest of the film. This movie is a dud.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fashion Week San Diego 2014

ArtsNFashion can attest that Alison Andrews and team have transformed the San Diego Fashion scene with Fashion Week San Diego (FWSD).  This is an event you won't want to miss.

The time has come to celebrate fashion and its wonderful designers once again.  The first week of October in San Diego is the official “Fashion Week San Diego” taking place at the Port Pavilion on the Broadway Pier in Downtown San Diego. It kicks off Tuesday Sept. 30th with its first runway show and concludes Sunday at the Grand Horton Hotel and Theatre for annual Trunk Show & Fashion Awards.

FWSD Founder & Director Alison Andrews is thrilled that FWSD is 5 nights of runway shows, showcasing 33 designers from around the world. “Fashion Week San Diego has become the home to these sought after & coveted emerging brands. Last year we were able to launch a new designer on the runway and then she was pickup up after showing at FWSD13 in Fred Segal Santa Monica. I look forward who will be picked up this year by a BIG retailer. The best part is watching the success these fashion entrepreneurs have after launching at FWSD."

Andrews added that she is looking forward to seeing the new designers collections this year, including those featuring menswear, knitwear and even children’s apparel.

The event will feature a live performances, Interactive photo wall, a moving art exhibit by Launch Life Art, delicious bites, fashionable beverages, VIP Lounge, VIP gift bags (Sunday pick up @ Trunk Show), Haute Dog Fashion Show with rescue dogs from Rancho Coastal Humane Society/ RCHS, Shopping and more.

Celebrities will even be on the catwalk, like US Champion Women’s Boxer & Olympic hopeful Danyelle Wolf. She will be modeling on the Friday's runway shows of FWSD14.  San Diego singer-songwriter Aquile, who recently appeared alongside Christina Aguilera on NBC’s the Voice, will be performing on Thursday’s SoCal runway night.  R&B legend Shelly Clark-White, best known for her No.1 Pop Hit Want Ads, and celebrity artist/cover model Nicolosi will be strutting their stuff for FWSD 2014 on Friday, October 3rd dressed by one of our designers, Alpaca Couture.  On Saturday night’s finale runway show, there will be an Exclusive presentation by Julia Koerner & her 3D fashion collection that showed at Paris Fashion Week.

Guests of FWSD can meet all celebrities at a limited autograph session at the Trunk Show, October 5th between 11am-4pm.

For more information or nightly runway schedule of events & to purchase tickets, please visit: www.fashionweeksd.com.


Click Here for photos and information from FWSD13
 
ABOUT FASHION WEEK SAN DIEGO
Fashion Week San Diego (FWSD) is an annual bi-national event, comprised of a week-long fall Runway Shows, a Spring Showcase and a series of monthly shows and workshops throughout San Diego County. Launched by San Diego-based fashion consultant Allison Andrews, FSWD is designed to grow the developing local fashion industry and serve as a launching pad for emerging designers from around the world. FWSD breaks the traditional industry molds by connecting consumers directly with designers through annual events, social media and sales opportunities. FWSD is a Traditional Fashion Week that is recognized by the industry as a place to find the newest emerging talent to get the exclusive on. For more information, visit www.fashionweeksd.com or contact press@fashionweeksd.com.

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