Gringo

Posted on March 8, 2018 at 12:39 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, violence and sexual content
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drugs and drug dealing, alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Constant peril and violence with many graphic and disturbing images, characters injured and killed, guns, car chases and crashes, torture, kidnapping
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: March 9, 2018
Copyright Amazon 2018

“Gringo” is the story of a hapless dupe named Harold (David Oyelowo, showing deft comic timing) who gets stuck in the middle of a lot of bad people and bad decisions.

Harold is an immigrant from Nigeria, married to Bonnie (Thandie Newton, criminally underused), and in financial trouble. “Are you saying I’m cash poor?” Harold asks his accountant. “No, I’m saying you’re poor poor, ,” he replies.

The accountant also tells Harold that his company may be merging, and he could lose his job. But Harold reassures himself that his boss Rich (Joel Edgerton) is an old friend, who has even hired Bonnie to decorate his apartment, and will not let him down. Rich reassures him as well, reminding him that he promised Harold’s life would look like a rap video if he stayed at the company. It’s obvious to us that Rich is a crook and a liar, but Harold has no clue.

Rich’s co-president of the company is Elaine (Charlize Theron, having a lot of fun as a ruthless executive whose self-pep talk includes “Who’s Daddy’s Blue Ribbon girl?”). They come along on Harold’s business trip to Mexico, where the company’s marijuana-based pills are manufactured. That merger means the end of lucrative off-the-books sales to a powerful drug dealer. And that leads to mayhem involving a fake kidnapping, a real kidnapping, a toe sent by international mail, a murder for failing to give the right answer to a question about which Beatles album is the best, a mercenary, and many betrayals.

Nash Edgerton (Joel’s brother) directs with high energy and clearly relishes very dark humor of the story, with many twists and turns as the various bad guys collide with each other. Paris Jackson (Michael’s daughter) has an impressive cameo as a girl enticing a hapless guitar salesman into helping her steal some of those marijuana pills. If you like your crime stories to be nicely nasty, this one does the trick.

Parents should know that this film includes extensive and graphic violence, chases, shootouts, torture, disturbing images, many characters injured and killed, drugs and drug dealing, alcohol, very explicit sexual references and situations, and very strong and crude language.

Family discussion: Was Harold’s father wrong? Why was it hard for him to see what was happening? What is the point of the banana/carrot story?

If you like this, try: “Big Trouble” and “Midnight Run” and, also from the Edgerton brothers, “The Square” (not the recent Cannes award-winner, the Australian crime drama)

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Oscars 2018: Inclusion Riders, the Jetski Challenge, and Rita Moreno’s Dress

Posted on March 5, 2018 at 8:15 am

Oscars 90th Academy Awards

The 90th anniversary Oscar broadcast was one of the best in many years and not a minute too long. Look, with the Oscars you know what you’re signing up for. You may not be interested in the awards for Best Sound Editing or Best Sound Mixing, but I respect the Oscars for recognizing the dozens of people you never see the rest of the year for every one you see on screen, all vital to the impact of the film. And if they didn’t televise those awards, how would we see people like that guy whose tuxedo sleeves stopped just below his elbows? And I expect and appreciate the political issues addressed in the show. Without them, it would be eerily sterile. What are the nominated films about, after all? They are about justice. They are made to touch our hearts and inspire us to be more inclusive and fair. So, it is not just right, it is deeply moving when Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani remind us that they are immigrants. And also funny when Nanjiani says, “And I am from Pakistan and Iowa, two places that nobody in Hollywood can find on a map.”

I normally do not watch the red carpet, but this year I turned it on a bit early and was really delighted with the ABC pre-show interviews, especially when Michael Strahan showed Timothee Chalamet a video of the high school drama teacher who changed his life wishing him well, along with current students at the “Fame” school he attended just a couple of years ago, and the glimpse of Gary Oldman in full Winston Churchill makeup and costume, dancing to James Brown.

Then, on a prism-circled stage set that kept reminding me of the Shimmer in “Annihilation,” Jimmy Kimmel led off with a graceful, witty opening, candid about the turmoil of the past year, that set the tone perfectly. The promise of a Jetski for the person giving the shortest speech was silly, and having Dame Helen Mirren as the prize girl really made it work. It also inspired a couple of funny callbacks through the night.

Highlights:

Frances McDormand, asking the women nominees to stand, and introducing the world to the term “inclusion rider” — a contract provision stars can insist on that requires film productions to employ a specific number of women and minorities, including the crew, and may require pay equity/parity as well,

Alexandre Desplat, thanking the musicians who worked on “The Shape of Water” and the musicians playing live at the broadcast,

Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph, who should be Golden Globe hosts next year,

Jordan Peele, the first African-American to win a screenplay Oscar, speaking from the heart about what the experience has meant to him,

Jodie Foster blaming Meryl Streep for Tonya-ing her,

Two golden age of Hollywood presenters reminding us what “star” really means — Rita Moreno and Eva Marie Saint, Moreno in the same dress she wore when she won the Oscar for her performance in “West Side Story,”

The outstanding 90th anniversary montage, reminding us of the best that movies — and humans — can be,

The excellent montages introducing the acting awards,

Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder singing Tom Petty during the In Memoriam segment,

The third “amigo” wins — Guillermo del Toro joins his two director friends from Mexico in winning a Best Director Oscar (Alejandro G. Iñárritu won in 2014 for “Birdman” and in 2015 for “The Revenant.” And in 2013, Alfonso Cuarón won for “Gravity”).

Misses:

“Remember Me” is a lovely song, which well deserved its Oscar, but for some reason the live performance sounded off-key,

The trip to the movie theater next door, a stunt that went on too long and didn’t really work,

The people inexplicably left out of the In Memoriam segment, including Tobe Hooper, Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone, Powers Boothe, and John Mahoney.

For a show in which there were no surprises or upsets, it remained lively and engaging all the way to the end. And Faye and Warren and Price Waterhouse got it right this time.

PS Check out rogerebert.com’s annual “If We Picked the Oscars,” including my tribute to Laurie Metcalf.

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Awards

Getting Ready for the Oscars

Posted on March 4, 2018 at 9:24 am

Copyright AMPAS 1939
Tonight is the event my family refers to as “Mom’s Super Bowl.” I don’t take the Oscars that seriously as arbiters of quality. It’s the industry awarding itself. Still, I would never miss it and this year will be especially interesting given the younger and more diverse voters and the #metoo and #timesup and now #askmoreofhim issues. Some of the best commentary this year:

Stephanie Merry of the Washington Post describes some Oscar categories the Academy should have included, like best opening credit sequence, best motion-capture performance, best fight scenes, and best performance by a child. I agree with every one of her categories, nominees, and winners.

The New Yorker asks whether the nominated films pass the Bechdel test. They pretty much do, with exceptions like “Dunkirk” — and, I’d argue, “Call Me By Your Name” and “Phantom Thread.”

And if you need a cheat sheet for your Oscar party predictions, your best bet is Goldderby.

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Awards

Slate Spoils Annihilation

Posted on March 3, 2018 at 10:12 pm

I never miss an episode of Slate’s Spoiler Specials, the discussions of movies for those who have already seen them, so there is no need to avoid spoilers of plot twists or surprise endings. There couldn’t be a better choice of movie for a spoiler-filled discussion than Annihilation or a better trio to discuss it than Dana Stevens, Inkoo Kang, and Marissa Martinelli. They may not answer every question, but they puzzle along with you in an exceptionally thoughtful and enlightening conversation.

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