Miss Sloane

Posted on December 8, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Copyright 2016 Filmnation

Striding confidently down the halls of the Congressional office buildings, picking up the check in restaurants with crisp white tablecloths and extensive wine cellars, and, inevitably, at fundraisers, lobbyists are impossible to miss in Washington, D.C. They wear discreetly expensive suits. In fact, they are usually pretty discreet about everything, whether it is handing over money or making threats. Especially when they are making threats.

The film’s title may use the quaint honorific “Miss Sloane,” but do not let that mislead you. Elizabeth Stone (Jessica Chastain in a subtle, vibrant performance) is not looking back. She is a top lobbyist and she tells us right away that means that she always must be thinking ahead. “Lobbying is about foresight and anticipating your opponent’s moves and plotting countermeasures.” She is all about tactics, she is ruthless, and she is determined. “Make sure you surprise them and they don’t surprise you.” Everything about her is controlled and knife-edged. Her sheet of red hair is cut so severely it could slice through granite.

There are a fews signs of stress, though. When she thinks no one is looking, she pops some white pills. Some nights she goes to a hotel to spend time with a male escort. And she is rattled when the one she is used to seeing is not there and the new one (Jake Lacy as Forde), but not so rattled that she declines.

The most significant sign of stress is that in a meeting with a very lucrative prospective client, instead of listening politely when he explains his plan to create a group to promote the idea of women opponents to any restrictions on gun ownership, she laughs, harshly and derisively. Her boss (Sam Waterston) is furious. But for Elizabeth it is just one moral outrage too many. In what she herself recognizes is a “Jerry Maguire” move, she quits, taking her staff with her — except for Jane (Alison Pill), her closest aide, who opts to stay with the high salary and opportunity for partnership. Elizabeth is going from one extreme to the other, working to oppose the gun lobby on behalf of a small non-profit run by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong, usually the bad guy but here fine as an idealist).

The smart script by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera and brisk direction from John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) make this a solid Washington thriller with some telling (and accurate) details, moral dilemmas, and plot twists that keep you guessing until the last ten minutes.

Parents should know that this film includes strong and crude language, substance abuse, sexual references and a mildly explicit situation, and corruption and betrayal.

Family discussion: Why did Elizabeth allow herself to be so consumed by the job? Why did she decide to make a change? What would she recommend to improve politics and government?

If you like this, try: the documentary about a real-life lobbyist who went to prison, “Casino Jack and the United States of Money” featuring former Congressman Bob Ney

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Drama Politics

Exclusive Clip: Justin and the Knights of Valour

Posted on July 16, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Freddie Highmore and Antonio Banderas star in the animated adventure Justin & The Knights of Valour, along with Charles Dance, Rupert Everett, Barry Humphries, Alfred Molina, Mark Strong, Julie Walters, Olivia Williams and Saoirse Ronan. I’m delighted to share an exclusive clip.  The DVD and Blu-Ray will be available July 22, 2014.

Justin-_0051The story: Young Justin dreams of following in his grandfather Sir Roland’s footsteps and becoming one of the legendary Knights of Valor. Along his quest, he encounters a slew of quirky characters, including the beautiful Talia and handsome Sir Clorex, who try to teach Justin the skills he needs to become a mighty knight. Justin is put to the test when he is forced to face a power-hungry army of thugs, led by the mighty Sota, but soon learns that true strength comes from the heart.

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Action/Adventure Epic/Historical Fantasy For the Whole Family Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Green Lantern

Posted on June 16, 2011 at 9:52 am

Let’s get right down to it with the superhero essentials checklist.  Cool powers?  Check.  Interesting villain?  Check.  Interesting girlfriend?  Half a check.  Aliens?  Check.  Fancy gala party?  I’m not sure why that appears to be a crucial part of every superhero movie, but it’s here.  Working through some angsty parental issues?  Check.  Special effects and action sequences?  Maybe three-quarters of a check.  Does the superhero outfit avoid looking silly?  Half a check.  Is the 3D worth it?  No check.

Another month, another superhero, this time DC (home of Batman and Superman), not Marvel (home of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor).  Hal Jordan (a very buff Ryan Reynolds) is an irresponsible but irresistible rogue and a test pilot for a company that makes planes for the military.  He has an on- and off relationship with the test pilot/executive daughter of the head of the company, Carol Ferris (“Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively).  When four members of the intergalactic force for peace and justice — think outer space Seal Team 6 — are killed by a creature who looks like a spider made of smoke, their special green lantern rings seek out the successors.  For the first time, a human is invited to join the Green Lanterns.  The alien dies, telling Hal only that he has to use the ring and lantern and say the oath.  Hal tries the only oaths he can think of — pledge of allegiance, He-Man — before the ring and lantern lights up and he gets it right: “In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!“

It is fun as long as you don’t think too hard.  There’s so much nattering about Will versus Fear that it could have been written by Ayn Rand and directed by Leni Riefenstahl.  (Carol would be right at home with Dominique and Dagny.)  The Lanterns’ power includes calling into being anything they can imagine, which undercuts any peril and dramatic tension in the big confrontations.  It makes the struggle internal, one of strategic imagination and determination, not the best idea for a big special effects film.  The bad guys include a nerdy scientist whose exposure to the evil smoke-spider turns him into a misshapen, anger- and jealousy-driven madman, and the smoke-spider, whose surprising connection to the Lanterns makes him even more dangerous. But it seems unfocused, overly fussy and most likely re-cut following a poor reaction to an earlier version — characters like Hal’s nephew and best friend are introduced and then disappear and Angela Bassett barely appears as a scientist.  Mark Strong is a skeptical alien with a ridiculous mustache and even more ridiculous dialog, and the elders look like first-draft Yodas.  And everybody has father issues.  What, no one has a father who’s present and supportive? Aren’t there any mothers left?  Reynolds does fine as Hal but Lively never lives up to her name, swanning around in elegant sheaths and high heels but without any of the wit or energy of Gwenyth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts.  The credit sequence ends with a sneak peek at the villain for the next episode.  Let’s hope they have the will to call up something a little more fearless next time.

(more…)

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3D Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Fantasy Science-Fiction Thriller

Comic-Con: Coming Attractions

Posted on July 27, 2010 at 12:13 am

One of the highlights of Comic-Con is the very early glimpses of the films that are still in production. The big, splashy events for the movies opening in the next few months are great, but the people behind the movies not opening until next summer and beyond give us a chance to meet in smaller settings and hear their thoughts as they are in the midst of making the films.
I attended a press conferences for next year’s release of “The Green Lantern” with Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, and Mark Strong. IMG_0115.JPG It will be an origin story, and Reynolds described it as “‘Star Wars’ in the DC Universe.” He plays a character who has had “a bit of a tortured life” and is “arrogant, cocky, and aimless” until…an unexpected power sets him on a different course.
IMG_0134.JPGZack Snyder (“300,” “The Watchmen”) and the stars of his upcoming movie, “Sucker Punch” had a press conference after showing Comic-Con attendees the first trailer of the film, a different-levels-of-reality story with characters trying to escape from a sort of prison/mental hospital/brothel — with dance numbers and a lot of fight scenes. Snyder also explained why he chose to shoot in 2D so his camera movement would not be limited, even though he had just completed work on the 3D “Legend of the Guardians.” Stars Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, and Emily Browning talked about the “boot camp” they had to attend for fitness and fight training to make a movie that is “all the way, all the time.”

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