Daily Beast: Best Overlooked Movie Performances

Posted on December 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm

At The Daily Beast, Marlow Stern has an excellent list of the most overlooked movie performances of the year, including Ryan Gosling in “The Nice Guys” (a masterpiece of comic timing and physical grace — great work from everyone in that film), Ralph Fiennes in “A Bigger Splash” (he said he took the role because of the dance scene, and he clearly has a blast with it), and Craig Robinson in “Morris from America.” All worth watching at least twice.

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A Bigger Splash

Posted on May 12, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating: Rated R for graphic nudity, some strong sexual content, language and brief drug use
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Violence including homicide
Diversity Issues: Background of race and class issues
Date Released to Theaters: May 13, 2016

Where there is Eden, there is usually a serpent. In this case, it is literal and metaphoric, as Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Marianne (Tilda Swinton) are blissfully happy in a lovely home with a pool on an exquisite island near Sicily. Occasionally they are confronted by local wildlife, including a couple of snakes. But mostly they lie naked outdoors, make love in the pool, and go swimming, slathering mud all over each other then sleeping as it dries. Both are recovering, which means both are vulnerable. Marianne is a rock star — in a flashback we see her on stage at an enormous arena with the crowd shrieking her name. She has had an operation on her vocal chords and must not speak at the risk of losing her voice entirely. Paul is a photographer and documentarian who has been to rehab for substance abuse and a suicide attempt. They are gentle and loving with each other.

And then the cell phone rings. It is Harry (Ralph Fiennes), Marianne’s former producer and lover, and he says he is landing on the island in five minutes and needs to be picked up. He arrives with a very young woman named Pen (Dakota Johnson) and it is clear that they are there to break things — to break the silence, to break hearts, to break the fragile peace Marianne and Paul have found when they left home to get away from people like Harry. “We’re hiding out,” Paul tells him. “Not from me!” Harry replies.

Harry is loud, carelessly arrogant, and needy. Some people are obnoxious because they do not know better; Harry knows and relishes it. He is the kind of guy to take up with a girl Pen’s age, but it turns out she is his recently discovered American daughter. Partly because he did not know he was her father until she was grown and partly because he lives in the space between outre and obscene. He literally pees on a grave. “Everyone’s obscene,” he says, “that’s the whole point.” He does not believe in limits, with one possible exception he claims to put on himself. After a lot of hinting from Harry, Marianne invites him and Pen to stay in the house they are renting.

“A Bigger Splash,” takes its title from a David Hockney swimming pool painting, is a remake of the 1969 Alain Delon film “La Piscine” (“Swimming Pool”). The characters experience need, fear, love, loss, and deception. They reflect the power and corruption of celebrity while around them we see glimpses of desperate refugees held in pens. Beautifully composed images show dreamlike settings, but there are intrusions within the pristine purity of the house: the shadow of an airplane about to land, a reptile on the table, some gauche visitors invited by Harry. “You’re not speaking, sweetheart,” he says to Marianne. “So I had to make other plans.” Small details are superbly chosen — a dress awkwardly worn in one scene turns up again later where it is more suitable, Harry’s story about producing a Rolling Stones song (with a fabulous dance), both Harry and Paul placing pills on Marianne’s tongue, a glint of gold and silver on her eyelids. It’s a mood piece, brilliantly performed, resonating like a bell that was rung days before.

Parents should know that this film includes very explicit nudity, sexual references and explicit situations, drinking, smoking, drugs, violence including homicide, and very strong language.

Family discussion: Why did Marianne invite Harry to say with her? Why did Pen lie?

If you like this, try: “Swimming Pool” and “Laurel Canyon”

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Drama Movies -- format Remake

Trailer: LAIKA’s “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Posted on December 11, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Coming next summer: “Kubo and the Two Strings” is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Hashi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kamekichi (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara) to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family and fulfill his heroic destiny.

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Trailer: “Hail, Caesar!” from the Coen Brothers

Posted on October 13, 2015 at 8:00 am

I don’t just want to see this movie. I want to see all the movies that they are making in it. With Channing Tatum as a Gene Kelly-style dancer in a sailor’s uniform, George Clooney as the star of a Roman Empire epic, and Scarlett Johansson as an Esther-Williams-style swimming star, this latest from the Coen brothers looks like a love letter to the movies of the classic era of Hollywood.

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Trailer: A Bigger Splash with Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, and Dakota Johnson

Posted on October 3, 2015 at 8:00 am


The lives of a famous rock star and a filmmaker, (Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts) vacationing on the idyllic sun-drenched and remote Italian island of Pantelleria are disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter (Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson) – creating a whirlwind of jealousy, passion and, ultimately, danger for everyone involved.

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