Commentaries

Thursday, January 18, 2018

SUBURBICON



CLOONEY TWISTS COEN'S SUBURBICON

Film Review by FIORE

After a while, one must ask how many things George Clooney can screw up before there is a reckoning?  He destroyed the Batman franchise for Warner Brothers; he destroyed the sci-fi tale TOMORROWLAND by inserting a plethora of Al Gore inspired global ideologies; and now he destroys one of Hollywood’s premiere screenwriters’ oeuvre in SUBURBICON

Joel and Ethan Coen penned SUBURBICON a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  The brothers experienced difficulty pitching the script to a studio, so it sat and collected dust for a number of years.

Enter George Clooney.  He acquired the script from the Coens and used his incredible Hollywood influence on Paramount to make the film “because of the scapegoating of Mexicans and Muslims in the 2016 election.”

Ah, George’s agenda is showing.  The story takes place in the 1950’s, yet he reveals in this simple, inane statement, his purpose is to provide snide comments on America’s shift in the last presidential election to a more conservative platform.  Already, a problem presents itself because the mores of the ‘50’s do not coincide with those of today.  Clooney attempted to make the correlation by stating he altered the script to depict the sense that we, as a country, are always “looking in the wrong direction and blaming the wrong people for our woes, which seems to be an American tradition.”

The Coens write intriguing scripts.  Their script for HAIL CAESAR was funny.  They went with Clooney and the movie flopped.  Why they let him have this one is puzzling. While some of their films may be less than stellar, their stories are generally enthralling, with an element of the bizarre.  It is easy to see their script for SUBURBICON plays like a tale from FARGO, complete with quirky characters and extreme coincidental plot points.  It is also easy to see the elements infused by Clooney and his desire to debase any principals of white, straight men.  The contrast is so stark, it makes SUBURBICON unwatchable, and nearly laughable.
 
Matt Damon is Gardner.  He is vice-president of a successful business, and married to Rose, played by Julianne Moore.  Rose has a twin sister, Margaret, also played by Moore.  Gardner loves her, too.  From this macabre ménage- a- trois comes a hair-brained scheme to defraud the insurance company.  All goes swimmingly, until insurance agent Bud Cooper, played by Oscar Isaac, catches on to the ruse and seeks to cut himself in on the play.  Caught in the middle is Gardner’s son Nicky, played by Noah Jupe.

Maestro Alexandre Desplat provides the score.  Robert Elswit serves as Cinematographer and Stephen Mirrione as Editor.  All perform yeoman duties on the film.

While the story could easily have been made into a FARGO, or even a Hitchcock version, instead viewers are treated to victimization by an oppressive white society, the Confederate flag brandished as a symbol for racism, corrupt police departments, and a searing hatred for middle class suburbia.  None of it plays well, and the fault lies at the feet of Clooney who erroneously thought he could enhance a script by the Coens with his progressive, liberal viewpoints.


Skip this one, and wait patiently for the fourth season of FARGO, due out next year, provided the Coens don’t ask Clooney to be involved.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

THE COMMUTER



NEESON IS THE COMMUTER

Film Review by FIORE

Kudos to Liam Neeson for sticking to his guns- literally.  After restimulating his career and jumping to box office stardom by starring in films that made him an action hero, Neeson alienated many of his new-found fans by going on the talk show circuit and blasting guns, gun owners and demanding more gun control laws.  Many saw this as hypocritical, much in the fashion of fellow thespian Matt Damon.  So, in his latest film, THE COMMUTER, Neeson is not a retired special ops agent, nor mercenary.  He is an insurance salesman, who happens to be an ex-cop.  He does not carry a gun, and only picks one up in this movie when absolutely necessary.  At least Neeson returned to action in a subdued manner, a man pressed by circumstances, rather than as a one man wrecking crew.

THE COMMUTER is a decent action thriller.  It’s part NON-STOP and part UNSTOPPABLE.  Neeson is an insurance salesman, who mere years before retirement, is fired.  Chagrined and defeated, he boards a train home, only to be propositioned by a mysterious woman, offering $100,000 for one simple task.  The task becomes complicated after its connections to a recent assassination are revealed.

THE COMMUTER opens with a strong scene in a bar that introduces a trio of main characters, including Neeson’s  Michael MacCaulley, Patrick Wilson as his former partner and friend Alex Murphy (notice he has the same name as Peter Weller’s title character in ROBOCOP) and Sam Neill as MacCaulley’s former boss Captain Hawthorne.  Starring with the boys are Vera Farmiga and Elizabeth McGovern.

Byron Willinger and Philip deBlasi team up for the screenplay, based on their original story.  It’s a fast moving plot, chock full of action.  The glaring hole seems to be in the technology.  If the antagonists have enough savvy to follow MacCaulley’s every move and interact with him, why in the world do they need him at all.  Seems they could eliminate their target via proxy drone.

Roque Banos, a veteran of Hispanic films, provides a heart-racing score.  Paul Cameron’s camera work deftly hides Neeson’s stunt man, and angles the action to virtual reality.  Editor Nicolas DeToth leaves one sequence in, which adds unnecessary length to THE COMMUTER.  Viewers will quickly notice a scene in which MacCaulley asks his captors to speak to his family, is awkwardly doubled.  It gives the film unneeded ten minutes.  

The entire project is headed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who, though hyphenated, is still a dreaded three-name person.  This is the second time Neeson has teamed with Collet-Serra.  The first was NON-STOP, and perhaps that is why there is a familiarity between the two films, though this one, thankfully, avoids the sanctimonious and erroneous political demagoguery the first contained. 


Save for these minor foibles, THE COMMUTER plays well in the action genre.  A good date night, or evening on the town film, be sure to see it on the big screen to gain the full effect of the train sequences.  Neeson has now done planes and trains.  I guess automobiles are next to complete the trilogy.  Certainly, no one is considering travelling in any manner with da Liam Neesons.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN

BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN MORE OF A DITTY





Film Review by FIORE

If someone is deserving of a ballad, they should accomplish feats worthy of song.  THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN deals with a character who is more noted for his errors than his exploits.  He can’t shoot straight, is slow to understand what is going on around him, has no manner with the ladies and while he understands tactical strategies, he can’t execute them.  This might make a good comedy, the type Peter Sellers would excel at; however, THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN is not played for laughs.  This makes the entire film rather ho-hum, providing a payday for stars who are capable of much better material.

Written and Directed by Jared Moshe, THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN is a simple tale of four old friends who turn on each other due to politics and money.  Set in the old West, the film’s only true charm is its genre.  So few Westerns are made in Hollywood these days, though they still have an intrinsic residence in our mythos.   

There are several holes in the climax large enough to engineer a train through; and some instances of slipshod editing.


Bill Pullman plays the title character.  His three friends are Peter Fonda, Jim Caviezel and Tommy Flanagan.  As stated, all three are deserving of better material.  The script is augmented by their presence, but all give only secondary performances.  Nothing more is required. 

I made it through THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN primarily because I enjoy Westerns, and secondarily because I kept waiting for Pullman’s Lefty Brown to do something worthy of a ballad.  But this is a ballad without glory.  It’s more of a ditty.