Film Review: THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED) (USA 2017) ****

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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Poster
Trailer
An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.

Director:

Noah Baumbach

Writer:

Noah Baumbach

 

The one of two Netflix originals that premiered at Cannes this year (with OKJA), THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES took critics by surprise (despite being booed at the screenings for being a NETFLIX film) with many hailing it as one of their favourite Top 10 at Cannes.

The film is so-called THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES as it revolves around multiple stories among the different members of the Meyerowitz family.  It starts off with Danny driving around the city with his daughter cussing while trying to find parking.  “Garage it,” the daughter says.  The family patriarch is Harold (Oscar Winner Dustin Hoffman sporting a full beard).  He is old, hospitalized at one point and is more interested in his art and coming-up museum showcase opening than in his family.  His new wife is alcoholic recovered, Maureen (Emma Thompson) wanting to seek the family house.  Their sons include Danny (Adam Sadler) who is recently separated and moving ingot he parents house and who has never worked a day in his life.  The successful son, making the money is Matt (Ben Stiller) who the family resents because of jealousy that he is capable to making the most money.  The daughter is Jenny (Elizabeth Marvel) into into making movies.  Everyone comes together in this dysfunctional family with drastic and comedic results.  Bambauch has mastered this genre with his film flowing smoothly.

Director Bambauch (THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, MISTRESS AMERICA, FRANCES HA) allow each actor their freedom to do their own thing and inhabit the characters they portray.  Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller in their rare serious roles shine in their performances.  They show both angst and desperation as men that been betrayed by the artistic father (Dustin Hoffman sporting a full white beard.)  Emma Thompson sporting elderly age makeup plays the step-mother reminiscent of a similar motherly role in the British film THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON. 

The film has a Jewish cast and crew, led by its director Bambauch.  The film has definitely a Jewish impression that leaves a fine imprint and is not overpowering.  It runs a bit long at 2 hours, but the free flowing characteristic of the film allows it to keep going, without it getting monotonous or boring.  One can always count on Bamnauch to add another story to his list.

The film’s best moments are in the script’s sharp dialogue.  The best line comes from Dr. Soni after the children abruptly questions her saying it isn’t fair for on her leaving for vacation in China while leaving their father in an induced coma.  (This current state of affairs is already really funny in itself)  Her reply: “yes, it isn’t!”  The response sums up what each of the siblings have gone through being a member of the Meyerowitz family.

THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES establishes Bambauch once again as the Master of films on dysfunctional families and quirky characters.

The film is available on NETFLIX for on-line streaming to subscribers.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czyMIIm12JY

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Happy Birthday: Dustin Hoffman

dustinhoffman.jpgDustin Hoffman

Born: August 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Married to:
Lisa Gottsegen (12 October 1980 – present) (4 children)
Anne Byrne Hoffman (4 May 1969 – 6 October 1980) (divorced) (2 children)

He was a neighbor of Mel Brooks in New York and was set to play the role of Franz Liebkind in Brooks’ first film, The Producers (1967). Just before production was to commence, Hoffman was offered the role of Ben Braddock in The Graduate (1967), co-starring Brooks’ wife Anne Bancroft, and asked to be let out of his contract. The role of Liebkind eventually went to Kenneth Mars.

The Graduate
1967
dir. by Mike Nichols
starring
Hoffman
Anne Bancroft
Midnight CowboyMidnight Cowboy
1969
dir. John Schlesinger
Cast
Hoffman
Jon Voight
All the Presidnet's MenAll the President’s Men
1976
dir. Alan J Pakula
Starring
Robert Redford
Hoffman
KRAMER VS KRAMERKramer vs Kramer
1979
dir. Robert Benton
Starring
Dustin Hoffman
Meryl Streep
Tootsie
1982
dir. Sydney Pollack
Starring
Hoffman
Jessica Lange
Rain ManRain Man
1988
dir. by Barry Levinson
Starring
Tom Cruise
Hoffman
Dick TracyDick Tracy
1990
dir. by Warren Beatty
starring
Warren Beatty
Madonna
Al Pacino
WAG THE DOG MOVIE POSTERWag the Dog
1997
dir. Bary Levinson
Starring
Robert DeNiro
Hoffman
Moonlight Mile
2002
dir. Brad Silberling
Starring
Jake Gyllenhaal
Bruce Willis
Susan Sarandon
Hoffman
Finding Neverland
2004
dir. by Marc Forster
starring
Johnny Depp
Kate Winslet
Stranger Than Fiction
2006
dir. Marc Forster
Starring
Will Ferrell
Maggie Gyllenhaal
MOVIEMARATHON MAN
1976
dir. John Schlesinger
Starring
Laurence Olivier
Dustin Hoffman
SydneyWhiteMr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
2007
Directed by Zack Helm
Starring
Hoffman
Natalie Portman
Kung Fu PandaKung Fu Panda
Directed by Mark Osborne
John Stevenson
Voices by
Jack Black
Hoffman
THE TALE OF DESPEREAUXThe Tale of Despereaux
2008
dir. Sam Fell
Robert Stevenhagen
Voices by
Matthew Broderick
Hoffman
Little Fockers Little Fockers
dir. Paul Weitz
Stars:
Ben Stiller
Teri Polo
BARNEY'S VERSIONBARNEY’S VERSION
2011
dir. Richard J. Lewis
Starring:
Paul Giamatti
Rosamund Pike
KUNG FU PANDA 2KUNG FU PANDA 2
dir. Jennifer Yuh
Stars:
Jack Black
Angelina Jolie
MOVIE POSTERQUARTET
2013
dir. Dustin Hoffman
Stars:
Maggie Smith
Michael Gambon
MOVIE POSTERLENNY
1974
dir. Bob Fosse
Stars:
Dustin Hoffman
Valerie Perrine
MOVIE POSTERPERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER
2006
dir. Tom Tykwer
Stars:
Ben Whishaw
Dustin Hoffman
MOVIE POSTERCHEF
2014
dir. Jon Favreau
Stars:
Robert Downey Jr.
Scarlett Johansson
MOVIE POSTERHOOK
1991
dir. Steven Spielberg
Stars:
Dustin Hoffman
Robin Williams

 

Movie Review: THE PROGRAM (UK/France 2015)

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the_programTHE PROGRAM (UK/France 2015)**
Directed by Stephen Frears

Starrting: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Guillaume Canet, Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace, Dustin Hoffman

Review by Gilbert Seah

Lance Armstrong is infamous the world over. The recent documentary on his disgrace THE ARMSTRONG LIE had informed the world of his demise, and now the fictionalized version is ready to do more of the same. Lance Armstrong (played by Ben Foster) is an American cyclist who won the Tour De France 7 years running. He entertained controversy of his taking performance enhancing drugs (particularly EPO in short). He denied it totally and the world believed him. But after his comeback after a 4-year break, a fellow team member, Floyd Landis (Jesse Plemons) confessed to his and Armstrong’s taking of EPO. The Tour De France stripped Armstrong of all 7 wins.

THE PROGRAM is understandably a French/British co-production as Armstrong obviously not only disgraced himself but the county he represented. THE ARMSTRONG LIE was made and shelved when the disgrace hit the news 3 years later, but released after Armstrong appeared on Oprah.

THE PROGRAM of the title refers to the drug program enforced by the French Doctor, Michele Ferrari (Guillaume Canet), who was eventually banned from practice after word came out of his abuse. When Armstrong realized other cyclists may be using performance enhancing drugs, he begged the doctor to put him on the program at all costs.

It is surprising that Frears and the script by Jon Hodge sees so little time on the Irish reporter, David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) who uncovered the truth of the story. The film based on Walsh’s book “Seven Deadly Sins’ spends minimum time, showing the reporter’s work and quiet after Armstrong put him to shame. But when he was eventually proven correct, his triumph is just dismissed with the fact that the Sunday Times got their money they initially paid as damages to Armstrong back. Dustin Hoffman, credited in the film also has a one-line scene.

Armstrong is an extremely dislikable man. He shows no humility, is proud and obsessive and full of himself. A film that centres on a lead character with such a personality is obviously going to run into problems. Audiences disliking the lead will most likely dislike the film as a result. Director Frears who has in his carer made some excellent films (PHILOMENA, THE QUEEN) seems at a loss with the character of Armstrong. In his previous films that dealt with unsavoury characters like the pregnant teenage daughter in THE SNAPPER and homosexuality in MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE, Frears used humour and satire to make his movie work. But in THE PROGRAM, Frears uses none of these tactics. He tells the story of the ARMSTRONG LIE in a straight forward story-telling convention. Using standard formulaic biopics story-telling, he charts the rise to fame, and slow downfall of the cyclist, highlighting his winning moments to lift the spirit of the story.

There is absolutely no need to watch another version of a disgraced human human being. Armstrong describes himself as a champion. But in reality he is one who has disgraced the sport and a spineless worm with no conscience. The documentary THE ARMSTRONG LIE has already told the same story and extremely well by Alex Gibney (ENRON, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE), with the real Armstrong as himself using actual footage of himself at the race without any re-enactments. At least Frears shows him, as the worst person that can be, still trying to convince the world of his ability.

The end credits predictably showing each of the featured characters in real life from Armstrong, to the doctor that enforced the drug program re-enforce the fact that Frears seem to be gnu through the motion with this one.

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Movie Review: KUNG FU PANDA 3 (2016)

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kung_fu_panda_3KUNG FU PANDA 3 (USA/China 2016) ***
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni

Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu

Review by Gilbert Seah

The third of the KUNG FU PANDA animated features provides more of the same. However, being family fun entertainment, critics should not be too hard on the filmmakers. As long as KUNG FU PANDA delivers a safe product, everyone especially a less discerning audience should not complain.

The first one in the series that is a Chinese co-production, Fox obviously has an eye for the large Chinese market. There is a Chinese version with Chinese dubbed voices. The previous two films grossed more than $600 million each and this $120 million production should beat those records. To be super safe, the script by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger have added many more pandas into the film – in the form of a secret panda sanctuary.

Po finally gets to meet his real biological father in this film. The segment of their meeting, as shown in a promotional clip before is the funniest of the film. Of course, his adoptive father, Mr. Ping (James Hong) the goose who wants to open his own dumpling stall is incredibly jealous. Po is brought to a Panda sanitary where he trains panda students in martial-arts. Po also meets Mei Mei, an overly eager panda, who had been promised to Po through an arranged marriage when they were children. But the main plot involves an evil ancient supernatural spirit called Kai begins terrorizing China and stealing the powers of defeated kung fu masters. Now in the face of incredible odds, Po must learn to train the village of clumsy, fun-loving pandas to become a band of Kung Fu Pandas.

Added to the film are new characters like Po’s (Jack Black) biological father, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) and Mei Mei (a brilliant Kate Hudson), a female panda who has the hots for Po. Hudson does a marvellous job resulting in the audience wanting to see more of Mei Mei. The villain of the piece is Kai (Oscar winning J.J. Simmons) who adds a some humour to his role. His voice is easily recognized from the low tones. The usually Po gang is still present. So, for those KUNG FU PANDA fans, Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross) and even Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) are back.

The climatic fight between Po and Kai is ok but nothing too exciting nor out of the ordinary. But the antics of Po is enough to entertain despite the relatively weak plot.

The Chinese influence in this entry is clearly evident. There is more oriental folklore, more oriental colours and more oriental architectural drawings. This entry is also the most colourful of the three with the animation at its peak. The ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ song is also given a Chinese slant. Hans Zimmer hits with the overall musical score.

KUNG FU PANDA 3 should be a big hit. At the end of the promo screening, kids can be seen in front of the screen imitating the martial-arts moves of their hero, Po.

 

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com