Film Review: THE TOMORROW MAN (USA 2018) ***1/2

Trailer

Ed Hemsler spends his life preparing for a disaster that may never come. Ronnie Meisner spends her life shopping for things she may never use. In a small. These two people will try to find love.

Director:

Noble Jones (as Noble Lincoln Jones)

Writer:

Noble Jones

Romantic Comedies are not part of my favourite film genre.  And least of all romantic comedies where the subjects are old folks.  So, what can I say about THE TOMORROW MAN?  – a romantic comedy about two seniors who fall in love.  It is a charming and winning film, full of surprises that works because of a heartfelt script and two amazing leads – Blythe Danner and John Lithgow.

THE TOMORROW MAN is Ed Hemsler (Lithgow).  Ed spends his life preparing for a disaster that may never come. Ronnie Meisner (Danner) spends her life shopping for things she may never use.  In a small town somewhere in America, these two people will try to find love while trying not to get lost in each other’s stuff.

Just as Ed surprises Ronnie every time they meet (the first time suddenly appearing at the supermarket, one time when his face appears as she closes her car’s hood) the script is also full of surprises.  When Ed drives Ronnie home after the first date, when he turns on the car radio, Ronnie starts singing.  Out of the blue he screeches the car to a stop and runs out screaming.  What happens next is unexpected, surprise and totally charming.   And enough to knock the audience off their seats – the couple’s first embrace.  This is is makes he film work – a script that is so engaging, funny and unexpected.  Another scene has Ed going on and on talking non-stop about himself and his family and then suddenly stopping to say that he is saying too much.  Ronnie then surprises with her candid revelation about herself and her family.  Other examples, in fact too many to mention follow – a really good thing.

Both characters are eccentric.  Ed imagines that the news lady on TV speaks to him.  “There has been a third power outage.  But Ed Hemsler has a backup generator.  Because Ed Hemsler thinks of everything.  Because Ed Hamster thinks of everything.”  Ronnie is more forward about the relationship than is believed at the start.  A few wise words from the couple also offers advice to the audience, just as Ed tells his son on the telephone at the film’s start: “What matters is what you do now.”

Lithgow and Danner make the perfect believable senior couple.  They do not come across as condescending.  They do not relive their old younger glory days but acknowledge their age (I retired at the wrong side of 60, says Ed at one point in the film) and limitations.

The film has been described by Jimmy Fallon as an old age version of SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.  Yes and no.  THE TOMORROW MAN is a film about eccentrics, too but it is not a sensationalized romance like PLAYBOOK.  Both are well-made, entertaining films and THE TOMORROW MAN excels in its own weird way.  The film shows that there is life after 60 and that a romantic comedy about seniors can still have appeal and zest.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8769848/videoplayer/vi1054063641?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1

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Film Review: LATE NIGHT (USA 2019) ***

Late Night Poster
Trailer

A late-night talk-show host suspects that she may soon lose her long-running show.

Director:

Nisha Ganatra

Writer:

Mindy Kaling (screenplay by)

The timely talk-show host comedy LATE NIGHT earns a double boost from being selected to headline the Toronto Inside Out Gay and Lesbian Film Festival’s Closing Night Gala as well as having the fortune to have Academy Award British actress Emma Thompson star as the legendary talk-show host Katherine Newbury.

The script has been widely publicized as being written by Indian comedian Mindy Kaling, one fo the most well known and respected TV and film personalities.  In her script, she gets to offer her take on feminine and minority issues.  Though her script is by no means perfect, it has good moments, is earnest and also occasionally quite funny.

The film centres on American talk-show host, British born Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), a pioneer in her field.  The only woman ever to have a long-running program on late night, she keeps her writers’ room on a short leash ― and all male, and all white male at that.  But when her ratings plummet and she finally realizes that she but not her show is going to be axed, she starts taking notice and action, and oddly enough, inappropriate action.  She is accused of being a “woman who hates women,” Katherine puts gender equality on her to-do list and impulsively hires Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling herself), a chemical plant efficiency expert from suburban Pennsylvania, as the first and only female on her writing staff.

The film swings into Molly’s character.  Molly is the underdog with lots of criticism but with few solutions.  When Katherine fingers her out to express her views, she is upset that a newbie can find fault her but offer little in terms of answers,

When rumours begin swirling that Katherine is being replaced by a younger, hipper male host, Daniel Tennant (Ike Barinholtz), she demands that the writers make her funny and relevant again. This is when Molly makes her mark while running at the same times, loggerheads with Katherine.  The film plays like a romantic comedy between Katherine and Molly, the two fighting and then respecting each other.

At its best, the script shows the strength of diversity and women at the work place.  The success of Katherine in what is normally a male occupation says a lot.  Most of the real late night talk show hosts at present are men – so networks should take notice.  The Katherine character is fashioned a bit around the Ellen Degeneres personality and similarities (like Katherine’s remarks) exist.  The restraint of putting a lid on a romantic subplot pays off too.  There is a little romance brewing but just enough to make Molly a vulnerable character.  The script shows  the female crying a well.  (Molly cries behind her desk in one scene after being humiliated by Katherine).  

On the negative side, all the males are depicted as second class idiots.  All of Katherine’s white males writers are bumbling no-brainers.  The role of Katherine’s husband (John Lithgow) is over-written and over sympathetic.  The males also cannot keep a decent relationship going.

Kaling’s script also seems over eager to please.  It is clear enough that LATE NIGHT is supposed to be a feel-good movie but at times, when the music comes crescendo-ing over the dialogue to steer how the audience to feel, it all seems a bit too much.

Thompson delivers a winning performance, regardless and Kaling tries hard in her role which basically her film of her own.

LATE NIGHT is still entertaining despite its over eagerness to please, the film aided by Thompson’s and Kaling’s otherwise working chemistry.

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

DADDY’S HOME 2 (USA 2017)

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Daddy's Home 2 Poster
Trailer

Brad and Dusty must deal with their intrusive fathers during the holidays.

Director:

Sean Anders

Writers:

Sean AndersBrian Burns (characters)

 

One can tell that there is something wrong with a movie when the movie within a movie turns out to be more interesting than the movie itself.  In DADDY’S HOME 2, the families end up at one point stranded at a suburban cinema where a fake movie MISSILE TOW starring Liam Neeson is playing.  Neeson pays a character (voice only heard) that rescues his family from terrorists at all costs.  That fake film is heard for only a minute or two before director Anders turns the audience back to his nightmare Christmas movie – DADDY’S HOME 2

Moviegoers must have been very naughty during 2017 as Santa has rewarded them already with two awfully bad Christmas comedies – A BAD MOM’ S CHRISTMAS and now DADDY’S HOME 2.  DADDY’S HOME numero uno arrived on Christmas Day 2015 and went on to gross a remarkable $150 million domestically.  Thus arrives number 2 with Paramount hoping to do well again at the box-office.

The first film dealt with step-dad Brad (Will Ferrell) having to deal with his wife’s kids’ real father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) showing up to undo all the values that Brad had instilled in his family.  HOME 2 ups the angst with the arrival of the dads’ dads in the form of Mel Gibson and John Lithgow.  Gibson has had quite the bad press and has been successful behind the camera (HACKSAW RIDGE, PASSION OF THE CHRIST) than in front of it.  Surprisingly, he is the funniest and best of the cast in the film, playing against his true character in life – a macho, gun-totting anti-feminist old goat.

Like all Christmas comedies, the usual disastrous set ups are there – the setting up of the electrical house decorations that go wrong (at least this one is quite elaborately done); the Christmas tree shopping; the snowball fight (not funny at all); the Christmas dinner; the feel good sentiment (it is only the children that count); the breaking of a hard heart (John Cena’s as the biological father of Dusty’s kid).  The worst of all is the film’s climax, which must rank as the corniest set-up of all time that takes place in a cinema theatre during a blackout.  There is a shameless promotion of the good of going to the movies where audiences are encouraged to turn to the next person to greet them.  

A few non Christmas setups are included – the most notable being the bowling segment where one son has the problem of throwing his bowling ball into the gutter.  It is a rather simple setup that turns out to generate only a few laughs, if any pity laughs.  The predictable shoplifting gag does not work either nor the revelation of the notes that Dusty’s girlfriend takes of Brad’s wife that turn out to be good ones.

DADDY’S HOME 2 might work for the undemanding moviegoer.  There were people applauding at he end of the film, but critics can only shrug at this early Christmas enterprise.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8shgJX14HQ

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Film Review: BEATRIZ AT DINNER (USA 2017) ***

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beatriz at dinnerA holistic medicine practitioner attends a wealthy client’s dinner party after her car breaks down.

Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer: Mike White
Stars: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
Director Miguel Arteta and scriptwriter Mike White have worked together many times and are famous for their quirky little gems, the most notable being their debut feature, CHUCK AND BUCK. Their latest film BEATRIZ AT DINNER, which opened Sundance continues the trend.

The film opens with shots of Breatriz (Salma Hayek) at her home. She owns a goat and dog, works at a Cancer Centre and is at home with nature and healing. Just as one would dismiss this woman, who believes in reincarnation and giving back to the planet as a new age floozy, director Arteta and scriptwriter White slowly and effectively wins her over to the audience’s side. This is partly due to pitting her against a real nasty opposite human being, one that delights in the sport of hunting, disposing of wild life and displacing innocent people form their homes, a filthy rich land developer called Doug Struut (John Lithgow).

It all starts, innocently enough when Beatriz gives wealthy client Cathy (Connie Britton) a massage at her home. When Beatriz’s car is unable to start, she is invited to stay for the husband Grant’s (David Warshofsky) company dinner party – a celebration of some big deal the company has succeeded in winning.

The dinner guests arrive one couple at a time. It is clear that Beatriz and the dinner guests are not of the same ‘human’ wavelength. Except for Cathy who has more respect and tolerance for Beatriz, because she has helped her family with their child’s recuperation from cancer, each of the other dinner guests, including her husband treats Breatriz with a certain disdain that she is beneath them in class.

Arteta builds his film effectively to an escalating climax. Things reach a boiling point when Beatriz discovers how evil Strutt is and that a lot of evil in the world including her personal family loss are a direct result of his actions. It is emphasized that fate occurs for a reason. Soon she realizes that she could have been present for the dinner for a reason as fate dictates. She could root out evil at its source by murdering Strutt.

Salma Hayek delivers an excellent performance as the holistic nurse driven almost to righteous insanity. John Lithgow is equally excellent as the menacing villain, the one the audience would gladly stab in the back. All the supporting actors are equally good, credit given to the excellent casting.

A lot of films have used music or a song to break the monotony of a film or to create a highlight. Director Marlene Ape did it with her character rendering a full version of the Whitney Houston song “The Greatest Love of All” in TONY ERDMANN that earned the very rare standing ovation midway in the film at Cannes. Arteta attempts the same feat, with Hayek singing a Spanish song, to the accompaniment of her guitar playing. Though the words are in Spanish, the effect is no less powerful.

BEATRIZ AT DINNER ends with a non-typical happy ending that might not satisfy everyone. But one must remember that this is not ones typical standard film, but a quirky Arteta/White collaboration.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCLNTmNj5bI

 

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Movie Review: SANTA CLAUS, 1985

Top Christmas Movie of All-Time

SANTA CLAUSTHE SANTA CLAUS, 1985
Movie Reviews

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc.

Starring: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Burgess Meredith, Judy Cornwell, Jeffrey Kramer
Review by Russell Hill

SYNOPSIS:

The first half of this film, set hundreds of years ago, shows how the old man who eventually became Santa Claus was given immortality and chosen to deliver toys to all the children of the world. The second half moves into the modern era, in which Patch, the inventing elf, strikes out on his own and falls in with an evil toy manufacturer who wants to corner the market and eliminate Santa Claus.

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REVIEW:

Oh how I used to watch this movie when I was a child. Viewed on what seems like a hundred occasions since I was old enough to open my eyes, this movie just gets better after every viewing.

Santa (Huddleston) has been Saint Nick for some time now. Working alongside his happy elves ever since he landed the gig many centuries ago, Santa sets a challenge to his helpers to create a new production line technique to make the toys. The winner of this challenge is Patch (Moore) and soon he is in his element. However, after several disastrous mistakes which led to him being fired from the position, he leaves the North Pole for the world of humans where he strikes up a friendship with disgraced commercial toy maker BZ (Lithgow). Will their new relationship work? Or will Patch return to the North Pole and rejoin the land he belongs in?

Dudley Moore has always been a firm personal favourite. Although this was the first film I saw him appear in, viewings of “Arthur” have always been in constant stream on the DVD player, as have his “Derek and Clive” albums on my CD player. The man was downright, bona fide genius and for a gentleman to pass away at the ridiculously young age of 66 was a sad matter for everyone across the world. But, as demonstrated in this movie, we have evidence of a man in his prime when he played the role of Patch with such conviction that you really could believe Mr Moore’s real job was working with Santa and the other elves.

Over the years, the role of Santa has been played by many gentlemen. But here, in this very movie, David Huddleston certainly epitomises the look of Saint Nick with his larger-than-life personality and large belly which probably did shake like a bowl full of jelly. His devotion and admiration to Mrs Claus as well as providing the best possible presents to the millions of children who look towards him with such love and affection is remarkable, and a perfect example to every department store Santa and actor who wishes to hone their craft.

Looking back on matters, I am surprised to have initially watched this movie because of its director and what he has been responsible for previously directing. “Jaws 2” should never have been made, and “Supergirl” was okay in parts but completely detrimental to the memory of Christopher Reeve, but here Szwarc does a pretty damn fine job. Making the world believe a woman could fly was something he did not achieve, but here making children believe in Santa even more was quite something. There are no CGI effects here, but ones similar to what Donner used in the first Superman film in 1978. I must admit that they are not quite up to scratch of what we expect from contemporary cinema, but the efforts displayed here are far more effective and realistic; that successful you could be forgiven for thinking this action to be real rather than the “Video Game” effect which seems to be sloppily used nowadays.

I count my blessings that my modern-day thoughts of Szwarc did not deter me from watching this movie over the years. Every director makes one bad flick or two, and here this movie can not be counted amongst this cinematic group as it really is a classic.

 

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Happy Birthday: John Lithgow

johnlithgow.jpgJohn Lithgow

Born: October 19, 1945 in Rochester, New York, USA

Married to:
Mary Yeager (12 December 1981 – present) (2 children)
Jean Taynton (10 September 1966 – 1980) (divorced) (1 child)

I’ve had parallel careers in the theatre and in movies. In the theatre, I often play characters with a strong sense of innocence who aren’t as intelligent as I am. The reason: my size. I seem sort of big and good-natured on stage. It would be too much for a big man to play a forbidding character on stage. So I play big people who are fairly gentle. It’s a wonderful thing to build a career on. What I offer to movie-makers is that I can put a tremendous amount of theatrical background and technical equipment at their disposal. I can make believable the over-the-top characters.

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