REVIEW: “MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN” (2019) Warner Bros. // Post Q & A: Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw

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Set in a tough but glamorous moment in time, “MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN” follows Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) after the murder of his closest friend and colleague Frank Minna (Bruce Willis).  Lionel is hellbent on unraveling the reason and discovering why Frank was killed and who is the killer.  He finds himself on a paper trail across Brooklyn, never giving up on his plan. Being that Lionel is someone someone who also happens to suffer from Tourettes or Tertz Syndrome, and other verbal and motor tics, yet is endowed with perfect pitch of a memory that forgets nothing, makes him a true asset in the world of being part of Minna’s boys – the team of the Private Investigation office of Frank Minna.  He is a character that has a lot of depth to get behind, and being one that needs a great performance in order to be authentic.  And we are given that performance in spades, not only by Norton, but the fantastic entire ensemble cast of this film.

The script that is taken from the book of the same title by Jonathan Lethem, is directed and written by Norton as well, and is where this film truly shines the most in film noir context.  Norton has written it to set in Brooklyn in the 1950’s – in a New York that power-hungry people like Robert Moses are transforming, a New York that feeds his autocratic inclination, as the power behind the throne. The indiscriminate use by the city power brokers of the time of ’eminent domain’ in what is subjectively, the ethnic cleansing of the working poor, the blacks and the Puerto Ricans, who are all subject to losing their homes on a whim, to the pretending to ever provide them with places to relocate. The villain here is Moses “Moe” Randolph, a not so thinly-veiled character that is modeled on Robert Moses, and played well by Alec Baldwin. But pay attention as it can seem a bit overwhelming and convoluted in the beginning, giving the feeling that if you miss even one moment, you will lose track of the story line and seemingly every singular piece is of importance as each scene details in the telling of this tale.

Murder, greed, sibling rivalry and treachery, mafia-like tactics, along with adultery, corruption, jazz, taut racial relations, and resistance from below and the stone-willed determination of Norton to put together and solve the disparate pieces of this puzzle that is ‘Homeless Brooklyn’.  A sure fire cast of supporting characters starting with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose, who is not just a woman of mixed race here, but playing an educated, strong African American women of the time period, a role written in by Norton specifically to shine through to help those in the thresholds of despair facing eviction. Willem Dafoe as Paul Randolph, the brilliant engineer brother of the King Moe himself, yet who couldn’t be more of a polar opposite of his brother. The always spectacular Cherry Jones who gives grit & spit to her portrayal of Gabby Horowitz, Bobby Cannavale, who has been stepping up his game in good supporting characters in films this year is Tony Vermonte, the guy who wants to take over leading the agency here – but has a second play in motion being he’s side-stepping out with Julia Minna, (Leslie Mann), Frank’s wife.  And how can you not enjoy seeing Michael Kenneth Williams as a mellow jazz musician (even if I always secretly wish he would reprise his Omar character in The Wire).  Ethan Suplee, Dallas Roberts, Josh Pais, Fisher Stevens, and Peter Lewis help round out this ensemble cast that seemingly are all so far apart at the beginning of this film, as we watch only to see that all the pieces slowly fall into place one by one, showing how really very connected they are and making 144 minutes fly by at a fast clip. And what would this film be if not with it’s many street scenes, as even the city – Brooklyn – ably stars as itself.

‘Homeless Brooklyn’ speaks to the politics of our day, nonetheless the moral of justice is frayed in a jagged pattern. It’s perfect film noir fodder: power and corruption, progress vs. community, race and a bit of sex, all with a jazz score in the background.  And sometimes it’s just funny.

Grade: A

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Media Review Screening: Monday, November 11, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN” IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS // WORLDWIDE RELEASE TO FOLLOW

 

Post Q & A with Ed Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw:

It’s always a wonderful experience to have post Q & A’s with the actor/directors etc.. as they can provide a completely different view into a film that we might never get the chance to know about. Everything from costuming to the music to budgeting, productions shoots and insights of the characters and those that make those characters come to life.  This one was just exactly that.

The Q & A started off with questioning Ed Norton about changing the book from what it was to a completely different setting of Brooklyn in the 1950’s and the challenges that gave him. Norton, followed through that it took him years to create this and accepting the challenge to make it what he truly wanted in film noir, was one he really worked hard for as so many didn’t take it seriously in financing etc.

Asking Gugu Mbatha-Raw about her character which wasn’t even in the book and was it harder to shape her by not having a book to read like the others did on their characters. – She liked that her character was a strong, educated woman in the 50’s where things like that were rare occurrences. Gugu also noted she was the only Brit actor and being around these top notch terrific theater actors helped make her in so many ways with accent, dress, etc in helping shape her character

Norton spoke about how due to the small 26 million dollar budget, all the actors took deferred salaries in order to make the film possible. Almost all of them being top NYC theater actors that Norton has known for years, such as Peter Lewis with whom he’d been in plays with since his 20’s and was his scene study actor here. Due to the detailed speeches and the short 46 day shoot, Norton needed to know that they could do it. No mistakes, no time for rehearsals etc..had to be able to walk in and do it.  So as Norton noted, he is forever in their debt and if you see him in the coming years in something that you are wondering ‘why is he even in this movie – take for instance a bit role as the mayor in Die Hard 8 – well he is paying off his debt. – to much laughter from the audience.

SPIRIT AWARDS NOMINEES – WEEK TWO SCREENING REVIEWS

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Started and finished up Week Two of Spirit Award nominee screenings. Closed it all out on Saturday and granted I didn’t see everything yet, but have gotten in a good portion of those nominated and while some they did provide screeners for most, a few did not (I’m looking specifically at you “Thoroughbreds”), or I made the screenings. From here on it gets real as (drum roll) we vote.

“WILDLIFE” Dir: Paul Dano

‘Wildlife’ is a perfect example of how you can put two very good actor/actresses in a film and it still doesn’t make it good. Jake Gyllenhaal is just plain wooden in his role here and Carey Mulligan almost overacts her role as a cheating housewife. Almost painful to watch what could have had potential, just did not work.
Grade: D

“SUPPORT THE GIRLS” Dir. Andrew Bujalski

I found myself having a soft spot for this one even though it might not have been the best movie I’ve seen – it most definitely had it’s moments while giving a absolute spot on portrayal of what it’s like working in the service industry, most especially in the “Hooters” type atmosphere. Regina Hall leads the cast as the general manager, but almost stealing the show from her are the ‘girls’ Haley Lu Richardson, AJ Michalka, and newcomer Shayna McHayle. James Le Gros as the grubby bar owner rounds this out. It’s definitely got a good #GirlPower message to women servers around the world!
Grade: C+

“COLETTE” Dir: Wash Westmoreland

Colette is yet another true story of female empowerment – a woman with real talent trying to break out of the gilded cage she finds herself trapped in. Colette is the ghost writer of a series of novels about her own life, but because of the times, her husband says they are his and takes credit for them – until she steps out of the cage. While not Keira Knightly’s biggest fan, she does the brooding Victorian women like no other. Dominic West delivers a reliably solid performance as expected, with the supporting cast also doing the same. Sadly, the film seems much longer slog than its 111 minute run time, notably the whole middle portion of the film being somewhat pedestrian as well.
Grade: C

“YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE” Dir. Lynne Ramsay

What a huge letdown this film was for me. Most definitely inspired by ‘Taxi Driver’, and ‘inspired by’ is where it shall remain as this pointless plot about Joaquin Phoenix as hired enforcer with clearly some mom issues of his own. This plot falls all over the place with bad, slow pacing and brings nothing new to the table. Yes, I get it, it supposed to be an ‘art’ film – but even those have to have some semblance of some type of clever conversation or suspense.. anything really. To those that loved it..kudos..
Grade: D

“CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME” Dir: Marielle Heller

Melissa McCarthy brings a whole other side to her acting her with this strong dramatic turn as a celeb bio author who books cease to be published so instead she resorts to ‘authoring’ fake celebrity letters. Something which she is very good at, probably better than writing her actual books truth be told. Aided by the fantastic supporting performance of Richard E. Grant, this film is non-stop literary fun from beginning to end..and by end we mean in jail for fraud.
Grade: B+

“BLACKkKLANSMAN” Dir: Spike Lee

I will confess, Adam Driver kinda kept me away from watching this film because my admitting that I am just not a fan might make some upset because of the whole Star Wars thing etc.. etc.. so Star Wars fanboys I apologize, as I actually liked him here. But come on, John David Washington, was perfection. This movie had me from moment one, and made me laugh with disbelief, but it also made me cry at the very end when you do realize that we ARE letting it happen again – and that breaks my heart. #RIPHeatherHeyer
Grade: A+

“EIGHTH GRADE” Dir: Bo Burnham

I mean all I can say is read my review here to know how much I loved it.
https://peggyatthemovies.com/2018/07/17/review-eighth-grade-2018-a24/
Grade: A-

“WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR” Dir: Morgan Neville

Again, my review from when I saw this wonderful film earlier in the year.
https://peggyatthemovies.com/2018/06/01/review-wont-you-be-my-neighbor-2018-focus-features/
Grade: A+

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REVIEW: “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT” (2018) Paramount Pictures

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Its almost impossible to make a good summer blockbuster right now – However, Chris McQuarrie accepted that mission and has fully succeeded. “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-FALLOUT” is a visual spectacle that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves a good, smart action film with beautifully done wide shots and a great storyline. But don’t blink as you watch, because the story comes at you fast, with flash modes and ulterior motives at every turn.

‘Fallout’ picks up two years after ‘Rogue Nation’ and we get a better insight into Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as a character and his motivations. We learn that although Ethan stopped the Syndicate, the Syndicate agents left alive now call themselves “The Apostles”. Due to a tough decision Ethan makes early on, the Apostles now have three balls of grade A plutonium, enough to make three nuclear bombs with strategic destinations plotted for each of them. And so begins our heroes globe trotting heroics to stop these nuclear disasters as it’s up to Hunt and his gang of IMF agents to find them before it’s too late. Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), all return and they’re joined by Henry Cavill’s no-nonsense CIA operative August Walker, Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) as his handler, and Rebecca Ferguson’s MI6 spy, Ilsa Faust is also back along for the ride.

And what a ride it is. A rather elaborate plot full of double / triple / quadruple crosses, treachery and assumed identities, take the team around the world in a whistle-stop tour of some famous cities. A frenetic car chase through the streets of Paris, a rooftop run through London and a helicopter ride from hell in Kashmir – all impress as do the cast, of particular fun is Vanessa Kirby’s mysterious White Widow.

And Tom …oh Tom, Tom, Tommy, damn, you have this action star thing down pat and do the genre huge justice here. Cruise is as reliable as ever and at 56 – yes I said 56 – he shows no signs of slowing down even if it might take him a little longer to recover from a battering these days. Sorry to call it out, but Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson needs to take page or two from Cruise’s handbook on how to be an actual action film star and make a good action movie. As for Cruise, whether it’s leaping from buildings, jumping from airplanes during a lightning storm or riding a motorbike the wrong way around the Champs-Élysées – he’s coolness personified and is the catalyst for another adrenaline fueled thriller that takes cinematic stunts to a new level. And for the most part, they are actually done by him – without a lot of CGI blah-ness thrown in. This is the real deal people. I applaud him and the crew for raising the bar. The man is a legend and honestly shows that CG is a long way off being as good or as exciting as live action scenes.

The bond of the team (Cruise, Ferguson, Cavill, Pegg and Rhames) is what makes this work and the chemistry of the cast is amazing. I loved Michelle Monaghan back as Julia in this film for the few scenes she has. The chemistry with Cruise is emotional and I love their story together and where it has gone. Henry Cavill too, is a welcome addition to the series and honestly steals some the film best moments. The bathroom fight scene is easily one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen. It was great to see him get his teeth into a different type of role. He doesn’t disappoint here.

I also loved that that for the first time they referenced the other sequels which was brilliant but for anyone who hasn’t seen the previous movies it will not go over their heads or is there the need to have seen them.

This film easily takes the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise to another level and proves that with a great cast, crew, director and writers, that sequels and series can progress the story and get even better. Hands down, “Mission: Impossible-Fallout” is easily the must see action film of the summer, possibly the whole of 2018.

Grade: A-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, July 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWS IN AUG 2018

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (2015) Paramount Pictures

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Yes.. yes.. yes.. The Missions are back on!! To say the continuing saga of Ethan Hunt carries on with a bang – would be putting it lightly.

A few things to note right off in this latest boot-up of the Mission Impossible franchise – 1. We are going rogue.. 2. Tom Cruise at 53 is the new 33 – I’m telling you – watching him doing these stunts is truly eye popping and 3. Rebecca Ferguson is a fantastic femme fatale bad ass – Hands down – no questions asked – she knocks it out of the park here.

I’m not going to go into full detail here as with all action films, as not only do you need to see it for yourself, but they don’t go for a big emotional point to the storyline..they go for the action and action you shall receive. In abundance.
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Rogue Nation opens on “Ethan Hunt” (Tom Cruise) hanging off the side of a plane, which has been notably played up as the holy-shite-Tom-Cruise-actually-did-that-himself stunt moment. And play up they should as once you hear the familiar theme music – whooosh…you fall right in step with the action.
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This time round the IMF team is on the track of ‘The Syndicate’ an evil group of agents whom are all listed as supposedly dead or MIA along with the fact that no one seems to believe they exist, leads us to understand quickly enough who the bad guys are and who the good guys are..or in the case of one character..it might beg the question..do we?

Simon Pegg back again as “Benji Dunn” adds the expected comic relief at the right intervals and is a fun watch here. Alec Baldwin as CIA naysayer “Alan Hunley” who believes The Syndicate might just be a figment of Ethan’s imagination, and who begs the question if the IMF is really relevant any longer as he feels they’ve more or less just been ‘lucky’ so far. Jeremy Renner “William Brandt” & Ving Rhames “Luther Sitckell” are both back and here to stay. Rebecca Ferguson as “Ilsa Faust” is truly the one who takes it all here. She is a breath of fresh air for the franchise, the right blend of strong and sexy – not knowing if she is friend or foe makes her all the more mysterious and carries in the movie well. My motto of ‘you’re only as good as your villain’ also comes across well with a notably beardless Sean Harris as baddie “Solomon Lane”.
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While Rogue Nation is most definitely an adrenaline ride fueled by high octane action sequences, it’s also wittier than past M.I. films with Cruise facial reactions to some of what’s going on let’s you in on the secret that yes..he knows how impractical it all seems.. but yet makes you feel as it’s not. There are great moments of comic relief mixed with suspense and a wonderful cast that has great chemistry with one another.

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Cruise might have been underappreciated in Edge of Tomorrow but it’s clearer than ever that Ethan Hunt is one of Cruise’s better signature roles and to that extent, just might be back. And to answer Baldwin’s character’s meta-question: Can Mission Impossible stay relevant in this new era of bigger and better-let’s outdo the next guy film? The answer is decidedly maybe. Ok..Definitely maybe. 😉

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, July 27, 2015 courtesy of Paramount Pictures
In wide release: Friday, July 31, 2015

“Blue Jasmine”

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‘Blue Jasmine’ is a full on Woody Allen movie..It’s like you can always tell a Woody Allen movie even if no one told you he wrote & directed it.. He just has a certain style..and I’ve always liked it. Was it his best..nah..I think it’s been awhile since there has been a fantastic Allen movie..but it was really good. It had it’s moments of laughter, sadness, quirky & kind of a message dare I say… Cate Blanchett is stellar as always, but who REALLY shocked me was Andrew Dice Clay of all people in a supporting role.. and did a really good job!!! Grade: B – #peggyatthemovies