Archive for the ‘Angelina Jolie’ Category

By The Sea

30 Nov


By the Sea – written and directed by Angelina Jolie. Drama. 122 minutes Color 2015.


The Story: A well-to-do married couple travel through the Mediterranean seeking to reestablish their marriage.


Once again, this is a case of a director mistakenly directing her own screenplay. What’s mistaken about it, in this case, is that her own part is miswritten and underwritten.

Underwritten in that the author supposes content to be present by inference, which is to say that because the marriage is in difficulty we must empathize with a situation just because it is there.

Miswritten in that she has written the part she plays as a woman made vulnerable by a mental disturbance. Mental disorders do not inspire pity in an audience. They inspire in an audience an exit from the site of the impossible-to-deal-with.

There is also here an imbalance in the playing forced unto being that Jolie’s husband, Brad Pitt, is a more talented actor than she is.

She also makes the mistake of having her eyes arrayed in opera makeup throughout the piece. It turns her into a power-beauty like Laura Croft  and so many of her other roles and at which she is superb. But it makes no sense here, save to put the actor in a separate category from Brad Pitt, who seems to wear no makeup at all, save that he has died his hair darker than it is, whatever it is – for Pitt is 13 years older than she, into his 50s. Not that that matters much, for from the start of his career he has always registered 10 years younger than his actual age.

As to Jolie, we cannot take into our hearts a performance which takes refuge in the fast food joint of insanity. We are expected to feel pity; instead we feel pathos – pathos is pity made in Japan. At any rate, from the point of view of an actor’s choices, it’s a cop-out. She doesn’t have the resources to bring it off.

Perhaps what Jolie intended was to create a bread-and-butter note to Pitt, for all he has to put up with in being married to her. Her ruthless maternity, her vast income, and her radical physical problems.

And Pitt is cast as just the sort of husband he would be in real life. His character is patient, loving, kind, communicative. He takes good care of a problem wife. He puts up with her lovingly. Every time she does something ugly, she retreats into her persona of a nut case to escape blame. It’s a ruse. This too he forgives. The man’s a saint.

The film is beautifully filmed and staged, and the hotel setting and set decoration are remarkable. It is not a waste of time to see these two together. And they drive the most beautiful car you have ever seen, a Citroen, I believe. Check it out and drool.

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Posted in Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt: MASTER ACTOR, MARITAL DRAMA


Pushing Tin

03 Oct

Pushing Tin – directed by Mike Newell. Comedy. 124 minutes Color 1999.


The Story: Complications arise in a group of air traffic controllers when an out-of-town expert arrives.


Here is a near masterpiece.

The farther you get into it the more a masterpiece it remains until it nears the end and blows apart with an exaggeration so blatant the plot thereafter sticks out like a compound fracture, and it becomes another picture altogether.

And you can’t have that because the story is not driven by plot but by the nature and interior operations of the two male protagonists.

The first of these is John Cusack who is at the top of his very high form here. Everything he does is right, telling, interesting. Everything he does throws you into the character. And when that happens you know that the story must resolve itself through the machinations of what he is and may become.

The second protagonist is played by Billy Bob Thornton.

Now when you are dealing with Billy Bob Thornton, you are dealing with Vesuvius. He is therefore an actor of preternatural calm. This makes him dangerous. It also makes him attentive, which also makes him dangerous. Flat of voice, which also does. Of unmatchable screen presence, which does not detract from his danger. Volatile. Rash. Impatient. Devoid of sentiment. Sardonic. Patient. Rash. Ruthless. All of which make him dangerous and add up to an aura of Mastery. Beware of actors with three names: if you closed your eyes, he is Tommy Lee Jones.

The comedy is set in the flight control conning tower of the Newark Airport, where 7,000 airplanes a day must be herded without barging into one another. These two characters are on a collision course, because Cusack conceives himself as king of the mountain and in competition with Thornton even before Thornton arrives on site.

Each round of the competition escalates to the next, starting with shooting hoops, progressing to the sexual conquest of each other’s wives, and once this level is reached, the forces of morality and morale collide inside Cusack, as the last competition leaves the two men in the emergency of handling the entire air over Newark alone.

But this takes place under a bomb threat which clears the conning tower of all personnel. That is to say, it is run by an external force. It needed instead to run by an internal force. It needed to be set in the mechanical breakdown of all flight control stations but two. It needed to be played with the other controllers rooting for them, betting on them, and distracting them as the two save all the planes coming in.

Up until that point the film is a brilliant comedy of human nature, all of which is played out by our witnessing the inner workings of Cusack who is marvelous at realizing them for us.

He is matched by all the supporting players, who are perfectly cast and a lot of fun. Their presence and behavior establish the film as a comedy. As does the style of presentation, which is Restoration farce. I don’t know if the superb writing of the script derives from the novel on which it is based, but you deserve to enjoy it. Newell’s direction is at top form. The setting alone of the scene where Cusack hesitates outside Thornton’s house before going inside to sleep with his wife is a model of moral defeat we all will recognize.

Cusack’s wife is played by Cate Blanchett who gets the Jersey girl down pat, although perhaps a touch too dense. Thornton’s wife is played by Angelina Jolie aged 23 and a power-beauty already. She astonishes with her reserve, timing, and humor. Her wonderful breasts lie naked before our eyes. So does her capacious nature.

The force field of the ego is the ground of this comedy. Its course is almost realized. But staying the course until then brings delight, truth, laughter. One man has an ego, which is the mind thinking it is God. The other man actually is God. What a battle! What a jest! Catch the next plane to Newark!













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Posted in Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, John Cusack, ROMANTIC COMEDY



22 Jun

Maleficent – directed by Robert Stromberg. Fractured Fairy Tale. 97 minutes Color 2014.


The Story: A fairy queen jilted, takes out her resentment on the jilter’s daughter, giving rise to unforeseen circumstances.

~ ~ ~

The Disney Imagination that has gone into this can be seen by looking into one big Keane painting child’s eye. It is exaggerated in its content, yet it is too big even for its content. Sentimentality with bling.

But we must set that aside if we are to remain in our seats. Even though, as usual with Disney films, we see the details become lost in the speed, we are at least afforded one thing to gaze upon steadily and with reverence, and that is the visage of Angelina Jolie.

Once again she is one of her PowerBeauty roles. Not too many actresses have the fortification to manage such parts. Our Liz, of course, and Garbo, who did it without exerting any power. But Jolie brings forth the blaze of her beauty as a weapon fit to crush all who dare to look upon it impiously. Ah, the Jujitsu of her eyes! It is a treat which movies alone afford us.

Angelina Jolie is an actress much limited to such roles, and when you see her in a part such as in Changling, it is clear she does not have the technique to manage it. But here, as Maleficent, she is on her home field, and, boy, is she good. She gets to be hot under her many collars but brings touches of wit and reserves of humor to the role, which often consists of her standing still in a huge cape and horns and being gazed upon. A little “hm” of commentary now and again brings all the fun we need.

The rest is spectacular displays of special effects and animation, with a dragon emitting more fire from its mouth than Bette Davis, and a flying scene that’s a humdinger.

The story is just like that of The Rover with Guy Pearce – in a field of hell, someone who hates someone else comes to love that person. Children may be frightened by the hell, but so what? If Disney had been afraid of that, he would never have made Snow White.

Janet McTeer does the narration. And Imelda Staunton flapdoodles about as a maladroit  fairy. And as to the rest – well, it’s all Tinkerbell tosh – but still, a little of that is good thing sometimes, especially when Angelina Jolie is just the medicine that helps the sugar go down.

Everyone is seeing it, and, although I didn’t, I should think it’s better to do so in 3-D than not.


The Tourist

06 Jan

The Tourist – directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – an international thriller in which two casual acquaintances must elude their assassins together. 103 minutes color 2010.

* * * * *

An Angelina Jolie picture guarantees luxe. Creamy photography, svelte closeups, and the promise of ineffable lips. And so it proves here. This is not a picture such as Changeling, where she is required to create a character. No indeedy, that is not in her gift. What we get is Angelina Jolie once more in one of her power-beauty roles, and boy is she good at it. We see her walk down the street in a fabulous dress, and everyone makes way for her to the right and the left and everywhere else in the picture — which is an international intrigue show. She sits at a cafe table — and the entire film rotates around her, spies, detectives, gangsters. For what more could one ask? The film really delivers your money’s worth in the realm of elegant mystery suspense along the lines of To Catch A Thief– and set in Technicolor Venice, to boot! Grand Canal, grand palace, grand hotel – wow! Johnny Depp plays the stranger she meets on a train, and it’s good to see him play such a gormless chap, a Midwestern, community college math teacher. She comes on to him, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself, and which of us would? Depp doesn’t miss a trick in playing this part. This is high praise for an actor who has seemed to become over-exposed of late, and given to performances which have not been worked through properly beforehand or mistakenly accepted, such as the demon barber of Fleet Street. But here the whole film is a fancy latte. It cools off a bit at the end as it becomes under-edited. But never mind; that’s what happens with a latte. Until then, you sip slowly and in a civilized manner, and you don’t ask for anything more than to be beguiled by the tasty confection presented.


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