Currently browsing the "Ethan Hawke" tag.

Review: Tesla

I’ve been interested in inventor Nikola Tesla’s life and work for ages, so I was excited that a feature film was going to take him on. And I love Ethan Hawke who’s been getting better and better the last few years. (The Truth, First Reformed, Juliet, Naked, Maudie) Seemed like a great idea. But Telsa is anything but a standard biopic. It’s a jumble of scenes set in last days of America’s Gilded Age, the period when Tesla was warring with Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan) over the best way to deliver electricity to the masses — Direct vs Alternating Current. (AC v DC. – spoiler, Tesla was right) Narrated by J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne (Eve Hewson, Bridge of Spies), Tesla is a hybrid – documentary, experimental film, and period drama. Some of it works, and some is just weird.

Review: The Truth (La Vérité)

Director Hirokazu Koreeda’s follow-up to his award winning Shoplifters could not be more different. No longer set in his home country Japan, The Truth is a mother-daughter drama set in a lovely Paris house where an aging actress and her grown daughter come together for the launch of the mother’s memoirs. That the mother is played by the inestimable Catherine Deneuve and the daughter by the equally talented Juliette Binoche makes it a pleasure to watch, despite its fairly well-trodden storyline.

Review: First Reformed

It’s that time of year again. The run-up to awards season, when I catch up on all the films I missed for one reason or another. And since First Reformed is already winning top honors in the early year-end critics’ awards, I thought I should watch it. It’s from Paul Schrader who was the hottest writer (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Mosquito Coast) and sometimes director (American Gigolo) in the 70s and 80s and then mostly faded away. But with this film, it’s clear he’s still got it. He knows how to draw a deeply flawed man in a deepening personal crisis, and his Rev. Ernest Toller played masterfully by Ethan Hawke (Juliet, Naked, Maudie, Boyhood) is his best character in decades. Divorced, ill, drinking, and questioning his faith, Toller is circling the drain, while the tiny church he heads is planning its 250th anniversary rededication and one of his parishioners is in desperate need of guidance he’s ill-equipped to give. This is not a happy movie, but it is intensely thought-provoking and a glorious return to form for one of our great filmmakers.

Review: Juliet, Naked

Ah, what a breath of fresh air! Juliet, Naked is a charming and funny romantic drama that is pure and simple in its development of characters and story. In lesser hands, it might have felt like a Hallmark or Lifetime ‘second chance’ romance. But Juliet, Naked benefits from the talent and affability of its three lead actors – Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd and Ethan Hawke. The screenplay is adapted from a novel by Nick Hornby (Brooklyn, About a Boy, Fever Pitch, High Fidelity) whose writing style lends itself well to the genre. There aren’t any real villains here; just humans wrestling with past regrets and coming to terms with who they are and who they want to be.

Review: Maudie

Based on a true story, this biopic is both sweet and disturbing at times. It’s the story of Maud Lewis, a folk artist who lived in Nova Scotia. It starts in the 1930s where Maud (Sally Hawkins) is a struggling young woman. Her brother has just sold her parents’ house out from under her, and she is destined to live with her strict Aunt Ida. But Maud wants to live and have fun and paint, despite some crippling birth defects that left her with gnarled hands and a bad leg. So when things get too stifling with Ida, she goes out looking for a way to support herself, and she finds a notice for a live-in maid. What follows is the often uncomfortable love story between Maud and her employer, the misanthropic fishmonger Everett (Ethan Hawke).

The Magnificent Seven

A remake of a remake has a lot to live up to. The original was the Japanese film Seven Samurai, shot in 1954, considered one of director Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces starring the legendary Toshiro Mifune. Fast forward six years and Hollywood makes a version substituting cowboys for Samurai, starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. Now we have another one with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard. All three films follow the same essential plot. A village is being preyed upon by outsiders, so they hire Samurai/Cowboys to defend them and mayhem ensues. So is the new one magnificent?

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Alice Through the Looking Glass; Maggie’s Plan; A Monster with a Thousand Heads

Alice Through the Looking Glass – I didn’t see Tim Burton’s 2010 re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland, but did read up on it a bit before heading into this sequel from director James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) featuring the colorful characters created by British author Lewis Carroll. I might otherwise have been quite confused. As with its cinematic predecessor, Alice Through the Looking Glass is not an instant classic by any stretch, but it’s a fine family film that is visually quite stunning and features a strong female lead in Alice, played by the extremely versatile Mia Wasikowska. Mia has a knack for making mediocre movies better than they might otherwise be. In this case, she plays a sassy and headstrong ship’s captain (in 1874 London) struggling to make it in a man’s world. With the fate of her personal and professional life in flux, Alice stumbles across a magical mirror (as opposed to a rabbit hole) that takes her back to the fantastical realm of Underland, where she discovers that her friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is literally dying of sadness because he thinks his long-lost family may still be alive, but nobody believes him. Alice is skeptical, but in an effort to save her friend, she steals a device from ‘Time’ (embodied by Sasha Baron Cohen) and heads to the past to see what became of Hatter’s clan. It’s an ill-conceived plot, a bit heavy-handed with the morals (It’s about time—making every second count; you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it; the only thing worth doing is what we do for others; the only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it’s possible…), but in the end, it’s kind of sweet and sappy in a weird, eccentric, whimsical sort of way.

Boyhood

Boyhood, the new film from Richard Linklater (Before Midnight, Bernie, Dazed and Confused) is getting a lot of accolades because of the way it was shot, over the course of 12 years with the same cast. In it you actually watch a boy named Mason (and his sister) grow up, from being a typical a 5-year-old to his first day at college, along with all the trials and tribulations that get him there, as well as the expanding and contracting family that he is a part of. I was worried it might be just a gimmick but Boyhood is the ultimate coming of age flick and it mostly keeps you engaged through almost 3 hours.

Before Midnight

Step one: If you haven’t already, go rent/watch Before Sunrise (1995)

Step two: If you haven’t already, go rent/watch Before Sunset (2004)

Step three: If you haven’t already, go see Before Midnight (2013)

If you follow the steps outlined above, you will be rewarded with some top-notch acting and storytelling. Skip a step, and you could miss the point.