Matias Bombal’s Hollywood


The MPAA has rated this R

Paramount Pictures has had a good year with movies that echo that studio’s past greatness. Their new release “Allied” is yet another example of the studio returning with force as a provider of outstanding movies. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, a man who has had many movie hits, “Allied” stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard and is set in 1942.

The story begins in North Africa, where Pitt, playing Max Vatan, a Canadian Air Force intelligence officer assisting the RAF, encounters a female French Resistance officer, Cotillard, playing Marianne Beausejour. Whilst on a deadly secret mission playing a happily married husband and wife they find themselves attracted to each other, but must not act on those feelings during the mission, which involves “removing” a high ranking Nazi officer in Casablanca.

Max and Marianne make their way back to England as he waits for another assignment. Much to the strong resistance of his superior officer, Frank Heslop, played by Jared Harris, the two are married and have a lovely baby daughter. The baby’s birth is of one of the most spectacular of scenes, it happens during the London blitz. She begins, only to be carted out of the hospital and into the streets under the light of incendiary tracer bullets, searchlights beaming across the sky and falling bombs. Although this movie is in wide-screen, it captures the feel of classic Hollywood with many moments that remind you of great classic films, yet does not get campy in any way with its tip of the hat to tinseltown.

Doubt manifests in the movie’s third act where Max gets the very bad news that it may be possible that his wife and mother of their new born baby may be a spy working with the Nazis. His difficulty believing the possibility and how the idea begins to slowly poison him brings out one of Brad Pitt’s best performances in years; stoic, in love and forced with impossible choices that make espionage seem like child’s play by comparison. Jared Harris, one of my favorite actors working today, who you may remember from “Mad Men” has a role that reminded me much of Trevor Howard in “The Third Man”. He is outstanding here.

The beautiful Miss Cotillard is stunning in this period setting. Don’t think of this as a World War II film as much as a World War II drama, in the vein of the classic M-G-M wartime films like William Wyler’s “Mrs. Miniver” with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Perhaps with a little more spice, such as in one of the most inventive of love making scenes; the principals are inside a car in a sandstorm; it was a memorable way to handle and cleverly photograph such a moment, my kudos to Don Burgess, the cinematographer in realizing such a scene with cleverness and good taste. “Allied” offers a great production, photography and performances. Don’t miss it! It’s the way movies used to be.

The MPAA has rated this PG-13

Set in Hollywood in 1958, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation brings us “Rules Don’t Apply” director Warren Beatty’s labor of love in which a young starlet has been placed under contract by movie mogul and aviation giant Howard Hughes. The small-town beauty queen, a devout Baptist virgin, Marla Mabry, played by Lily Collins, arrives in the movie capital with her mother Lucy Mabry in tow. She’s played by the radiant Annette Benning.

As was typical in Hollywood of that era, starlets under contract received a weekly salary, but often had to wait and wait before they were asked to do anything at all, always hoping for the phone to ring to report to the studio for a screen test or wardrobe fitting. Miss Mabry has been assigned two drivers, working in shifts to take her where she desires and to work if so called; Levar Mathis, played by Matthew Broderick and Frank Forbes, played by Alden Ehrenreich.

Frank’s background is similar to Marla’s, he, a Methodist with a girlfriend back home set on marring him. During their many drives they get to know each other and she chats on and on whilst he becomes interested, but of course, fully knowing that he’ll lose his job if an impropriety occurs.

This movie is beautifully lit as films of that era were, defining the look of what we now consider classic films. I find it the most beautifully photographed movie I have seen this year. This is the sensational work of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who was delighted that Beatty wanted much in darkness.
This is a highly entertaining picture and the years of planning have paid off in a fun and wonderful movie experience you will truly enjoy. Warren Beatty plays Howard Hughes and in the great tradition of showmanship, does not appear on screen until the movie is well on its way. Even then, it is in the dark, as he brings the complex Hughes to life.

Beatty is in the remarkable place to have lived this era in his youngest days as a contract player himself at the very end of the Golden Age of the movies, its tumultuous changes of the 1960s through to the present. He gives us a phenomenal cast of actors that enrich any movie they appear in, including Paul Sorvino, Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Oliver Platt and the ever-working Alec Baldwin, who had also appeared in a similar role as an airline executive locking horns with Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator” in 2004. A nice touch in the movie is a new song, which gives the movie its title, “Rules Don’t Apply” written by Lorraine Feather and Eddie Arkin. Go see the movie! It’s absolutely beautiful, I loved it!

The MPAA has rated this PG

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures offers their winter-time big feature with a princess. In this case, the Disney Princess is not actually a princess, but the daughter of the chief of her south sea island tribe, who longs to travel by sea. Her feckless father, shocked by past danger at sea will not let her go, but the lure is too strong in young Moana Waialiki (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho).

Adventure she must, so with guidance from an elder, slightly tetched tribeswoman she sets out to sea to find the demigod Maui (Voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). She’s in luck, they meet and he guides her, when not extolling his own virtues, by giving her tips so that she may become an excellent wayfinder. They encounter monsters and many tribulations, completing the classic hero (in this case heroine) cycle.

Simply put, the film is too long for adults and children at almost 2 hours running time. The jokes for adults and the consistently brilliant animation of Disney make you watch to the end, but the characters are not as likable as past Disney favorites. The musical score and pop tunes, penned by the team of Broadway’s sensation, “Hamilton”, seem repetitive and uninspired. Director Ron Clements seems not to know when to end the story. Unless you have a child begging you to go, save your money. Here’s hoping Disney’s next is better.

The MPAA has rated this R

Amy Adams thrills and is thrilled in Nocturnal Animals.  Photo:Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features
Focus Features releases Tom Ford’s latest directorial offering with “Nocturnal Animals” for which he also adapted the screenplay from Austin Wright’s novel, “Tony and Susan”. This movie is not for children or those sensitive to violence. However, it is one of the most stylish and elegant movies in the way it moves between three story lines; That of Susan Morrow ‘s present day life as an art gallery owner with a trophy husband, both at loose ends and broke; Her ex-husbands recently sent novel, a ghastly tale of roadside abduction, rape and murder that grips Susan’s attention whist she sees herself and her ex in the novel’s story line; the reuniting of Susan and her ex after she finishes reading the novel, to close unfinished business of many years.

Susan Morrow is played by Amy Adams, fresh from her success in “Arrival”. She is excellent in this thriller. Her ex-husband, Tom Hastings is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is also “Edward Sheffield” in the novel’s story-line. Michael Shannon steals the picture as Bobby Andes in the novel’s dramatization. He is so consistently fascinating to watch. Fantastic editing and cinematographer’s Seamus McGarvey’s lighting design is so different in each storyline, but perfectly fitting in bringing mood and contrast to the story as it unfolds in sections before your eyes. Not for everyone, but outstanding gripping thrills and stylishly told.

The MPAA has rated this PG-13

Focus Features releases writer director Jeff Nichols’ visualization of the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple from Virginia of the mid to late 1950s who made history by defying the laws of the state by not merely living together, but by leaving to Washington, DC to become married, then returning to Virginia to live.

This did not go over well with the antediluvian mindset in the small Virginia country town. The police in particular would not allow marriage between races or acknowledge the mixed race children of such couples as being legitimate. The movie relates their quiet resistance to the system that oppressed them, the ACLU lawyers that came to their aid wanting to make them poster folk for the movement towards human rights by taking their case to the supreme court, ultimately so that they may live together, married, in Virginia.

Jeff Nichols directs Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving and in a stoic and strong performance as the mason who just loved his wife, Joel Edgerton is fantastic and subtle. This is the second movie in current release in which Michael Shannon appears, here he appears briefly as LIFE magazine photographer Grey Villet, who’s photo journalistic story of the Loving’s brought the spotlight on them in good and bad ways. Shannon always leaves a good impression in each performance. This is a poignant tale of tough times of the past and the changes it brought to our modern times.

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