Posts tagged "politics"

“Irresistible” pulls the curtain away on politics

June 24th, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Irresistible” pulls the curtain away on politics”

Politics. We’ve all had it up to our ears with who’s right and who’s wrong, and pitting family members against one another all for the sake of a political party. But talk show host and comedian Jon Stewart takes the concept of Republicans vs. Democrats and flips it on its head creating a bipartisan edgy, raw, and dark comedy that will have you laughing and shocked at the antics of both parties.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Set in the rural town of Deerlaken, WI (it’s not a real place, but certainly feels like a familiar little town just north of our border), a former marine and local dairy farmer, Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), stands up to a mayor at the village hall meeting. His eloquence and experience ooze from his weathered but strong voice making this a social media sensation. When the Democratic Strategist, Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) gets wind of it, he has hit gold in the swing state of Wisconsin. Of course, he swoops in to take over the campaign to help his new friend defeat the incumbent (and Republican) Mayor Braun…until Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), the Republican Strategist lands and sinks her talons into Braun to help him win. It’s a tug of war as D.C. hijacks this sleepy little town.

Zimmer attempts to be incognito in Deerlaken, but anyone who knows towns like this knows that’s just not possible. He quickly is the talk of the town as he walks the red carpet looking down on these welcoming and seemingly simple people. Hastings, the sensible, seasoned, and quiet veteran is bulldozed into participating in politics the D.C. way as he attends fundraisers and gets the backing of Washington big wigs. As the buzz of this sleepy little town gains even more press, Brewster “helps” Braun in much the same way and the town is overrun by campaign workers lead by two strategists who despise one another. Hellbent on winning (more for their own pride than the party’s), the antics increase, soaring into the stratosphere of dirty politics and a chance to make the viewer cringe and laugh.

“Irresistible” is like no other political farce as it takes the proverbial curtain behind which both parties hide and reveals what the system is really all about…money. And this portrayal, dare I say, is fair and balanced, never showing either party in a more positive light. Additionally, because it’s written and directed by the satirical genius of Stewart, it’s funny. Of course, having Carell and Byrne in the lead elevates the comedic undertones as there’s an element of “City Slickers” in the film. Only Carell could try to manipulate the positioning of cows during a commercial and make us believe he doesn’t understand anything about rural life. There’s also a scene between Hastings’ daughter (Mackenzie Davis) and Zimmer that boldly and accurately draws a line to accentuate the differences between “regular” people and those who are in power.

As I stated, Carell brings his familiar comedic chops to the role of Zimmer, but with a nasty edge as he creates a despicable character. He is truly unlikeable with his condescending and demanding demeanor and presumptuous behavior. Equally, Byrne brings the same tone but with a feminine quality as her character slices through Zimmer with her sharp tongue. And with Byrne’s portrayal of Faith, we almost feel sorry for Zimmer, but not for too long. Together, while reprehensible, they are magic. Cooper’s “Jack” is the positive force within the film as he could easily be your next door neighbor. He’s honest. He fought for our country. He wants what’s best for his small town. Living a simple life where many of the stores and businesses are struggling, it’s an accurate representation of many small Midwestern towns. This aspect of the film makes it relatable as we root for Jack to win the election.

Stewart brilliantly weaves together a succinct story the unveils what drives the political machine no matter where you live and which party you most readily identify. The comedy is there in unsuspecting ways, sometimes dark and frequently pointed, Stewart, like a magician, has you looking one way only to surprise you with a wickedly funny twist.

Take a trip to Wisconsin and pull back the curtain on politics. This is a film that both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon. That’s certainly a unique position for ANY film dealing with politics!

4 Stars

“Abe” creates food for thought in this family film

April 16th, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Abe” creates food for thought in this family film”

Food. It’s an art form, a science, and a language, many say a language of love. Young Abe (Noah Schnapp “Stranger Things”) tries to use his yet-unrefined but passionate culinary skills to bring his Jewish mom and Muslim father and their in-laws together. Will his love of food communicate the desired effects? This sweet and succulent film delves into the difficulties of uniting polar opposite religions, but somehow keeps it relatively light as Noah finds his identity.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Abe, an introverted yet bold 12 year-old boy, lives in New York City with his parents. We meet Abe making his own birthday cake, a task he relishes. With voice over, we get a glimpse into his personality and his intellect as he recites the substitution of cream of tartar and baking soda to replicate baking powder. As his parents seem to give him great leeway in what he does and identifying Abe’s desires to become a chef, they enroll him in a kids’ cooking class. Abe, however, is no ordinary kid and ditches the camp, unbeknownst to his parents, and instead seeks out his cooking idol, Chico (Seu Jorge), a Brazilian fusion chef.

Cooking is an escape for Abe as he attempts to make his very divided family happy. Raised in a secular home, but continually exposed to the pressure of choosing Judaism over being Muslim or no religion at all, it seems Abe can’t make anyone happy including himself. As any youngster can attest to, watching your parents fight is difficult, especially as Abe feels he is the focal point of the arguments. And with this guilt, Abe tries to fix it through food.

“Abe” thoughtfully uses food as a vehicle to learn about two warring countries, Palastine and Israel, and the traditions important to each of them. As Abe’s love of cooking seems to be a part of his DNA, he spends time with his paternal grandmother and also embraces the recipes and memories left behind by his maternal grandmother. Abe is always thinking and creating. He’s certainly ahead of the curve compared to other 12 year-olds, but his understanding of the world and his experiences confirm his age as he pushes the boundaries, rebells, and grows.

Relationships are at the core of this film, but it is the relationship between Chico and Abe that is the glue that binds this story together. Chico reluctantly allows Abe in his pop-up kitchen to learn the ropes, but Chico teaches him much more than just how to wash dishes, take out the trash, and begin to do the prep work. Abe learns about cultures, traditions, and how to meld them together into palate-pleasing works of art. Chico is that one steady person in Abe’s life to give him the guidance and resiliency to deal with his family’s escalating situation. And one person dependable person is exactly what Abe needs.

Schnapp portrays Abe skillfully. His awkward confidence rising to the surface, Schnapp gives Abe the right balance of emotion and internal conflict while never going over-the-top. Mark Margolis’ role of Benjamin, his Jewish unflinching and bitter grandfather adds the element of unforgiving cynicism countered by the hilarious off-the-cuff comments from Ari (Daniel Oreskes), his Jewish uncle. Seu Jorge, however, stands out in this film as Chico as he develops not only a believable character as a new-age chef, but as a mentor and friend to Abe.

“Abe” isn’t your typical family film as it does something most do not—addresses the complicated topics of history, politics, and religion and their effects upon relationships. The balance in the story is key to making sure that we understand the inner workings of this family, but also find solace, just like Abe, in cooking and learning about the craft. There’s plenty of humor in this film as well as Abe posts on Instagram and makes a few mistakes along the way. With all the right ingredients, “Abe” is an uplifting and entertaining film with just the right amount of zest. It just might inspire you to try a few new dishes at home given your new-found culinary knowledge!

3 1/2 Stars

“Long Shot” Makes a political-rom-com a winner

May 3rd, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Long Shot” Makes a political-rom-com a winner”

Can there possible be such a thing as a political rom-com that appeals to everyone no matter what side of the fence they reside? The combination sounds impossible, but “Long Shot,” starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan, does it with impeccable skill. Charlotte (Theron) is a high power political figure as the Secretary of State who, by chance, bumps into a rebellious journalist who she used to babysit for. The unlikely pair team up in a run for the upcoming presidential election, creating hilarious and unexpectedly charming situations.

Charlotte has always been a go-getter. With her single-minded drive and determination, she works under President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk) who used to play a president on television. Charlotte’s frustration is evident, but she plays by the books, her intelligence always keeping her one step ahead. Fred Flarsky (Rogan) is unkempt, volatile, but passionate about exposing the truth and never compromising his integrity, but as his “independent” newspaper is bought by a big-money tycoon, he quits…on principle, but those principles don’t pay the bills. Seeking solace in his best friend whose beyond successful, Lance, (O’Shea Jackson), the two hit the high profile party scene, and Fred makes a memorable if not awkward impression on Charlotte.

Fred becomes Charlotte’s speech writer and the two get reacquainted, both helping one another to become a better person, but as the two could not be more opposite, Charlotte becomes an easy target for manipulation, pushing the boundaries of her unyielding moral compass. Incorporating all the snares of public life that we are constantly exposed to such as social media platforms, videos, and good old fashioned blackmailing, the story becomes a lesson in what’s important. It’s an unlikely pairing and a fast-paced, crazy story that is completely consuming (and even a little believable) as they expound upon the realities of the world which is always watching.

Rogan, unkempt and dressed from a by-gone era, is certainly type cast in this role, but that’s a good thing as he hones his comedic skills and elevates his game with the “Hollywood royalty” as Jackson recently described Theron in a recent interview. As polar opposite as he seems to Theron, the two have chemistry and create a magic that captures your heart as you root for the two to succeed…however that may be defined.

Theron always plays a tough, smart woman who is not to be underestimated and now we can add comic wonder to her list of skills. Her timing is impeccable as she plays off of Rogan and her subtle gestures and expressions land a lot of laughs effortlessly. We also see her push the boundaries we have set for her as she reaches outside of the box to create an unpredictable character.

The entire cast is stellar, supporting the lead actors with deft skill. June Diane Raphael plays Maggie, the uptight, judgmental political assistant and advisor to Charlotte who never overplays her part, but slips right into the role easily. Jackson knocks his performance out to the park to create one of the most memorable supporting roles this year. Co-writers Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah give him an opportunity to shine and deliver a shocking twist that makes you not only laugh out loud, but also actually think about your own preconceived notions.

While this film, on the surface, is merely a comedy, there’s so much more to it. The characters are all well-developed with our main characters are richly layered in a way that we connect with them. Given the political environment that consumes us today, the film reels us back and helps to ground our thoughts making it a more insightful film than expected.

“Long shot” is a surprise on every level. It’s a rom-com with subtle political overtones that harmoniously coordinate to give us a film that just might rival “When Harry Met Sally” for a new decade of viewers.

4 Stars

“The Brink”-Director Alison Klayman’s gives insight to her new documentary

April 6th, 2019 Posted by Interviews, Review 0 thoughts on ““The Brink”-Director Alison Klayman’s gives insight to her new documentary”

Never in recent memory has there been such a volatile time in politics than today and one man has added his own fuel to the fire—Steve Bannon. Director Alison Klayman has opened the doors into this man’s life with her new film “The Brink,” giving viewers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes action and the inner workings of politics like never seen before.

TRAILER TO THE BRINK

Klayman, responsible for documentary works of art such as “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” and “The 100 Years Show,” recently spoke with me about her journey, both literally and figuratively, as she captured Bannon from all angles shedding light onto a subject previously existing in the shadows.

The concept of this film came from Marie Therese Guirgis with whom Klayman had collaborated for “The 100 Years Show.” Guirgis had worked closely with Bannon at Wellspring Media for three years and Klayman described that they had a good working relationship. She reported that the two had fallen out of touch “…until he burst on the scene of the Trump campaign…and she got back in touch with him, frankly to send him angry letters saying that she was really disappointed in him…”. These letters continued throughout Trump’s election and Bannon’s time in the White House, but the tipping point came after the Muslim Travel Ban and Guirgis “let him have it.” She shared, “ I witnessed the way she talks to him. She’s really not holding back.” But soon after, Guirgis realized that perhaps this candid relationship could be brought to a greater use which is was the spark for “The Brink.”

Approached by Guirgis to participate in this vérité style of film, Bannon initially declined, but eventually welcomed the proposal. Klayman, before accepting the director’s position, wanted to meet Bannon. Maria introduced the two, and before Bannon agreed, Guirgis “was in full form,” Klayman chuckled, worried that he wouldn’t agree under these circumstances. And this was just the beginning of peering through the Lookingglass, a term Klayman said that was used as an first working title of the film.

Klayman and Bannon traveled together around the country and the world for 13 months as she captured more than 100 hours of footage which were then distilled into the film we see today. While we see glimpses of Klayman’s personal viewpoint, the filmmaker expressed that she took great care in her editing process to create fairness in the film. “I felt like the strength of the movie would come from a fair treatment of the subject and the material. That didn’t mean that I came in as a neutral member of society. I think that would be a lie.” She continued, “This film has a filmmaker. Here are the clues to how the filmmaker sees this story.” She added, “ Documentary film is not just the facts ma’am kind of a thing, but I thought it needed to be fair in the sense that I was there to make a story out of what I actually found, not what I wanted to find or what I expected to find.” Klayman punctuated the fact that she was profoundly careful in her editing, saying, “If I found a person who was charming people and had charisma, I can’t cut that out. I can’t take a scene and edit it manipulatively, that will discredit the whole piece.”

Klayman had remarkable access to meetings, dinners, and casual moments with politicians and far right leaders from around the world. While she sometimes was limited in what she filmed, stating that she was occasionally “invited to leave,” indicating the private conversations were off limits for public knowledge, she was particularly proud of being able to film the meeting with global extremist leaders in London. She gave Bannon credit in calling him a “great advocate” as he would encourage others to be a part of the film.

In addition to the leaders, Klayman captured Bannon’s interviews with renowned and respected journalists, many who had heated conversations with Trump’s right hand man. In her down time, oftentimes waiting with the journalists for their time with Bannon, she explained her position to them as an independent filmmaker. Met with initial skepticism, which Klayman understood, most welcomed her filming and were excited to see the final product as journalists “don’t get the time or the space to write that kind of piece.”

The intimate and candid moments Klayman captured were not only eye-opening, but mind-boggling. From conversations with John Thornton, the former president of Goldman-Sachs to private meetings with Lena Epstein and John James, Congressional and Senate candidates in Michigan in 2018, Klayman was proud of the fact that these particular scenes “…raised a lot of questions I don’t have answers to.” However, she feels confident that the hypocrisy, false information, and “…the fact that a lot of Bannon’s messaging when it comes to helping people, the little guy, being revolutionary, with a different view of economics, that, to me, if anything, that shows that that’s false.” She deduced that he is not a threat to the super rich and that both he and Trump want the same thing. “I think that was really important to show.”

What is the ultimate goal of the film? Klayman hopes that the role of the media in upcoming elections is discussed; “…not whether to cover these people, but how.” She added, “As we have more elections coming up in the EU in 2020, it’s crucial to have a more thoughtful discussion…questions about who is funding these far right movements and how do we keep them honest about what they’re really fighting for and what they’re really doing. To me, those are the things that transcend and are still vitally important. And frankly, the cast of characters you see in the film are all also not going away…so who knows what’s going to come next.”

Bannon, as a courtesy, was shown the finished film prior to its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. His response was guarded which Klayman interpreted as his way of waiting to see what the press thought of the film. “I think that’s what matters most to him.”

Education and knowledge are power and this powerful documentary, “The Brink, seen as a fly on the wall, allows you to ask and sometimes answer your own questions that will no doubt be relevant in the next news cycle, global election, and the 2020 campaign.

Archives

    

Know if you should go, subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Thanks for visiting! Please join my email list to get the latest updates on film, my festival travels and all my reviews.

CONTACT

Bourbonnais, Illinois
www.reelhonestreviews.com

site design by Matt K. © All rights belong to Reel Honest Reviews / Pamela Powell