Posts Tagged ‘Helen Mirren’

Two reporters search for truth in the nation’s capital in the taut 2009 thriller ‘State of Play’

April 18, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 18, 2017

State of Play, the 2009 feature starring Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams as Washington newspaper reporters, is a well-paced political thriller with some conventional notions about power and some curious notions about journalism.

The movie, co-written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (World War ZDeepwater Horizon), Tony Gilroy (Michael ClaytonDuplicity and Rogue One) and Billy Ray (BreachShattered Glass and Captain Phillips), is based on a 2003 British miniseries of the same name written by Paul Abbott. But it feels thoroughly American, despite having a New Zealander (Crowe) portraying a blue-collar Pittsburgh native and being directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), a Scotsman who’s mainly helmed documentaries.

The film opens with a stone-faced man (Michael Berresse) pumping bullets into a teenage junkie (LaDell Preston) who had the misfortune of crossing him and a pizza delivery man (Dan Brown) who had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later that morning, as a Washington Globe crime reporter named Cal McAffrey (Crowe) begins investigating why an unknown single shooter has apparently attacked two very disparate targets, a young congressional aide named Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer) dies after being pushed into the path of an oncoming Metro train.

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The writer and the Red Scare: ‘Trumbo’ looks at the man who defied Congress and won two Academy Awards in the process

December 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 28, 2015

Director Jay Roach’s lively new biopic, Trumbo, tells the story of a leftist Hollywood screenwriter and his tangle with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Veteran actor Bryan Cranston (the star of the acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad, who had minor roles in Argo and Godzilla) headlines the movie as title character Dalton Trumbo. A labor activist and American Communist Party member, he also happened to be one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters.

Trumbo’s story tracks what I know about the actual historic events, which a few web searches seem to confirm. America’s pivot from World War II to the Cold War meant that the Soviet Union, our allies in the crusade against Nazi Germany, quickly became our enemies in the sublimated struggle for world domination. Although fairly sudden, this change in relations between American and other Western Allies and the Soviet Union was very real — recall if you will Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech from March 1946. And it prompted some Americans to focus their animus on the sociopolitical philosophy of Communism, a dynamic that went on to cause a tremendous amount of needless harm.

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‘Woman in Gold’ movingly portrays the quixotic quest by a World War II refugee and her attorney to correct a Nazi injustice

April 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 21, 2015

The new feature film Woman in Gold poignantly tells the true story of a World War II refugee and her lawyer who sue to recover a famous portrait of her aunt decades after it was confiscated by Nazis.

The woman at the heart of the story is Maria Altmann, the daughter of a prominent Austrian Jewish family. Simon Curtis and Alexi Kaye Campbell — it’s the second full-length movie feature directing credit for Curtis, following My Week with Marilyn and numerous TV movies, and the first writing credit of any kind for Campbell — intertwine scenes from Altmann’s earlier life in Vienna with those of Altmann and her attorney, new father Randy Schoenberg.

The titular woman in gold is Adele Bloch-Bauer, whom famed artist Gustav Klimt painted in 1907 in what became an iconic work. As we learn, even this apt and seemingly innocuous title has political implications. (Klimt, incidentally, also painted a second portrait of Adele as well as additional works for the Bloch-Bauers.) The legal battle begins in 1998 when, after the death of Maria’s older sister, Luise, the younger woman finds letters from the late 1940s that her sibling had exchanged with an Austrian lawyer in a futile attempt to recover stolen family property.

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The retirees of ‘RED 2’ provide chuckles and thrills

July 25, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 25, 2013

RED 2 is an enjoyable but superficial romp that finally answers this inessential question: If you can’t have fun with the prospect of millions of innocent people being incinerated by a nuclear terrorist, what can you have fun with?

Director Dean Parisot’s sequel centers on retired/extremely dangerous — RED, get it?! — American secret agent Frank Moses. He finds himself unwillingly dragged out of a quiet retirement, along with his action-hungry girlfriend, Sarah, when officials suddenly begin asking questions about one Operation Nightshade. The pair join with Moses’ eccentric former partner, Marvin, to figure out why a botched long-ago operation in Russia has become newly relevant.

The fast-paced RED 2 sends the group to Paris, London and Moscow as they go about unraveling the mystery. Along the way, they tangle with Jack Horton, a murderous American officer who’s determined to keep Nightshade buried; Katja, a Russian frenemy whose old romance with Moses fuels an intense jealousy in Sarah; a retired British agent named Victoria who has been hired by MI-6 to kill her two former colleagues and friends; and Han Cho Bai, a deadly Korean mercenary with a grudge against Moses whom the Americans hire to assassinate Moses and Marvin. Read the rest of this entry »

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