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Posts Tagged ‘Viola Davis’

Eat, Pray, Love – Trailer for Julia Roberts new film

Posted by LiveFor on March 18, 2010

While trying to get pregnant, a happily married woman realizes her life needs to go in a different direction, and after a painful divorce, she takes off on a round-the-world journey. Based on the memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis,
Billy Crudup, Tuva Novotny, Arlene Tur.

Directed by Ryan Murphy.

Due out on 13th August 2010.

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State of Play, 2009 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on April 22, 2009


Director: Kevin MacdonaldStarring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, Michael Berresse, Viola Davis
Running Time: 127 minutes
Score: 8/10

This is a fantastic review by Don Fishies.

Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) is helping with the government investigation of a shady military-based company when he receives word that his mistress has committed suicide. Visually distraught, he leaves a hearing in tears and sets off a media circus. Seasoned reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) was his roommate in college, and the two have remained friends. In a bid to quash the political blogging of junior reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), McAffrey sets out to find the truth about the story.

State of Play sets itself up early on to be a cookie-cutter, predictable thriller. But as the film progresses, it rather quickly becomes the twisty and conniving thriller it needs to be. Despite being heavily dialogue driven, the film is an intense ride that will keep people on edge throughout. Some scenes are downright terrifying in their amped up suspense and political intrigue. This film really set out to be tense, and succeeds wonderfully. It knows just what punches to pull, and when to pull them.

The script, written by political scribes Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilory and Billy Ray, is insight and intriguing. It could have easily been made boring and inundated with rehashed politicalisms (like all of their last films), but this film revels in how interesting it becomes. It has laughs strung throughout (a genuine surprise), and lacks the nerve to become loaded to the brim with facts and innuendos. Instead, it expertly weaves between scenes, amping up the intensity of some scenes, and downplaying others.

But this is mainly due to the incredible performances by the cast. Crowe (who I usually loathe) and Affleck are simply outstanding in their roles. Age issues aside, both play their character with finesse and charisma. Affleck looks and acts like a confused wet-behind-the-ears, gunning-for-higher-office political pawn from beginning to end. Some of the reactions on his face are downright devastating in how excellently they are conveyed. And this is a guy critics once said could not act. Coupled with one-two shot of acting in Hollywoodland and directing Gone Baby Gone, we may be seeing a renewed resonance and importance for the Oscar-winner. Crowe on the other hand, delivers his strongest performance in years. While he has been downplayed and underused in his last few films, he carries this film. He is stubborn and vaguely likable, but he makes his character work for all of his idiosyncrasies and ethically-questionable tactics. He makes a seasoned journalist look like an amateur.

McAdams, all but a ghost recently, holds her own against the two heavy-hitters and delivers a performance that is both inspired and emotional. It gives her a lot of room to act, and she delivers in every instance. The rest of the cast is a bit mixed however, as so little of them is given that much to do. Harry Lennix, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels, the horrifying Michael Berresse and especially Jason Bateman, all deliver noteworthy performances, but never get to really shine in them. They all have their traits and motivations, but get little screen time to truly express them. They each are developed quite strongly, but they lack the movement afforded to Crowe, Affleck and McAdams. I simply loved Helen Mirren’s scenery-gauging editor and all of her subtleties. But she too, is downplayed to the point of almost barely being in the film.

Despite its intensity, the film is bogged down by its dialogue-heavy scenes and consistent character additions. It is easy to keep track of everyone, but so many people are introduced that the film loses its focus on more than one occasion. It makes for a few scenes that are merely filler between the scenes of useful heavy acting. It just feels so tiring. I understand now how daunting a task it must have been to convert six hours of British television into a 127-minute film, but there are scenes that are just too easy to not have been cut out (some entire mildly useful subplots may have helped). Adding characters in makes sense for a story about two journalists frantically searching to lift the lid on a story, but there needs to be more emphasis on what was needed and not needed. A brilliant montage in the middle of the film goes almost entirely to waste because the filmmakers lack the knowledge of what should be cut. Limiting the preposterous and silly climax could have also done wonders. The scenes that are left in the film (including the finale) are great, but they could have been stronger if they were as tightly wound as the film wants itself to be. A little less shaky hand camera movement could have also significantly benefited the film.

Even with its problems, it is clear from the on-set of the first shot in the bullpen at the Washington Globe that the filmmakers are going for a very keen sense of homage to All the President’s Men. While the on-going and very professional relationship between McAffrey and Frye is very similar to Woodward and Bernstein, the fabric of journalistic integrity and researching are the core of State of Play. The film is loaded with allusions to the Oscar-winning film, and even mimics shots right out of the film. While it is obvious for anyone who has seen Men, this film’s nods are done in such a delicate and unique way that they never become distracting or blatant. The film is its own, and does not ever feel like it is living in its big-brother’s shadow. It is a fresh take on old-fashioned reporting in a very digital age, and frequently walks the tight line of old versus new.

State of Play looked interesting, and surprisingly delivers on almost every count. It is not a perfect film, but it is a solid example of great film-making. It wants to be more, but seems content at being a twisty and suspenseful modern thriller.

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Doubt, 2008 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on December 30, 2008

Director: John Patrick Shanley
Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Joseph Foster II
Running Time: 104 minutes
Score: 9 / 10

This review by Howard Schumann

According to a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, over four thousand clerics were accused of sexual abuse during the past fifty years. Although approximately thirty percent of these accusations were not investigated because they were unsubstantiated, given the proclivity of the bishops to cover up these incidents, the figures are widely suspected to be underestimated. What may be lost in the discussion of statistics about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, however, is an understanding of the humanity of the people involved or the complexities of the circumstances.

This factor is brought to light in Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s filmed version of his Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning stage play. Based on Shanley’s personal experiences at Catholic School, the film explores not only the issue of possible sexual abuse but conservative versus progressive religious values and how far one can rely on suspicion in the absence of proof. Set in 1964, one year after the Kennedy assassination, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) is the dragon lady of St. Nicholas school in the Bronx. A strict taskmaster, she relishes her role as the upholder of tradition, rejecting such modern devices as ballpoint pens and the singing of secular songs at Christmas like Frosty the Snowman which she equates with pagan magic.

Under Aloysius is the sweet and innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) whose easy going manner and charming personality is a welcome antidote to her authoritarian superior. The priest at St. Nicholas is Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is the closest thing to a progressive at the school. He is open to new ideas and the changes initiated by Pope John XXIII, being much more open and relaxed with the children and engaging them in sports and conversation. In his sermons he brings the language of religion into the twentieth century, talking about the positive aspects of doubt and the injurious effects of gossip. “Doubt”, he says, “can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone.” Resentful of the role of women in the Catholic Church and suspicious of Father Flynn, Sister Aloysius assigns Sister James to keep an eye peeled for anything unusual in his conduct. Her fears appear justified when Sister James reports that Father Flynn asked Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II), the school’s only African-American student, to a private conference in the rectory and was seen hanging up the boys undershirt in his locker. Sister James also informs her that there was alcohol on the boy’s breath and that the boy seemed upset when returning to his desk.

Although no inappropriate behavior was witnessed, Sister Aloysius suspects wrongdoing and summons the priest to her office on the pretext of discussing the Christmas pageant. She accuses the priest of misconduct with the altar boy who denies that he gave altar wine to the boy or that anything unusual happened. The drama takes more twists and turns, especially when Donald’s mother (Viola Davis) raises Aloysius’ eyebrows by suggesting that, in spite of the allegations, the boy, who is due to enter high school in a few months, may be better off in the hands of the priest than having to face his intolerant and abusive father.

Doubt avoids easy answers and challenges us to view inflammatory issues from a broader perspective, embracing the essential mystery of human behavior. The acting in the film is uniformly brilliant. Streep is mesmerizing, even if at times more theatrical than may be necessary for the character. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance is more restrained and draws our sympathy with his broader view of church doctrine and display of love and compassion, although his demeanor at the end tantalizingly suggests remorse.

What may be the most noteworthy performance, however, is that of Viola Davis whose dialogue with Aloysius is one of the dramatic high points of the film. The issue of whether Father Flynn acted as a friend and mentor to the boy or a sexual partner is ultimately left to the viewer to resolve, though what is beyond doubt is that absolute certainty without considering other points of view is a dead end for all involved.
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