Tag Archives: blake lively

A Simple Favor

Emily (Blake Lively) is effortlessly cool and glamourous. She works a high-profile job in the city and has a handsome husband and an air of mystery. No one is more surprised than Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a single mom and mommy blogger, when Emily befriends her. Their boys are friendly in school and now the mums are friendly over martinis.

But just weeks after an unlikely friendship blossoms between Emily and Stephanie, Emily calls her with a request for a simple favor: a work emergency has popped up, could Stephanie pick up her son from school? Two days later, the son is still in Stephanie’s care, and no one had heard from Emily.

As the investigation into Emily’s disappearance deepens, Emily’s secrets unravel. Her MV5BMTUzNDc3NTM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzYxNTM0NTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_husband Sean (Henry Golding) is very revealing. Turns out, Emily was a pathological liar and her past was very closely guarded. Stephanie doesn’t know what to think about her friend, but her doubts don’t exactly stop her from getting cozy with Sean…and eventually moving right in. Which seems like a bitch move from a grieving best friend, but then, the recent widower isn’t exactly objecting. Why is Sean not objecting?

Anna Kendrick is very good at being a pathetic loser, and Blake Lively is extraordinary at being a clotheshorse. This movie is exceedingly stylish. Blake Lively’s menswear-inspired wardrobe is to die for, but I swear I’m not the one who killed her. But no matter how you dress this thing up, it’s no Gone Girl, but that’s exactly what it wants you to mistake it for. Unfortunately, it can’t quite embrace any one genre. It often looks noir but goes for the easy laugh. Which one is it, truly? I admire that Kevin Feig went for a blend of both, but I don’t think he quite pulled it off. However, if you’re a fan of the Kendrick-Lively duo, they’ve never been Livelier or more Kendricky. They each know their strengths, and Feig gives them a beautiful stage on which to drip their special sauces.

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Savages

I spent most of the movie trying to decipher Blake Lively’s pronunciation of a lead character’s name: was it Sean, or John? And I grew annoyed with director Oliver Stone who was clearly too enamoured with Lively to give her any direction. No, Blake, not every line of the narration should be delivered with life-or-death huskiness. Too much, Blake. Still, in the end, I must admit that the Sean-John conundrum’s fault does not lay with Lively but with either the script writer or the casting director. The character’s name is actually Chon, but he’s played by the very white and very ordinary Taylor Kitsch. Does that make sense to me? It does not. But this movie’s about to get way, way more problematic.

Chon (Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are two halves of a very successful weed business in Laguna, California. Ben is sweet and idealistic and travels the world to impoverished communities where he can spend his profits on the people who need it. Chon is the messed up vet returned from his tours of duty to provide the business with backbone and an intimidation factor. O (Blake Lively) fucks them both – though it’s more of a love circle than a love triangle, if you know what I mean.

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Their business grows just large enough to pique the interest of a real cartel, run by Elena (Salma Hayek). She makes them a business proposition which they are stupid enough to believe they can turn down, and when they do, Benicio Del Toro shows up to kidnap the one thing they both love (well, after weed). Technically I should say Benicio’s character shows up, and yet I think we’ve all seen him play the creepy, threatening bad guy so many times that I’m starting to wonder if perhaps Del Toro really is running a drug empire and acting is just a clever way to launder money and divert suspicion.

Anyway, then it’s a mess of torture porn and “interesting directing choices” to prove that Stone is still the master of mindless violence. Which is a nice way of saying the first half is sloppy as hell and the second half has no heft. The movie believes itself to be slick and subversive and goes to great lengths to convince you of it too, but stops just short of actually being good. Overwritten and under-acted, this is indeed a return to Oliver Stone’s past, but probably not in the way he intended. Savages came out in 2012 mind you, and the only other film Stone’s done in the ensuing years is Snowden so I think it’s more fair to say he’s “done” than “back”.

The Town

Ben Affleck branded Charlestown the “bank robbery capital” of America in his movie about the neighbourhood, The Town. Neither cops nor statistics actually bear that statement out, but he certainly painted a picture of a rough neighbourhood where its inhabitants (“townies”) scowl at outsiders and steal everything that’s not nailed down. Sean and I have been to Boston a few times so I can’t quite recall which time we ventured out to “the town” for some dinner but I do recall deliberating whether we should. Sure the internet was calling this Moroccan restaurant one of Boston’s best, but did we feel safe?

hero_EB20100915REVIEWS100919991ARClearly things have changed since Ben Affleck last spent the night in Charlestown. When we visited, it was gentrified as hell, Beamers parked up and down the street. It’s also been a while since we last watched the film, so without the benefit of bellydancers or couscous, we gave it a re-watch.

Ben Affleck came on board as director only after someone else bowed out. His original cut of the movie was 4 hours long, and if you’re interested, it’s available to watch on the Blu-Ray. The studio convinced him to cut it down to 2 hours, 8 minutes for our sake, still a lengthy movie, but one that just flies by. Affleck’s character assembles a team of ruffians who brazenly rob banks and armoured trucks. He’s wanting to get out of this life, but neither his friends nor his enemies are willing to let him go. So that’s a complication. Another little wrinkle: the woman he’s currently in a relationship with is a former hostage of his, only she doesn’t know it. So that’s awkward.

You can tell Affleck is an actor-director; the action scenes are electric but the editing slows way down during character-driven scenes. He lingers over them. And he knows a great performance when he sees one. In The Town, the scene stealer was Jeremy Renner, who Casey Affleck recommended when Ben couldn’t get Mark Walhberg. Affleck has since said that Renner’s performance was so strong that he could literally save a scene by cutting to Renner looking down at a napkin.

Anyway, whether or not The Town is an accurate portrayal of the people and criminals who live there, it’s an excellent film, slick and well-paced, and it definitely benefits from great on-location shooting. The Boston on screen no longer exists, if it ever did, but it’s a great cinematic accomplishment for a hometown boy.

Cafe Society

I wanted to crawl right into the very first frame, so luscious and drenched with colour it was. If I had turned it off right then and there, I may have dreamed in technicolour and sung the film’s praises. I didn’t.

Cafe Society is a beacon of hope to all the men who have been friend-zoned. Stick around for long enough to provide the shoulder to cry on when she eventually breaks up with her boyfriend, who is cooler, more interesting, and more wasp2015_day_21-0031.CR2successful than you, and you might actually find her vulnerable enough to prey on her heartbreak and win. For a while. But since you’re still nerdy old you she’ll eventually wise up and leave your ass, potentially even for the ex who doesn’t deserve her, and you’ll have to content yourself with second place. If second place always looked like Blake Lively you might thank your lucky stars, but Woody Allen is an idiot, so here we are.

Bobby is the Woody-Allen-stand-in in this case, played by Jesse Eisenberg, an inspired choice because he’s already got the annoying neuroticism and concave chest. He’s not content with the similarity though, he goes full-on chanelwa15_d21_00172-h_2016_0impression, right down to the self-conscious body language and flighty hand gestures. Bobby moves to Hollywood, trying to escape the family business. He goes to his uncle Phil (Steve Carrell), an important guy at a big movie studio, who barely makes time for him, and pawns him off on his secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). Eisenberg and Stewart have a twitchy chemistry that works well, but it does mean you’ll have to watch the two most high-strung performances in Hollywood today. Simultaneously. In a Woody Allen movie.

Steve Carrell is the best thing about this movie, and he wasn’t supposed to be in it. He replaced Bruce Willis well into filming after Brucie was fired for being a diva and not learning his lines. The costumes are also divine. ‘Cafe society’ was coined to describe the beautiful people hanging out in night clubs, and all those beautiful people are prettily dressed and on sumptuous display. This is Woody Allen’s first digitally captured movie, and his first collaboration with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro – if he’s smart, it’ll be the first of many, because this film is gorgeous if nothing else. And yeah – nothing else. It feels like two different stories stitched inexpertly together (Allen provides the stitching – he narrates the thing, cause he just can’t keep his wrinkly hands OFF). Despite the window dressing, Cafe Society is a love story at its core, but a love story between two people you don’t really care about, and you don’t even like. The end.

TIFF: All I See Is You

All I See Is You is a movie I wish I could unsee.

Blake Lively plays a woman blinded in a childhood accident. Her husband dotes on her, and in the first few scenes of the movie, director Marc Forster wants to experience her perceptions. Film is of course a visual medium, but as she and her husband have sex, we focus on different sensations – on the all-i-see-is-you-review-blake-livelysheets, on his hands, their breathing, the sounds drifting in from outside, the memories that keep cropping up. It’s a strong enough start but when she becomes a candidate for surgery that would restore her eyesight, things start to shift.

The story shifts. It’s not just her life that changes as a seeing woman, but his as well. Both struggle to redefine themselves. But now that her vision is restored, I found the film harder to follow. In fact, I didn’t follow it. Afterward, momentarily blinded by the sun upon exiting the dark theatre, Sean and I compared notes and found that neither of us could account for some strange occurrences in the movie. I was willing to believe that I was just tired and bored and inattentive, but since both of us failed I’m more inclined to blame it on bad film making.

As Blake’s vision begins to focus, she sees cracks in her marriage. Neither she nor her husband (Jason Clarke) could have anticipated the cobwebs they’d find in the corners of their relationship. And as much as she’s maybe not digging the dynamic in her marriage, she’s definitely into what she sees in the mirror! A dye job and a push-up bra are top priorities, and I’m sure her corneal transplant surgeon (Danny Huston) feels very gratified. The film continues to present images that are a little surreal, paired with incongruous sound that represent the disparity in her experience. Some of it is a little too obvious and some of it’s way out of left field. Like if you take a left at the hot dog cart behind left field, keep going pass the overflowing garbage can with all the bees buzzing around it, and head for the 3rd red Buick in the parking lot, that’s maybe where this stuff came from. And that’s me being generous because in my hard little heart I still believe some of this stuff was slotted in just to see if we were paying attention.

Her husband definitely prefers her submissive and dependent, and things crumble when she’s suddenly strutting her hot stuff all by her lonesome. But I can’t quite feel a lot of empathy such a vain and selfish character. There’s nobody here to root for, not even the dead bird stuffed mysteriously down a glass bottle in the refrigerator (?). I don’t think there is any saving this movie, but Lively definitely doesn’t have the chops for it. If I’d had an inkling that Sean was finding All I See Is You just as painful as I was, I would have organized a walk-out.

The Age of Adaline

We missed this screening while in Paris, and I was okay with missing it, although our proxy did give it a one-word rave review: “fine”.

On our return flight from California, it was the only New Release I hadn’t already seen, so I gave it a go, and came up with much the same conclusion: it’s fine.

Adaline gets into an accident that causes her to stay 29 forever. And then she has the gall to TheAgeofAdaline2complain about it.  So that’s annoying. And she may have the glowing complexion of a 29-year-old, but she tells a story like a 129 year old: it’s long, rambling, often pointless.

Adaline, that is to say Blake Lively, looks gorgeous in every era. But her “problem” has made her selfish and I had a hard time finding anything likeable about her, other than having Ellen Burstyn as a daughter, and wondered why yet another of her “problems” was having all these handsome men fall in love with her. Wow. Poor Adaline. Tough life.

Anyway, you know exactly where this movie is going, and it goes exactly there, eventually, after a lot of plodding along.

I did love that it was set in San Francisco, since I had just been holidaying there myself, and recognized her digs in Chinatown. Actually, San Francisco is maybe the most interesting character – it’s often shot beautifully, almost noir-ish, which almost makes me sad. It looks and sounds like a movie that was supposed to be so much better than it was. Unfortunately it’s just another bland romance with a light and improbable sci-fi twist – basically, a very pretty fashion show. And the thing is, I don’t buy Blake as anything more than a mannequinn. She’s a clothes horse, but her eyes are blank. Her face is incapable of communicating anything to the audience, and she pales next to Harrison Ford, who gives off some mega wattage in a hammy performance I didn’t expect from him.

Verdict: missed opportunity.