6 posts categorized "Hollywood"

July 25, 2018


Mission_impossible__falloutMI6 fulfills everything the Mission: Impossible franchise has to offer if not much more. Tom Cruise’s frequent directorial collaborator and “Fallout” co-screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (“Jack Reacher,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” and “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”) orchestrates the film’s overblown action with meticulous attention to detail, perhaps a little too much.

The car chase sequences, while impressive, don’t come near the unpredictable nature of the one William Friedkin filmed for “To Live and Die in L.A.” Still, there is plenty of splashy gravity defying spectacle to wash over you as you watch a movie that was clearly made with an IMAX screen in mind. The stunts are gut wrenching, and the helicopter stunts are out of this world.


You need every inch of that 80’ by 100’ IMAX screen to experience what the filmmakers have in mind, which is to blow yours. Another trip through the editing process would have helped tighten the pace but no one is coming out of this film not feeling like they didn’t get their money’s worth.


The politics of the MacGuffin-laden plot are sufficiently bland so that no audience member feels left out or put upon regardless of their political leanings. Even anarchists should feel right at home with this film’s cartoonish narrative design since the villain here is a Ted Kaczynski knock off. Bad guy number one has a crew of “Apostles” helping him destroy world order. Don’t worry, there’s only one bloody scene in the whole movie, and the rest of the violence is strictly of the cartoon variety. Our height-challenged action man Ethan Hunt (Cruise) still receives his mission assignments in the same old-school method of a self-destructing reel-to-reel tape.


Considering the franchise landscape at hand, what surprises most are the casting choices that fail. Alec Baldwin’s IMF character Alan Hunley (Ethan’s boss) seems like he walked onto the wrong set on the day he needed to shoot the handful of scenes he’s in. However, Baldwin does deliver one primo piece of acting while performing one of dramaturgy’s most traditional tropes. No plot spoiler here; you’ll know it when you see it. Angela Bassett also falls flat, regardless of her ageless beauty, as CIA director Erica Sloan. Bassett’s tempo and tone don’t match with the movie as a whole.


What does work in the character department is the reliable chemistry between Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Tom Cruise. Here is an onscreen friendship that feels like an old pair of slip-on house shoes. Michelle Monaghan is as perfect as it gets for onscreen romance. No shortage of mask disguises provides a series of nods to the original “Mission: Impossible” television show, while providing the movie with some nifty plot twists that register with an added amount of humor. And yes the super-action men's room fistfight is a hoot.


“Mission: Impossible” is the closest thing Hollywood has going next to a James Bond franchise, and going it is. Tom Cruise will soon be too old to play the part of a stunt-happy super spy. Get it while you can on the biggest IMAX screen you can find.  


Not rated. 147 mins.

4 Stars


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September 17, 2016


COLESMITHEY.COMYou know you’re in trouble when momentary flashbacks from previous films in a franchise make you wish you were watching one of them instead of the dreary cinematic rendering before your eyes.

It’s debatable which one’s holding up better — Colin Firth or his nine-years junior co-star Renee Zellweger, but watching Patrick Dempsey break character as a passive-aggressive third wheel is enough to turn your stomach. If you didn’t figure it out; Bridget won’t know which one is the dad until the baby is born and a DNA test can be done. Oh the problems of the upper class.

Film review: Bridget Jones's Baby - InDaily

Bridget is none too saddened by the recent death of her former boytoy Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), whose plane “went down in the bush.” She might be lonely, but Bridget’s female co-workers are busy with gangbangs and threesomes at handy dandy London sex clubs. Never mind, this movie doesn’t dare go there. Committee screenwriters Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, and Emma Thompson would rather take their target audience of white-ladies-who-lunch on a foray into an imaginary music festival land of weekend glamping in yurts. Naturally, Bridget wears an all white outfit with six-inch spike heels. If you are male, and have made it this far in this review, you’re work here is done.


If, on the other hand you are a non-white female you will have your work cut out for you to not run for the restroom to vomit at the disgusting patronizing yet condescending tack this film takes in making romance seem like a dump you take after being constipated for five days.

Turtleneck sweater worn by Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) as seen in  Bridget Jones's Baby | Spotern

Director Sharon Maguire (helmer on the franchise debut “Bridget Jones’s Diary”) — at least they got the punctuation right — spares no excuse to crank up the most obvious and outdated musical cues in the history of modern-day Hollywood. Sitting on the couch alone: cue “All By Myself.” Having a pity party for one: play “Jump Around.” What would a party scene be without “Gangnam Style”? And the musical atrocities go on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Don’t believe me? Well, there’s “Fuck You” (by Lily Allen) during a fit of pique. And what cheesy rom-com would be complete without “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” paired with “Up Where We Belong.” Talk about on-the-nose telegraphing, it’s like a nervous tic.

Screen Shot 2016-09-17 at 11.21.04 AM

And, why a baby? With a movie as stillborn as this one, there’s no point in trying to pretend humor. There is not one joke, pratfall, or line of dialogue that will induce even a brief smile. If you’re 60, white, and female, you’ll chuckle for no good reason, but you already do that anyway. I’m sure the screenwriters laughed plenty at their own not-funny jokes. For the rest of us, there is no boredom less compelling than sitting through this irredeemable piece of cinematic trash.

Rated R. 122 mins.

1 Star


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

August 12, 2016


Baby-faceBased on a story written by Hollywood studio maverick Darryl F. Zanuck (head of 20th Century Pictures), co-screenwriters Kathryn Scola and Gene Markey create a satirical exploitation picture teeming with social currency. This politically challenging piece of dramaturgy could have come straight from New York’s Group Theatre, whose lead playwright Clifford Odets incited theatre audiences of the era with activist plays such as “Waiting for Lefty.”

Darryl Zanuck was on a career tear with a string of successes when he wrote “Baby Face,” which Warner Brothers and Vitaphone produced. The Jazz Singer (1927), The Public Enemy (1931), and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) were all Zanuck-produced films.

Baby Face (1933) Review – Pre-Code.Com

With its outré sensibilities around sexual power wielded by a woman, “Baby Face” (1933) became a lightening rod for the Hays Code, which effectively blocked [empowered] female characters from appearing in American movies once the policy took hold on July 1, 1934. Although the code was created in 1929, no heed was given to it until ’34.


Barbara Stanwyck is off the charts as a streetwise woman from Erie, Pennsylvania whose father has turned their home into a speakeasy and brothel, featuring Lily as a combination of man-pleasing waitress and prostitute. Stanwyck’s confidence as her character melds with her utter mastery of acting craft.

Baby Face (1933)

“Baby Face” is possibly the only film in the canon of American cinema where a father (played by a cigar-chomping Robert Barrat) pimps out his own daughter. Still, Lily doesn’t pull any punches when a customer’s advances are unwanted, regardless of his social standing. A local politician gets a cup of hot coffee poured him, as well as a bottle to the head when he comes on strong after following her into her bedroom.

Baby Face (1933) - Rotten Tomatoes

Lily’s conscious adjustment of attitude and ambition comes from Cragg (Alphonse Ethier), a Swedish Nietzsche-quoting cobbler who briefly mentors Lily after her father’s untimely death. Gragg advises Lily to use her sexual power over men to get what she wants. “You must be a master, not a slave,” he tells her. Gregg goes on to read from Nietzsche’s “The Will to Power.”

“All life, no matter how we idealize it, is nothing more nor less than exploitation.”

Lily takes to the cobbler’s advice like a fish to water. In Stanwyck’s subtle facial expression we see the penny drop.


It’s telling that for years the only available version of “Baby Face” was one that edited out this scene’s trenchant ideological dialogue. Even so, the film’s thematic-reversing climax reneges on Nietzsche’s position by valuing sentimentality over calculated ambition.

Director Alfred E. Green graphically presents Lily’s climb up the corporate ladder with exterior shots of the bank building’s high-rise walls on whose windows are painted with the title of each branch. Lily works her way up from the filing department to the accounting department and on, leaving behind her the men whose lives she has ruined, some more so than others.

David Nilsen — Barbara Stanwyck and Theresa Harris in Baby Face...

A key character element comes though Lily’s fluid ability to learn on the job. She is never anything less than good at each position she ascends to. Moralists of the day would surely have called Lily a slut, but Stanwyck’s Lily proves smarter than anyone she comes into contact with — man or woman. Regardless of how morally superior every corporate man she meets, pretends to be, it’s always a front to get what they want, sex from Lily.


Lily’s transition from lower class tramp to high society dame succeeds via Orry-Kelly’s sensual, if extravagant, costume designs. Ever the master of dramatic beats, Stanwyck works every thread of the enticing dresses and furs she wears as if she were born in them. Lily transforms into a goddess for the audience to worship.

The film’s closing moral message is as right wing as they come. Patriarchal advice proves reliably flawed, no matter the validity of its philosophical intention.    

America Cinema has seldom witnessed such a powerful self-possessed capitalist as Lily. Here is a blatant affront to generations of American provincial female teachings that value virginity over sexual freedom. Lily likes giving it away, for a cause — herself. The men are only too happy to pay without even being asked.


Not Rated. 73 mins.

5 StarsIn episode #17 the great Thelma Adams joins Mike and I to discuss "Baby Face," an amazing Pre-Code film staring Barbara Stanwyck. while drinking MAUI BREWING SWELL IPA.

Baby Face



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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