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Beirut Review: Jon Hamm Delivers Best Work Yet In Compelling International Thriller

[embedded content]Bleecker Street

Well, better late than never. It has taken screenwriter Tony Gilr..

Bleecker Street

Well, better late than never. It has taken screenwriter Tony Gilroys script of Beirut only 27 years to reach the screen, but it was well worth the wait especially in that it gives its leading man Jon Hamm a movie role worthy of his talents. So why did it take so long for the script Gilroy wrote near the beginning of his career in 1991 to get made? Chalk it up to the mysteries of the movie industry, or perhaps just bad timing. Whatever the reasons, Beirut, which details a fictional hostage crisis in war-torn 1982 Lebanon, is a period film that also resonates today, perhaps showing that communication and diplomacy might be worth trying before rashly dropping bombs.

Under Brad Andersons tight and precise direction, the script from Gilroy (who went on to write and direct Michael Clayton, along with the Jason Bourne films) is almost a throwback to the kind of international thriller Hollywood has forgotten how to make. Oddly, it probably most resembles Mel Gibsons The Year of Living Dangerously, which coincidentally came out the year this film is set. It is also the kind of star vehicle you might have seen the likes of William Holden, Paul Newman or Gene Hackman doing in their prime, and as I say in my video review above Hamm is the perfect fit, finding a role he can really sink into and make credible.

Hamm plays Mason Skiles, a top U.S. diplomat working in Beirut in 1972 who is happily married to Nadia (Leila Bekhti). They have no kids, but they do look at 13-year-old orphaned refugee Karim as almost like an adopted child. It turns out though that Karim has an older brother who is a wanted Palestinian terrorist suspected in the massacre of the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics; Skiles is trying to protect the child from the reach of the Israeli agents eager to talk to him. Unfortunately, while he and his wife are at a fancy party, Karims brother and friends barge in, shoot the place up and take Karim. Nadia is collateral damage and is killed, which sends Mason into a tailspin.

Cut to Boston 10 years later, where Skiles spends a lot of time in the local bars and is now a labor negotiator. Approached mysteriously to return to Beirut, the damaged and scarred man tries to back off but grudgingly agrees to go. When he gets there, Cultural Attache Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike) and her cohorts reveal the real reason he has been called back: His onetime good friend and CIA agent Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), to whom he hasnt talked in years, has been kidnapped and is being held hostage by none other than a group led by the grown-up Karim (Idir Chender), who will agree only to deal with Skiles –the man he believes could be instrumental in getting his brother released from Israeli custody, where he believes he is being held. This sets off a delicate cat-and-mouse game, with Skiles now sucked back into a world he thought he had left behind.

Suffice to say both Gilroy and Anderson know their way around this kind of material and ratchet up the action and suspense while keeping it so authentic it is hard to believe this isnt a true story to begin with. Gilroy did have real-life inspiration, but this is the stuff of fiction in a world where it is hard to keep up with actual events. Still, 27 years after first writing it, the story of Beirut resonates strongly and is centered by a game Hamm diving into the role with total abandon and authority. Pike is his equal and entirely believable. The supporting actors including Dean Norris, Shea Whigham and Larry Pine are perfectly cast as well. Shot in and around Tangiers, the locations have the real feel of the damaged city that was Beirut at the time, and Anderson uses them well. This is a welcome respite for smart-thinking adults looking for a grown-up thriller — it will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Producers are Ted Field, Shivani Rawat, Monica Levinson, Mike Weber and Gilroy. Bleecker Street opens it Wednesday.

Do you plan to see Beirut? Let us know what you think.

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‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist

“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..

“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.

Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.

More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.

The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.

Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)

The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.

Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”

“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.

In a theater, the tendency with a movie so dependent on a central mystery might be to become antsy. At home, “Antebellum” is worth seeing, not only because of what it has to say about America’s past and present, but as a reminder of the often yawning gap between an intriguing idea and a fully realized film.

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‘Chemical Hearts’ director Richard Tanne on the film’s ‘bittersweet’ ending and what he hopes fans take away from the movie

“Chemical Hearts” director Richard Tanne spoke to Insider about the film’s “bittersweet” ending and ..

“Chemical Hearts” director Richard Tanne spoke to Insider about the film’s “bittersweet” ending and what he hopes fans take away from it.

“I think it’s gonna disappoint some people, and maybe all people on a certain level, ” the 35-year-old filmmaker told us. “It’s bittersweet. But that’s OK.”

The film, based on Krystal Sutherland’s 2016 book “Our Chemical Hearts” and now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, centers on 17-year-old high school senior Henry Page (Austin Abrams), who finds himself drawn to a mysterious and secretive new transfer student named Grace Town (Lili Reinhart).

“Chemical Hearts” is told from Henry’s perspective, chronicling his first heartbreak after he falls in love with the person he thinks Grace is.

Tanne, who wrote the screenplay, said that he was impressed by how the story goes ‘a little bit deeper than your average teen romance’

“I loved how it embraced the dark side of being young, the pain and the grief and the loss, the idea of crossing the threshold from being an adolescent to an adult for the first time,” he told us.

By the end of the movie, Henry learns about Grace’s tragic past. On their last day of senior year, the characters don’t end up together. Instead, they prepare to explore different futures, with Henry heading off to a school for writing and Grace taking a year off to continue therapy.

Even though fans might be disappointed by the love interests splitting, Tanne said that ‘not everything has to be escapist’

“Sometimes, younger people watching movies don’t know that it’s OK to have unhappy endings because they’re fed a steady stream, a steady diet of escapist happily ever after movies,” he told us. “And that’s OK.”

He added: “There’s a place for those, I’m not knocking them. But I just wanted to make something that didn’t talk down to the younger audience. I wanted to make something that either meets them at their level or asks them to reach a little bit higher or dig a little bit deeper.”

Tanne said that having to confront that ‘bittersweet ending’ could also be useful to viewers

The director described the conclusion as bittersweet because “there’s hope at the end, maybe not for their relationship, but for other aspects of their lives.”

“Maybe it will be helpful for young people to see that and walk away with the same sting that Henry has, but to know that it’s going to be OK, to know that Henry will be OK,” he said.

Abrams, who was 22 when he filmed the movie, told Insider that hopefully, audiences will empathize with Henry.

“I think in terms of I supposed how he’s navigating relationships, I feel like hopefully at least anyone can relate to that,” he said.

Abrams told Insider that Henry and Grace’s relationship status at the end speaks to the film’s realistic nature

Abrams shared similar sentiments as Tanne, telling us that they tried to “portray the characters as honestly as possible,” which ties in to the conclusion.

“I think there are some people that meet one person and that’s who they’re with for the rest of their lives, who actually are Henry’s parents in the movie,” the 23-year-old actor told us.

“But then there are other people, and I think it’s probably a larger number, that are going to be in multiple relationships and some of them, a lot of them aren’t going to go well. I hope that that’s an aspect of the movie that people are able to relate to.”

Abrams added that he’s “perfectly fine” letting fans decide for themselves what their main takeaways are from “Chemical Hearts.”

“I hope that maybe they take away things that I didn’t even think of, because everyone’s different and at a different point in their life and hopefully will be able to relate to it in different ways.”

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Julia Sawalha furious after being told she is ‘too old’

Julia Sawalha has said she has been “plucked, stuffed and roasted” after being told that she would n..

Julia Sawalha has said she has been “plucked, stuffed and roasted” after being told that she would not be cast in the forthcoming sequel to the hit Aardman Animation film Chicken Run as her voice sounded “too old”.

In the original film, released in 2000, Sawalha voiced the lead role of Ginger, the plucky hen who inspires her fellow egg-layers to escape from a farm when they are threatened with being turned into pies. News of the development of a sequel first emerged in 2018, and Netflixs involvement was announced in June. It is due to be directed by Sam Fell (ParaNorman) and start production in 2021.

Sawalha posted a statement on social media saying she was told a week ago that she was not wanted for the sequel. “The reason they gave is that my voice now sounds too old and they want a younger actress to reprise the role.”

She added: “Usually in these circumstances, an actress would be given the chance to do a voice test in order to determine the suitability of their pitch and tone, I however was not given this opportunity. I am passionate about my work and I dont go down without a fight, so I did my own voice test at home and sent it to the producers … However, they stated, We will be going ahead to recast the voice of Ginger.”

Sawalhas protest follows reports that Mel Gibson, who voiced the character of daredevil rooster Rocky, would not be involved in the sequel. While Rocky is named as a character in the official plot synopsis for Chicken Run 2, the role is due to be recast. Variety magazine reported that Gibson was told that as “the sequel will revolve around younger chickens, therefore casting younger voice actors” was necessary. The report also claimed that Gibsons history of controversial behaviour, including an accusation of antisemitic comments by actor Winona Ryder, which Gibson denies, played no part in the recasting.

Sawalha added: “I feel I have been fobbed off with the same excuse … To say I am devastated and furious would be an understatement. I feel totally powerless.”

No official announcements have been made for the Chicken Run 2 cast, but original film cast members Jane Horrocks and Lynn Ferguson have been added to the films IMDb page.

Aardman has been contacted for a response.


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