Tag Archives: Dan Futterman

Michael Apted’s Enough

I’ve always liked Michael Apted’s Enough, a slick, scary girl-power flick that’s given heart and personality by Jennifer Lopez, who brightens and classes up anything she headlines. It’s also got a subtly eclectic supporting cast of ice cool character actors/actresses and uses them to great potential too. Despite being predictable (a story like this usually will be in Big Hollywood), the motions it goes through somehow just feel fresh and engaging in ways that not all films like this might be able to whip up. J-Lo plays Slim here, a battered housewife who has the misfortune of being married to Billy Campbell’s Mitch, a terrifying sociopath who beats her senseless. Worse still, he’s a rich and powerful dude with a lot of high profile connections, which makes escaping his tyrannical dominance a tad tricky. She’s got a young daughter (Tessa Allen) who’s caught in the crossfire, and for Slim, enough has become enough. On the run, changing her name and decking herself out with some gnarly hand to hand combat skills are all part of a journey to both freedom and empowerment, an arc that Jennifer makes us believe with her soulful conviction and bruised spirit. Juliette Lewis is a low key scene stealer as her good friend who aids in the escape. Fred Ward does a quietly anarchic turn as her somewhat neglectful father Jupiter, who is clearly not the most compassionate fellow but does his best to right the wrongs of yesteryear with his considerable wealth and resources too. Noah Wyle does a charming scumbag shtick as a dirty cop in Campbell’s pocket who hunts her like a wolf, Jeff Kober is cheerfully menacing as one of his gung ho faux FBI Agent lieutenants, and watch for work from Dan Futterman, Brent Sexton, Michael P. Byrne, Bruce A. Young and Bill Cobbs too. The training J-Lo uses is Krav Maga, a viscerally intense martial art that’s taught to Israeli special forces, and it’s a rush to see her beat the absolute fucking shit out of her shitty asshole husband with it in some close quarters, emotionally charged bone breaking and appliance slamming beatdowns. Her and Campbell have some warped, freaky chemistry too, he’s like some demon who’s been imprisoning her and her the dark angel who strikes back fiercely. Great flick.

-Nate Hill

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Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King: A Review by Nate Hill 

Tragic. Uplifting. Comical. Bittersweet. One of a kind. Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King takes on mental illness by way of a fantastical approach, an odd mix on the surface, but totally fitting and really the only way to put the audience inside a psyche belonging to one of these beautiful, broken creatures. Sometimes an unlikely friendship springs from a tragedy, in this case between a scrappy ex radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) and a now homeless, mentally unstable ex professor of medieval history (Robin Williams). Bridges was partly responsible for an unfortunate incident that contributed to William’s condition, and feels kind of responsible, accompanying him on many a nocturnal odyssey and surreal journey through New York City, an unlikely duo brought together by the whimsical cogs of fate that seem to turn in every Gilliam film. Williams is a severely damaged man who sees a symbolic ‘Red Knight’ at every turn, and seeks a holy grail that seems to elude him at every turn. Bridges is down to earth, if a little aimless and untethered, brought back down from the clouds by his stern, peppy wife (Mercedes Ruehl in an Oscar nominated performance). They both strive to help one another in different ways, Williams to help Bridges find some redemption for the single careless act that led to violence, and Bridges assisting him on a dazed quest through the streets to find an object he believes to be the holy grail, and win over the eccentric woman of his dreams (Amanda Plummer). In any other director’s hands but Gilliam’s, this story just wouldn’t have the same fable-esque quality. Straight up drama. Sentimental buddy comedy. Interpersonal character study. There’s elements of all, but the one magic ingredient is Gilliam, who is just amazing at finding the way to truth and essential notes by way of the absurd and the abstract. Watch for fantastic work from Michael Jeter, David Hyde Pierce, Kathy Najimy, Harry Shearer, Dan Futterman and a quick, uncredited Tom Waits as well. The hectic back alleys and silhouetted trellises of NYC provide a sooty canvas for Gilliam and his troupe to paint a theatrical, psychological and very touching tale of minds lost, friendship found and the past reconciled. 

A MIGHTY HEART – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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Ever since Angelina Jolie won an Academy Award for her memorable role in Girl, Interrupted (1999), she has gradually gotten further and further away from the kinds of roles that won her that coveted accolade in the first place. And so it was with some anticipation that she would be returning to more challenging, interesting work with A Might Heart (2007), an adaptation of the memoir by Mariane Pearl about the kidnapping and death of her husband, journalist Daniel Pearl. Of course, there were the usual fears that this would merely be a vanity project for Jolie – a desperate attempt to reclaim Oscar glory yet again. However, the wild card thrown into the mix was the presence of British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom. He has the reputation of being something of a maverick, adept at all kinds of genres, be they literary adaptations (The Claim), period pieces (Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story), biopics (24 Hour Party People) or politically-charged docu-dramas (The Road to Guantanamo). However, he also has the habit of turning them on their head in a way that polarizes critics and audiences. If anyone could get Jolie to shed her movie star persona it would be him.

The film is set in Pakistan as Daniel (Dan Futterman) is doing a story on the Taliban for the Wall Street Journal. One day, he goes off to interview a religious leader and never comes back. When he doesn’t return later that night, Mariane (Angelina Jolie) checks his email and tries to track down his contacts but with no success. The next day he is still missing and she starts calling anybody she can think of, eventually bringing in the local police. The film becomes an intense, Michael Mann-esque police procedural as local law enforcement, led by Captain (Irrfan Khan), turn the city upside down questioning anyone connected with Daniel or who helped set up the interview he was going to.

The Department of Justice and Diplomatic Security Service special agents are called in and a representative by the name of Randall Bennett (Will Patton) meets with Mariane in order to get her side of the story. She is also a journalist and does her own digging into the case. In a few days, she receives an email from the kidnappers who claim that Daniel is a CIA agent posing as a journalist while the local newspapers claim that he’s a Mossad agent just because he also happens to be Jewish. Mariane finds herself drowning in the political quagmire that is Pakistan as the authorities question Daniel’s methods and motivations.

Angelina Jolie does an excellent job as a woman barely keeping it together in the face of such uncertainty, not knowing if she will ever get to see her husband alive again while also dealing with being pregnant on top of everything else. She wisely underplays the role, resisting the urge to come on too strong by being showy and instead immersing herself in the part. Winterbottom helps her out, like in one scene where Mariane allows herself a moment to let it all out and break down. He refuses to go for the easy money shot close-up of Jolie’s teary, anguished face and instead opts for a long shot, letting her body language speak volumes about how she’s feeling.

Winterbottom’s hand-held camera careens through the crowded, claustrophobic streets of Karachi much like in the opening scenes of The Insider (1999) when Al Pacino’s character meets with the leader of the Hezbollah. Winterbottom creates an immediate, immersive experience as the sights and sounds of the city are everywhere. He also keeps everything grounded in reality with minimal use of music because of its ability to easily manipulate our emotions. A Mighty Heart feels like a personal project for Jolie but never seems like a vanity project because one never feels like she is grandstanding but rather is passionate about the subject matter and doing justice to it.