By: Henry J. Fromage –
I was on a couple long West Coast flights this week, allowing me some catch-up time for those borderline intriguing prospects that make perfect plane movies.
199. The Brothers McMullen
I’ve been meaning to catch up on Edward Burns’ big breakthrough for some time, and somewhat randomly Delta had it this go-round. Unfortunately, this probably fairly edgy Irish Catholic familial/sex dramedy hasn’t held up terrible well. Full of terrible 90s fashion and terrible 90s sexual politics, it plays about as well as early Sex and the City episodes (okay, all Sex and the City episodes), trafficking in stereotypes and apologetics for boorish behavior. The principal cast does well enough (including familiar faces like Connie Britton, who really comes off best), but Burns’ relative lack of success since despite his leading man looks and directorial resume make a little more sense now.
At first, this biopic of the boxer who inspired Sylvester Stallone to write Rocky appears to be yet another middleweight boxing flick with an overqualified cast (Liev Schrieber, Elizabeth Moss, Ron Perlman, Jim Gaffigan, and Naomi Watts), but it morphs into a still familiar, but quite effective character study of a man who would be Champ. Schrieber is as good as he’s ever been playing a selfish but likable man who feels like his underdog charisma is enough to get through life, and Moss gets some great scenes as his long-suffering wife who’ll suffer no longer. God knows what Naomi Watts is doing in the film, though- she just must’ve wanted to try on that Jersey accent for size.
201. Beatriz at Dinner
I was also quite pleasantly surprised by this showcase for Salma Hayek, who plays a faith healer/masseuse for a rich L.A. couple (Connie Britton again and David Warshofsky) among others, who finds herself half-invited to a fancy real estate business-forward dinner party that includes John Lithgow as a Trumpian magnate who she may have some history with. It’s half a teeth-grinding and occasionally unsubtle comedy of discomfort and half a surprisingly enigmatic and nuanced indictment of The Men who Turn the Motor of the World, courtesy of Enlightened‘s Mike White and surprisingly Youth in Revolt‘s Miguel Arteta, showing an entirely new dimension here. Heavily recommended, and here’s hoping that Hayek gets her overdue acknowledgment on the awards circuit.