Hammerle on… “Late Night,” “Dark Phoenix” and “The Dead Don’t Die”

  • Print
Listen to this story

Subscriber Benefit

As a subscriber you can listen to articles at work, in the car, or while you work out. Subscribe Now
This audio file is brought to you by
Loading audio file, please wait.
  • 0.25
  • 0.50
  • 0.75
  • 1.00
  • 1.25
  • 1.50
  • 1.75
  • 2.00

bob hammerle movie reviews“Late Night”

“Late Night” is a brilliant film on multiple levels that you have to find a way to hunt down in the theatre. Beginning with a widely inventive script by Mindy Kaling, this is a movie that has Oscar consideration written all over it.

The movie’s Oscar-challenging performances begin with Emma Thompson, here playing Katherine Newbury, a late-night talk show host. Thompson is fabulous as a TV host who finds herself losing her ratings on and off screen. Her lack of contact with the real world is reflected by the fact that she doesn’t remember the names of most of the scriptwriters working for her. As an example of her mendacity, she fires a young man who is late for a meeting as she caustically diminishes his need to be with a sick child as an excuse that means nothing to her.

hammerle-ln-box.pngGiven that she has an all-male scriptwriting crew, Newbury is asked to hire a female writer to hopefully save her job. This is where Mindy Kaling enters the picture as Molly Patel, a single woman who leaves a factory job to enter a TV environment that leaves her feeling like an alien from another plant.

Kaling’s role as Molly is heartwarming at every turn, and she gradually helps her boss enliven her show with a satirical warmth that was previously missing. This includes providing a bridge over a marital canyon that has gradually distanced Newberry from her husband, Walter.

One of the great things about this film is the fine performances of actors in supporting roles. In that regard, I can’t help but believe that this film will win the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. That begins with the role of the talented John Lithgow as Newberry’s husband, a former college professor confined to their condo given his advanced Parkinson’s disease.

The screenwriters constantly struggle to preserve their jobs under the leadership of a boss who resembles the evil queen in “Sleeping Beauty.” Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Denis O’Hare, Max Casella, Paul Walter Hauser and John Early form a writing team that has learned to prosper despite spending years in a miserable work environment. Though it takes a while, Kaling gradually earns their respect, and this is one of the many reasons that make this film a fantastic cinematic experience.

I can’t overlook the valuable contribution of Amy Ryan, here playing Caroline Morton, Newbury’s studio boss. The two redefine the role of women in films of this nature, playing smart, aggressive combatants who you feel are the recreation of dueling adversaries in armor and on horseback from the Middle Ages.

Though men will like this movie as much as women, Kaling’s script places women in dominating roles customarily reserved for men. Her creative ingenuity saves this film from idiotic lines where Jennifer Lawrence moans that “X-Men” should be renamed “X-Women” in “Dark Phoenix” and Chris Hemsworth smilingly tells Tessa Thompson in the recent “Men In Black” film that it should be known as “Women In Black.” Kaling does not need meaningless references to elevate the role of female actors, and it makes “Late Night” an appealing experience.

“Dark Phoenix”

There is absolutely nothing to like about “Dark Phoenix.” While it tries to redefine the term “tedious” as meaning “entertaining”, it fails by any definition.

The film involves a shallow plot where Jean Grey/Phoenix (Sophie Turner off of her role in “Game of Thrones”), evolves into a sinister force after an accident in space. She soon becomes as mean and nasty as she is cute, and she quickly turns on her X-Men comrades.

hammerle-xmen-box.pngAs it turns out, a space alien simply known as “Smith,” played by Jessica Chastain in one of her most regrettable performances, visits Earth and tries to align herself with Phoenix. While the entire X-Men force bands together to try to save an old friend, Chastain’s villainess has a major problem. She clearly is unfamiliar with the changes in women’s wardrobes in that she continually runs around in 8-inch heels as opposed to fashionable flats.

One of the real problems with this film is that Director Simon Kinberg wants to give time to all of the X-Men characters. With the exception of Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, they all come off as inept lightweights who have little common sense.

That is particularly true of James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier. Though he is a performer that I greatly admire, his aging, bald-headed character has morphed into an arrogant, selfish booze-drinking leader of a once-famous organization where he is now interested in little else than his own reputation.

As noted above, several long-standing characters die in this film and I won’t spoil it by naming them. Interestingly, their deaths produced few tears on screen and you quickly suspect that these accomplished actors were gratified that they would never have to appear in any subsequent X-Men films.

“The Dead Don’t Die”

Tolerating both a lousy ending and the fact that this film falls short of director Jim Jarmusch’s appealing romantic vampire film entitled “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013), “The Dead Don’t Die” finds a way to entertain. As the small town of Centerville tries to understand why animals are fleeing into the forest, the answer soon arrives when the dead start to emerge from their cemetery graves.

Bill Murray does a wonderful job impersonating himself, and that is reason enough to see any film. Here he plays Chief Police Officer Cliff Robertson, and his interaction with his two deputies, played by Adam Driver and Chloe Sevigny, provides moments of comic inspiration.

hammerle-dead-box.pngIn particular, Driver’s officer Ronnie Peterson’s reaction to the zombie attack leaves him constantly repeating the memorable line, “This isn’t going to end well.” Near the end of the movie, where Murray confronts him as to the reason he keeps repeating that phrase, Driver cryptically responds: “Jim showed me the script.” When Murray angrily snarls that he was only shown his own lines, you get an idea of how this film frequently goes where no zombie movie has ever gone before.

Everything is underplayed in this movie, and it leaves you enjoying the experience even though you are frequently left shaking your head. Good actors including Steve Buscemi, Tom Waits, Danny Glover, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Iggy Pop and Tilda Swinton try to find a way to survive the zombie onslaught while ending up being devoured at nearly every turn.

What is interesting about this film is that many in the audience will find it to be a complete waste of time while others will enjoy its imaginative laconic nature. As noted about, while this film doesn’t rise to the level of Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive,” which also starred Swinton, it captures many of the elements of George Romero’s classic zombie film “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

The audience in both films was rewarded knowing things were not going to end well.•

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}