Tag Archives: Richard Jenkins

The Company You Keep

Jim Grant (played by Robert Redford) cares for his young daughter on his own since his wife’s death in a car accident. They live in a small town where Jim is a lawyer. In his heady younger days, Jim was an activist in the radical group Weather Underground. They were opposed to the Vietnam War and demonstrated this in actions that sometimes became violent. A fellow member, Sharon Solarz (by Susan Sarandon) has turned herself in, after thirty years in hiding and Jim realises he and his daughter are in danger, after the FBI refresh their search for the group members to bring them to trial. Ben Shepard (by Shia LaBeouf) is an ambitious and inquisitive local journalist who gets onto this story for his small town newspaper and he starts to piece together the crime and intrigue from decades ago. The FBI and the reporter follow a trail of clues to pursue the real story and try to find Jim Grant, now on the run …

This is a nicely made movie with a magnificent cast. Robert Redford is okay, but not great. Anna Kendrick’s character is superfluous really and once again, Stanley Tucci is good but understated – same goes for Richard Jenkins. Overall, I found it “not quite enough for me”. There’s something of a young Russell Crowe about Shia LeBeouf and he’s fine. It’s great to see Julie Christie again – I haven’t seen much of her since Dr Zhivago. Others … Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper and Sam Elliott are good to see. Redford tries to create a thriller, but to me it’s a little pedestrian and those strong performers just seem to be going through the motions. Another, Susan Sarandon, is there but nothing much is really made of her character either – maybe I missed something? The movie won two awards at the Venice Film Festival in 2012 and it is based on a novel by Neil Gordon. Perhaps it would have had more impact for me if I had been aware of the real story in history.

Made in 2012. Directed by Robert Redford.

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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Movies


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Killing Them Softly

In New Orleans in 2008, amidst the economic hard times Markie Trattam (performed by Ray Liotta) runs a card game. He’s done it for years, but has lost a bit of street cred lately since he arranged a hold-up of his own game to pocket all the cash. Johnny Amato (by Vincent Curatola) decides he wants to turn over Markie’s game again and leave Markie squarely in the frame for it – a fool-proof plan! He hires two-bit crook Frankie (by Scoot McNairy) and his dodgy Aussie mate Russell (by Ben Mendelsohn) to do it. The job comes off okay and the boys are home free … but big boss, Dillon (by Sam Shepherd) smells a rat so he hires hit-man Jackie (by Brad Pitt) to sort it out and restore Dillon as top dog. Jackie, in turn, calls on out-of-towner Mikey (by James Gandolfini) to do the job anonymously, but Mikey isn’t the man he once was, so he’s unreliable. Jackie will need to do this himself, so he wants his full whack for the jobs and drives a hard bargain with Dillon’s man (by Richard Jenkins) to get a fair fee. Can Jackie sort this out without the cops crawling all over him?

This is an entertaining crime action thriller. The mood is sepia and dark as a result of the excellent cinematography – there’s no chaos but the violence is deliberate, just the way the characters play it. Brad Pitt owns his role as cool hit-man Jackie, who likes to carry out his hits by killing them “softly”. He wants all the loose ends tied up so his quietly spoken manner is deliberate and clear in its delivery. Mikey is a role that’s classic for James Gandolfini and he fits it like a glove … a cruel, cold-hearted crook with serious weaknesses and little self-awareness. Ray Liotta is strong as Markie and Richard Jenkins is as good as ever here too (in his usual understated way) as Dillon’s man. It’s peppered with great performances and a standout is Australian Ben Mendelson’s fabulous and authentic portrayal of drug-addled Russell – supported by marvellous camerawork, his scenes are great. The movie is based on the book “Cogan’s Trade” by George V. Higgins and was nominated for the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival – no surprise there. If you enjoyed “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Get Shorty” or “Jackie Brown” you’ll like this one. Well done everyone.

Made in 2011. Directed by Andrew Dominik

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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Movies


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Eat Pray Love

Elizabeth Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) is a writer with a successful career. She is married to Stephen (by Billy Crudup) and she has a seemingly idyllic life – but she realises she’s not happy, she feels lost and confused and is searching for “something”. On a visit to Bali she meets a wise old man, Ketut Liyer (by Hadi Subiyanto) who starts her thinking about what’s real about her life – and what she really wants. So she takes it on – she leaves everything she knows and her best friend Delia (by Viola Davis) behind and starts her own journey. Along the way, she finds a short passionate romance with David (by James Franco), some wonderful locations, marvellous people including Richard from Texas (by Richard Jenkins) and much fruitful contemplation about her life, until she finally arrives at her point of calm awareness and her positive future opens up ahead of her. 

I am ambivalent about this movie. At first my expectations weren’t high – it had never really been a movie that interested me hugely, but I wanted to see it – so I did. As the story developed I wondered whether I had been wrong in my original presumption about it – perhaps there was more to this story that simply a heart-broken woman searching for “herself” through her next big love. I was pleased that Elizabeth Gilbert had shown strength and independence in her adventures in Italy, India and Indonesia and I have no wish to cast doubt on the self-discovery and enlightenment that the real Liz Gilbert did actually experience in her real life journey (upon which the memoir and this movie are based). But I had hoped that the key lessons and the life principles she was starting to develop would be more about inner strength, independence, self-belief, spirituality and the realisation that a relationship isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. I hoped that she discovered she could find peace, solace and happiness in things other than romance. However, this was not the case – in the end the story is just another banal tale about losing yourself, finding yourself and then finding love – ho hum … I think a much better title for this movie is “It’s all about me really” …..

Note – the supporting roles are all good – Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem are great and best is Viola Davis who, in 2011,  was actually nominated for a Black Reel Award as Best Supporting Actress for this work. Shame their great talents are wasted in this – it’s no more than a chick flick, not a great piece for women as Oprah or Ellen may have mislead you to believe.

 Made in 2010. Directed by Ryan Murphy

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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Movies


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Sea of Love

Detective Frank Keller (played by Al Pacino) is a New York cop of twenty years’ standing. He’s good at his job, but that (and drinking) is about all he has to do in his life these days since his wife left him for fellow-cop Gruber (by Richard Jenkins) who happens to be from the same precinct. Frank’s disillusioned and should retire from the force, but he just can’t come to terms with his marriage breakdown, so he carries on. A serial killer with a penchant for “lonely hearts” magazine ads and who kills each victim while playing the old record “Sea of Love”, is active and Frank and his partner, Sherman (by John Goodman) investigate. To get closer to a suspect, Frank places his own “lonely hearts” advert and it’s answered, by Helen Cruger (by Ellen Barkin). Frank meets up with her but she’s not what he was expecting … she’s tough, sexy and a headstrong, single mother. Despite her being a suspect, Frank’s loneliness gets the better of his judgement, he is entranced by her and they begin an affair. As Frank gets more involved in his relationship with Helen, his suspicion of her deepens …

This movie will keep you involved all the way through – the plot is compelling and it has great dialogue, strong characters and authentic action sequences. As always, Al Pacino is great – these are the roles where he excels – when he portrays vulnerability, intensity, deep feelings and the self-destructive behaviour of continuing a relationship when it’s clearly not the best idea he’s ever had. He can bring all this to the audience without uttering a word – such is his talent at facial expression, gesture and body language – he’s just marvellous. His character is his well balanced with Ellen Barkin’s portrayal of the enigmatic and classy Helen. They are plausible as a couple, each in it to meet their own needs. John Goodman brings a sense of realism and “down home-ness” to his almost comic character Sherman, which is entertaining. In 1990, both Ellen Barkin and John Goodman were nominated for a Chicago Film Critics Association Award for their performances here and Al Pacino was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work, in the same year. The great script, well constructed scenes and excellent cinematography bring this chaotic urban environment to the audience and we are taken along on this ride quite easily. This is a good movie.

Made in 1989. Directed by Harold Becker


Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Movies


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Random Hearts

Sargeant “Dutch” van den Broeck (played by Harrison Ford) is a Washington DC cop, happily married to his beautiful wife, Peyton (by Susanna Thompson) who’s a fashion director for an up-market department store. One Friday, Peyton is called away on business at the last minute and leaves a phone message for Dutch to let him know she’ll be away a few days. On the other side of town, Kay Chandler (by Kristin Scott Thomas) is an intelligent and capable candidate for the upcoming election who is totally focussed on her political image and her ambitions to change the world. Kay and her husband are busy professionals who both must travel as part of their jobs and who spend much of their marriage passing like “ships in the night”.  On this day, an aircraft crashes into the river in DC but neither Kay nor Dutch take much notice as it’s a flight to Miami, not on the itinerary of either of their partners – until Dutch realises his wife is not yet home. He checks his messages and discovers she may be on the plane. He finds out that she is, in fact, on the plane but she has lied about the reason for her travels. At the same time, Kay discovers her husband is killed in the crash and a series of circumstances leads Kay and Dutch to lean on each other during this very difficult period in their lives.

I like this movie – the drama unfolds well and it is only predictable to a point. Both Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas are great. Ford plays his typical rough-around-the-edges kind of guy, who also has deep sensitivity and Scott Thomas is excellent as the stylish, no-nonsense political animal who is a straight-talker but who won’t admit to any vulnerabilities. I like it because it doesn’t go where you expect it to and doesn’t end in the predictable way.  It’s a good drama, but probably a bit too long.  There is a parallel (virtually redundant) storyline around Dutch’s work to investigate a murder, but this really only serves to show the audience that he is really a cop. The main interest is with the unfolding story of the partners who have been killed. A good movie. 

Made in 1999. Directed by Sydney Pollack

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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Movies


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Friends with Benefits

Dylan (played by Justin Timberlake) is a media art director in Los Angeles who has just come out of a relationship and has sworn off any more, preferring the “no strings” approach to his social life. Jamie (by Mila Kunis) is an Executive recruitment agent in New York – she’s also just ended a relationship that’s left her feeling the same – no more relationships for her, they’re just too complicated and hard work. Dylan is approached by Jamie’s recruitment agency for an Art Director’s role at GQ magazine in New York. He’s never been to NYC, so he visits to explore the opportunity. Jamie persuades him to take the job and he leaves his father (by Richard Jenkins) and sister (by Jenna Elfman) behind and moves to NYC. With no friends or any family in NYC, Dylan is at a bit of a loose end at first, so Jamie invites him out socially just until he gets his feet on the ground.  They hit it off and form a great friendship, then one day, they wonder what sex together would be like, but “just sex”, not a relationship – just like playing tennis.  So their  “friends with benefits” relationship starts. This works well and they happily continue, they even date other people for a while and Jamie’s mother (by Patricia Clarkson) is totally okay with it. Then when Dylan invites Jamie to spend fourth of July weekend with his family in LA, things take a different turn … do they really want to keep up the ‘friends with benefits”? or will they be much happier with either “all or nothing”?

As romantic comedies go, this is a good one. It is entertaining and there is a nice chemistry between Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. They both perform their roles well – with a good banter and balance between them. The supporting cast of Jenna Elfman, Richard Jenkins and Patricia Clarkson is very strong – but it needs to be to provide a solid base for the movie as the two main characters could not sustain this movie on their own. I think Justin Timberlake has good potential as an actor and Mila Kunis is already clearly a talent on the rise (after her performance in “Black Swan” also). Overall, it’s a better than average rom-com.

Made in 2011. Directed by Will Gluck

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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Movies


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Burn After Reading

In Washington, Osborne Cox (by John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst expert on the Balkans who is suddenly fired from his job due to his drinking problem. He is bitter and throws wild accusations at the CIA, then starts a tell-all memoir about his work and the Agency. He saves all his evidence and background work on a CD, but then he mislays it. At the same time, his wife Katie (by Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with Federal Marshal Harry Pfarrer (by George Clooney). In another part of town, Linda Litzke (by Frances McDormand) is at work at a fitness centre – “Hard Bodies”, but she is so distracted about her looks and determination to get some plastic surgery that she doesn’t realise her boss Ted (by Richard Jenkins) fancies her like mad. Then another “Hard Bodies” fitness instructor, Chad (by Brad Pitt), who is a little slow on the uptake, finds the computer disk belonging to Ossie and views it, He sees what looks like CIA state secrets and when he tells Linda, they decide to run a blackmail scam – then Linda will finally have the money to get her face lift – but things don’t quite go according to plan …

I find the Coen Brothers’ movies are either great or awful.  This one is great – it has a fabulous and well-balanced mix between comedy and thriller.  All the characters work well in this madcap story and it’s very entertaining.  From the outset, John Malkovich’s Ossie is totally unlikeable – he is superb in this bitter and angry role. As Linda, you just want to shake Frances McDormand and get some reality back into her head … George Clooney is perfect as the suave but totally hapless Harry Pfarrer, he and Tilda Swinton are magic together … and Brad Pitt … what can I say? in roles like this he is just too funny … very good and he totally and delightfully inhabits Chad.  It’s really good – one of their best, well done.

Made 2008: Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen


Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Movies


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