Guest Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)

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Directed By: David Frankel
Written By: Allan Loeb
Runtime: 94 minutes

After reviewing a couple unimpressive comedies last week (Office Christmas Party and Why Him?), I was ready for seeing something a little weightier, so I was excited to get the opportunity to see Collateral Beauty. I was a little nervous it would be overly-sentimental, and while I did find some problems with it, I still thought it was very well-done.

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In Collateral Beauty, advertising mogul Howard (Will Smith) writes letters to Love (Aimee, played by Keira Knightley), Time (Raffi, played by Jacob Latimore), and Death (Brigitte, played by Helen Mirren) following a family tragedy. At the same time, three of his friends and work colleagues- Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) – worry that Howard’s mental state may cost them their jobs and devise a desperate plan to prevent it from happening, all while simultaneously fighting their own personal battles. I realize this is a vague synopsis, but saying more would spoil a lot of the plot.

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While I don’t think this movie will go down as a classic, it was a solid film. It was creative and handled the subjects of loss and grief well, without being too heavy-handed. The acting was, of course, phenomenal; how could it not be with such a strong cast? The stand-outs for me were Helen Mirren, who gave a both humorous and poignant performance, and, naturally, Will Smith; he barely has any dialogue in the first half of the movie, but his facial expressions and body language alone is striking, and if he doesn’t make you cry (or get a little choked up, at the very least), you are made of stronger stuff than I am. Naomie Harris as Madeline, the leader of a support group for parents who have lost their children, was excellent as well; she was able to bring both strength to the character as well as an underlying sense of grief without being too obvious.

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I did have a couple issues with this movie. One of the twists seemed way too obvious-there were too many pregnant pauses and significant glances hinting toward it- so when it was finally revealed, it felt a little underwhelming. I also thought the plan Howard’s friends come up with to prevent them from losing their jobs was really convoluted; admittedly, it was needed to get the plot moving, but suspension of disbelief can be stretched only so far.

Overall, though, Collateral Beauty was an enjoyable movie, thanks mainly to the fantastic acting. If you’re looking for a light, heartwarming film with some tearjerker moments, check it out.

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Have you seen ‘Collateral Beauty’? Well, what did you think? 

Genre Grandeur – Heist Movies: Ocean’s Eleven & Ocean’s Thirteen

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This post is part of MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur (or Guesstimation) series. Thanks to my pal Ted S. for his review of one of his favorite films of the genre.


I lost count on how many times I’ve watched these two Ocean’s films; I’m going to pretend that Ocean’s 12 never existed; the self-indulgent film was an embarrassing to everyone who’s involved in making it. Don’t get me started on the whole Julia Roberts pretended to be Julia Roberts sequence. I wanted to punch the writers and director Steven Soderbergh for thinking that we the audience would be that stupid and thought it would be a fun scene to watch.

Well speaking of Soderbergh, in the early 2000s, he’s the director every actor wanted to work with. If I remember correctly, two of his films in 2000, Traffic and Erin Brockovich were box office hits and got nominated for best picture at the Oscars. He received the golden statue for directing Traffic. So of course there were big expectations for his next picture. Opened during the holiday season of 2001, Ocean’s Eleven was one of that year’s biggest hits and spawned two sequels. Of course the cast was probably the big draw, packed with three A-listers George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts; veterans Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner and Elliot Gould and young up and coming actors such as Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan.
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Recently paroled Danny Ocean (Clooney) decides to get in touch with some of his old buddies including black jack dealer named Frank Catton (the late great Bernie Mac) and Rusty Ryan (Pitt). They hatched a plan to steal money from two Las Vegas casinos during a big boxing match that could be worth more than $130mil. The casinos are owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) who happens to be dating Ocean’s ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts). In order to get their plan rolling, they need some funding from Benedict’s rival Reuben (Elliot Gould). With backing from Reuben, Danny and Rusty went and recruit the rest of the team.

What I love about this film was the chemistry with each of the actors; they were all believable to me as a team on a mission. I especially love the bickering between the Mormon twins (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan). The script was well written and the actual heist was very clever and fun to watch. Unlike some other heist genre film, there were no twists or backstabbing from someone in the team. They finished their mission and everyone got paid.

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After the disastrous Ocean’s 12, Soderbergh decided to fix his mistake from the second sequel and brought the team back for another heist in Vegas. In Ocean’s Thirteen, the team’s mission this time is revenge. After Reuben was left for dead by his former partner Willy Bank (Al Pacino), Danny and Rusty wanted to break Bank’s brand new casino. Unlike the second sequel where I felt the actors and filmmakers were having fun but we the audience were left out. In this film, Soderbergh brought back the fun and I had a great time with it; heck I think I liked it better than the first film. The heist itself was quite clever, instead of stealing the money from the casino for themselves, Ocean’s team decided to let everyone win big. Speaking as someone who goes to Vegas regularly and gambles there, I would have loved to be involved in this heist.

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Pacino w/ Ellen Barkin who’s quite the scene stealer in the movie

These two Ocean films aren’t the best in the heist genre but they sure are fun to watch. Maybe because it’s set in one of my favorite cities to visit Las Vegas, it’s the reason why I can’t get enough of these films.

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Well, what do YOU think of these two Ocean’s films? Which of the trilogy is your favorite? 

Question of the Week: Which films with great ensemble cast that fail to deliver?

It really pains me that the movie that *inspired* me for this edition of Question of the Week is one I’ve actually been looking forward to for some time. When I first blogged about it in January 2013, I was super duper excited about the cast. The movie is called The Deadly Game in the UK, complete with an even cheesier poster. I much prefer the Paul Shipper version on below right, if only the film itself is even half as intriguing.

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I never thought a British thriller starring Gabriel Byrne, Rufus Sewell AND Toby Stephens be so insufferably dreary. Even the actors look bored here, only Rufus seems to be having a bit more fun than the rest. My hubby actually fell asleep halfway through and I didn’t bother waking him up. If it weren’t for these three of my favorite Brits, well four if you count London which is practically a character in itself, I would’ve turned it off within 10 minutes. I don’t really feel like reviewing it, but I agree with these reviewers:

All Things to All Men is the latest attempt to make a British Michael Mann-style crime epic based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what Michael Mann actually does as a filmmaker. – The Scotsman

“Despite Sewell’s laconic ruthlessness, Stephens’s steely taciturnity and Byrne’s world-weary arrogance, there’s an all-round lack of conviction.”Radio Times

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Now this one sums my feelings exactly:

“[George Isaac’s] dizzying array of double-dealing gangsters, cops, hoodlums and hit men seem to be weirdly obsessed with taking in the sights. Issac describes his film as “a love letter to London”. Seriously, they should just get a room.”

So the only *character* that’s not wasted is London, but even so, the setting seems has no purpose. There’s a great shot of Stephens inside the London Eye but all he does is take a phone call! There is really no reason to have that scene shot there other than for pure visual spectacle. It’s a shame really, this could’ve been so much better and more gripping when you’ve got THIS kind of talents involved. It made me think of other movies that didn’t deliver despite the great cast, in fact you could say the cast is completely wasted. And I’m talking terrible films here, not just middling. Just from the past couple of years alone, we’ve got Gangster Squad, Now You See Me, The Monuments Men. Fortunately I skipped some of those Love, Actually copycats like Valentine’s Day or New York, I Love You (which I turned off after about 5 minutes). Oh and I avoided Movie 43 like the plague, I mean I don’t think ANY actor could’ve possibly saved such a movie.


So now your turn… what’s the worst movie(s) you saw with a great ensemble cast?