Anthony Katagas

Anthony Katagas

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Unfinished Business Review


Unbearable

More than just a misfire, this attempt at a rude comedy goes so spectacularly wrong that it actually contradicts its own jokes even as it's telling them. But then it undermines everything as it goes along, for example indulging rampantly in comical cruelty before trying to say something meaningful about the dangers of bullying. The real question is how the cast members could have agreed to make a movie in which they all come across as incoherent idiots.

The story opens as Dan (Vince Vaughn) clashes with his boss Chuck (Sienna Miller) then quits dramatically, taking newly retired Tim (Tom Wilkinson) and airhead newbie Mike (Dave Franco) with him to start a new sales company. But after a year, business isn't good, and the future hinges on making a massive deal with Bill and Jim (Nick Frost and James Marsden). The problem is that Chuck is also bidding for the business, so Dan, Tim and Mike fly off to Maine and then Berlin to seal the deal with a handshake. Impossibly they arrive in Berlin at the same time as Oktoberfest, the marathon, a gay S&M festival and the G8 Summit, with its accompanying anarchist protest. Meanwhile back home, Dan's wife (June Diane Raphael) is having problems with the kids.

Frankly, there is so much going on in this film that it's exhausting. It's as if screenwriter Conrad just threw everything he could think of onto the page and didn't worry if it made even a lick of sense. Every scene feels interrupted by a bit of random chaos that isn't remotely amusing. And despite making a movie that's obsessed with sex, the filmmakers are unable to decide whether they want to make fun of it or are terrified of it (so they end up being both at the same time). Each time something interesting or funny threatens to happen, it's sideswiped by something so breathtakingly bungled that we don't know where to look.

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2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Anthony Katagas - 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in West Hollywood - West Hollywood, California, United States - Sunday 2nd March 2014

Anthony Katagas
Anthony Katagas

2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Anthony Katagas - 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards at Santa Monica Beach - Santa Monica, California, United States - Saturday 1st March 2014

Anthony Katagas
Anthony Katagas

British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA)

Dede Gardner, Anthony Katagas, Steve McQueen, Jeremy Kleiner and Brad Pitt - British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) 2014 held at the Royal Opera House - Press Room - London, United Kingdom - Sunday 16th February 2014

Dede Gardner, Anthony Katagas, Steve McQueen, Jeremy Kleiner and Brad Pitt

12 Years a Slave Review


Extraordinary

Much more than a film about 19th century slavery in America, this sharply well-told true story has a lot to say about the world we live in today. And as he did in Hunger and Shame, filmmaker Steve McQueen puts us right into the middle of the story so we live it ourselves. Watching this film is a riveting, unnerving and ultimately moving experience.

It's based on a firsthand account by Solomon Northrup (Ejiofor), a musician who is living with his family in 1841 Saratoga, New York, when two friendly men offer him a great gig. But they drug him and sell him to slave traders, who send him to New Orleans and strip him of his identity. He spends the next 12 years working for two masters. Ford (Cumberbatch) is a fair man who puts him under the watchful eye of the cruel Tibeats (Dano). Then he is sold to Epps (Fassbender), a harsh boss who sends him into cotton fields and angrily suspects that Solomon is more educated than he admits.

Made with an earthy, realistic style, there's a clear sense that McQueen and screenwriter Ridley stuck closely to the details of Northrup's memoir, which was published shortly after his release and became a bestseller at the time. By never indulging in Hollywood-style exaggeration, the events remain grounded in the characters, drawing on the spiky interaction between them. At the centre, Ejiofor is utterly magnetic, delivering a transparent performance that takes our breath away. In his terrified eyes, we experience this horror ourselves.

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The Big Wedding Review


OK

An all-star cast very nearly goes down with the ship as filmmaker Justin Zackham (The Bucket List) indulges in relentlessly farcical silliness. Thankfully the actors play it relatively straight, injecting moments of dark emotion and sharp wit in between the corny wackiness. But the script is more interested in humiliating its characters than finding any genuine humour.

The eponymous nuptials are between Alejandro and Missy (Barnes and Seyfried), who haplessly watch their families implode as the big day approaches. Alejandro's adoptive dad Don (De Niro) and his long-time girlfriend Bebe (Sarandon) are planning the event, but Alejandro's deeply religious birth-mother (Rae) is coming from Colombia, so he asks his dad to pretend to still be married to his ex-wife Ellie (Keaton). Meanwhile, Alejandro's sister Lyla (Heigl) is having her own marriage crisis, while his brother Jared (Grace) can't keep his libido under control.

As the preparations continue, the plot gets increasingly tangled. But it also becomes strangely ingrown, as if these people have never met anyone outside their small circle of family and friends. Past secrets are revealed and dark peccadillos come to light, leading to a series of manic confrontations. Through it all, the film remains blandly amusing, although its rather extreme moments never quite escalate to Meet the Parents hilarity. Thankfully they avoid the strained goofiness of Death at a Funeral

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Killing Them Softly Review


Excellent

Moral murkiness makes this hitman thriller gripping to watch, mainly because we're never quite sure where it's going. Even though it's set in 2008, Australian director Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James) shoots it like a 1970s thriller, which gives the whole film a superb sense of moral murkiness. And since it's based on a 1974 novel (Cogan's Trade by George Higgins), the film has an almost timely feel to it, using offbeat rhythms and complex characters who refuse to do what we want them to do.

At the centre is Jackie Cogan (Pitt), hired by a bookish mafia executive (Jenkins) to clean up the mess after a mob card game was robbed. The problem is that the two guys behind the heist (McNairy and Mendelsohn) are dimwits who have no idea what they've stumbled into. But Cogan is also annoyed by mob bureaucracy, which takes far too long to get anything done. And he's even more short-tempered with his old pal Mickey (Gandolfini), who he brings in to bump off a middleman (Liotta), except that Mickey is too interested in alcohol and sex to get the job done properly. Clearly, Jackie will have to do everything himself.

Pitt plays the role with a terrific sense of world-weary charm. He has no time for the losers around him, but takes pride in his work, preferring to kill his targets softly rather than causing pain. Meanwhile, Gandolfini is playing an alcoholic twist on Tony Soprano, Jenkins is doing his usual officious schtick, and Liotta is a more soulful version of the mafioso he's played many times before. By contrast, McNairy and Mendelsohn are hilariously clueless. Like characters from a Coen brothers movie, they're likeable even though we never have any hope that they'll get anything right.

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Two Lovers Review


Excellent
Joaquin Phoenix has a reputation for diving heartily into roles, and his starring turn in James Gray's Two Lovers is no exception. In the film's first scene, Phoenix's dive is literal: A Brooklyn kid plunging into the bay in an arresting setup that rings of despair and confusion. It's an appropriate introduction to Phoenix's delicate character development, a performance that buoys an impressive romantic drama.

And that's a genre we don't see too often anymore: romantic drama. Today's cinematic romances are usually steeped in light comedy (even decent ones like Definitely, Maybe) or predictable form posing as drama. But Two Lovers is hardcore drama, with desire at its center. Or more accurately, two desires.

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Second Best Review


OK
An embittered writer's movie about the coruscating damage of jealousy and the impossibility of finding nobility in failure, Second Best has a pretty good time with its characters, even with all the sad sacks on display. Written and directed by Eric Weber, it's all about Elliot Kelman (Joe Pantoliano), a former publishing executive who bombed out and returned to his small New Jersey hometown - more than a whiff of autobiography here, as Weber was once a big-city ad exec but now lives in a small town and writes screenplays - where he spends his time obsessing over his failure and that of his group of friends. As a means of getting his creative juices out (or simply rubbing his depression in everybody's face), Elliot writes a weekly missive about "The Loser," which he is too scared will be rejected and so just prints up several thousand of them and hires a high school kid to leave them around town. And so, Elliot's self-hating, barely-fictionalized musings about why he and others like him are failures, and why it's better to acknowledge that than delude themselves, flutter in the wind, taped to delicatessen windows, stuffed under windshield wipers, blowing down the street.

The big event awaited by Elliot's friends - a bum but friendly bunch that include a broke real estate agent, an ER doctor and an older guy with prostate cancer - is the arrival of their old friend, movie magnate Richard (Boyd Gaines), whose newest blockbuster just won a slew of Oscars. The jealousy that envelops all of is deadly, of course, but at least Richard lets them play at a nice golf course, so it's not all bad. Although Weber doesn't go the expected route by turning Richard into a preening Hollywood villain, that doesn't stop Elliot (who sells suits at the mall and cadges money from everybody he knows, including his nursing home-confined mother) from feeling bitterly resentful at his friend's wealth and success.

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This So-Called Disaster Review


Terrible
While he's better known as an actor with a distant, lonesome cowboy air about him, Sam Shepard (The Right Stuff, Black Hawk Down) has for the past couple decades been one of America's greatest living playwrights - but you'd hardly know it from this film. Having cast Shepard as the ghost in his modern-day, Manhattan-set Hamlet (the Ethan Hawke one), director Michael Almereyda then agreed to make a documentary about the weeks of rehearsal leading up to the 2000 San Francisco premiere of Shepard's play, The Late Harry Moss. The play's cast is impressively star-heavy - Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Cheech Marin - and one imagines that Almereyda thought he could simply act as a fly on the wall, catch these greats at work, throw in some interview bits, and have a compelling document on the creation of live theater.

Needless to say, things didn't turn out that way. One very large problem is that Almereyda is new to the documentary biz and doesn't seem to have figured out how things work. Normally a visual innovator in his films like Nadja and the aforementioned Hamlet, Almereyda leaves the camera static, hoping that his subjects will provide all the necessary drama. They don't. Penn looks to be in full Mr. Hollywood mode, reading a newspaper and barely paying attention, while a shaggier-than-usual Nolte is in the throes of some chemically-induced meltdown; Harrelson and Marin just look happy to have been asked along.

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Anthony Katagas

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