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Those Who Wish Me Dead: Angelina Jolie’s effortless role

What was it about this script that connected with Jolie?

For Those Who Wish Me Dead: Angelina Jolie begging to be fired.
For Those Who Wish Me Dead: Angelina Jolie begging to be fired.

What is it about playing firefighters that makes big shot movie stars agree to fiddle while the budget burns up around them? I submit the following list of A-listers who, at the peak of their powers, settled for third-rate scripts to add "Ladderman" to their resume: John Wayne (Hellfighters); Paul Newman and Steve McQueen (The Towering Inferno); Robert De Niro and Kurt Russell (Backdraft); John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix (Ladder 49); Adam Sandler (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry), even Kirk Cameron (Fireproof). In each instance, the flames outperformed their male co-stars. Until now. Move over fellas; Those Who Wish Me Dead posits a fire-eater of another gender.

That's not to say all films about laddermen and the occasional ladderwoman (Women on Fire) fizzle. Just the high-ticket no-brainers. Humphrey Jennings' World War II docudrama, Fires Were Started remains so far ahead of its time (and the competition) it's doubtful its time will pass. The finest narrative films to showcase firemen in the lead are Francois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, Fred Schepisi's Roxanne, and Walter Hill's Trespass, all of which are a safe interval from blockbusters.

In one week, Angelina Jolie probably turns down more parts than most actresses do in a lifetime. Was the starring role as Hollywood's first female ladderwoman-above-the-title the hook that caught her gaze? It's been ages since Jolie touched down on planet earth long enough to play one of us mortals. So above the fray is she that it's become easier to accept the unapproachable maharani as a fantasy creation. Not including Come Away and the self-directed project By the Sea, Jolie had devoted the past decade of her career giving voice to cartoon characters and playing Disney's fairy godmother with a personality disorder.

For too long now, Angelina Jolie has dedicated herself to two types of product: well-intentioned shit (Beyond Borders. A Mighty Heart,) and shit (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wanted, Salt). The actress hasn't appeared in anything worth looking at since Clint Eastwood's Changeling and before that Alexander. I'll go so far as to say her best work (Foxfire, Girl, Interrupted, Original Sin) is decades behind her. Those Who Wish Me Dead earned a plot in the dung graveyard. What was it about this script that connected with Jolie? Could it be her love of children that attracted her to a tale of a firehouse operative who blames herself for the deaths of three toddlers? Perhaps it was a chance for her to mentor 14-year-old newcomer, Finn Little. More likely it was the prospect of an effortless shoot, what with her stunt double and the CGI artists assigned most of the donkey work. Alas, the pixelated forest fire that threatens Jolie and Co. is but a sparkle when compared to the performance by the pyrotechnic wizards hired to torch Irwin Allen's high-rise inferno.

Jolie stars as Hannah Faber, a flask-swilling waterer. The burden of guilt, such as it is, keeps her alone in an observation tower situated above the Montana wilderness. The Blackwell Bros., sibling hitmen Jack (Aidan Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult), make the deaths of forensic accountant Owen Casserly's (Jake Webber) boss and family look like an accidental gas explosion. Fearing that he'll be next, Owen packs son Connor (Little) and heads in the direction of his brother-in-law (and Hannah's ex-boyfriend), Deputy Sheriff Ethan Sawyer (Jon Bernthal). Survival isn't in Owen's future. Connor witnesses dad's assassination, but the old man hangs on long enough to supply the lad with a handwritten account of where the bodies are buried and directions to deposit the evidence in the care of the nearest media outlet. It's during his escape that Connor encounters Hannah.

Man, woman, child, or animal, if there's a price to be paid, the Blackwells are Park County's white glove exterminators. With Connor in possession of enough proof to hang everyone including the gaffers and craft services workers, Mr. Big (Tyler Perry in an amusing bit) orders a hit on the boy. What better way is there to distract the cops (and bunch together loose plot threads) than torching the timberland? Remember: only you can prevent forest fire movies.

Video on Demand New Release Roundup

Spiral - Chapter 9 in the Book of Saw has little to show for itself apart from a toothless franchise cranking out a familiar tune. What were they thinking? A Saw film without John Kramer is about as useless as the guy in the first row laughing at the pre-show antics of Flo and the Progressive Insurance gang. Admittedly, Jigsaw left this earth in Saw 3, but that's never stopped him from making appearances in all the sequels. Until now. For our main attraction there's producer and star Chris Rock, miscast as a police detective hollering every other sentence as if it were a punch line in a stand-up routine. The opening round of tongue extracting followed by Rock's concise autopsy of Forrest Gump provided the biggest kicks in this horror thriller cum T.V. police procedural. (CSI: Saw.) Not only did Tobin Bell sit this one out, for the first time the killer is not one of Jigsaw's satellites doing their master's bidding. Another old saw: Max Minghella plays the rookie detective forced to partner with Rock's Dirty Harry. And as Rock's dad, Samuel L. Jackson comes off just slightly lazier than Lee Marvin reading cue cards on a Bob Hope special. Was veteran Saw auteur (Saw-teur?) Darren Lynn Bousman that determined to drag the story in another direction that he lost sight of the film's original appeal? Apparently so. Now playing. 2021. S.M.

El Rey de la Fiesta (The King of the Party) - In his capacity as both producer (Leona) and director (Dos Veces Tu;), Salomon Askenazi had a hand in a pair of the more memorable revisionist genre films of the past few years. Needless to say, I was anxious to see how he'd handle a tale of CG twins. Hector (Giancarlo Ruiz) has lived his life catching cold standing in brother/business partner's Rafa's (Ruiz) shadow. Hector does all the work while Rafa snags all the glory and the benefits that go with it. Ruiz's performances are so persuasive one could believe the part was played by two actors. Of the two, Rafael got custody of the charm. When a client questions whether or not her husband would like a painting he has up for sale, Rafa laughingly suggests, "Divorce him."" He's a teenage playboy compared to his haggard, settled-down brother. Hector's wife is beginning to put up barriers while his daughter's antisocial effrontery position her on the brink of expulsion. Rafa's death-by-plane-crash provides Hector the perfect opportunity to step out of his discomfort zone and quite literally become his brother. (Rafa lived with his father and you mean to tell me pop can't differentiate between his two sons? Her sisters are identical twins, but I'm betting even Elizabeth Olsen can tell her sisters apart.) I'm all for surrealism, but who uses a ViewMaster to look at family photos? Even in his wildest dreams, Don Bunuel's high-style flights of absurdity had some foothol on reality. Too much of this disintegrates into predictable hedonism, weird for weirds' sake. Sure, drugs release the inner-jerk in all of us but using coke as an excuse for Hector to cut loose - particularly in light of the way Rafa treated him - is an easy out. Struggling to impart meaning at the expense of storytelling results in conversations in the mirror or an overused twinning-device that doubles and reflects images without benefit of elaboration. If the name of the film is King of the Party, the least one can do is invite the audience to join in. Now streaming on CineSeries. 2020. S.M.

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For Those Who Wish Me Dead: Angelina Jolie begging to be fired.
For Those Who Wish Me Dead: Angelina Jolie begging to be fired.

What is it about playing firefighters that makes big shot movie stars agree to fiddle while the budget burns up around them? I submit the following list of A-listers who, at the peak of their powers, settled for third-rate scripts to add "Ladderman" to their resume: John Wayne (Hellfighters); Paul Newman and Steve McQueen (The Towering Inferno); Robert De Niro and Kurt Russell (Backdraft); John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix (Ladder 49); Adam Sandler (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry), even Kirk Cameron (Fireproof). In each instance, the flames outperformed their male co-stars. Until now. Move over fellas; Those Who Wish Me Dead posits a fire-eater of another gender.

That's not to say all films about laddermen and the occasional ladderwoman (Women on Fire) fizzle. Just the high-ticket no-brainers. Humphrey Jennings' World War II docudrama, Fires Were Started remains so far ahead of its time (and the competition) it's doubtful its time will pass. The finest narrative films to showcase firemen in the lead are Francois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, Fred Schepisi's Roxanne, and Walter Hill's Trespass, all of which are a safe interval from blockbusters.

In one week, Angelina Jolie probably turns down more parts than most actresses do in a lifetime. Was the starring role as Hollywood's first female ladderwoman-above-the-title the hook that caught her gaze? It's been ages since Jolie touched down on planet earth long enough to play one of us mortals. So above the fray is she that it's become easier to accept the unapproachable maharani as a fantasy creation. Not including Come Away and the self-directed project By the Sea, Jolie had devoted the past decade of her career giving voice to cartoon characters and playing Disney's fairy godmother with a personality disorder.

For too long now, Angelina Jolie has dedicated herself to two types of product: well-intentioned shit (Beyond Borders. A Mighty Heart,) and shit (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wanted, Salt). The actress hasn't appeared in anything worth looking at since Clint Eastwood's Changeling and before that Alexander. I'll go so far as to say her best work (Foxfire, Girl, Interrupted, Original Sin) is decades behind her. Those Who Wish Me Dead earned a plot in the dung graveyard. What was it about this script that connected with Jolie? Could it be her love of children that attracted her to a tale of a firehouse operative who blames herself for the deaths of three toddlers? Perhaps it was a chance for her to mentor 14-year-old newcomer, Finn Little. More likely it was the prospect of an effortless shoot, what with her stunt double and the CGI artists assigned most of the donkey work. Alas, the pixelated forest fire that threatens Jolie and Co. is but a sparkle when compared to the performance by the pyrotechnic wizards hired to torch Irwin Allen's high-rise inferno.

Jolie stars as Hannah Faber, a flask-swilling waterer. The burden of guilt, such as it is, keeps her alone in an observation tower situated above the Montana wilderness. The Blackwell Bros., sibling hitmen Jack (Aidan Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult), make the deaths of forensic accountant Owen Casserly's (Jake Webber) boss and family look like an accidental gas explosion. Fearing that he'll be next, Owen packs son Connor (Little) and heads in the direction of his brother-in-law (and Hannah's ex-boyfriend), Deputy Sheriff Ethan Sawyer (Jon Bernthal). Survival isn't in Owen's future. Connor witnesses dad's assassination, but the old man hangs on long enough to supply the lad with a handwritten account of where the bodies are buried and directions to deposit the evidence in the care of the nearest media outlet. It's during his escape that Connor encounters Hannah.

Man, woman, child, or animal, if there's a price to be paid, the Blackwells are Park County's white glove exterminators. With Connor in possession of enough proof to hang everyone including the gaffers and craft services workers, Mr. Big (Tyler Perry in an amusing bit) orders a hit on the boy. What better way is there to distract the cops (and bunch together loose plot threads) than torching the timberland? Remember: only you can prevent forest fire movies.

Video on Demand New Release Roundup

Spiral - Chapter 9 in the Book of Saw has little to show for itself apart from a toothless franchise cranking out a familiar tune. What were they thinking? A Saw film without John Kramer is about as useless as the guy in the first row laughing at the pre-show antics of Flo and the Progressive Insurance gang. Admittedly, Jigsaw left this earth in Saw 3, but that's never stopped him from making appearances in all the sequels. Until now. For our main attraction there's producer and star Chris Rock, miscast as a police detective hollering every other sentence as if it were a punch line in a stand-up routine. The opening round of tongue extracting followed by Rock's concise autopsy of Forrest Gump provided the biggest kicks in this horror thriller cum T.V. police procedural. (CSI: Saw.) Not only did Tobin Bell sit this one out, for the first time the killer is not one of Jigsaw's satellites doing their master's bidding. Another old saw: Max Minghella plays the rookie detective forced to partner with Rock's Dirty Harry. And as Rock's dad, Samuel L. Jackson comes off just slightly lazier than Lee Marvin reading cue cards on a Bob Hope special. Was veteran Saw auteur (Saw-teur?) Darren Lynn Bousman that determined to drag the story in another direction that he lost sight of the film's original appeal? Apparently so. Now playing. 2021. S.M.

El Rey de la Fiesta (The King of the Party) - In his capacity as both producer (Leona) and director (Dos Veces Tu;), Salomon Askenazi had a hand in a pair of the more memorable revisionist genre films of the past few years. Needless to say, I was anxious to see how he'd handle a tale of CG twins. Hector (Giancarlo Ruiz) has lived his life catching cold standing in brother/business partner's Rafa's (Ruiz) shadow. Hector does all the work while Rafa snags all the glory and the benefits that go with it. Ruiz's performances are so persuasive one could believe the part was played by two actors. Of the two, Rafael got custody of the charm. When a client questions whether or not her husband would like a painting he has up for sale, Rafa laughingly suggests, "Divorce him."" He's a teenage playboy compared to his haggard, settled-down brother. Hector's wife is beginning to put up barriers while his daughter's antisocial effrontery position her on the brink of expulsion. Rafa's death-by-plane-crash provides Hector the perfect opportunity to step out of his discomfort zone and quite literally become his brother. (Rafa lived with his father and you mean to tell me pop can't differentiate between his two sons? Her sisters are identical twins, but I'm betting even Elizabeth Olsen can tell her sisters apart.) I'm all for surrealism, but who uses a ViewMaster to look at family photos? Even in his wildest dreams, Don Bunuel's high-style flights of absurdity had some foothol on reality. Too much of this disintegrates into predictable hedonism, weird for weirds' sake. Sure, drugs release the inner-jerk in all of us but using coke as an excuse for Hector to cut loose - particularly in light of the way Rafa treated him - is an easy out. Struggling to impart meaning at the expense of storytelling results in conversations in the mirror or an overused twinning-device that doubles and reflects images without benefit of elaboration. If the name of the film is King of the Party, the least one can do is invite the audience to join in. Now streaming on CineSeries. 2020. S.M.

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