Tag Archives: jon hamm

‘Beirut’ a By-The-Numbers Old School Thriller

This, “7 Days in Entebbe,” “Hostiles,” “A United Kingdom…” I can’t remember the last time Rosamund Pike starred in a film set in the 21st century…

Set in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War, “Beirut” stars Jon Hamm as a former U.S. diplomat turned union negotiator who gets thrown back into the political ring when a former colleague is taken hostage by terrorists. Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Shea Whigham, Larry Pine and Mark Pellegrino also star as Brad Anderson directs.

This film reminds me a lot of the 2016 Bryan Cranston vehicle “The Infiltrator.” Both are films that star a former AMC TV series leading man, are made by small studios and are about political conflicts in the 1980s that the CIA must try to fix. They have similar feels, too; that stock “thriller of the week” type look and tone. That film was just OK, with the central performance being solid but the overall product being a bit dry and by-the-numbers and it’s a lot of the same here, too.

I like Jon Hamm and think he is great in supporting roles like “The Town” but have always felt his true calling may be comedy (his roles in “Bridesmaids” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” are great and he shows comedic timing in his H&R Block ads). Here he is doing dramatic work, playing a man who has lost his wife and ten years later is coping with the inevitable baggy eyes and alcoholism. That being said, despite waking up and putting whiskey in his coffee and bosses saying his drinking could be a problem, he never actually appears to be drunk in a scene. He has some good delivery and yelling moments but the role itself just is pretty bland and doesn’t give him much room to work.

All the supporting cast are doing their typical shtick, with Rosamund Pike playing the well-meaning operative, Dean Norris acting as the growling leader and Shea Whigham being the shady, shifty agent. No one stands out or is memorable, but at the same time no one is awful or chews any scenery.

The film premiered at Sundance in January so that implies the production budget of the project was relatively low, so for that it is to be commended. Shot in Morocco in 2016, the film does feel like it is set in the 1980s as opposed to simply being a modern film with the word “1982” slapped on the screen. Characters smokes cigarettes, bomb-shelled buildings lie on every street corner like it’s no big deal and a countries biggest concern is getting aerial shots of enemy camps (because satellites and undercover jets weren’t really in the mainstream yet).

The best parts are when Hamm is attempting to negotiate, and to see the back-and-forth and wait-and-see that goes into diplomatic trades, even when human lives are at stake.

The film’s problem is that it just isn’t very interesting through a large chunk of the runtime. We get introduced to the players and are just expected to remember their names, and there are never any real stakes. For a film that sets itself up as “Jews vs Muslims vs Christians vs the government vs the Americans” there is hardly any “who can we really trust?” moments and it never lives up the bar set by the films it is clearly trying to imitate.

“Beirut” is a pretty bland film set in a far-from-bland region in a pretty chaotic period in history. Fans of the subject or Hamm may get more out of it than the typical moviegoer but I felt the urge to check my watch or fight back a yawn on a few occasions and that’s a shame.

Critic’s Grade: C

‘Baby Driver’ is Well-Acted and Original, but It Just Wasn’t For Me


Every time I see Kevin Spacey in something I’m reminded how much I love seeing Kevin Spacey in things.


“Baby Driver” stars Ansel Elgort as a young getaway driver for a crime boss (Spacey) who has to do one last job before getting out of the life and running away with his girlfriend (Lily James). Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx also star as Edgar Wright writes and directs.


I’ll give Edgar Wright all the credit in the world, when the man makes a film he often takes the most basic, cliché genres and plots (like zombies, cops and heists) and somehow manages to put a fun, unique twist on them. I enjoy his trilogy of films with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and was looking forward to his version of “Ant-Man” before he left the project. Here, his “Baby Driver” is a heist film set to music, and while I can appreciate the attempt at originality there was something about this film just didn’t work for me.


I’m more than sure this is going to be one of those instances where I’m in the very minute minority opinion of a film and that’s fine. I wanted to like this movie; it was near the top of my 2017 watchlist. The cast is great, the trailers seemed fun and like I said, I’m a fan of Wright’s style, ambition and previous works. But about 15 minutes into this film I got “that feeling” that you occasionally get when you’re watching a film that has gotten good buzz, that “ohhhh no, I’m not gonna like this, am I?” feeling.


The cast is solid and they all play their roles well. Basically playing caricatures of who they play in everything they do, Jon Hamm is solid as the rogue and mysterious  badass, Jamie Foxx is the wise-cracking gangster and Kevin Spacey is the dry “don’t dare double cross me” leader. Ansel Elgort, having seemingly survived the “Divergent” franchise, does good work in his first starring role without Shailene Woodley, although he does more swaying and nodding through Ray-Bans than actual talking. The characters all have nice dynamics between one another and Wright continues to excel at writing nice banter.


The chase sequences are cool, but they suffer from two things: the best shots being in every trailer and TV commercial, and failing to compare to other car chase films. The most impressive moments of the car sequences (and there’s really only two of them in the film) are shown in the ads, whether it is when Baby does a 180 degree whip around a backing up truck or kicks the police road spikes back at them. Also, nothing in this film is as intense as, say, the opening scene to “Drive,” and that featured no real dialogue or musical score, just the commentary to a LA Clippers game (YouTube that fantastic sequence if you haven’t seen it).


One of the things everyone will talk about in regards to this film is how it pretty much always has a song going on in the background, to represent how Baby is constantly listening to his iPod. For the most part this is interesting and there are times the editing and character movements coincide with the beats which was cool.


But despite the good performances and ambitious take on a worn genre, I just sat there looking at the screen waiting for something to happen that would grab me and suck me into the world, but it never came. I felt like I should be enjoying things a lot more than I actually was, and the last thing you ever want to do is resent a film just because it didn’t meet your expectations.


“Baby Driver” isn’t bad and it’s the type of film that Hollywood needs right now- relatively fresh and upbeat-but it just wasn’t for me. Maybe down the road I’ll watch it again and realize I was horribly naïve and that this is a masterpiece, and I’m sure everyone and their uncle will be praising it all summer long, but this is my review and my thoughts, and for me, even the perfect Kevin Spacey wasn’t enough to validate this ride.


Critics Rating: 5/10


TriStar Pictures

‘Million Dollar Arm’ a Solid Hit

dollar“Million Dollar Arm”: its “Moneyball” meets “Slumdog Millionaire”, with a little “Miracle” thrown in. Based on a true story (because what movie nowadays isn’t), the movie follows sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) who has run out of clients. In a last-ditch effort, J.B. heads to India in an attempt to find the first Major League baseball player from the country. Lake Bell and Bill Paxton also star as Craig Gillespie directs.

The trailers for “Million Dollar Arm” not only set the tone for what kind of movie it is, but it also gives away the ending. But let’s be honest: you know five minutes into the movie how it is going to end. Heck, you know just by watching one of the TV spots what is going to happen. I guess you could say the film doesn’t throw you any curveballs (right? Get it? ‘Cause baseball?!). But with a movie like this, it isn’t so much about the destination; it’s about the journey.

I wish I could make a pun and say “Jon Hamm hams it up in the main role” but he is actually well cast and has solid chemistry with the rest of the cast. Even when he is being selfish or putting business before the boys, we still want what is best for his character.

The two Indian baseball players are both actors that American audiences have seen before; Suraj Sharma was the titular character in “Life of Pi” and Madhur Mittal was in “Slumdog Millionaire”. Both do a fine job here, even if they have to play the stereotypical “confused kids in a new world” for half the movie.

There isn’t much baseball in “Million Dollar Arm”, but there is plenty to keep your interest. Every now and again Alan Arkin pops up to do his wise-cracking thing, and Jon Hamm is always good for a chuckle. There isn’t anything special about the direction or writing, but in a movie like this, it is all about the character work.

The film could have benefited from being about 15 minutes shorter (it clocks in at two hours, I think an hour 45 would have been perfect), and there may be one too many “will they be ready in time for their tryout” moments. But still, they never overdo the schmaltz, or try to attempt too many jokes.

“Million Dollar Arm” is better than the average, clichéd underdog story, and it is certainly worth a viewing, whether you’re a baseball fan or not. Its predictable and feel-good and you can see the ending coming a mile away, but it is still a very watchable and entertaining film, and sometimes it is nice to sit through a movie that doesn’t have something blowing up every six seconds.

Critics Rating: 7/10