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Beatriz at Dinner (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Miguel Arteta’s “Beatriz at Dinner” is provocative and unsettling but the mark of a very good film is one that will prompt people to debate, to talk and possibly to learn from.  Is it a great film, no it’s not.  But it’s a film that will no doubt resonate for each person who watches it, may it be positive or negative.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Brown Amy LLC. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Beatriz at Dinner

YEAR OF FILM: 2017

DURATION: 83 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

RATED: R (Language and a Scene of Violence)

COMPANY: Lions Gate

AVAILABLE ON: September 12, 2017


Directed by Miguel Arteta

Written by Mike White

Produced by Aaron L. Gilbert, David Hinojosa, Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon

Co-Produced: Fiona Walsh Heinz, William B. Macomber

Executive Producer: Jason Cloth, Brad Feinstein, Lewis Hendler, Richard McConnell, Andrew Pollack, Alan Simpson, Jose Tamez  Co-Executive

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Cinematography by Wyatt Garfield

Edited by Jay Deuby

Casting by Joanna Colbert, Meredith Tucker

Production Design by Ashley Fenton

Set Decoration: Madelaine Frezza

Costume Design: Christina Blackalier


Starring:

Salma Hayek as Beatriz

John Lithgow as Doug

Connie Britton as Kathy

Jay Duplass as Alex

Amy Landecker as Jeana

Chloe Sevigny as Shannon

David Warshofsky as Grant

John Early as Evan


Beatriz (Salma Hayek), an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a spiritual health practitioner in Los Angeles. Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire real estate developer. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same.


With all the political turmoil that currently exists in the world, especially in America, filmmaker Miguel Arteta (“Youth in Revolt”, “The Good Girl”, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”) and writer Mike White (“School of Rock”, “Nacho Libre”, “The Good Girl”, “Orange County”) reunite for another film that takes on today’s hot topic in regards to the clashing of cultures but also a clash between rich and poor.

The film stars Salma Hayek (“Frida”, “Desperado”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”), John Lithgow (“Interstellar”, “3rd Rock from the Sun”, “Cliffhanger”), Connie Britton (“Nashville”, “Friday Night Lights”, “Spin City”), Jay Duplass (“Transparent”, “Togetherness”, “Cyrus”), Amy Landecker (“Doctor Strange”, “Project Almanac”, “Transparent”), Chloe Sevigny (“Boys Don’t Cry”, “Big Love”, “Love & Friendship”) and David Warshofsky (“Taken”, “Captain Phillips”, “Now You See Me”).

And now the film will be released on DVD courtesy of Lions Gate.

The film begins with a woman named Beatriz (portrayed by Salma Hayek) having a dream of riding in a boat and paddling in the waters and seeing a white goat.  She awakens when a brown goat in her bedroom starts making a lot of noise.  As Beatriz tries to quite down her two dogs and the goat, she leaves for her job to a massage therapy center.

Beatriz leaves her job to tend to a client, Kathy (portrayed by Connie Britton)who lives in a wealthy, gated home.  As Beatriz massages Kathy, Beatriz tells Kathy of how her neighbor had killed one of her goats and becomes emotional when discussing it.

As she is done with her client and is about to head out home, her car doesn’t start.  She tells Kathy that she is unable to leave the driveway as her car is not working but her friend will be picking her up after he is done with work.

Kathy invites Beatriz to join them for dinner and while her husband, Grant (portrayed by David Warshofsky) is against it, because real estate developer Doug Strutt (portrayed by John Lithgow) would be arriving and it’s an important dinner, he eventually decides to allow Beatriz to join them for dinner.

Immediately, Beatriz tries to fit in by trying to make conversation with lawyer Alex (portrayed by Jay Duplass) and Shannon (portrayed by Chloe Sevigny), Doug and his wife Jeanna (portrayed by Amy Landecker).  And as Beatriz introduces herself and how she knows Kathy and what she does, the two don’t have much of an interest talking to her.

And as these three couples are celebrating their latest project and Kathy introduces the ladies to Beatriz as a healer and they start talking mean about a female celebrity, which the women get into but Beatriz is wondering why these women would talk so mean about a person they don’t know.

As she goes to visit Grant, Doug and Alex, Doug mistakes her as a servant but Grant explains that she is a guest.  As she talks about where she came from, Doug makes jokes which leads to Beatriz to say that she has seen him before.

We then see the three women looking at photos and they see Kathy and Doug’s daughter who had cancer and her daughter standing alongside Beatriz.

Kathy then tells the other women about Beatriz’ challenges of being separated by her family as a child, leaving her hometown and being raised by her grandmother in the United States but also losing her husband.

As the group gather to dinner, they all have conversation about their successful project, which Beatriz then interrupts and talks about coming from Mexico and Doug asks if she came legally.

She explains that her hometown in Mexico was destroyed by a failed hotel and she asks if Doug was the developer.  He denies it.

As Beatrix leaves and makes a call, she calls up a friend and asks if Doug Strutt was the developer that they protested against.

As the group goes into the dining room, Doug talks about hunting and the excitement of hunting and killing a wild animal and shares photos of him killing a rhinoceros on his last safari.  This sets off Beatriz who tells everyone it’s disgusting and she throws his phone.

Everyone is shocked at Beatriz’ behavior and it leads to an awkward evening between Beatriz and the home she is temporarily staying at.

And Beatriz contemplating if it’s fate that she’s at the house and perhaps she is destined to get revenge by killing Doug.  Will she do it?  What will happen throughout the evening?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Beatriz at Dinner” is presented in 1:85:1 and is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. For the most part, picture quality is good as it gets on DVD. .  Closeups show good detail, outdoor scenes are vibrant and for the most part, I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film. The soundtrack is primarily dialogue driven

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beatriz at Dinner” comes with a trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Beatriz at Dinner” comes with a slipcover.


“Beatriz at Dinner” is a provocative film that will no doubt get people talking.

Beatriz who represents the poor who came from Mexico and living in the United States and works a healer is  an animal lover, cares about the land and willing to stand up for it.  She is spiritual, caring and a very good person.

But poor Beatriz, her car breaks down at a wealthy client’s home and while she is invited to the party, these wealthy people surely don’t want Beatriz around.

It’s immediately evident as Beatriz tries to fit in.  First the women, as they discuss a female celebrity in a mean-spirited way and talks about the celebrity’s vagina and photos online which leads Beatriz to leave and tries to talk with the men.

Developer Doug thinks Beatriz is a servant and asks her to get him more alcohol, a wealthy land developer which Beatriz believes may be the person that forced her and people from her village out of their area in Mexico to build a hotel.

And to cap things off, when Doug starts talking about his hunt from his last Safari trip, this immediately sends Beatriz off the edge and she starts to think, what if she was destined to be at this party for one reason.   And that reason was to kill a man responsible for hurting the land, hurting living things.

Miguel Arteta and Mike White have no doubted crafted a film that touches on hot topics that we have seen in the news these past few years.

For me, I can see both sides because I grew up in an area of California where the population is mostly Mexican and I have had numerous Mexican friends, especially those with Native American ancestry, who come from families who are very spiritual people and feel strongly about the land, respecting the living animal that they must kill for food.

And also, I also come from an area where there are many hunters (not all Caucasian) and I have many friends who are hunters.  And I also have friends who are wealthy and those who are lawyers and real estate developers.

A number of them are two opposite ends in terms of perspective and livelihood and I knew that if you were to put them in a household together to discuss these hot topics, each would be strong with their beliefs and conviction that either side won’t back down.

This is the fracture of American society that is more evident more than ever thanks to social media.  One posts a photo of killing a deer or wildlife, despite it being legal, there are numerous people who will be passionate to show their distaste over the photo or video posted and as we have seen in news reports, a lot of the time, they receive death threats.

As for the destruction of land, this is an ongoing hot topic that has existed globally.  From the chopping of trees, especially the effects of deforestation and saw its effects on Easter Island and we are seeing it going on in the rain forests of other countries.  We have seen people forced to leave their lands and even going to inner city where gentrification is forcing lower income households to move.

There are passionate debates on both ends and there probably will not be any decorum, especially in a world where people feel that the haves do not have any compassion for the have nots.

“Beatriz at Dinner” is provocative and unsettling because for me watching this film, I knew that it would be an awkward situations.  Beatriz is compassionate about people, about animals and about life.  And when she is in the presence of people who celebrate over the killing of life, the development of land for business and forcing people to move, you see a ticking time bomb that is about to detonate.

You just wonder how far Beatriz will go.

The film features a wonderful performance by Salma Hayek and it’s no doubt the most unsettling and provocative film I have seen her star in.  Also, a film where she’s not glamoured up, she is able to portray a character that represents many people who feel they have no voice in today’s society.

As for the DVD, picture and audio quality is as good as one can expect.  But it’s pretty much a barebones DVD with no special features but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, Miguel Arteta’s “Beatriz at Dinner” is provocative and unsettling but the mark of a very good film is one that will prompt people to debate, to talk and possibly to learn from.  Is it a great film, no it’s not.  But it’s a film that will no doubt resonate for each person who watches it, may it be positive or negative.


BAGHEAD (a J!-ENT DVD REVIEW)

December 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

“An enjoyable low-budget horror parody that the Duplass Brothers can only succeed in pulling off!  Hilarious, fun and scary, overall an enjoyable film!”

TITLE: BAGHEAD

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2008

DURATION: 81 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: NTSC, Region 1, 1:78:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen).

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R for language, sexual content and nudity

Release Date: December 27, 2008

Directed, Written and Produced by Jay and Mark Duplass

Editor – Jay Deuby

Original Music – J. Scott Howard

Produced by John Bryant, Jen Tracy Duplass

Starring:

Steve Zissis as Chad

Ross Partridge as Matt

Greta Gerwig as Michelle

Elise Muller as Catherine

Jeff Garner as Jeff Garner

While the Duplass Brothers were shooting their last feature film The Puffy Chair, a crew member raised the question “what’s the scariest thing you can think of?” Someone immediately said “a guy with a bag on his head staring into your window.” Some agreed, but some thought it was downright ridiculous and, if anything, funny (but definitely not scary). Thus, BAGHEAD was born, an attempt to take the absurdly low-concept idea of a “guy with a bag on his head” and make a funny, truthful, endearing film that, maybe, just maybe, was a little bit scary, too.

Robert Rodriguez was among the first that truly was an inspiration of creating movies with a low budget.  It just takes some creation and a well-written story and who knows where it can take you.

For the Duplass Brothers, independent filmmakers known for their hit “The Puffy Chair” comes “BAGHEAD”, a low-budget horror film that parodies horror films but manages to captivate you with its humor, awkwardness and it stars the queen of mumblecore.

The film stars Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwik and Elise Muller as four actors who have not really had any success in their acting careers.  After watching a friend’s mumblecore (note: a term that means ultra low-budget, shot with a home digital camera) film at an underground film festival, the four decide to write a screenplay but star each of them.  So, they decide to go on a retreat to work on this script in a cabin at Big Bear and hopefully it will jumpstart their careers.

The four main characters are:

Matt (Ross Partridge) is the cool guy.  He has an off-and-on relationship with Catherine but really wants to make his acting career happen.

Chad (Steve Zissis) is Matt’s best friend, also a fellow actor.  Low-self esteem, really digs his date Michelle and worried that his best friend Matt may have sex with her.

Catherine (Elise Mueller) is Matt’s on-and-off girlfriend and an actress who is not quite happy where her career is, especially as she gets older.

Michelle (Greta Gerwig) is Chad’s date and wants to have sex with Matt.

The four try to come up with a script but somehow some are into it and some are not and have difficulty coming up with ideas.  Michelle who gets a bit drunk doesn’t feel well and goes outside to puke and then she sees a person with a bag in his head.  Michelle tells everyone that there is a guy out there with a bag on his head but no one believes her.  If anything, Matt feels that a serial killer wearing a bag on his head would make a great script.

But as the four start to flesh out the script, Michelle secretly gives Matt a letter that she wants to see him in her bedroom.  While Michelle waits for him, she sees a man but with a bag on his head.  Michelle gets scared out of her wits and tells Matt but Matt said he didn’t do it and said maybe Catherine did it and thus everyone starts to accuse someone of being the person with a bag on his head.

Next thing you know, the following morning Catherine is missing and then Chad is missing.  Perhaps there is a real serial killer outside the cabin who is wearing a bag over his head…

The film, being low-budget, doesn’t rely on having much but reliable lighting, camera work that is quite shaky and it seems there is an actual fifth person in the room filming them with a digital camera and good editing to make sure that the cut scenes are done right.

After watching “BAGHEAD”, I was actually quite pleased with what the Duplass Brothers were able to come up with.  A well-thought out script that was improvised with what the crew had at their disposal, it came together pretty well.  Also, the actors seem like friends and not actors trying to act like actors.  I hope that makes sense but to simply explain it, these characters are real, genuine people that I can imagine myself meeting at a Hollywood party and talking about creating a script and acting in it (albeit to make their IMDB profile look great).

But overall, Mark and Jay Duplass manages to create a fun film that I enjoyed more on DVD courtesy of their commentary and special features.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

The DVD is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen.  Because this is a low-budget film, I was not exactly looking for any superb video quality or audio quality.  Audio is primarily dialogue and you can hear them clearly.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Baghead” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Directors/Writers Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass – I have to admit that it was a blast to hear these two talk about the film.  Knowing about the challenges and their feelings about the actors and actresses and overall their film.  Knowing how they had plans to have a certain scene but due to losing a light, they had to come up with a different storyline.  Knowing about certain scenes they cut out and most of all, learning things what potential filmmakers want to hear in a commentary.
  • Mark and Jay Duplass Answers Questions They’ve Already Answered – This was also fun to watch as the two had their baby daughters with them.  How cool is that!  The two take their top 10 questions typically asked to them at the film festival circuit and re-answers them for the viewers.  Questions such as “What was your budget?”, “You two are brothers, can you stand working with each other throughout the film?”, etc.  And again, like the film itself, these guys are real, not spoiled by the industry and just tells it like it is and often playing with their children during the interview.  Overall, quite fun to watch.
  • Baghead Scares – Not sure if there was a contest online for this or it was purely user submitted but this special feature shows a few people scaring their families or people on the street wearing a bag over their heads.

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For me, having had worked on a low-budget project before, I’ve always looked at Indie films especially mumblecore type of films to be quite fun.  In this case, the Duplass Brothers manage to come up with a low budget horror film, not horror as you may think of in terms of gore and violence but just more or less, a storyline that is quite freaky right until the end.

Interesting ways of how you point fingers at each character of possibly being the baghead or wondering how dark or twisted the film could get but in the end, this film is more or less a comedy.  A lot of laughs, a lot of fun and for a low-budget film, I have to give the Duplass Brothers some props for working out the cut scenes quite well and really, come up with a solid story without not having the big Hollywood budget.

But most of all, managing to create a film that has a good balance of humor, horror and a bit of campiness but yet effectively telling a story without a multi-million dollar budget.  An enjoyable film on DVD worth checking out!

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