Film Review “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba”

Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Joely Richardson and Adrian Sparks
Directed By: Bob Yari
Rated: R
Running Time: 109 minutes
Yari Film Group

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Having to write about Ernest Hemingway is a daunting task, but having to write about “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” is fairly simple task considering how humdrum it is about its biographical choice. So I’m lucky in the sense that I’m going to be telling you about the latter. I’m not lucky in having to admit I’ve never ready anything by Ernest Hemingway or know that much about the Pulitzer Prize winning author, so I can’t refute anything in this movie or speak about Hemingway with any familiarity.

Ed Myers (Ribisi) is a Boston Globe reporter that became infatuated with writing after reading Ernest Hemingway’s (Sparks) works. He’s too timid to write Hemingway a letter, but a co-worker, behind his back, sends off a letter he’s been mulling over for years. Much to Myers’ surprise, Hemingway responds and gladly picks him up in his own boat off the coast of Florida. From there they head off to Cuba to enjoy drinks, laughs and musings.

The movie follows Myers and Hemingway’s relationship over the course of 1959. The problem that arises from the get-go of the movie is that the film never knows how to settle and focus. The movie reflects on Hemingway’s alcoholism, suicidal tendencies, funding and supplying of Cuban rebels, his possible PTSD, his tumultuous marriage, his writer’s block, and probably more that I’m forgetting. Hemingway was known for saying a lot within a few short words. “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” barely say anything in 109 minutes.

The most interesting conflict, at least the bit that the actors chomp at, is Hemingway’s alcoholism and his seemingly toxic marriage with Mary (Richardson). Some of the tensest scenes involve Myers and the Hemingway’s. Their conversation goes from passive aggressive jabs to violent outbursts. Because so much happens within one scene, there’s the unshakeable feeling that “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” may have been better off as a dramatic stage play. The theory is given further credence by presence of Adrian Sparks, a renowned stage actor.

Bob Yari may have not been the man to direct this movie since he only has one other credit to his name. He has produced some magnificent movies, but then he’s credited as the executive producer for the “Agent Cody Banks” movies. My research online yields articles and interviews about how this movie has been in the works for years, but “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” seems like a passion project without any passion.

Yari doesn’t have the director’s touch. So much of “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” feels like a TV movie with a few ‘F’ bombs to spice it up. There are transitions that feel like they should be followed by commercials or a spokesman for PBS asking me to donate money. Even the casual viewer will be able to notice awkward cutting in between scenes. It begs the question if Yari was a simple fill-in.

For all its faults, it’s well acted and has a lot of gripping ideas. For those who don’t know much about Hemingway, this could serve as a bridge to learning more about one of America’s greatest authors. If that’s the case, this movie does serve some importance. For Hemingway fans and those familiar with American literature, they’ll be scratching their heads and wondering if Hemingway is turning and tossing in his grave.

Blu-ray Review “Dom Hemingway”

Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Emilia Clarke, Demián Bichir
Director: Richard Shepard
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Run Time: 94 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I didn’t catch “Dom Hemingway” in theaters, in fact I heard that it was pretty bad. I am a big Jude Law fan, so I figured I would give it a chance. Well, everyone else I was let down for it as a film. It is a basic crime comedy but what made it rather watchable was Law’s outstanding performance. Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the film, you got to give the guy credit for really nailing a character. Dom Hemingway is quite the hoot of a character, too bad the whole film can ride on his shoulders.

Official Premise: Jude Law steals the show as “Dom Hemingway”, a larger-than-life safecracker with a short fuse — and a long memory — who sets off to collect what he’s owed after 12 years in prison. When his long-awaited payday goes awry, Dom tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke), only to be tempted again to crack safes.

20th Century Fox is releasing this film as a combo pack including a Blu-ray and Digital HD Digital Copy. The 1080p transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 are both solid and equally look and sound decent. In terms of special features, there is not a whole lot to brag about. There are a few Promotional Featurettes, a Ping-Pong Loop, an Audio Commentary by Richard Shepard and also a Gallery and Theatrical Trailer included. Marginal extras for a marginal film.

Film Review “Dom Hemingway”

Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Emilia Clarke
Directed By: Richard Shepard
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 93 minutes

Our Score: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jude Law struts and blusters around the screen as a Cockney safecracker who’s just been released after twelve years in prison in Richard Shepard’s Dom Hemingway. The title character makes for a lot of fun and a surprising performance from Law however it’s undercut by an episodic script that doesn’t really know what to do with all its characters, least of all Dom.

Dom’s angry that he’s spent so much time in jail but his objections are foggy from the get go. Immediately he beats the bloody pulp out of his dead wife’s second husband, but then he’s remorseful over being estranged from his daughter (Emilia Clarke), but then that thread is dropped so he might go off and attain reparations for his prison time spent protecting crime boss, Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir, who is no more threatening than Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man in the World character). But first Dom must go on a three day binge of coke and hookers.

Like most things in Dom’s life, his meeting with Mr. Fontaine goes awfully and is spent alternately yelling at the crime boss for money while lusting after his girlfriend and then apologizing for the yelling and the lusting at the behest of Dom’s partner in crime, Dickie (a wonderful Richard E Grant whose judgmental looks deserved more screen time.) This meeting features some of the film’s highlights including Grant chasing a nude Law through an orchard and a spectacularly over the top car crash scene that the remainder of the film can’t live up to.

For some reason the car crash is the near-death experience that rewires Dom into wanting to make amends with his daughter. It’s here where the movie is most problematic as it attempts to balance the deadbeat father-daughter dynamic with the larger than life criminal who’s more compelling when behaving badly. Additionally, it’s hard to believe that this character hasn’t had many near-death experiences in his mess of a life so what made this one so different? The film’s never quite clear on this and an outrageous sequence where Dom attempts to regain his safecracking infamy doesn’t help sell the angle that Dom would ever make good on going straight for his family’s sake. Shepard appears to think that the mere fact that Dom has a dead wife and an estranged daughter is reason enough for the audience’s sympathy without doing anything to actually earn it.

Blu-ray Review "Hemingway & Gellhorn"

Actors: Nicole Kidman, Clive Owen, David Strathairn, Rodrigo Santoro, Molly Parker
Director: Philip Kaufman
Studio: HBO Home Entertainment
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Run Time: 154 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

I am not a subscriber to HBO but I really love their programming.  There films and TV series are so original, bold and frankly, quite ballsy.  “Hemingway & Gellhorn” was nominated for 15 Emmy® Awards and 2 Golden Globe Awards.  I hadn’t heard of this release before the award season but I was drawn to it by its stunning lead cast including Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman and Golden Globe winner Clive Owen. The film recounts the romance between literary legend Ernest Hemingway and famed war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. The film runs over two a half hours and yet I was unable to take my eyes of the screen the entire time.

Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen both give phenomenal performances. They are have great chemistry and really brings the sexy, yet dramatic aspects to their characters. They are assisted with a great and very impressive supporting cast including David Strathairn, Rodrigo Santoro, Molly Parker, Parker Posey, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Mark Pellegrino, Peter Coyote, Tony Shalhoub and even Jeffrey Jones makes an appearance. This is a real ensemble and everyone contributes to the success of this film.  But honestly, I am not very surprised since when it comes to HBO, they never disappoint and almost always deliver great talent.

Official Premise: Hemingway & Gellhorn recounts one of the greatest romances of the last century – the passionate love affair and tumultuous marriage of literary master Ernest Hemingway and trailblazing war correspondent Martha Gellhorn – as it follows the adventurous writers through the Spanish Civil War and beyond. The combined magnetism of Hemingway and Gellhorn ushered them into social circles that included the elite of Hollywood, the aristocracy of the literary world and the First Family of the United States. As witnesses to history, they covered all the great conflicts of their time, but the war they couldn’t survive was the war between themselves.

HBO is really this film as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and the Blu-ray is very impressive.  The 1080p transfer really transports you back in time and really looks sharp.  The film has this raw feel when it most through its timeline and switching between war-time footage. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track works perfectly with the dialogue and the action in the film.  The special features are also worth checking out. There is a very interesting audio commentary with director Philip Kaufman and editor Walter Murch Making.  There are two featurettes including “Making Hemingway & Gellhorn” who looks into the all aspects of the production and also “Behind the Visual Effects” has the cast and crew discuss the effects and keeping it with the historical accurate.