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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Granger at the Movies: ‘47 Meters Down,’ ‘Beatriz at Dinner,’ ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

Ever since Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975), summer is synonymous with sharks. Consider “The Shallows,” “Deep Blue Sea,” “Open Water,” “The Reef,” even “Sharknado.” So what about “47 Meters Down”?

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Lisa (Mandy Moore) invites her younger sister Kate (Claire Holt) to join her at a Mexican resort after her longtime boyfriend dumped her because, as he said, she was “too dull.”

Determined to lighten Lisa’s depression, free-spirited Kate insists they go out dancing, where they meet two local lads (Santiago Segura, Yani Gellman) who talk them into a risky maritime adventure, even though the concierge warned them not to take side-trips not sanctioned by the hotel.

Early the next morning, they board the rickety Sea Esta, as Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) explains the shark-tank excursion. Assuring him they have experience with scuba equipment -— which, for terrified Lisa, is not true -— they don wet suits and face-masks equipped with radio communication.

After illegally ‘chumming’ the water to attract ravenous sharks, the guys climb into the observation cage first, going down 5 meters. When they emerge, they’re exultant about how exciting it is.

So the gullible gals follow. Then the chain snaps, dropping them 47 meters down to the bottom, so they can no longer converse with the boat. Soon, they’re running low on air and the Great Whites are circling.

To make matters worse, they know that if they try to swim to the surface quickly, the rapid decompression (a.k.a. the bends), causing nitrogen narcosis, can kill them.

Shot in the Dominican Republic and the Underwater Studio in Basildon, outside London, it’s sketchily scripted by Ernest Riera and director Johannes Roberts under the aegis of producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who subsequently sold off the rights — perhaps because a third act twist turns out to be ridiculous, reducing this underwater thriller to B-movie status.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “47 Meters Down” scores a scary, suspenseful 7 — with the hashtag #Sharkbait.

“Beatriz at Dinner” is a reminder of how superb performances can get mired down in melodrama — like serving a tantalizing appetizer with an indigestible meal.

Altruistic holistic healer Beatriz (Salma Hayek), a middle-aged Mexican-born divorcee, is having a rough time. Her Los Angeles neighbor objects to the incessant bleating of her pet goat, and her old Volkswagen barely starts when she turns the ignition.

Nevertheless, Beatriz wears a perpetually beatific expression as she drives down the coastline from the cancer clinic where she works to an exclusive Newport Beach enclave to give a massage to Cathy (Connie Britton), a wealthy client whose teenage daughter Beatriz helped recover from chemotherapy.

Not surprisingly, Beatriz’s car breaks down in the driveway. So Cathy convinces her husband Grant (David Warshofsky), a contractor, to graciously include Beatriz as a “friend-of-the-family” guest at a small dinner party they’re hosting for Grant’s boss, Douglas Strutt (John Lithgow), a billionaire real estate tycoon who owns hotels and golf courses around the world.

Pompous Strutt arrives with his third, much younger wife (Amy Landecker), along with Grant’s junior colleague (Jay Duplass) and his social climbing wife (Chloe Sevigny).

After first mistaking sanctimonious Beatriz for a maid, Strutt further infuriates her by showing off iPhone photos of his latest ‘trophy’ hunt in Africa — in poses that are reminiscent of Eric and Donald Trump Jr.’s boasting about their ‘big game’ killings.

Heavy-handedly written by Mike White and directed by Miguel Arteta, it’s a predictable parable about the entitled “haves” and long-suffering “have-nots,” forced by circumstance into a social interaction in which there’s a presumed intimacy with an employee.

While waiting for the inevitable confrontation between passive-aggressive Beatriz, burning with righteous indignation and imbibing far too much wine, and vulgar, capitalistic Strutt, the concept collapses. White and Areta clearly cop out by inserting incoherent magical realism that never rings true.

On the Granger Gauge, “Beatriz at Dinner” is a deeply flawed 5 — and ultimately frustrating.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” begins with a prologue, set in the Middle Ages, showing King Arthur waiting for Merlin (Stanley Tucci) to help him to win a battle against the Saxons. But it wasn’t Merlin’s magic that gave Arthur power. It was the intergalactic Transformers.

Apparently, they’ve been hanging around Earth for eons, going back to Stonehenge, even battling Nazis.

So much for the history lesson except, as astronomer Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) explains, Merlin was given a sacred “magical” staff which can still be controlled but only by his only living descendant, Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock), a skeptical professor at Oxford University.

Switch to wisecracking mechanic/inventor Cade Yaeger (Mark Whalberg), who has been hiding in a forsaken junkyard with Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael) and some heroic Autobots. So it’s up to Cade, Viviane, and a 14-year-old orphan, Izabella (Isabel Moner), to find the artifact and thwart evil Decepticon Megatron (Frank Welker).

Of course, they do get a little help from their Autobot friends: Bumblebee (Erik Aadahl), Hound (John Goodman), Hot Rod (Omar Sy), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Daytrader (Steve Buscemi).

There’s this new law: “Transformers are illegal, except in Cuba,” enforced by a special military agency, the Transformers Reaction Force (TRF), that’s hunting them down.

So where’s Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen)? Is he on his home planet of Cybertron? And why?

Clumsily patched together by three writers, six editors and director Michael Bay, it’s a tedious, two-and-a-half-hour jumble of characters and idiotic battles, filled with pyrotechnics.

On the Granger Gauge, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is an explosion-filled, mind-numbing 3, a $250 million Hasbro Toy promotion.


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(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

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Posted 06/27/17 at 10:37 AM  Permalink



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