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Monday, 24 September 2018 12:53

This is bus - 'Life Itself'

There’s nothing wrong with a film trying to play on your emotions. Oftentimes, our whole purpose in going to the movies is to feel. The cinema is inherently manipulative, whether we’re talking visually, emotionally or what have you. I have no problem with a movie pushing my emotional buttons.

But that evocation needs to be earned. If it isn’t, you’re left with something shallow and unsatisfying. When we’re constantly aware of the buttons being pushed, it all begins to feel a bit cynical.

It begins to feel like Dan Fogelman’s “Life Itself.”

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 05 September 2018 10:39

‘Operation Finale’ looks at real-life intrigue

We’ve talked before about the difficulties inherent to bringing stories from real life into the cinematic realm. There’s a delicate balance that needs to be struck; the raw truth isn’t always dramatically engaging, but you also want to do justice to events as they happened.

“Operation Finale,” directed by Chris Weitz from a screenplay by Matthew Orton, is particularly tricky, considering the heft of the story being told. It’s a recounting of the 1960 Israeli Mossad operation in Argentina to track down and capture the infamous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution.

While it is compelling enough, offering solid intrigue and a handful of quality performances, the film never quite rises to the level of its true-life inspiration. There’s an inconsistent energy to the proceedings that ultimately undercuts the tension and prevents the stakes from being as high as the narrative would seem to warrant. It’s quite good, but just misses being great.

Published in Movies
Friday, 24 August 2018 08:57

‘BlacKkKlansman’ goes under the hood

When it comes to telling true stories at the movies, one always has to recognize the flexibility of the notion of what is “true.” Terms like “based on” and “inspired by” give filmmakers a lot of leeway as far as shaping these true events in such a way as to serve the story they wish to tell.

Spike Lee’s latest film “BlacKkKlansman” is foundationally a true story, based on the memoir “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth. But again, there’s small-t true and Large-T True, and with a visionary auteur like Lee both running the camera and creating the script (Lee co-wrote the screenplay along with David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott), well … he’s going to err on the side of Large-T every time.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 05 June 2018 15:51

Come sail away – ‘Adrift’

Ever since humans have been telling stories, some of the scariest have been born of the idea of being lost. Of being stranded, held at the whim of the elements with no one to help us and no one to hear us scream.

And few of those stories are as harrowing as the lost in sea stories, the tales of people whose attempts to challenge the ocean are met by her unrelenting, unforgiving power.

“Adrift” tells one such lost at sea story. Based on the book “Red Sky at Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea,” the film tells the story of Tami Oldham, who in 1983 was sailing in the Pacific Ocean when she and her boyfriend ran into a hurricane. It’s a tale of battling through the worst kinds of adversity for the highest possible stakes – survival. But while the movie does have some solid qualities, it ultimately can’t quite manage to stay completely afloat.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 14:29

The absent truths of ‘Chappaquiddick’

Truth is a funny thing.

Some people view it as an absolute. Others regard it as a concept with some flexibility. And once you’re a deviation or two away from the center, things get even murkier. There’s what happened and then there’s the story about what happened. Sometimes, the two are close to the same. More often, they’re not.

Published in Movies

There are always obstacles when it comes to putting a real-life occurrence onto the silver screen. Mining the truth for drama while still maintaining that connection to what really happened is a delicate balance, one that isn’t at all easy to consistently strike.

Published in Movies
Saturday, 13 January 2018 12:54

‘The Post’ delivers

If you were to go into a filmmaking laboratory with the sole task of creating a prestige movie, you’d probably wind up with something very much like “The Post.”

Published in Movies

Sometimes the narrative surrounding a film threatens to supersede the film itself. The content and relative quality of the movie in question becomes secondary to a story about the movie’s process.

So it is with “All the Money in the World,” a dramatization of the real-life story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson to financial titan J. Paul Getty. But as rife with drama as that tale might be, it paled in comparison to the controversy that surrounded the film and the choices made to address that controversy.

Actor Kevin Spacey played the elder Getty in the movie as it was originally filmed, but following a slew of allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct, the decision was made to remove him from the film and replace him with Christopher Plummer. And despite an incredibly truncated timeline, director Ridley Scott managed to do just that while still sticking to the film’s announced release date.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 13:50

‘The Disaster Artist’ anything but

James Franco shines behind, in front of the camera

Published in Movies

Stories of loss are difficult to tell. Finding ways to convey the notion of grief without succumbing to sentimentality or devolving into the maudlin – particularly on-screen – can prove trying to even the most accomplished filmmaker.

Published in Movies
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