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Tuesday, 23 January 2018 17:42

‘Den of Thieves’ a humdrum heist

There’s a joy to watching heist movies that is tough to find in any other cinematic subgenre. They’re propulsive by nature, with an inherent structure that allows for a steady build to an elaborate and satisfying climax.

Well … hopefully satisfying, anyway.

See, while there’s a lot to love about good heist movies (and even bad ones, really), there are few things worse than a forgettable heist movie, a film that cobbles together a threadbare collection of influences from superior offerings into something that simply … is.

Published in Movies

There’s something polarizing about the work of Aaron Sorkin. His writing can come off as a bit overly effusive and self-congratulatory – in a word, show-offy. His trademark “walk and talk” – which rose to prominence in his time on “The West Wing” and became even more overwhelming in subsequent projects like “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Newsroom” – can be engaging as hell, but you can definitely have too much of a good thing.

But as prolific as he has been as a writer, both on television and in the movies, he had never before sat in the director’s chair before taking on “Molly’s Game.” The film – adapted from Molly Bloom’s book of the same name by Sorkin himself – tells the story of a woman’s rise to prominence and fall from grace as her facilitation of exclusive private high-stakes poker games leads first to wealth and then to her arrest and subsequent court battle with the U.S. government.

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
Friday, 12 January 2018 12:04

'The Commuter' goes off the rails

It seems crazy that it has only been a decade since Liam Neeson, Pierre Morel and Luc Besson joined forces for “Taken,” the film that turned Neeson into a tough guy star and spawned an entire subgenre. And while many actors of a certain age have taken swings at their own old-guy-action movies, Neeson remains the king.

His latest is “The Commuter,” which puts Neeson’s now-typical “everyman-but-not-REALLY-an-everyman” character into yet another bizarrely contrived situation that only his particular set of skills (one of which, in this case, is riding the same train to work every day) can put right.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 14:27

‘Darkest Hour’ shines brightly

Playing a real person is always a tricky thing as an actor. Playing a real person of historical significance presents even more challenges.

Published in Movies

This year marks the 75th awarding of the Golden Globes, honoring the best in film and television as determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

It also marks the first time that I’ve attempted to predict them.

Despite having devoted considerable energies to Academy Awards previews over the past decade, I’d never undertaken to predict their earlier, often portentous peers. Sure, the Globes might not have the same gravitas as the Oscars, but they still warrant at least a little attention.

(Note: While the Golden Globes recognize television as well as film, my focus is on the cinematic side of things. So while I made picks in all categories, I only went in depth on the cinematic side of things.)

Let’s go to the Globes.

Published in Movies

One of the realities of Hollywood’s love of sequels, remakes and reboots is that you’re guaranteed a fairly wide range of quality, though history shows that you’re much more likely to get a dud than a diamond. The most effective projects seem to be the ones that can manage to update a property while still retaining the aspects that made them successful in the first place.

That said, be honest – you’ve probably never spoken aloud (or even thought) the sentence “I sure would like to see an updated reboot of the 1995 family film ‘Jumanji’ – preferably starring The Rock.”

And yet that’s what we’ve gotten with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” It probably seems odd to be getting a movie like this some two decades after the original, but that’s not even the biggest surprise about the whole thing. The biggest surprise?

It’s actually pretty good.

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, 03 January 2018 13:49

‘Downsizing’ comes up short

Sometimes, a film is simply less than the sum of its parts.

Take “Downsizing.” This movie has everything you could want in terms of quality entertainment. You’ve got a talented writer-director auteur-type at the helm in Alexander Payne. You’ve got a top-tier movie star playing the lead in Matt Damon. You’ve got a dynamite high-concept premise that offers fertile ground for satire with room for both humor and hubris.

All the pieces are here. Unfortunately, “Downsizing” can’t figure out just how to put it all together, leading to a film filled with tonal inconsistencies resulting in a haphazard narrative. Instead of assembling one puzzle, this film tries for three or four different pictures; what we end up with is something muddled and more than a little frustrating.

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
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