If you take a 1000-piece puzzle, put it in front of a small child and watch said child put it together for two hours, that’s what it’s like to watch the movie Gold.
Though it ain’t Jimmy Stewart finding life’s true meaning is in the small pleasures, it’s not that far off.
Manchester By the Sea is a grim tale — we see Casey Affleck as Lee grinding it out as a maintenance man for a Boston slumlord, not much going right for him. His daily life consists of getting hammered after a day of drudging work before collapsing in his one room, cell-like apartment. Casey is obviously damaged, and though we don’t yet know what caused it, we are shown glimpses of his gristly past in a series of flashbacks throughout the film.
It’s no wonder why James Franco has the wrinkles of a smile burned into his star-studded face; he’s played more stoners, scoundrels, and screwballs with an insatiable grimace than anyone can count by this point, and he’s hilarious at doing so. His role as Laird Mayhew in the typical “father v. fiancée” formulaic comedy is the most recent installment to this repertoire of character-types – in fact, it is perhaps his latest and greatest addition.
The strength of his performance comes not only from his surprisingly well-developed character; it also stems from how the other cast members interpret their characters and play off one another, including Bryan Cranston as Franco’s sworn-father-figure-enemy. Tightly wound Ned Fleming (Cranston) is compelled by daughter Stephanie (charmingly portrayed by Zoey Deutch) to give her eccentric boyfriend a chance, to that he reluctantly agrees. Although this commonly adapted and re-adapted formula risks suffering from some overused lines and gags – Why Him? isn’t of exception – the charming chemistry between its cast elevates the could-be tired comedy to a new level, where it preserves the integrity of even some of the more plainly-crude-and-stupid humor in the film.
It is no secret that a multi-media conglomerate such as Disney can turn out successful films one after the other. However, there is something to be said for the development and progress the production company has made in its endless bounds towards a more inclusive and culturally rich repertoire.
Moana, the latest installment in the Disney princess movie franchise (although that in itself is up for debate, as the film’s title character will object) is a credible marker in the strides Disney had made – from the gorgeous production design to the catchy tunes that will most likely be playing on repeat, the film reminds us of the wonderful capacity for storytelling and narrative design the production company possesses.
A film that sets up anticipation for thrills, but keeps its audience in a dull suspense for two-thirds of its performance, Shut In is certainly ambitious, but it falls prey to lack of commitment.
For directors, filmmaking is like a puzzle they piece together, but sometimes pieces either are missing or they don’t fit exactly the way they need. Director Gavin O’Connor has all the right pieces for The Accountant, from a lead actor in Ben Affleck, solid supporting actors in J.K. Simmons, Anna Kendrick, and Jon Bernthal, and a fantastic cinematographer. The most important and vital piece that refuses to fit is the script, and while it sometimes works, it just doesn’t want to go in all the way, failing to make The Accountant a masterwork.
Written by Bill Dubuque and directed by O’Connor, The Accountant is about Christian Wolff (Affleck), an introverted, autistic man gifted with the ability to do advanced math, but struggles to socialize. When he’s tasked with uncooking the books for a new client, he discovers a thread that unravels, putting people in danger and rising the body count. In the meantime, the Treasury Department lead by Ray King (J.K. Simmons) does everything they can to track Wolff down.
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat.
Westerns and remakes run at the core of Hollywood tradition so much that it’s surprising it took the studios this long to get to The Magnificent Seven. Originally a remake of the cinematic classic Seven Samurai by legendary director Akira Kurosawa, The Magnificent Seven tells a story that deeply resonates because it has all the right ingredients: underdog heroes, revenge, righteous indignation, and standing up to ruthless villains even when the cards are stacked against you.
While Director Antoine Fuqua does his best retelling a classic and making it his own, he struggles to combine his signature style of a visceral, gritty, and grounded reality with the over-the-top action and silly humor this western requires. Too often these two voices are noticeably at odds, but it’s not enough to derail the narrative. Fuqua provides a solid experience with a thrilling opener and a satisfying end that’ll make it worth the trip to the theater. All in all, the remake is on par with the classic, updating to modern audiences, and bringing along beautiful cinematography in the process, but this remake is not able to exceed the original.
On paper, Snowden looks like an American cinema classic in the making. Oliver Stone is at the helm with a solid screenwriter and cinematographer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the lead actor surrounded by a fantastic group of supporting actors. The story is a real life spy thriller with real-life consequences that can speak about relevant topics. Unfortunately, despite the intriguing story, solid pacing and cinematography, and Levitt’s best performance to date, Stone doesn’t seem to know how to piece this story together with awkward tonal changes, preachy politics, a love story that runs out its welcome, and a tacky, eye-roll inducing resolution.
Movie Review — ‘War Dogs’ Director Todd Phillips Proves an Old Genre Can Be Taught (a Few) New Tricks
Director and co-writer Todd Phillips (The Hangover) brings a new twist to the war movie genre with War Dogs, a film based on a true story picked from the pages of Rolling Stone. It tells the story of amateur arms dealers landing a multimillion-dollar deal with The Pentagon.
Using criminals to help fight against a greater evil is not a new concept. The Dirty Dozen and Inglorious Basterds come to mind though I’m sure plenty of others exist. Suicide Squad, then, is in good company. Anti-hero stories can be tricky to tell because you have to balance their dark character while also creating empathy. Make your anti-hero too evil and you’ll lose the audience, but make them too relatable and you might wonder why they were ever a bad guy in the first place. If done correctly, the storyteller can blur the lines between the good, the bad, and the ugly, and flip the script, making you question who the true hero and villain are in the story. Fortunately, director David Ayer pulled this off in spades while simultaneously creating an action-packed and fast-paced adventure with plenty of humor and fun to go around.