Downsizing: Movie Man Jackson

Less mass, fatter cash. Obviously, there’s more to the process scientists have developed known as Downsizing, an optional yet irreversible decision people can choose to make themselves roughly 1/200th of the size they currently are. Essentially, five inches. Since its introduction five years ago, waste has been reduced, and resources go a longer way than ever before. The average middle income or even lower income person can potentially—almost certainly—live an easier life by getting smaller. This is the real draw.

After seeing and hearing the happiness his old friend Dave Johnson (Jason Sudeikis) is getting out of downsizing, American everyman and everywoman Paul Safranek (Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig) decide they want to be next, relocating to “Leisure Land” to start anew. The transformation is successful…for Paul, though he’s all alone in this new world without his spouse who bailed at the last possible moment. May not seem like it to him, but this could be a silver lining as he figures out if he is truly meant for something bigger.

There’s a scene about 90 or so minutes into Downsizing where a group of 5-7 people listen to a scientist espousing the values of something or the troubles of one thing. The exact details are hazy. But the main takeaway is, the people and the actors involved in this scene look bored and disinterested. This scene is a microcosm of the viewing experience of Downsizing, a predominantly mundane viewing experience.

At least the first third does relatively good with the film’s intriguing premise. Director/writer Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Nebraska) uses this first act to show off some adept CGI and camera angles juxtaposing the tiny and the normal sized, introducing some amusing sight gags, and just generally building up the mystery and the event that is the downsizing process. The first act is arguably—no, definitively—the act in which Downsizing and its rife potential for satire and social commentary is seen most clearly; a great moment taking place in a bar where a drunk patron makes thought-provoking points about the downsized populace and whether they should be a part of society. This scene gives a viewer hope.

Sadly, Downsizing‘s momentum tapers off slightly but consistently after the titular event and then lost for good about fifteen minutes later. An overlong party scene does nothing to the narrative when contemplated, only the day after provides a core character. To not spoil anything (for those still carrying some desire to view), there does seem to be a good ending message of selflessness and the greater good, but even that is not all that clear.

It is hard to pin down exactly what Downsizing desires to be, or the story it aspires to tell, because it pulls itself into so many story directions/themes and genres without being compelling in any one of them. End of the world, environmentalism, cultism, racism/discrimination, and more are only touched upon. But, the biggest frustration as it pertains to Payne’s latest film might just be the fact that so much of the story has nothing to do with downsizing even one iota. Most of the last two-thirds is shot and told no differently than what is seen in most traditional dramas. You’ll forget that these characters are five inches tall. Maybe that’s the point, but again, it’s so hard to know for certain.

What is hard is seeing this cast slog through nothing of interest and seemingly appear to know it. Lead Matt Damon, recreating his look from Elysium in the downsizing process, isn’t exactly asked to carry the movie but still asked to be the focal point, but his Paul simply isn’t a guy to get invested in, and to spend over two hours with him is asking for a lot. There’s an argument to be made that perhaps Downsizing would work better if it followed Paul’s friend of Dave, played by Jason Sudeikis. He gets the best lines and seems to be the one character who speaks to the satire of the whole situation, but he’s punted quickly as is Kristen Wiig, losing much of the potential fun that could be had.

Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau stand out the most, but for reasons that aren’t great. Waltz plays an extremely forgettable foreign party guy with little else worth discussing. Chau, on the other hand, turns in a good acting job for a role that is written rather weak. Despite the problematic stereotype she is saddled with, she does get the viewer to care about her way more than this film should.

However, Downsizing is still a disappointment, any way it is sized up. Very big on an idea, very small in the execution of it.

D

Photo credits go to indiewire.com, impawards.com, comingsoon.net, and cinemavine.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Proud Mary: Movie Man Jackson

Say it loud, say it proud. Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hitwoman in Boston, carrying out the death deeds when the family ran by Benny (Danny Glover) needs people to be dealt with. On one routine hit, Mary executes her target professionally as always, but is taken aback when her mark is discovered to have a young boy.

This shakes Mary who isn’t quite the same after this day, and as such, has been looking over the boy from afar, who has run into some tough times. Feeling responsible, the hitwoman takes “Danny” (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) in privately, gives him some TLC, and finds the people responsible for Danny’s situation. But, the youngster is tied to some deep criminal roots, roots that have the potential to start a war between Mary’s criminal family and another, putting everyone and their lives at risk.

 

Proud Mary. Look at the poster, the name of the movie taken after the famous Ike and Tina track, the tagline (“Killing for the man every night and day”), and the general plot summary. Sounds a lot like a 70’s Blaxploitation flick, right? Wrong. Now, to expect something on the tone of, say Black Dynamite would be asking for too much, but, the recipe is here for 50% of that along with some solid, John Wick/Atomic Blonde-esque action. Unfortunately, what is present is an average-to-poorly made crime drama befitting of its release date.

Proud Mary starts off well enough. The title credits look like they came out of the 70’s, accompanied by The Temptations classic of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Fun stuff, and Henson’s hitwoman wastes no time getting down to business with executing a lethal hit. But, that nice opening is the exception, not the rule, to Proud Mary. Once this movie jumps to one year after the incident, any hopes of the movie being a crowd-pleasing, gleefully violent ride down memory lane are lost.

Really, Proud Mary is a “family” drama and not a compelling one. The story itself is essentially a basic “time for me to get out” one, so it comes down to the relationship/chemistry between Henson and Winston’s characters in getting the audience to care about their plights. At best, the chemistry between the two is mediocre and nonexistent at worst, hampered by a rushed union and saddled by sometimes clunky dialogue.

This is a problem that not only these two share, but others in the movie, in which characters have a weird habit of talking over others for no real reason. Other bonds and revelations come to the forefront in attempts to add stakes, but midway through, one may find it hard to care about either of the lead characters and whether they make it to see tomorrow. And this is terrible, because Taraji P. Henson is not only likable, but quite talented. But, Proud Mary never gives her much of an opportunity to be or sound cool, or look like a badass. Or, maybe she never gives herself the opportunity, being executive producer and all.

Director Babak Najafi’s last movie was London Has Fallen, not exactly a movie a director wants on their resume to show off their talent. Some of the jagged and rough editing issues found in that one pop up here as well, if not more so. A mid-movie raid shootout and one-against-all blitz play climax should feature ton of satisfying moments…if only they could be seen in clear. Hard to remember light being used so poorly in a feature after viewing this one. One scene in particular obscures 90 percent of Glover’s face in a basic conversation, making someone wonder how this could just be left in the movie as is.

With a lighter tone and tighter editing, Proud Mary could have been a fun throwback action flick in what is typically a lean month for new releases. Instead, it’s dynamite. Not the good kind.

D

Photo credits go to thedailybeast.com, abcnews.go.com, and filmipop.com

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Darkest Hour: Movie Man Jackson

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. There’s nothing but difficulty in Great Britain circa 1940. Smack dab in the early part of World War II, the German forces are invading and ransacking their opposition, the pressure’s on England to fortify their national security. The populace (read: Parliament) doesn’t believe their current Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain is up to the task, so he is ousted.

In steps Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), not the first replacement choice but the second and possibly the only choice who can rally an European party of decision makers. He needs to, because most are advocating the white flag surrender to Hitler. But, Churchill, in all his intestinal fortitude, refuses to lay down. His words are going to have to be decisive to get Britain out of her Darkest Hour. 

There’s something honest about Darkest Hour. Not necessarily in its presentation of facts (far from a completely and unabashedly artistically licensed movie, but it’s definitely present), but what director Joe Wright’s (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) film is primed to do. What is that? Serve major awards prospects on a silver platter for one of the best actors today. And he’s eating.

Darkest Hour begins and ends with the work of Gary Oldman. Prosthetics and makeup sometimes have the wrong intended effect; instead of making a thespian more believable and lifelike in their famous figure portrayal, the figure ends up feeling artificial and even unintentionally comical. Costume designer and longtime Joe Wright collaborator Jacqueline Duran deserves a ton of credit, as does the general set cast for recreating the stuffiness and feel of these conference and war rooms on display. But Oldman never lets the getup overshadow his performance.

Occasionally called out for overacting in a couple of roles, Oldman finds a strong balance of power mixed with restrain. The Oscar clips are here, but honestly, the more quieter moments such as Churchill speaking with the President or coming to grips with his doubts resonate just as much, if not more so, than the big ones. He’s earned whatever accolades come his way. Providing sound support are Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI, Lily James as Elizabeth Layton, and Kristen Scott Thomas as Clemmie.

Light is used to great effect in Darkest Hour, creating this sort of sheen that matches most of the setting impeccably. There’s not much else that pops out; Wright’s directing here seems to take a background relegation its star and rightfully so. Anthony McCarten handles script duties. We see the struggles of Churchill galvanizing his party, and struggling with his feeling on whether he’s doing the right thing. Rinse, repeat. That’s the extent of it, really, but, it’s enough to get the film from point A to point B.

Without victory, there is no survival. That was also once said by Winston Churchill. Let’s tweak it to, “Without Gary Oldman, there is no Darkest Hour.

B-

Photo credits go to variety.com, wikipedia.org, express.co.uk, and azcentral.com.

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Call Me By Your Name: Movie Man Jackson

Nothing is as sweet as a peach, or your first love. The summer of 1983 brings Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) something he’s never felt before. Seventeen-year-old Elio lives in Italy with his parents, spending the days immersing himself into classical music. Each summer brings a different person into Elio’s home, because his father, Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) works as a professor and needs the help during the period to prep and research. The youngster has grown to accept this, even if it means giving up his room consistently.

But this summer is different. Twenty-four year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer) is the scholar this year, and a magnetism quickly draws Elio to him. And it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is a thing—a spark—that keeps on building and building, whether at the meal table, out for a swim, or biking along the countryside. Six weeks is a short amount of time, but in ways, it’s a lifetime.

Seeing Italy as the setting for a romance is nothing new. Outside of Paris, France, it’s pretty much the country of love. After viewing Call Me By Your Name, however, no romance has tapped into its environment more than director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash). The environment, as much as the masterful acting work, cements Call Me By Your Name as a requisite watch for not only romance lovers, but any film nuts.

For as great as the acting work is, Call Me By Your Name will be remembered for the locale. Filmed on location, there’s an immense level of warmth felt from the get-go and the opening titles. It’s natural and inviting; one can damn near feel the morning sun and the nighttime breeze in every respective scene. Alluring is the word, and Guadagnino’s intentionally distanced direction, along with a beautiful score and soundtrack by Sufjan Stevens, makes his film stand as an impressive production.

 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Call Me By Your Name is how methodically patient it plays out. Sure, at times it can be a little too slowly paced with nothing of real importance occurring, but nonetheless, unique to see a romance unfurl with the speed of a tortoise and still be compelling. And the unfurling occurs without real conflict. While it would have been nice to see some significant impediments to the budding union and some more meat on these character, this is not how the novel was written by author André Aciman. Not only is it cool to see a mostly intended vision (by most accounts) upheld, there’s a simple yet nice message that love can sort of exist separately as its own entity. Narrative-wise, this isn’t a groundbreaking romantic story, but it is still well-told.

What is groundbreaking happens to be the lead performance of Timothée Chalamet. He dives into the part with so much assuredness. His part is obviously not easy, not only due to the occasional explicitness, but for how he’s got to portray emotion while not being outwardly emotive. Not much more can be said about his work that hasn’t already been said. Not the forgotten-but-still-second-fiddle is Armie Hammer, equal parts mysterious, charismatic, and quirky. On their own, the work would still be great but probably a little empty.

Together, it’s electric seeing the opposite personalities recognize their key differences but being totally unable to stay away from one another. This is very much a two person movie, three if the setting is included (and it should be), though Michael Stuhlbarg, continuing his torrid streak of buzzworthy movies since 2015, chews some scenery and absolutely is in possession of the feature’s most emotionally resonant moment.

More than enough for technical aficionados or those who just love their romantic movies, Call Me By Your Name is a sweet and succulent viewing. Bite in.

B

Photo credits go to filmschoolrejects.com, hollywoodreporter.com, cinemavine.com, and joblo.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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All the Money in the World: Movie Man Jackson

Does it really pay the cost to be the boss? Depends on who you’re dealing with. In 1973, the richest man in the world happens to be John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), amassing his immense fortune in oil. No kids of his own, but he has fourteen grandchildren, one of them being John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer). Getty the Third happens to be the elder’s favorite grandson, even seemingly considering the idea of giving the family business to the youngster in the event of his passing.

When you’re as rich as Getty, everyone knows, and will do anything to get a cut. Masked men take the grandson, and demand 17 million from the billionaire in exchange for his life. This angers and scares Gail (Michelle Williams), the mother of the kidnapped, who does not have the cash to pay ransom despite marrying into the family. Her pleads to Getty to pay are unsuccessful, as he deems the price too high. But wanting his grandson to return unharmed, he sends hired help in the form of Getty Oil and ex-CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to investigate, and more importantly—to negotiate—a cheaper figure before the youngest Getty is lost forever.

Slow down? Not in Ridley Scott’s lexicon. At the ripe age of 80, the director has had quite the busy 2017, producing Phoenix Forgotten, Blade Runner 2049, and Murder on the Orient Express, along with directing (and serving as a producer) Alien: Covenant and now his latest in All the Money in the World. Receiving initial heavy chatter for the late and extensive production changes, the final product stands as a wonderfully dark, “biographical” thriller.

Of course, the production changes and re-shoots are the story of All the Money in the World, an unfortunate result attributed to the sexual misconduct allegations of previous star Kevin Spacey. In his stead, Scott went ahead with Christopher Plummer in the John Paul Getty role, a move that feels pretty masterful and even an upgrade. There’s a significant level of gravitas, world weariness, and larger-than-life aspect that the 88-year-old Plummer brings to his scenes and dialogue—all without additional makeup or effects. His warped logic and stoic personality in the midst of disaster is special and troubling to watch. As good as Spacey can be, I’m not sure if he’d bring the same effect. Perhaps one day, we’ll see the cut or at least extended scenes that feature him to know for sure.

Let’s not forget Plummer’s leading co-stars, who also happened to be Spacey’s for a long time. Michelle Williams just continues to prove how much of a talent she is, her desperate mother serving essentially as what the audience sees and feels. Her steadfastness and firm moral center gives heart and relatability, making her an easy character to get behind in a world full of people looking to make an easy buck or save one. Some of her screen-time is shared with Mark Wahlberg, believable as a man who’s driven by duty to take the emotion out of everything but slowly turning to realize what is truly important.

Wahlberg, somewhat shoddy bespectacled look and all, takes a little time to find a groove, like the movie and its script. Scott and screenwriter David Scarpa, adapting from John Pearson’s book, struggle to find a solid pace and even tone for the first 20 or so minutes, showing Getty’s rise to power and how things came to be in his immediate family before 1973. Most of it is necessary for the events later, but cleaner editing would have helped for the nonlinear storytelling to feel less rough around the edges. Once All the Money in the World starts going, however, the vice grip on the audience is never lost.

Ridley’s latest is less of a biography and more of a straight-up crime drama/thriller. On the former front, All the Money in the World is a little lacking if working with that belief; do not expect a ton of central character depth. Like recent films in Dunkirk and Detroit, this chooses to focus on a specific, singled out event in a person’s life opposed to an overarching look at a life/lives or a series of events. The focus on this tense, dark drama makes for a run-time that flies by, even at two hours and ten minutes. Scott’s razor sharp direction and mood-setting makes for a gripping experience.

Making lemonade out of lemons, or rather, turning nickels and dimes into dollars, All the Money in the World is likely to be remembered more for what it was more than what it is. Hopefully that changes over time.

A-

Photo credits go to cinemablend.com, vulture.com, and filmofilla.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2017 Music in Movies (Part 5)

 

Where words fail, music speaks. Part 5 of the yearly Music in Movies series continues. If you missed parts one, two, three, and four, they’re available here , here, here,  and here. Dive in.

IT (composed by Benjamin Wallfisch)

Every 27 Years

Georgie, Meet Pennywise

Derry

Slideshow

Blood Oath

Makes perfect sense that a good chunk of the score of IT is appropriately child-like. This can be heard in its nursery-like chants and what-not, but also in its piano keys and moderately sized orchestra. Songs like Derry and Blood Oath evoke true senses of childlike wonder and exploration, absent of fear and dread. IT is just as much of a coming of age story as it is a full-on horror.

But the horror cues and sounds are present, none creepier than Slideshow, perhaps the most unnerving sequence of the entire movie. The overall sound of IT is reminiscent in a way to the score of the Dead Space games, those games dealing a lot with isolation in space. While IT has nothing to do with space and it is obviously much more ensemble-driven narrative-wise than Dead Space, there is an element of isolation and the fear each youngster has that can only be confronted when in a group. It’s a great score.

Stronger (composed by Michael Brook)

Amputee

Sutures

Part of the reason Stronger is so great is because it doesn’t fall into the overly sappy and forced emotion and narrative script so many other similar films do. The score composed by Michael Brook is an extension of this, never feeling too in-your-ear bombarding the eardrums and saying how the viewer should feel. It makes for an understated score, one that doesn’t necessarily make for a great listen outside of the movie, but still worth some recognition.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (composed by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson)

Eggsy is Back

Poppy

Statesman

The Gondola Experience 

No Time for Emotion

Kingsman Hoedown

Henry Jackson and Matthew Margeson come back to helm the music that fills the circle that is Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Once again, their main motif, beginning with Eggsy is Back and continuing throughout, comes to define the series in its regal yet chaotic feeling. This time however, there’s a mashup with the more western, county-folk like aspect featuring the Statesman in a few cues. But the best musical moments are that of No Time for Emotion and Poppy, the former garnering the most emotion in the movie, and the latter playing as a cute yet dark introduction to the one-note lead villain.

Blade Runner 2049 (composed by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer)

2049

Who does a director go to to recreate a score when one of the best—if not the best—composer today isn’t cutting it? Hans Zimmer, with substantial help from up-and-comer Benjamin Wallfisch, of course. The pair were tagged to replace the excellent Jóhann Jóhannsson and keep the legacy of the original’s music that was laid by Vangelis.

They’ve done a great job. Starting immediately with the apt 2049, filling the screen with immense moodiness and spectacle. It’s impossible not to get sucked in.

Flight to LAPD

Furnace

Joi

Sea Wall

Tears in the Rain

I strongly believe that a Jóhannsson-helmed Blade Runner 2049 score would outdo what Zimmer and Wallfisch managed to do here (re-listen to Sicario and Arrival for proof). There’s another layer of atmosphere that the duo lack, but still, cuts such as Sea Wall and Furnace and the rest of the above paint a wonderful sonic picture of a future maybe not completely far off from ours, a future with potential but rife with mystery and fear of the unknown. Tears in the Rain leaves us with a little hope though, that as long has humanity has purpose, we’re on the right track.

Marshall (composed by Marcus Miller, contributions by various artists)

YMCA Swing

Marshall Meets Sam

Marshall V. Friedman

More background filler than true story aid, still the score for Marshall is a solid accompaniment to the on-screen court matters and builds the time period it takes place in. The jazz-heavy score, sometimes light swing, occasionally bebop, and every now and then blues and more classical tracks, isn’t an listen that is unforgettable but it is a chill, smooth one.

Thor: Ragnarok (composed by Mark Mothersbaugh)

Thor: Ragnarok

Where Am I?

No One Escapes

Arena Fight

Planet Sakaar

A new approach to the God of Thunder demanded a different sound. Granted, the score to Thor: Ragnarok isn’t a complete step in a bold new direction, but it is amazing what some 80’s synths and wah-wahs can do to accentuate a movie. It’s a fairly fun and irreverent movie with a score that doesn’t ask its audience to think much beyond that.

Murder on the Orient Express (composed by Patrick Doyle)

The Wailing Wall

Jaffa to Stamboul

Twelve Stab Wounds 

Justice

Murder on the Orient Express is a movie I’ll remember more for the throwback style and production values than anything else. The score crafted by Patrick Doyle is lush and beautiful in its traditional orchestral sounds mimicking the events on screen in lockstep. Justice in particular is one of the best standalone score of the entire movie year. Kind of does sound like a Clue movie come to life (which I know was actually made in 1985).

Hero’s Theme

 

Batman on the Roof

I like character themes. It’s a little bit of a shame, though, that we don’t get real definitive, standout ones in Justice League for the new heroes in Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman, but perhaps those will come during their own solo outings. Danny Elfman replaces the talented Junkie XL in this DC outing, and he’s probably a better fit, honestly. That’s no indictment of Holkenborg, who makes great epic music, but here and there, it can go into noise noise noise mode. What Elfman does here isn’t legendary, but, some rich, moody tracks and textures are built. I wonder if with a little more central focus on one character in the next go-rounds will make for more memorable scores.

Photo credits go to asturscore.com, heroichollywood.com, filmmusicreporter.com, jonburlingame.com, maxthetrax.com, imdb.com, batman-news.com, and filmmusicmag.com.

Only one (possibly two) more installments to go!

Follow MMJ @MovieManJackson.

 

The Post: Movie Man Jackson

Whether in a relationship, a job, or in matters of politics and America, power should never go unchecked. The Washington Post is in a little bit of a transitional period, led by publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of a major newspaper. Graham—as does lead editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks)—wants “The Post” to be more than a local newspaper. She doesn’t command much faith in her visions, mainly because she’s a woman in a man’s world.

Opportunity does knock, however, when secrets regarding the US Government’s stance on the Vietnam War are leaked initially via the New York Times by way of the “Pentagon Papers.” Government is none too happy about it, and chooses to shut down the story before it gets too in-depth. They’re threatening criminal action if anyone else decides to run with it, but this is something that the American populace needs to know. Commence the battle between free press and the government.

Officially ending the unofficial real-life heroic figure(s) trilogy that director Steven Spielberg has lent his talents to in recent years starting with 2012’s Lincoln and 2015’s Bridge of Spies is his latest in The Post. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: It is impossible to discuss or think about The Post without thinking about our current everyday bizarre political world, but it is the truth. Spielberg has made something that honors the past, but is more so focused on preventing the future.

A fast production schedule rarely benefits a movie, but with Spielberg overseeing just about everything, it’s not likely we’d be getting a better cut with additional prep time. But, it is still impressive at just how well The Post comes out, showing no signs of a rushed timeline. The standard of excellence we’ve become accustomed to from Steven is still present, displaying a tight and historically accurate-looking presentation that rarely feels stagy or fake. Longtime legendary collaborators in cinematographer Janusz Kamiński and composer John Williams assist to make The Post one of the year’s best, technically.

Hard to find any egregious faults with The Post, if any. It’s a good movie that fits right into the season, with a solid script that seems to be very rooted into reality penned by debut feature writer Liz Hannah. One can feel the passion she has for this story and the character that is Katharine Graham. But, watching The Post is more akin to viewing an important, yet dry, history lesson more so than a compelling silver screen feature, even with the obvious allusions to what’s going on now. One that is respected for the overall craftsmanship and message rather than possessing the ability to become enamored with what is on screen.

Having Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks pretty much makes a film good by default, and no surprise, they’re excellent here. The first ever on-screen pairing between two of the greatest to ever do it proves fruitful, with the duo occasionally sharing scenes in the same location. Streep sells the fear, yet determination of trying to brave a male-dominated workforce, and Hanks sells the brazen determination of an editor trying to get to the bottom of a story the world needs, sleep be damned. Going past the big named twosome, The Post is planted with maybe not big, but well-respected, cast members in Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson, Matthew Rhys, Tracy Letts, Alison Brie, and Bruce Greenfield who all blend in and chew scenery when needed.

Hot off the presses and fast-tracked ever since the results of that November 8th, 2016 day crystallized, The Post doubles as a timely historical piece and an obvious Oscar contender.

B

Photo credits go to IMDB.com, thefilmstage.com, esquire.com, and vogue.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Father Figures: Movie Man Jackson

Daddy wasn’t there to take them to the fair or change their underwear. Brothers Peter and Kyle Reynolds (Ed Helms, Owen Wilson), have long believed their father to have died of cancer, never knowing him. He’s become somewhat of a mythical figure to Peter, who’s dedicated his professional life to him, becoming a proctologist just like his old man.

Or at least, that’s what his mother, Helen (Glenn Close), told her sons. As it turns out, their father is alive, believed by Peter to be an actor who carries the same facial features as the man in his photo. Of course, it’s not that simple, and this leads the brothers down a road to find who is partially responsible for bringing them into this universe.

For the failures Hollywood has taken this year in its comedy genre, it feels fitting that the last big-budget comedy release in the 2017 calendar year is Father Figures, an absolute dud any way just about any way it’s looked at. This is a bigger failure than Terry Bradshaw’s acting career.

Bright spots? Not many, but OK. The movie looks solid enough, helmed by first-time directed Lawrence Sher, the cinematographer responsible for Garden State, War Dogs, and The Hangover Trilogy. It is sharper, aesthetically, than most studio comedies. Playing himself, the happy-go-lucky Terry Bradshaw is in possession of the more amusing moments of the film, getting a running gag about getting Owen Wilson’s character’s name wrong.

But if Terry, a non-actor, is the best thing cast-wise about a comedy, that’s an issue. Father Figures features an impressive supporting cast in Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, J.K. Simmons, and Christopher Walken who are all left with zilch to do, which amounts to mostly talking about how “sexual, wild, and free” the 70’s were.

Here and there, we’ve seen “bad” comedy movies elevated to at least average level on the chemistry and strength of their two lead stars. For all intents and purposes, Father Figures is a buddy movie that isn’t so much about the mystery of finding a father, but strengthening a relationship between polar opposite fraternal twins. The movie falls on Owen Wilson and Ed Helms to succeed, and unfortunately, they do not. This duo isn’t believable as brothers from the get go, and don’t play off of each other in complementing ways. It’s fair to wonder if maybe, we’ve already seen the peaks from these two as it pertains to comedy in Wilson’s mid-2000’s run and Helms’ late 2000’s/early 2010’s run. Neither has much support from a lackluster script, but their energy put forth here screams paycheck mode. Additionally, the two just don’t have the dramatic chops to stick the dramatic moments.

That script, written by Justin Malen (Office Christmas Party), whiffs at finding the sweet spot between humor and heart, to the point of being contrived. It’s hard to allow your heartstrings to be pulled when there’s randomly inserted scenes during the “emotional” parts consisting of a cat having big testicles and a youngster peeing on an older man and the older man being convinced  by the youngster’s dad to pee on the youngster to stop it. Yeah. All of this makes Father Figures an agonizingly lengthy watch at nearly two hours. Few comedies have reason to run this long.

Father forgive me because I have sinned. My sin? Viewing Father Figures. 

D-

Photo credits go to blackfilm.com, traileraddict.com, and cineplex.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

Merry Christmas to all!

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Movie Man Jackson

There is no one-size-fits-all method for dealing with grief. But for Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), she would appear to be in the stages of anger/depression. It’s been roughly seven months since she lost her daughter, a victim of a rape murder. Believing that her town and the local law enforcement is doing nothing to solve the crime, she decides to bring heavy attention to the tragedy by buying Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that say blunt things like “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests”, and “How come, Chief Willoughby?

The salvo has been launched, rattling the debilitating-in-health the Chief (Woody Harrelson), and the anger-filled officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell). But instead of building awareness and inspiring action, Mildred’s actions seem to drive most, if not all, of the townsfolk against her. Is this case ever going to solved, or will in-town fighting prove to be a hindrance in cooperation?

This is nothing new, but every now and then there’s really a film that I can mull over for a while, re-watch again, and still struggle to gather how exactly I feel about it. The latest one to make yours truly feel this way is Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, both a drama and black comedy that maybe doesn’t coalesce as intended, but features some great cast work and overall unpredictability.

Though there’s a mystery aspect at play in the film with who killed Mildred’s daughter, that aspect is the least of writer/director McDonough’s (Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges) concerns; in fact, it only appears in earnest during the middle and the end. The effects of it on various individuals in Ebbing and how they deal with it are the core of TBOEM, whether by anger, apathy, sadness, or some combination. In short, what McDonagh has concocted here is a character study of sorts with two, arguably three, main characters. The level of enjoyment one garners from Three Billboards will likely come down to how much one enjoys spending time with these characters.

On the nobility side of things, these characters are, undoubtedly, the worst of the worst seen in the entire 2017 year. There’s something undoubtedly captivating, cool, and ballsy about this. Not to mention funny, as there are a few scenes and moments that register high on the dark humor scale. The characters’ general lack of civility can be humorous, but is also a bit of a double-edged sword, mainly later on in the movie.

As the movie transitions more into drama and full-on character redemption, it becomes hard to forget the nastiness that McDonagh wasted no time in going deep into at the beginning. A soliloquy in the form of letters do serve to give some solid context, but it doesn’t absolve all sins, making the arcs feel unearned. Above all, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri seems to struggle with wanting to be a realistic look at small-town Midwest life in the ups and downs in 2017 and an over-the-top dark romp, never completely balancing the two. The dialogue can be shocking, not in a “Wow, that was very mean” way, but in more of a “Would any sane person really talk like that?” way. A line in a flashback in which Mildred states that she hopes her daughter gets raped is a prime example. Instances like this and even the idea of an Australian beauty such as Abbie Cornish (in full Aussie natural accent!) being married to Harrison’s basic town sheriff in boonie Ebbing makes for an oddity that is neither funny nor purpose-serving to the story.

There are aforementioned issues, but a talented cast keeps things afloat. Supporting characters played by Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, and Abbie Cornish are more afterthoughts, though contribute steady performances. The movie belongs to Harrelson, Rockwell, and McDormand. At risk of being the forgotten man, Harrelson is truly the fulcrum of much of the movie, carrying it in a sense. But, it’s Rockwell and McDormand who are getting most of the praise and deserving so. Rockwell has a magnetic presence even when covered in complete dirt and slime, and McDormand carries a dogged persona from her talk to her walk and even the way her face seems to carry the same “tired with everything” feeling throughout. I’m totally underselling her work; she’s super impressive in this movie.

A game cast and some surprising moments make Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri at least worth a viewing stop in this boonie town. An extended stay? Depends on one’s tolerance for its inhabitants.

C+

Photo credits go to cinemavine.com, westword.com, and baltimoreblack.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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The Shape of Water: Movie Man Jackson

Love doesn’t have to be traditional. Working as a nighttime janitor in 1960’s Baltimore is Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), who is mute. Her responsibility, along with best friend coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is to clean the urine, feces, and all other matter that is left behind in the Occam Aerospace Research Center. When she’s not working, she’s often making conversation and viewing musicals with her neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins). Minus the cleaning part, it’s not a bad life, yet far from a memorable one.

That changes once Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings an Asset (Doug Jones) to the compound in the form of a mysterious amphibian monster that can supposedly help the United States get an advantage in the Cold War. After testing, no secrets are made about the asset being killed. He’s already abused and berated consistently. In between these abuse periods, Elisa begins to build a strong bond with the monster, and realizes that she must do whatever it takes to get him out of this facility.

Death, taxes, and Guillermo del Toro melding polar opposite genres together into something unique. There’s dark fantasy, and then there’s del Toros’ dark fantasy, as seen in Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, and now, The Shape of Water, which takes del Toro’s love for the otherworldly and combining a love story to the likes we’ve probably never seen before. At the very. very least, it’s certainly unique and memorable.

In a cinema world often derided for the lack of auteurs as it pertains to directors, Guillermo is one of the few who makes his vision and creates art. Two well-worn inspirations in Beauty and the Beast and Creature from the Black Lagoon are evident, but even video games like Fallout and Bioshock and literature such as Stranger in a Strange Land appear to help build the 1960’s world showcased here.

Aesthetically, this Baltimore is a surreal-looking locale, coated perpetually in green and teal tint sharing similarities with many monster movies. But, the color symbolizes more in life, sickness, hope, inexperience, and—most importantly—love, all themes that The Shape of Water delves into. A high point tension-wise is a surprisingly tense and unpredictable heist scene. Something’s wrong with the major cinematography awards if Dan Laussen doesn’t get recognition for the cinematography that is present, and a score composed by Alexandre Desplat accentuates the fantastical production.

The Shape of Water is a spectacular production with a solid story and generally great execution, but it isn’t without pitfalls. The actual union feels a little rushed, and it is testament to the lead talent at hand that they sell the believability of it by film’s end. While the Cold War setting seems to initially hint at more integration into the plot, the tale could have easily been told in any other era with little impact. Lastly, it is fair to wonder if some additional subtlety by del Toro would have gone a long way towards garnering more intense emotion. There’s one scene that ends with the door closing, telling us all we need to know, and it’s well done. Other scenes come off as a little too self-indulgent, even cringey and/or corny, to the point that they drew me, personally, out of this world.

But, as much credit as the director and his technical team are deserving of, it is the cast and specifically the lead performers that sell what’s going on. Working backwards, supporting veteran castmates in Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg add a level of sophistication and gravitas despite their characters, save somewhat for Jenkins, being light on meat. Out of the supporting characters, Michael Shannon chews scenery from the moment he’s introduce as the simply pure evil and tunnel-vision focused Colonel. But of course, it’s Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins who come away as the talking points of The Shape of Water. Both hardly say any words but their non-verbals and chemistry is in full force, and the performance of Hawkins runs the gamut from loneliness to levity to pure bliss.

Save for a few odd-fitting moments, The Shape of Water takes its many genres and melds them into a fully formed fantasy and distinct view worth going into the deep for.

B

Photo credits go to indiewire.com, joblo.com, awardsdaily.com, and trailers.apple.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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