Fifty Shades Freed: Movie Man Jackson

Pain gets easier to deal with on the third time, right? America’s favorite pain-inflicting couple in Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) are back and taking things to the next level. This doesn’t mean only sexually, but Ana taking Christian’s last name in holy matrimony. Their relationship, forever a complicated one, seems to finally be on the same page.

Still, there are things Ana wants that Christian is not entirely sold on. like the idea of a family. This is troubling, but not as troubling as old thorn Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) popping up consistently in efforts to get revenge on the newlyweds for ruining his life. Bliss cannot be fully achieved until Hyde is fully removed from the situation.

Why Fifty Shades Freed? Yours truly is a completionist in just about everything I do in this life, and if there’s a clear end seen, I’ll often stick with it. Fifty Shades Freed is the clear end to the E.L James trilogy of novels adapted into features on the silver screen starting with Fifty Shades of Grey. No matter how this goes, this is the last one. Reason for celebration. You don’t need me to say this is a bad film, but I will. At least this series has consistency.

But, there are (a few) positives! Fifty Shades Freed and director James Foley, responsible for last year’s sequel in Fifty Shades Darker, his stars, and the like finally seem to be in on the joke more times than not. “FSF” is—surprisingly—amusing at times in a completely intentional way. This addition does result in a slightly less dull watch than Darker, and by default, Freed is a better movie than the second, for whatever that’s worth. Still, these fleeting moments and dialogue are the exception, not the norm. Most of what is heard is as agonizing as those films that came before it, despite the committed efforts of the brightest spot of the series in Dakota Johnson giving and baring her all.

Like those other films, Johnson tries to bring strength to the role, but Anastasia is what she is at this point: A character whose actions often don’t jibe with her words and desires, making her a challenging character to invest into. The return of Johnson of course means the return of Dornan as the playboy billionaire sexual miscreant Christian Grey. Dornan is hilarious at times, whether crooning on the piano or giving no cares in the world with how often his American accent slips into his native Irish one. But like the other movies, he’s mostly dry and stiff, and together, the duo just does not possess the smoldering chemistry needed to overcome the trilogy’s story problems.

Being slightly more self-aware doesn’t make the bruises go away, however. Fifty Shades Freed, like its predecessors, is doomed from the start simply because of its source material shooting blanks in regard to providing anything of substance plot-wise or character-wise. Even at one hour and forty-five minutes which amounts to the shortest Fifty Shades run-time to date, there’s isn’t enough here to constitute it.

It’s probably why Foley, when not filming a Fast and Furious-like scene or generic Lifetime thriller set-pieces, resorts to an endless supply of pop tunes every 10 minutes in any given scene, whether BDSM is involved or not. To put a final bow on the proceedings, Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do plays over the series’ most famous/infamous scenes and is a perfect representation of the glossy coat of paint that has attempted to cover its pitfalls.

“Don’t miss the climax” is the main tagline for Fifty Shades Freed, and it is sort of funny. The word climax typically carries a positive connotation, suggesting that whatever came before it was at the very least semi-memorable. Can’t have a good climax without good foreplay, though. Time to turn out the lights on the Red Room of Pain for good.

D

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The Commuter: Movie Man Jackson

Should have flown. Oh wait…nevermind. Sixty year-old Michael McCauley lives as basic as one can in their sixties; mortgage, wife (Elizabeth McGovern), and soon-to-be-college-student son (Dean-Charles Chapman). He’s prepping for retirement in roughly five years from his financial adviser position, a role he took some years back after serving in the New York police force.

Costs a lot to send a kid through university, however, and Michael’s best laid plans are obliterated when life happens. On his daily ride home on the train, he’s approached by a “social experimenter” in Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who offers to solve all of Michael’s financial problems if he can do one thing: Find the person who isn’t supposed to be on the train, for they have something very valuable in their bag. Doing this nets Michael 100K, but failure to do so may result in loss of life for everyone on the train, and even those off it in Mike’s family.

Honestly, it’s fascinating how one Liam Neeson has not only created a genre for himself, but for other older actors and some actresses since Bryan Mills introduced his set of skills to the world in 2008 with Taken. Ever since that movie, it’s been a boom to Neeson’s career. There’s value in a person knowing what they’re getting. I don’t even know if The Commuter is bad. It just…exists.

No, The Commuter isn’t bad because it’s two stars are solidly good at their day jobs. Yes, two stars, one of them being director and longtime Neeson collaborator Jaume Collet-Serra (Run All Night, Non-Stop). His direction is a formula for these types of films, and it is arguably a carbon copy of Run All Night. But it is an effective one, nonetheless, taking advantage of a tight and enclosed environment for some occasionally tense moments. Additionally, Serra manages to direct a fight scene that is somehow simultaneously (strangely) impressive and laughable. Hard to explain, but a person will know it when they see it.

And of course, there’s Ol’ Reliable, also known as Liam Neeson. I’m saying nothing that is not clear knowledge now, but the fact is, he can play this role in his sleep. This means that while he’s not necessarily stretched per se, he does bring a level of professionalism, commitment to the material, and—arguably most important—lead star power—critical as this story becomes more incredulous as the runtime goes on.

Speaking of star power, The Commuter is up there with Run All Night with regards to consisting of the most star power of any Liam Neeson-led movie from 2009 and beyond, featuring the likes of Conjuring co-stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, and even Sam Neill. But, none make their mark on the movie, either entrenched as stock stereotypical characters (Neill, Wilson), or barely present at all to do anything (Farmiga, Banks). Farmiga in particular is a disappointment; mainly due to how the film sets her up.

The Commuter has an awesome set-up. That’s not hyperbole, either; Collet-Serra’s first fifteen minutes are wonderful in laying out the story of one man and his traditional, nondescript life through unique editing. The introduction of Farmiga’s character is brilliant, as is the dilemma she presents, evoking shades of the classic opposing philosophical theories debate of deontology vs utilitarianism. Around the point that Farmiga physically exists the film is when the plot goes off the rails, much of it relying on this idea that people can control every little minutia of a particular situation well ahead of it actually occurring. Collet-Serra’s writing falls back more on the “Eureka” moment that Neeson’s ex-cop experiences rather than a logical process of elimination with snuffing out suspects. Lastly, the ending is very rough, way too neat, and opening up way more questions than answers.

Collectively, Neeson and Collet-Serra the director deliver The Commuter to its destination—barely. Still, better trips are out there for the fare it takes to get on this train.

C-

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Phantom Thread: Movie Man Jackson

In sickness, and in health. The scene is 1950’s London, where fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is regarded as one of the best—if not the best—dressmaker in the couture world, running his business with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). His attention to detail and control in the couture world has carried into every facet of his life; he fills his need for companionship by rotating women, many of whom model his dresses.

Everything changes when Woodcock lays his eyes on a particular waitress during a lunch in Alma (Vicky Krieps). The love is there on both sides, and soon, Alma moves into Reynolds’ house and serves as the ultimate spark for his work. However, she can only take so much of his stubborn temperament. Most women, often at the behest of Woodcock, just leave when it gets to this point, but for Alma, she is a different breed. For the first time in his existence, Woodcock will meet his match.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the few directors who can sell a movie on name alone. His latest in Phantom Thread would be a must-watch regardless of cast, but there’s this ever-so-small news floating around that his movie is the last one that actor Daniel Day-Lewis will ever appear in. With these two reuniting for the supposed final time, Phantom Thread is peak PT Anderson (for better and for worse) and DDL operating at the levels we’ve come to know of them.

Phantom Thread shares a similar striking, pastel-like, worn-in visual style as many of PT Anderson’s recent flicks. Sometimes, it’s surreal, other times, realistic, but regardless, it is a world that is impossible to not become engrossed with. Throw in the meticulous costume designs by Oscar nominee Mark Bridges along with a rich and debonair score by composer Jonny Greenwood that often juxtaposes the events on screen with a conflicting sound (in a good way), and Phantom Thread has few equals on the production side of things.

Anderson’s film takes a concentrated look at a few things. Mainly, the psyches of true artists in how what makes them great also makes them extremely difficult to be around for most people. The aspect of power dynamics framed in more of a traditional father/mother relationship is evident as well. Really, Phantom Thread isn’t a story-driven feature; that’s not to say that there isn’t one, but to articulate it isn’t the easiest to do. This is a character-centric feature through and through. What isn’t present in story momentum is there in dialogue. You want to hear these main characters engage in conversation, much of it surprisingly funny in a subdued fashion.

The focus on character leads to spectacular acting work from the three leads. Would anything else be expected in DDL’s last performance? His Reynolds is yet another role that allows the legendary actor to disappear completely into it. Anytime food is involved seems to bring out the worst, and a middle runtime dining scene is almost 100% assured to be played during the Best Actor award announcement. It’s the little things, like Lewis’ delivery, timing, mannerisms, and the like that add another notch to the belt that is his filmography.

While he necessarily doesn’t get upstaged, Vicky Krieps without a doubt goes toe-to-toe with Daniel Day, and seeing her character evolve from semi-meek to completely assured is a treat. Balancing the entire movie is Manville in a job much more critical than initially to be believed, and she too shows steely versatility in handling both Reynolds and Alma’s most negative aspects.

Spearheaded by a superb direction and awesome cast work, Phantom Thread is a well-tailored film. Would anything else be expected?

B+

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Den of Thieves: Movie Man Jackson

This is Grand Theft Auto V played out on the silver screen. Los Angeles is the home of many things, including (apparently) the most bank robberies. Heading a crew of career criminals and military men is Merriman (Pablo Schreiber), who’s got the right-hand man in Enson (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) and talented driver Donnie (O’Shea Jackson, Jr) among other squad mates. Their goal? To pull off the job of all jobs: Rob the LA branch of the Federal Reserve, which houses untraceable money if taken at the right time.

In their way is Sheriff Nick O’Brien (Gerard Butler), a brash, take-no-prisoners officer lawman who may be just as bad as those who his crew is trying to stop. This can only end one way. The heat is on.

Quick, what do Proud Mary and Den of Thieves, two movies released in back-to-back weeks, have in common? Both employ people behind the camera who had major responsibilities in 2016’s London Has Fallen, the movie that keeps on coming back! Instead of Babak Najafi, Den of Thieves is put together by Christian Gudegast, the writer of that Mike Banning sequel who carries directing duties in addition to screenplay responsibilities this time around. While this is far from the best of the best in the cops versus robbers genre, it is surprisingly competent and even a little entertaining.

Hard not to compare every recent cops and robbers movie against Michael Mann’s legendary Heat, and Gudegast certainly doesn’t seem to shy away from the similes. Our good guys (read: bad guys) and bad-der guys intersect quite early and often, somewhat laughably with the frequency this occurs. Anyone who has seen this movie before knows what the climax will consist of. There’s some superfluous additions and scenes to the overall story; 140 minutes could probably be cut down to 120, max. However, a level of unpredictability does keep things engaging, and while somewhat implausible, there is a massive twist that doesn’t completely collapse when thought about.

Den of Thieves isn’t the all-out, fully-automatic heist-action the trailers set it up to be. This mad city (get it?), while not exactly slow paced, is slightly more methodical than anticipated. Think of it like GTA V, in that there are many set-up missions to get to the massive heist. Honestly, the film could use one more set piece—preferably in the middle—but at least Gudegast does bookend with a tense beginning and end action sequence that are shot and captured much, much better than anything in London Has Fallen or Proud Mary, aided by a steady score by composer Cliff Martinez. Good stuff for a directorial debut.

Despite Gudegast’s efforts to flesh out his main characters, they are of the one and slightly two-dimensional than three-dimensional ones. Machismo is the name of game in Den of Thieves; sadly, there’s not a prominent female to be found. 50 Cent is a name who’s not required to do much except look tough and be convincing with a rifle. That he can do. Easily, this is certainly Gerard Butler’s best role in years. Looking at his filmography, that’s not saying much, but there is a gruffness, gung-ho, and even intentionally comedic aspect he finds, playing off the stereotypical asshole officer in charge without being corny or groan-inducing.

But, the standouts are the underrated Pablo Schreiber, physically convincing and cerebral as the gangleader, and O’Shea Jackson, Jr, once again showing star power and thespian versatility in spades as the link that tethers the opposing forces. Even when the movie is too methodical in its pacing without adding a ton in the substance department, there’s enough collective charisma to keep from checking out.

Any movie that’s designated for January release that actually isn’t a dumpster fire feels like a minor win. Den of Thieves does not operate at a high level, but a level slightly higher than mediocre.

C+

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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.

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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

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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-

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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.

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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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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

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson