Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Commuter: Unknown How Liam Neeson Can Run All Night Non-Stop

Liam Neeson is a 65-year-old action star. Let that sink in for a minute. Let it also sink in knowing that he's not a 65-year-old WASHED UP action star, either. You would never see him in an Expendables film. Most of us can still picture him as a dramatic actor and by all accounts still regard him as a thespian, rather than a sell out. Somehow, after Neeson took the role in Taken, his career path took a dramatic turn to action-star and it looks like he's having a blast each time. The Commuter is no different. However, it's not so much an action movie as it is a Hitchcock-ian thriller that involves moments of violence and guns. If you're at all familiar with Neeson's non-Taken related action films, then you know exactly what to expect from The Commuter.

Neeson action movies tend to revolve around one of two things (and sometimes both): either someone he loves has been kidnapped... or he's inadvertently put into the middle of some mysterious conspiracy he has to solve and shoot his way out of. Neeson, this time, is Michael. He's an ex-cop who's been in the insurance game for the past ten years. He's also a daily commuter on a train in New York. On the day he loses his job, during his ride home, a woman (Vera Farmiga) presents him with a hypothetical question (that turns out to be not-so-hypothetical) - there is a person on the train who doesn't belong. All he has to do is find this person, plant a little tracker on him or her and Michael will get $100,000. Can he do this and make the money all the while not knowing the outcome of the other person's fate? Michael, desperate for the cash, unwittingly agrees, until he finds out he's involved in a murder conspiracy. And that's pretty much all you need to know. Letting the movie play out the rest is part of the fun.

Here's what you need to know about the quality of the film-- it's not good. If you took Neeson out of the film, and you removed some of the fun action-y moments, and you broke it down to the sum of its script parts-- it's a really poorly written film. The reason it becomes so entertaining is that Neeson still has that charm and charisma and action-star oomph that elevates the movie from shite to enjoyable. It was a movie I could laugh at while still trying to figure out the puzzle in my head. And, I'll give the story this-- there were two little twists in the film. One of them I saw coming. There's some good hand-to-hand fights in the film, a couple of decent action sequences and all the scene-chewing Neeson you could want in a moviegoing experience. And, at the end of the day, that's all I really came to this movie to see anyway. Director Jaume Collet-Serra is on his FOURTH film with Neeson. He previously directed him in Unkown (forgettable), Non-Stop (forgettable), and Run All Night (forgettable, but really good). They know what kind of movie they want to make together. And the end result is usually the same-- you'll have a decent time watching it. You'll laugh at some of the terrible dialogue and some of the cheesy CGI and the preposterousness of the story in general... but you'll be entertained. Then, a week after seeing the movie, you'll forget it entirely. This is exactly what happens with The Commuter.

I had a lot of fun laughing at the good and the bad in the film. Patrick Wilson's character is basically there to give us past-history-Neeson exposition... like in a really obvious way. Vera Farmiga shows up for two minutes on screen, then disappears to be a voice on a phone. There are so many plot holes, you start to just let them happen without even questioning them. The train-derailment scene is so hilariously bad, you forget you're watching a movie in 2018. Sam Neill shows up for a couple of minutes for some reason. There's a fist-fight that's pretty much entirely CGI'd (I don't know, maybe Neeson was too old that day). And it's all really, really terrible-- but in a fun way. I had a really fun time watching this movie for a few reasons. One, I knew what to expect. I've seen ALL the Neeson action films and I know the level of cheese that will inevitably accompany them. Two, I'm a not-so-closeted Neeson fan and in my eyes, his acting choices can do no wrong. And three, I love bad action movies. If any of this fits in with your criteria of what you look for in a movie, then The Commuter is for you. If you've seen and liked ANY of Neeson's past action movies, you will like this one. If you're expecting a solid script, decent acting, a hefty amount of sharp action, and a story that makes sense for the majority of its runtime-- maybe skip this one for now. Or see it. Who cares. You're gonna forget what you watched shortly after, anyway.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

The 10 Best And Worst Movies of 2017

2017 was a surprisingly exceptional year for movies. Seriously. While trying to formulate my list, I found more great movies on the list than terrible ones. In fact, I even sought out terrible movies (ones I knew I could stomach like The Book of Henry - not like The Emoji Movie) and even they weren't that terrible. 2017 saw both an upswing on original movies (as 8 of the 10 best movies of the year are wholly original and not based on any previous source material) as well as higher quality movies that weren't original. Sequels got better. Big-budget popcorn movies got better. Movies, in general, this year were just significantly better. This means, of course, that 2018 is going to be a complete shit show, but let's just take a second to enjoy the great movies of 2017. There were, obviously, some bad movies. But even the bad ones weren't THAT bad. Again, I avoided a lot of movies that I knew were going to be Hell to suffer through (films like Rings, Fifty Shades Darker, Before I Fall, Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell, Boss Baby, King Arthur, Valerian, The Nut Job 2, American Assassin, Flatliners, A Bad Moms Christmas, Pitch Perfect 3, and The Greatest Showman...) so if you hated one of these films, just know they didn't make the WORST list because I didn't have a desire to subject my eyes to them. And unfortunately, due to one of our contributing writers giving Justice League a somewhat favorable review, I am unable to include that film on the list as well. Okay. That's done. You didn't read this part anyway. So, without further adieu... here are the best and worst films of 2017.

The TOP 10 BEST FILMS of 2017:

10. The Big Sick

The Big Sick brought back the rom-com genre from near extinction. People suddenly realized that all rom-coms had the exact same formula and they stopped spending money on them. This was both a good and a bad thing. Good because it essentially got McConaughey back to real acting and it saw the complete and utter disappearance of Kate Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Renee Zellweger. However, Kumail Nanjiani and his wife bring forth the true story of how they met and fell in love. It is a beautifully original film that has equal amounts of laughs and heart. Supporting actors Ray Romano and especially Holly Hunter (who could get a surprise Best Supporting Actress nom for her role) bring the movie full circle and make it not just one of the best movies of 2017, but one of the best rom-coms in recent memory.
Review HERE.

9. The Shape of Water


Whether or not you feel like the characters were fleshed out enough (I do), there's no denying that Guillermo Del Toro's latest film doesn't hypnotize you with it's beautiful imagery. When you watch this film, it's almost like you're watching it under water yourself. Sally Hawkins is astonishing as the mute protagonist and the way she can make an audience empathize with her without speaking a single word is just damn impressive. And at the end of the day, how can you make a movie about a woman who falls in love with a fish poignant? The only answer I have for that is - somehow The Shape of Water and Del Toro's brilliant directing found a way.
Review HERE.

8. Baby Driver


I wanted to put this movie higher. I'm talking top 3. And I sat and thought about it for awhile and had to knock it back five spots. I absolutely loved this movie and I think the way that Edgar Wright (one of the smartest Directors alive) timed the movie and the action sequences to the brilliant soundtrack... is one of the coolest things I've ever seen in a film. I love the action in the movie, I love the humor and I love most of the characters. But there's two reasons this movie gets knocked back down. First, and the most unfortunate - due to Kevin Spacey being an absolute fucking heinous excuse for a human being's actions, this movie will not be able to age into a "classic". It'll just be another Kevin Spacey movie we won't watch because we don't watch his movies anymore. The second reason is the casting of Ansel Elgort as the lead role. He's just not right for the role. He's emotionless, humorless, not a great actor, doesn't have the umph needed to excel in an Edgar Wright movie and was miscast. Other than that, I loved it. If you haven't seen it yet - WATCH IT. Then you can go back to referring to it as "that Kevin Spacey movie with the music" and sadly never watch it again.
Review HERE.

7. Lady Bird


Just as The Big Sick was the resurgence of the rom-com, Lady Bird is the resurgence of the coming-of-age movie. It's a genuinely funny, sweet, and honest look at a flawed teenager's perspective of life. It really reminded me a lot of last year's The Edge of Seventeen. Lady Bird is the tale of a young teenage girl going through young teenage girl struggles all the while trying to find herself. She puts more stock into her intelligence than is actually there (she's not good at math, but thinks she could be), she's attracted to douchebags and dates douchebags... because they're douchebags. She molds her personality to fit in with others hoping this is the one that sticks and this is the person she's destined to be. Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird's hard nosed mother is sensational. Look for her to get a definite Oscar nod.
Review HERE.

6. I, Tonya

This was kind of a surprising one. I did not expect a biopic about Tonya Harding's life to make it to the top ten list of the year. Yet, everything in the film seemed to come together to make something miraculous. First off, the film's tone recognizes just how ridiculous the stories of Harding's life genuinely are. It takes the whole truth-is-stranger-than-fiction idea, runs with it, and emphasizes the ridiculousness of Harding's life and runs with that. Second, it also realizes that there's a sad undercurrent behind all the crazy and without that, her life might not have been so ridiculous. It's full of lies and brutal honesty. It takes both sides of the coin and humanizes Tonya, empathizes with her, but still asks questions about how much she was involved with the Nancy Kerrigan "incident" as well as if this involvement really should've garnered a lifetime ban? Either way, it's a terribly entertaining film and Margot Robbie is AMAZING. Even if you don't care about Harding's life or story, you should still see this movie for Robbie's performance alone.
Review HERE.

5. It


Stephen King movies have been done wrong so many times, it's nice to see someone get one right for a change. We all remember the original IT movie from back in 1990. It doesn't actually hold up today and even though Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise is iconic... it's no longer scary, but silly. So, we get an updated version from a fearless writer and director. They don't try to water it down, but make a genuinely scary and disturbing R RATED horror movie with kids. This is like Stand By Me but with a killer clown. And everything about it is perfect, especially some random Skarsgard we've barely seen before who gives us a truly terrifying turn as Pennywise the clown. If Tim Curry's performance is akin to Nicholson's Joker, then Skarsgard is Ledger's Joker. The opening scene alone is worth the price of admission.  There hasn't been a horror movie or Stephen King adaptation in recent memory that his lived up to the quality of this film. I am very excited for part two.
Review HERE.

4. Coco

Oof, people! If you haven't seen Coco yet, get out there and see it. Pixar has always been the gold standard of animated movies and the last few they've done (not counting any Cars films) have been pretty great. I mean, Inside Out was a damn near perfect movie. I'm telling you this right now-- Coco is even better. Coco is one of the most gorgeously animated films ever and the story is something that will tug on all of our heartstrings in more than one way. Bring BOXES of tissues because this movie will make you lose your shit. I cried even harder the second time I saw it and I knew what was coming. Everything about this movie is beautiful from the animation to the writing to the characters. It's one of Pixar's finest achievements and absolutely deserving of being called one the top best movies of 2017. (Bonus: if you see it now, you don't have to watch the awful 43 hour long Frozen short the rest of us were subjected to!)
Review HERE.

3. Dunkirk


Man, when I saw Dunkirk for the first time I thought that was it. I thought I'd seen the best movie of the year, hands down. No other movie would get me the way Dunkirk did. However, being that it's number 3 on the list, it fell just two spots short. That doesn't mean that the movie isn't anything short of incredible. I loved the angle Christopher Nolan took with the movie. There's very limited dialogue, so it's basically like a silent film. The movie focuses solely on the tension of the moments. The film rises and rises and rises and rises with tension. And then you get a minute of relaxation. Then it rises and rises and rises with tension once more. It's one of the most tense I've ever been in a movie and I was still able to sit back and enjoy the gorgeous cinematography. Even though it didn't make number one on the list of best movies of 2017, I can tell you this without hyperbole - it's the best IMAX movie I've ever watched in my life.
Review HERE.

2. Get Out


Get Out is one of the single most brilliant movies I've ever watched. One thing I love about my favorite directors (Edgar Wright, Martin McDonagh, etc.) is they pack so much into their movies that with each viewing of each movie I pick up something new I hadn't noticed before. Who knew Get Out was going to be like that? I've watched it four times now and I'm still amazed at just how SMART this movie is. Everything is deliberate. Every line, every mannerism, every costume choice, everything is deliberate and it's brilliant. It's time appropriate and this horror movie gives a better social commentary that any other genre has been able to for a long, long time. Jordan Peele quietly snuck his way into theaters and gave us one of the most unexpectedly great and poignant movies of 2017. Keep in mind, this movie came out way back in February which is usually Hollywood's dumping ground for movies they know are shit, but have to release anyway. Look for Get Out to be the first horror movie since The Sixth Sense to get a Best Picture nomination, and the first one since Silence of the Lambs to actually have a chance of winning. Highly, highly recommend this film to all of you.
Review HERE.

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missiouri

Shocking, I know! It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to most of my readers that I would find Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missiouri to be the best movie of the year with how much I've been advocating for it the last month or so. But, this decision isn't one I took lightly (the Best and Worst movies of the year lists are my absolute favorite to write and one of the reasons I still have this blog). I saw this movie three times in theaters (one for each billboard! - okay, I'll stop). Each time I caught something new and got something different out of it. Director Martin McDonagh (who also helmed one of my favorite movies, In Bruges) has created his greatest work with this one. This movie is going to punch you in the face, kick you in the crotch, and stab you in the throat with all the emotions you're going to go through. This movie is so painful and the characters are all hurting so badly that you feel it inside yourself - yet, you're guffawing with laughter the entire time. Everyone in this movie deserves all the awards, but especially Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand. I'm torn now that I've seen I, Tonya because I thought Best Actress was McDormand all the way - and it still should be. However, if Margot Robbie takes it from her, it won't feel like anything was stolen. They both give awe-inspiring performances and McDormand OWNS this film. Without her, it would still be a good movie, but with her... it's the best it could ever be.
Review HERE.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:  Blade Runner 2049, The Disaster Artist, John Wick: Chapter 2, Kong: Skull Island, Logan, Logan Lucky, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman

The TOP 10 WORST FILMS of 2017:

10.  Underworld: Blood Wars


Hahahahahahahahahaha. I can't even with this movie. Seriously. While looking through my reviews and lists of movies that came out this year to find ten worst ones, I came across Underworld: Blood Wars. I remember seeing it. I remember thinking it was terrible. But I couldn't remember anything else. I had to re-read my own review to remind myself of what this movie was even about. I'm not kidding. These movies all run together to form some incoherent blob of vampires and leather. Even when I was looking for a picture to post above this, I don't even know if the picture above is even from this particular Underworld movie. Look, I dig Kate Beckinsale. I love the fact that a female-driven horror/action series has gone five movies deep. And I even think the first film in the franchise isn't terrible - but damn, man. It's gotten seriously hard to watch, especially when it hasn't even been a year since I've seen this monstrosity and I can't even remember any of what I watched.
Review HERE.

9. Snatched


Did we get tired of Amy Schumer already? Like, I'm genuinely asking! Because as a culture, we tend to make people humongous stars and then tire of them after only a short while. But, I don't feel like Schumer has been around THAT long, not long enough for us to get tired of her. She'd made a total of ONE movie, Trainwreck, and it was pretty good. She had a sketch comedy show that's pretty funny and a couple of stand up specials. So, why does it feel like we've been saturated by her Lena Dunham-style? Either way, it doesn't help that Snatched is a really bad movie. I like Schumer's brand of comedy and I thought the script would have to be decent enough to bring Goldie Hawn out of retirement, but I'm at a loss for both. Not only is the movie exceedingly unfunny, but damn, Goldie picked the wrong horse to ride out for a comeback.

8. Bright

I can't believe any of you are actually vouching for this movie. Are you wearing Will Smith beer goggles that change your perspective on something that smells as rotten as it looks just because Will Smith is attached? He's not perfect, guys. You don't have to give him the benefit of the doubt every time (need I remind everyone of After Earth). Smith with an Orc partner that's supposed to symbolize racism issues people of color are facing. The deus ex machina is so silly and contrived, I don't know how no one thought to make this a comedy. It's supposed to be edgy and dark and super gritty, yet you can't help but laugh every time someone with a super serious face mentions "the magic wand". Like, did you guys like Warcraft too? Thanks to everyone (and I guess I'm to blame here as well), we can already expect a sequel in the next couple of years. Maybe we can get someone with a brain to actually write something of a competent script because writer Max Landis (the fuckboi of all fuckbois - seriously he's the Martin Shkreli of screenwriters) didn't do his idea - or Smith - any justice here.
Review HERE.

7. Rough Night


You've already forgotten that this movie came out this year, haven't you? I actually really hate having to put this movie on this list because I really think there should be more female-driven ensemble comedies out there. But, they also have to be done right. Even though it wasn't my particular taste in humor, I can see where a movie like Girl's Trip has succeeded. Where Rough Night fails is when it comes to upping the stakes. They kill a male stripper, they're on drugs, they have to get rid of the body. There is so much room for R-rated comedy, but it wimps out. It doesn't go the full distance, doesn't commit to its plot enough for anyone to care, or at the very least laugh. Not even the wonderful Jillian Bell or Kate McKinnon could save this miscarriage of a movie.
Review HERE.

6. Alien: Covenant


I love all the shit-talking Ridley Scott has been doing lately about Blade Runner 2049 and Star Wars when he made one of the most crap ass movies of the year. Sure, it wasn't as bad and up its own ass as Prometheus was, but Alien: Covenant was a huge letdown. Once again, we've got a band of "scientists" who don't take any scientific approach to anything and just TOUCH everything in sight. We've got action sequences so frenetic it's difficult to tell what the hell is going on. And we've got an ending that goes more the Alien vs. Predator route than actual Aliens, I could've sworn they let Michael Bay direct it. You wanna know why Alien isn't as big as Star Wars, Ridley Scott? Because there hasn't been a good movie in the franchise since 1986!
Review HERE.

5. The Mummy


Tom Cruise, you pompous butthole. Do you not realize how much we, as a general public, LOVE the Brendan Frasier Mummy? I know this movie was going to happen with or without you, but dude, you didn't have to attach yourself to this overflowing septic tank of hackneyed bullshit. You also didn't have to do a straight-up remake. It could've been a modern-day extension of the already established Brendan Frasier Mummy series. Hey, assholes who thought you could do it better - here's an idea... if you're going to set up the fact that Russell Crowe is Dr. Jekyll... when you finally give us Mr. Hyde, try to give us something a little better than this cheap CGI'd nonsense:
Because fuck you! That's why! It's cheap. It's so unintentionally hilarious, but not in a good way, that you may single-handedly have killed the entire Dark Universe world (not that anyone was asking for one in the first place, but still....). And finally, don't spit in our faces when, by the end of the movie, all the shit that's happened gets reversed and everyone gets to live happily ever after except for Tom Cruise who gets to be the Mummy now. That's dumbass wrong.  
Review HERE.

 4. The Circle


Thankfully I didn't have to review this movie, my lovely fiancé bit that bullet for me. But according to her it was like having to watch Ann Coulter blowing chunks in a rest stop bathroom after binge eating clam chowder. According to her, The Circle is "a bloated piece of fiction from a 12th grade creative writing class whose author is a seventeen year old tech nerd who has never talked to a girl but insists on making one his main character." Emma Watson is apparently so bad in this movie that "you'd think drowning would be a relatively easy thing to pretend to do, but Emma Watson butchers it... God forbid one more white girl dies in a tragic midnight kayak accident." The film includes such wonderful moments as "Glenne Headley using a penis pump on Bill Paxton while he talks dirty" and "watching the late and great Bill Paxton shit himself." RIP. It's also sad to note that Tom Hanks appears to be a huge Dave Eggers fan (as I used to be -- though A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is still one of my all-time favorite books) being that he was in this film and A Hologram for the King, and neither received much great praise. Because Tom Hanks deserves better than this. Hell, the entire cast and everyone watching it deserves better than this movie. Except Ann Coulter. She deserves exactly this. She's shit.
Review HERE.

3. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and Underworld: Blood Wars are damn near indistinguishable to me. They both have been around for over 15 years and each one is shittier than the one before it. However, the reason Underworld sits comfortably at 10th place and Resident Evil is all the way down here at 3rd, is I watched this one more recently and can remember more of the unpleasantness this film had to offer. And let me tell you as far as quality goes - Underworld doesn't hold a nut squirt to Resident Evil. The franchise, which was supposed to take its characters and storylines from the video games has disregarded all of that, collecting all of the whitest, most hollow D-list actors they can find to spew one line of turd covered dialogue after another. The subtitle for this film is The Final Chapter, so tell me why in the actual shit you've got Milla Jovovich riding off toward the camera at the end literally saying "but my story isn't over..." Did you already forget what movie you were writing?! Trust me, compared to this movie, a posthumous Bill Paxton dick pump scene doesn't seem too bad now.

2. Geostorm


Stick me in a theater with a disaster movie any day, and I'll love you for it. Stick Gerard Butler in that movie? Hell yes! Even better. Oh, it's one of those movies that doesn't focus on just ONE natural disaster (like Twister or Volcano), but ALL the natural disasters (like 2012 or San Andreas)?! Count me in! Wait a second... you're telling me that Geostorm has all of these elements - elements that I love to watch - and it's one of the worst movies of the year? How is that possible?! Oh, the script doesn't make any sense? That's okay. It doesn't have to! I like watching the destruction anyway. Wait, in a near two-hour movie there's maybe two to three minutes total of destruction?! That's okay, as long as I can have fun with the characters. Oh, the characters aren't fun? They just spout random lines, create contrived relationships, act like they're performing for a scene in a Hallmark channel original film? Well... that's okay... at least Gerard Butler gets to battle some seriously destructive weather. HE'S IN A SPACE SHIP THE WHOLE TIME? HE DOES NOTHING?! So, let me get this straight? You've made a movie... a movie called GEOSTORM... about a computerized weather program that controls all the weather on Earth... someone has HACKED INTO IT CAUSING CRAZY NATURAL DISASTERS WORLDWIDE... and the only person who can save it is Gerard Butler and there's literally NO FUN INVOLVED WHATSOEVER?! I hate movies.
Review HERE.

1. Happy Death Day

If I had written the script for Happy Death Day exactly as it goes in the movie, here's how I would pitch it to movie studios - with complete and utter honesty:
Me: Hey, how you guys doin? Okay, I got an idea for a horror movie. So, stay with me here, but do you guys remember Groundhog Day? You do! Great! Yes, I love that movie too. Such a classic. Well, I'm here to bastardize the hell out of it! Anyway, we all know that when Bill Murray keeps killing himself, that was the best part of the movie. So I thought-- shit! Let's make a movie about that. Let's get a generic blonde college girl who is a huge bitch and have her get murdered every day. And she has to repeat this. She can try to escape her murder, but somehow the murderer finds her every time. The murderer will wear a mask so you can't see the face and it's a big twist ending - only it'll be a fucking stupid ending that makes no sense. Also, the killer will wear a scary mask. It'll look like... I don't know... a baby or something. Anyway, so the girl is an insufferable bitch, right? And the reason she's getting killed is BECAUSE she's a bitch.  Now, most movies would want her to learn her lesson and treat people better, right? Nah. Fuck that. That shit's tired. We want new. Let's just have her accidentally stumble upon who her killer is and NEVER CHANGE. So she kills her killer, doesn't learn a lesson, and gets to live! The tone will be something equivalent to watching Rush Limbaugh in a circle jerk with thirty clones of himself. I only need like two million dollars for this movie because effort costs money and I don't plan on any of that. Oh, and I know the deaths need to fun, but let's not spend any money on blood or creativity and when she's about to die, we'll just cut away so it can be PG-13 and kids who are still developing can be mentally stunted by the illogical dreck we'll force their eyes to witness. I know... it's brilliant, right? Where do I sign?
Review HERE.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS: A Cure For Wellness, Fist Fight, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Life, The Snowman


And finally, I'm having a difficult time figuring out if the movie mother! deserves to go on the WORST movies of the year list or on the BEST movies of the year list. Of all the movies that I saw in 2017, good and bad, this is the movie that has stuck with me the most. I don't know if it was brilliant or a filmmaking tragedy. I think it may fit perfectly on both (though I'm leaning toward the former). See you guys next year!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Insidious: The Last Key: Better Than The Last Two, Still Not Worthy Of The First

Insidious was a genuinely scary movie. It was a great original horror movie from one of my favorite horror directors, James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring). You know it was at least a decent movie because it has spawned three sequels (well, one sequel and two prequels). James Wan's movies are usually so good that they'll keep going with the movies for years after he's already left. There have been eight Saw movies since his first one. The Conjuring as a sequel, two Annabelle spinoffs, and The Nun spinoff due later this year. Insidious: The Last Key is a sequel to the third film, which is a prequel to the first film. Leigh Whannell, writer of the first film, returns to write the fourth entry to the franchise bringing in new director Adam Robitel (whose filmography is - a bad Netflix movie called The Haunting of Deborah Logan and the absolute worst Paranormal Activity sequel). And while The Last Key is a huge step above Insidious Chapter 3, a bad third act and scenes left on the cutting room floor make this film something lesser than it could have been.

Set after the events of Chapter 3, we find Elise Rainier back to her old Poltergeist-hunting tricks with partners Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specks (Whannell). She receives a call from a man asking her to help him out with a haunting in his house - which just so happens to be the house Elise grew up in. She travels to New Mexico and finds out that the spirits that haunted her as a child have remained in the house. We get a preview into her childhood, when she's led to the basement and inadvertently releases a demon and is accidentally involved in the death of her mother. Her father, a nonbeliever in ghosts who believes it best to beat these crazy ideas out of his young daughter, forces Elise to run away from home. Once in her home, the spirits return sending her messages to return to "the other side" and put a stop to it once and for all.

If this all feels like your standard Insidious fare, then you're mostly right. We get a new creepy looking demon, we get a haunted person/house, and we get a trip to The Further. But, what Whannell has done is added a few new creepy layers to this film. There's a side plot about women going missing and the demons we face who aren't dead, but living among us, etc. These are ideas that haven't exactly been explored before in the other films and it was an interesting addition to the franchise. Lin Shaye returns to portray Elise and she's generally been the strongest actor among the films. She's also the most fascinating to follow. It's nice that this film is a direct sequel to the prequel because the filmmakers don't have to provide any more contrivances to explain how she's still alive (her character dies at the end of the first movie... yet, four movies deep she's still here). Tucker and Specks do provide, as per usual, the comic relief of the movie. Most of their moments are brief and humorous - though there is a bit of creepiness in their fight to entice Elise's niece into a date... and there's a forced kiss at the end that, in today's climate, feels WAY out of place.

There's decent scares in this movie as well. Insidious has really been known as the king of the jump scares. If that's what you look for in a horror movie, then look no further because that part of the structure has not been deviated from. There are jump scares-aplently. However, they're getting a little more creative with the scares. Whannell and Robitel realize that audiences know now when to expect the scare. They've crafted a few scenes in the movie that actually surprise with the scare and I have to respect that a little bit, even if the jump scare is the laziest/easiest one. But what this chapter does better than the previous two is it also contains moments of true terror and suspense without resorting to the jump scare. Moments when the movie goes quiet, eerily silent and the tension could be cut with a knife are moments when the horror really shines through. If you're planning on seeing this movie, hopefully it's in a relatively empty theater because if you get even one douchebag in your screening who likes to giggle or talk, the moments will be ruined. Thankfully my (surprisingly full) theater didn't have any of these people. This Insidious has certainly matured with the scares and the terror.

But, where it's matured in creating fear, it's devolved in story. Especially in its third act. I went into the film with an open mind and for the first hour or so, I was sold. I liked the different route they were going with the movie, but when Elise enters The Further, all sense is lost. First of all, some of the most enticing moments from the trailer, when Elise enters the further... has been CUT FROM THE FILM. There were a couple of images from the trailer that stuck with me that I was seriously looking forward to. These moments included:

None of these scenes end up in the final cut of the movie and I can't for the life of me understand why. It's not like they needed to be cut for time, the movie is already a pretty short hour and forty minutes long. And if they were looking for time to cut, it should've been earlier in the movie. One of the first scenes with Elise, she gets a call from the guy living in her childhood home asking her to come help him out with the spirits. She says she's sorry, but she can't help. Then, the next scene, she talks to Tucker and Specks and says she feels like she has to go - even though there was no moment in between that convinced her to change her mind. After that, she tells Tucker and Specks that she has to do this alone. In the very next scene they show up with a motor home and claim, "well, you have to take us now!" - and they get to come! Again, no reason for her to change her mind. There's plenty of time for you to cut and add in these scenes that are visually frightening and add some extra ambiance and scares to an already creepy film. I mean, hell, even this scene didn't make the cut:

I'm not sure why a lot of the moments from the trailer - moments that convince us to actually come and see the movie - were cut from the film. But, I can tell you, the film suffers for it. Then, the very end of the film is just terrible. What was mostly screams and gasps from the large audience I saw the movie with turned into unintentional giggles and laughs - not something you want from the climax of a horror film. It's like Whannell didn't exactly know how to end his movie, so he decided to create new rules (that fill the rest of the story with major plot holes) and bring back a character (which makes no goddamn sense at all) to help create an ending that is so laughably bad I can't believe no one involved with the film had the sense to offer a different solution to the problem of the end. Then, there's a tie-in to the first film that's rushed, off putting, and feels like a scene added after the film had wrapped as pressure from the studio to force a tie-in. It's difficult to separate the ending of a film with the rest of the film because if the end leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, by proxy it leaves a bad taste in your mouth for the entirety of the film - and the first two acts aren't bad. I mean, they're better than literally anything in Chapter 3.

So, once again, I can recommend this film if you're looking for a throwaway horror movie that will cause the audience to jump, fling some popcorn in the air, and have a decent time. Just expect that the ending is going to fall well short of the rest of the movie and leave you somewhat unsatisfied. I was hoping this would be the end of the franchise, so that we can let it rest for good and get some new, fresh horror movies to give nineteen sequels to, but alas, there does seem like they opened the door to yet another potential spinoff. And I, like the Alzheimer's patient that I am... will probably see all of them.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Post: The Dream Team Takes The Spotlight

The Post is good. It is a very good movie. I stress good because it isn't great. It is good. It is a very good, serviceable movie that had it come out a few years ago would've taken all of the awards. But in a year that has had great movies... for a movie that is led by the all-time DREAM TEAM (Hanks... Streep... Spielberg)...  I need better than good. It's pretty much just a thing in America, whether you've actually spoken these words aloud or not, that Tom Hanks is the best actor on the planet - or at least the most watchable one. Meryl Streep is the best actress (or person in general) on the planet. And Spielberg, even though he's scuffled the last few years, is the best director (this will be debatable, I assume). Whatever the case, when you finally get these three together for a movie it should've been insanely great... but it's good. Forgive this analogy, but it's like how Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were the biggest and most bankable action stars of the 80s. Audiences always wanted them to get together in a movie to blow up the world. Then they finally did, decades later for Escape Plan. Which was meh. It should've been good. But it was meh. See? Same thing. No? Okay. Moving on.

The Post tells the story of the Washington Post's tough decision to print the Pentagon Papers after the New York Times had been legally barred in doing so, in fear of losing the business altogether and/or everyone going to jail. At one end you've got Ben Bradlee (Hanks), a headstrong, hard-nosed editor who's willing to risk everything (for him, it's not really that much and his wife reminds him of this) in order to get the papers out there to the people. On the other side of this is owner of the paper Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) who keeps getting conflicting advice from bankers, investors, political allies, and a personal advisor all telling her if she prints these papers... papers that prove the American government sent soldiers to Vietnam fully knowing they coudln't win... she would lose everything (and she had everything to lose).

The story, which mirrors a lot of what's going on in today's political climate, could not be more suitable to be filmed right now. All of the lies that are suppressed in our own government, the censoring of the press, hell even Nixon stating that the Washington Post is no longer allowed at the White House anymore has some severe connections with what's happening today and it's terrifying. And Nixon still knew half of what he was doing! I understand why Spielberg felt he had to make this film and get it to theaters this year. When there is a good story that has this many parallels with what's happening in our world now, it certainly falls under the category of must-see. And it's a very well directed film. Lately Spielberg's biopics, like Lincoln and Munich, have this tendency to start off very, very, very slowly. As Spielberg has matured as a Director, he's learned to take his time with things. And sometimes it's to a fault. Like the aforementioned films, The Post also begins quite slowly and it was difficult for me to feel hooked into the story for the first half hour or so. I felt like Spielberg was telling a story he assumed I already knew. I was lost. I was a little bored. But then... everything started falling into place. You could feel the entire audience, our packed theater, put everything together at once and we were all on board. Where there were scattered chuckles early on, there were full on harmonious laughs after. Once we finally understood the route of the film, it was smooth sailing from there.

Meryl Streep is once again, astonishing. And I really like what writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer did with her character. In a year of strong female characters, we don't want to see Streep take a back seat and play someone with less ladyballs. She starts out meek. She starts out in a newspaper business... left to her by her late husband... a business that's nearly entirely "a man's world" and she's meek. She can't speak up at board meetings. When three or four men are talking at her, she barely musters a sound. But when she finds the strength to stand up for her own paper, she starts to find the strength to stand up for herself and there really is a true evolution to her character that Streep seriously owns. This may not be the year for Streep to win the gold, but I'll be shocked if she's not nominated yet again. The film is full of fine performances. Hanks is great as per usual (though it is kinda jarring watching Hanks as a dick and not a fatherly figure you want to hug). Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Jesse Plemmons, Sarah Paulson (severely underused but still great), Alison Brie, and hell, even Gabe from The Office (Zach Woods) shows up for a brief moment.

The Post is a nice companion piece to Spotlight. They both deal with the suspense of investigative journalism, but I'm here to tell you, dear folks, that Spotlight did it a little better. And that might be one of the reasons I thought The Post was just good. It's the second movie in this line of moviemaking. Had it been the first, who knows? But Spotlight wasn't just good, it was great. Like I said, it starts off a little bit too slowly to hook the audience in right away. And I felt like a lot of the dialogue was pretty on the nose. There were moments where a concept was thrown around in a conversation of experts, and I as an audience member would have to piece together the conversation-puzzle to determine what exactly they're saying. Then, when I'd finally get it, they'd stop and spell it out for the audience to understand. It happens several times and it was cringe-worthy every time. Though I may be the only one to have felt this way as I overheard a hoity-toity, old-man, LA-hipster walk out of the Burbank theater behind me exclaiming to his just-as-shitty female companion, "what a wonderful screenplay! Marvelous!" (Seriously, these are his exact words.)

But The Post is an important movie. And hopefully people will actually learn something. Most of the time we use the press for good (some for evil), but it is a necessary evil. I personally didn't feel like the movie had a political slant or bias - even though it is not-so-subtly making connections from the events in the 70s to our current presidential administration, but perhaps I'm also blinded by that too. The film has a very respectable 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. When a film scores this high, I like to go through and read some of the rotten reviews. I'm going to end this with an direct excerpt from my favorite negative review. It's from a SUPER right-wing newspaper from Toluca Lake called the Tolucan Times. The reviewer is Tony Medley. And he had this review warning to provide to his readers: "The Hollywood left is still taking its marching orders from Lenin's directive to use art as a weapon as Spielberg, Streep, and Hanks try to bolster their political aims with this terminally boring antidote to insomnia." You're welcome.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

I, Tonya: The Story Of A Trailer-Trash Ice Princess

About a year ago, I had a podcast with a buddy of mine. This podcast featured us taking historical events or notorious peoples and re-enacting their stories as they "actually happened". The way we'd prepare for these podcasts is we'd do a bit of research on the event or person, make an outline of the important moments we needed to get through in the podcast and then improvise the rest. Well, our podcast, which we found particularly hilarious, had only about eight total fans, so it kind of fizzled and died. However, one of the last episodes we did was about Tonya Harding. It was one of my personal favorite episodes because most of the comedy came from the actual situation itself. The only added touch were the ridiculous voices and added character traits we added to the people involved (the best episodes were ones that were outrageous already before we injected our own brand of comedy). After doing research on Tonya Harding, I basically came to the conclusion that she was just a nut. After the whole "Nancy Kerrigan incident", she went on to become a female boxer, sell a sex tape, and attempt to beat the land speed record in a car all to make money. We presented her as this nut-job who could hardly form a sentence, sounded constantly intoxicated, and could not wrap her head around any of these career choices being "crazy". I don't often apologize for my comedy. I believe that if you're not just picking on one type of person, or saying inflammatory shit for the sake of hurting others, all in comedy is fair game. But, after watching I, Tonya I actually do feel pretty terrible about it now. I guess the silver lining here is that it was heard by only, like, four people so it didn't do much damage.

I, Tonya is a truly heartbreaking story told in a very unique and, well... funny way. After seeing the film I had no idea how little I knew about Harding's actual skating career. I had no idea that she (portrayed by Margot Robbie) was the first, and only, American to perform a triple axle. I had no idea that because she was too poor to afford a "proper" costume, she was never given fair treatment by judges. I had no idea that she never received a medal at the Olympics. You hear the name, associate it with "the incident", but just assume she was a big name beforehand because she was an Olympic medalist. She came in fourth. This is only part of what the movie shows. It also shows the countless amounts of abuse thrown at Harding throughout her lifetime. Whether it was the mental abuse given by her mother (Allison Janney), which also turned into physical abuse, or the serious physical abuse given to her by her boyfriend turned husband Jeff (Sebastian Stan). Tonya Harding had one of the hardest lives I think a professional athlete could come from. And for her to rise up and achieve what she achieved is pretty remarkable in itself. The film doesn't hold back from this either. Tonya is belittled by her mother, who I'm pretty certain is physically incapable of cracking a smile. Then, she goes home to her husband and she is thrown around the apartment, smacked in the face, punched, slammed into walls and mirrors, has a gun pulled on her, you name it. This is all spliced between interviews with everyone involved twenty years later (where different perspectives offer different takes on the events - however, it's easy to discern who the unreliable storytellers are).

Director Craig Gillespie has crafted a very unique biopic. We've been given the bio formula umpteen times and we essentially know how they go. Show the childhood, show the emotional toll on said important person, show how they rise above, show how they backslide, show how they have serious faults, show how they overcome said faults, show how they have succeeded. The end. What we've been given is a nice spin on convention here and shown a movie that incorporates bias and moments that may or may not have happened and exaggerations and truth all in the same movie. We'll get a scene and either cut to an interview where someone claims "that never really happened", or in the middle of the scene, they'll break the fourth wall and give us some information. Most of it is played for laughs, but the laughs are juxtaposed by the horror happening on screen. For example, Harding's bodyguard, a human lump by the name of Shawn is portrayed as a goofy idiot who lives with his mother. And even though he is, in fact, a goofy idiot (with less than four brain cells still active) who lives with his mom... he's a main contributor in the whole Nancy Kerrigan debacle which directly contributes to the ruining of Tonya Harding's life. And it's BECAUSE he's this goofy idiot that it manages to work out that way. So while you're laughing along with the ridiculous situations happening, you're crying a little bit inside knowing how much it is affecting this person who has already tried several times to escape a life of abuse and self-destruction. It's a fantastic contrast in a fantastic movie.

Everyone is great in the film, but the two who stand out are Janney and especially Robbie. Allison Janney is one of the greatest worst mothers in the history of cinema. The stuff that comes out of her mouth is so vulgar and hateful, you have to laugh at it from an outsider's perspective. But the icyness of her character, especially as a mother to someone who truly needs an ally, it's downright tragic. There are moments when you expect her to break from her character and give us a smile and a hug, but it never happens. She's cold and domineering and could've easily been a parent-biopic-trope, but somehow transcends convention due to good writing and a great performance. As far as Robbie is concerned, for the last few months I have been advocating for Frances McDormand to get the Best Actress Oscar for Three Billboards, however Robbie may have won me over. There's already stiff competition this year in the Best Actress category with McDormand, Sally Hawkins, Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Judi Dench and possibly Jessica Chastain, but Robbie gives such a terrific turn as Harding, that she's going to give all these women a run for their money. She's a firecracker in this film and gives a portrayal stronger than would normally be expected for a film about Tonya Harding. At first, she's a self-proclaimed redneck who, on the surface, (and if you've done basic research on her history) appears to be a little nuts. However, due to a life of constant abuse and being given an unfair disadvantage in her skating career, you start to realize that even though a lot of her behavior is self-destroying, it's at the very least understandable. Robbie does something with Harding I didn't think possible-- she creates empathy. And she knocks it out of the park. The movie is terrific, but it wouldn't have been as strong without Robbie at the forefront.

I, Tonya has somewhat of a sick sense of humor about its subject matter, considering how dark everything actually is. And it's truly sad everything that culminates around the events leading to the outcome of Harding's life, but Gillespie and company do honor Harding and give her a fair shot at explaining her role in everything. And while it appears that she isn't as much to blame as we all remember her being, she's still culpable. The film poses the question, though, of whether her culpability should've really led to a lifetime ban for a person without an education, without any other skill set other than skating. By the end of the film, you're not laughing like you once were, but feeling for Tonya and resenting the fact you've harbored unfounded notions about her for many years. It's truly a great biopic and one of the best movies of the year.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Downsizing: A Decent Misfire

My guess right now is that most of you don't really care to see Downsizing. And those that do are probably not really going to like it because what it looks like in the trailer versus what's actually presented to you on screen are pretty different. This isn't your fault. And it's also not the trailer's fault (for once) for misleading you to think that Downsizing is a quirky little comedy about Matt Damon shrinking himself to five inches. The movie actually begins this way. The first forty-five minutes or so is most everything you see in the trailer with all the quirks of people shrinking, or downsizing, themselves and living in a miniature world. Then the script goes... other places. It never really nails down a tone. It never really has any sense of direction. And it just kind of meanders along with a message that's paper-thin. For the caliber of writer/director Alexander Payne is (The Descendants, Nebraska, Sideways, About Schmidt, Election), this film was certainly a misfire. However, if you're able to ignore the faults of the film, there's an entertaining story in there somewhere. It's decent to say the most, but it's never really going to get over the hump of its shortcomings.

Matt Damon is Paul. He's married to Audrey (Kristin Wiig). They have a decent life, but have always wanted more. Some Swedish scientists have figured out a way to cease the world's waste problem and overpopulation - by shrinking man down to 5 inches. The reason downsizing is appealing to people is that money now goes a lot further than in the normal world. A person with $100,000 in equity is now a multi-millionaire, which is the case for Paul and Audrey. They decide to have the procedure done. Paul gets downsized. Audrey chickens out and divorces Paul. Paul moves to the little town of Leisureland. He's mostly depressed, regretting the decision to downsize, due mostly to the fact that he's all alone. He mingles with an old high school friend (Jason Sudekis) and his quirky, eccentric Serbian upstairs neighbor (Christoph Waltz), but he never really finds true happiness until he meets Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a downsized Vietnamese refugee with her own cleaning business. She and Paul form a bond and she teaches him that no matter where you go, no matter how big or how small you are, people are still going to be marginalized and if you can be a part of the solution instead of the problem, then the world will be that much better of a place.

It sounds kind of hokey... and it is, but not as bad as I'm making it sound. What is bad is that the film never really finds its course. It jumps all over the place never really settling for one storyline or one tone. It also wastes some really good comedic talent. Kristen Wiig is really only in the beginning, never given much to do, and not seen again after Damon's downsized. During a presentation at Leisureland to convince prospective clients to downsize, Neil Patrick Harris and Laura Dern both make cameos that don't really do much in the way of progress the story... or make you laugh. Jason Sudekis shows up in a couple of scenes and then isn't mentioned again, leaving no real mark on the movie. The film moves so quickly from one sub-plot to the other, it's like a bunch of mini-movies about downsizing spliced together to form one big one. The best parts of the film are with Christoph Waltz's character Dusan, and with Ngoc. Dusan brings some levity and quirk to the film and actually drives the narrative, though is still very much a one-dimensional character. This is another problem the film has... there's not much depth to anyone. Except Ngoc.

Hong Chau is an actress I've never seen in a movie before, but I hope to see a lot more often. She brings such fun and life to the script. In the scenes that are the most preachy and in-your-face with its message, she makes it all worthwhile. For one, she's adorable, she's funny, and she's got layers to her character that actually serve the story and works as the perfect foil for Damon's character Paul (unfortunately, it's also a woman of a different ethnicity teaches the white guy about life type of relationship for awhile, but what can ya do?). She made the movie worthwhile for me and was able to distract me from the constant change of pace the movie was putting me through. She makes this misfire mostly decent.

The first half of Downsizing is really just a long set-up to the question: would you do it? You know like those games you play with others out of boredom (like if you had to live without an arm or without a leg... which one would you pick?). It presents the question-- if human beings could be shrunk to 5 inches and your little bit of money could be converted into a lot of money... would you do it? It's an interesting question and I liked the way Payne explored both sides of the coin, the pros and the cons. However, after this question has been thoroughly examined, he switches to social commentary in a somewhat satirical manner, though it's not all that funny. The back half of the film doesn't even really use the novelty of the film. You forget that all these people are 5 inches tall because they're not set against anything normal-sized anymore and you lose the main reason people are seeing your film.

It's a strange little movie that's neither funny, nor all that dramatic. I wouldn't even really know what genre to classify the movie in. Matt Damon hasn't had a great year at the box office and Downsizing (and his dipshit comments about women and what's happening in Hollywood) aren't going to help much either. I believe, however, that if you know what to expect out of Downsizing, it's not going to seem as misguided as it might if you didn't already know what to expect. It's one of Alexander Payne's weakest films, but when you have a great director at your helm, even their weakest work is better than a lot of other lesser director's strongest work.


All The Money In The World: The Close Examination Of A Total Dickbag

It's actually been a few days since I've seen All the Money in the World and I'm having a tough time figuring out what to say about the movie. Normally when I see a film, I'll have an opinion of it and an idea of a letter grade I'm going to give it as soon as the movie is over. I usually let this opinion gestate for a few hours or even up to a day to let everything sink in and formulate what I want to write about the film. But, I've been thinking about All the Money in the World for a few days now and I'm not entirely sure what to say about the movie. Here's part of the reason, I think-- back when the first trailer dropped a few months ago, when Kevin Spacey was the headliner of the film... I didn't really care much about seeing it. The trailer didn't exactly pique my interest and the only reason I'd entertain the notion of seeing the film was because I liked Kevin Spacey. Then all the Spacey shit hit the fan. And all I could think about was-- damn... bad timing. That movie's gonna bomb (well that and seriously FUCK Kevin Spacey). Then Ridley Scott nutted up and RE-SHOT Spacey's entire role with Christopher Plummer just a month before it was to hit theaters... and the dude didn't even change the release date. Now the movie had my attention... but still not because of the story.

The story is one that, even after seeing it, doesn't really seem like good movie fodder. It's a pretty crazy story, but not one that necessarily translates into Hollywood film. I would've liked to have seen the documentary of this story instead of a re-imagining with a lot of liberties taken. It's also not a story that needs two plus hours to tell, either. J. Paul Getty (Plummer), in 1973, was the richest man in the entire world. So, some Italian mafia members kidnap Getty's grandson John. They call his mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) and inform her that they're holding him for a 17 million dollar ransom. Gail, who has been divorced out of the Getty family, is broke. When she goes to Getty Sr. to ask him for the money, he declines. He refuses to even entertain the notion of parting with any part of his fortune to bring back his (favorite) grandson. And the shitbag does this publicly. He goes on record... on the news... to say he's not paying a dime. Enter fictional character Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), an ex CIA agent and head of Getty's security. He's tasked, by Getty, to uncover who the kidnappers are and to [possibly - and inexpensively] get the kid home. The rest of the film deals with the media circus surrounding the high profile kidnapping, Chase keeping Gail out of the public eye, negotiating with the kidnappers, reasoning with Getty, and the torture of the poor 16-year-old boy.

The reason I say this doesn't make a great movie is because I'm more interested in the facts of the case and the study of the man, J. Paul Getty. With the introduction of fictional elements, including an entire character who is integral to the story, it's hard to discern what actually happened and what has been invented for a stimulating narrative. Chase effectively negotiates with the kidnappers for months and gets the ransom down from 17 mill to 4 million. But Chase isn't real. So how did this happen? And because most of the film focuses on Gail's struggles, we don't get much insight into the man who values money over everything else in existence. A documentary on this subject would've, to me, been a much more fascinating way of getting the story. 

The movie does make the story interesting, however. I'm just not sure I cared enough throughout. There were moments when my mouth was agape and I couldn't believe what I was watching (these moments usually featured Getty). But there were other moments where I was either questioning if this really happened or checking my phone to see how much longer the movie was. A lot of the movie focuses on young John. He's somewhat befriended by one of the kidnappers, which makes for an interesting dynamic, but then there are quite a few scenes where he's just getting straight up tortured and while it adds to the emotional resonance of the film, it just seemed unnecessary. But it's J. Paul Getty who intrigues most. It's fascinating watching this man and trying to figure out what makes him tick and if he's even got a soul. He refuses to hand over a cent of his fortune, yet we'll see him drop 1.5 million dollars on a piece of art... after his grandson has been kidnapped. He'll go on a diatribe about how family is important and how John is his favorite and how he wanted to hand over everything to him... yet is willing to let the kid die before opening his checkbook. It's also heartbreaking to watch how he treats Gail. She's no longer a Getty because J. Paul's son (Gail's ex) is a hardcore alcoholic/drug addict who can't even speak in full sentences anymore. But, since she decided to divorce him, he won't give her the time of day. The exploration into the psyche of this dickbag of a human being is gripping. This is yet another reason I would've loved to seen the documentary of this story, to get MORE out of what the real motivations were and backstory behind this dude. 

So, how does Plummer stack up after only getting a week to prepare for the role and a month to shoot 22 scenes? Answer: he's obviously great. I think the dude should get an Oscar nom just for being in his late 80s and making it look like he's been prepping for the role for years. It does help that he was the first choice for the role before the studio forced Ridley Scott's hand into casting someone more bankable like Spacey. But he brings a certain humanity to the role, a certain charm that makes for an even more enthralling villain. Michelle Williams is also fantastic. Gail is a very strong-willed mother and a very tough character, who gets grief from the press that she doesn't appear more upset outwardly that her son has been kidnapped, even though we all know she's dying inside, which only exacerbates the problems in her life. The way she deals with Getty and the press and the situation in general is very internal, meaning she doesn't wear her emotions on her sleeve. However, she's still able to present these feelings subtly to the viewer so we can feel this struggle as well. It's a difficult role and Williams nails it. I also really loved the dialect she brings to her character's manner of speaking. It's truly mid-west 50s housewife speak (you know... like "Hey, Operator. Gimme Klondike-547 on the double!"). It works for the character. Whalberg is even impressive. Not like in a give-this-guy-an-Oscar kinda way, but more in a hey-Whalberg-didn't-Whalberg-it-up kinda way. 

I don't know. A lot of the movie works, but I still don't know if I really cared. I won't spoil it for you here, but after you've seen the movie, look up the story and read what happens years after the events of the kidnapping. After reading that, I really just don't know if the movie itself was necessary. The content of the movie is nothing extremely gripping or powerful and I figure I'm probably going to forget most of it after awhile, but it's something to watch. The theaters are still packed with great movies right now that I'd recommend over this one, but if you find yourself buying a ticket for it, I'd say you're not really wasting your money. That is unless they actually do a documentary. Then I'd say wait for that.