Let the year begin with a BANG! Happy New Year 2016, children of the corn! Whilst taking the last two weeks off, I have been perusing last year’s selection of movie releases and, as of late, the constant barrage of critics and nominations being handed out left and right. Interesting to say the least, though perhaps not as engaging as some of the films from the two previous years. Anyway, more to come on that in upcoming editions. Skipping the holidays and things of that nature, I must mention a couple of my fave flicks of the last part of the year before we jump into this past weekend’s newbies.
First up is The Walk (El Desafio), the latest entry in Robert Zemeckis’ storied and varied career. But let’s talk about the protag at the heart of this film. When I look back at the start of career of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I am consistently pleased and stoked by the direction his choices have led him. After commencing in TV (Third Rock…, anybody?) and teen hit flick 10 Things I hate About You, he quit acting to pursue studies in history and lit and French poetry at Columbia University School before returning to acting with a conscious decision to 'only make good films'. He continues that strident charge with this film, playing Philippe Petit, the (in)famous trapeze walker who scaled the distance and height of the World Trade Centre towers. The story is told with such precise attention to detail (save Levitt’s obvious though well-done-for-an-American attempt at feigning a French accent) that even despite minor infractions, the viewer is left glued and at times petrified and mesmerised at what they are seeing, all at once. Perhaps a bit flippant with history, but this film finally gives Zemeckis a non-cartoon winner. ###-1/2
News Flash! Trainspotting 2 is likely going to happen if the powers that be have anything to do with it, namely the Oscar/BAFTA/Golden Globe-winning director Danny Boyle. Now, tackling the topic of his latest film is tricky because it’s something that has been done before recently and deals with a man whose bravado inspired and stunned generations of people and many more to come. His name was Steve Jobs. Not so long ago, we received the first Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher, which began and ended in 2001 with the mention of the iPod. For some reason, this new Danny Boyle version starring Michael Fassbender as Jobs and Kate Winslet as his right-hand woman/confidante in biz Joanna Hoffman, does the same. At the final scene, Fassbender tells his on-screen daughter that he is going to put several hundred songs into one small device so as to avoid seeing her with a Walkman. What I wonder is why both movies chose not to focus on the time period of 2000 until his death. That was when the dot-com explosion and downfall and Apple rise occurred! Dealing with the subject matter, it goes without saying that the main actors here have done their research, and as always, they have executed their roles exceptionally well, especially Fassbender who despite not fully resembling the Jobs we knew and love-hated, personifies him to a T. Insane! Boyle shows us a driven, non-empathetic, skilled creator and businessman who is also an oft-crappy, neglectful father and a grudge bearer. It matters not…the film gives us a peek into the heart and soul of a genius and the twisted world he created. Spectacular—should be followed by a sequel that starts in 2000 and covers up until Job’s death. ###-1/2
It is apparent that Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper enjoy working together and as they are muses for each other, no one can fault them for that. The story of Joy basically documents the life of Joy Mangano, a struggling Long Island mom who secured her place in Home Shop TV by being a lead saleswoman and inventor for the formerly QVC Network. The film very handily plays on the simple things that make any family, marriage and relationship suffer in some way or another. While I watched the film, it was rather tough not to feel sheer empathy for Lawrence’s character, Joy, based 'loosely' on the aforementioned Mangano, whose character-driven persona is easily captured by Lawrence. She kills the essence of this Italo-American housewife and inventor who revolutionised the way many people buy things. What she also takes into account is the fact that 'there are others struggling far worse than this', all over the city, country, state and world, and with all that in mind, I have to say that despite the formulaic Hollywood shtick that certainly exists in the film, it is so obvious to take notice of Lawrence's easy-peasy acting style where pretty much any role she touches, she scores! In this film, she plays a woman well older than her actual, physical age (she was 24 when she filmed this!) and yet one never doubts that she's a woman well past 30-35. Acting accolades may be deserving here, despite mixed audience/critics reactions. ###
Tom Hardy got into some hot water recently for his hard stance during interviews and being rather headstrong to boot. He was doing recent press for his new film now at bat called Legend, and perhaps he was just playing along with his character in this latest thriller/mafia tale by director Brian Helgeland. The film tells the story, and quite entertainingly I might add, of the Kray twins, notorious crime kingpin brothers and club owners in swinging, Sixties London. Hardy plays twins Reggie and Ronald Kray to such distinct precision, it's obvious he studied his very defined roles expertly, and that really makes up a large part of the enticement here. Another highlight was Australian actress Emily Browning as the faithful and beleaguered Frances, one-time bride of Reggie. Her soulful eyes reveal an actress now fully coming into her own after some bright attempts in films like Lemony Snicket and indie faves Sucker Punch and Sleeping Beauty. The film falls into typical mafia cliches but manages to hold onto the fascinating by documenting the brothers' frantic world amidst the big life and Scotland Yard investigations in a concise, fluid way. Nicely done if a bit expected. ###
Opening in wide release this past Friday came the latest film by the Governator, a dark flick called Maggie, which in all essence is a strange zombie tale and certainly something very different from what we’ve ever seen Ahnuld doing in cinema before now. The film tells the story of a (here we go!) dystopian US, where a zombie pandemic just barely under control has hit the Mid-West, and it is here where we find Maggie (portrayed by Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin) who has been bitten and will slowly start experiencing 'The Turn'. Arnold plays her father, and it is the first time that I have ever felt him push himself as an actor. The film’s concept as a zombie film is not really warranted (when compared with other zombie fest films) so much as it’s a look at an outbreak and family recovery. It’s a drama, and it’s scary to see Schwarzenegger so believable. Bleak, yes but interesting for this type of film. Happy to have seen it. ###
And it's Golden Globe time, so let's see what the foreign press has decided is worthy this year...especially when a Ridley Scott thriller gets nominated for Best Comedy/Musical....we'll most definitely discuss this next Friday, dears as we are back on full-time mode in 2016! See you in a few!