“When I Lost Her, I Lost Sight Of Any Landmark That Might Have Led Me Someplace Happier…”
Around twenty minutes into The Goldfinch, Jeffrey Wright’s overly mawkish and completely unbelievable side character says something along the lines of “it’s a reconstruction, and not a very good one,” and if ever there was a key segment of dialogue to accurately summarise a movie as whole, that one is pretty much bang on the money in the case of The Goldfinch. Directed by John Crowley, whose previous work in the form of the absolutely superb Brooklyn confirms he is a filmmaker who understands when a film is undoubtedly working or not, The Goldfinch is a bloated, overlong and thoroughly unengaging adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning 2013 novel of the same name by American author, Donna Tartt, a two and a half hour marathon of a movie which sacrifices an interesting narrative for dull, hateful characters and a sanctimonious, chin-wagging sensibility which assumes all audience members are the type of people who could spend all day finding interest in the texture of a painted wall instead of having, you know, a bit of fun.
Told in a narrative structure akin to that of an over-exuberant art spinner, Crowley’s movie predominantly focuses on the life of Theodore “Theo” Decker, whose witnessing of a museum bombing and the subsequent death of his angelic-esque mother results in him stealing the titular famous painting from within the rubble of the attack and then spending the majority of his young life moaning about past life choices and feeling up furniture in order to impress the love of his life. With the younger form of Decker being portrayed by Oakes Fegley of Pete’s Dragon fame, the first eighty minutes or so sees Decker move from family to family and location to location without any real sense of dramatic point, with the plot strangely content with introducing boring character after boring character, each of whom feel the need to talk about some of the most face-palming waffle I have ever had the displeasure of hearing within the confines of a cinema without any purpose whatsoever. With the elder side of Decker being handled by Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver), the movie then concludes with a pondering, self-absorbed level of crass melodrama which makes Hollyoaks look like a masterpiece in understatement, and even with the likes of Radiohead on the soundtrack not once, but twice, The Goldfinch is the type of holier than thou cinematic garbage which made me want to leave five minutes in, but like the good old fashioned cinephile I am, I withstood the wave and took comfort in the safe knowledge that nothing this year can be as skull-crushingly dull as Crowley’s latest.
Overall Score: 2/10
“My Work Concerns A Particular Type Of Delusion Of Grandeur. I Specialize In Those Individuals Who Believe They Are Superheroes…”
So where do we being with Glass? Let’s begin at the end of the twentieth century in which an up and coming M. Night Shyamalan blew critics and audiences away with The Sixth Sense, a psychological chiller which to this day remains one of the go-to texts for jaw-dropping, I-never-saw-that-coming twists, and a movie which solidified Shyamalan a pathway in Hollywood forevermore to make pretty much whatever he wanted. Following on from The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable continued the interesting pathway the Indian-born filmmaker had already set sail for, introducing both Bruce Willis’ (Die Hard) David Dunn, the football player turned security guard with a miraculous ability to see criminal acts alongside an abnormal level of strength, and Samuel L. Jackson’s (Pulp Fiction) Elijah Price/Mr. Glass, who during the climactic twist of the movie is revealed to be the overarching villain with an unhealthy obsession with comic book heroes. From Unbreakable onwards, Shyamalan tortured audiences with wave after wave of downright insulting big-screen releases, only to fully redeem himself in 2017 with Split, the James McAvoy led B-movie horror of which Shyamalan’s latest, Glass, acts as a direct sequel. Confusing a huge majority of audiences who if unaware of the events of Unbreakable, questioned in tandem during the post-credit scene of Split , “why the hell is Bruce Willis in a diner?” Glass attempts to band together both Split and Unbreakable in an Avengers style team-up, offering up a confusing and sanctimonious muddle of tonal waverings whilst featuring some of the most laugh-out-loud moments of unintentional hilarity I have seen in years.
Let’s face it, on a fundamental level, Glass really doesn’t need to exist in any form whatsoever, with the gap between Unbreakable and Split so vast in terms of time that the decision to stitch those two films together in the first place ultimately lessens both works as a whole, with the individual picture much better as a single story rather than being the victim of utmost contrivance by slamming them altogether as trilogy. With Glass therefore, audiences heading in without previously seeing either Unbreakable or Split will have no idea whatsoever going in, a perfectly reasonable notion considering the franchise dependant world we are currently in, however with gargantuan levels of teeth grinding exposition, Glass doesn’t even attempt at playing it low-key in terms of storytelling ability and instead goes straight to the George Lucas handbook by screaming every single minor detail in the loudest way possible. I mean come on, Glass is the type of film which has incidental characters literally spell out what is happening even when the audience is already a million steps ahead. Now I’m all for silly movies, I mean Skyscraper was stupid but managed to pass the time rather nicely, yet as with anything stamped with Shyamalan’s name on, there seems to be a overriding sense of sanctimony creeping over it, and when the creator believes his work to be of such great importance, the weaknesses become more obvious and the grating, angry emotions begin to fester, particularly in regards to a movie which has such gaping plot holes, I literally just began to laugh at how amateurish the storytelling was out loud in a cinema full of paying customers. With no substance and a reliance on dull, uninteresting levels of wacky supposed “style”, Shyamalan returns to the cinematic black hole his career once fell into, with Glass a movie which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and annoyingly degrades the watchability factor of two of his three best movies. Oh well, at least we still can watch The Sixth Sense again without puking.
Overall Score: 3/10
“We Will Not Be The Prime Suspects…”
With Steven Soderbergh’s ice-cool Oceans Eleven back at the start of the twentieth a contemporary remake of the 1960 Rat Pack-led movie of the same name which managed to not only work exceptionally well to both critics and audiences alike, but managed to create a further two big-screen releases with its’ staggeringly star-studded cast, the release of Ocean’s 8 follows the blueprint of 2016’s Ghostbusters by being a franchise spin-off/remake which modifies the primary gender of the film’s preceding it from predominantly male to female. With the notion of gender-modification on-screen something of which I’m entirely supportive of, with the film industry still way behind in terms of equal pay and equal opportunities even in a post-Weinstein cinematic era, the real question remains whether the final product is good enough to warrant a continuation of the franchise in the first place, and with a stellar, starry cast, an abundance of flashy style and some interesting plot developments, Ocean’s 8 is an enjoyable caper-based romp, one which although sacrifices deep characterisation in favour of simply getting on with the job at hand, is a more than capable treading of old ground which harmlessly passes the time but still does not hit the gold standard of the original remake which still remains the best in the franchise thus far.
Directed by Gary Ross of The Hunger Games fame, Ocean’s 8 follows Sandra Bullock’s (Gravity) Debbie Ocean, the freshly released ex-con whose family tree burdens her with a pre-conception of her immediate return to crime as soon as she gets back on her feet in the outside world. Surprise, surprise therefore that with the help of a merry band of fellow criminals including Cate Blanchett’s (Thor: Ragnarok) leather jacket wearing Lou and Sarah Paulson’s (The Post) suburban housewife turned profiteer, Tammy, Ocean immediately plans to steal a staggeringly expensive necklace from Anne Hathaway’s (Interstellar) air-headed Daphne Kluger during the annual star-studded Met Gala. With a silly, plot-hole ridden screenplay, one which disregards any meaningful character backstory whatsoever and one which leans too heavily on a reliance that the audience will agree to leave their brain at the door, Ocean’s 8 is the cinematic equivalent of an episode of Hustle, a sometimes sharp, quip laden flash-a-thon which is bolstered by a fundamentally appealing cast who simply are there to get the job done and have fun whilst doing it, and whether or not you can bypass the sheer stupidity of the central heist is the real measure of how you may or may not enjoy the film, but for a harmless slice of popcorn entertainment, Ocean’s 8 is far from the worst entry in the franchise and passed the time rather solidly.
Overall Score: 6/10
“What Are You Going To Do, Mrs Graham…?”
Working on its’ production during the latter stages of finalising the upcoming science fiction spectacle Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s first of two movies arriving within the space of just four months, The Post, arrives suspiciously close to the one year anniversary of a certain American President’s inauguration, and in a time when media scrutiny, both on paper and in the online stratosphere, is rife more than ever, Spielberg’s latest is a topical drama which not only manages to balance a hefty load of important and ever-present societal issues, but a film which captures quite brilliantly a moment in media history which ultimately turned the table for press freedom and solidify the right to question and challenge the decisions of our leaders and representatives to rule. Focusing on the high profile leak of the Pentagon Papers, classified documents detailing America’s involvement during the much maligned Vietnam War, The Post follows on the one hand, a Spotlight-esque narrative which features Tom Hanks’ Ben Bradlee as he battles to locate the sacred papers and subsequently publish amidst legal scrutiny and fears of incarceration, but more importantly, Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Katherine Graham, the owner of The Washington Post who attempts to balance the arrival of the scandalous papers with the survival of her family business after she is made heiress due to the death of her late husband.
With the two leads on top dramatic form, Hank’s confident, swaggering, editor in chief with a crystal clear view regarding the purpose of the press is brilliantly contrasted by the performance of Streep’s Graham, with her managing to convey the radical development of a figure who begins unsure and insecure in a world primarily ruled by men to a fist-pumping advocate for female empowerment. With the narrative funneling through conversations which tackle conflicted interests between the press and those that are meant to being held to account, the righteousness of war and the decision between what is right and what is easy, Spielberg’s latest is undeniably audience pleasing, with even a handful of cheese-twisted dramatic turns somewhat passable, but within all the flashiness and swirly whirly camera angles which convey a heavier sense of cinematic wantness than Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight ever did, The Post works best when the gripping search for the truth is front and centre of the story, and with the holy trilogy of Streep, Hanks and Spielberg, The Post is the slice of entertaining period drama you expected, just with added excellence.