“I Never Wanted Fame, I Just Became A Kennedy…”
Of the many Oscar nominated movies this year, there are still are few which have managed to slip by my eager eyes even after the conclusion of the ceremony on Sunday, one which ended in a somewhat controversial yet wholly hilarious fashion of course and one which ended up with a final tally of zero wins for Pablo Larraín’s first English speaking movie in the form of Jackie, a cinematic adaptation of the life of First Lady Jackie Kennedy, one which focuses primarily on events within her life directly after the infamous assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy in 1963. With critical success all around and a barnstorming level of hype regarding the performance of Natalie Portman in the leading role, Jackie is yet another case of a film this year which suffers from the remarkable amount of reputation which precedes it, and whilst films such as Moonlight, at least on second view, and La La Land are examples of movies which stood up and deserved the many plaudits propelling them forward, Jackie is indeed a solid body of work with some superb individual elements, but ultimately a movie which is not as memorable or exciting as many that have preceded its’ release this year.
Of the most impressive elements of Jackie, Natalie Portman in the leading role is of course as superb as you would expect, with her performance a strangely captivating depiction of one of the most famous faces of the mid 20th century and one which almost requires the audience to tune their ear in order to distinguish performer from performance, particularly in regards to an accent and tone of voice which is extremely peculiar to say the least and actually requires an immediate referral to YouTube in order to find out whether the real Jackie Kennedy actually spoke in such a manner. Alongside Portman, composer Mica Levi continues her supermassive success in Under the Skin with an equally eerie soundtrack, one which succinctly captures the sense of strangeness of a post-assassination life of Jackie Kennedy whilst also seeming entirely out of place, with it having a sense of belonging to a knuckle-biting horror flick instead in a surrealist Lynchian-esque conundrum. Whilst these individual elements are impressive, the winding narrative of the movie becomes mildly dwindling after a while where the second half of the movie doesn’t carry the immediate captivation of the first, resulting in a very solid adaptation of one of the most respected First Lady’s to ever grace the White House.
Overall Score: 7/10
“We Got Multiple Explosions. We Need Help Down Here..!”
Of the many cinematic pleasures within 2016, Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon was a surprisingly entertaining thrill-ride, utilising the on-screen likeability of Mark Wahlberg to helm a dramatisation of one of the 21st centuries’ most infamous accidental disasters in a vein both poignant and wholly respectful. Whilst the one-two pairing of Wahlberg and Peter Berg shared mild success previously with Lone Survivor, the release of Deepwater Horizon last year has ultimately pushed the duo into a formidable partnership, returning this year with yet another live-action adaptation of a high-profile disaster in the form of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, a recent example of terrorism action within the United States. With a supporting cast featuring the likes of Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons and John Goodman, Patriots Day is a thrilling continuation of the Berg’s recent cinematic success, creating a sometimes breathtaking drama which mixes white-knuckle tension, Michael Mann-esque action set pieces and an effective screenplay which amalgamates a wide range of on-screen depictions of many who were involved in the events which occurred during that terrifying day almost four years ago.
In terms of differences between the previous works of the successful duo, unlike in Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon where Wahlberg portrayed real-life characters, Patriots Day allows the Boston-born A-Lister to fill his boots with a strictly composite character, created to not only fill certain narrative gaps throughout the movie, but also act as the walking cinematic guide for the audience, seemingly being wherever the high-octane events take place as often and as quickly as possible. Whilst the film uses its’ leading stars to a somewhat solid degree, the frighteningly startling and wholly believable pairing of Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze as terrorist brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are the real stars of the show, using their intimidating capabilities to create one of the tensest scenes of the year so far in which they carjack and threaten to kill the life of a Chinese U.S national in a manner similar to feel and tone of a similarly haunting scene within last year’s Nocturnal Animals. Concluding with interviews with the true survivors and heroes of Boston, Patriots Day follows in a similar vein to Deepwater Horizon by not only being a entertaining body of work but by being one which is entirely respectful too.
Overall Score: 8/10
“No One Warned Us. No One Said “You’re Going To Lose Both Engines At A Lower Altitude Than Any Jet In History”…”
No guys, Clint Eastwood’s latest isn’t a continuation of the Monsters Inc. character but instead a biographical drama based upon the extraordinary events that took place on 15th January 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 was miraculously landed upon the Hudson River by pilots Chelsey Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles after a bird strike had completely destroyed both the left and right engines, leaving them in the air with no thrust and little chance to return to ground safely. Such a remarkable and historical achievement was inevitably set to hit the big screens sooner rather than later and what Eastwood has accomplished with Sully is creating a gripping and intelligently played drama which tackles not only the experience of Captain Sully’s landing but the repercussions of it too. With Tom Hanks performing effortlessly in the lead role as the titular Sully, Eastwood’s latest is indeed a hit, albeit suffering from some minor issues which prevent it from being up there with his best work as a director.
Inevitably, the fundamental narrative that fluctuates throughout Sully is a gripping enough plot in itself to catch the eye of even the least cinematically viable audience with a good, uplifting heroic story being the mark of a bankable picture, particularly when you have the reliable hands of Hanks as your movies’ star, and whilst the movie skips between the past and the present of our titular hero, the most effective parts of the movie take place during the films’ big set pieces, primarily the landing itself as well as the discussions that take place afterwards where although the narrative is hyped up completely to function as the drama, still manages to work, even if Eastwood manages to make every single journalist and white collar worker look like the villains of the piece. What the film didn’t need however was the cringey CGI crash scenes which took place inside the traumatised mind of our hero which completely reverses the effect of the movie and removes it from the subtle and understated nature of a film like Spotlight and instead becomes more of a popcorn movie as a result. Of course, popcorn movie goodness is not entirely a bad thing and whilst Sully does manage to come away as an effective telling of an incredible achievement within recent history, it isn’t really anything more than that, but, as with anything with Tom Hanks in, Sully is still an enjoyable and well made drama.
Overall Score: 7/10
Back In The Saddle
The Godfather. Heat. Dog Day Afternoon. Scarface. Al Pacino has had one heck of a career wouldn’t you say? His portrayal as Micheal Corleone in The Godfather Trilogy is undeniably one of the greatest on-screen portrayals of a character I think I have ever seen where we witness the transformation of a reluctant war-hero in Part One to the all-out evil, if tragic, crime lord in Part Two. I could go on all day about Pacino’s filmography so far but for now it is time to concentrate on his latest offering, Danny Collins, a comedy/drama featuring Annette Bening (American Beauty), Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club) and Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire). With the recent Pacino offerings which have been let’s say, not exactly brilliant, I went into Danny Collins hoping it was a return to form and its’ fair to say, Pacino is back once again.
When aging rock-star Danny Collins (Pacino) receives a letter written to him by John Lennon in the early 1970’s, he decides to change his repetitive, drug-infused, cash-ridden lifestyle for the better and repair past mistakes which have haunted him for years including his son, Tom (Cannavale) of whom he has disregarded for the past 30 years. There is a line in Danny Collins in which the titular character states that he hasn’t written a song for forty years, and its’ here where the probably unintentional similarities between Pacino and his character begin with Pacino himself not being in a film of much merit for at least a decade, whilst the redemption the character of Collins desperately seeks during the course of the film can easily be attributed to Pacino also, with Danny Collins seemingly acting as sold ground for Pacino to return to some sort of form. And this he does with aplomb, with Pacino being undoubtedly the best thing in Danny Collins, so much so that every-time he appeared I felt like I could watch him for years.
Supported by Annette Bening and Christopher Plummer, Pacino propels Danny Collins into a charming and sweet comedy drama of which may have suffered if it failed to have the screen presence of someone like Pacino as its’ lead. Although the script may be pretty familiar territory with plot points being rather predictable, the sheer magnetism of Pacino makes Danny Collins into something better than I had originally expected. A return to form for Pacino? Most definitely. Seek it out.