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By midlandsmovies, Jan 22 2018 01:24PM



Molly’s Game (2018) Dir. Aaron Sorkin


After her hugely entertaining and brilliant performance in last year’s underrated Miss Sloane (review here), Jessica Chastain returns as another feisty boss focused on a career that again contains many questionable practices. Based upon the real-life story of Molly Bloom who ran celebrity-attended back-room poker games, the film is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut and he brings with him the snappy dialogue he is renowned for.


The film itself is framed around a series of flashbacks (like Miss Sloane) and an ongoing court case (like Miss Sloane) where her closest confidante is a strong-willed Brit playing an American (like Miss Sloane). In this instance it’s Idris Elba who stars as Charlie Jaffey, Molly's lawyer who although reluctant at first, attempts to acquit her of charges stemming from her time organising the underground poker meetings.


Comprising of Hollywood high rollers, businessmen and later various mobsters, her hotel gambling evenings originate from Molly’s drive during her younger days as an Olympic ski prodigy which push her towards success and a lucrative, if suspect, income.


A patriarchal Kevin Costner plays Larry Bloom, Molly's dad, and provides a beat-for-beat father figure as per his stint as Pa Kent in Man of Steel but Michael Cera as Player X has much more fun in his role. Poking fun at himself again (after This Is the End) his composite character is allegedly a mix of Tobey Maguire and Ben Affleck amongst others. With a Hollywood income, and ego, he dares Molly to expand her business and provides a small but important role in the middle of the film as an arrogant antagonist once Molly double downs on her decisions to maintain control of what she has created.


Molly’s determination though has her creating new opportunities in New York and as we see her business develop, fail then re-emerge, her steely grit is played to perfection by Chastain. The actress throws in a smattering of trashy exuberance into the mix with low-cut tops and heavy make-up showing how out of her depth she is amongst the real life hoi polloi.


The fast back-and-forth dialogue from Sorkin is shown mostly in her interactions with Elba whose composed lawyer meets his match with Chastain’s ballsy businesswoman. Barbs are thrown both ways and Sorkin regular ups the ante with the two trading insults and information as Elba attempts to break through Chastain’s facade to uncover the truth. Chastain however keeps her cards close to her chest, not wanting, or unable, to clarify her position to avoid incriminating herself and even protecting, at times, her precious clients who trusted her.


The film’s narrative and subsequent editing serve to explain the complex story and glossary of gambling terms but the general cinematography of this biography/thriller is solid if underwhelming. However, dealing an audience both entertainment and raising some interesting questions of loyalty and opportunity, Molly’s Game bets its hand on Sorkin’s writing and two glorious performances from Chastain and Elba. An excellent, but somewhat forgettable, support cast fills the rest of the pack yet despite a few minor misgivings, the film delivers a jackpot payout for fans of the actors and director.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 6 2017 08:42PM



The Dark Tower (2017 film) Dir. Nikolaj Arcel


From the director of the critical hit Royal Affair (Danish: En kongelig affære) comes this adaptation, of sorts, of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Having only passing knowledge (and interest) in King’s opus, the film acts as a ‘continuation’ of the book’s story which sees gunslinger Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) on a journey to protect the Dark Tower in a mythical world.


Matthew McConaughey sleepwalks through his performance as the Man in Black antagonist and the film encompasses a number of story threads from the 8-volume series in the hope to set up an ongoing franchise. However, we’ll be lucky to see even a second film in a movie filled with disappointing set pieces and to those unfamiliar with the work, like me, a whole host of fantasy gobbledegook about portals and reality-ending quests.


Much like my experience with Warcraft, the film struggles to explain its themes in a relatively short time (95 agonising minutes) – yet, on the other hand, I can also imagine fans screaming that the film’s length makes the long book far too simplistic at the same time. Therefore, satisfying neither audience it required to develop.


On the positive side, I enjoyed the set-up where a New York boy (Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers) has visions of another reality which subsequently come true, whilst McConaughey seeks a child with unsurpassable power for his evil ends, and their two paths intertwine.


However, I expect this Harry Potter-style discovery of a hidden magical world is hardly the depth the book’s fans needed or wanted. As the film drags towards its conclusion, a series of boring plot points are delivered in what appears to be a screenwriter’s nightmare to make sense of the book’s major scenes and it’s simply not engaging enough to stand on its own two feet.


The Dark Tower ends up being a boring stagnant journey that will struggle to entice new fans and no doubt fails to do justice to a complex novel series.


4/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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