Aaron Sorkin directs Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in Molly’s Game. For his first directorial venture, Sorkin choses the explosive story of ex-Olympic class skier Molly Bloom and her high stakes poker game which brought everyone from Hollywood’s who’s to the billionaire wall street players around the table..
Jessica Chastain plays Molly Bloom and the story follows her near fatal fall while skiing to when she moves to Los Angeles to take an off year before law-school. Alternating between waitressing and temping at a real-estate developer in LA Molly is invited to play hostess at an exclusive poker game. This whets her appetite for the life of high stakes poker. What follows is the meteoric rise and the subsequent dramatic fall of the “Poker Princess”. Jessica Chastain is fantastic as Molly. She seems to be the embodiment of all of Sorkin women. She is equal parts emotionally fragile and stoic, at once resentful of all the people around her and at the same time acting as a sympathetic pit-boss when her players lose big or profess love to her. There are moments when you see glimpses of Maya from Zero Dark Thirty and that is a good thing. This movie is essentially a one woman show and Jessica Chastain carries the entire movie on her lithe shoulders.
Idris Elba plays Charlie Jaffey, Molly’s lawyer. Elba is a hot-shot newyork lawyer and a former prosecutor who reluctantly agrees to take Molly’s case. Elba while possessing a great screen presence seems to struggle while enunciating his dialogues. Elba’s delivery is not best suited for the rat-a-tat-tat dialogues of a Sorkin screenplay also known as Sorkin-isms. Unfortunately Elba makes a real mess of his screen time and is nearly unbearable.
Sorkin is a phenomenal writer and has turned in some of my favourite screenplays both on television and cinema. The West Wing, The Newsroom, The Social Network, Moneyball and Steve Jobs. But none of these were directed by Sorkin, and that is where I think Sorkin needs to up his game. The script and screenplay seem to become overbearing with Chastain’s Molly essentially doing a voice-over for almost the entirety of the movie. While Chastain is a phenomenal actress, her voice over skills make the proceedings feel like a real drag. With a Sorkin script the build-up is lengthy and very wordy but the pay-offs are huge and eternally satisfying, here there is so much build up about the high stakes poker and the players involved but the payoff feels like a let-down
The big ticket item is the who’s who of Hollywood who came to play at bloom’s games and here it is an afterthought. The juiciest bits are left off the screen and the burden of carrying the story forward falls on Chastain entirely.
Mildly entertaining due to the fantastic Jessica Chastain but almost excruciating due to Idris Elba and his inability to speak clearly Molly’s Game is a Bad Beat- a subjective term for a hand in which a player with what appear to be strong cards nevertheless loses. I expected more from Sorkin’s directorial debut.
Zack Snyder directs Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot and Jesse Eisenberg in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice the DC-Warner tent pole which sets up the Justice League. I haven’t been shy of my dislike of Zack Snyder as a director and with the multitude of bad reviews I didn’t have great expectations going in.
We are given a quick flashback into Bruce Wayne’s past. And a quick second into the funeral of Bruce’s parents Snyder commits hara-kiri that will have fanboys frothing at the mouth. Bruce is swarmed by the bats as he falls into a hole in the ground and the bats seemingly lift him up and that is how he assumes the identity of Batman. Ben Afflect is the middle aged Batman based on Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and he is a weary, tired middle-aged Bat very different from the Batman played by Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Affleck is quickly thrust into the destruction of Metropolis as General Zod and Superman engage in a death match. All through the movie that is something off about the scale of things, Metropolis and Gotham towers over everything and dwarfs both Superman and Batman. Even the car Ben Affleck is driving through metropolis seems to be mis-proportioned – it seems too small compared to the surroundings. I don’t know if other viewers experienced this but it just made the “Heroes” look puny.
Superman is deified as a god after he saved Earth from General Zod and his alien army. When he is not saving children from burning building or stranded women from tops of flooded towns Superman spends his time rescuing his girlfriend Lois Lane, either while she is being held hostage in the African Desert or while she is pushed from atop LexCorp. The film’s villainous mastermind is played by Jesse Eisenberg. Reprising his Mark Zuckerberg performance Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor, an evil genius with enormous wealth at his disposal. His sociopathic behaviour verges on psychotic. He pits Batman against Superman but like General Zod in Man of Steel here too his motivation is unresolved and his hatred of both the superheroes seems misplaced. He also tries to convince the senate to give him permission to bring the Kryptonite found in the indian ocean into the US so that he can weaponize it. Snyder, Chris Terrio and David S Goyer seem to be juggling too many balls with the story telling and each of them more unresolved than the other. In anticipation of the forthcoming Justice League movie we are introduced to The Flash, Aquaman and Wonder Woman. The latter plays a bigger part in the movie than Lois Lane does.
There are many flaws in this movie and they primarily concern Snyder’s lack of ability as a director. He makes poor choices both story wise and visually. Story wise there is no coherent reason for Batman to so pissed with Superman. The Superman’s misplaced sense of justice when he accuses Batman of abuse of power is akin to a pot calling a kettle black. The DC warner universe setup the batman character nicely at the end of Nolan’s trilogy. There were a few canons set which seem to not matter to Snyder. The Nolan Batman specifically said “No Guns” but Snyder’s batman is more violent than the criminals he seems to be rounding up. Basing this on Miller’s dark knight where batman comes out of retirement more brutal and more unstable there seems to be no explanation given to the retirement part. Also Jeremy Irons as Alfred is a hard sell. He seems to be Alfred and Lucius Fox both rolled into one and I prefer the grandfatherly Michael Caine over Irons. Visually Snyder focuses on the wrong points of interest. He is more keen on product placement than a coherent story telling. How else would you explain the Olay Shampoo bottle that gets a zoom in when Lois is taking a bath after being rescued from the African ambush? Eisenberg’s whiney lunatic approach to playing Lex Luthor is a poor decision from both the actor and the director. All his manipulations of events that bring Batman and Superman face to face seem a bit too farfetched. Also the final face off between Batman and Superman and Batman’s bulky suit seem to be a pretty odd choice. It makes an already bulky Affleck look even chunkier also we are never really in the clear if his suit is actually kryptonite infused or not. Also the conclusion of the Batman Vs Superman fight to finish had me snorting – like seriously that is why they stop fighting? Because both their moms are called Martha!
But then there are some bright spots in the movie too. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince is smoking hot. In the hands of a good director the Wonder Woman origin story should be interesting. Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman is perfection. The man maketh the suit look good. The knightmare scene while confusing and ultimately insignificant in the course of this movie shows promise of what the Justice League multiverse holds. Hans Zimmer’s music is great in spots and jarring and overbearing in others. He seems to not be able to find the fine balance that he did with Nolan.
Overall it is not as bad as people are making it out to be. Yes it is overlong and entirely unresolved in terms of its main villain’s motivation. Ben Affleck needs to work on his Batman persona but isn’t entirely horrible. Gal Gadot is exciting as Wonder Woman and I cannot wait to see Jason Momoa as Aquaman but I would have preferred TV’s Grant Gustin as Flash than Ezra Miller because as much as I like Miller as an actor I don’t want a moody broody millennial Barry Allen. But in my humble opinion Snyder is the wrong horse to bet on to take on Disney and Marvel’s Avenger Multiverse. Give Nolan all the money he wants and the creative freedom he needs and green light his Howard Hughes biopic and let him take on the Justice League. Snyder will keep getting in the way of the story and the franchise will suffer unless you want to place Olay Shampoo in the Aquaman origins story.
David Fincher – the dark master of modern cinema directs Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, a story about a beautiful and talented wife who goes missing on the day of her fifth anniversary. David Fincher has one of the most impressive filmography in Hollywood today and among those are stand outs like the Oscar darlings, The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and also there are dark messed up masterpieces such as Zodiac and Se7en. File Gone Girl under the Dark messed up masterpieces because what Fincher has achieved in this film based on a screenplay written by the novelist Gillian Flynn, adapted from her own original novel is nothing short of mind-bending madness.
The story kicks off with a forlorn looking Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne driving into a bar he co-owns with his sister to crib over the disintegration of his marriage when he gets a phone call from a neighbor about his cat straying outside the home. Nick drives back home to what appears to be a crime scene with his wife Amy Dunne played by the enchanting Rosamund Pike nowhere to be found. What unfolds is a meticulous crime drama that very few are adept at dealing with as Fincher does. With the same restraint he showed with Zodiac, Fincher creates an atmosphere of eerie silence and awkward moments that has you drawn in from the minute Affleck picks up that cat and brings it home. I wish I could discuss more of the plot of the movie but that would be a massive disservice to those who are yet to see the movie. Suffice to say you will not be prepared for this if you are only going in on Fincher’s credentials and just the trailers. Speaking of trailers, Fincher is not only the master of crafting a beautiful film he is also the master of suspense and the art of smoke and daggers. The trailers only serve to enhance the experience of the movie and the sense of unease that unfolds over the course of its entire length.
Rosamund Pike as the fragile and scared wife and more is brilliant and unnerving, Ben Affleck as the loving husband is just as convincing as he grinning awkwardly in front of his missing wife’s poster. I have always regarded Affleck as a better director than actor but with Gone Girl he proves he is one fine actor as well. Tyler Perry who claims never to have heard of David Fincher is also cast perfectly as Tanner Bolt – the patron saint of the wife killers. Carrie Coon as Affleck’s twin Margo and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s obsessive ex-boyfriend Dessie Collins are also brilliant in their roles. Special mention to Kim Dickens who as the southern Detective Rhonda Boney with sass provides the movie’s lighter moments.
Trent Raznor and Atticus Rose once again score Fincher’s Gone Girl after their successful collaboration on the social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There is something special about this partnership as Raznor and Rose are somehow able to create an atmospheric sound track that perfectly complements Fincher’s quiet and meticulous story telling. There are no booming sounds or soaring sonatas but just the subtlest of undertones of sound to draw you in even more as Fincher’s characters slowly mumble their way through the story. The experience is all encompassing.
This is a movie that will stay with you for long after you have left the cinema hall, it will still play on your mind even after you feel you have unburdened it by dropping several hundred F-bombs while marveling at what a twisted genius Fincher really is. There will be awkward laughs that will escape you but at the same time it will make you question yourself. This is a movie that will not let you be comfortable – neither while you are watching it nor after the end credits roll. From the opening scene to the scene that closes the movie with the same dialogue the journey that you will be on will be one that you are unlikely to experience again this year or for several years to come. Fincher has the unique ability to mess with his audiences’ minds and get under their skin, he draws you in and toys with your emotions and as if some cliché of a Stockholm syndrome you do not want him to stop doing it to you. This is a master class in how to do a thriller right.
Let the nitpicking begin! To each his own but I loved Seth McFarlane for most parts as the host of the 85th Academy Awards. A Year that Oscars decided to pay tribute to the music in movies considering that this was a good year for Musicals with Les Misérables being nominated for Best Picture among other big awards. A night that featured musical performances from Dame Shirley Bassey leading the 50th year of James Bond tribute, Norah Jones performing everyone needs a friend from Ted, Jennifer Hudson blowing the roof off the Dolby Theater with her Dreamgirl number “And I’m telling you” and the Magnificent ADELE singing and then later winning for Skyfall can be forgiven for Barbra Streisand doing In Memorium.
My favorite moments from the show:
Adele Singing Skyfall
Daniel Day Lewis’s acceptance speech and his jokes on Meryl Streep and them switching roles of Thatcher and Lincoln. I just wish someone would cast these two together and make them both 4-time Oscar winners.
Ang Lee Winning – like a dark horse Lee Swooped in and took the award and graciously at that.
Seth McFarlane joking about the super secretive nature of Argo – so Secretive infact the Academy didn’t know who directed it and thus not nominating Ben Affleck
Affleck’s acceptance speech and promising to not hold grudges 🙂
Most Disappointing moment of the night:
Jennifer Lawrence winning instead of Jessica Chastain.
Brave winning instead of Wreck it Ralph
I ended the night with 5/6 for the predictions on who I wanted to win with the only one I lost was for Jessica Chastain.
Below is the complete list of winners
Best Picture Argo Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) Best Director Ang Lee (Life of Pi) Best Animated Feature Film Brave Best Cinematography Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi) Best Short Film Animated Paperman (director John Kahrs) Best Short Film (Live Action) Curfew (Directed by Shawn Christensen) Best Original Screenplay Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) Best Adapted Screenplay Chris Terrio (Argo) Best Original Song Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth (Skyfall) Best Original Score Mychael Danna (Life of Pi) Best Actor In A Supporting Role Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) Best Visual Effects Life of Pi Best Documentary Feature Searching For Sugarman Best Documentary Short Inocente (Directed by Sean Fine, Andrea Nix) Best Sound Mixing Les Miserables Best Sound Editing Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall Best Film Editing William Goldenberg (Argo) Best Supporting Actress Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) Best Foreign Language Film Amour Best Makeup & Hairstyling Lisa Westcott & Julie Dartnell (Les Miserables) Best Production Design Lincoln Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina)
And the total wins for the movies (which will go up on their adverts now)
Life of Pi (4 Oscars)
Argo (3 Oscars)
Les Miserables (3 Oscars)
Lincoln (2 Oscars)
Skyfall (2 Oscars)
Django Unchained (2 Oscars)
Brave (1 Oscar)
Silver Linings Playbook (1 Oscar)
Zero Dark Thirty (1 Oscar)
Amour (1 Oscar)
Searching for Sugar Man (1 Oscar)
Anna Karenina (1 Oscar)
Taking everything into consideration I feel much better about 2012 at the movies than I did before the show. Almost all the right people won and were gracious in their acceptance speeches and Seth McFarlane was appropriately risqué and hilarious for most parts with some real zingers.
As for early 2014 predictions – I Have Meryl Streep for August Osage County