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Movie Reviews

All the Money in the World

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Reviewer: Philip Price

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Andrew Buchan, Charlie Plummer, Christopher Plummer, Marco Leonardi, Mark Wahlberg,Michelle Williams, Olivia Grant, Romain Duris, Teresa Mahoney, Timothy Hutton

Released: January 5th, 2018

Despite Christopher Plummer’s J.P. Gettty very clearly being the antagonist in director Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World the film also seems aware that this is very much a complex character that holds more substance and conflict than what might otherwise be optioned to be portrayed as the straight-up villain of the piece. That said, Scott will often times play to the dark comedy of how much of a penny-pincher the richest man in the history of the world was. Such is true when the director will set-up a scene with the intention of making the audience think one thing only to pull the rug out from under them a moment later; Getty not actually bargaining on the cost of the ransom, but rather on that of an otherwise invaluable painting for example. This technique emphasizes the relationship, the fondness, the affinity Getty has for his money in a movie that is about his refusal to fork over untold millions for something that might offer a greater relationship or something he has a greater fondness and a greater affinity for: his grandson. This again may make Plummer’s Getty out to sound like the obvious villain of All the Money in the World, but there are lessons to be learned-even from those who might not be the most sincere or honest people in the room. Getty might not have always even been the smartest person in the room at any given time for he himself says that any fool can “get” rich, but there is always a strategy or plan in place with Getty-an ability to read the room and/or any offer that came across his desk-that paints this portrait of a man who isn’t being let off the hook for his misplacement of priorities in life (it’s hard to read if the man might have even had any regrets in his final moments when it came to realizing all he had were things and no one in particular that cared about him that he could leave all of his things to), but rather is being conveyed just as he was which was anything but complicated-the man seemed to have a very strict code of conduct-but is all the more complicated for applying that code to every aspect of life. After all, Getty likely could have cared less what anyone thought of him given the power such wealth afforded him. This all brings the conversation back around to that golden rule of he who has the gold makes the rules and in the case of All the Money in the World and the narrative it encapsulates, Getty never takes his hands off the wheel. Thank God for Christopher Plummer.

For the record, director Ridley Scott is eighty. His birthday was last month and this month, just a few days ago, his second film of 2017 hit theaters. Not only this, but the force of nature director made the decision just over a month ago to completely re-shoot all of the scenes in All the Money in the World that featured the aforementioned J.P. Getty character as originally portrayed by Kevin Spacey with that of Plummer’s performance. In an amazing turn of events, Scott was able to re-shoot all of Spacey’s scenes in a matter of nine days and while it may initially cause one to think that Spacey’s involvement might have been minimal this is what makes the turn around all the more incredible. Not only is Getty a large part of the films arc, but he shares scenes with co-leads Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg thus forcing those actors to have to come back at a moment’s notice to re-shoot entire scenes that they’d already done months if not nearly a year prior. How Scott and his team handled the continuity is beyond me because the biggest accomplishment of All the Money in the World is the fact that if you had no idea about this behind-the-scenes controversy then you would have no idea anything was off with the picture at all. There is a single moment in a scene where Getty visits the desert and we can see that shots of Spacey’s Getty were still utilized and that Plummer’s face has been digitally imposed on a wide shot rather than having been re-shot, but these are things to be noticed only if you’re looking for them. Otherwise, the biggest detracting factor of the edits from scenes originally shot for the film and those that were shot a month ago is that of the length of Wahlberg’s hair-which, of course-isn’t a deal breaker. The real revelation to come out of all of this if one does go into the film knowing the behind-the-scenes drama is that of how effective Plummer is in his role. Whether it was the way the trailer played it or that of Spacey’s truly different take on the character, Getty originally felt like less the star of the show and more the catalyst for the actions that forced Williams and Wahlberg’s main characters into the main thread of the action. Whatever pre-conceived notions the Spacey trailer might have given potential audiences can be swept under the rug as Plummer is a crucial part of the mindset of this film and more or less pushes the narrative themes forward with each and every scene he appears and with each and every action he takes within those scenes. The film is based on the true story of the 1973 kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt by his mother, Gail (Williams), to convince his billionaire grandfather (Plummer) to pay the ransom. When Getty Sr. refuses, Gail attempts to sway him as well as come up with the money herself as her son’s captors become increasingly volatile and brutal. As a result, Gail and Getty’s advisor, Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg), become unlikely allies in the race against time that ultimately reveals this lasting value of love over money.

With a screenplay by David Scarpa (2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still) All the Money in the World only makes you think it is a kidnapping/race against time thriller, but in all honesty this is a movie about Getty senior that has chosen to focus on what ultimately comes to be the last few years of his life as condensed for dramatic purposes. Up until the end, Getty is a man constantly surrounded by parasites-this extending to his family that includes his grandson’s father, his son, in John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan) who reaches out to his father, a man he’s never had any relationship with, for a job that he is granted and ultimately ends up fumbling because he becomes addicted to drugs. This is undoubtedly one of the many reasons Getty Sr. is a man who has to be in control otherwise he loses this edge that he’s been able to maintain his entire adult life that has therefore allowed him to keep himself in this position of wealth and power. Getty doesn’t take risks outside of his calculated business ones so as to not stand the chance of being threatened. It makes sense as to why he reacts to the news and ransom of the kidnapping of his grandson the way he does, no matter the admittedly special place Paul held in his heart. To oblige would be to give in and to give in would be to give way for those to earn the same lifestyle he had to work to obtain. What is interesting about the events that were chosen to be depicted in All the Money in the World though, is that this set of circumstances seems the first time Getty had to truly contemplate if the money was worth the loss of this blood relative he’d once invested so much hope in. Of course, money is never just money and typically stands in for something this person behind the wealth doesn’t have or so Wahlberg’s Chase tells Williams’s Gail shortly after they are introduced to one another. Though Scarpa nor Scott seem to necessarily be interested in what it is behind the facade that makes Getty Sr. tick, but more the facade itself the film can’t help but to give over to such ponderings thanks in large part to Plummer’s layered performance. There is a scene in the film where Getty Sr. discusses the difference in getting rich and being rich and it is in this gray area that Plummer seems to zero in on bringing out his character’s mentality in each and every action. “Any fool can get rich,” Getty advises, but it is the remaining rich, the “being” rich that takes a sophisticated mind. It seems Plummer’s Getty Sr. wanted very much for his grandson to grasp this difference in “getting” and “being”, but such ideas are never followed through on as they weren’t of Scott’s initial intent. Rather, All the Money in the World quickly devolves into that aforementioned race against time thriller that is still very much an interesting, well-acted, and great-looking movie, but beyond this it is never compelling in the way it feels it is meant to be.

That said, all of the performers here are at the top of their game as Williams is especially present in her role as Gail-a scene where she is required to identify a body standing out as the pinnacle of her performance. Wahlberg is more restrained here than we have seen him in some time. It may be that the actor’s last few performances have been so in your face mister tough guy with Deepwater HorizonPatriot’s DayTransformers, and Daddy’s Home 2, but whether it is because Chase is a different type of personality or Wahlberg is trying out something different, the performance hits the right notes-allowing for Wahlberg to show his bread and butter in a pivotal scene near the end of the film. The younger Plummer, Charlie that is, is notable in his rather thankless role despite being the subject of nearly every action that is taken in the film. Having met the young actor a few years back at a screening of his film, King Jack, it was clear the kid had good, natural instincts and so it was no surprise when he ended up on the short list for potential Peter Parker’s/Spider-Man’s in what would eventually become Homecoming. With this and another festival darling this year, Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete, though it seems Plummer is destined for his own strong path and he begins paving that by turning in a performance that grants sympathy to a character who very much could have been simply served by anyone embodying the trials and tribulations John Paul Getty III had to endure while being held captive by the Calabrian Mafia for more than five months. What saves such sequences is the fact Plummer is given someone else to play off of and whether Romain Duris’s Cinquanta character is fictional or not it was both a smart move on the part of Scarpa to include or create such a character as Duris’s performance comes to serve as the most surprising and enlightening of the whole picture. Cinquanta is a character that begins the film as another crony in the kidnapping scheme, but is the first to show the victim his face, to risk getting to know him by conversing with him, and ultimately who comes to feel pity for this privileged boy who could have had the world were his childhood and role models not been so dysfunctional. While Wahlberg and especially Williams are the characters we follow on the main mission it is Cinquanta that has the biggest arc in the film and the one that is something of a conduit for the audience to understand the ever-changing dynamic between Getty III and his captor. What develops between Cinquanta and the young Getty is a pure connection as both have more to lose than they have to gain by feeling sorry for one another and it is this exact type of relationship that Getty Sr. seemed to only find in beautiful things, but never in other human beings. A shame to be sure, but also a shame is the fact All the Money in the World can’t help but feel as detached as Getty Sr. despite a minefield of ideas and themes laid out before it.

I love movies, simple as that. I watch them with an intent to write about them and have always enjoyed discussing the latest news and releases with others. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Mass Communications/Digital Filmmaking and combined those interests when I began writing about cinema. Hope you enjoy the reviews, Happy reading!

Movie Reviews

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ★★★★

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Released: 20th July 2018

Directed By: Ol Parker

Starring: Lily James, Meryl Streep, Cher, Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

The iconic Swedish pop group said ‘Thank You For The Music!’. An overjoyed studio said ‘Thank You For The Box Office!’.

Sure. Pierce Brosnan singing ABBA’s SOS had a hint of the Borat (Sorry Sacha!) about it. But the summer of 2008 bared witness to a cinematic juggernaut in ‘Mamma Mia’, a jubilant jukebox musical whose sense of joy and fun proved irresistible for audiences. Considering life’s too short. Ten years on we return to the sumptuous setting of Kalokairi Greece with ‘Here We Go Again’, as the sequel fleshes out the timeline, remaining keen to create more cinematic memories.

Content with her unorthodox triple father situation in Harry (Colin Firth), Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan). Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) fierce determination to honour her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) dream of renovating her surroundings into a lavish hotel, coincides with the severe turbulence she’s enduring in her ongoing relationship with Sky (Dominic Cooper).

Increasingly doubtful of her own capabilities. The dynamo duo of Christine Baranski’s Tanya and Julie Walters’ Rosie look to bolster her confidence by delving into Donna’s past, as Lily James’ enthused younger incarnation of the character guides us through her eventful youth with the dungarees intact, reliving her initial encounters in 1979 with Sophie’s dads (Hugh Skinner/Jeremy Irvine/Josh Dylan).

Previously unapologetic in its ramshackle charm and high camp. Director Ol Parker to much relief resists applying restraint to its energetic, big-hearted song and dance numbers, whilst technically and narratively tightening up the deficiencies that perhaps plagued its 2008 counterpart for the purists, with a sharper focus on emotional engagement. As a result, it may not be as quick to overwhelm us with its blindingly sunny disposition like its predecessor, occasionally labouring in its first half with its time-hopping.

Yet when those glorious highs arrive like a new take on ‘Dancing Queen’ and Cher’s stellar firework-heavy rendition of ‘Fernando’, whose cameo evoked hearty cheers in the screening i was in. They are now armed with a poignant and reflective slant, reinforcing the ingenuity in how these timeless songs are integrated into the framework, in order to offer fresh interpretations.

Lighting up the screen as a young Donna Sheridan. Lily James captures the carefree spirit and mannerisms of the character superbly, proving a solid counterpart to Meryl Streep’s original performance and Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie in the singing stakes. Speaking of Streep, much has been made about her (lack of?) involvement in this follow-up. Without slipping into spoiler territory, her gorgeous screen moments this time around epitomise why many fans deemed her an instant hit in the first film. Elsewhere, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters continue to provide fantastic farce, stealing much of the script’s zingy dialogue whilst Andy Garcia’s enigmatic hotel manager is a disarming and dashing addition.

It may not have been a sequel we were warming up the vocal chords for. Yet in striking a killer balance between emotive and euphoric. ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is a truly wonderful follow-up that brims with sincerity and show-stopping splendour.

Dig out the spandex and unleash your inner ‘Super Trouper’…

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Featured Review

Hotel Artemis ★★★

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Released: 20th July 2018

Directed By: Drew Pearce

Starring: Jodie Foster, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella

Reviewed By: Van Connor

Iron Man 3 alum Drew Pearce makes his feature directorial debut with this slick future-set actioner – evoking the neon-tinged hyperbolic aesthetic of John Wick and applying it to a more stripped-down set-up akin to Joe Carnahan’s strangely forgotten Smoking Aces. Hotel Artemis sees the eponymous underworld hospital of the future come under siege by forces both outside and in, with a who’s-who of “hey – it’s….!” figures to bring its gleefully vitriolic war well and truly to life.

On Pearce’s part, Hotel Artemis knows its own playbook pretty well – tense action beats are played with coherence but don’t skimp on imagination, and the staging of it all is first rate. Jodie Foster, meanwhile, leads an engaging cast that includes a wonderfully sleazy Charlie Day, the brilliantly deadpan Sterling K. Brown, and an amusingly in-her-comfort-zone Sofia Boutella. It’s best to keep as much of its casting a surprise as possible, but there’s tons of fun to be had via mere cast reveals to keep proceedings engaging.

On the action front, though, it is strange that Hotel Artemis feels as subdued as it does as regards its own sense of internal rage. Whilst far from a bloodless PG-13, Pearce’s film never quite embeds itself as much in the hyperviolence of its world as you’d expect, or, rather, hope. It’s certainly no John Wick in that sense, and, though there is a decent share of world-building to kick things off, it’s quickly evident that this element of restraint is self-imposed by Pearce’s writing, rather than a by-product of now requisite franchise-creation. Hotel Artemis, incidentally, could easily garner itself a cheap and cheerful sequel or two, were there somehow a demand.

On the back of this pretty solid ninety minute actioner, that’s absolutely a consideration. The world it builds is fleshed out enough to intrigue, the cast are game for an intriguing balance of quirk and creepiness, and Pearce steps up to the director’s chair with unbroken confidence and a comic book sensibility that takes him deftly to the finish line. Stoker cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung astonishes as ever, and, while not his showiest work to date, Cliff Martinez’s score fleshes out the bonkers world of Hotel Artemis nicely.

Best aimed at those looking for another round of Smoking Aces-grade action – though, without quite the same singular ferocity – Hotel Artemis is a nice bit of bullet-laden fun with a lively cast and some slick visuals. It’ll never be one of the iconic points on the timeline of action cinema, but it’s a worthy stop-off on the way between the ones that are.

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Movie Reviews

Skyscraper ★★★★

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Released: 12th July 2018

Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell

Reviewed By: Van Connor

Be honest. Sooner or later, you knew The Rock was going to make Die Hard. It was inevitable. As he ascends higher and higher thought the upper echelons of the – increasingly spartan – Hollywood star system, this was always going to be coming. The only question really, was going to be whether or not it was going to be either any good, or even welcome in a world in which even a bonafide Die Hardsequel now typically ranks among the worst of whichever year it’s released in.

Alas, Dwayne Johnson is no Bruce Willis, and that quality control barrier could not be any clearer as Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno – with a dash of The Fugitive – for Skyscraper. Rawson Marshall Thurber’s adrenaline-fuelled ride takes DJ to China as amputee and former FBI tactical agent Will Sawyer, an American tasked with signing off on the security of The Pearl – the tallest building in the world. When terrorists seize The Pearl, however, Sawyer finds himself the subject of a Chinese manhunt and forced to find a way back into the building in order to save his wife and children from not only the terrorists seeking to fulfil their own agenda, but also to the out-of-control blaze that threatens to consume them all.

Johnson’s played in the sort of arena on more than a few occasions now, with Skyscraper arguably skewing closest to San Andreas as regards the sort of tone and polished spectacle you’re in for. There are some offhand nods to more classical genre archetypes – hell, it makes more Die Hard references than Jake Peralta – and there’s the requisite degree of fistbumping and utilisation of the term “brother”, but those still unsure of what to expect can rest easy on the promise of what’s essentially an Irwin Allen movie with a Neal Moritz sensibility. It ain’t clever, it doesn’t want to be, it just wants you to sit on the edge of your seat and then cheer afterwards. Which you will. A lot.

Neve Campbell brings an impressive amount to what’s an already impressively sketched out female supporting character in Sawyer’s wife (take notes, Bedelia – that’s how you handle hostage takers), and Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) continues to make for an engaging added value element. Roland Møller, meanwhile, makes for a decent enough villain, but lacks the charisma needed to really sell the ludicrously named Kores Botha as much of an evil mastermind. Sure, he was never going to rival Hans Gruber on the scale of action movie villains, but Botha’s so thinly devised as a villain that he’s not up to the grade of Tommy Lee Jones’ Under Siege villain either. And that’s a real detriment when your action hero lead is someone as genuinely charismatic as Dwayne Johnson. Both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Joe Manganiello took the wrong Rock movie, would be a decent takeaway.

In lieu of a captivating villain, Thurber nonetheless ensures value for money is had with a barrage of spectacle-fuelled set-pieces the likes of which will have you squirming in your seat biting your fist for dear life – IMAX could well inspire a sense of vertigo with this one. It’s a glossy-looking actioner – thanks to some smooth production design and slick visuals from cinematographer and Mission: Impossible alum Robert Elswit – and fight choreographer Allan Poppleton goes above and beyond to stage Johnson’s antics not as the all-powerful action commando, but a credible fighter dwarfed by the spectacle of what’s up against him.

It’s a good time for all. Sure, it’s in no way destined to become an enduring classic of the action genre – though, the spoilerific marketing campaign does well and truly show off what will become one of this summer’s more memorable movie moments – but it’s Die Hard on fire. With The Rock. In 2018. And if there’s an easier sell for a good time at the movies than that, it just means Dwayne Johnson has another movie out. In which case, still see Skyscraper first.

 

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