A Game of Skill
Aaron Sorkin has been a major screenwriting presence in Hollywood since 1992’s A Few Good Men, a film based on his own stage play. He made a couple of movies after that before spending a decade in television. He returned to the cinema with 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War and has been on a big run since, earning Oscar nominations for The Social Network and Moneyball, winning the award for the former. With all that success, it is somewhat surprising that Sorkin is just now moving into the director’s chair with his new film Molly’s Game, a movie which may end up being one of his best.
Big Questions, Little Answers
Director Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor tackle overpopulation and environmentalism with their new film Downsizing, starring Matt Damon as a man who decides that life might be better if he was shrunk down to five inches tall. Like previous Payne films including Sideways, About Schmidt, and The Descendants, his new film tackles some serious topics using comedy as a way in. The style works, for the most part, but the movie does get a little lost in everything it is trying to say.
A Creature Romance
Guillermo del Toro is well known for the non-human creatures that have populated his movies from Pan’s Labyrinth to the Hellboy franchise and the original Pacific Rim film, but while some may consider him a “romantic filmmaker” in terms his classical Hollywood style and the fantastical worlds he creates, he is not really known as a director of romantic films. But with his new film, The Shape of Water, Del Toro pulls off an impressive trick by combining the creature feature with a classic Hollywood-style romance.
The Gang’s All Here
Justice League is the long-awaited team-up movie uniting six of the most iconic characters in all of DC Comics lore. Unexpectedly, the movie is also the shortest of any of the DCEU movies released thus far and that appears to be a result of director Zack Snyder and screenwriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon simplifying the storyline. This may upset audience members looking for something deeper and more meditative in their superhero movies, but for those just looking to sit back with a soda and some popcorn to have a fun time at the cinema, it will feel just right.
A Whodunit Remake
The Agatha Christie whodunit novel Murder on the Orient Express was previously adapted into a feature film in 1974 and that star-studded adaptation was a big hit with audiences. It has continued to stick around in the public consciousness throughout the years and the reveal of the murderer is often mentioned when people discuss the best movie plot twists of all-time. This brings into question the wisdom of a modern remake, because we are well beyond spoiler warnings at this point. This leaves the 2017 version of Murder of the Orient Express feeling more like an invitation to watch a group of popular actors hang out at a costume party than it does a suspenseful murder mystery.
The God of Thunder Has a Sense of Humor
After missing out on all the fun in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, Thor and Hulk reappear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Thor: Ragnarok, a movie that immediately stands out as being one of the most unique entries in the franchise. It stands in stark contrast of the last standalone Thor film, Thor: The Dark World, which proved to be one of the blandest and most generic. That film, as its title might suggest, was dark and moody. Thor: Ragnarok, however, is all about being bright, colorful, hip, and humorous.
Something Stinks in Suburbia
The new film Suburbicon is George Clooney’s first attempt to direct a Coen Brothers movie. The brothers reportedly wrote the script as far back as the eighties, but never got around to making it themselves. Enter their frequent collaborator Clooney, along with his writing partner Grant Heslov, and the project is finally seeing the light of day with Matt Damon in the lead as an average suburban father whose seemingly peaceful life goes askew. The plot and tone of the movie definitely scream “this is a Coen Brothers film”, but it ultimately is missing the panache of their iconic directing style.
Melted on Arrival
In 2011, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson adapted John le Carre’s espionage novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for the big screen and the result was a meticulously detailed, terrifically plotted drama that earned Gary Oldman his long-overdue first Oscar nomination. Flash-forward to 2017 and the director is finally delivering his follow-up, an adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s popular thriller The Snowman. But unfortunately, the director has seemingly lost his way with this one. Instead of meticulous details and suspenseful plotting, we get a mess of a movie that can’t get out of its own way as it fails to deliver on anything it promised.
Wonder Woman’s Other Origin Story
It is definitely the year of Wonder Woman. The character’s standalone action film was a monster hit earlier this year and she is about to play a major role in the Justice League film. But in between those two tent-pole films comes the release of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a smaller scale film that tells the unexpected story that inspired the character’s creation in the first place.
A Story of Survival and Love
The new survival film The Mountain Between Us is an actor’s movie. Sure, it has action, suspense, and a love story, but whether the movie will succeed or not really depends on the actors as there are only two of them for the majority of the movie. So it is a good thing that the two actors are really good ones in Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. In fact, it is due to their performances and chemistry that the movie works despite its rather by-the-numbers survival storyline.
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