I finally watched the 2015 film about chess great Bobby Fischer starring Tobey Maguire. Having read a great bit about Fischer's life, and being a huge chess fan, I was interested in seeing how the filmmakers tackled the subject. Director Edward Zwick has made some very good movies, after all.
Bobby Fischer was a severely troubled human being that happened to become the best chess player on the planet in the middle of the Cold War when the U.S. needed a victory against the Soviet Union. Needless to say, there's a lot there to dig from. Unfortunately, Pawn Sacrifice just doesn't dig deep enough. While it does attempt to show Fischer's descent into madness, it doesn't adequately give the reasons why he turned into the volatile person he became, why chess was so important to fill a void in his life, or the real depth of his insanity. And that's frustrating, because this is a story that deserves to be adequately told.
Also, Tobey Maguire is severely miscast. Bobby Fischer was a big framed, lanky, deep-voiced, angry man who continually looked uncomfortable in his own skin. Maguire, who looks nothing like him, had no hope of pulling it off. And this makes a script lacking in depth all the worse. However, Liev Schreiber superbly plays Boris Spassky.
The film is at its best when Fischer plays Spassky for the World Championship. But the matches are largely shot with only close-ups of the moves mixed with reaction shots of the players and audience members—we don't get a good view of what the moves actually are! That's awful. For those who understand chess, we should see the brilliant moves. And the overuse of slow motion throughout the film just makes things worse.
Making a film about chess cannot be easy, especially on $19M. Maybe this movie plays better to those who don't know a lot about chess history. I just see it as a blown opportunity. It is an almost adequate telling of very historic time, but given the rich, ample history they had to pull from, the filmmakers didn't come close to creating the film that should have been made. I gotta say, I was disappointed.
Outside of the three Chris Nolan Batman films, I'm not a huge fan of superhero movies. Even The Avengers bored me to death. I have tremendous issues suspending disbelief when it comes to bullet-proof characters that fly around and win every time.
But the reviews of Black Panther were so good I decided to check it out. I'm glad I did.
Let me start off by saying the whole concept of this superhero and his land is absolutely brilliant. This is an easy movie to fall into. The $200M budget is splashed all over the screen. The style and cinematography are very satisfying.
However, for me, it does go too far over-the-top in moments. There's an action sequence in Korea. The first part, indoors, is one of the best action sequences I've ever seen. It was blocked and shot fantastically. Then it extends outside and The Black Panther is flying around like Spiderman and I'm kicked right out of the story, knowing full well that most people in the audience enjoy that type of unrealistic popcorn fare.
One thing I love about Black Panther's storyline is there's a antagonist shift. I'm so happy that filmmakers are taking chances stepping away from the standard story format and pulling it off. Most of the characters are well-written and really well acted, and that helps one buy this extraordinary world.
The last act is huge, and far too popcorny for me, but I did really like parts of it, and I'm sure that most moviegoers absolutely loved it.
So I'd rank Black Panther above most superhero movies, though that's a low bar for me. It still doesn't approach Chris Nolan territory, but it's well worth the watch, even if you're not a big fan of the genre. It's so satisfying to watch a huge blockbuster and think 'that was worth the fortune they poured into making it.' Black Panther fits that bill.
I love it when a good Western comes out every few years. They're incredibly hard to make any money on, especially in foreign markets. So I appreciate it when studios take a chance on them. Hostiles was independently produced, and that's an even braver prospect, and though it looks like it will be hard to make a profit on the film anytime soon, I sure am glad it was made.
Hostiles stars Christian Bale as Captain Joseph J. Blocker, who in 1892 is given one last order before retirement, to escort Yellow Hawk, a sick and imprisoned Cheyenne Chief and his family, from Fort Berringer in New Mexico, back to his homelands in Montana, so that he may die there. Both are veterans of battles against each other, so there is no love lost between the two. Along the way, they pick up Rosalie Quaid, who recently survived a brutal attack against her homestead by a group of Apaches.
This is a wonderfully intriguing premise. The traveling group has struggles within itself, but also has to work together to face gruesome threats along the way. This isn't a typical story structure because there is no one, main antagonist. There are a set of obstacles, and that's fine. The most significant battle, in fact, is between the main characters and their inner demons who struggle to take them over as horrific memories of a brutal past become too much for the mere humans to bear.
This is a violent film, though some of the most satisfying scenes simply suggest extreme violence. It's also a film about redemption, not only of individuals but of a nation. There are few glimmers of hope in this bleak world, though when they do come, when these characters fight themselves to win forgiveness, it's incredibly satisfying.
Christian Bale was the perfect choice for the lead, though the acting is solid throughout.
My main complaint with the film is in the production/post style. The look doesn't pop. The resolution isn't extremely high, and the colors are washed out a bit, which is the exact opposite look I'd go for in an exterior Western epic. Though there isn't a ton of camera movement, the few pans and zooms did annoy me. Having just watched The Hateful Eight, which was shot on 70mm, the look of that Western, even on my 1080P television, looked far superior to Hostiles in the theatre.
It's not a deal killer though. I'd definitely suggest seeing Hostiles on the big screen. I think the lack of a typical antagonist might make it a bit unsatisfying for some. But for those who dig heavy internal conflicts, especially when portrayed by very talented actors, Hostiles will deliver right up until the last scene, a scene which was so satisfying for me—a brilliant end to such a long, tortured journey.
I'm a pretty big Quentin Tarantino fan. I've watched most of his movies at the theatre, and tend to like them all.
When The Hateful Eight came out a few years ago, Tarantino was knee-deep in his political drama that I believe turned a lot of people off, including me. I skipped seeing the movie. However, A couple of days ago, I finally caught it on Netflix.
One of the things that makes Tarantino's movies so intriguing is that as a screenwriter and director, he's incredibly undisciplined, but he's so talented, he can use that as an advantage to give us fascinating scenes that we're not used to getting from other filmmakers. However, because of that lack of discipline, we have to put up with stuff that is annoying in his films, i.e.: their absurdly bloated length, the mind-numbing coincidences, & the ridiculous dialogue moments. The Hateful Eight does suffer from these, but overall the powerful scenes and terrific acting makes up for it.
Make no mistake about it, this is a $45M stage play masked as a film. It's a small, simple story. That being said, it's filled with enough tension to work quite well on the screen. The handful of spaces used for the film simply work as a backdrop for the deliciously fault-ridden Tarantino characters to aggravate each other, and ultimately commit the over-the-top violence we expect. And the Robert Richardson shots look as beautiful as they should in a Tarantino movie.
Having been shot on 70mm, I should have seen this film in the theatre. However, since it's not an epic outdoor story, I don't feel horrible about not seeing it on the big screen.
I don't see any fall-off in Tarantino's work. It's been rock-steady his entire career. The Hateful Eight isn't his best movie, but the range between his best and worst film is slim. They're all very good. If the Tarantino style of storytelling is your thing, I'd definitely catch The Hateful Eight on a nice-sized TV screen, and make yourself an extra large bowl of popcorn, because it's going to take awhile to get through it.
I started watching Ozark when it came out last July. I struggled through the first few episodes and then gave up on the series. After many people told me to try to get through the first season, I watched an episode here and there, and then finally, in the last week, watched the last three.
Ozark is frustrating. The first two-thirds of it felt grossly underpolished. There needed to be a few more months in the writer's room. There needed to be more weeks of production. There definitely needed to be some better direction early on.
And then, the last few episodes delivered in terrific fashion, especially the last two, directed by Jason Bateman. It's like out of nowhere, this mediocre drama becomes utterly fantastic.
My biggest grievance with Ozark is that I feel the two leads, Jason Bateman & Laura Linney, both of whom are very talented actors, are pretty severely miscast. Their chemistry is a gigantic misfire. I buy Linney in her role more than Bateman in his, but I wish neither had been cast. However, many of the minor players are very well cast, and even with Bateman & Linney, the further on the story goes, the more forgiving you are of them in their roles.
It's hard to tell if the series is worth recommending. If Season 2 is of the quality of the last few episodes, then it's definitely worth the watch. If it takes a big chunk of the season to get good, then probably not. Time will tell.
I'm glad I did finish the season. I'm actually looking forward to Season 2 now. Maybe Season 1 was rushed to production. Sometimes shows take awhile to find their groove. Either way, the story and characters are now well set up. Hopefully, Ozark produces from the get-go in the upcoming season, because when it's good, it's very good.