As proven with Miss Sloane,Jessica Chastain proves that she’s at home with rapid fire dialogue, and now she teams up with the master of that aesthetic with Oscar winning scribe Aaron Sorkin. His feature directing debut Molly’s Game is the true story of how skier Molly Bloom (Chastain) became the operator of a high stakes poker game in Los Angeles and New York. Also the author of a bestselling book based on her poker days, Bloom was also in trouble with the law, and Idris Elba co-stars as the lawyer who helps Bloom through the legal process. The picture features standout work from Chastain and hopefully she’ll be remembered come Oscar nominations time.
Also covered on the latest episode of CinemAddicts is Blame and American Folk, two indie January releases that also deliver Grade A narratives. Our divergent opinions on Call Me By Your Name (I loved it) is also covered on the show – take a listen below and feel free to comment!
In another era, John Hawkes (The Sessions, Four Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri) would be a leading man who’d line them up at the local movie theater. But this isn’t the age of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, or even Gene Hackman, and if one doesn’t have “movie star” looks that person plies his trade as a character actor .
But Hawkes is one example of how character actors often have more presence than the actual star of the project, and it’s great to see him front and center in Small Town Crime. Directed by brothers Ian and Eshom Nelms, the feature focuses on an ex-cop named Mike Kendall (Hawkes) who has turned his life into a living hell thanks to his alcoholism. Drinking like a fish on a daily basis, Mike often wakes up with no idea of his location, and his decision to go behind the wheel while drunk should irritate many a viewer.
Mike may have affection for his adopted sister (Octavia Spencer) and her husband (Anthony Anderson), who’s also his drinking buddy, but they can’t stop his downward spiral. Upon the discovery of a dying woman who’s abandoned on a deserted road, Mike immediately rushes her to the hospital but to no avail. Determined to find her killer in hopes of actually rejoining the force, Mike gradually becomes reengaged with life, proving that when halfway sober he’s actually a great detective. Daniel Sunjata and Michael Vartan play cops who don’t want Mike anywhere near the investigation, with Robert Forster and Clifton Collins Jr. helping Mike out as the victim’s father and an all too confrontational pimp. Caity Lotz (Legends of Tomorrow) also stars a prostitute who may be hiding a thing or two from Kendall.
Fans of such neo-noirs like Blood Simple, where the hard boiled crime is slightly tempered by comedic undertones, should gravitate towards Small Town Crime. Running a lean and mean 91 minutes, the effective thriller is powered by a charismatic and memorable performance by Hawkes. Credit goes to the directors for filling out their narrative with a talented ensemble, but unfortunately their ultimate purpose is to service the narrative’s top dog. That’s a minor quibble, as it’s great to see Hawkes anchor his own film for once, and the Nelms brothers prove they have no trouble delivering an engaging narrative.
Small Town Crime may not reach the big stakes level of some of its cinematic influences, but that’s just fine. If you didn’t already know Hawkes is a star, then Small Town Crime should lead you in the right direction.
The film hits select theaters and On Demand January 19.
By now, many have seen the trailers for Downsizing, the new Matt Damon film in which a number of the Earth’s population undergoes a process of miniaturization supposedly for the betterment of the world. But while the trailers do highlight some of the more humorous moments of the film, like Matt Damon, you should all get ready for the transition.
The Alexander Payne-directed film does suffer a bit from trying to figure out what it wants to be, much like its central character of Paul Safranek (Matt Damon). The film starts off as a bit of a light comedy with some social commentary as Safranek and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) struggle through their day-to-day life trying to make ends meet. Paul is a people pleaser, often going out of his way for others, and wanting to give his wife what he thinks she desires. Upon reconnecting with a college friend (Jason Sudeikis) who got “small,” Paul is intrigued by the fresh start it seems to have given him and he and Audrey investigate joining Leisureland, one of the top resort establishments where their paltry savings translates to a sizable windfall.
The “size” jokes are sly and the actual resizing process is an intriguing visual, but poor Paul hopes for the future he always wanted to give his wife are dashed when she has second thoughts at the last minute, leaving him miniaturized and she skirting off to her family and friends leaving him high and dry. But while the early portion of the film seemed light and bouncy, the remainder is more of a dramatic piece with Paul finding his place in a new world.
A downtrodden Paul spends his next year separating from his wife, moving from his luxurious house to an apartment, taking a miserable job in telemarketing after giving up his occupational therapist position in the real world and seemingly wandering adrift in his new world. But his loud and very frank upstairs neighbor Dusan (Christoph Waltz) takes Paul under his wing and introduces him to a new world. It is through this association with Dusan and a number of his associates that Paul begins to start his journey to understanding who he is within the changing world around him.
Dusan is a capitalist cad, finding the ways to exploit the downsized world, who also employs a Vietnamese activist named Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chou) who was imprisoned and downsized before losing her leg in a human trafficking operation. It’s Paul’s fascination with Ngoc that begins his transformation, first reclaiming a bit of his old self through assisting with her leg, and then being increasingly pulled into her orbit. Through his journey of self-discovery, Paul suffers a few highs and lows, but his hopefulness remains key to the film’s pacing and plot.
While there are light moments in Downsizing, it becomes more of a think piece, with Damon’s character thrust into situations we all may eventually face within our own lives. His journey is one worth following and one that will no doubt have the audience questioning how they would handle the same situations, which could be inevitable within our world. Downsizing is part comedy, part social commentary, part wake-up call for our future, which at times is uneven, but is fully worthy following. The film may not be for everyone, but it’s a movie that should make you think and have you talking upon leaving the theater.
The great news about this episode of CinemAddicts is there are a ton of great movies that are being reviewed. November featured the top releases Lady Bird and the transcendent Call Me By Your Name, and both films are covered on the show. Unfortunately, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which is receiving its share of excellent reviews, simply didn’t float my boat (it doesn’t reach the cinematic heights of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone).
Although there’s a formal review embargo on The Post, reactions to the film have been allowed. The bottom line is that this is Steven Spielberg’s strongest film in years (possibly since Munich) and features solid work from Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The Post is this year’s frontrunner for Best Film, and don’t be surprised if Spielberg wins a Best Director Oscar.
Other films covered on the program include Molly’s Game, which features an A-list performance from Jessica Chastain. and two excellent Westerns (The Ballad of Lefty Brown, Hostiles). Check out the latest installment of CinemAddicts below!!
Welcome to Ebbing, Missouri, the not-so-serene small town where Mildred Haynes has had enough. The tough-as-nails mother, played by Frances McDormand, has an epiphany while passing by a trio of dilapidated billboards on the road near her remote home. She pools what money she has to call out the local police department who have failed to solve the rape and murder of her daughter and thus sets the stage for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Mildred is a force of nature, channeling her grief and guilt over her daughter’s death into a singular focus, lighting a fire under the local police force who have seemingly let the case go cold. But the billboards also unleash a chain reaction of pain within the town, where the beloved police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) sadly has no response for the grieving but unforgiving Mildred, who doesn’t flinch upon Willoughby’s revelation that he’s dying of cancer. As Mildred sees it, her move should only ignite him to solve the case before he passes.
The billboards also turn the local police force, some of the town’s citizens and leaders and even her own son (Lucas Hedges) against her and put her in the crosshairs of her physically abusive ex-husband (John Hawkes), who unwittingly helped to fund the billboards.
But while the film hinges on the case, writer / director Martin McDonagh makes it less about the whodunit and more about how each of the flawed and broken characters in the film deal with the hands they’ve been dealt. McDermott’s dogged determination takes her down a very dark path until a realization from the most unlikely of sources helps her start to turn a corner. Willoughby’s journey also proves to be a turning point for Mildred as well as his dim, short-tempered officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who arguably makes the biggest strides within the film’s time span.
While the subject matter is definitely dark and the characters flawed, the performances are outstanding. McDormand, who McDonagh had in mind while writing the role, is as close to a shoe-in as there is for a Best Actress nod, while Harrelson and Rockwell have been getting supporting actor talk and even some early accolades. You can also look for the film to be in the hunt for Best Picture when the Oscar nominees are announced, as this murder mystery isn’t your typical formulaic film.
In terms of Hollywood respect, Tom Hanks is to actors what Steven Spielberg is to directors. So it comes as no surprise that the two of them are working together again, as Hanks stars in Spielberg’s new movie, The Post. It’s the fifth time they’ve worked together on a movie, but Hanks told us he never knows what he’s going to get when he signs on for a Spielberg film, because none of the movies has been like the others. (Click on the media bar below to hear Tom Hanks)
The Post, which also stars another multiple Oscar winner, Meryl Streep, opens in selected theaters on December 22.