Four Movies

I recently traveled about 40,000 air miles, to Sydney and back and then to Rome and back. So I watched four movies of fairly recent vintage. My reactions:

Hail Caesar: This was the best of the four, a funny satire of old Hollywood and Communist idealists, with Josh Brolin superb as a studio enforcer and coverup guy. George Clooney was wasted in the lead—anyone could have played it—but the spoof of the Communist writers, usually such subjects of empathy (see Trumbo, below), was drop-dead funny (they’re the kidnappers who seem like the Keystone Cops). Along the way it heaps satire on the huge productions: swimming, dancing, westerns, and so forth. Not brilliant, but like a beach book, an easy read.

Eddie the Eagle: The true story of Eddie (Michael Eddie Edwards) who made the Olympics as a British ski jumper, which is sort of like Bora Bora sending a Nordic skier. We all know the ending, Taron Egerton in the lead is someone we’ve never heard of and for good reason, and the movie is simply saccharine. For some strange reason both Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken agreed to do the film, and I’m shocked there was enough money in the world to convince them, especially since they both embarrass themselves in a background story that Bentley, my German Shepherd, once wrote and threw out as worthless.

Trumbo: This is the melodramatic sorry of Dalton Trumbo, one of the storied Hollywood talents blacklisted in the days of HUAC and Joe McCarthy. We all know the story, and the perverse fear created is sometimes interesting to visit again on the screen. However, Bryan Cranston, so brilliant in so many roles, WAY overacts and chews the scenery from the outset, creating bathos instead of pathos. What ever happened to direction or notes? He’s almost unbearable, unsympathetic, and I felt he was a really poor choice. One reason to see the movie: Hedda Hopper, a force with tens of millions of avid readers a half-century before social media, is fascinating in the way she wields power over studio heads, actors, and everyone in her way. She is portrayed in a stunning tour de force by Helen Mirren.

Creed: Sylvester Stallone is superb for the first half of the film, and might have qualified for half an Oscar, but then relapses into a tired stereotype for the second half. The entire undertaking is a remake of the original Rocky, right down to 12-round brawling, champ vs. unlikely challenger, girlfriend, grizzled manager, yada yada yada. It’s a mess, made to make some money from a tired franchise. Michael B. Jordon, in the lead, has an acting range of A to B and he’s not helped by writing that appears just to be lifted from a variety of soap operas. Pathetic.

© Alan Weiss 2016


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