The Highwaymen


Viewed – 02 April 2019. Netflix

You’d think a movie based on a notorious true story and starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, would be a sure bet. However this thriller told from the perspective of two former Texas Rangers, pulled out of retirement to put a stop to Bonnie & Clyde was surprisingly ‘meh’.

Costner & Harrelson make for an good pairing however, and their banter and slightly bumbling approach to an off-the-books investigation proves the main enjoyment of the film. You see, despite an atmospheric setting and authentic sense of time and place, the movie really plods along, barely even showing the legendary bank robbers, especially ‘in the act’ and by focusing more on these has-been lawmen the movie fails to be as riveting as the subject might suggest. It’s also one of those very vague movies when it comes to various clues and important details leading to finally locating Bonnie & Clyde – which proves rather frustrating. In addition, the real-life fame and hysteria that surrounded the murderous criminals is only slightly touched upon.

There’s entertainment to be had here, but overall this was a missed opportunity.  Another so-called Netflix original that underwhelms … I’m sensing a pattern.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

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My Friend Dahmer


Viewed – 23 June 2018  online-rental

When movies attempt to tackle the subject of a real life serial killer, the results are often sensationalist tabloid rubbish that fail to reveal anything new or a deeper understanding.  This movie tries to show a side of one of America’s most notorious killers during his high school years, before he became a monster.

myfrienddahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer (Ross Lynch) is portrayed as a heavily introverted loner school kid who gets befriended by some other kids who go about promoting yet inadvertently ridiculing him in an attempt to bring him out of his shell.  Jeffrey goes along with such treatment in a desperate bid to find a connection and a distraction from morbid urges, confusion with his sexuality and constantly quarrelling parents.

Director Marc Meyers’  movie fails to delve under Dahmer’s persona to reveal what made him tick or how such urges developed that eventually lead to particularly depraved murders.  Instead we have him as little more than an oddball that would occasionally act out for attention.  Newcomer Lynch gives a subdued, rather weak performance, perfecting a slumped stance but not much more.  The casting of Dahmer’s parents (including a stand-out Anne Heche) is more interesting and from what I hear, pretty much on the nail.  Based on a graphic novel by Dahmer’s high school friend this more than likely throws in some artistic licence with what went on and who Dahmer actually was, but ultimately fails to do much more than showcase a weirdo with a few alarming habits.  Considering who Dahmer became, this barely hints at any of it, making the final scene feel a bit of a stretch …despite the facts.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Molly’s Game


Viewed – 15 May 2018  online-rental

The true story of a former Olympic class skier who went onto run the worlds most exclusive, high stakes poker game, attracting celebrity names along with the interest of the FBI in the process.  Jessica Chastain plays Molly as an ambitious, if initially naive woman who see’s a chance for fortune and infamy after an accident ended her hopes of becoming a skiing champion. 

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Initially this movie had a feel of the Scorsese hit The Wolf Of Wall Street with it’s regular person rising to riches through not-entirely-legal activities, but director Aaron Sorkin lacks the flair to truly pull it off.  Instead we get a simple tale of someone getting way out of their depth fast and failing to check one’s ego at the door.  Molly throughout is a rather unsympathetic character and even when she turns to Lawyer Idris Elba who tries every trick in the book to reduce the heat on her back, that lust for power and credit for herself constantly wins out.  Chastain is gorgeous and pretty damn sexy despite a flawed character and the movie knows it, showcasing her obvious ‘charms’ every chance it gets – which is all the time.  Thankfully a back story involving an effective, if clichéd pushy-father-under-loved daughter relationship at least gives Molly some depth.  Yet Idris Elba’s questionable American accent fails to showcase Sorkin’s complex but brilliantly written dialogue the way I’m guessing the director intended. 

Overall this is a fascinating true story but lacks a degree of sensationalism that may have upped the entertainment, due to a reliance on discretion when having the opportunity to name drop any famous faces (player x for anyone interested, was rumoured to be Toby Maguire).  So from what I hear this remains somewhat a missed opportunity compared to the more warts and all book the movie is based on.

Verdict:  3 /5

Dunkirk


Viewed – 26 July 2017  Cinema

In 1940 WWII, allied troops stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk are slowly and methodically evacuated using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. … whilst at the same time fearing an imminent attack.

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Now I can’t say I am all that familiar with the historical aspects of this based-on-true-events depiction, so came into this blind with only the prospect of it being directed by Christopher Nolan getting me all that excited.  I’d say at this stage he is one of the best directors around and for me has crafted some incredible cinematic experiences.  So trying his hand at a war movie … well, someone take my money!  So we get the expected awe-inspiring photography and Nolan’s usual reliance on actual practical effects where clearly no expense seems to have been spared … and when we have areal dog fights or capsized ships it’s a sight to behold I can tell you.  Sad then that the surrounding events didn’t engage me as expected, not help by strangely bland characterisation  that even names like Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy fail to elevate.

Told through the eyes of several characters; a young lad who jumps aboard a boat setting sale to bring aid to the stranded soldiers at Dunkirk beach, a wet-behind-the-ears soldier at the beach who finds himself in a group of scared soldiers trying to find safety, and Tom Hardy’s spitfire pilot … this delivered a few powerful moments of dread and excitement but is ultimately let down by a trying to be clever, non-linear structure that’s at first not apparent – resulting in confusion.  Add to this a relentless over-dose of orchestral music that is tie-one’s-stomach-in-a-not intense even during relatively mundane moments and I began to think Nolan was trying to hide the fact he didn’t really have much to say.  It’s an event in WWII history that was significant, but the depiction we get here made it feel like just another day in the war (apparently thousands lost their lives, not that you see much of that).

WWII caused a horrific time in world history and several movies have brought that home and showcased courage under impossible odds much better (Saving Private Ryan).  So… maybe go see this for a bit of a history lesson and some admittedly stunning visuals.  Stay at home if you’re expecting much else.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Sully


Viewed – 18 April 2017  online rental

Tom Hanks is surely one of the most dependable and talented actors of his generation and for me, always an appealing prospect whenever he’s in a movie.  Something about him is just so likeable and relatable and he’s very much not your typical Hollywood star.  He’s like someone you feel you know.  So we come to his latest effort.  Overseen by the acclaimed directing talent of the legendary Clint Eastwood, this tells the true story of a freak accident that lead to a plane having to land in the Hudson River in the middle of New York City in 2009.

Sully

With an interesting, non-linear structure (the movie opens after the landing and flashes back to the day in question several times) Tom Hanks plays airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger (aka Sully) who is immediately faced with suspicion and attempts at being discredited for his actions by the airline and investigating parties, despite being heralded a hero by the public and media.  A very simple story at it’s heart held together by solid performances including Aaron Echhart and especially Hanks who’s plight I believed in and felt every emotion, doubt and uncertainty conveyed.  Eastwood builds tension and delivers a gently told but emotional story with great moments of drama from the actors and when we finally get to see how things occurred it’s pretty damn scary … especially for someone like me who’s never been on a plane.

It ends a little abruptly but that’s nit-picking for what is otherwise a well told, very well acted and powerful dramatisation of a remarkable incident.  A must for fans of Tom Hanks and anyone who enjoys gripping true stories.

Verdict:  4 /5