Bro-Reviews: All the Money in the World

On the money.

Ridley Scott is one of those directors that when he’s on his game, there’s no better director in Hollywood. When Alien: Covenant disappointed back in the summer, many began to worry about his next film setting itself up for an awards season run, All the Money in the World, Based on John Pearson’s 1995 book “Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty.” The film became embroiled in controversy when one of its stars, Kevin Spacey, was accused of sexual misconduct against several people, including under aged boys. In an effort to distance itself from the disgraced actor, director Ridley Scott pulled off the impossible task of re-shooting Spacey’s scenes with a new actor, Christopher Plummer, and editing Spacey out of the movie in time for the film’s planned December release. With all of the controversy and intrigue surrounding the film, did Scott’s gamble pay dividends?

Based on true events, All the Money in the World tells the story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul  Getty III (Charlie Plummer). Although he is the richest man in the world, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) refuses to pay his grandson’s ransom. With very little help and even less time, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), John’s mother, and ex-CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), must find a way to rescue John before it’s too late.

As mentioned earlier, the film was engulfed in controversy due to its association with tarnished actor Kevin Spacey, and somehow director Ridley Scott and newly cast J. Paul Getty Christopher Plummer were able to re-shoot all of Spacey’s scenes without the use of special effects. We all know Scott is a visionary director, and when he is on his A-game, he’s a force to be reckoned with. In an emergency and seemingly impossible situation, the fact Scott was able to finish the film in time for its release is an achievement in it of itself, regardless of the film’s overall quality.

The gamble manages to pay off immensely, as two veterans manage to deliver a film that undoubtedly benefits from Kevin Spacey’s re-casting with Christopher Plummer. Plummer embodies Getty to his core, a creepy, surly, cheap billionaire who only cares for things, not people. While no one would dare question his acting prowess, there was something about the early trailers with Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty that just felt out of place. Spacey was pancaked with makeup and special effects to resemble an elderly gentleman, and the studio wanted him instead of Plummer, who was Scott’s first choice, to play the role since he is a bigger name actor. Christopher Plummer is able to portray Getty in a manner that Kevin Spacey never could since Spacey is not an old man, and Plummer is able to personify Getty in expert fashion due to his elderly status. Plummer’s recent nomination for the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture is very deserved, and his performance should also earn him a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the Oscars as well.

Christopher Plummer in “All the Money in the World.”

His performance also lends itself well to the story, which is nothing short of harrowing and thrilling. Of course the film more than likely over dramatizes and possibly even adds fictitious events to this true tale, but Scott captivates us with J. Paul Getty’s greedy demeanor, the relationship between victim and captor, and the race to find Paul before he experiences irreparable damage.

Michelle Williams shines as Gail Harris, as she is able to convincingly portray a woman not only desperate to get her son back, but willing to do whatever it takes to do so, including fighting Getty’s empire. Her performance nabbed her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama, and could be up for an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress as well. Despite my initial concerns due to his presence in the film, Mark Wahlberg manages to acquit himself well in the film. Wahlberg avoids his action-star tendencies and instead trades them for a more calm and collected professional demeanor, which he is able to pull off well enough. Charlie Plummer also does a fine job as the kidnapped Getty, and his relationship with one of his captors, played by Romain Duris, functions well in the film and adds another layer of complexity to the kidnapping.

One aspect of the film audiences must get through, however, is the first hour of the film. While it starts off strong by showing us the relationship between J. Paul Getty and his grandson Paul, the first hour drags for far too long, as we are constantly reminded of how difficult it is to get ahold of the elder Mr. Getty and his unwillingness to pay his grandson’s ransom. This could have easily been trimmed to make the film shorter than its 132 minute running time, as we get the point very early on in the film.

Despite a whirlwind of controversy and a somewhat slow first act, All the Money in the World is a directorial achievement unlike any in the history of cinema and a compelling drama. Most studios and directors would have delayed a film’s release under All the Money in the World‘s circumstances, but in the hands of a true auteur in Ridley Scott, one has to wonder why we panicked for him, the studio, and the film in the first place. It also helps that its overhauling changes more than likely made for a better final product, but the performances nonetheless are nothing short of spectacular, chief among them Christopher Plummer’s. All the Money in the World is an on the money drama, and might walk away with a couple of Academy Awards along with some Golden Globes come this awards season.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

All the Money in the World stars Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Andrew Buchan, and Timothy Hutton. It is in theaters December 25th.

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Bro-Reviews: Blade Runner 2049

This Blade (Runner) cuts deep.

Hollywood has been in the business of making money off of old properties for quite some time. Hollywood has also been in the business of attempting to create franchises by making sequels to popular properties, a trend that has no foreseeable end in sight. Combine these two trends together, and most of the time it yields disastrous results. That’s why when it was announced a sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott sci-fi classic Blade Runner was getting a sequel 35 years after its original release, many were apprehensive to the idea. A sequel to one of the most groundbreaking genre films of all-time? And old man Harrison Ford was returning as the original Blade Runner, Rick Deckard? It seemed like all was lost, but is there a chance Blade Runner 2049 is the rare exception that comes along every now and then?

Blade Runner 2049 sees bioengineered humans called replicants integrated into society, including LAPD “blade runner” K (Ryan Gosling). K finds himself embroiled in a case revolving around a secret regarding the human nature of replicants, something his superior officer, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) believes to be dangerous. Lt. Joshi tasks K to get rid of all traces regarding this potentially revolution sparking secret, which leads to K encountering former “blade runner” Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), whilst on the run from the head of replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his deadly assistant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks).

While I understand the cinematic significance of the original Blade Runner and the influence it has had on the sci-fi genre, I personally can’t hop on the bandwagon of saying it’s a masterpiece. It was visually stunning and presented may thought provoking ideas, but its narrative just wasn’t cohesive enough. Blade Runner 2049 is the rare sequel that improves upon the faults of its predecessor, and is much better than the 1982 original.

While the film runs at an epic 163 minutes and still retains some of the clumsy narrative that made the original a divisive film at the time of its release, it uses its length to tell a more clear, simpler story with a thought provoking premise. Fans of the original Blade Runner and its many cuts will no doubt love the narrative provided by visionary director Denis Villeneuve, as it functions perfectly as a continuation of the last film. And fear not those who are not fans of the 1982 film, Blade Runner 2049 spoon feeds you just enough so that you too can follow along this thinking man’s neo-noir science fiction film as well.

Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner 2049”

Blade Runner 2049 retains its striking visuals that made the original such an influential film in the genre as well. It wastes no time in integrating the audience into this futuristic society with overcrowded cities, larger than life advertisements, and barren wastelands, making the world seem not as far fetched as some may believe it to be. In that regard, Blade Runner 2049 is nothing short of a visual masterpiece.

Blade Runner 2049 also features stellar performances from its talented ensemble cast. Ryan Gosling continues to showcase he’s one of the top leading men in Hollywood as officer K, and gives an emotionally engrossing performance. Robin Wright also gives the film a jolt of energy when needed, proving she can still deliver an emotionally charged performance. Sylvia Hoeks is chilling and frightening as a cold blooded killing replicant, and functions perfectly as the film’s main threat. Jared Leto isn’t in the film much, but is delightfully creepy as a replicant manufacturer similar to Joe Turkel’s Dr. Eldon Tyrell in the first film. And while Harrison Ford remains as grouchy as ever and doesn’t appear until the last act of the film, his reinsertion into the Blade Runner universe as an older Rick Deckard works, and questions linger in regards to whether or not he too is a replicant.

In regards to the stunning Ana de Armas, she proves she can give a solid performance in the film, but her character as K’s holographic companion Joi doesn’t quite work. It’s an interesting idea and a thoughtful commentary on how our society is moving closer and closer to developing more meaningful relationships with machines rather than humans, but since K too is some type of replicant, it makes this aspect of the film feel somewhat out of place, and could have possibly trimmed or cut out entirely to shorten the film’s already lengthy run time.

Despite the initial backlash and the one aspect of the film that doesn’t quite work, Blade Runner 2049 is a definite improvement over its already highly regarded precursor. The rare sequel that is not only better than the original, but takes the original’s themes and furthers them to comment on today’s society and dares to ask prominent questions we have regarding our own existences. Blade Runner 2049 undoubtedly cuts deep, and leaves audiences and fans of the original begging for more, even after 163 minutes.

Rating: 3.5/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, David Dastmalchian, Carla Juri, Wood Harris, Barkhad Abdi, and Hiam Abbas. It is in theaters October 6th.

 

Bro-Reviews: Alien: Covenant

And you thought Prometheus made no sense.

Let’s face it, as it pertains to the Alien franchise, the first two films are the holy grail. Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic Alien popularized the sci-fi genre and still holds up as one of the most horrifying films of all time. The sequel, James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens, was a prime example of how to do a sequel correctly and is one of the best sci-fi horror/ action films ever made. Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, however, are the epitome of studio blockbusters made to cash in and failed. The less said of Alien Vs. Predator/ AVP the better, and AVP: Requiem never happened, okay? After over 30 years and six Alien films, one might have thought the franchise was dead. Director Ridley Scott, however, decided he wanted more money and made the 2012 prequel to Alien, Prometheus. Five years later, we have yet another prequel to Alien but also a sequel to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant.

In Covenant, a crew made up of couples carrying embryos sets off for an adventure into space on a ship called the covenant in an effort to colonize the remote planet Origae-6 in the year 2104. Along the way, they discover a radio transmission from an unknown planet, which they discover to be even more habitable than Origae-6. Against the wishes of terraforming expert Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterson), acting captain Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) orders the crew to go explore the planet, only to find that terror awaits them.

While many have their complaints about Prometheus, one thing you cannot deny the film for was the film’s character development. The characters in Alien: Covenant are about as dimensional as a plank of wood and commit even dumber acts than the scientists in Prometheus. Considering the capable cast assembled, including Danny McBride, Academy-Award nominee Demián Bichir, and Carmen Ejogo, it’s odd that you couldn’t care less about these characters. We briefly learn that Billy Crudup’s Oram is a man of faith, but that isn’t explored any further. Also, Katherine Waterson appears to be in the film only because she resembles Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, but that’s it. It’s not that the cast isn’t doing a good job, it’s just that they’re given nothing to do. The only vaguely interesting character in the entire movie is the always stellar Michael Fassbender’s Walter, a synthetic android created much in the vain as Fassbender’s David 8 in Prometheus but without the humanoid free-will David 8 possessed.

The best quality of Alien: Covenant is the production value. Ridley Scott has made a career off of making grandiose blockbusters, and Covenant is his latest achievement. The sets are nothing short of stunning, outer space looks epic but terrifying at the same time, and the planet the crew explores feels real, not like a green screen. Of course, the once practical Alien costume is tossed out for CGI incarnations of the beasts, but they do look frightening and even more impossible to kill than the ones that came before them. This makes for some impressive and epic action, including some homages to the first two Alien films. The other aspect of the film that must be mentioned is the question of our lives: who created us? The film connects to and seems to answer that question in order to continue the story-line started by Prometheus, but drops the ball by not exploring this question much further than that.

However, the fatal flaw of Alien: Covenant and all of these prequels is the fact that it’s supposed to connect to Alien eventually. The ending of the film leaves you asking how? How in the world is this supposed to connect to Alien? The answer is nobody knows how. 20th Century Fox is just winging it in hopes that you’ll spend your cash and two hours of your life to see another prequel to a classic. If you must, the visual spectacle of the film is enough to warrant a trip to the theater, but you’re better off watching Alien or Aliens instead.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. High Rental.