Tag: Brian d’Arcy James

Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin Sorkin sorkin. If you would have told me he never directed a movie before I would have raised my finger in the air and declared “Oh no! He must have!” Sure he is known for being a writer and a great writer. But I just can’t imagine him never directing anything. Especially given the number of TV shows he has worked on.

But alas. The truth is sometimes hard to swallow, and usually that phrase is for much bigger events than this one.

Despite the fact that this is an original Sorkin directed film and of course, writer, it is unfortunately based on a true story. A true story that was written about in a book with the same name, Molly’s Game. And so even though he wrote the screenplay, he based it off of someone else’s words, and maybe the dialogue would be affected in some regards.

Cleavage
Or even worse, maybe Sorkin will get distracted by other things while having to direct as well.

Molly (Jessica Chastain) was very close to heading to the US Olympics as a downhill skier, doing the moguls. Her father (Kevin Costner) was an intense man, who wanted his kids to be athletes and great at school, constantly pushing them to achieve greatness at all costs. He was a bit of a dick. But Molly didn’t qualify due to a freak unlikely accident, and he life was forever changed.

Instead of the Olympics, Molly found herself putting off law school, living off of her friend’s couch until she found some job and some life experience. It led her to becoming the personal assistant of Dean King (Jeremy Strong), an asshole, a piece of shit, but she got money so whatever. This led her to running a weekly poker game he was hosting, which featured big celebrities, CEOs, high money people. It gave her a lot more in tips, so Molly began to learn the art of poker, about being a host, so that eventually she could do this on her own.

Thanks to the help of a mysterious celebrity (Michael Cera), eventually she got her foot in the door, ran a bigger game, with higher stakes, more tipping, and all legal. And yet, years later, she is arrested despite no games in a long time, with connections to mobsters, and she needs legal help to get her out of the jam (Idris Elba). Basically, a lot of shit is going down, we got flashbacks, we got a slight mystery, and we got sexy card game shenanigans and stories and gossip.

Also starring a ton of people, some playing unnamed celebrities, some CEOs, some attractive people in general. This includes Natalie Krill, Stephanie Herfield, Bill Camp, Madison McKinley, Justin Kirk, J.C. MacKenzie, Graham Greene, Chris O’Dowd, Angela Gots, and Brian d’Arcy James.

eYES
I’d let Idris Elba represent me in court, even if in real life he doesn’t know a damn thing.

Damn it, and now another recent movie has made me want to read the book. First Wonder, then The Disaster Artist, and now Molly’s Game. Although a little bit less interested in this book, as I feel like the movie must have done a great job of explaining the topic of the book. And I have fear that the narration of Molly’s Game, which is assumed to be book quotes, has been made better by Sorkin instead of left alone.

Not to mention I know that reading this book will not secretly identify any actors or celebrities who were parts of these games. These things were combed over by insiders already, and since I know jack shit outside of just movie gossip, I got absolutely nothing. Especially since this happened over a decade ago or whatever.

In terms of acting, Chastain does a really good job. She is powerful, assertive, and confident for the most part, a strong leading lady. Her cleavage plays a large role in this film as well, definitely important to the plot. Cleavage hasn’t been this important to a plot since Erin Brockovich, and this one is definitely more important. It deserves its own tag credit.

Elba is fine as the lawyer, given a lot more of the fun moments early on, and gets at least two great speeches near the end. The ending is where we get a lot more Sorkin level dialogue between the characters, especially between Chastain and Costner (who has done his best work in several years with this role).

Honestly, a fun story, it is gripping at times, it was very popular half a decade ago, yet still not quite big news. The only issues I probably have with it involve the direction. After the intro, which was wonderful, the story felt really weird. We had a lot of strange camera choices, fade overs, switching of timelines. It eventually started to come together, but it didn’t feel very coherent and great until after the poker games were already going.

Sorkin’s next film is called The Politician, also a true story. Huh, stories about the law and politics, this is strange new territory for Sorkin.

3 out of 4.

Rebel in the Rye

Before Rebel in the Rye, what I knew about J.D. Salinger could fit inside of an index card. Along with the first 200 digits of pi, I am sure. I knew he died, I knew he wrote Catcher in the Rye, and that is it.

Well, I also knew that he came out of hiding at some point recently and made the game show Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!, but that is a different story, one that this film surprisingly chooses to ignore.

Needless to say, I have never read Catcher in the Rye. Never came up in my schooling and clearly wouldn’t be a book I rush off to read on my own. I like that fantasy stuff. The only reason I rushed to see this movie as a prescreener was due to the Hurricane hitting Houston and having no films in weeks. But hey, if anyone asks, say I said it was for the lead.

Type
And I can get pissed off watching someone write when I have not been writing for the same amount of time.

A long long time ago, when the earth was still green, a young J.D. (Nicholas Hoult) wants to be a writer. He is a wise alack, and from a rich house, and he has gotten kicked out of multiple colleges already for being a dick. But he gets to try again, thanks to privilege and wealth, and heads off to Columbia University. There, besides meeting with young ladies and party goers, he meets Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey), a professor who gets J.D. to reach his potential and actually write good short stories. He also runs a small short story publication and ends up publishing Salinger’s first work! Hooray! He is a professional writer!

But he wants more. He wants to be published in The New Yorker, the cream of the crop in terms of short stories. And when he finally gets a story good enough for them? Well, they go and offer notes and suggestions. They need his story to have a happy ending, not the dismal one he created. Well, that’s shit.

Other people love the short story though. They enjoy the character he created in that story, and Burnett himself suggests he needs to turn that character into an entire novel. Unfortunately, before that novel can happen, World War II and Pearl Harbor happens, so Salinger instead goes off to war! He sees some shit, he barely survives, and changes as a person. But he kept writing, and after overcoming some PTSD, finally publishes The Catcher in the Rye.

The rest? Well, the rest still isn’t so easy either.

Also featuring Sarah Paulson, Zoey Deutch, Victor Garber, Brian d’Arcy James, and Celeste Arias.

Spacey
Oh the joy of two men just giggling about words on pages.

Rebel in the Rye is the type of movie made for those who really want to know more about the author of a book they love. Salinger was known as a bit of a recluse, so seeing his story and why he became one is a journey on its own. However, without the context of Catcher, a lot of the film was lost of me.

The good news? I kind of want to read The Catcher in the Rye now, so I guess it cane make money off of me that way.

The beginning of the film took a real long while to get going. The whole thing was full of cliches really up until Salinger finally became a published author. It doesn’t stand apart from any generic 1930’s rich elite story. The acting from all of the side characters isn’t anything special.

However, when World War II happened, the film definitely started to turn. I could no longer imagine the lead as Hoult acting, but as a Salinger type person, so the transformation was working. It also became a lot of a better story, especially with the dealings of PTSD. At that point though, it was too little too late to turn this film into something amazing.

2 out of 4.

Spotlight

I love journalism movies. You may not know it, but I used to be a journalist. Yes, sure, 99% of my articles were reviews for a few papers, but damn it, I worked in the newsroom, I discussed articles occasionally, and I wrote at least one article on my own about a non movie thing.

But you know what is even sexier than journalism? Investigative journalism! You know, the journalism that requires investigations! Weeks to months to potentially years of digging around, looking for scoops, talking to witnesses, etc. That is like modern detective work, but where the pay is shit and you are only working for the greater good (or whatever).

Movies like All The President’s Men and Shattered Glass are examples of interesting or even great films that go through the real life process. Maybe some dramatization, but damn it, the facts are there! Spotlight is a new film, also about true events, and about the team that brought them to the public.

Work
You can tell they are a real newspaper because they are actually working and not throwing footballs around.

The year is 2001! Don’t worry, September hasn’t happened yet. It is just summer time. You can tell it is a different time and place by the giant ass AOL billboard in the film. In Boston, life is pretty damn normal. People work, people go to church, people get drunk, eyyyyy Bawston. The Boston Globe is like a lot of other papers, they are worried about the internet taking away a lot of their jobs and trying to change things up. So they bring in this single, Jewish guy from Miami, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). He is not a Bostonian, however a lot of the paper happens to be from the area. This really gives them a sense of purpose and makes them think they are helping their community, so they are worried about a non Catholic outsider coming in and doing bad things.

And guess what he wants to do? He wants to…make sure the paper matters for the community. Oh okay, that sounds good. But he wants to also do some follow ups on a story he read about. Some priest had apparently been molesting kids for years, but the paper only ran a couple articles on him. He wants follow up and research. So he puts the Spotlight crew on it. A four person team who does the longer projects on it. Lead by Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton) who has been with the paper forever, he also has on his team Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James).

But can they really do that? Can they (what most people would see it as) wage war on the church? They all grew up Catholic and have that culture ingrained in their subconscious? Could it really be a bigger issue and something everyone just turned a blind eye towards?

Also featuring James Sheridan, Billy Crudup, Neal Huff, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci.

Group
This was definitely not a real scene from the film, but boy is it convenient to showcase the actors.

When the credits began to role, I had the biggest investigative journalism movie boner ever. That shouldn’t sound graphic or surprising, because that is an oddly specific thing to say and thus doesn’t mean a lot.

I wanted to go out, quit my job (hah!) and become a journalist again to save the world from bad people. I wanted to call strangers and find out information. I wanted to jostle notes on a small pad of paper while people talked. Oh okay, I technically already do that during movies, but I want to be able to do it when I can also see the paper well and not in a dark room.

Spotlight is a unique story where everyone knows how it will end, but the journey is so fascinating that it still can keep the tense moments. Sure, we know the article gets published, but you can still let out a small fist bump when everything finally comes together, happy that justice and journalism finally win despite the enormous pressures to fail. This is some of the best acting I’ve seen from Ruffalo, Keaton, and Schreiber. Maybe second best for all three. I think they are better in Infinitely Polar Bear, Birdman, and Goon, respectfully.

If there is any weak point in this film, it has to be Slattery. His character just felt like he was a cartoon, being a weird sometimes foil, sometimes not, maybe bad guy, maybe not. It was frustrating with little to no payout.

But outside of that, go see Spotlight, go see some sexy reporting, and damn it, support your local paper.

4 out of 4.