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.

Wind River

For awhile, I was up in Northern Minnesota. This is real life, true story. How north, you ask? Well, apparently a 45 minute drive would have taken me to Canada.

I bring this up for two reasons: One, it made me miss quite a few screenings, because they show movies up there months after everyone else saw them, certainly not before. And two, the movie Wind River is set in the wilderness.

Not almost Canada, but cold enough in the months of “barely Spring” Wyoming, in the mountains.

So basically, I am this story. If you squint really really hard.

Hunt
Oh hey. Avengers. I see you upgraded weapons.

Set in the titular Wind River, Wyoming, this takes us to a big reservation city where people want to just be left alone, raise their families, and not be fucked over by the white man. Basically like a lot of people in the world.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a cool white guy though, as you can tell with his white name. He is okay, because he works to help the area. He lives alone and is a hunter, and he works for the government sort of, taking out wolves or lions or whatever that are messing with people’s farms. He has an ex wife (Julia Jones) and a son (Teo Briones) that he has visitation for sometimes. Definitely some backstory there. Would be awesome if a new character was brought in so that it could be addressed at some point.

But before that, DEATH. Because while out looking for a momma lion and her cubs, he stumbles upon a dead body. A girl, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille) that he knows, barefoot, and miles away from any house. His plans have changed, and now they have to wait for an FBI agent to get there to investigate the possible murder. Which is where we meet Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), girl totally not used to the cold, here to check things out. Despite bad things that have clearly happened to the girl, specifically physical stuff, the death cannot be ruled a murder but natural causes. Weather is a goddamn bitch.

Banner doesn’t have a lot of time to investigate this before she will be called back to a new job, so she enlists Lambert’s help in order to get someone who knows the area and land to maybe make some leads quickly before she has to run off again. Can they figure out the mystery behind her death?

Featuring the awesome Graham Greene as the local cop, and Gil Birmingham as Natalie’s dad. Also all of these people: Apesanahkwat, Eric Lange, Tantoo Cardinal, Althea Sam, Tyler Laracca, Martin Sensmeier, Tokala Clifford, Jon Bernthal, James Jordan, Austin R. Grant, Blake Robbins, Hugh Dillon, Ian Bohen, and Matthew Del Negro.

Grief
And Birmingham’s face was played by William Wallace.

After watching, Wind River seems like one of those movies that I really love for basically every aspect, that other movie watchers will find to be boring or dumb. I hate it when that happens. I want those people to open their minds and realize they just witnessed something epic, so I write about it (while begrudgingly say that yeah, everyone can have an opinion), and make sure people get out there.

But honestly I can’t see that happening. I can’t imagine people going to watch this and not being impressed with it. It is just so damn good. There is no way this can have a disconnect between critic and the average movie goer. Anyone should be able to go in, see how much Renner, Olsen and Greene brought it the entire time they weer on the screen. They should be able to see how much Birmingham did with a lot less screen time. They should be appreciative of the cast that was very racially sensitive to the area.

And they should be able to see how well the plot unfolded. When the movie decided to reveal the secrets, they should feel how their stomach turned and their anger increased. The emotions would be on a ride if someone just let them.

Sure, Wind River started off a little bit slow, but once we get dead body, it should captivate the viewer, and you will see definitely one of the best films of 2017.

4 out of 4.

The Shack

This is part of Fantasy and Sci-Fi Week at Gorgon Reviews!

Another film to come out in March that I missed, due to the extreme circumstances of birthday nonsense that incorporates that month of my life, when I first saw the trailer for The Shack, I didn’t realize it was a religious film.

Yes, even though there was an original song by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, I didn’t realize it was a religious film. Even though it came out right around Easter, I didn’t realize it was a religious film. Even though it was about death and overcoming grief, I didn’t realize it was a religious film.

I just thought it was a fantasy film. But when I had to see the trailer a second time my wife was there and told me. Whoops. Well, religious films are still fantasy films, so it is relevant enough for me to finally watch it.

Group
Worst superhero team ever?

Willie (Tim McGraw) gets to serve as our narrator and local church pastor for this film, so I know you are stoked.

This film is instead about Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington), a successful family man at some job, with his wife Nan (Radha Mitchell), and three kids Kate (Megan Charpentier), Josh (Gage Munroe), and Missy (Amélie Eve). Mack had a rough life growing up, when he was a kid (Carson Reaume), he lived with his alcoholic father (Derek Hamilton) and mother. The dad got angry a whole lot, beat up the mom, and beat up Mack. When Mack tried to tell the church, he just got beat up more. Sucks a whole lot.

Either way now he is a happy dad. They still go to church, but he isn’t fully into Jesus like his wife. On a camping trip where Nan cannot make it, he is enjoying life with his three kids. When his two oldest get into an accident on the lake, Mack rushes into the water to save them, hooray big hero! But now his daughter, Missy, is missing.

He was barely in the water, it was only a few minutes, yet she is gone and he and the other campers cannot find her anywhere. The police believe it to be a serial killer (!) in the area, who has been taking girls. Days later, they find her clothes and blood in a shack, no real resolution. Holy crap!

Now, months later, it is winter, and of course Mack is still upset. His whole family is, but Mack is more upset at the big guy upstairs. He ends up getting a note to go back to the Shack, and against the wishes of his pastor, he heads up alone, thinking it is the serial killer and he wants revenge.

Instead, he finds a magical cabin, with representatives from heaven who want him to heal. Featuring Octavia Spencer as God, Avraham Aviv Alush as Jesus, and Sumire Matsubara as the Holy Spirit. Also Alice Braga as some sort of judger and Graham Greene also as God.

Cook
They heal his soul the southern way, with biscuits.

A lot of the problems/issues that the movie have, problems with story structure and more, can unfortunately be written away by spiritual magic. Dream sequences and all of that jazz. Because while watching it, the viewer should be saying “Hey, how can he spend multiple days up here with no one knowing where he is?…Oh. Because it was maybe all in his head real time wise and he never made it to the Shack? Gotcha.”

And that takes away from so much. If they dealt with the real consequences of him disappearing it would have added some more real drama to the film. But it gets swept under the rug, we get an hour plus of movie and “growth” from Mack that happens in the span of apparently getting into a car accident and waking up in a hospital. How convenient.

The main message of the film is to live a better life, you need to forgive and forget the bad things and focus on the good. But they chose a really messed up person to preach this too. Yes, they are saying to forgive and forget the dad who beat them. They are saying to forgive and forget a serial killer for abducting, killing, and who knows what else his tiny girl.

I’m sorry, but no. There are bad things in the world, and this film says it is okay, because there are still good things in your life and Heaven awaits. That is a bad message to pass on.

Also, Spencer gets to play neighborly helper woman again, but also as God. She just can’t get a typecasted break. At least the Jesus character looks more Jesus-y than normal.

0 out of 4.