A credible achievement it is to make two features of such lengthiness in one year, Ridley Scott forgets that quantity does not equal quality. Between The Last Duel and House of Gucci is almost six hours of artisanship, but none of it is confident of itself. Where House of Gucci closed itself off from innovation and toured the usual suspects of the biopic genre, The Last Duel relies on an impossibly grand scale and another ensemble. Scott is wasteful and has no way of separating the wheat from the chaff, but he doesn’t need to. There is enough in the grandiose and inspired status of The Last Duel for it to compete on its own level, primarily because there is nothing quite like it anymore.
Sport as the great uniter of nations feels like a novel concept now. Just over a decade on from this feel-good rugby-based appeal from Clint Eastwood, and sport feels more fractured than ever. Perhaps it is the English game that feels that way, with intolerance and venom around every corner. Either way, Invictus has within it a focus on the great sport of rugby, and while that may take the spotlight away from what is essentially a biopic of Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman), it is at least fair to say the two are linked together by Eastwood in a way that feels dependable and interesting.
Exoneration appears to be a hard task indeed. For Bill Baker (Matt Damon), the innocence of his daughter, in prison for a murder she claims she did not commit, is the most important point of his life. His aim and desire to clear Allison (Abigail Breslin) of wrongdoing is touching and portrays the dedication parents often have to their offspring. Incompetence, language barriers, the pressure to convict someone, anyone, for a crime that demands public justice, and Stillwater comes together as an enticing, effective drama that depends on justice seeing the light of day. A loose adaptation (and a controversial one at that) of Amanda Knox’s struggle to clear her name, Stillwater takes the blue-collar American lifestyle and embeds it deep within a thrilling portrayal of foul play.
As he stumbles towards the tender, twilight years, Clint Eastwood has begun to toy with what death means. Hereafter would be quite the fitting swan song, considering his attempts at touching on the world around him would leave him with a chance to enclose his promising thoughts. But it was not to be, he would go on for a decade after this, making far better films in that span of time. They detail the thoughts he has here far better, and it makes Hereafter feel like a bit of a redundant, albeit well cast, feature. Jay Mohr and Richard Kind may feature ever so briefly, but they are washed away by Matt Damon, as are some other characters in a more literal sense in an opening that sees them meet with death, but avoid it ever so briefly.
Mob flicks may have dominated a portion of culture for some time, but their influence has ebbed away. Not entirely, and considering how many are still made, we should take note of their style and their impact. But the glory days are over. These are not the days of Scarface and Goodfellas. No Sudden Move, the latest feature from Steven Soderbergh, does not wish to be like those former examples, nor does it wish to cultivate a new direction for the genre. By setting itself and its impressive ensemble long before the days of mainstream crime, Soderbergh enjoys the ability to come clean with engaging realisations of trope-worthy characters.
Taking the right course of action, the road that leads to moral and personal justification is the road most travelled in Hollywood. Time and time again, producers offer the story of someone that perseveres through all the odds to see that justice is served. More often than not, we as an audience merely hope such goodness happens in reality when we also know that it is far from the truth. The Rainmaker, then, is one such film. It is filled with bad people, but those few good eggs that shine through like diamonds in the rough are trying to make the world a better place.
Capitalism is vile, or, more to the point, the few that manipulate it for incredible financial gain through shady dealings, backdoor deals, and gambling with other people’s money, is a disgusting facet and inevitability of such a poor system. How those individuals play the system by lingering in the grey area of the law is something that, controversial it may seem, needs to be cracked down on. Inside Job does a good job of showcasing why, and how the privatisation of banks in Iceland led to a global recession and collapse that many nations are still recovering from. Those hungry for money will do anything and everything they can to obtain it, it’s scary to think that’s the goal for many, and so few are willing to bend their morals to their limit, to see how much they can hoard.
Thanks to the ongoing global crisis, I’ve allowed myself much more time to read books and listen to more music. It’s been strange venturing outside of film, but it has given me some time that, in hindsight, was necessary for my writing. Case in point, finally getting around to reading Andy Weir’s best-known work, The Martian. With a big-budget film adaptation lingering around my favourite films list for the past few years, it amazes me how one rewatch could shatter the love I had for this film almost entirely.
My personal dislike for the latter-day efforts of director Steven Soderbergh comes from a part of me that can’t shake the feeling that his stories are often empty. A burst of interest in Contagion (for obvious reasons), led me to the conclusion that he can certainly make some interesting premises but following through on those ideas to create interesting conclusions or depth is something I don’t believe his direction can bring. Ocean’s Eleven is perhaps his most famous piece of work, and if not it’s by far his most famous trilogy (solely because this is his only trilogy). Although littered with the tropes that I dislike from his direction, I find Ocean’s Eleven to be a completely amicable heist movie.
Before glitzy, high profile biopics of superstar singers and songwriters became the norm for Hollywood, director Steven Soderbergh set out to pick apart several years from the very busy, interesting life of piano player Liberace. I’m not all that familiar with the work of Liberace, all I know is he played piano and had an extreme fondness for chandeliers. That alone is more than enough background information that you need for Behind the Candelabra, which documents Liberace’s six-year relationship with Scott Thorson.