Eventually, everyone in the living world will have forgotten Last Vegas. A 2013 comedy flick led by four ageing stars needing to bank a quick check to pay off whatever hip replacement, alimony settlement or elephant’s foot walking cane holder is needed that week. All that will remain are whispers of such a film existing, one that can feature incredible, Oscar-winning talents shuffling around the gambling capital of the world. Wrinkled faces throw a bachelor party and at their tender age, “party” is closer to a round of scrabble and some Benadryl before walking around the small gardens of Vegas. What cannot be expected from this ensemble under the watchful eyes of director Jon Turteltaub, is quality.
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.
Collaborating minds in the directing chair, two greats of the industry coming together, knocking heads and building something powerful. That should happen more, but the outcome is often less than stellar. Joe Johnston and Lasse Hallström learn the hard way with The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a feature that wishes to inspire some of that Disney magic. All it can do is scrape the paste of Christmas cheer from the underbelly of projects past. Surely the men that brought us Jumanji and Hachi can mean us no harm. They are polite, reasonable, nice. They would never betray the qualities of Christmas for, say, cash, or the chance to work with Matthew Macfadyen.
While the passionate, rose-tinted glasses of Hollywood has conjured up much love for the fictional and real heroes of the boxing world, Million Dollar Baby strives to strike down with some harsh, cutting realism. Its grim and dingy aesthetics capture the tepid grey tones of director Clint Eastwood, but at least this time they have a reasonable purpose. Sweat, blood and tears throw themselves around the walls of a gym, providing Eastwood and company with the opportunity to build themselves as fighters, and as people. Distant emotions make themselves uncomfortable almost immediately, and as Million Dollar Baby pushes its stars towards an inevitable reconciliation of fighting and fears, the emotional strain on them all comes to the centre of the stage.
To cobble together thoughts on The Dark Knight over a decade after its release is to look more at its legacy and impact on filmmaking than on any specific part. Many an amicable discussion may come from the longevity of such a piece, whether on the topic of Christopher Nolan’s stunning direction or the blurring of action, thriller and detective genres. Those are effective, but The Dark Knight can work best as an understanding of comic book villains. It sets the bar high for those that wish to replicate these heroes and horror stories for later iterations. It holds a legacy that is known by many, mainly the tragic brilliance of Heath Ledger. But to look beyond that for a moment, there are performances here that outshine the craft he presents, moments that provide subtlety, unnoticed in the face of the best-remembered scenes and quotable moments.
Origin stories are no stranger to the world of superhero adaptations. Comic book capers can nary exit the opening minutes of their narrative without murdering a plot device here or strapping a protagonist with a bit of devastating backstory there. At the end of it all, few are as frequently told as that of Batman. Batman Begins is no stranger to the story of Bruce Wayne, his aversion to winged beasts and living parents wheeled out in every iteration the big screen could possibly throw at audiences. As audiences, we find comfort in similar entertainment, and that, to some degree, is the appeal of superheroes. We are told the same story consistently, with a handful of variables found in-between. It is Christopher Nolan’s work with Batman Begins that massages both entertainment value and storytelling prominence, to varying degrees of success.
Decades from now, how will these Oscar-bait movies be looked upon? Not fondly, I imagine, as the cultural shift away from the flatlining exploitation of messages and ideals within Driving Miss Daisy were rather one-note and underwhelmed to begin with. Attempting to adapt the importance and impact of the soon-to-flourish Civil Rights movement, Driving Miss Daisy can, at best, offer a weak, watered-down message that will prop its caricatures up as vaguely interesting. That is simply not enough, though, and to take such important points in history and feed them through the lens of Bruce Beresford is an obvious notion that neither cast nor crew thoroughly understand the delicacy of the message or the interest of it either.
Back in the not too distant year of 2019, I went through an extremely brief phase of watching old western films. No, I don’t know why either. Some of them were quite good, most of them were just alright, and a handful of them were complete wastes of time. I had many films jotted down that I would’ve liked to have gotten through, but the universe and time itself had different plans for me. One of the films on that list that I’d really wanted to watch was Unforgiven, a revisionist western directed by possibly the most popular and well-known lead of the genre, Clint Eastwood. A man who was so prevalent during this era in front of the camera puts himself in the leading role and the director’s chair too to contemplate his work throughout the once acclaimed genre.