The Front Runner (2018)

Director: Jason Reitman

Writer: Matt Bai, Jay Carson, Jason Reitman (Screenplay) Matt Bai (Book)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Mark O’Brien, Molly Ephraim, Chris Coy, Alex Karpovsky,

 

Plot: In 1987, U.S. Senator Gary Hart‘s presidential campaign is derailed when he’s caught in a scandalous love affair.


Tagline – Gary Hart was going to be President. Instead he changed American Politics forever.

Runtime: 1 Hour 53 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Over-Populated Political Thriller

 

Story: The Front Runner starts after Gary Hart (Jackman) has missed out on the Vice-President position, four-years later in 1987, Gary is running for the Presidency, he is the clear favourite too, his team which includes Bill Dixon (Simmons) knows it is only a matter of time before he wins, while the opposition team is looking for weakness in his reputation.

Gary’s lead starts taking a hit when an early report of a potential affair emerges and before long every single newspaper in the country is trying to cover the story on different levels, some using it as a gossip column while others just want to question his own integrity. This will see Gary’s hope of becoming President come crashing down around him.

 

Thoughts on The Front Runner

 

Characters – These characters are based on real people, which will show certain ones in good and bad lights. Senator Gary Hart is running for Presidency, is has the whole campaign under complete control, which has all but guaranteed he would become the next President of the United States. Gary has the ability to spin any story that is placed on front of him, to show that he could bring America a brighter future. Gary however does have a secret with an affair which the press turn into a big story which sees him needing to try and recover from the spiralling situation he has created with his own wrong doing. Lee Hart is the wife of Gary, she has been part of a previous separation which made her suffer enough, she has however always stood by her man with strict rules for the future. Bill Dixon is the campaign manager for Gary, that wants to keep everything simple only this becomes difficult when the truth starts to come out. The Front Runner struggles with one big problem, we have such a large cast of characters it does make it hard to keep up with the almost nameless characters, we have three or four papers and their staff, the campaign team, the people involved in the potential affair, it just becomes completely keeping up with who is who.

PerformancesHugh Jackman is great to watch in the leading role, if he was given that one scene to try and make his character truly memorable it would have put him into a stronger respected performance for the year. Vera Farmiga does everything asked of her character which she doesn’t do anything wrong with. J.K. Simmons almost feels wasted in his role which should have been larger for what is going on. Most of the performances do seem to struggle for this reason.

StoryThe story here follows a presidential candidate whose life becomes filed with speculation after an alleged affair that both sides denied saw him going from a guarantee winner to needing to withdraw, changing the way politics are portrayed in the papers forever. This story does put the spotlight on the moment that saw a change in how politics and journalist operated, the film even points out in the fact that previous Presidents asked for heads to be turned about affairs, but this alleged one saw the country turn on any person that was willing to cheat. The story does show how the three weeks changed the whole race, only it does try to put way too many characters into the film which does make it hard to keep up with who each person is and what side of the story they really are on.

Biopic/HistoryWe follow a 3 week period in Gary Hart’s life, the three weeks that took him from being the next President to the moment he withdrew wanting to keep the false accusations about him out of the papers, this shows how quickly the public can turn on people and the media can make it happen, this plays into the history side of electing a President because we see how minds suddenly changed after how previous ones had acted.

SettingsThe film does use the authentic settings, show how the press would hide for a story, while Gary would use the public to put an end to the stories being made up.


Scene of the Movie –
Twisting the medias words.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Too many characters.

Final ThoughtsThis is a story which does feel like it should be told to more people, only this version of the story is completely over-saturated be characters making it hard to keep up with.

 

Overall: Political Thriller that just doesn’t pack the punch.

Rating

 

 

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Franchise Weekend – Spiderman 2 (2004)

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon, Alvin Sargent (Screenplay) Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (Comic Book)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons

 

Plot: Peter Parker is beset with troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Great Fun

 

Story: Spider-Man 2 starts with the beautiful opening credits that recap what happened in the first film, before we follow Peter Parker (Maguire) in his new roles as a pizza delivery boy. Peter is still struggling to be on time for the important moments of his life including college, times for being there for Mary Jane (Dunst) and Harry (Franco) who is still holding the grudge against Spiderman.

Harry now running Oscorp where he has Dr Otto Octavius (Molina) working on fusion energy technology but when an accident happens Otto becomes Doc Ock, who has 4 extra arms that control him as they take over the city.

 

Thoughts on Spider-Man 2

 

Characters – Peter Parker still finds himself running late to his important matters but he still finds time to fight crime even though Spiderman has become hated by his best friend. He must deal with his life crashing down around him now, his best friend hates his loyalty to Spiderman, Mary Jane has moved on and his powers are draining. He must overcome the difficult moments in life to defeat his latest enemy. Mary Jane has moved on from Peter and Harry but deep down she does still love Peter. Dr Otto Octavius does believe he can help change the world for the better but when he loses his love and becomes controlled by Doc Ock he wreaks havoc on the city.

PerformanceTobey Maguire once again brings us a performance worthy of leading any movie showing us in the early 2000’s he was one of the best in the industry. Kirsten Dunst is good enough but once again falls into the damsel in distress role taking away the talent we know she has. Alfred Molina is great as the villain here, he is filled with the emotionless actions but also feeling like he is smarter than everyone else in the film. James Franco is good but we are continuing to build his character up.

StoryThe story has two main parts, the first is looking at Peter Parker trying to balance his normal life or education, love and friendship with being Spiderman, giving himself the decision on whether to give up the Spiderman side of his life to be a better man or not. We also have a villain on the loose that wants to continue his experiments which could destroy the whole city. The conflict is strong through the story as having a superhero question his part in the battle which gives s edge of your seat viewing.

Action/AdventureThee action is toned down in places when you look at the number of sequences but the reality is they are much bigger sequences throughout the film that have increased peril for Spiderman to fight.

SettingsWe stay in New York which was always key to making this film the enjoyable experience we know it was going to be.

Special EffectsSeemingly remaining with practical effects with editing around them, this film does seem to feel like we are in a real-world city with real superheroes battling.

Scene of the Movie – Train sequence

That Moment That Annoyed Me I feel we need to start making Mary Jane stronger.

Final ThoughtsThis is a great continuation of the Spiderman evolution that was needed to keep things feeling fresh in the genre.

 

Overall: Enjoyable continuing Spiderman films

Rating

 

 

Franchise Weekend – Spiderman (2002)

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: David Koepp (Screenplay) Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (Comic Book)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons

 

Plot: When bitten by a genetically modified spider, a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student gains spider-like abilities that he eventually must use to fight evil as a superhero after tragedy befalls his family.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Truly Enjoyable Spiderman Movie

 

Story: Spider-Man starts as we meet high school student Peter Parker (Maguire), he only had one friend at school and that is over privileged Harry Osborn (Franco) and his high school crush Mary Jane (Dunst) attending a field trip at science laboratory where Peter gets bitten by one of the spiders.

The next day Peter finds himself stronger and more aware than ever, he has gained the spider skills, Peter uses his time to learn his abilities, but when his Uncle Ben (Robertson) becomes a victim of crime, Peter becomes Spiderman protecting New York City from the criminals.

With high school finished Peter and Harry move to New York, where they find jobs, but Peter has been fighting crime become front page news. Harry’s father Norman a CEO at Oscorp determined to make the most money unleashes the Green Goblin on the city, giving Spiderman his first opponent that will tests his abilities.

 

Thoughts on Spider-Man

 

Characters – Peter Parker is the socially awkward high school outcast, he does have the brains to become anything but when he gets bitten he becomes Spiderman where he starts to fight to protect his city after losing his Uncle. Norman Osborn is the career driven genius that will go to any lengths to be the leading developer in government technology, but when he loses his way, he goes out to stop anyone with his Green Goblin persona. Harry is Peter’s best friend and son of Norman, he watches how everything unfolds but also starts dating Mary Jane. Mary Jane is the high school crush of Peter, she does stick up for him as they share the same dreams.

PerformanceTobey Maguire is great in this leading role showing the innocence side of Peter but away from the high school age. Kirsten Dunst is a beautiful Mary Jane and while mostly the damsel in distress does give us a good performance. James Franco showed us all the potential he has started to show us in this role. Willem Dafoe enjoys the villainous role through the film and is easy one of the better conflicted villains in the universe.

StoryThis is an origin story for Spiderman that came out just when the superhero boom was starting up, it bought us a new hero to root for and one that was filled with the odd joke. We have the motivation for Peter to become Spiderman, a friendship which will become important through this franchise and a villain that is conflicted with why he is doing the things he is doing. It may well be a by the book origin story it does have enough darker moments to make us see the light in his actions.

Action/AdventureThe action fits the comic book genre perfectly with the adventure side of the film coming from just what Peter is learning of his new skills.

SettingsNew York City makes for the setting here, much like in the comics, it works because of the landscape that Spiderman will be taking on with his web slinging.

Special EffectsThe effects for this film show us that practical effects could still make an excellent film, the CGI feels very little.

Scene of the Movie – The parade.

That Moment That Annoyed Me You do feel like we needed more of the high school side of the film.

Final ThoughtsThis is an origin film that does hit the marks, a villain that can do enough damage but is never a true threat, learning the correct path and building a bigger picture for the whole franchise.

 

Overall: Easily one of the best origin stories.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nomination – U – Up in the Air (2009)

Director: Jason Reitman

Writer: Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner (Screenplay) Walter Kirn (Novel)

Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Mortonm Melanie Lynskey, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliot, Danny McBride

 

Plot: Ryan Bingham enjoys living out of a suitcase for his job traveling around the country firing people, but finds that lifestyle threatened by the presence of a potential love interest and a new hire.


Tagline – From Paramount Pictures comes the story of a man ready to make a connection

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Delightful Comedy Drama

 

Story: Up in the Air starts as we meet Ryan Bingham (Clooney) whose job involves travelling around America firing people for companies, he loves being on the road clocking up countless air miles. When young analyst Natalie Keener (Kendrick) comes to Ryan’s boss Craig (Bateman) with an idea that could cut the costs by running the process from the office meaning Ryan and his team are grounded.

To prove his value to the company and show Natalie the ropes, Ryan must take Natalie on the journey to show her how personal the process is and how important the job is too him. Along the way he teaches her life lesson along with his new friend Alex (Farmiga) who enjoys a similar lifestyle.

 

Thoughts on Up in the Air

 

Characters – Ryan Bingham has a career in travelling around firing people for companies, he has it down to an art form, be in conducting the firings or travelling through the airport. He doesn’t like commitment and when he learns that his job is going to be minimized and grounded from travelling, he sets out to prove to his boss and the young woman who created the idea how importance of the personal approach is during this process. Natalie is the young idealistic woman that believes she can help the company save money by taking the role away from Ryan and his co-workers travelling expense, she has her life planned out, but spending time with Ryan she learns more about what life is really about and how to not take away the personal touch out of the process. Alex is a woman that Ryan meets on the road, she travels as often as he does, they start a relationship and meeting her helps Ryan realize what he wants from life.

PerformancesGeorge Clooney is brilliant in this role, his biggest strength has always been to be the confident guy that excels at his job and he gets to show this in every scene as we learn from his characters decisions. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are both wonderful in their supporting roles, they both get to help Ryan understand different generations of goals.

StoryThe story follows one man whose dream job is being downsized for economic reasons as he must look to show a young woman who has come up with the plan for this process. We get to look at a couple of big life issues going on here, first we see how companies are always looking to downsize for financial reasons, second focuses on the loneliness people have when they focus on their careers, and third just how the plans people believe to have can never go as planned. This is one of the most interesting stories that seems like it has got to a newer level than ever before.

RomanceWe have moments of romance which don’t overshadow the dramatic moments as we light-heartedly follow the story unfold.

SettingsThe film takes us all over America to see different reactions from different people about losing their jobs.


Scene of the Movie –
Letting loose.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I did enjoy every moment of this film.

Final ThoughtsThis is a wonderful and delightful movie that hits all the levels it aims for, for me this is the best Clooney performance of his career and handles the sensitive subject of downsizing and unemployment.

 

Overall: Truly enjoyable movie.

Rating

 

 

 

The Snowman (2017)

Director: Tomas Afredson

Writer: Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan (Screenplay) Jo Nesbo (Novel)

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Chloe Sevigny, Val Kilmer, J.K Simmons, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jamie Clayton, Toby Jones

 

Plot: Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.


Tagline – Soon the first snow will come, and then he will kill again.

Runtime: 1 Hour 59 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Overly Twisty Mystery Thriller

 

Story: The Snowman starts as we meet alcoholic detective Harry Hole (Fassbender) a once great detective that is lacking the motivation because of the lack of murders and his break up with his long-term girlfriend Rakel (Gainsbourg). He gets a new member of his team Katrine (Ferguson) who has embraced the latest technology in police work and the two start an investigation into a missing woman.

The two have very different backgrounds and the story does jump back to a previous serious of crimes that were being investigated in a different part of Norway, but as the women continue to go missing we are thrown a list of different suspects and mixing this with the personal backgrounds of the two characters we wait to see who the killer is.

 

Thoughts on The Snowman

 

Characters – Harry Hole was once one of the best detectives in Oslo, his cases have been studied be the candidates in the academy, but he has fallen on bad times with a drinking problem and a relationship ending. When the case does come up he is still the first man selected to lead the investigation, this is where we get to see his true skills. Katrine is a rookie that transferred to the department, she uses the technology to make the work easier but slowly we learn about her past and her reasons for being transferred to this department. Rakel is the ex-girlfriend of Harry who they still remain close due to Harry building a relationship with her son. Arve Stop is a political figure running the campaign to get Oslo the Winter World Cup, he does become one of the many suspects. We do meet at least a total of 6 potential suspects which could all have motive for the crime which is nice, but this also means we don’t focus enough on the mind games between the killer and Hole.

PerformancesFassbender is great in the leading role, giving us what we would expect from him without reaching his best of the best level of ability. Rebecca Ferguson is good too, she doesn’t steal the spotlight like she did in Rogue Nation but shows she does have more to her in ability wise. The rest of the cast do well with what they have to work with, even if they don’t get enough screen time to make the impact they could.

StoryThe trailers made this out to be a true mind games based serial killer versus cop movie, this is in fact a lie, we have the slow processes of trying to solve who could be behind this with plenty of suspects along the way. The tease with the note does feel confusing though because it sets up the mind games but doesn’t seem to follow through on them. We do have a lot of side stories going on including Harry’s relationship with Rakel and her son, Katrine’s past and just who is Arve Stop, which doesn’t help us focus on what should be the biggest factor the killer.

Crime/Horror/MysteryThe crimes do look horrific when we see the full effects of what the killer is doing and his weapon of choice is fresh and terrifying at that. The mystery does keep us guessing through the film but the lack of final punch takes away the horror for me.

SettingsThe settings make this film look beautiful, we have stunning shots of the Norwegian snow cover countryside but once we are in the big cities it all looks the same.


Scene of the Movie –
First learning of the killer weapon.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It was confusing to figure out if the characters were Norwegian or what.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good crime thriller, it does keep us guessing but it does get confusing trying to balance too many side stories, unlike Wind River which deals with the problems head on.

 

Overall: Good but not great snow flake.

Rating