ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD REVIEW

All in the money in the world can’t hide how mediocre this crime biopic really was.

The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.

A glorious opening sequence (encapsulated by Dariusz Wolski’s beautiful cinematography) summed up the movie in a nutshell as Charlie Plummer’s (Not a relation) John Paul Getty III drunkenly stumbled along the busy and lively streets of Rome like something out of Roman Holiday.

Style over substance. Like most of Ridley Scott’s movies of late.

Don’t get me wrong, it was watchable. BUT with the cast involved and the subject matter at hand, I expected more.

It’s hard not to talk about Spacey’s absence. I was a big fan of the actor and I felt the scandal has been used as a PR piece to flog a flailing film. I couldn’t help but imagine how he would have handled the role. Injecting that House of Cards menace.

BUT at that same stroke (and for all the hype), John Paul Getty wasn’t really in this film as much as you’d think or hope. So God knows how Spacey was being nominated for an Oscar before the scandal.

I don’t want to take anything away from Christopher Plummer. He was a charismatic and engaging presence that delivered a worthy performance. Even more so if he did the re-shoots in just NINE days.

He really excelled (as did Michelle Williams) in a compelling scene involving the handling of Gail’s divorce. Absurd, brutal and jaw dropping as Getty dictated the terms. Using the children as nothing more than collateral in a business transaction.

Williams’ expressions and stern demeanour during that entire sequence was worth an awards nod alone. I just wish there was more of that fire and friction BUT Williams and Plummer spent too much of the movie apart. Shame.

The slow burning tempo kept my interest (at first) as it flicked back and forth from the kidnapping to Getty’s past as he worked his way up.

The lessons in money and value weren’t surprising. Despite the small sequences that Getty featured in, it still spoke volumes. “You’re not a person anymore. You’re a symbol”. The fact his name alone made an 11 dollar statue turn into an 11 MILLION dollar one said it all.

“A man who has children gives hostages to fortune”. 14 grandchildren encourages 14 kidnappings. Shrewd and grotesque. You couldn’t help BUT laugh at the tycoon.

There was a sickening irony to Getty’s ruthless rationalizing as a number of countries claimed they had Getty’s grandson. And yet he can barter over rare paintings instead of his own grandson’s life?

Despite an engaging introduction, I found that Mark Wahlberg’s hostage negotiator Fletcher Chase grew increasingly passive and unnecessary as the film progressed.

I know Getty hired him for appearances with no intention of paying BUT Chase seemed genuinely concerned at bringing the boy home and proving the billionaire wrong. And yet sitting by the phone and stating the obvious seemed to be his key priority.

And the chemistry and strange flirting between him and Gail felt forced. Another cook spoiling the broth.

And once Williams was able to get into the fold, she took over his role (and purpose) anyway. Finally putting her foot down. Williams was a good lead BUT she spent too much of the film in the background. Only really getting to shine in the final third.

My main issue was the pacing. It felt 30 to 45 minutes longer than it should have been. The story felt stretched and there were only so many beautiful locations and capitalist quotes I could take.

I was engrossed in the grandson’s kidnapping and his estranged relationship with his handler Cinquanta (Romain Duris). And dare I say, I was more impressed by Duris’ performance as the conflicted Cinquanta than the stellar leads.

Both victims in a game with no winners. All for a bit of the green (No, not that green. Money).

I felt the rest of the supporting cast at Scott’s disposal only had generic roles to work with. It was good to see Timothy Hutton. Even if it was in a tragically minute role. And Andrew Buchan’s surprising (albeit blink and you’ll miss it) turn certainly delivered.

However, the finale was tense and riveting. A cobbled street chase sequence finally got everybody involved and delivered more of what I had expected from the get go.

I don’t need action 24/7 BUT I want the scenes to go somewhere. This should have been a brutal commentary on corporate greed BUT it was too disjointed and complacent.

It wasn’t a complete waste and there were moments to be had BUT for all the hype in the world, that was it. Moments. Despite the best efforts of a talented cast.

2.5/5

*NEW* THE WALK REVIEW *NEW*

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A walk to remember?

In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon Levitt) recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Centre towers.

I was on a tightrope on deciding whether to see this or not. When I heard that Robert Zemeckis was adapting the incredible true story of Petit, my first thought was “Why? We already have an Oscar winning documentary about it”.

The bold BUT incredibly OTT opening with Levitt’s Petit standing on top of the Statue of Liberty waffling on about the beauty of the wire didn’t build my hopes up. However, Levitt’s charm and charisma was hard to resist and he delivered a fantastic performance as the tightrope artist. It was only by scrolling through some YouTube videos recently that I realised how good his performance. His accent was spot on.

The Walk started with a very easy going opening as we flick through Petit’s life as a street performer and delved into his passion for tightrope walking. It was beautifully shot. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography impressing me yet again. The mish-mash of monochrome with colour was very nice on the eye.

There was a Chaplinesque quality to the story telling as Petit struggles to make ends meet and falls for the lovely Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred Foot Journey). The only problem was that the pace did drag and after the hour marker, the gang still hadn’t got to New York.

I was happy to watch Petit hone his craft under the watchful eye of Ben Kingsley’s bitter circus vendor Papa Rudy. BUT after half an hour, it felt a little repetitive. Rudy’s character was also a little weak. Kingsley did his best BUT he was soon thrown into the background.

I understand that the film is very much about Petit. BUT we had all these characters and only some of them managed to make a real impression. Le Bon and Levitt may have had good chemistry but their story line didn’t really go anywhere. She was left wondering around for most of the film with a pair of binoculars. And when their subplot did pick up, it was resolved quite unexpectedly and abruptly. Shame.

I loved the fact that in most of these movies; the cast just speak English when they are supposed to be from another country. However, this time around, Zemeckis tackles that quite well. Petit demands everyone speak English as he is practising before his trip to the Big Apple. The fact that everybody had a spout of speaking French, Ukrainian and all sorts was a nice change.

James Badge Dale managed to make a scene stealing supporting turn as JP. Their first meeting in a tech shop was hilarious. Cesar Domboy was the only other crew member that I could remember and that was only because he was the mathematician and strategist who suffered from bad vertigo. You could call it a mile off on what he was going to happen with the poor chap.

The last 45 minutes was superb. It was tense, suspenseful and that was just watching the crew trying to sneak their way into the Towers. The reconnaissance, the hiding, the fear of getting caught was brilliantly captured. It felt like something out of The Sting.

You always worry with a film of this magnitude that the build-up won’t pay off. That the very event that film is based around will not deliver. Well, have no fear. La piece de resistance was superb. The sweeping panoramic shots gave me vertigo as Petit stood at the end of a beam looking down 110 stories. I could feel butterflies in my stomach.

I was worried that the CGI might ruin the experience. There were moments where everything looked a little overdone. Too much animation. I wish I had invested in 3D or IMAX for this. It would definitely have enhanced everything.

From the moment, he takes his first step, I was transfixed. My heart was in my mouth. Even though I knew the outcome. I couldn’t believe it. Although, the CGI may have niggled at me, it was still stunning and a little sad to see the Twin Towers in all their glory.

There was a subtle but lovely end note to the piece. You cannot hide one remarkable event without remembering such a tragic one BUT it was a nice tribute.

The Walk could easily have been cut by a good half hour BUT that didn’t stop an enthralling sequence and a stellar performance from a very talented actor.

3/5

*NEW* THE MARTIAN REVIEW *NEW*

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BRING HIM AN OSCAR.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. BUT Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

A return to form from Scott and a stellar performance from Matt Damon makes this space flick one to watch.

For me, Scott’s films of late have not been up to much. They were certainly big, bold and beautifully shot pieces of work. BUT they were either ridiculously over complicated messes (The Counselor) or drawn out affairs (Prometheus).

Luckily, this latest offering had the perfect balance. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography was fantastic. I didn’t think anyone could make a barren desert planet look so beautiful and deadly with the change of a lens. Superb.

The opening didn’t mess about. It set everybody up and got straight to it. It was tense, frantic and gripping as Watney is left for dead after getting caught up in a violent storm.

I know what you’re thinking. Matt Damon playing a stranded astronaut trying to sustain food and water on a barren planet. NO, it’s not the side story to Interstellar. If anything, it was Cast Away in Space. All that was missing was a volleyball named Wilson.

When telling the story of one man’s survival, it’s crucial that you have the right actor or the movie is ruined. I couldn’t think of anyone better than Matt Damon. He was charismatic and carried the film when it seemed to lull. Every time we went back to NASA, I wanted to see more of Watney.

It was interesting and engaging. I was hooked as we watched Watney battle to survive the next FOUR years from monotonous disco music . . . As well as his tempestuous planetary prison. His video logs were a good touch. Breaking the fourth wall as he explained what he was doing to stay alive. As well as keeping his sanity.

The science behind the crop planting and the water was very clever. You could almost believe that it could happen and be dealt with.

The only problem was that despite Damon’s excellent performance, some of the supporting characters fell into the background and didn’t really make a mark. Most notably in Watney’s crew with Kate Mara and Sebastian Stan.

Jessica Chastain nailed every screen opportunity she got. If anything I wanted to see more of her. BUT this wasn’t her story. Michael Pena did his best to offer comic relief and managed to make a memorable impression by the closing minutes.

Donald Glover, or should I say Childish Gambino, was a surprise supporting character. He seems to have a dab hand at this acting lark as the socially awkward super genius Rich Purnell. Kristen Wiig played the role of the PR advisor well and proved she can do serious acting. A nice change.

Jeff Daniels was a piece of work as NASA director Teddy Sanders. His sparring with Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor made for heated viewing. One primarily looking at the costs, the others concerned with the man on Mars.

The heavy theorizing and lab debates in NASA and the world did go on in parts for me and took the story away from Watney. And as Purnell tried to explain his rescue plan using two pens, I feared Armageddon story telling creeping out of the woodwork. It was only by the 1 hour 45 minute marker that I felt a little fidgety.

BUT the finale was just as enthralling and nail biting. If anything, it was everything that I wanted from Gravity. A film that failed to impress.

I was rooting for Watney through the highs and lows. This made me want to check out the bestselling novel. A must see and dare I say it.

4/5

P.S. I couldn’t fight it. I had to . . .