Commentaries

Friday, January 27, 2017

GOLD



SCRIPT, EDITING ERRORS HURT FILM

Film Review by Fiore 


GOLD is a good movie that sabotages its own presentation.  It’s an interesting look into events that rocked the mining investment field during the 1980’s.  The story is intriguing and compelling.  The presentation, however, suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous Hollywood production mores.

Matthew McConaughey plays Kenny Wells.  McConaughey is practically unrecognizable in this role.  He presents Wells as a very unlikeable character, so audience empathy with his trials is difficult.  Wells is a successful mining investor and prospector.  He works with his father, played by Craig T. Nelson, for Washoe Corporation.  The family business is a small, but lucrative one.  Unfortunately, with the turn of the market, Kenny soon loses his father, his house and his company. 
His only constant through this turmoil is his love, Kay, played by Bryce Dallas Howard.  Bryce is a compelling actress.  I want to like her, and believe she possesses great talent, but she has yet to play a role in which she validates the thespian prowess I believe she possesses. 

As Kenny is on his last penny, he opts for one last gamble, teaming with a rogue geologist, Michael Acosta, played by Edgar Ramirez.  Ramirez is quickly compounding his value in Tinseltown.  After his powerful performance in HANDS OF STONE, he has appeared solidly in prominent roles in the JASON BOURNE series, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and is set to appear in Robert DeNiro’s next project.

Together, Wells and Acosta, discover what promises to be the largest gold mine ever discovered in Indonesia.  The strike solidifies Acosta’s reputation, brings the Washoe Company back to full status and makes a millionaire of Wells.  This is when the corporate sharks swim in, led by Brian Woolf, played by Corey Stoll.  It seems the only time Stoll can play a protagonist in on the TV series THE STRAIN.  On celluloid, he is doomed to be the cad; and he does it so well.

Whatever turmoil Wells and Acosta encountered in Indonesia pales in comparison to the dangers of New York bank investors.  GOLD is a riches to pauper to hero to goat story with a felonious conclusion.  Rounding out the cast are Joshua Harto; Timothy Simons; Michael Landes; Toby Kebbell; Bruce Greenwood; Stacy Keach; and Rachel Taylor.


KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      THE BOARD MEETING ONCE GOLD IS FOUND



2.      THE RETURN TO KAY


GOLD has a storied history, which may account for its presentation problems.  The film was first proposed in 2011 as a type of modern THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE, the Humphrey Bogart classic.    Michael Mann was set to helm the project, with Christian Bale and Michelle Williams to star.  A little over a year later, Mann left the project to work on other films and was replaced by Spike Lee.  From there, the project went south.  It is rumored Bale did not like Lee’s direction nor attitude and left the film.  That opened the door for McConaughey.  More folk agreed Lee wasn’t right for this project, and he was replaced by Stephen Gaghan.  After filming began, Gaghan became disillusioned with Williams, and though production was underway, she was replaced by Howard.  Howard fits nicely into this role, and it is speculated the part of Kay underwent serious rewrites from Williams to Howard.  While many films undergo changes in personnel, this one appears to be based on the film’s personality.  Kudos to Jo Boldin and Avy Kaufman for selecting the final cast, especially for the addition of Ramirez.

Daniel Pemberton provides a solid score and the photography of Robert Elswit is sublime.  Like too many movies, GOLD is too long.  At least 30 minutes could be eliminated making the story less melancholic in the second act.  Once again, a team is to blame.  Douglas Crise and Rick Grayson (no relation to Dick, who now prowls the night in Gotham with the Dark Knight) are used as a team to edit GOLD.  I’ll say again, while incorporating more than one editor helps create more jobs on a production, it ultimately destroys the film’s image.  The ending of GOLD is worthwhile, but it is rather a struggle to sit long enough to arrive there.

To tell the story, Screenwriters Patrick Massett and John Zinman unveil the plot in chronological sequence.  While sensible, there are too many scenes which only serve to accentuate elements detailed in previous scenes.  

A better, more concentrated effort on the script, and the film’s editing, would have made for a stronger cinema experience.




THE GRADE FOR GOLD = B

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

FLIGHT 313: THE CONSPIRACY



IS DOCUDRAMA COINCIDENCE?

Film Review by Fiore 


Just how safe are you when you fly?  Aside from the usual concerns, thanks to members of the religion of peace, there may be more dangers than you realize, especially concerning the air you breathe.  FLIGHT 313: THE CONSPIRACY is the latest in a continuing line of films, based on true events, that opt to forego the documentary genre for a more melodramatic look at their subjects.  This one concerns the processed air circulated back into the passenger section of the plane through a jet’s engine system.  I don’t believe in coincidences, so I found it rather disturbing both Delta and United announced a phase out of the 747 Boeing jets for the new 787 jets, just one week before this movie’s release.  According to the film, the 787 is the only commercial aircraft fitted with an air filtration system to avoid the spread of toxins into the cockpit and passenger compartments.  Curious timing, indeed.

FLIGHT 313: THE CONSPIRACY is also a solid lesson in investigative journalism, something missing from our major news sources for decades, with a few exceptions.  With so much emphasis placed now on fake news, and those who report it, the movie harkens back to ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN in providing a glimpse of what it takes, before a story is printed, or makes the airwaves.

Georgina Sutcliffe is Helen, an investigative reporter for a television news concern. The film opens with her botching an interview with a Middle Eastern rebel leader.  Her lack of caution results in the death of two people, including her interview, and her dismissal from the network.  Attempting to salvage a blemished career, she settles in Sussex, and takes a job below her past status, working for the Sussex Standard, a small town local newspaper.   While covering mundane events, she stumbles upon a conspiracy to conceal a venting problem in commercial jets.
Helen’s husband, who is an air traffic controller,  alerts her to the story, and her investigative techniques to expose the scandal become her obsession, much to the chagrin of her editor.  Starring with Sutcliffe are Stephen Tompkinson, Rita Ramnani and a cameo by former STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION’s Counselor Troi, Marina Sirtis.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.   THE AIRPLANE RIDE
2.   THE AIRLINE CONFERENCE
3.   CHANGING THE TIRE

The process of investigative journalism is arduous and tedious, and does not translate well to film.  As such, there are several annoying moments when the film slows noticeably.  Even though there is judicious editing, the process at times bogs down the film’s pace.  Tristan Loraine wrote, directs and cuts FLIGHT 313: THE CONSPIRACY.  As with many independent films, one person, due to budget constraints, must wear many hats.  While FLIGHT 313: THE CONSPIRACY plays well, Loraine stretched a bit too thin.  He could have tightened up the film for a quicker pace.  

I enjoyed watching this movie, primarily because of the task of the reporters to prove their information before publishing.  It shows how numerous sources are used and cross referenced, and how the very unprofessional practice of naming ‘undisclosed sources’ or worse ‘anonymous sources’ is, as it should be, avoided.  Where I still teaching, I would probably use FLIGHT 313: THE CONSPIRACY in a beginning journalism class as a springboard for discussions on sources and deadlines. 

While I have a vested interest in this film due to its subject matter, I believe it still holds enough suspense and intrigue to merit a view.  The movie is available on PPV and home video.  When you are in the mood for a serious topic, but not the preachiness of a documentary, FLIGHT 313: THE CONSPIRACY will fit your bill.




THE GRADE FOR FLIGHT 313: THE CONSPIRACY = B

Saturday, January 21, 2017

XXX THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE



IT'S A SILLY MOVIE

Film Review by Fiore 


xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE is a silly movie; fun, but silly.

To begin, this is a film that needed to be made for the sake of Vin Diesel’s career.  It seems if he’s not playing Cage, or in the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, no one cares to see him on the Silver Screen.  Anytime Diesel has strayed from these roles, his films nosedive at the box office.   Even his beloved RIDDICK character is not worth the cost of all the SFX needed for the films.  This is not a bad thing.  Many actors are lucky just to have one character attached to them.  No one will notice Daniel Craig, now that he’s done with James Bond; no one cares to see Johnny Depp if he’s not in pirate garb.  So, the fact Diesel has two and a half characters he can turn to for a massive payday is commendable.

Now the reason the film should not be made is because, in the story line, Diesel’s character dies in the beginning of the second movie.  You will recall Diesel thought his muscly butt was worth a lot more than the producers were offering him to return as Cage, and when they wouldn’t pay up, he bolted.  He was replaced by Ice Cube, who starred as Darius Stone, another agent in the XXX program.  So how does Xander return, and how do you deal with Cube, who took over the franchise?  Screenwriter F. Scott Frazier handles the storyline quite nicely, thank you, albeit in a rather comic book style.

Once he is found to be alive, the government XXX program, under the auspices of Augustus Gibbons, played again by Samuel L. Jackson, recruits Cage to stop a team of deadly assassins and terrorists from stealing a device that controls the nuclear missiles of the world.  Pretty standard action fare; but the opposing team features Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa, and that makes things so much more interesting.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.   THE STEALING OF PANDORA’S BOX
2.   THE FIGHT ON THE AIRPLANE


When the first XXX film came out, one of the opening scenes featured an underground nightclub filled with raunchy heavy metal.  I really liked the music, and discovered the band was Rammstein.  I became a Rammstein fan, much to the chagrin of my other family members who, still to this day, do not appreciate the musical subtleties of the band.  There is no Rammstein in xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE.  Robert Lydecker and Brian Tyler fill the soundtrack with electronic superstar DJ music.  There is no way scratching turntables compares to the thundering guitars of Rammstein, so in this aspect, the soundtrack is a major disappointment.

The next dilemma is how to handle Diesel.  In the last episode of FAST AND FURIOUS, he had his ass kicked by Jason Statham.  How in the world could he hope to hold his own against Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa?  Director D.J. Caruso smartly twists the story so that, after their first confrontation, which Diesel loses, the two teams join forces and work together.  Very smart move. Yen fights the rest of the film, and Diesel does his extreme stunts.  Makes up for the music.

No one is fighting better on screen than Donnie Yen.  His fight scenes alone in xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE are worth the price of admission.  Jaa is being restrained by Hollywood.  I still think part of the problem not letting him burst forth is his difficulty with English.  (You see, kiddies, that whole ESL nonsense only works in high school.  Get into the real world and you best be able to communicate in America’s native tongue or you’ll just be a token.)

Naturally, one cannot make an action movie today without including women who are just as fearsome as their male counterparts.  It’s part of the Woman Warrior Agenda in Tinseltown.  In xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, we have Deepika Padukone as Serena Unger.  She is useless.  She throws around Navy Seals like a loafs of bread and its obvious she has neither the strength nor the technique to do so.  After one obligatory fight scene, they put a gun in her hands and let her shoot the rest of the way.  They should have cut out the fight scene.  It’s retarded.

Ruby Rose is used much better.  As Adele Wolff, she plays a sniper with an attitude.  She uses a nifty rifle, and doesn’t have to attempt to throw around 300 pound dudes.  Rounding out the cast are Kris Wu, Toni Collette and Tony Gonzales, who is currently a football analyst for one of the networks and former tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Make no mistake, the primary reason d’etre for xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE is to boost Diesel’s ego.  He’s been hitting the gym and juice hard and augments his legend by disrobing at every opportunity and having a bevy of starlets ogle over him in nearly every scene.  Not even the devil, as played by Tom Ellis in TV’s LUCIFER, commands this type of sexual power.  

The other purpose is to introduce a new screen team Diesel can lead with Yen, Jaa and Cube attached.  Good move.  I can suffer Diesel’s sexual mythology to see Yen and Jaa fighting through the action.

Leave all credulity at the door, sprinkle your popcorn with a little Parmesan cheese, get ready to scream at the screen, and enjoy xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE.






THE GRADE FOR xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE = B-SCHLOCK