Wednesday, 31 January 2018

February 1
Phantom Thread
Molly's Game
Den of Thieves

For fans of elegant style, psychological complexity and top acting, Phantom Thread should be the pick of the week. Poker fans and heist fans may also get something from Molly's Game and Den of Thieves. 

Phantom Thread
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Length: 130 min
© Universal – stylish, intriguing with a magnificent
Performance from Daniel Day Lewis 
Confirmed bachelor Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis) is a dress designer to royalty, movie stars and all manner of upper class women. With his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) they run House of Woodcock, and the women who come and go through Reynolds' life leave little mark. But when he meets waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) his life is irrevocably changed. This film is beautiful, mysterious, strange and original all at once, and while it focuses upon the world of exclusive fashion design, it is equally a fascinating psychological drama. Every piece of the production design is exactingly executed, with exquisite recreation of the 50s' style. However it is the blistering performance of Lewis that will remain seared in my memory as he interprets this talented, obsessive, demanding and not really likeable man. Every nuance of his speech, gestures and look has Oscar written over it. Not to mention Krieps and Manville being simply superb as the two main women in Reynolds' life.
4 - highly recommended!

Molly's Game
Director: Aaron Sorkin 
Length: 140 min
© eOne - Chastain and Elba work well together
as lawyer and crim 
Aaron Sorkin is probably best known as award-winning screenwriter of West Wing. His directorial debut is based upon the memoir of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) who ran a high stakes glamour poker game for some of the richest, most famous and powerful men in America. Molly's story is told in two time frames, with a substantial amount of voice over. We track her rise to power, as the hostess of the game everyone wants to be part of, then her fall as she is arrested by the Feds and employs Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) as her lawyer. Thematically it's hard to emotionally engage, as many of the characters are basically unpleasant dollar-driven gambling addicts, like the self-centred Hollywood star Player X (Michael Sera), and the various ugly Russian mobsters who are inevitably drawn to such large amounts of money.  But it is a slick and smartly written film, featuring top performances by the two leads, and a surprising revelation of levels of integrity not imagined in this ultimately sordid world.
3.5 - well recommended!

Den of Thieves
Director: Christian Gudegast
Length: 140 min

© Roadshow - the pic says it all - well a lot!
Not normally my style, but I had fun.
LA cop Nick O'Brien (Gerard Butler) heads up an elite team of tough bad-ass cops on the trail of even badder-assed crims who specialise in bank robberies. Head of the heist team is Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), who devises a crack scheme to get hold of cash, which is about to be shredded, from under the nose of the Federal Reserve Bank. Butler is bigger, badder and more scruffy than ever, but gives a solid performance, though his character is rather one dimensional. The attempts to insert a marital subplot fail as dismally as the marriage! Schreiber and his team (including rapper 50-Cent) are suitably serious automatic weapon-toting drop-kicks. I can't help but think of the wonderful Michael Mann film Heat where Robert de Niro and Al Pacino go head to head, cop vs crim, but with some sort of grudging respect for each other. This film lacks the nuances of that classic, but for fans of the genre there are thrills enough, though the amount of cliches involving donut-munching and shoot-em-outs on the freeway are overdone.
2.5 - maybe!

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