Movie Reviews: “Hostiles,” “All the Money in the World,” “Molly’s Game,” “Phantom Thread”

By | December 31, 2017

Hostiles…This Scott Cooper-directed Western is certainly better than his overrated last film “Out of the Furnace,” but perhaps not the second-coming of “Unforgiven” many viewers (like this one) may be hoping for. After a violent opening scene in which most of Rosamund Pike’s family is slaughtered, we soon settle into a slower rhythm in which Christian Bale’s army officer (a legendary Indian killer) has to transport Chief Yellow Hawk and his family to their sacred ancestral grounds in Montana. It’s dangerous, sporadically thrilling, and a little boring. Along the way, Ben Foster jazzes up a few scenes, and there’s a few unconvincing moments (like Bale’s hardcore character apologizing for his treatment of Indians or Pike so quickly bonding with them), and its revealed to be a little more soft-hearted than the opening scene would suggest. Still, as the year’s only big-budget, old-school Western, fans will probably find enough to enjoy here. Grade: B

All the Money in the World…Most may think of this as the film that Kevin Spacey completed (he was even featured in the first trailer), but Ridley Scott went back and shot his scenes with Christopher Plummer only six weeks before this opened. Honestly, once you know that, it casts an even bigger shadow over the film than if they’d just left Spacey’s scenes in, and I dare say it might’ve been more interesting to do so. Just Spacey’s limited reactions in the trailer (the pause he does after a reporter asks him what he would pay to get his kidnapped grandson released before saying “nothing” and sauntering slowly back into the house) seem more memorable than what Plummer is doing, which feels rushed, and surely does since they had to film it all so quickly. And I didn’t totally believe Michelle Williams in the role of patrician mother fighting through Katherine Hepburn vowels and economic strife to get her father-in-law to pay for her grandson’s ransom. Grade: B-

Molly’s Game…Jessica Chastain is amazing in a role that you might think was tailor-made for her if it wasn’t a true story. [Although given how writer Aaron Sorkin considers “true story” a launching pad for whatever he wants to write, maybe he did adjust it for Chastain.] This is Sorkin’s directorial debut, and even if the film is essentially a play pretending to be a movie—the fast-paced dialogue becomes almost exhausting about halfway through—it’s more than worth watching to see Sorkin novices like Idris Elba and Kevin Costner chow down on tricky syntax and meaty speeches. But I want to emphasize that without Chastain, I might not have enjoyed this movie at all. Grade: B

Phantom Thread…Speaking of filmmakers and writers that have grown exhausting, what happened to Paul Thomas Anderson? How did one of my favorite filmmakers of the 90’s make movies as vibrant and alive as “Boogie Nights” and the underrated, audacious “Magnolia” but now is locked into a death spiral of increasingly insulated, stuffy films that practically choke the life out of you? At a certain level, “Phantom Thread” feels almost like a cry for help, as Daniel Day-Lewis’s mercurial, incredibly specific fashion designer (Day-Lewis affects a voice that can only be described as mincingly tyrannical) is being undone by his love—or perhaps even lack of it—of a waitress he handpicks to be a fashion model, who eventually exacts a “revenge” on him for being so OCD. Once you figure out how willing he is to participate in it, the film can be read as Anderson’s subconscious begging people “Please! Take my funding away! Force me to make something more interesting!” And I think it’s odd that few reviewers have mentioned how much the young waitress (Vicky Krieps) looks like Day-Lewis’s much older sister (Lesley Manville) who he already enjoys a somewhat creepy association with. Grade: C+

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