The Post Movie Review

If you could envision a picture made in a factory for Best Picture consideration, The Post might be it. Two-time Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg? Check. Three-time winner and most nominated actress ever Meryl Streep? Yep. Two-time recipient Tom Hanks? Indeed. A historical context that has connections to what’s happening today? Present. Luckily, the film itself manages to be an often engrossing experience that is (surprise) quite well-acted and directed. Does it match the high mark of some other journalistic features that cover similar ground? Not in my view.

The Post opens with State Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) in Vietnam in the late 1960s and his growing realization that the conflict has no end in sight. Ellsberg has access to classified government docs and by the early 1970s, he wishes to expose the top secrets of the U.S. Government’s involvement overseas from the Truman through Nixon administrations. He first leaks some information to the vaunted New York Times, but attention soon turns to The Washington Post, which at this juncture is considered more of a hometown paper. That paper is run by Katharine Graham (Streep) and she’s the first woman to run such an operation. She inherited the Post after the deaths of her father and husband. While the film’s attention is mostly centered on the impending giant story that they may break, we also witness the difficulties Graham experiences as a woman working in a man’s world. This provides some of the best moments and more examples of Streep’s limitless abilities as a performer.

Graham runs in the D.C. social circles and she’s close with many of the figures her journalists look to expose, including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood). The paper’s editor is Ben Bradlee (Hanks), a hard charging type who doesn’t think of the corporate exposure landmines that go along with spilling these secrets. Graham must do so because her business is about to go up for public offering and President Nixon isn’t exactly warm-hearted when dealing with media types.

Therein lies the drama with The Post as Graham and Bradlee struggle to do the right thing. The pic clearly reveres it main subjects and the virtuous acts they took. It also adores the bygone and pre-digitized era of the news. There are lovingly crafted shots of the newspapers being developed for print and frenzied reporters furiously typing their copy to meet their deadline. We also witness occasional spurts of dialogue that border on preachy. Screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer craft a couple of monologues that could warrant a bright red MESSAGE signal across the screen while its actors are speaking.

That said, the story itself is inherently fascinating and it’s told in a well-crafted manner. There are plenty of actors who pop up in supporting roles, including a very nice performance from Bob Odenkirk as an editor who goes way back with Ellsberg and is instrumental in the paper’s expose. This is primarily the Streep and Hanks show, however. And in case you didn’t know, the two can act. Hanks is playing a part made most famous by Jason Robards in All the President’s Men (for which he won a gold statue). It is that movie that you may wish to draw comparisons with. The Post isn’t in that league, but few reach that level of greatness. The Post, rather, is exceedingly competent.

*** (out of four)

 

 

The Post Box Office Prediction

A trio of multiple Oscar winners team up for The Post, which expands nationwide next weekend over the four-day MLK holiday frame. The dramatic political thriller from Steven Spielberg is headlined by Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee and their exposure of the Nixon Adminstration’s Pentagon Papers scandal. Costars include Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, and Carrie Coon.

Unsurprisingly, the film has garnered some Oscar attention for itself and looks to be a player in numerous races when nominations are announced on January 23rd. The Post has received lots of ink for its comparisons to the political scene today. Reviews have been mostly strong and it stands at 87% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

Boasting its A list director and two stars, this should accomplish its mission of appealing to adult moviegoers. It’s performed extremely well in limited release thus far. I’ll predict this posting a low to mid 20s debut.

The Post opening weekend prediction: $22.3 million (Friday to Monday prediction)

For my Paddington 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/03/paddington-2-box-office-prediction/

For my The Commuter prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/03/the-commuter-box-office-prediction/

For my Proud Mary prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/01/03/proud-mary-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch – Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

It’s been nearly 25 years since Liam Neeson received his one and only Oscar nomination for playing Oskar Schindler in 1993’s Schindler’s List. He’s had acclaimed roles since then (2004’s Kinsey being a notable one). To younger moviegoers, he may just be known as the brooding action hero from the Taken franchise and others. Yet Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House had prognosticators like me take notice when it screened at the Toronto Film Festival.

The film casts Neeson as the title character, the real-life FBI man who was revealed decades later to be Deep Throat. Felt provided the invaluable intel that resulted in President Nixon’s resignation. Peter Landesman directs with a supporting cast that includes Diane Lane, Tony Goldwyn, Bruce Greenwood, Ike Barinholtz, and Michael C. Hall.

While reviews for Neeson’s work here have been solid, reaction to the picture itself has been rather lackluster. It stands at just 44% on Rotten Tomatoes. In other words, Neeson is the only possibility at all for Academy chatter. That appears to be a long shot.  The film fest season of the past couple weeks has provided a couple names with better chances like Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq. and Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger. That’s in addition to the assured nomination of Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, not to mention plenty of other contenders whose movies haven’t screened.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Gold Movie Review

Stephen Gaghan’s Gold tells another fairly recent “inspired by true events” tale of excess and greed. Instead of nefarious Wall Street types (though they’re here), our story takes place in the gold mining industry. Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is a third generation prospector trying to keep his business Washoe afloat.

A prologue shows happier times for the company in 1981. At that juncture, Kenny’s dad (Craig T. Nelson) is running it successfully and his offspring is merrily working at it. Seven years later, dad has passed and son isn’t so lucky. He runs Washoe from a bar where he indulges in their key product heavily.

Kenny has a dream that leads him to Indonesia to seek out Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a geologist who’s also run into lean times. They believe there might be gold in them Indonesian mountains. Finding it isn’t easy and Kenny even catches malaria, but eventually their fortunes turn.

As the company becomes an extremely hot commodity, Kenny must stave off the vultures of the corporate world, his competitors, third world governments, and the FBI. He also must battle his own issues, which includes the fact that he’s way out of his league suddenly running an operation of its size.

Gold is McConaughey’s show and we get the full Matthew here. That means effective dramatic moments mixed with comedic and quirky ones. He goes through a physical transformation here as he’s done before. Here, the effects of Kenny’s constant boozing shows. Magic Mike physique Matthew is nowhere to be found.

There’s plenty to admire about the lead actor’s work here. The problem is that none of the other characters are very interesting. Bryce Dallas Howard is Kenny’s wife and their relationship goes through the familiar ups and down that massive success brings. Ramirez’s Michael is a bit of a blank slate for most of the running time.

There are a couple of legit crises after Kenny hits its big. One is quite a surprise in the third act and it left me wishing the screenplay spent more time on it. Another involves shady Indonesian politicos and it might have been another subplot worth exploring. It could have provided a chance to give us characters matching the dynamism of what McConaughey brings.

Yet the screenplay doesn’t go there. While its star provides some memorable moments, too much of the rest of Gold feels standard.

**1/2 (out of four)

Gold Box Office Prediction

Matthew McConaughey packed on some pounds for next weekend’s Gold, but whether it manages to be a heavyweight at the box office is very much in question. The pic casts the Oscar winner as a hapless businessman who strikes you know what in the jungles of Indonesia. Stephen Gaghan makes his first directorial effort since 2005’s Syriana and costars include Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Corey Stoll, Stacy Keach, Toby Kebbell, Craig T. Nelson, and Bruce Greenwood.

The early 90s set adventure comedy/drama faces some obstacles in breaking through. First, while it received a very late 2016 limited release for Academy consideration, that didn’t bear fruit. Gold stands at only 43% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. While McConaughey has been a draw in various genres, this may not stand out enough to strike… you get it.

I believe a decent comp for this could be the star’s previous headlining role – last summer’s Free State of Jones, which managed only $7.5 million in its premiere. Bottom line: I don’t see audiences rushing to it and I’m not totally convinced it even reaches the Jones number.

Gold opening weekend prediction: $5.4 million

For my A Dog’s Purpose prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/a-dogs-purpose-box-office-prediction/

For my Resident Evil: The Final Chapter prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/18/resident-evil-the-final-chapter-box-office-prediction/

Truth Movie Review

James Vanderbilt’s Truth is of the genre that All the President’s Men is, even employing one of its stars, Robert Redford. It, too, tells the tale of a President of the United States under severe scrutiny. Both show the tremendous pressure and hard work of journalists and their duty to get the story right. The main difference among the numerous similarities? Whereas Redford’s 1976 Oscar nominated picture was confident enough to mostly eschew unneeded overdramatization, Truth is not. It’s a hindrance that causes it to pale in comparison.

Set against the backdrop of George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection, the film focuses on CBS News and its digging into the President’s three decades old plus National Guard record. Producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) works for 60 Minutes and is especially close to the network’s veteran news anchor Dan Rather (Redford). The pair and their colleagues believe they have a credible story covering lapses in Bush’s attendance in the Guard – a time when Vietnam was in its darkest days. A story is aired just months before the reelect, but potential inconsistencies rise up immediately. Some are from serious sources. Others come from the burgeoning blogosphere.

Truth explores the inner workings of news today, corporate politics, real politics, and journalistic integrity. These are subjects that have been covered before and covered more satisfactorily. I’ve already mentioned Redford’s classic from 40 years ago. There’s also Network. And Spotlight. The pic’s flaws don’t lie with the acting, even though this will not rate among Blanchett’s best performances. Redford gives a passable take on Rather. Their coworkers, including Topher Grace as a freelancer and Dennis Quaid as a military affairs expert, aren’t given any time for their characters to be anything other than caricatures.

Blanchett is a tremendous actress but there are times when even she seems to be overdoing it. Not as much as Truth itself, though. From its sweeping score to reaction shots of Mary’s young child watching her work in awe on the tube, Truth often seems distracted by its own perceived virtue instead of just sticking to the facts. The subject matter is by its nature fascinating and there are occasionally well dramatized touches here. Yet President’s Men and Spotlight were confident enough in their stories to simply tell them to intriguing results. Truth rather tries too hard and often rings false for it.

** (out of four)