Movies of the Week #49 (2017)

I don’t know what I’m doing, I haven’t seen a really good movie in a while and it’s all due to my very conscious selection patterns. Once again, this week’s top choice is more commendable for the attempt, not the result. Ah well.

Movie of the Week

The Wizard of Lies (2017)

wizardoflies

A Christmas Prince (2017): It’s hard to find many redeeming qualities to this heavily cliched Christmas flick, boasting wedding-level cinematography and Sunday-theater acting. The story – a journalist gets her big break when she is sent to cover the story of a coronation ceremony, then mischievously stays on as a tutor for the impaired princess – is riddled with the expected and encumbered by spectacularly lazy screen-writing. If there are some things working in its favour, it starts with the lavishly beautiful Peles Castle, which is one of my preferred Romanian places to visit. Ben Lamb provides a convincing prince, Honor Kneafsey manages to score some likability points, but  I was not taken with Rose McIver, playing the lead. It’s a shame, really, because I enjoyed McIver in iZombie; alas, there’s next to no chemistry between her and Lamb. So, yeah, hard to recommend, even for the Christmas fanatics amongst y’all. 4/10

Victoria & Abdul (2017): Heeey, here’s my weekly non-Indian movie portraying Indians in a one-dimensional way. Unfortunately, Stephen Frears really disappoints with this one, a bland story about Queen Victoria’s relationship with a Muslim Indian servant, which simply fails to find a compelling focus. There’s more to life than being constantly reminded what jerks those guys in the British Empire were. 5/10

Stronger (2017): This renewed take on the Boston marathon bombings proves to be a fairly by the numbers, yet emotional representation of an everyday hero’s tale. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany, two actors in top form, the movie provides some grisly visuals, although it works best when focusing on the pain of its protagonists. What it also does well is that it keeps its lead hero real, to show that life-changing injuries are not guaranteed to perfect one’s imperfections as a human being. All in all, Stronger is a slight improvement on last year’s Patriot’s Day (2016). 7/10

The Wizard of Lies (2017): I am still constantly impressed by the caliber of TV movies nowadays. This HBO production about Ponzi scheme ‘artist’ Bernard Madoff stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Alessandro Nivola and Nathan Darrow and feels very familiar. A bit of Margin Call (2011)a bit of The Big Short (2015), a bit of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) in an exposition style narrative about Madoff’s downfall. It’s a fine movie, but it tries very hard to be more than just that, failing in the process. At almost 135 minutes runtime, you get an idea of the complexities under the surface, but the team behind this pic never dig deep enough to really flesh out all the characters. As a consequences, the tale of the two brothers feels more like a tag-on working towards discrediting Madoff as a family man and never really gels. Factually, little light is shed on how the guy managed to rip off so many big players in the financial markets, what was really going on with the money and why we should care. I mean sure, there’s a lot of the latter going on, with impassioned pleas of the non-millionaires who got ripped off in the process, but that feels like pandering, more than anything. The film never really ‘bites’, although it tries to, only to ultimately err on the side of caution and treat Madoff with gentility. A shame, because it felt at times that it could really have been something special. 7/10