What’s the worst thing that can happen in sports? That’s the question voiced by the title character as the curtain goes up on Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut and latest produced screenplay since 2015’s Steve Jobs. The wording immediately conjures another Sorkin sports project, Moneyball, which followed Billy Beane’s seemingly-miraculous turnaround of the flailing Oakland A’s baseball club. That film was directed by Bennett Miller (sidebar: where’d Bennett Miller disappear to?) and contained a brilliant sequence dubbed The Streak: a quick-cut montage of the A’s unprecedented run of winning, winning, winning. We may never lose again, reads a poster in the stadium stands. Winning, you may have heard, is basically the best thing that can happen in sports.
The worst thing is more varied, more subjective, and far more interesting, at least as a concept for a narrative feature. It’s easy to see why Sorkin thought so, and easy to see why the writer was drawn to Molly Bloom’s account of her time hosting high-stakes underground poker games in L.A. and New York. Molly’s Game allows Sorkin to tap into the fast-paced verve of a sport (poker being “a game of skill,” as Molly asserts) that just so happens to require players to gather, seated, around a tense table. Molly herself is a quintessential Sorkin character in that she talks fast, has daddy issues, and is often the smartest person in the room by a longshot. Above all, the fact that Molly’s Game is a true story makes it all the more fitting for this writer’s wheelhouse.
Continue reading Molly’s Game (2017)
- People joining projects: Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey have officially joined The Dark Tower, likely kicking off a new franchise and dragging this particular Stephen King adaptation into the light once and for all after decades in development hell. Elba vs. McConaughey should put a great many doubts to rest.
- People leaving projects: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is departing Sandman, which he was scheduled to direct and star in, over creative differences with the studio. Very disappointing. Slightly less disappointing is the departure of Eli Roth from the shark thriller Meg, which may or may not result in a better Meg.
- Sony has announced a Venom movie to be spun out of the Spider-Man franchise that they really don’t seem to even have anymore. How do you make a Venom movie sans Spidey?
Continue reading Film & TV News: March 7
- The latest Force Awakens box office numbers put the Star Wars episode at $610.8 million, blasting past previous record-holders in pretty much every category. Avatar‘s global box-office haul is certainly in sight. More importantly, The Force Awakens is a pretty fantastic movie.
- Speaking of Avatar, James Cameron has made a series of optimistic-sounding comments about the future of the franchise and the release of the first sequel around Christmas 2017. Cameron is planning a trilogy of sequels and is taking his time developing the world of Pandora, which in my book is a good thing.
- Inherent Vice‘s Katherine Waterston will lead Ridley Scott’s Prometheus sequel Alien: Covenant, which will reportedly bring back Michael Fassbender’s android David and potentially Noomi Rapace’s Shaw as well. Here’s hoping the writing is more akin to the sparse Alien than to the convoluted Prometheus.
Continue reading Film & TV News: December 23
- Idris Elba is rumored to be circling the role of Roland Deschain’s Gunslinger in the long-stewing adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. This is good news for fans of both Elba and King, as Tower will inevitably turn into a massive franchise.
- Another casting rumor is swirling around the inclusion of Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which would be the latest in a string of casting coups for Marvel if proved true. Who would he play? Star Lord’s daddy?
- Yet another cinematic universe in the works: G.I. Joe will lead the Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. and ROM into battle, and before you know it you’ll actually have some idea what any of those things are. Thanks, Hasbro!
Continue reading Film & TV News: December 16
Beasts of No Nation lives in the space between realism and allegory. Uzodinma Iweala’s original novel approaches that space but seems far less concerned with it, narrated entirely by the young central character, Agu, in his simplistic present-tense dialect. A child soldier in West Africa, Agu’s journey in the novel is one of survival. His family is killed, and to avoid being killed himself he accepts an offer to join the army of the Commandant, a rebel warlord. At first he declares “I am not wanting to fight”; eventually, though, Agu is killing with knives and guns, willfully attacking “enemies”, tearing through his war-stricken country at the whim and call of the Commandant.
Everything about the novel is heartbreaking, but nothing more so than the sense that Agu is too young to realize that his journey across his country is also a descent into hell. The first-person narration is one that nonetheless conveys the bare minimum about Agu’s own thoughts and feelings about his actions, and yet at times it conveys more than enough. “I am liking it” — this is what Agu says about the sound of his knife hitting a woman’s head, about the splashing blood. It’s brutal in how direct it all is, in its impossibility and in its plausibility. Iweala never has to name the West African country or convince us that someone like Agu really exists; Agu very definitely does.
Continue reading Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Though True Detective devoured nearly all of last year’s television glory, the SundanceTV series The Red Road deserves mention in the same breath. Massively overlooked but strong enough to be renewed for a second season (which premieres April 2015), the show centers on a small New Jersey town in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains. Decades of rough history between the town locals and the Lenape Native American tribe begins to flare up again, and two men — Officer Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) and ex-convict Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa) — become wrapped up in the middle.
Created by Aaron Guzikowski (writer of Prisoners), The Red Road brings that rough history into the present in a way that few series dare. At times it’s made explicit, especially in scenes recounting the death of Harold’s brother-in-law as members of the Lenape tribe (maybe even Kopus himself) stood by. Those scenes are compelling, but it’s the mysterious, unseen aura of Us vs. Them that really gives The Red Road serious clout, vibing uneasily in every sequence. Is it racism? Or is it simpler, illogical and obdurate hatred, free of any and all motivation, free as a virus in the mountainside community?
Continue reading The Red Road 1.1 – “Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream”