Tag Archives: John Goodman

Trumbo (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

TRUMBO

Director: Jay Roach
Writers: John McNamara, Bruce Cook (book)
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman

The year is 1947 and Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) one of Hollywood’s top Screenwriters along with other artists and colleagues are jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.

Although Dalton Trumbo was one of the most successful and highest paid writers in Hollywood in this era it wasn’t illegal to be a member of the Communist Party in the United States of America, he actually went to prison because he wouldn’t “name names” before the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee)

As always Bryan Cranston continues to impress me in his various roles over the last few years. I reviewed his performance as Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator (2016) a few months back and I was looking forward to watching him portray another complex character in Dalton Trumbo. Again Cranston has the charm and delivery to intrigue the audience early on in the film and John McNamara (writer) although mostly writes for Television did a fantastic job in writing the true story based on the book by Bruce Cook.

Although Cranston is supported by a star studded supporting cast in Mirren, Lane and Goodman he owns all of his scenes and his delivery in the face of confrontation is an important factor in my opinion why he was casted to the lead role.

In a particular memorable scene involving a confrontation between Trumbo and Screen Legend John Wayne I can’t think of any other actor who could portray a man in the face adversity handling the pressure and the situation with gentle and articulated behaviour and coming off the better man in the scene.

I use the word pressure as the HUAC were supported by columnist Hedda Hopper portrayed by Helen Mirren and my impression of the HUAC was that they weren’t just satisfied with sending these men to prison. They wanted to bury them. Mirren although has limited screen time doesn’t waste a second in her role as Hopper. A manipulative and spiteful character in this film and I have to say it is very rare to have that feeling of dislike towards a character played by Helen Mirren but she plays the character convincingly and although I don’t know enough of Hedda Hopper I did get the impression that she held a lot of weight in her day in control and input within the HUAC.

A little brief history on the HUAC was their task to create a blacklist of people within the business who had affiliations with the Communist Party preventing them finding employment in Hollywood which led to a lot of writers etc losing their homes, some divorced due to money struggles and others losing the will to live. Some had to make their way over the seas to Europe for work.

Trumbo wrote and directed using substitutes or false names and in some cases credited some of his work to close friends working in Hollywood who weren’t on the Blacklist and winning academy awards. He would have to take a step down in pay to distribute his writings to Frank King who was a studio owner who mostly worked in “B” movies. King was portrayed by the brilliant John Goodman and although he knew of Trumbo and his alliances, he didn’t really care about that as he knew he had a first class writer working for his studio. Goodman is at his best in these roles as the hard hitting, nothing to lose characters and here he is no different.

Playing Cleo Trumbo is Diane Lane as Dalton’s long suffering but supportive wife and does a fine job. Lane to be honest doesn’t have much to do in the movie. There are a few domestic arguments between Lane and Cranston in particular the stress of his writing and forgetting at times that he has a family. Lane is portraying the Wife and Mother trying to hold her family together in these harrowing times and she always manages to pull off these roles with conviction.

Director Jay Roach manages to keep the flow of this movie moving along at a reasonable pace that highlights the viewpoint of many in the United States at this time and also illustrates the difference in beliefs among the characters without portraying Trumbo as a victim to himself but a victim of circumstance at a time when the “Cold War” was brewing and showing how manipulative the media could be to the masses. Roach also manages to not bog the audience down with a political drama but more a human and family drama.The Director also should be applauded for demonstrating the great mind of Dalton Trumbo and his courage throughout the adversity. His story is inspiring and along with his family’s (mostly his wife and oldest daughters characteristics seem to support his pride, bravery and dedication to his cause.

I’m glad the filmmakers decided to include a montage of historical facts that took place after the events of this film and what happened in Trumbo’s life up to his passing in 1976.

I highly recommend watching Trumbo as a great piece of cinema and a must watch.

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Atomic Blond (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

ATOMIC BLONDE

Director: David Leitch
Writers: Kurt Johnstad (screenplay), Antony Johnston (based on the Oni Press graphic novel series “The Coldest City” written by)
Stars: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

So when I discovered David Leitch, the man behind John Wick, had a new film out I was naturally intrigued and excited to give it a bash. I absolutely loved John Wick. Admittedly, that was a fairly superficial film too, but a star showing from Keanu Reeves, some insanely good action scenes and a good old fashioned tale of revenge turned what could have been an average affair into a modern cult classic. Atomic Blonde, Leitch’s latest creation, a spy thriller set in the 80s, ultimately falls flat on its face in the plot department. Despite sharing many positive characteristics with the aforementioned John Wick, it becomes needlessly convoluted, difficult to follow and was ultimately underwhelming as a result.

It’s set in 1989 Berlin, a city which at that stage is still very much divided, with murderous Russian KGB members running around with seeming immunity and killing anything that moves. Which is precisely how this film kicks off. MI6 agent, Paul Gascoigne gets himself caught and then executed in brutal fashion, which isn’t the best of news for British intelligence. Why? Well, because he was carrying a stolen list with the whereabouts of every intelligence asset they have. This of course sets alarm bells ringing and they almost immediately try to reclaim the precious item. They deploy the talents of Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), a top MI6 field agent who doesn’t mess around in her feverish attempts to resolve the situation. She teams up with the eccentric, ‘feral’ Berlin station chief, David Percival (James McAvoy), a schemer of a man who appears to have issues with authority, whilst having a propensity for lying.

Now, that sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? If only it could’ve stayed that way. Everything that happens throughout the course of the film is told via an interrogation room with Lorraine reporting her escapades to her superiors. Chief of whom being Emmet Kurzfeld (John Goodman). What troubled me most is that it’s supposed to be a spy thriller and it never once had me on edge, excited for what was happening, nor was their many if any real spy elements within. James Bond female edition it’s not. The film closely follows Lorraine and her growing suspicions of Percival’s role in things. Her original mission of retrieving the list and assassinating ‘Satchel’, a double agent who’s being selling info to the Russians, soon becomes far too complicated and tedious. This isn’t helped with the introduction of Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), a French undercover agent that rather bizarrely and needlessly becomes Broughton’s lover after a mere five or ten minutes on screen.

This film doesn’t do a good enough job of giving any of its characters a backstory or implanting a reasonable logic behind their actions. Broughton’s in particular falls foul of this idiocy. She’s supposed to be undercover but regularly saunters into clubs full of KGB members waiting to kill her. Like I said, she soon suspects Percival of being the leak, pretty much has her suspicions confirmed following an ambush and yet still works with him to try and smuggle Spyglass, a Stasi defector responsible for stealing the list, into West Berlin. This ends exactly as you’d expect and it makes zero sense from a logical perspective. It does lead to the best scene in the entire film however when both Lorraine and Spyglass end up cornered within a building, and she single handedly takes out half a dozen KGB members. That scene was beautifully handled, flowed seamlessly in what looked like one continuous shot and was just tremendous on the eyes.

Most of the choreography was spectacular, as you’d expect from the man that brought you John Wick and the visuals were incredible. I was born in 89 myself, so can’t really speak for what the 80s was like, but this film seems to capture the mood of that decade perfectly, with a fantastic soundtrack and zany, neon heavy visuals. That’s certainly one area of Atomic Blonde that I can’t criticise.

I also can’t really criticise the performances. Charlize Theron was superb as Broughton. She’s an excellent actress and as Mad Max showed, she’s more than capable of excelling in physically exerting, action roles. She’s becoming a bonafide action hero. Much of the film was fixated on her character, often uncomfortably close at times and she carried the film with ease. James McAvoy didn’t have as much screen time comparatively, but the time he did have was used relatively well and he was quite humorous with his frequent bursts of passive aggression and profanity fuelled rants. There was also some darkness in his character, especially towards the end that was excellently conveyed by the Scotsman. Anybody that’s seen Split will attest to how well he pulls that particular trait off. Boutella was fine. She didn’t have much to work with and did all right. John Goodman, likewise, did ok in a relative cameo role. Every other character, including the unmemorable villain Bremovych (Roland Møller), were sideshows.

Ultimately, the film was let down by poor character development and a less than compelling story, that became murky, overly convoluted and confusing in the middle. Leitch would’ve been much better served going down the trusted John Wick route with this one. I.e. Making it just an enjoyable, simplistic action flick with slick visuals and choreography. I felt like he got caught in between doing that whilst trying to get overly smart with the plot and it just didn’t work for me. It may prove to for others though, so by all means give it a shot. Indeed, it’s been getting very mixed reviews and it certainly wasn’t a complete disaster. There is positives in there, but it feels just a little hollow under the stylish visuals in the end.

Rating: 2.5/5

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

10 CLOVERFIELD

Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Writers: Josh Campbell (story),  Matthew Stuecken (story)
Stars: John Goodman,  Mary Elizabeth Winstead,  John Gallagher Jr.

A taut and thrilling, psychological horror acting as a sequel to and sharing the same universe as Cloverfield (2008), from then feature film debutant Dan Trachtenberg. It follows the claustrophobic and intense experience of three people inside a doomsday bunker. Howard (John Goodman), the owner and architect behind its design, has been preparing for a potential armageddon style attack for years and, with the help of his neighbour Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), has created quite the cosy, little retreat, complete with air locked doors, a filtration system and plentiful supplies of food. Despite his apparent generosity in saving their lives, doubts remain throughout regarding his motives and whether he’s being entirely truthful or not.

Opening with the frantic and distraught Louisiana native, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packing her bags after an argument with her husband and driving out into the night. The shrieking score from Bear McCreary builds to a crescendo, as she’s harassed on the phone by her partner, before hitting a skid on the road (or is she forced off?), flying down an embankment and losing consciousness. When she awakes, it’s not in her overturned car, but a strange, dinky, breeze block decorated room, on a painfully thin bed that my Labrador would turn it’s nose up at. Chained to a wall, she soon meets Howard, who slides a plate full of food her way, before reassuring her that the chain is for her safety, merely temporary and that he saved her life. He then breaks the terrible news that the she won’t be able to get a signal on her phone, she’s trying at this point, as there’s been an attack above and everyone is more than likely dead. Appearing a little disbelieving at this news, and who could blame her, she tries pleading with Howard, but he soon leaves her to ponder on her predicament again, after a crashing noise is heard outside the room.

Shortly afterwards, Michelle is introduced to Emmett, who has seems to have an unwavering belief in Howard’s attack theory, and the three are soon sat down at dinner. The dark side of the latter’ personality is quickly highlighted in this tense, awkward, introductory scene between the three as he angrily berates Michelle for appearing to get a little too cosy with Emmett. This isn’t helped any when she attacks him and attempts to escape, grabbing his keys and making a dash for the door. What she witnesses at the entrance gives her second thoughts however and she despondently returns to safety below. The film then enters an extended middle act in which the three seem to live away amiably for a reasonable amount of time, reading books, playing games and doing jigsaw puzzles to help pass away the tedious wait for the air to clear, this interrupted intermittently by the occasional rumbling from above, some minor emergencies below or a sporadic bout of rage from Howard. Despite his hospitality and even rare moments of kindness, doubts continue to gnaw away at the other two, who’ve bonded and developed a strong friendship by this stage.

These appear to be vindicated when Michelle discovers a message scratched into another escape hatch, whilst being tasked with restarting the air filtration system. This along with two earrings belonging to a girl who disappeared a couple of years earlier, causes the pair to try and manufacture a way of escaping their now seemingly deluded and potentially deranged captor. Ultimately, as you’d expect, this leads to a confrontation with Howard, with Emmett taking the blame for everything, making a tragic sacrifice to save Michelle. This sparks the film into a fairly chaotic final act as the latter, who has made a rudimentary gas mask and suit attempts to escape the clutch of the determined Howard, and upon doing so, makes a startling discovery. The final ten to fifteen minutes of this film are so different to the rest that it almost feels like a different genre at the end, but thankfully it’s cleverly handled (it could have been disastrous in the wrong hands) and the visuals, which are pretty special for different reasons throughout, are on point to provide a fitting end. I say fitting because Michelle seems almost relieved to be away from the psychological powder-keg below, this despite the horrors above the ground being the very definition of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ and it perfectly marries with the more sci-fi setting of Cloverfield.

John Goodman is immense in this film. He’s a fantastic character actor and he plays the part of the villainous and lamentable Howard to perfection. His unpredictable mood swings added some real anxiety to the proceedings as you just never knew how he was going to react in a given situation. This was perfectly encapsulated when the trio were playing an innocent game together and the tension was almost unbearable. Winstead was fantastic too as Michelle, sharing the leading role with Goodman to real effect and perfectly showcasing the characters keen intelligence, quick thinking and determination, grabbing the bull by the horns in the final act and turning into a full blown Sarah Connor-esque heroine. Gallagher Jr as Emmett added a different flavour to the dynamic between the trio and despite having less screen time or effect on the story as a whole, his too was a pretty decent performance. I really can’t fault any of them here.

I’ve been meaning to get round to watching this film, though for some reason I kept putting it off, but I’m so glad I finally got round to it. It was a thoroughly enjoyable watch and my attention never really dipped at any stage, which is a real testament to the writers; Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damian Chazelle who produced an engrossing, tense story, not to mention the beautiful, smooth visuals from Jeff Cutter and some excellent direction by Trachtenberg. Highly recommended viewing from me.