By Sarah Payne
Winchester – February 2nd – Helen Mirren stars in this horror film based on the true story of Sarah Winchester, a widow who inherited a fortune from her in-law’s gun empire. She used the money to build a sprawling mansion in San Jose, California, which she had builders working on non-stop from 1886 to 1922. The story goes that Winchester believed she would be haunted by the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester guns, and as a result, poured herself into the constant building and rebuilding of the mystery mansion. Another one of my favorite actors, Jason Clarke (from Zero Dark Thirty and Everest), also stars in the film. If you’re not into cheesy romance movies, Winchester could make a fun Valentine’s Day date movie.
The 15:17 to Paris – February 9th – Those who’ve been reading my column for the past few years know I like to give Clint Eastwood a hard time. The man is a legend; he’s 87 and still producing and directing movies. But he has become seriously sappy in his old age. I’ll never forget going to see his last film, Sully, in theaters, and walking out halfway through. Eastwood has a bad habit of getting overly sentimental and cheesy, and I fear The 15:17 to Paris will be no different. Let’s start with the subject – a true story of a near-terrorist attack on a train, thwarted by three Americans. No one can argue it’s a great story, but is it worthy of a feature length film? Just like with Sully, the film’s climatic event is pretty short. I can only assume the rest of the movie is filled with fluff about how the three Americans grew up together as kids. I’m practically falling asleep just thinking about the plot. And even worse, Eastwood chose to have the three men play themselves in the movie. These men are heroes; that doesn’t make them professional actors. The trailer alone is cringe worthy. Perhaps it’s time Eastwood just sticks to producing?
All the Money in the World – Based on the incredible true story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (of Getty oil), All the Money in the World has been making lots of headlines lately. First, because director Ridley Scott decided to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer after the film was nearly complete (due to sexual assault allegations against Spacey). Amazingly, the film was still released on time. All the Money in the World is also getting attention for the apparent pay disparity between Michelle Williams’ and Mark Wahlberg’s reshoots. Beyond the headlines, though, All the Money in the World is actually a really fun thriller made even better by superb acting from Michelle Williams (who plays Getty’s mother) and Plummer (who plays Getty’s grandfather). Williams never disappoints, and I’d say she’s cornered the market when it comes to playing grieving and distraught mothers (anyone who’s seen Manchester by the Sea will agree). Plummer is unshakable as the elder billionaire Getty, who is so cheap that he is willing to risk his grandson’s life in order to negotiate a smaller ransom. While it’s entertaining to watch Plummer’s stone-cold performance, it is truly shocking to realize the extent to which the real-life Getty went just to save a few dollars.
Masterminds – We’re still in the dead of winter, which means no one will judge you for your Friday night Netflix plans. In my case, I’m on maternity leave and constantly browsing free movie options. Masterminds (2016) is one of those movies, based on the 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery in North Carolina. It’s packed with current and former Saturday Night Live stars – like Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Jason Sudeikis – so the humor is sufficiently silly. There are a few laugh out loud moments that would make great stand-alone skits, like when Zach Galifianakis’ and McKinnon’s characters take bizarre trailer park engagement photos. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these to make Masterminds memorable, which is why you probably haven’t heard of the film until now.