Part one of a six part examination of various recent documentaries, which I expect to finish by the end of the month.
by Ken B.
Billionaire David Siegel built his fortune from time share resorts he ran from the 1980s, and owning a 52 story building on the Vegas strip. He’s filthy rich these days, with his third wife Jackie (perhaps of the trophy variety…?), a former model, and their eight children. We never get to know the kids. I’m not sure if I want to know about the kids. One of them is inherited through one of Jackie’s relatives, from a tough background, and then made the sudden switch. They live in a big house and want a bigger house. The new one will be 90,000 square feet, modeled after the Palace of Versailles, with thirteen bathrooms, ten kitchens, two tennis courts, and an absurdly large grand staircase. The biggest home in America.
Then, in 2008, the recession hits.
Their world comes crashing down. The Siegels, which spend the first half of Lauren Greenfield’s documentary living in compulsively maddening ignorance to the rest of the world, must face reality, or however much they can. Employees of David’s company are laid off by the hundreds. He cuts his home staff in half. (There are now only four nannies/housekeepers, which is apparently a tragedy for them, who must now start to do their own housework. Jackie even says that she wouldn’t have had so many kids if she knew she’d have to do so much work herself.) And they can’t finish the house, which they put on the market for the humble price of $100 million.
The Queen of Versailles is an oddly interesting examination of the fabled upper-one percent. As times become tougher, their initial oblivious nature becomes incontestable. It’s a evilly watchable tragedy – Schadenfreude at its finest and most compelling. It provokes a final message as well: the higher you are, the farther the fall.
As this 100 minute film moves along, you learn more and more about these people, and you’re not exactly sure that you would want to know them personally – at least at the start. It’s a cruel thing to say, but perhaps dire financial struggle make the heads of the family more tolerable and grounded. It’s not that the Siegels are (or were) inherently bad people. It’s just probably safe to make the assumption that after one is built so high above normality, a grasp with the reality that most face is unapparent until a crash like the one in 2008 forces you to deal with it. It’s hypocritical to chastise these people for enjoying their lifestyle – who wouldn’t? (Although it probably is worth questioning the actual ramifications of building a replica of Versailles for your own private use).
When all is said and done, The Queen of Versailles is a film that is indeed interesting, but is entertaining the right word? It’s about a crumbling small empire and the lack of preparedness it’s greeted by. It can be said that it is very fascinating, but maybe this isn’t the most appropriate scenario to find a considerable amount of joy in experiencing.
Oh, if you’ve seen it, you know that of course it’s entertaining!
by Ken B.
What a bore. The awards were very predictable last night, as the only real surprise probably was Mr. Hublot winning Best Animated Short. Ellen DeGeneres was a pretty decent choice as host – she remained entertaining while not ruffling the numerous feathers that Seth MacFarlane did last year. The pizza bit was pretty memorable. Excluding those short films, I was 20 for 21, and that’s about as good as I can ever expect to be (my out on a limb vote for Captain Phillips for best editing proved to be ill-advised.) If you extend that out to all categories (you can see my scores on GoldDerby), It’s 22 out of 24. It wasn’t really an achievement for everyone to do well in their Oscar pools this year. I hope next year’s ceremony turns out to be a real nailbiter.
Once again, the show was way too long. Best Picture was announced at 11:56PM Eastern Time, one minute later than last year. There’s really no reason to have the Best Original Song performances, or the song following the In Memoriam segment. The speeches, especially towards the end of the night, appeared to drag on a bit again. At least they weren’t all choruses of thank yous; some people had some genuinely cohesive things to say, like Lupita Nyong’o, who had wonderful words prepared.
I don’t have a terribly high amount of things to say, because there isn’t a terribly high amount to write about. It was a safe, mostly forgettable, and pretty much standard evening, with the exception of the photo with (at the time of this writing) 2.8 million retweets. Come on AMPAS, give us a real big show next year.
STAR RATING THINGS JUST BECAUSE:
by Ken B.
Let’s just jump right into this. Here are my official predictions, along with justification for the major prizes (picture, director, acting). No short film predictions, and if I have a certain lack of confidence, I provide the name of the film that might take the award instead.
Prediction: 12 Years a Slave
Could Lose to: Gravity
I had Gravity here when I started drafting this piece, and considered switching on multiple occasions, before finally changing it over. I think the latter has a shot at winning this due to its clear Best Director win, but 12 Years a Slave seems to carry a more important impact.
Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Here’s a lock for you. Simply put, Cuarón needed to do the most to create this film, using excellent visual technology recreating the vastness of space while still maintaining a heightened sense of mental existence and claustrophobia.
Prediction: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
McConaughey’s got all of the cards lined up: Just about every major award he was nominated for, weight loss, biography, disease, vulnerability, character change, you name it.
Prediction: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
There was a bit of hamhanded talk earlier on whether or not the reopening of the molestation allegations against Woody Allen would hurt Blanchett’s Oscar chances, and the answer is a clear and obvious no. It’s her Oscar, just accept it. Don’t drag an unrelated family (and potentially judicial) matter into this.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Prediction: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Despite the fact that Leto’s character in the film is part of the still somewhat taboo final letter in LGBT, I feel like the Academy’s voters have socially progressed enough to award him the Oscar for playing a transgender person.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
As Jennifer Lawrence picks up speed, collecting two major awards (Golden Globe and BAFTA), her chances of a second consecutive win increase, but Lupita Nyong’o still holds the lead.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Could Lose to: American Hustle
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Prediction: 12 Years a Slave
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Prediction: The Great Beauty
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Prediction: 20 Feet from Stardom
Could Lose to: The Act of Killing
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Prediction: The Great Gatsby
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Prediction: The Great Gatsby
Prediction: Captain Phillips
Could Lose to: Gravity
(While Picture, Director, and Editing typically go to the same film, I have a three-way split predicted. We’ll see how that turns out).
Prediction: Dallas Buyers Club
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Prediction: “Let it Go” from Frozen
(For what it’s worth, after listening to the whole set my favorite song out of the bunch is “The Moon Song”, but “Let it Go” is still pretty solid.)
BEST SOUND EDITING
BEST SOUND MIXING
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
With Gravity, it’s not a particularly surprising year, with many of the awards seemingly already decided. I have it winning six, and a possible seventh in Editing.
- Gravity – 6 (including Best Director)
- 12 Years a Slave – 3 (including Best Picture)
- Dallas Buyers Club – 3
- Frozen – 2
- The Great Gatsby – 2
by Ken B.
In Barbara, Christian Petzold crafts a film of gripping yet subdued tension. It wouldn’t be considered a “thriller” in the American box office (or budgetary) sense, but it should be considered one. It’s shot plainly, deliberately, authentically. There are no secrets, you are the viewer witnessing the moral dilemmas presented solely as situations. And that is what so great.
The title refers to Barbara Wolff (Nina Hoss), a doctor in 1980 East Germany that is punished by the government for attempting to leave the country and is subsequently transferred from Berlin to a hospital in a remote small town. She doesn’t know anyone. At first, she doesn’t want to know anyone. Her small apartment is sometimes searched by the officers assigned to keep an eye on her, and she’s particularly reserved and quiet. She quickly catches the eye of André (Ronald Zehrfeld) a colleague who later on says he’s there also as a punishment (medical malpractice, which sounds like it was technically someone else’s fault). There’s a patient that captures Barbara’s attention – Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), maybe late teens or early twenties, a laborer brought to the hospital by the police after being caught hiding for days in tic infested fields, and also pregnant.
Barbara’s desperate attempts to keep ties (for multiple reasons) with the members of her previous life and escaping are depicted throughout the 105 minute movie, highlighted and expressed through an understated and powerful performance from Nina Hoss, a frequent star of Petzold’s films. She incontestably understands the flow of the story and the objective, and tailors the character of Barbara to suit each movement of the story. I already made a passing reference at the most striking thing I found about Barbara – the non-striking visual style. It is a stationary camera. Petzold and DP Hans Fromm realize the aesthetic requirements of this intimate character study, and respond with no special shots, a heavy emphasis on natural lighting, set designs without vivid or abnormal colors, and an intentional absence of notable incidental music, if there even was any at all to be recalled. It’s sort of a closed-off trend that one notices from European dramas, replete and recurring because it’s a style of filmmaking that commands great success when done right.
Barbara is a low key film with much grander assumptions and implications. A fascinating portrait of the politics and their victims on the Comecon side of the Iron Curtain, it is meticulously but not obviously put together, and that is a sign of expert work. It’s greatly recommendable, for the intelligence and care on display to tell a riveting and compelling story about what would be an otherwise uninteresting main character. Under the hands of a competent cast and crew, just about anything can be made into a good movie, and that includes the story of a doctor working in a small town under an oppressive government that no longer exists.
by Ken B.
Do you realize how great this movie could have been? The Monuments Men has an extremely compelling story to tell and a cast to do it, but when all is said and done, it doesn’t really achieve the task at hand. It’s about a team of architects, archivists, and artists assigned to retrieve thousands of pieces of priceless European art stolen by the Nazis before they are destroyed in the waning days of World War II.
The idea is suggested by Frank Stokes (director and co-writer George Clooney), and approved by the president. From America, Stokes appoints four men, with the names of Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Preston Salvitz (Bob Balaban), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), and James Granger (Matt Damon). There are two from Europe; from Britain, Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville), and from France Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin). The team finds out what has been taken, and figures out where it might be. Along the way, a French curator named Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) becomes vital to locating much of the stolen material. Another supporting character is Sam Epstein (Dimitri Leonidas), a Jewish soldier who fled Germany for America with his family in 1938. He’s mostly unseen, but acts as a translator a couple of times.
I had to consult the iMDB for character names. One of the key flaws with The Monuments Men is a disorganized and disheveled way of developing and introducing its characters, to the point where the viewer doesn’t really know who these great actors were playing. I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about better projects the main cast had been in.
The Monuments Men is never at a loss for a well performed scene, but it never really combines into a cohesive or memorable film. This is the fault of the screenplay and possibly the editing. It’s a choppy and jerky affair, hard to follow and even harder to care about most of the time. There are seven “monuments men”, and as the story moves on, the group splits up and it becomes a series of tangents, never a fully flowing narrative until the climax of the third act. It’s a disappointing event of thinking about what the possibilities are, and realizing how they’re never reached to their maximum potential. The 118 minute movie suffers a bit in its pacing, especially at the start, with countless amounts of hasty exposition turned against a general disinterest. You’re greeted with an awful incessant speed. The production design uses every warm color it can find in the interiors, creating a glowing sense of nostalgia, as if to initiate the ghosts of the World War II films of days gone by. It never really feels like a successful tribute to that, or nearly any kind of film. The Monuments Men more often than not comes off as a realm of iconic actors misshapen by the script and odd editing flow.
I really wanted to love this. There were so many excellent components in The Monuments Men that it can be called nothing other than a real, real shame that it should not turn out as anything less than a spectacle. It’s such a sadness to watch this as the end result, occasionally stirring but never consistently. You yearn for more yet can’t handle another minute with the sluggish pacing, you love the actors but can’t remember who they’re playing, you make a point to read Robert Edsel’s book to learn more about this otherwise fascinating part of World War II, and you wonder why you didn’t see that move with the Legos everyone’s been talking about.
by Ken B.
On one of the top levels of a Pittsburgh parking garage, a van drives up. A quarter is placed in the parking meter. Thirty minutes are now available, but that amount of time won’t be needed. Out comes a sniper. He loads the gun, points it at the street across the way and kills five people at the outskirts of PNC Park. This is the opening sequence of Jack Reacher. While intriguing on paper, it more or less plays out like an episode of your everyday cop show. That’s an indicator of the film that will follow. It’s painstakingly tedious: monotony occasionally broken by an action scene to wake the viewer out of their boredom induced slumber. Even those are weirdly univolving and listless. It’s competently framed and edited, though, but that’s hardly worthy compensation for the 130 minutes this movie occupies.
The main suspect (Joseph Sikora) is now in a coma after a bad run in with some inmates in a prison van. He’s represented by Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the head of the law firm just unlucky enough to get the case. Helen is the daughter of the district attorney (Richard Jenkins). Before the attack, the man had requested the services of a man named Jack Reacher. It took a while to figure out who this man even was; Reacher was essentially a ghost, with virtually no trail, except for occasional withdrawals from a bank account, sustained from his military career. Jack (Tom Cruise) eventually saves the police the pursuit and comes to them, offering to work on the case. What follows leads to the unraveling of a far bigger event.
Aside from a few select moments, there’s no real joy to be had watching Jack Reacher. A lot of it is gloomy and dark. While such an ideal can be a good thing, and typically is, it doesn’t work here. There’s just something not right about the way the movie operates, and therefore it’s more likely to be off-putting than applicably brooding. Maybe it’s how Jack Reacher sometimes spits out one liners like there’s no tomorrow, where the crime that the movie is based around is about the seemingly random sniping of five people in broad daylight (it also added a bit of unintentional creepiness, considering that this film was released in the U.S. exactly one week after the Sandy Hook shooting).
But there are good things. I mentioned the technical aspects, which add limited interest to the bigger action set pieces, but the acting is not to be entirely discredited. Cruise has a mostly cool, slick, confident demeanor in the title role. Robert Duvall is good in a supporting role late in the film. Werner Herzog (!) has a pretty interesting role later on as well, and David Oyelowo has a solid dynamic with Cruise as a detective initially suspicious of Reacher.
Despite the few commendable qualities, Christopher McQuarrie’s adaptation of Lee Child’s 2005 novel is a miserable film that left me feeling similarly. Its pointlessness seems nearly self aware at times, going through plot development sullenly and perfunctorily, just waiting for the next scene where Tom Cruise beats up some bad guys. It’s a game of staring at the events onscreen blankly, never feeling like anything more than a witness that has little clue or care of what’s going on. There’s going to be a sequel, they say. Oh.
by Ken B.
Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein is wonderful chaos. The 1974 comedy sustains a similar high-energy format for its entire 105 minute runtime, ensuring that even if a joke falls flat, you’re not bored at all. This takes talent to achieve, and talent is clearly what is shown here.
Gene Wilder (also co-screenwriter with Brooks) plays a medical school professor who is the grandson of Mary Shelley’s renowned mad scientist. He hates the fact that his surname will overshadow any of his achievements, so he attempts to compensate by revising and strictly enforcing the pronunciation of “Frankenstein” and constantly reiterating the statement that his grandfather was insane.
A man from Transylvania arrives and informs the man that he has inherited the estate inhabited by his ancestor. He is a bit baffled, but decides to visit, where he embarks on various events with the eccentric hunchback Igor (the wide eyed Marty Feldman, who often breaks the fourth wall with various remarks) and a local woman named Inga (Teri Garr), culminating in Frankenstein discovering his grandfather’s study and attempting to recreate his experiments.
Regardless of your taste in humor, you sort of have to admire a movie this constant and silly. This hyper overload of parody is what makes a Mel Brooks film, targeting the obvious, the Frankenstein films from the ‘30s. It’s there right down to the technical details, from sound cues to its presentation in black-and-white. It is intensely enjoyable in that sense, as well as a straight-up comedy in its own place. It’s near impossible not to smile as the doctor and his monster perform a garbled rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” to a stunned crowd decked in elaborate eveningwear. (Obligatory joke about song title here).
Young Frankenstein is regarded in more than a few minds as an all-time comedy classic, and while I wouldn’t disagree in the most basic sense, I’m not sure I understand the pedestal that it is held up on. It’s certainly a good, enjoyable time and a more than decent way to spend an hour and forty minutes, but personally speaking, it doesn’t appear to cross that boundary into classic memorability or worthy preservation – it’s funny, but it’s not funny to the point of being noteworthy. There were more than a few times when I was underwhelmed by a scene. But that’s the thing about reviewing comedy and its subjective fields.
Judgment of impact aside, we hopefully can have a consensus on other things, particularly the acting. Wilder is great as Dr. Frankenstein, particularly from the second act onwards as he manically embraces his background, engaging in increasingly bizarre scenarios with his creation. Marty Feldman is very funny as Igor, and when you add Teri Garr, you have a solid dynamic and fusion of characters. The supporting cast is of a great array, from Cloris Leachman to Madeline Kahn to Peter Boyle as the monster and a round of other weird and wonderful characters, like a measured and robotic police inspector. Watch the scene where he nonchalantly sticks his fake arm in a fire. Kenneth Mars does a lot with so little dialogue.
Watching Young Frankenstein was indeed time well spent – from the surprisingly deep yet self-referential score by John Morris, to the established positives within the acting and writing. You’ve probably seen it already. At its best, it’s a rich source for laughs and entertainment. Mel Brooks even says it’s the funniest film ever made, and if you can’t trust the totally unbiased opinions of the director and co-writer as seen on the poster, who can you trust?
by Ken B.
The unrelentingly intense Captain Phillips is a showcase of acting and storytelling. Based on events collected in a memoir, regardless of how true or untrue they may be, Paul Greengrass’ film is another example of the director’s frequency in crafting atmospheric movies about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations, and doing it very well.
Tom Hanks is at his finest as Richard Phillips, who was captaining the cargo ship Maersk Alabama when it was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2009, by a team led by Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi). They had been warned about this, now was the time to act. The rest of the crew is hidden in the depths of the engine rooms. He’s able to hold them off for a little while. Muse wants millions of dollars, but the ship only holds packaged food and $30,000. No matter. They force Phillips into a lifeboat and they’re off. During the nightmarish period that follows, the U.S. Navy becomes increasingly aware of what’s going on, and the film concludes during a desperate attempt at a rescue.
This is a very good movie. Not only is Hanks excellent, Barkhad Abdi gives a brilliant performance, certainly worthy of his Oscar nomination. Greengrass’ cinéma vérité style sometimes does give a convincing mood, but the shaky-cam method is occasionally done to excess and threatens temporary incoherency. However, such incidents are rare. Barry Ackroyd does a much better and cohesive job here as a cinematographer than he did on Parkland. The mood of the film is precise. It’s restless. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. Normally, these adjectives would be applied negatively, but when describing a film about a hostage situation, such ideas are no less than absolutely required. Captain Phillips perfectly meets these descriptors. We know how the story ends before going in, but there are true moments of mortality realized within the confines of the picture. The last scene features some of the greatest acting I’ve seen in a while.
Captain Phillips doesn’t push any politics. It would have been astoundingly easy to turn this into a jingoistic and sickening product, but this never happens. This is not a tired and failed depiction of misplaced and misportrayed patriotism that trips so many other stories of the like. There’s a heavily promoted scene that occurs during the initial hijacking, where Muse pulls Phillips aside and says “I’m the captain now.” Truly this event had been building up for some time before. There was a shot inserted earlier when both men look at each other through binoculars as the Somali speedboat approaches the Maersk Alabama. All of this leads to one fair conclusion that Greengrass accurately portrays: It’s force against force, man against man, captor against hostage. This also makes the film ultimately more compelling.
You’re probably going to feel pretty tired when Captain Phillips’ 134 minute runtime draws to a close. You have just played witness to an incredible display of cinematic craft. You will have seen something worthwhile, something poignant, something brave. Push aside the accusations of inaccuracies – this is a movie, and a great one at that.
by Ken B.
Just about everyone around Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is rotten. Her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) had numerous affairs and was eventually arrested over various financial corruption charges. Her divorced sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) refuses to stay away from a horrible boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). The dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg) she works for is a harassing womanizer. Like I said, almost everyone around in her life is rotten. Even her.
This is what’s so intriguing about Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen’s latest film, which many have pointed out bears similarities to the plot of Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. There are good characters who have flaws you are willing to overlook, and there are bad characters with flaws you wouldn’t ignore if you were paid to. But is Jasmine good or bad? We know that something’s off about her. Either she’s the good saint of the movie, thrown off a good path because of what’s transpired in her life, or she’s the worst person of them all, lying, manipulating, and making stupid decisions (flying first class even though she adamantly states she’s broke). Anyway, to get away from the tragic ends of New York, Jasmine decides to move to San Francisco, where Ginger and Chili are. She wants to be an interior designer, and pays her way through the online classes required with the job as the dentist’s receptionist. The stress contained within her life before have driven her to depression and breakdowns. The character is seen popping pills enough times to solidify questions of a disorder.
Like any good character drama, there’s a lot of shouting, drinking, and a light dose of breaking things. But it has one thing that most of the like lack – the ability to induce nervous laughter. You’re going to laugh several times during this picture, but usually not because of a formal joke, but a genuine uncomfortable feeling over the transpiring events. It is fairly monumental the unfortunate existence that Jasmine lives, and the question impeccable on whether or not her apparent mental imbalance was the catalyst for much of the misfortune, or it was caused by it. However, there’s still an intense sympathy for the character, and the fact that you feel great interest in a pretentious, distant woman with faded delusions of grandeur is a testament to wonderful writing by Woody Allen and an absolutely amazing performance from Cate Blanchett. Blue Jasmine contains a truly marvelous cast, each needed to keep the film going through its 98 minutes. Seriously, everyone’s great, from Blanchett to Baldwin to Hawkins to Andrew Dice Clay as Ginger’s ex-husband. The only genuine issue could be the otherwise creative decision to seamlessly integrate flashbacks to Jasmine’s socialite life into the story. While it’s not hard to tell when a scene like that is in motion, it sometimes makes the overall flow a bit choppy.
Blue Jasmine isn’t a groundbreaker in even the lightest sense of the word, but that doesn’t change its quality, rich with many memorable details. Its title is symbolic of both the supposed naming history of the main character, and the emotions conveyed throughout. A particularly melancholy jazz piano rendition of “Blue Moon” travels throughout, a callback to the song playing when Jasmine and Hal first met. It is a worthy and layered film, tragic in its characters, brilliant in its portrayal.
by Ken B.
Going into Parkland, a movie about experiences that occurred on November 22, 1963 and the days following, I wondered if it would spend a lot of time on conspiracy theories regarding the assassination. What was received was the opposite of my questioning – it is never addressed. While this is good for the sake of preserving history and accuracy, it also ensures that the film is largely uninvolving and sometimes boring, especially after a fairly tense first 45 minutes have passed, featuring the goings on at Parkland Memorial Hospital. (It’s interesting how the same building in Texas could be the place of death of three central figures around this event; John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Ruby. The movie never addresses the third person, but whatever).
Parkland is based on a book by Vincent Bugliosi (the lawyer who prosecuted Charles Manson), and there’s a relatively wide array of people examined. Charles “Jim” Carrico (Zac Efron) is the young doctor who is frozen in terror when the stretcher comes barreling into the ER. Marcia Gay Harden plays a head nurse. Colin Hanks plays Malcolm Perry, who performed a tracheotomy on the president in the initial minutes of the motorcade’s arrival. Curiously, there are a handful of characters that have nothing to do with the building the film is named for, including Abraham Zapruder (a very good performance from Paul Giamatti). Oswald is portrayed by James Badge Dale, his mother by Jacki Weaver, who went to the grave proclaiming her son’s innocence. Billy Bob Thornton plays a Secret Service agent, Forrest Sorrels. The fact of the matter is that the title is incorrect. The book is called Four Days in November. That works a lot better.
Film Racket recently ran an interesting piece by Mike McGranaghan, which makes the convincing argument that movies based on true accounts and events should feel free to take liberties in order to create a better product. I think it’s admirable for Parkland not to diverge from the confirmed line of events that occurred, but part of what makes movies exciting, such as this scene from Oliver Stone’s JFK, is willingness to examine ideas not necessarily true.
Parkland is unfulfilling. After 93 minutes, it leaves the viewer with a sense that there’s a lot more that was never tapped in to. The impact and legacy of the assassination of John F. Kennedy is fairly large, and it is worthy of, and receives, movies better than this. Despite a few strikes of originality in its format, Peter Landesman’s film is just not that memorable for a number of reasons, with only a handful of notable acting moments, a dareless score from James Newton Howard, and the legally required existence of old news footage. It’s also just far too jumpy for its own good, and leaves an unclear sense of what it was aiming for, and what should be learned from it at the end. We have an array of events presented to us, and then it moves on. What was the point? I like Parkland’s idea to look at the assassination from people outside of who you might suspect, but otherwise, it’s a slightly modified history lesson.