The Virtuoso: this is a typical hitman movie that stars Anthony Hopkins in the periphery. It stars Anson Mount in the title role with an otherwise forgettable supporting cast. I hadn’t seen Abbie Cornish since she played along side Russell Crowe in the 2006 A Good Year. This isn’t worth your time. I can readily say that. The story is fairly formulaic with the principal assassin being asked to take on a hit from a reclusive boss (Hopkins), but without being given much more than sketchy information. The assassin needs to figure it out and report back when the job is done. In this instance he needs to head to a small town. There he is given a time and place from which he must figure it out. Let the drama begin. I won’t delve further into the plot, because I would expect that a seasoned movie watcher will anticipate more than a few of the moves that take place. What may come as a surprise to some, won’t be for others. The acting was pedestrian for the most part. Hopkins gives one speech to the principal that tries to make this better than it is. Avoid it if you can.
The Way Back: Ben Affleck stars in what purports to be a basketball movie. In some ways it can mirror quite a bit from the much better 1986 Gene Hackman movie called Hoosiers. In that earlier story the disgraced coach is invited to a small Indiana town called Hickory that found itself coachless in a basketball crazed environment. He has a small team, and he works them hard. They come together. They learn and succeed. Hackman has a really good side story with the father of one of the players, who battles alcoholism, and another with a player that had the most skills. in this 2020 movie, Affleck plays a role that hits pretty close to his real life it would seem on the surface. I say that because the early part of the movie shows Affleck’s character working on a construction project with rebar, but dealing with an obvious alcohol problem. He drinks on the job, in the car and in his life. He is separated from his wife, and yet out of the blue he is called by his old high school looking for him to coach. Hackman’s disgrace was physically assaulting an active player in a game. Affleck’s character checked out as a superstar player for reasons that are explained later. Do I believe them? Not sure. For me, being offered a full scholarship at a top university would be the ticket away from parents (eg: if you live in LA, go to Villanova in Philadelphia or to Kentucky or Kansas). But I digress. Further details are revealed about his situation which are meant (I think) to tug at the heart strings, but they aren’t as effective. It feels like manipulation. This isn’t an uplifting story, quite the contrary. You would think that the title would suggest that there is redemption and to some extent it is there, but not in the way that you might anticipate. Again, this falls flat for me. I am not a big Affleck fan. This doesn’t change that fact at all. His is a character that struggles and can’t seem to turn a corner. Was there a feel good story for one of the young players? Yes, somewhat. In the end is it worth seeking out to see all the details for yourself? I can’t recommend it. There are other movies with coaches and sports involved that are more compelling and better all around.
Succession (Season 3): Sunday night was the last episode in Season three for the well reviewed and excellent Succession. The story of an older father figure, a media mogul worth his billions, with his senior staff and his children, who have their own challenges. Season 1 he had a health crisis. Season 2 there was the challenge by his second son Kendall. This season was a continuation of the Kendall challenges but also dealing with internal Board and adult child strife. The final episode was the wedding of the children’s mom, who had been divorced long ago to the father. Everyone descends to Tuscany in Italy for the wedding, all the while trying to put together a merger with a betting, online company on the rise from their newspaper and TV media empire. It is intriguing. Fun to watch. The writing is excellent throughout and despite the excessive use of profanity, it is clever and cutting. I laugh at least a couple of times an episode with what one of the characters say, usually Roman played by Kieran Culkin. Others chip in as well as the rats collectively turn on one another in a bid to try and get a step up on another of the rats. It’s all good fun as you can see how a group of adult children that could potentially be a formidable force if they chose to utilize their strengths and build a collective front seem incapable of working together and supporting one another. Logan Roy, the father, played expertly by Brian Cox shows time and again his resilience while navigating through the larger issues that seem never-ending for him. This was one of the best series of the past season. It is worth watching and binging.