Monday, April 9, 2018
On HBO: PATERNO (2018)
(US - 2018)
Directed by Barry Levinson. Written by Debora Cahn and John C. Richards. Cast: Al Pacino, Riley Keough, Kathy Baker, Greg Grunberg, Annie Parisse, Larry Mitchell, Steve Coulter, Kristen Bush, Ben Cook, Sean Cullen, Peter Jacobson, Tom Kemp, Michael Mastro, Jim Johnson, Murphy Guyer, Julian Gamble, Darren Goldstein, William Hill. (Unrated, 105 mins)
There was once an air of prestige surrounding HBO's original movies, particularly in the 1990s glory days which saw them regularly producing top-notch films like BARBARIANS AT THE GATE, AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN, THE LATE SHIFT, GIA, IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK, and INTRODUCING DOROTHY DANDRIDGE, just to name a few. For the last decade, the network has specialized in at least one fact-based drama or biopic every spring, with some highlights being 2010's YOU DON'T KNOW JACK, with Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian, 2012's GAME CHANGE, chronicling the Republican side of the 2008 election with Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin and Ed Harris as John McCain, and 2013's BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, with Michael Douglas as Liberace. The HBO spring movies have been slipping in recent years, content to rely on painstaking makeup jobs as opposed to the solid writing that made their 1990s films so memorable. 2013's PHIL SPECTOR is arguably the worst of the bunch, a slobbering Spector apologia from David Mamet, with Spector played by a frizzy wig attached to the head of Al Pacino. Last year's THE WIZARD OF LIES cast Robert De Niro in a perfect recreation of Ponzi scheme poster boy Bernie Madoff, but otherwise felt content to serve as a live-action version of Madoff's Wikipedia page, with director Barry Levinson indulging in some predictable Scorsese worship, right down to De Niro using some of his leftover Ace Rothstein schtick from CASINO.