Category Archives: Movie Review

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Movie Review – Terminal

Category : Movie Review

Director: Vaughn Stein

Starring: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers

Year: 2018

When watching a twisting storyline, I like to be surprised, I want to be surprised, I don’t choose to unravel the mystery before the characters do, because where’s the fun in that?  I can watch an M. Night movie and not care to figure out the trick, to get to the truth before others do, to convince myself that I’m more intelligent that the director.  But I will say, sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it can’t be helped, and if I uncover all the secrets and guess at all the answers before I really should it is in no way my own fault.  I assumed much about the plot of this film early on, and was extremely disappointed when I ended up being right.  It wasn’t clever, wasn’t hidden, wasn’t smart, and was in no way engaging; Terminal was dead on arrival, and we find that out way too soon.

In the gritty, neon underworld of a dark and lonely, semi-dystopic British city, assassins walk the slick, black streets like window shoppers out for a leisurely stroll.  Death lies around every corner and life seems fleeting; a utopia for professional killers and the employers who make use of their empty souls.  Annie wants to rise up the ranks, wants to take the assassin’s creed, wants to work exclusively for the town’s big wig richy sicko, Mr. Franklyn, but first she’ll have to prove her worth.  So begins an elaborate scheme to kill the competition, take the cash, and win the day, all while dodging her own demise.  Annie will meet a dying man called Bill, a young stud named Alfred, a wizened vet who goes by Vince, and they will all end up at the end of the line looking down the barrel of a gun before the wicked web is weaved.

That summary about tells it; there’s a whole lot of fluff, not much substance.  The film is beautiful in a Brazil sort of way, dazzling with a Blade Runner vibe, quirky like its predecessor Snatch, but never good in any tangible way.  Those movies are wacky yet cool, hard to swallow yet excellent, and that’s something Terminal couldn’t conjure.  Like Free Fire, you want to enjoy it because it is pure, ridiculous, bloody entertainment.  The problem is that, unlike silly action/comedy flicks that at least give you something, this assassin cliche is rather pointless and fails to give audiences anything.  It’s predictable, unoriginal, boring, and totally unnecessary; the exact opposite of what its bright lights try to trick us into believing.  The acting is good, I’ll give it that, Robbie and Pegg and the thugs were all interesting and believable, but the setting they were placed in was just so amateur and thoughtless that they never had a chance to shine through the gloom.  A mistake was made, an idea was left to wander, a plot completely lost its mind, and the result is something you don’t want to see.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mike Newell

Starring: Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Matthew Goode

Year: 2018

Downton Abbey Goes to the Movies, or something like that, as multiple familiar faces pop up in this straight-to-Netflix film.  They bring an easy, classic, British comfort to a movie that cringes behind a strange title and relative anonymity, lending credit to an otherwise dubious affair.  But don’t let the name bother you; it’s straight from the book, so blame the authors.  You’ll swear that this is historical nonfiction, that the film is based on the main character’s actual story, but that’s not the case; this novel was written in 2008.  So it’s historical fiction, or realistic fiction, I don’t know the difference, and it doesn’t really matter.  The result is the same; a wonderfully weird feature that carries with it a sense of timelessness and nostalgia for an age of real romance, a throwback to Wuthering Heights set atop the cliffs of the Island of Guernsey.

Successful young author Juliet Ashton has made a small fortune writing silly, witty essays, but longs to immerse herself in something more important.  England is back on her feet following the end of WWII, in which Juliet lost her parents and so many lost so many others.  But healing happens whether or not you’re ready; it’s only natural to move on.  Juliet stumbles upon a group trying to do just that, a book club from Guernsey who survived German occupation partly because of the joy and hope and adventure they received from reading.  But the memories of that time are still painful, and when Juliet begins to ask questions about their experiences for an article or book she hopes to write, she suddenly finds them less friendly.  There are secrets on the island that perhaps should remain hidden, scars from the second Great War that will never fully heal.

I loved the nod to the past that was written all over Guernsey, a nod that was inclined toward so many directions.  It touches on the war, occupation, Jewish slaves, Nazi sympathizers, families torn asunder, and all the terror of that time.  It brings that beautiful, old culture to life; the carts, the cottages, the cardigans.  And it also takes its tone from classic literature, weaving a romance that would seem cheesy in a modern movie, but somehow fits perfectly in one that feels a hundred years old.  There’s a sweeping freshness to the story, to the way it was presented, and to the way that it ended, a careless and hopeful mood that could not have been easy to pull off, that could be cynically pushed aside by stodgier audiences.  And then there’s the cast, which was brilliant.  Lily James is just so lovely, so effortless, so timeless; she always blows me away.  The Society was made up of strong actors, including Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton.  And Downton was well-represented; James, Wilton, Matthew Goode, Jessica Brown Findlay.  Guernsey is quietly one of the better films of 2018, both a fantastic love story and a peek at an obscure part of history, blended together seamlessly by a veteran director and played wonderfully by a smartly-selected cast.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Lean on Pete

Category : Movie Review

Director: Andrew Haigh

Starring: Charlie Plummer

Year: 2017

Director Andrew Haigh’s last film was 45 Years, which was incredible, so it’s no surprise that Lean on Pete is more than solid as well.  Haigh adapted both movies for the screen, one from a short story and one from a novel, so he’s talented in that area too; some people can just do it all.  His focus seems to be on strong emotion lurking just behind every day interactions, how moments might look small until they’re placed brick-like along a path that leads to a place you never thought you’d end up.  The stories he chooses are heavy and dramatic, but they speak clearly to audiences, allowing us to see ourselves in the characters even if our lives haven’t gone down the same road.  Lean on Pete is powerful in this way, taking us on a journey step by step until we can’t turn back; like the fabled frog in the water turned to boil, we don’t know what’s in store for us until it’s too late.

From Spokane, Washington but now living in Portland, Oregon, Charlie is a good kid who only longs for the simple things: friends at school, a place on the football team, time with his dad, a house without roaches, three square meals, and room to run.  One summer, Charlie comes across a Racino called Portland Downs; a house racing track and a casino all in one.  He doesn’t know the first thing about horses, but he gets a job helping out a grumpy owner named Del who needs a hand loading horses, driving them around, racing them, and bedding them down in their stables.  One particular horse, Pete, stands out to Charlie, and he develops feelings for the quarter horse, despite frequent warnings that these animals aren’t pets.  When Pete approaches his time to be put down, Charlie, who can’t lose another creature who he loves, runs away with the horse, going cross country to find a long lost aunt who represents all that is possible in his life, all that is good, all that he’s never had.

On the surface, Lean of Pete is a story about a horse and his boy, as it were, but there’s much more than that going on below the surface, which is another favorite pastime of Haigh’s, pulling the rug out from under us when he can tell that we’re at our most emotionally unsteady.  The plot begins by focusing on Charlie and his dad, then it moves to Charlie and his horse, and then it moves again, this time to Charlie’s rock bottom, as we walk beside him through his darkness.  Heavy stuff, so don’t simply expect a heart-warming tale of friendship, there’s much more sadness to be experienced here than you might expect.  Plummer does an incredible job shouldering the weight, never setting it down for a moment to breathe, always forcing audiences to keep pace.  And there are some really nice cameos scattered throughout as Charlie meets people all over the country on his adventure: Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Zahn.  Cameos can go one of two ways, but they worked in this film, and it seemed that every choice worked out for Lean on Pete.  The landscape was stunning, the quiet moments really spoke loudly, I was invested from the very beginning, and the ending wrapped the story up nicely, when so often climaxes can let us down so hard.  This movie was a rare success and deserves to fly higher than its path under the radar.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Kings of Summer

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias

Year: 2013

This film was pre-Love Simon, which was Nick Robinson’s breakout role, and is a much better movie.  You can tell that he has progressed as an actor through some questionable films (Jurassic World, The 5th Wave, Everything Everything), coming out the other side having learned something.  For Jordan Vogt-Roberts, he would go on to direct Kong: Skull Island, which wasn’t very good, so he’s still looking for a project to help him make his mark.  Kings of Summer feels very amateur because it is, a lot of the cast & crew earning their stripes with an easy coming-of-age drama before they tried other, harder things.  But the film still exists independently, we don’t dole out a general pass or an A for effort just because everyone involved was learning, there’s still an audience to entertain/impress, and that definitely did not happen.

Ever since Joe’s mom died, things haven’t been the same.  His small town Ohio existence was shattered, his dad has become increasingly unhappy, his sister moved away, and he can’t stand being cooped up in a house where nothing is ever good enough and neither father nor son know how to deal with their grief.  Joe wants out, and a discovery in the woods might just give him the means.  There’s a clearing in the middle of the local forest that nobody knows about, and Joe wants to move there.  We’re talking run away, steal supplies, build a house, and live there, free from parents and responsibilities.  His best friend Patrick comes along because he’s tired of his own neurotic parents, and a kid called Biaggio shows up too, although no one is really friends with him.  No matter, it’s a new start, it’s a chance to become men without their parents’ consent, and it will be the summer of a lifetime.

The premise is fine, it’s the execution that’s lacking in precision and in talent.  We love coming-of-age tales, and I love the idea of running away from it all into the woods to start anew, the plot just wasn’t developed or presented well, resulting in a mess of emotion that you can almost relate to but don’t really want to watch.  Nick Robinson (and all the young actors really) was terrible and couldn’t seem to act his way out of a paper bag, or a ramshackle house in the woods.  And then there were the patchy beards that looked painted on to Joe & Patrick’s faces; I don’t know what was up with that.  Nick Offerman was Joe’s father, he was OK in his own, Offerman-y way, and his real life wife Megan Mullally played Patrick’s mom pretty comically, they just weren’t enough to tilt the scales in the film’s favor.  This was an attempt at something cool that always stayed lukewarm; I wish a different team had gotten a hold of this idea.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – BlacKkKlansman

Category : Movie Review

Director: Spike Lee

Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace

Year: 2018

Spike Lee has directed 83 projects; that’s a lot.  Steven Spielberg has directed 57, and it feels like he’s been around for a hundred years and been the creator of every good movie made in that imaginary century, so 83 is a pretty high number.  Lee has done features, shorts, documentaries, TV; the sixty-one-year-old has been around the block and told a million tales, but his latest film might be his best yet.  Chi-Raq was bold, Old Boy was a mistake, St. Anna was weird, but these modern movies aren’t indicative of his talent, and it’s been a long time since 25th Hour, Summer of Sam, He Got Game, Malcolm X.  But BlacKkKlansman is a return to the magic that we know this director can conjure, and more than that, it’s a modern masterpiece that right now sits at the top of the list of the greatest films of the year.

Ron Stallworth is the first African-American cop in Colorado Springs history, his presence creating quite the stir.  But hey, it’s the 70s, black people have equal rights, they can be policemen or politicians, it’s the era of free thinking and free love; all power to all the people.  Still, it won’t go perfectly smoothly, and Ron has to start out in the evidence department doing basically nothing.  But his time to shine will come, and when it does it will be in a way he never would have imagined.  On a whim, Stallworth picks up the phone and responds to an article about the KKK, calling in to see if he can join, since wow does he hate those blacks.  Who answers the phone but the Grand Wizard himself, Mr. David Duke, a supremacist who thinks he can hear African blood in someone’s voice a thousand miles away.  Ron gets fellow officer Flip Zimmerman to stand in for him at actual meetings, and the pair infiltrate the KKK that easily, but keeping safely undercover might not be so simple.

Based on an unbelievable true story, BlacKkKlansman sheds light on an ancient and evil organization, but also ties events 40 years ago to today, in such a way that you’ll leave the theatre both angry and inspired to act toward change.  That’s the greatest part of the film; how deeply it can affect an audience, to the point where they reexamine what has happened in our country over the past two years under our Ignoramus in Chief, and realize that almost nothing that has changed for the better has been preserved, that Trump embodies racism and hatred in such a powerful and convincing way that his position has convinced those in hiding that they need hide no longer.  It’s sobering to think on all those who fought to make this country a better, more equal place, just to have their progress ripped away from them by a President who sees them as second-class citizens or worse.

If you can’t tell, this is a politically motivated movie, at least in part, and will shock any MAGA moron who somehow finds himself sitting in the audience, especially if he waits around for the final scenes.  But the film isn’t solely a critique on bigotry hiding behind our politicians, it’s also a real life tale of bravery in the face of violence, and of the Black Power movement striving toward its goals with the knowledge that the pushback will be fierce.  The film is also a comedy, believe it or not with all this heavy lifting, and will have you rolling more than once.  The audacity of this story and its script is reason enough to laugh, as the characters hold nothing back; the opening scene smacks you directly in the face and forces you to focus on the ridiculousness of racism but also on its indestructible depths.  I’ve heard that one particular criticism of this film is its comedy, that it makes Klansman look silly instead of serious, that the subject is not laughing matter.  I get that completely, but I saw it another way; Lee needed us to listen, and it’s easier to take our medicine with a spoonful of sugar that straight up.  Anyway, make your own social judgements, but the rest of film is as strong as its message.  JDW is great as Stallworth, especially for a relatively inexperienced actor.  And Driver is there to help him out whenever the going it tough; what a phenomenal actor.  Topher Grace was somehow perfect as David Duke, Corey Hawkins had a nice cameo, Ryan Eggold is an unknown actor I love, and all of the Klansfolk were successful in what they were asked to do.  BlacKkKlansman is the best film I’ve seen in 2018 so far; it’s well-made but also made with a purpose, which makes it fun to watch and impossible to ignore.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Eighth Grade

Category : Movie Review

Director: Bo Burnham

Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton

Year: 2018

Bo Burnham has never directed or written a movie before, has never directed or written at all before, unless you count his own comedy specials and a couple TV episodes that nobody saw.  He’s a complete amateur when it comes to feature films, and this is going to sound tired by the time the year is out, but it’s beyond impressive that he was able to create Eighth Grade on his first try.  It just goes to show how well honest emotion shines through when you’ve got something personal to say, how special a story can be when there’s almost nothing to it other than the truth.  Burnham might not be a middle school girl, but you can tell that the main character in his movie comes from experiencing something similar; haven’t we all?  Growing pains are not unique, we all feel them, and that’s why coming-of-age plots are so relatable, this one hitting closer to the bullseye than most, which is why it is absolutely one of the very best films of the year.

Kayla is graduating 8th grade soon, and high school looms ahead like an unscalable mountain of icy cool.  She’s never been good at making friends, at showing people the fun girl who hides deep behind a shy exterior.  Kids at school think she’s the quietest girl to ever walk the halls, but to herself Kayla is nothing if not talkative, she simply doesn’t have anyone to talk to.  So she makes YouTube videos about how to navigate the world, something she can’t do herself, and no one is watching anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.  She tries to chat up the popular girls, tries to be noticed by the popular boys, but nothing works, and 9th grade is just one summer away.  The only child of a single dad, Kayla knows she’s loved, but what she wants more than anything is the approval of those her age, and she’s sick of that wish never coming true.  Growing up in the digital age isn’t easy, it’s hard not to compare your own life to all those you see online, and navigating social waters is a messy business; welcome to the wreckage of the American teen.

Burnham gets it all right, hits every nail on the head, which is why Eighth Grade works so beautifully.  We who did not grow up with smart phones can see how they impact every day life for a teenager, can understand more fully the pressure to be perfect beyond anything even remotely attainable.  We see from a young girl’s perspective, how desperately she needs to be included, how much she longs to be a part of the over-hyped teenage experience.  How Burnham knew how to show us all this and all so perfectly is beyond me, but he channels an everyman into Kayla so that we can all see ourselves growing up, see our own hard times reflected in hers.  He knows when to get serious, get sexual, and get silly, which produces some moments that will make audiences uncomfortable, but only because they are so hilariously true, or sometimes so unfortunately accurate.

There’s a scene around a fire where Kayla and her dad talk things out, and it’s so brilliantly real, so open and honest, that it will bring you to tears, and it serves as an example as to why the film worked and as to how strong its pieces really are.  Fisher is a revelation as Kayla, the perfect vehicle for us to navigate through the story in, and I hope we see so much more from this rising star.  Her performance was incredible, I can’t imagine any one else in the role, and she’s a major factor in the film succeeding.  Hamilton as her father was great as well, a sensitive man who was trying his best, who took time when it was needed to simply tell his daughter that he loved her, to let her know that he was proud.  The story was heart-breaking and heart-warming in turn, especially the father/daughter scenes, which I felt on a very personal level and walked away from replaying in my mind.  The movie just soars, truly soars, above anything we could have imagined or predicted.  Eighth Grade is definitely one of the very best I’ve seen this year, and it’s hard to imagine the Oscar-centered features that we’ll see later in the season overpowering this smaller one when it comes to pure emotion and raw relatability.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Geostorm

Category : Movie Review

Director: Dean Devlin

Starring: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish

Year: 2017

Disaster movies are bad, and that’s OK, the badder the better I say, it’s a genre that supports the action going way over the top, that’s exactly how we like it.  I love terrible natural cataclysm flicks, they’re entertaining from start to finish, and they don’t necessarily have to have much going for them beyond that to give fans a fun time.  BUT, there’s always an exception, even to b-movies, and Geostorm is the perfect example.  Even terrible films have to be good in some manner, have to excel at something, in order for us to forgive their obvious flaws.  Gratuitous nudity, gore, ridiculous story arcs, awesome apocalyptic scenes; you need something to point at when the rest of your movie completely sucks.  Geostorm failed to deliver something cool, something insanely exciting, characters to love, guilty pleasures to pursue, any kind of deception to keep audiences from looking too hard at the hand of the magician.  Which is why this movie is one of the worst you’ll ever seen, even considering the safety net of its genre.

As most of us are willing to admit, humanity’s lack of care for the environment is starting to have negatives effects, and that’s not good for any living creature that wishes to live here.  The temperature is rising, the ice caps are melting, the sea levels are changing, extreme weather events are becoming more numerous; basically Earth is giving us an eviction notice.  But there’s hope for mankind, if we band together and attempt to fix the problem before it’s too late.  Launching satellites into space that point directly back down to the planet, we created a net of interlinked weather control devices, whose job is to zap bad weather before it can become catastrophic.  Jake Lawson, hero of the world, built this network, and mans it with an international team up in the ISS, keeping us all safe every day.  But someone has hacked into the computer that runs the program, and violent weather has been released on the planet once again.  If too many tornadoes and hurricanes join together, they will create something that will wipe the world clean, a phenomenon called …wait for it …a geostorm!

We could go through a list of disaster movies and pick them all apart, but we all enjoy different ones, think some are dubs while others rock; it’s a very subjective style.  But I think some do stand out as awful, and they aren’t really that hard to designate.  Geostorm is one that we can all agree is horrendous, from the construction of the plot to the delivery of the lines; nothing ever goes right.  First you need a cool story, which this film doesn’t have.  Then you need cool disasters, which this film teases us with more than it delivers upon.  But the big hurdle that needs to be jumped is the acting; it either has to be great or simply ludicrous, it can’t just be bad, and boy are the actors in Geostorm bad.  Gerard Butler is more robot than human in these roles, he couldn’t portray real emotion if his life depended on it, and he also couldn’t believably pretend that his life depended on it.  Jim Sturgess was worse, and there’s a reason he’s not been successful as an actor; because he’s terrible at it.  Also, both men were hiding accents, which they tried to cover up with a stupid line about being American but born in the U.K.; not good enough, boys.  They were the stars, sadly, and no one could help them out of the hole they were constantly digging, not Abbie Cornish in a dumb role where she never changed her facial expression, and not Andy Garcia or Ed Harris as potentially crooked politicians; their characters were one-sided and poorly written.  Geostorm is more a disaster of a movie than a disaster movie, an example of exactly what not to do, and hopefully Hollywood takes notice.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Lost in Translation

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson

Year: 2003

The Beguiled caused me to hold off on declaring Sofia Coppola as terrible a director as she is an actress, because for the first time I not only enjoyed one of her movies but saw the talent behind it in a very real way.  It should be noted that the film is a remake and stars powerful actors who take complete charge, but Coppola still needs to lend a guiding hand, which she did, so bravo.  I decided to look back at her filmography in case I hadn’t given her enough credit in the past, and I was reminded of Lost in Translation, a movie I never really appreciated or cared for, when critics all around raved. So I gave it another shot, and while I still won’t call it a masterpiece, the style resonated with me much more now than it did 15 years ago.  Maybe I have grown, maybe my taste level has, maybe I was in a different place, who knows, but I’m glad I want back, because this film packs an emotional punch I really appreciated.

Bob Harris is an aging actor who is still known worldwide for his earlier films, and he finds himself in Japan getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to appear in commercials for a certain brand of whiskey.  He’s also taking the job as an opportunity to get away from his real life for a while; the roles aren’t rolling in any more, his wife doesn’t want him around the house all day, and his kids don’t really need a father who is approaching being elderly.  Bob needed a break to figure things out, so the timing couldn’t have been better, even if the stifling actions of the Tokyo support staff are driving him a bit insane.  In the same hotel, young college grad Charlotte is feeling a lot of the same emotions; she married quickly and now isn’t sure that she made the right choice, following her photographer husband around wherever he travels but never feeling like she’s making her own decisions.  She and Bob meet and begin to explore the city together, making a connection that will change both of their outlooks on life.

I remember thinking that Lost in Translation was slow, and it is, but I don’t mind that so much now, when perhaps I did when I was younger.  It’s a deliberate examination of human emotions and our need to connect with others, but also of our inability to find (or at least difficulty in finding) what makes us truly happy.  Bob and Charlotte are both lost, find each other, help each other, and can walk away refreshed by meeting someone who is like them, by learning that they are not alone, and that’s a beautiful thing to watch.  Coppola gets us there eventually, but it takes a while, and there are moments where boredom can creep up if you’re not being diligent.  Johansson was so young in this movie, and she wasn’t her best, I’ve seen her do better, but I’m not sure I can say the same for Murray, who will blow you away with this layered role.  He was hilarious and heartbreaking, the perfection combination of comedy and tragedy, and the film would probably have failed without him.  But I’ll give Coppola some credit; she might not have been as mediocre in the past as I thought, and this story shows that.  It might never reach the top of my List, but I understand this film more now than I did when I was 20, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – I Am Not Your Negro

Category : Movie Review

Director: Raoul Peck

Starring: James Baldwin

Year: 2016

Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2017 Academy Awards, Not Your Negro is a look at the American civil rights movement through the eyes of James Baldwin, a writer who watched his contemporaries Martin, Malcolm, & Medgar die, and who had a unique & powerful perspective on the plight of the US, how its division would be its destruction.  Using historical footage and an unpublished commentary of Baldwin’s, this documentary pieces together the struggles of a black community fighting for equality and a white community refusing to face its fear of change.  It’s a brutal view of an America that we don’t want to admit exists, and a frightening shock when we see how little is different even after 50 years.

James Baldwin was a writer from New York who didn’t label himself as a political motivator, wasn’t a part of the influential parties of the time, but who was simply a black man witnessing the hatred and the subjugation directed toward his color by those whose ancestors brought his to this country as slaves.  He knew MLK, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, he worked alongside these men, and though his methods were intellectual, not political, he was fighting the same fight.  He watched them die and the ignorance of white privilege live on, and he spoke on the need for white people everywhere to face their racism, for changing their point of view was the only way that black men in this country would ever really be considered part of mankind.

Not Your Negro is an extremely powerful documentary, Baldwin’s words echoing on through the years and addressing the exact same issues we see today; a depressing realization when you notice that nothing has changed.  Yes, we have “equal rights”, yes we had a black President, but Baldwin knew that the only way we would ever be equal would be after the white majority understood its own fears and hatreds, spurned them by choice, and began seeing each human as a part of humankind, not a threat to their wealth and power.  The film is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, whose voice hardly sounds like his own, it is spoken with such soft reverence and reflection.  It’s heartbreaking to hear Baldwin’s words, to know how he saw the situation so accurately and was so powerless to change the game.  The movie mixes old footage and new, highlighting our failure to change, and is more educational than hopeful, which might be hard to swallow, but is too true to deny.  It moves slowly at first, but builds into something special, something that needs to be witnessed.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Apollo 13

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon

Year: 1995

Apollo 13 was nominated for 9 Oscars, winning 2, and easily cemented itself as one of the best movies of the decade, a pillar of Hollywood that might have been even stronger than the actual quality of the film.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic feature, one of Tom Hanks’ best, and a complete 90s icon.  But after a modern rewatch, a few flaws emerge, which I will never hold fully against the film, simply because it’s so definitive.  It’s a space movie, a sci-fi action flick, a drama, a history lesson, a look at man’s endeavors in a field which we will never completely understand; there’s a lot going on here beyond checking boxes and coming up with a composite rating.  I guess what I’m trying to say is this; Apollo 13 is great, always will be, despite not being as great as we remember.

After the United States successfully landed on the Moon, the public began to question whether its space program was really necessary, whether the government needed to be spending the money on going back to a rock that we already stamped our foot upon.  But as attention waned, the program still forged ahead, manning Apollo missions to our neighboring orbital body for study and for research.  For Jim Lovell, the 13 launch was a chance to make a dream come true, to walk on the Moon one time in his life, to captain a crew that did something that very few humans had ever done before.  But the mission was cursed from the start, fitting its unlucky number, and its team would never reach their destination.  Even their return home after abort was questionable, as they quickly became lost mariners in space, trying desperately to come back to Earth.

Ron Howard is a cheesy director, that’s just his style, that’s how he crafts his films, and it’s fine but it’ll never be my exact taste.  He gets really sappy with his stories and his characters, his films becoming dramatic icons but not perhaps stirring masterpieces.  Apollo 13 is a prime example, a really great and high-quality film but not something that will shock you with emotion and with content.  Maybe the word I’m looking for is “approachable”, Howard’s films are approachable, movies for everyone, beloved classics even, just not critical wonders.  Hanks is strong, obviously, he always is, he could helm a three-hour film about plankton and we’d watch it, because we’d be sure he’d pull off the impossible.  And his supporting cast is pretty impressive too: Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris.  The images and the music from this movie are legendary, but I did find that the pace dragged a bit, watching it back, and that the same dramatic set up was used too often to be believable, resulting in my investment waining from time to time.  Still, Apollo 13 is Apollo 13, it stands on a pedestal all its own, and will probably remain there for all time.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆