REVIEW: “THE BEST OF ENEMIES” (2019) STX – Q & A: Taraji P. Henson, Robin Bissell

Standard

How you ask, can you possibly conceive the idea that a story born of such hatred could possible be sweet and touching.  Well the answer to that lies in not only the story itself, but the powerhouse acting chops of both Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell, whom work so well together here to effortlessly to ignite a strong chemistry between the two in “The Best of Enemies”. This on-screen connection creates a film so monumental, and unbelievable, you almost forget it’s based on a true story.

Enemies follows the tale of Ann Atwater (Taraji P Henson), a civil rights activist in Durham, North Carolina, during the 1970s as she works with charm and determination to vouch for school integration. She is met with adversity in the shape of C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a leader of the Durham chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

When the local black elementary school is severely damaged by a fire, the students are forced to continue learning in the damaged building, rather than be bused to the local white school. Hope seems lost in a town overwhelmingly dominated by the power and fear of the KKK.  But in steps a man named Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) who organizes a ‘charette’ which is essentially a meeting for Durham citizens to voice their opinions on the issue of segregated schools and come to a decision. When Riddick chooses Atwater and Ellis as the chairpersons of the event, the film’s narrative of an unlikely friendship fully begins.

The only misstep for Enemies was the clunky writing at some parts, more so at the beginning before the narrative is fully developed. Some bits of dialogue sound rather cliche, as if they could’ve been lifted from any other period piece and inserted into the script.  But director Robin Bissell distracts from that with technical directions that make the film realistic. One of the most interesting, well-made choices was in depicting the KKK: Rather than showing overdone scenes of the group terrorizing a black family’s home or something of the sort, klansmen are often shown bullying or harassing other white citizens of Durham who sympathize with black people

While Enemies is not a perfect film, the tale is so compelling and intriguing that you wonder why this story isn’t written in history books.  It is a lovely depiction of a piece of history with a great, albiet predictable ending the film has a powerful message told in a style all will appreciate. I especially loved the video remarks by the real characters during the end credits noting the significance of Atwater and Ellis’ friendship, is timeless.

Grade: C+

@pegsatthemovies

Screening: March 25th, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Film Independent

POST Q & A w/Taraji P. Henson & Robin Bissell

Henson is a lively speaker and noted all about her transformation to Atwater was very deliberate, especially with her physical appearance. Henson noted that somebody involved with the film contacted Tyler Perry to inquire about the prosthetic boobs for his well-known character, Madea.

“I was like, ‘this suit needs to effect the way I walk,’” Henson said. “‘I can’t look like I’m walking like Taraji. I really have to walk differently, move differently.’”

Rockwell’s character is a tad more complex, as he goes through more of an ethical, moral transformation. However, Rockwell manages to precisely wield Ellis’ mannerisms to progressively edge closer to his final form, peeling away to find layers of compassion within Ellis that were not initially obvious as themes of hope are evident throughout the film, as  noted by Bissell.

“I have three daughters, and I hope they can be inspired by someone like Ann Atwater,” she said. “You can have an effect on the world and change the world if you really go out there and give it a shot, and I think Ann did that.”

“Forty-eight years later, not a lot has changed,” Bissell said. “We thought it did, or white people hoped it did … it’s not better. And so every once in a while, you need some water splashed on your face.”

Advertisements

INSTA-REVIEW: “US” (2019) Universal

Standard

Sadly, this most over-hyped movie of 2019 so far, is also going down as the most underwhelming of 2019 so far.US” and JordanPeele were clearly trying way to hard on this one and it’s not even close to repeating “GetOut” in comedy, drama or horror.

Graphic violence isn’t scary in the slightest. Forced comedy isn’t funny. And basic acting is not a performance. Being disappointed in this film doesn’t quite sum up how I felt. And while you get what is trying to be said, there are also things that I just don’t think can be explained. I mean rabbits anyone??? Anyone got that part figured out yet?! To say the metaphors were all to blatant or that it’s just to heavy-handed is an understatement. You spend the whole film trying to unpack and decipher the story so much, that it sucks any enjoyment you might have found right out.

None of the acting by Lupita Nyong’o Elisabeth Moss Winston Duke  Tim Heidecker or anyone else in the film is noteworthy. I guess my disappointment is highlighted so much by the fact I wanted it to be so good. Again, high expectations and low delivery = unhappy movie watching .
Grade: D
@pegsatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal

 

INSTA-REVIEW: “THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT” (2019) The Orchid Pictures

Standard

#TheHummingbirdProject let’s us all remember that bringing a film about technology i.e., programming & data analysis..is a difficult topic to make entertaining. And while they don’t dumb it down here and you are able to understand the whats and the whys, you also have to deal with loads of time spent on the parables of how taking one millisecond aka the flap of a Hummingbird’s wings, of processing time of stocks, can make or break the difference of millions of dollars in the stock market.

In between you have to deal with another one of  JesseEisenberg ‘s lackluster, one note performances about how he is contractually trying to get this whole thing done. His polar opposite brains behind the operation is AlexanderSkarsgard who goes against the grain playing a paunchy, balding computer nerd who saves the film from being downright terrible with a dance..yes a dance! Also helpful in adding some much needed humor though is MichaelMando and SalmaHayak though Hayak is given little screen time, she makes the most of it.
So not the most exciting subject matter movie out there, but at least it never makes you feel silly and explains itself well. Just not exciting enough to watch a pipeline being built to make it a great watch.
Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Courtesy of 42West PR.

INSTA-REVIEW: “THE KID” (2019) LIONSGATE

Standard

Catching up on my reviews for March by doing a few Insta-Reviews. This first one is #TheKid which you would think would be another story about #BillytheKid ..and it sort of is.

It’s a story about another kid #Rio played by JakeSchur who is sorta rescued by Billy the Kid DaneDeHaan who is then captured by Pat Garrett  EthanHawke and they try to find Rio’s sister Sara LeilaGeorge who was abducted by their uncle Grant, played by a completely unrecognizable ChrisPratt . If you feel confused, you might be spot on as it’s quite a dragging storyline directed by VincentDOnofrio – the acting is terrible by everyone but DeHaan who brings a bit of life to this version of Billy. On the whole, there is a reason this one has slipped in and out of theaters before you could see it.
Grade: D+
@pegsatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate 

REVIEW: “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” (2019) MGM

Standard

A movie, whether based on a true story or fictional one, may be a blend of both facts and fictionalized scenes and events. “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” seems to be case in point depending on whom you speak to.  But instead of pointing out fact v. fiction, just sit back watch and enjoy this one folks.  Let go of the being overly critical all the time as ‘Fighting with my Family’ might have its flaws and not be completely true down to the line, it definitely does have its charms.

Probably the first thing you will do is a double take on the director and writer and make sure if it is THE Stephen Merchant doing triple duty here writing/directing/starring in this film. Turns out it is, which immediately ups the ‘interesting’ level a notch or two.  Even more crazy is to think that Merchant did not know a thing about wrestling before taking on the project.

Inspired by the story of the Knight family, the film tells the story of Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) and her desire to become a female wrestler.  With the odds against her, along with a family of completely wrestling crazed parents in dad Ricky (Nick Frost), mom Julia (Lena Heady) and brother Zak (Jack Lowden), all of whom put on wrestling shows and train others in Norwich, a small suburb in the UK.  Paige and her brother get called up for a WWE tryout, but with only Paige making the cut, Zak is completely devastated and Paige must deal with not only this, but the drastic change her life is taking and the hard road to living out her dream of being a WWE Superstar.

The next hour is filled with what it’s like to attend the WWE school of hard knocks led by Hutch (Vince Vaughn), and how to alienate and then make best friends with your competition.  This part can sometimes just be all to consuming as we’ve seen this type of story many times before.  Overcoming adversity to win the challenge at the end and it’s here that the film can’t help feeling clichéd. The saving grace here is the flashbacks to Zak being left behind in Norwich and where his life is heading, or seemingly not heading to and it’s got some truly lovely, heartwarming story line.  But training montage footage galore, sibling rivalry leading to a profound confrontation that resolves the issue, and the underdog overcoming the odds gives no surprises to the ending.   Now of course, it’s going to pump in the Hollywood magic to try to help the movie. The Rock is throughout the movie, and while he wasn’t truly vital to Paige’s career, his scenes are fun. The actors do an amazing job with their roles, and have very good comedic chemistry. This movie is witty and charming but at times, it’s all over the place.

The initial presentation of the Knight family rang true, authentic and affable. Putting it in their actual home was a good idea. Frost and Headey were great in the roles as Paige’s parents and Puge did a very good job as Paige. Lowden as her brother made a good mentor, but it also tried to take the high road and make Paige an angelic character.  However, from what I understand, if you are a fan of Paige or the Knight family at all, you will quickly start to see fictionalized moments, exaggerations and inaccuracies. These are something that as a viewer who has no knowledge of the wrestling world, will not impact in the slightest.  No matter this situation, everyone will recognize names such as Hulk Hogan and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – and of course The Rock with his signature “If you smell what The Rock is cooking” done a few times for good measure – makes you realize how far this guy has come.

Overall, the film maintains a good balance of comedy and drama and you don’t need to know anything about WWE or sports entertainment to enjoy the film. Merchant does a good job for his first run here.

Grade: C+

@pegsatthemovies

 

Review Screening Monday, February 11, 2019 ~  courtesy of LAFTV meetup

INSTA-REVIEW: “ARCTIC” (2019) ARMORY FILMS

Standard

Saw #Arctic today with MadsMikkleson as Overgård – a man who is stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash. We never see his plane crash, only that he is there and has been for some time based on his daily routine. Finally, as he is on the verge of rescue, that helicopter crashes with one survivor, a young woman pilot.

From that point on we watch as Overgård has to make the decision to leave the safety of his camp and plane to embark on a deadly trek through the unknowns of the Artic world, with only the remotest of hope of making it out alive. If any of you remember RobertRedfords’ amazing turn as a person who’s did the solo survivor role in All is Lost – this one is comparable except think snow/ice/freezing cold. I enjoyed it as I never got bored even though there is probably less than 30 spoken words in the whole film. Mads seems to love doing movies in the cold snow and they do him well back as this film is entirely on him and he holds his own.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

“ARCTIC” IS IN LIMITED RELEASE IN THE US – LOOK FOR WORLDWIDE RELEASE IN THE COMING MONTHS

INSTA-REVIEW: “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD” (2019) Universal

Standard

Four and a half years since we last saw our dragons, they are back in #HowToTrainYourDragon : The Hidden World.  In this one we have little older and wiser Hiccup (JayBaruchel)and he is still leading the effort to save dragons with Astrid AmericaFerrera. Yet not everything is golden as new villain Grimmel the Grisley FMurrayAbraham is out to get them. In between we have a little love affair brewing between #Toothless and new white-scaled dragon #LightFury .

While all of it is fun and it’s a beautifully done film and the Dragons franchise are some of the best animated films ever – it does come up a bit short at achieving the highs of its predecessors.

There is a little lack of the emotional punch in comparison to the first two. And while it might not shine as bright as the two previous works, the few shortcomings the story line has, they don’t overshadow the charm the characters and story bring you.

Grade: B-

@pegsatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures