REVIEW: “THE INVISIBLE MAN” (2020) Blumhouse/Universal Pictures

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There is a difference between what makes scary/horror movies well, scary. There is the slasher/gore type that really aren’t scary, but serve a purpose. And there there is the kind that from the very first moment, have you on the edge of your seat/holding your breath type scare. These are the preferred kind. The kind that holds you in it’s grip with every one of your senses tingling in anticipation.  Writer/Director Leigh Whannell’s “THE INVISIBLE MAN” is that movie.

Where James Whale’s masterful 1933 version of H.G. Wells‘ story saw its main transparent character commit murder on a mass scale on a self-proclaimed reign of terror, Whannell’s refreshing take on The Invisible Man, has gone for the opposite approach.  It’s not just jump-scares or loud noises, it’s something psychological. From the opening shot, you’re immediately put inside Elisabeth Moss’ character Cecilia’s head.  The whole opening scene makes you uncomfortable as we see Cecilia trying to make her escape and this kind of tension is kept on throughout the film.

Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) is a woman living in fear. She is stuck in an abusive relationship and can’t get out of it despite living a life of wealth and privilege in a seaside home; she is ready to take some drastic steps in her life to try to escape from her controlling and abusive husband who despite being considered a wealthy genius in the field of Optics, has made her life a living hell.  All of this combined forces her to make a daring escape that has her barely getting away with the help of her sister Alice (Harriett Dyer).

Picking us up two weeks later – we find Cecilia is in hiding with a friend of her sister’s, Officer James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She is scared to even leave the house and do the most basic of things such as checking the mailbox. All this begins to change (or does it?) when Alice brings Cecilia some information that starts the ball rolling for us all.

So with now having supposedly escaped the controlling relationship, Cecilia’s rehabilitation is cut short by the sudden intrusion of her ex who has figured out how to regain control over her life without anyone knowing how or why.  As it’s around this time that unusual things begin to happen to her. A lost item from the night of her escape shows up, a mysterious kitchen fire starts and lets the audience know to keep their eyes locked on everything as if you blink, you just might miss something cold and calculating happening.  When she expresses her concerns to others that her husband is alive and exacting revenge, and when things begin to escalate, Cecilia is the one who starts to look more and more unstable as the tormenting continues and her life spins out of control.

Expertly utilizing sci-fi trappings to take gaslighting to a whole new extreme, (there is a restaurant scene that you will never forget) the film depicts first-hand the anxieties faced by many modern-day survivors of abuse. As Cecilia stresses to those around her that her genius scientist ex has become invisible, we are left conflicted by knowing the truth of her words but also the understanding that, without hard evidence, it’s hard to accept her story at face value.

By operating in that grey area, ‘The Invisible Man’ proves the horror genre to be one of the most effective means to reflect modern day anxieties to mass audiences. Another thing this film succeeds upon is the writing. The story progresses in a fast paced way which doesn’t seem hurried. The 2 hr. run-time feels achieved. There’s definitely more than one ‘WTF’ moment in this film to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.  As well, the score and the sound design definitely puts you in Cecilia’s shoes as you struggle with her to point out where and how exactly these events are happening aka where this ‘invisible man’ might be. The camera work is exquisite, and the action sequences definitely feel thrilling and the way it’s shot makes you feel like you’re living it.

Lastly, make no mistake about it, this movie is Elisabeth Moss’s and she lives, breathes and takes you along for the ride as if you are living it right next to her.  Hodge has always been a favourite and holds his own genuinely well here as does Storm Reid.  And don’t feel fooled by the seemingly small part of Michael Dorman as the brother Tom or Cecilia’s husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), as both have a surprise or two in hand for you.

Grade: B+

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“THE INVISIBLE MAN” IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “1917” (2019) Universal Pictures

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“1917” is a cinematic feast for the eyes, with long expansive shots that follow the lead characters as they execute their mission. It does not hide the horrors that existed in trench warfare, it shows them for their brutality and abundance. A war that is now a century old and therefore no longer widely talked about or understood, is vividly captured in this stunning dramatization by Director Sam Mendes. To anyone who might be hesitating to see the film because they think they will be subjected to the graphic violence and gore of say a ‘Saving Private Ryan’, I can only suggest you don’t, as while ‘1917’ is realistically gruesome, Mendes captures the horrors of war with a more emotional sense and aesthetics. While graphic at varying moments, you are never hit over the head with it. ‘1917’ in this way is beautifully artistic, never straying close to being shock art, but not holding back at the same time.

The year is of course ‘1917’. Deep in the heart of France, British soldiers battle the Germans in what appears to be insurmountable odds. Filmed and edited as if it was one long take by 14 time Academy Award nominee cinematographer Roger Deakins, the camera never leaves our leads motion on the battlefield where we meet the two young soldiers, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George Mackay). They’ve just been assigned an impossible mission by General Erinmore (Colin Firth) to do three very important things: 1. travel by foot behind enemy lines 2. avoid German snipers and artillery 3. find a British battalion that is about to walk into a trap set up by the Germans. It’s a task so dangerous it will probably cost both men their lives, but if they fail, it will lead to the massacre of 1,600 British soldiers. Adding to the urgency of the assignment, Blake’s older brother is one of the 1,600 soldiers about to walk into the ambush. There is no clock ticking in the corner of the screen, but we know time is of the essence, and quite limited.

And although MacKay and Chapman do a pretty phenomenal job at capturing the true essence of their characters going through a literal hell, it’s the side characters with little-to-no screen time who steal their spotlight. Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Richard Madden and Benedict Cumberbatch are checkpoints along the way, but they do impress with the few lines they’re given.

Apart from a couple of nit-picky things there is nothing bad about this movie. To be fair, it could be said some of the scenes are empty and it might test audiences’ patience. It’s even eluded to at the start there is no food around, yet Blake looks very well fed. Chapman also doesn’t nail some of the important scenes, which takes some of the emotional punch away from them. The French women in the cave has a baby that’s not hers, and he just happens to have milk – in the middle of a battle field – felt a bit contrived. The only other thing to mention might be the fact the Germans here can’t seem to aim to save their lives, so much so that it did start to feel a little hard to believe at times.

I rated this quite high film for many reasons. Directing, acting, set design, cinematography, musical score, the raw emotion it invokes. Watch if you will, but know there is no pleasure in watching and the film will grab you and the beginning and not let you go. Even though we know the outcome of WWI, there is no joy, there is no peace. Watch because it will allow you a glimpse at the horror and brutality of war; reflect on their service and sacrifice and hope it never happens again.

Grade: B+

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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, December 18, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“1917” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 2020

REVIEW: “STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” (2019) LucasFilm/Disney Pictures

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Ah, that familiar opening sequence that we know so well.  Where we know we are going to a galaxy far far away…is about the only thing left from over from the original that will never get old seeing. Even with “STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” having this terrific memorable opening sequence, it is sure note that this isn’t a ‘George Lucas’ vision of Star Wars. To be fair, when it comes to Star Wars, the appreciation and the significance of it all is not lost on me, as well as the quality and enjoyment of the films that people feel. But alas, I probably am not in the high percentile of top fans and really wouldn’t consider myself a big Star Wars fan per se. While having seen most of them, I was just one who never grasped onto to the films so completely as others have. With that, seeing the conclusion of the Skywalker series wasn’t going to make me emotional mess in the lead up as maybe it would be to some others – so just know this review truly has no bias on that end.

Episode IX takes place some number of years after The Last Jedi where Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been training to take down the first order.  The Resistance lead by Leia (Carrie Fisher) are figuring out a way to lead the charge with the few alliances they have left, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is trying to become a powerful Sith. The unknown time after which this is set definitely has a few holes in the character progression that were possibly needed in order to ‘damage control’ on the story direction. It’s is also hard to talk about the film without spoilers, but doing my best to get across the jist of it, without really going into heavy spoiling. The Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is not a spoiler as it’s in the trailers and posters so mentioning him, but not any external story elements stemming from his return noted.

As mentioned the biggest problem with Episode IX is the direction of this story. There is just an excess of side stories in the film which absolutely kills the run time and the effects of what the main story being told is. And can we say Cameos GALORE? Boy there were some good ones though. But if you were of the thought that ‘Force Awakens’ had nothing original to offer, well the Rise of Skywalker will double down on that premise. It’s hard to believe how they set it all up, had conflict and executed the conclusion of these characters, all in one unsuccessful sweep here. Plus smack dab in the middle of battle, leading us down the road to clearly what is to become the new series of films or possibly a new show for Disney +, with a quick little story line with Finn (John Boyega) and Janna (Naomi Ackle) have a little convo about how they came to be Troopers and how they need to ‘try and find where they came from.’ Yep, there is your next movie or TV story line people.

As many have already said, there was clearly no plan by Disney for the trilogy. What Abrams set up, then Rian Johnson stepped in and had total control to then do what he wanted, and now Abrams is back to ‘save’ the film by bringing back the Emperor. Okey Dokey. The way the film quickly establishes how and why it is nothing short of lazy. Because there was no mention in the previous sequel films, the Emperors return is ruined due to the franchise factor forcing it back in. The film originally was having Colin Trevorrow as director, so there was clearly no connecting person here like George Lucas and his vision, to step in and help the story take place and progress. Bringing in different directors bring a new look to the film is not a problem, if you can still have a solid story told throughout. Then the bunch of side stories that are being told, just fail to have the time to conclude properly. Maybe they needed more than one film in order to explore them – or should have done so previously. Everything is just rushed into the film and Rey, Finn, Po, Ren and the Emperor, all have to share the screen and some arcs don’t feel earned.

The new band of heroes here as well, just don’t have the same charm, personalities or chemistry together (actually this is the first movie in the new trilogy, where they do stuff together). They feel more like they have been cast for a commercial shoot of the film versus what type of character and personality they had to portray – they are all just so empty, like cardboard-cutouts with calculated screen-time and one-dimensional personalities. Most of them hardly even have an arc or any real character-development over the course of these three movies. The final scene with Kylo Ren and Rey is laughable bad, you’ll know what this is if you’ve seen the film, and if not, you soon will. I was just in awe that the writers ruined a perfect moment by including a said ‘particular action’ which eluded gasping laughs. One character though who was fun and has always been great, is C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). He always been essentially kinda bullied and the film knows this and consequently builds on this to create a somewhat compelling character. Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) wins for the most emotional moment though. Finn and Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac), had character problems that needed to be established in the earlier films as their pay offs don’t feel earned. Rey was also somewhat disappointing mostly due to the direction of the story, but her arc is so unbalanced throughout the first two films that once her character conclusion is just unsatisfactory.

The action as well often doesn’t serve a purpose to the story – it’s just more timely inserted space-battles, chase-scenes and sci-fi fights. Mostly just overblown shiny CGI stuff with a few practical puppets, sets and costumes thrown in to pander to the old fans. These characters didn’t have a lot of time to be together unlike in the original trilogy, so their interactions weren’t memorable. This is also due to the forced jokes and dialogue. I felt like Isaac’s Po was just trying to hard to fill Harrison Ford‘s old shoes of humour when he was Han Solo. Sure the original Star Wars movies had some humor, but in those movies it felt natural, not these wink-wink-moments, slapstick humor and juvenile self aware meme-jokes. What’s worse, is that this movie also tries to be dark at the same time, but this isn’t Empire Strikes Back or Revenge of the Sith, as those movies really were dark chapters in the Star Wars saga with hardly any humor in them.  But in The Rise of Skywalker, it just makes the movie feel even more like a tonal mess, since the movie tries so to be funny, upbeat and happy at the same, making both the humor, the drama and the darker elements feel even more forced and out of place.

The originals worked because they didn’t try to be funny, and the characters were written like they could almost be normal people in the space, whereas the sequel characters are just yelling stuff out that is not natural.  At least the CGI was great. It’s expected to be and it looked cool. What they did with Carrie Fischer was surprisingly good and it fit as well. Yes, it was kind of obvious at points where extreme editing was in play, but her tragic passing was so sad and they had to do what they could after the unfortunate circumstances. (#RIPCarrie). Some of the the battles, while looking good, weren’t all that well executed. As well, lacking a lot of suspense the light-saber duels between Rey and Kylo – on the one hand they were interesting  – on the other they don’t get you as excited as the film wanted you to be. The final fight was just really over the top. I get there’s a finality to the film but there’s so much that’s happening that leaves unanswered questions toward the state of the galaxy.

Lastly, is the music. Yes it’s essentially the same, but John William score is perfect and on every level and is possibly the only thing that elevates the movie. It adds all the tension and emotion to all the Star Wars films to be sure. It’s something we never tire of it after all these films and would still gladly listen to it in future films.

Overall, Rise of Skywalker is underwhelming in it’s execution yet has some good ideas. Even though I’m not it’s biggest fan, there still felt this unsatisfying feeling as the film clearly had no plan and the end result of the story is clearly forced. Is it wrong to have just wanted to see a good conclusion to one of the most popular franchises ever? Instead, the film misses the mark and fails to have an overall finality feeling.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, December 17, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Disney Pictures

“STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” IS OUT IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

REVIEW: “CLEMENCY” (2019) Neon Pictures

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“CLEMENCY”  opens with an agonizingly difficult scene and is definitely not for the faint of heart. We are watching a man die. Actually, incorrect. We are watching Victor Jimenez (Alex Castillo) being served his death penalty execution sentence by injection where a good vein cannot be found for the needle and it’s going horrifically wrong in every which way possible. A scene so horribly difficult to watch that no amount of squirming or covering of the eyes will ever quite be enough to un-see it. This horrific opening scene leads us into  Chinonye Chukwu’s second film with a point of view rarely shared, a non-political look at the emotional toll something like this takes on those who must carry out the sentence.

Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) is the female Warden of a prison in Texas where death penalty sentences are carried out per the courts orders. Bernadine’s job involves dealing with every thing from family members, protesters, lawyers, the media, picking of guards and medical staff, overseeing the procedures, even final meals. statements and last rites performed in conjunction with Chaplain Kendricks (Michael O’Neill).  She performs these tasks in a very professional manner while trying to maintain a sense of duty and responsibility, in a seemingly matter-of-fact tone that comes across. This portrayed stoic persona is taking a toll on her life both personally and professionally. She drinks to much, fails miserably at having even the most basic of normal conversation, doesn’t sleep much which leads to more drinking and problems in her marriage to her husband Jonathan (Wendall Pierce), a high school teacher who dreams of them retiring together and taking a much needed sabbatical.

In the aftermath of the horribly botched execution, Bernadine is tasked with having to prepare for the next execution of convict Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge) and is under pressure to make sure the same mistakes don’t happen. From the Deputy Warden Thomas Morgan (Richard Gunn) to Prison Major Logan Cartright (LaMonica Garrett), most every person she tries to have help, expresses a desire to walk away and this speaks clearly to the burden associated with the tasking of carrying out the sentencing.  In the meantime, Woods, a death row inmate for now for 15 years and with his execution date fast approaching, is feeling the desire to try to leave behind something besides a legacy of his life of crime for his son to remember him by, and for some closure.  Hope rises from him with a visit from his former girlfriend Evette (Danielle Brooks), sadly, as she expresses to Woods what it is she needs, that hope is crushed as well.

Despite his claims of innocence, his confession that he was there but did not commit the crime he is convicted for, and critical evidence showing he was not the one who killed the police officer, Woods’ attorney Marty Lumetta (Richard Schiff) informs him that his last strand of hope is a decree of clemency by the governor as all legal appeals have failed thus far.  The rest of the movie’s parts work within each other to show the toll the past and present executions present and how they all must confront the demons put in front of them. Anthony’s lawyer character, equally damaged by not being able to save Anthony after putting all he had into it, tells him that this is to be his last case as he is on the verge of retiring, but not because he wants to, but because he simply can’t handle the despair of his job anymore. Hodge puts forth an almost non-verbal performance with his unspoken words reflecting his pain almost more than if he had spoken them. There are some moments between prisoner and lawyer that are touching and strong, especially as you realize that well, simply put, this isn’t going to have a happy ending.

But let’s be clear whose movie this really is and that is of course Alfre Woodard. Her ‘Bernadette’ is strong, but oh so pained and flawed. But yet she embraces her with every look, every nuance of this quiet performance is almost loudly done with micro moments that are seismic in the overall perspective. Only the character of Bernadine’s husband seems a bit thinly sketched here jumping into arguments and leaving Bernadine to cope on her own while in clear turmoil. Leaving the performances aside for a moment as the film itself misses something that’s hard to put a finger on. Maybe it’s the overuse of the jerky movement of the handycam in one nauseating scene where the roving camera didn’t fit in well, Maybe it’s the conflicted narrative at times, as we sometimes lose track of what exactly the film is leading us to. Is it Bernadine’s shifting attitude towards laws themselves or is it losing her composure with what the executions toll is taking from her emotionally & physically. Or is it about Anthony isolation for so many years and facing his impending death. Or we could go so far and make it about his lawyers impending resignation. Some of this leaves us hanging without balance, but once again it’s such a performance driven film and without said performances it wouldn’t be nearly so powerful that you almost forget you wished all of the characters were just people you wanted to like, but couldn’t grasp doing so.

Grade: B-

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, December 3, 2019 ~ Courtesy of 42 West

“CLEMENCY” WILL BE OUT IN SELECT THEATERS ON DECEMBER 27, 2019 

REVIEW: “BOMBSHELL” (2019) Lionsgate/AnnapurnaPictures

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Director Jay Roach’s newest drama is the aptly titled “BOMBSHELL” in which we see a literal sex harassment bomb being dropped with not only the star talent names that are all over the cast of this true story, but of the toxic effects of Chairman Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) as well, and what ensues during this well deserved take down. Ailes, who ruled the roost at Fox News until the toxicity of his created atmosphere surfaces in an accusation that is led by seasoned television host Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), after her firing from the company. What follows, shows us in detail the culmination of the loss of not only his CEO/Chairman title, but of his reign at Fox News. And folks – this ‘Bombshell’ couldn’t have dropped at a better time.

With the #MeToo movement in full force for a couple of years now and with victims coming forward and sharing their horrific experiences around sexual harassment, the revelations are astounding but not surprising after more and more highly regarded and powerful men have been uncovered as sexual predators in the workforce. To be fair, what happened in 2016 at Fox News, does get dramaticized to make it more appealing for the movie going audiences, but at the core of the story is nothing but truth.

The film follows Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) who opts to fight her ouster from the company claiming that her career was marked by frequent harassment often by Aisles himself. At the same time Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), is dealing with backlash from Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and is being forced to endure what she sees as verbal attacks for the good of their audience and ratings.  As this story unfolds, the audience is introduced to Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), a young journalist eager to make her way up the corporate ladder. She is introduced to Aisles who asks her to “model” for him claiming that since they work in a visual medium, he cannot just let anyone on the air and needs to ensure “loyalty” amongst his staff. Carlson eventually files a lawsuit but due to the power that Aisles and the Network holds, nobody is willing to come forward to back her and she is faced with taking on the media giant alone. The movie then centers on the key players and their day to day lives which enables them to find the strength to come forward and do what they believe is right.

Everyone here from our leads to the supporting is a respected name and adds in so much to the overall story line.  John Lithgow gives the performance of a lifetime, from the paranoia to his personification of ‘fake news’ to his harassment, both verbal & sexual in nature, of the loathsome Roger Ailes. Connie Britton steps up as his wife Beth Ailes, who seemingly doesn’t want to see what’s right in front of her, until of course it actually is with the tapes Carlson unveils she has. Kate McKinnon is on hand as Jess Carr, the Faux news ‘secret’ Democrat who hides her sexuality in a closet of her own making that she can’t get out of. We have so many small roles that even out this cast with everyone from a hilarious little pivot role of Judge Jeanine Pirro (Alanna Ubach), to Richard Kind stepping in as Rudy Guiliani, Greta Van Susteren (Anne Ramsay), Sean Hannity (Spencer Garrett), Geraldo Rivera (Tony Plana), Bill O’Reilly (Kevin Dorff) and lastly, Jennifer Morrison as Juliet Huddy, one of the very few who filed years before all this came out and was subsequently banished to an outlying station. With all wonderful supporting cast, it’s Margot Robbie who has found her possible Oscar winning role here in Kayla. There are moments when as the horrible things are happening to her, the pain in her eyes is palpable – with the audience feeling and living every second with her. We really have to commend the make up/designers here as Theron really looks so much like Megyn Kelly in this film that at times its hard to not feel like she IS Kelly.  Theron transforms so well, you’d almost think she could pass as her clone with her characteristics, facial expressions, voice, all under perfect control – it’s uncanny. Same with Kidman as Carlson as her acting is nuanced, as she brings an energetic confidence to her character and the film that we all can applaud.

Personally, it can be respected what these women went through and finally stood up for – what can’t always be forgiven is the damage they caused with their words on Fox and waiting so long to finally step forward. While the film touches on important matters that has recently come to the light in droves, it doesn’t always reach its potential and with some choppy editing and often-bizarre narrative techniques, making the story relatively disjointed at times. The film is sure to spark some discussion as despite the events portrayed in the film it appears that many of those who acted improperly managed to financially win from their downfall but it at least set a precedent for those looking to come forward knowing they are not alone.

Grade: B-

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, December 3, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate

“BOMBSHELL” IS OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE // WORLDWIDE TO FOLLOW JANUARY 2020

 

 

REVIEW: “RICHARD JEWELL” (2019) Warner Bros.

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The title of this film “RICHARD JEWELL” is our subject matter as well. Jewell is a security guard who was hailed as a hero for finding a pipe bomb and thus preventing a bigger tragedy in 1996 during the time of the Atlanta Olympics. The film focuses on the events of the bombing itself and what takes place in the life of Richard Jewell post-bombing.

Imagine being falsely accused of a terrorist act that killed and injured people. Imagine that you are the FBI’s primary suspect. Imagine your name and face are spread across every possible media outlet. Imagine your belongings have been searched and seized as evidence – right down to your mom’s underwear. Lastly, imagine all of this occurs mere days after your actions actually saved lives and you were hailed as a hero across all of those same media outlets.  Well that imaginary man is actually Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), a humble but rather over-zealous security guard whom yes, imagines himself a law enforcement officer as he never fails to tell us.

We first meet Richard as a supply clerk at a law firm in 1986. His awkward ways and surprising efficiency catches the eye of attorney Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), a quasi-connection that comes into play a big part in both of their lives a decade later. We then jump ahead 10 years to find Richard being fired from his campus security job at a college due to not only his odd behaviour, but his escalating over-zealous focus on following protocol to a point of pulling people over off-campus as a police officer would. Fortunately for Richard, the Olympics are coming to Atlanta, so finding work as a security guard is pretty easy.

Pan to Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. Crowds of people are dancing at a Kenny Rogers concert and two days later we have Sly & The Family Stone and people dancing the Macarena. As one of the on-site security guards, Richard spots a suspicious backpack that turns out to be holding the pipe bomb that detonates minutes later, creating turmoil and tragedy at the site.  In hindsight we see that thanks to Richard, it wasn’t worse and as the viewing audience, we know that Richard’s actions saved lives and he definitely is not responsible for planting the bomb. And it’s because of knowing this, that we have the feeling of being in Richard’s shoes – thanks in part because of the Oscar-worthy performance here by Hauser as well.  Every time we hear Richard say “I’m law enforcement too”, it’s heart-breaking to us and gives an opening for the FBI to try and manipulate him. The scenario of a single white male living at home with his mom, carrying his gung-ho dreams of a career in law enforcement while collecting guns, knowledge on bombs and police procedure, makes Richard Jewell the perfect patsy.

Two key supporting roles come courtesy of Oscar winner Kathy Bates as Richard’s mother Bobi, and Nina Arianda as Bryant’s paralegal Nadya. Bates starts out as a loving and simple mother to Richard, but her press conference captures the character in a new light. It’s a strong and heartfelt performance. Arianda on the other hand, brings some warmth sprinkled with welcome sarcasm to her role. Once again, Hauser is spot-on in every scene, and when the four are all together, it’s a pleasure to watch. Hauser and Rockwell are especially good in their scenes together as the ‘wronged man’ contrast with the take-no-bull attorney and somehow actually gives a touch a humour in this otherwise not so humourous story.

With Jon Hamm having perfected the role of the cocksure agent-man and this one being no different as he plays FBI Agent Tom Shaw, the man totally focused on proving Richard Jewell was the perpetrator. The depiction of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) is a bit curious, being that the uproar is over what some interpret as a reporter trading intimate relations for a scoop, yet the contempt here seems focused more on the idea of trying this case in the public eye while lacking any real evidence outside of a profile. Perhaps the viewer reaction to this is just a sign of the times we are now in.

Leading me into the fact that with four-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood directing yet another story of a working-class hero, or essentially as he would like us all to see it. While the film deserves to be commended, the story being true as it is, as well as the wonderful performances by the entire cast, it was not lost on me on or many I saw the film with-of the political propaganda side of this film in the times facing us in our present situation. Staunch Republican that he is, Mr. Eastwood was sure to make note at what could be construed to believe to be perfect timing of the fact of the FBI made a huge error is their assessment of Richard Jewell and as such are not to be trusted. Same point being made with the media – aka ‘fake media’. Perfect timing Mr. Eastwood for more political rhetoric to keep in tune with the division of this country. Taking the hero story to the next level as we all know human beings make mistakes – and while there is cause to find total fault with the mishandling of this case, it goes without saying that they are not always wrong. No one would want to find themselves in Richard Jewell’s shoes, hence this story does deserve to be told even if it feels like a two-headed coin spin by Eastwood here.

Both Richard Jewell and Kathy Scruggs have passed, him in 2007, her in 2001, so we will never know their take on all this today.

Grade: B

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Media Screening: Tuesday, December 10, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros. 

“RICHARD JEWELL” IS OUT IN U.S. THEATERS NOW // WORLDWIDE TO FOLLOW JANUARY 2020

REVIEW: “QUEEN & SLIM” (2019) Universal Pictures

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Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) open our story on what is clearly a first date. She an attorney and he a passive religious type, not seeming to even have one single thing in common down to even the tiniest of facts that she orders a salad while he orders steak and eggs. When the eggs aren’t scrambled the way he ordered, she expects him to make a fuss to the waitress and when he doesn’t, she seems to throw shade not just at this fact, but that the diner feels ‘cheap’ to her. But there is more to this that meets the initial eye as he slowly makes his point to her. Not only is the waitress someone he knows from his neighborhood and single mother supporting her kids on her own, but the business is black owned, making the reasoning behind his choice much more than ‘cheap’. This is just the first thing that will make you start to take notice of all the little things that happen throughout this film.

We soon realize that this date is just not working for both parties involved and as Slim is driving Queen home, the couple’s first date takes an unexpected turn when they are pulled over by a police officer.  What happens next will tear the fabric of your being completely apart as you watch with a feeling of being punched in the gut. As you see them pull over and stop for a small driving infraction, things quickly escalate with Slim trying to keep his calm with a cop who is looking for anything to arrest on as he yells at them to keep showing their hands and get out of the car. Instead, as Queen steps out, our trigger-happy officer fires his weapon hitting her in the leg. Slim jumps into a melee with the officer and as they struggle the weapon goes off killing the officer immediately. Our ‘first date’ has just turned into two fugitives going on the run – Bonnie & Clyde style.

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Without going into spoilers, this is where Director Melina Matsoukas guides us through their entire journey of life on the run. The setup is promising and both actors have enough pull to take you along for the ride. Where it fails at times during this run, is mostly in it’s editing and pacing especially past the halfway point. The movie feels about 40 minutes too long. In the beginning, the characters’ decision to go on the run feels very haphazard, especially considering Queen’s profession. Some of the main character decisions are remarkably dumb at times (a scene at a gas station will leave you scratching your head) and certain other side characters take decisions that are unlike them. The movie can be downright infuriating at times. It has so much potential, but with it’s slow pace it ends up not fulfilling the promise of what could have been a great fugitive movie with a strong social message – even though it legitimately makes you have a physical reaction to what’s happening onscreen. After all that, the movie doesn’t know what it wants to do. It’s plethora of confused dialogue coupled with amazing performances by the two leads make for a tolerable hour of entertainment, but way to long of a journey at 132 minutes of run time.

“Queen & Slim” might have a bit of modern day “Bonnie & Clyde” vibe to it, but this film speaks to our times. It can be electrifying, funny and honest – a film that will grab you along for one hell of a ride. Daniel Kaluuya continues to dazzle and Jodie Turner-Smith is not only simply stunning, but quite remarkable in her performance as well.  A very special mention to supporting actor Bokeem Woodbine who’s performance is unmissable as Queen’s Uncle Earl.

With the screenplay written by Lena Waithe from a story by her and James Frey, the movie is an emotional journey, while not perfect and a bit long, when considering the repetitive structure of the story, this IS a movie that everyone should see. To every single disenfranchised person, most especially those of colour, I’m sure this film hits hard and hits home and there are those of you that can easily envision yourself in their shoes.

Grade: C+

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Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 21, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“QUEEN AND SLIM” IS OUT IN U.S. THEATERS NOW // WORLDWIDE TO FOLLOW JANUARY 2020