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

 

 

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (2015) Fox Searchlight

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Not being a huge fan of this genre of ‘dying’ teen movies, it would be so easy to sum up this film with just the title alone and leave it at that.

It would also be easy to criticize the fact that Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is directly aimed to the young teen Fault in Our Stars crowd with whom it’s guaranteed to be a summer box office moneymaker.
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And while all of that is true, what people will be missing if they don’t go to see this film is a truly good, touching, funny, quirky and well acted film. I went in to this film wanting to dislike it for so many reasons, the sheer fact of its utter teen-dream marketability and knowing how it will end thanks to the title. And to my pleasant surprise, while watching, I felt my mind change, change and then change again. I was reminded that movies like this do exist and some times they can not only be really good, but they also can be commercially successful at the same time and that’s a-okay for me.
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The film chronicles the senior year of “Greg” (Thomas Mann), his best friend/co-worker “Earl” (RJ Cyler), and “Rachel” (Olivia Cooke), who at the behest of his mother (Connie Britton) has been told to go ‘be friends with her’ as she has been diagnosed with leukemia (aka get it..Me & Earl & the Dying Girl). Rachel of course, sees right through his initial ‘pity’ visit but slowly and surely Greg begins to win her over with his cheekiness and charm.
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And yes, all of the teen dramedy tropes are present and accounted for. The awkward parents, most especially Rachel’s mom “Denise” (Molly Shannon) who practically mauls Greg she is so happy he is there for her daughter, the role of tatted up cool teacher who ‘gets it’“Mr. Walker” (Jon Berenthal) whom while he goes into some original territory – though maybe a little to much for me as I think there might be a line or two that is crossed. Add in the exploration of high school cliques as Greg seems to be the master of his universe as he somehow cultivates relationships in each clique in his school. He glides from circle to circle seemly effortlessly, not alienating anybody or anyone which if I remember high school as I do, is pretty near the impossible to make happen. Though with all this accomplishment, he doesn’t want to call anyone his ‘friend’ as he doesn’t want to emotionally connect with them fully, so he calls Earl, his actual best friend, a co-worker. The two share a bizarre, but fun love of cinema and re-create about 40 spoofs of films such as A Clockwork Orange & The Seventh Seal among others. These are some of the high points of the movie as it’s rather hysterical to see these kids become so creative over the years doing these oh-so-bad-they-are-good mini movies.
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A good supporting cast keeps the film fresh and rolling along. Greg’s eccentric parents (Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) add a fun jolt of parental weirdness to their scenes, While I found myself wanting a bit more in regards to Rachel’s character, the film’s treatment of her friendship with Greg is both darkly funny and realistically somber. This is one movie that it’s safe to see regardless of its given ending.

Screening at Landmark Theatres Westwood – Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
Nationwide release date: Friday, June 12th, 2015
Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

RATINGS SCALE: A = OSCAR-WORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE; C = AVERAGE; D = NOT RECOMMENDED; F = SKIP IT ENTIRELY (+ OR – GIVES IT AN EDGE UP OR DOWN)

REVIEW: “THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU” (2014) Warner Bros.

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I went into this movie knowing it was another one of the genre of ‘family dysfunction’ movies that either go over really well..or not.  With the cast at hand, I really was looking forward to at least a somewhat decent flick and expected some top-notch dark, comedic moments.  And Jane Fonda.. Can I just say how badly I want to look like Jane Fonda when I am her age..hell I want to look like her NOW.. But truly, even with the almost always funny, Jason Bateman & Tina Fey, sadly nothing could save this movie from being completely mediocre.     this is where 2

This whole middle-class.suburban angst type genre movies were all the rage about a decade ago, but it’s tapped itself out as there’s only so many movies about the upper classes and their problems that you can take if they’re not bringing something new to the table. “THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU” doesn’t fit the bill, in that’s it’s an incredibly familiar story we’ve seen done too many times before and it’s become rather boring and lackluster.  The rundown of the film is the ‘heard it so many times before’ story of the kids coming home to reunite in the wake of their father’s death. No one wants to be really be there, and the fighting starts almost immediately.starting with the newly separated son “Judd Altman” (Jason Bateman) having been called home by his sister “Wendy Altman” (Tina Fey), with him having just a few months earlier been cheated-on by his wife, “Quinn” (Abigail Spencer) caught in the act with his boss “Wade Beaufort” (Dax Shepard) no less. but then able to find quirky new love interest who just happened to have a crush on him years back, “Penny Moore” (Rose Byrne) within hours of his return ~ can we just give a big YAWN here already?!  And to make it somewhat even less plausible, though the father was an atheist, everyone is told by family matriarch “Hillary Altman” (Jane Fonda) that they all must stay as he wanted them to ‘sit shiva’, which from what I understand is a Jewish religious custom where the family sits & receives guests for a set amount of days. So you would think at least some comedy would ensue here riiiigghhtt??!!!  *sigh*

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The funeral is an awkward affair to say the least. Judd’s older brother “Paul Altman” (Corey Stoll) has taken to his new role as the head of the family with an overly-controlling bullying attitude and whose wife “Alice” (Kathryn Hahn) is comically desperate to get pregnant. Wendy is busy with her two children, considering that her husband “Barry” (Aaron Lazar) is an inattentive workaholic and makes her want to run back to her past also with the brain-damaged boy next door “Horry Callen” (Timothy Olyphant). The rest of the Altman family ranges from oh soooooo annoying youngest brother “Phillip Altman” (Adam Driver) the bratty black sheep of the family, who comes with his rich older girlfriend in tow “Tracy Sullivan” (Connie Britton) who happens to be a psychiatrist just like his mom..yeah you get the jist where that is going.  One thing we do get plenty of is Fonda’s smothering mother and her grotesque boob job, with the boobs almost so comic that they feel out of place in some somewhat serious moments. They provide easy laughs, but this itself suggests a problem, when they are the funniest thing of the movie.

 

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So, yes there is a surprise at the end of the movie that only ever so slightly redeems it, but at that point, it’s basically too little too late.  Bateman’s performance is decent, Fey’s also, though you don’t get ‘comedy’ from either of them and no one’s is outstanding in the least. By far the most annoying character & portrayal comes from Adam Driver, when I would have liked to have seen say Olyphant’s character of Horry more developed as at least as the bit we got of him, was interesting.  To be honest, this isn’t the worst movie out there right now by far, but I think audiences are expecting more from it than they are going to receive, especially now that we are gearing up for the year-end slew of Oscar contenders sure to come.  This movie will not be one of those contenders.

Grade: C-  (below average)

(See grading scale)

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