REVIEW PREMIERE OF: “I SAW THE LIGHT” (2016) Sony Pictures Classics

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I was happy with the choice of Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams. He had the physical look to carry it off and I knew he had the talent. I just wish I could say the same with the script. From the shaking camera to the direction & edit of this film, it is literally all over the place. Cutting from one scene to another without really understanding where it is we are going.

This story seems to focus heavily on his first marriage to Audrey Williams (Elizabeth Olsen) and that relationship. But while his band produced hit after hit, there is more time given here to the conflict between Audrey and his controlling mother, Lillie Williams (Cherry Jones) who managed the early part of his music career, than Hank himself. Also Hank’s band has trouble with Audrey, who has musical ambitions and is criticized as a no-talent back-up singer. i saw the 2 It provides Hank with a dilemma of choosing – his wife or his band? It’s frustrating that out of everything Hank Williams did, this is what they focus on. Other than the music, they barely touched on anything that made him such a colorful character and a country music icon. It doesn’t help that there is little chemistry between two lead characters.

Tom Hiddleston did a nice job with his singing here, which are definitely the highlights of the film, but at one point he gets asked how old he is to which he replies ’23’ and sorry..as much as I adore Hiddleston there is just no way he is passing for 23. Even the 29 years of age that William’s is when he dies is a stretch.
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I can’t say I know a lot about Hank Williams besides the fact he came from less fortunate part of Monroe, Alabama and fought his way out with his music and was hoping to learn more. Sadly the only thing I came out knowing more about was his alcohol and marital problems than on his impact on the Country – & – Western scene, of which he was a huge part of.

Towards the end we see Wiliams getting interviewed by reporter James Dolan, (David Krumholaz) to find out what makes him tick…sadly the film leaves us never really knowing what did.

Grade: D+
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Review Premiere Screening: Tuesday, March 22, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Film Independent
Nationwide release: Friday, March 25, 2016

Some photos of Tom Hiddleston at the premiere ~

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REVIEW: “HAIL, CAESAR!” (2016) – Universal Pictures

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Hail-Caesar
All Hail Caesar!!!
This Coen Brothers satire of old school Hollywood is a perfectly done mix of what our imagination might conjure up of what the Aqua-musicals or dance sequence films from the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ could be if they were done today.
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The film centers around physical production/studio head Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin. Mannix is a fixer at the fictitious Capital Pictures in the 1950’s. This involves him dealing with numerous egos, including their box-office superstar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) and Aqua~movie starlet, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johannson). Not long after the film begins, Whitlock is kidnapped and Mannix begins his quest to get him back with some surprising help along the way from young western actor, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich).  
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With a top notch billed cast, you do tend to notice that some of the names receiving top billing, are only in it for short pieces of time or literally there for only a ‘blink-and you missed it’ moment – as such is the case with Jonah Hill’s character Joseph Silverman. Besides that odd glitching, all the supporting cast as a whole are just plain good and you don’t get a bad performance from anyone as even the normally so wooden Scarlett Johannson plays her small part well and unannoying.   Aside from the names mentioned, you’ll also see Ralph Fiennes being spot on as director Laurence Laurentz, Tilda Swinton doing hysterical double time as bickering twin gossip columnist sisters, Thora & Thessaly Thacker. Channing Tatum for whom I must say,  I love where he is taking his career with roles like this, truly dazzles with his singing and dancing number that is so beautifully done it makes you not only yearn for those times of past, but want them back if he keeps doing this.
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Brolin is fantastic in the lead role and turns what could be a very unlikable character into a very endearing and sympathetic one. The real find among the cast is Ehrenreich. The character of Hobie Doyle is simple enough but Ehrenreich manages to turn him into one of the more amusing and interesting characters you’ll find in this film.
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All in all I truly enjoyed the film as a whole and I’m guessing all Coen Bros. fans will thoroughly enjoy it.  However as a second note, my guest didn’t like it as much and he made a good point.  That he didn’t ‘get’ all the innuendos of some of it and said the general public as a whole might not either as it might have that ‘going over their heads’ problem.
For me, I highly recommend this Golden-Age romp through the glory days of Hollywood..
Grade: B-
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Review Screening: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures 
Nationwide release: Friday, February 5, 2016

REVIEW: “THE JUDGE” (2014) Warner Bros.

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Before I even start this review…I want to note that my heart & thoughts go out to Robert Downey Jr. who lost his mother this week and as he would usually be out promoting this film, instead he put out a beautiful tribute to her (http://www.eonline.com/news/583342/robert-downey-jr-s-mother-dies-read-his-moving-candid-tribute-to-elsie-ann-downey) in the wake of this movie opening, which in a weird twist of fate, has the plot starter of the loss of the mother bringing his character home for the funeral. #RIP

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Now down to the movie here. I’m just gonna say I liked it and thought it told a good story.  Could the pace of it have been better..yeah..did it have some spots that lagged.. yeah..but it told a good story. As it started off I thought ‘oh no, another dysfunctional family film, I’ve just seen one of those last week and it wasn’t so good (see review https://peggyatthemovies.com/2014/09/20/review-this-is-where-i-leave-you-2014-warner-bros/) but then the story starts to unfold and it’s you realize it’s much more than that.

The film starts off with “Hank Palmer” (Robert Downey Jr.) who is a very good lawyer, (and I gotta say, wears a good cut suit like no other here), though possibly not really a ‘good’ man as he knows the people he is defending are all pretty much guilty, but he has a knack for making ‘reasonable doubt’ happen and makes a boatload of money doing it. In the middle of a big trial, he gets called home as his mother has passed.  He hasn’t been home nor spoken to his father since before law school as seems he had gotten into a few to many scrapes as a kid/teen and was shipped off to a more disciplinary school type deal.                                                   judge 3

Still Downey makes this character likable and you begin to remember that yes, before Iron Man, he was a really good dramatic actor,can carry & hold his own and that says a lot about him here because while he is still his fun self, he’s also much more. As we delve into the main part of the story here where Hank’s father, “Judge Joseph Palmer” (Robert DuVall) the ‘Judge’ of the small town in Indiana where all of this takes place, is arrested.  The prosecutor, “Dwight Dickham” played by Billy Bob Thornton, makes it clear that in many ways, Downey Jr. and his accused murderer father are actually kind of the bad guys here. It’s up to the jury to decide in a fun scene with Downey Jr., & Dax Shepard, who plays the country bumpkin lawyer hired because initially the Judge doesn’t want Hank representing him in this case but in reality, the court case is really secondary and there’s no big mystery to be solved. It’s first and foremost a father-son story, the main hook being whether or not Downey and his somewhat unfriendly, estranged father will be able to come to terms with each other, and not whether he’ll be convicted and go to jail. The success lies in the fact that ultimately you are rooting for these two guys to sort out their issues with each other, even if both are headstrong and often exasperating.  judge billy bob

With that in mind, this movie is not a complete success in all the way around. For one, the characters of his older brother, “Glen” (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his younger, somewhat mentally challenged younger brother “Dale” (Jeremy Strong) are almost completely irrelevant to the story for exception of a bit of background in that Glen serves a purpose as when they were teens he was a star baseball player and got in a car accident with Hank, who was driving while under the influence of basically everything, was injured and never could play again which led to the estrangement between father and son. The same thing could be said for the character of “Samantha” (Vera Farmiga) who plays Hank’s old girlfriend/new possible love interest with a kinda icky sub-plot of her daughter “Carla” (Leighton Meester) whom Hank has a torrid make-out scene with, but whom could possibly be his daughter.  All of this, plus a bit more even, are the lagging parts I previously spoke about and easily could have been cut-down which would have made this movie a much more manageable watch time-wise.  There are a lot of sub-plots going on here as Hank is going through a possible divorce, wants to see his daughter more, Duvall’s character has numerous things going on all over the place and to get into detail about them all would not only be time-consuming, but spoil the movie for you.  Needless to say, they all get woven in together quite well I think due to the fact you have strong actors playing the two lead roles who also mesh well together on screen and in this movie.

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I don’t think “The Judge” is going to win any awards and I’ve been wrestling with my own ‘grade’ of the pic.. because I think it does tell a good story, has the makings to do somewhat well at the box office considering the star power of the cast, and it has that ‘feel-good/tug at your heart’ thing going for it. It also has definite entertainment value and it does work on a lot of levels.  With all that going for it, it is far from perfect but yet, is a crowd pleaser. With that.. I’m giving it ….

Grade:  C+  (above average)

(See grading scale)

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