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

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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.”

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7 DAYS OF OSCAR COUNTDOWN ~ DAY 2 ~ BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

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We are only on Day Two of the ‘SEVEN DAYS OF OSCARS’ countdown and already we are at ‘Best Supporting Actor’. You know that magical time of year where once again, I give a countdown of my top Oscar categories- who I think will win – and what my pick would be – as those two choices sometimes differ.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
NOMINEES

WILLEM DAFOE
The Florida Project
As much as I do love most of Dafoe’s work – and did like this movie – it just wasn’t a ‘love’ for me.

WOODY HARRELSON
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Woody was good in this film. It was a classic, good Woody and I wouldn’t be mad if he won.

RICHARD JENKINS
The Shape of Water
I was give or take here.

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER
All the Money in the World
Unfortunately I’ve not seen this film, so have missed the performance. It happens.

SAM ROCKWELL ~ MY PICK/WINNER
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
And of course you knew if you follow me anywhere how much I loved this performance. While Rockwell’s career has probably had more misses than hits, McDonagh definitely knows how to bring out the hits in him.

REVIEW: “THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI” (2017) Fox Searchlight

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Step right up Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell and please just accept your Oscar’s for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor already. Yes, truly they are that good and that’s how I feel. And hey, throw in a Best Picture nod while you’re at it please!!!

This wonderfully dark comedy featuring a brash, outspoken and very funny McDormand in the lead role as Mildred Hayes, a divorcee from Ebbing, Missouri and let me tell you, Mildred is one extremely pissed woman at her local Police Department. Most especially Sherriff Willougby (Woody Harrelson), and she is not afraid to let everyone know this as she rents out 3 billboards on the outskirts of town at $5000 a month from Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones). The way Mildred see’s it is it’s been seven months since her teenage daughter Angela (Kathyrn Newton) was raped, murdered and set ablaze on a quiet stretch of country road, and yet still no arrests have been made or suspects identified. Mildred and many others in the town, feel as the local Sherriff’s dept. are “too busy torturing black folk”. And she’s right as Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) has been investigated for doing just that. Sheriff Willoughby however, doesn’t much like being publicly mocked by billboards that read: “Still No Arrests?” “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” and “Raped While Dying.”
And the story that unfolds before you is one that will capture every emotion you thought you never had. This is a hard -edged drama, but with enough sarcastic comedy in it to somehow keep it funny through a dark subject throughout the film. This film is a brilliant piece of storytelling that somehow has stories within that all fit together in the end in a 360 degree type circle.

McDormand is simply superb as the mother whose anger is just part of her problems in life. She breaks this character down inch by inch in front of us in such detail you are sure not to forget her anytime soon. Rockwell – who let’s face it, can be very ‘hit or miss’ with his performances, here he is so crazy good and volcanically funny that you want to almost applaud whenever he shows up, as he somehow he makes Dixon both horrendous and humane – sometimes both in a same breath – it is truly a tremendous performance. Harrelson is wonderful, yet sarcastic, a bit vulgar and yet even in the face of death, funny. Peter Dinklage as James, the town’s only ‘small person’, Lucas Hedges in another fine performance as Mildred’s son Robbie and John Hawkes as the ex-husband, truly round up a great supporting cast. The only true problem I had any of this cast was with Harrelson’s wife Penelope (Samara Weaving) as the being 1/2 his age part wasn’t the only blur, but how in the world is an Australian somehow in this little backwoods town of Ebbing, Missouri. Besides that, it truly is a flawless picture by Martin McDonagh and not only my favourite film of the year so far, but hopefully a shoe-in for a couple of those Oscars!

Grade: A
@pegsatthemovies

Media Screening Review: Monday, November 6, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
“THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI” is now playing nationwide // International release in Jan 2018

REVIEW ~ LAGGIES (2014)

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There have been some very bad movies released this year and this doozie is definitely one of the worst.  I almost didn’t even want to write a review as I feel like I’m wasting as much of my time on it that they made me waste watching it and that was enough, so expect this to be very short and simple, to the point.

Keira Knightly in ANOTHER really awful performance, her 2nd of the year so far btw in a bad American accent again no less, is “Megan” an 20-something who is the sign-spinner (yes, you read that right..the person in front of a business who spins the sign for people to come in) for her father “Ed” (Jeff Garlin) accounting office and seems to be in the throes of a quarter-life crisis..yes really..if there is such a thing. She’s got a degree, lives with her boyfriend, “Anthony” (Mark Webber) who it weirdly seems as though she barely likes him and he seems to unquestionably just support her financially etc., without a problem and yet she just floats around aimlessly while all her friends like “Allison” (Elle Kemper) progress in front of her with their lives.  laggie 1

That is of course until she meets high-school student “Annika” (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her group of friends, “Misty” (Kaitlyn Dever), “Junior” (Daniel Zovatto), and “Patrick” (Dylan Arnold) and buys them beer and they become besties.. yep..they do. In fact, in order to ‘get away from it all’, Megan begins to hang out with this group of high-school students and proceeds to stay at Annika’s house until her divorced dad, “Craig” (Sam Rockwell) wonders, as all of us do, why is this woman staying in my house with my high-school aged child and saying they are friends like this is normal behaviour.. Let’s just say this movie is painful and not even Sam Rockwell can save it when he hooks up with Megan which of course unless you’re very impaired you know is going to happen from the moment Megan steps into their house.  Along with the absolute just inane – trying so hard to be quirky – plot of all this is the fact that Megan not only goes to a high-school party without any qualms or awkward feeling of anyone asking her WTF she is even doing there..she just fits right in..but wait for it…as yes..she goes to the prom too!!! At this point in the movie, I’m not sure how I had stayed so long without screaming or pulling my hair out in exasperation over how horrifically bad this movie is.. I guess because it was a screening and I always feel guilty if I leave early..and yes, thankfully I didn’t pay any money to see this farce, as then I would have been really PISSED!!!

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So to sum it up in case you haven’t guessed already, this is one bad movie. It’s kinda weird that a person in their 20’s would even want to hang out with high school kids..I don’t know anyone who ever did..and it’s not funny, there is no chemistry between any of the characters or any depth to any of them and it ends just as lamely as it started.

Grade: D-  (don’t waste your time or money)

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