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

 

 

“BLACKHAT” (2015) UNIVERSAL PICTURES

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blackhat

Ahhh Michael Mann.. First off, I am a fan..have been for ages, so many good movies & fashion statements in your TV & film work ~ and “Blackhat” is not the massive fiasco that it could be but it’s hard to know where to begin analyzing it. First off there’s the screenplay by Morgan Davis Foehl, which alternates between dull, rushed and an utter disregard for reasonable logic at times.

But let’s not rush ahead of ourselves here with all that. Chris Hemsworth stars as “Nicholas Hathaway”, the world’s greatest computer hacker who also happens to look a lot like Thor (thankfully). Currently serving 15 years for cyber-crimes, he gets furloughed from jail at the behest of his old MIT roommate “Lien Chen” (Leehom Wang) who is now a big-time higher-up in the Chinese military. Chen is working with FBI agent “Carol Barrett” (Viola Davis) to track down a hacker who put the whammy on both an Asian nuclear reactor and the American commodities exchange using malware code created by Hathaway & Chen in their college days. blackhat 1

The pursuit of the villain takes our team — which includes Chen’s sister “Lien” (Wei Tang), who falls in love with Hathaway in one of the most random, chemistry-free onscreen romances in recent memory — to Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia, but in all this globe-trotting studio money can buy, it’s no substitute for things little things like oh..character development, suspense and motivation. Hathaway’s character concept is lacking, and he’s one of the film’s better-written roles, and it seems only Davis can make filet mignon out of the ground beef of this material, turning vague and clunky dialogue into gold with just one or two quick quips and a sardonic glance over her sunglasses.
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The screenplay, mocks us at times, with the fact that we are not supposed to take notice the bad guys’ inability to hit with directly aimed bullets, key characters – aka “The Good Guys” -despite constant flutters of automatic weapons fire, or the fact that an FBI agent asks another a personal question based on a phone call to which he was not privy to, or one of my favourite aspects, the fact that blond, six-and-a-half-foot Hemsworth is supposed to blend in with the crowds in Asia like he’s not head & shoulders above them all..literally..and attracting no second glances whatsoever as he’s on the run in airports or sneaking into computer facilities or engaging in gun battles in the middle of crowded street festivals. Lastly, that a computer hack with huge mayhem & destruction imminently pending, within a matter of hours to be precise, but curiously so, the lead characters have time to fall completely in love and plan a future relationship and as cyber-hackers they just pick up guns that they immediately know how to use truly made me shake my head as in ‘okey dokey then’. blackhat 2

But to best describe what truly underscores the problems with some of the filming, which oddly enough looks at it’s worst whenever there’s some type of light source on screen, whether it be a lamp or a car headlight or just the sun; so where does the big finale happen? Well…amongst hundreds of people carrying torches, but of course (insert facetious sarcasm here). Because not only is it weird and completely off base, but that these guys are carrying huge automatic weapons and no one out of all these thousands of people notice it. NONE! Come on now.
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Given Sony’s recent ‘issues’ with hacking, the timing couldn’t be better for a movie about the vulnerability of international computer networks, but “Blackhat” isn’t that movie..though I’m not going to say it couldn’t be plausible, because despite what you might think, the actors are believable enough as their characters, it’s what the plot makes them do at times that isn’t. I’m thinking that pretty much no matter how you slice it, this is one hack-ity hacker pic that just hasn’t really cracked it’s own code of how to make a movie about computer espionage that doesn’t come down to scene after scene of people sitting at keyboards and making clicky-clack noises with their fingers. To his credit, Michael Mann does try to jazz things up with cool tracking shots through microchips (it’s like the express lane to Tron’s house) or even putting the camera inside a thumb-drive slot or under a keyboard that’s being typed upon, and though it has it’s entertaining moments for sure, in the end it’s to little avail in saving the film from some of the other things that make it a no go.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

(See grading scale)