Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

Movie Review: Hostiles (2017)

Posted: September 16, 2018 in Drama
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In 1892, Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is ordered by Colonel Abraham Briggs (Stephen Lang) to transport Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) to his native home in Montana.  Yellow Hawk is a member of the Cheyanne tribe, dying of cancer and wants to be buried in his native land.  The directive to transport Yellow Hawk came from President Benjamin Harrison himself, but Blocker initially refuses to obey it because he thinks of Yellow Hawk as a murderer.  Briggs threatens Blocker’s pension, so Blocker reluctantly agrees.  Blocker put together a team and starts toward Montana.  On the way he finds a widow named Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) whose husband and three children have been killed by Comanche, who burned her house to the ground.  She is traumatized and in a state of shock.  Blocker sympathizes with the widow, helps her bury her children, and takes her along with them. One night, Rosalie and the Native women are kidnapped by fur traders.  Chief Yellow Hawk offers to help Blocker rescue the women.  Does Blocker take him up on his offer?

Hostiles should have been the story of two psychologically traumatized people living in the old West.  The second half of the movie becomes something else entirely, and the movie stops working on any level.  The writers should have left the main characters alone, and the movie would have been much better. There’s already a movie like this, it’s John Ford’s classic The Searchers, John Wayne plays a bigot, who hates Native Americans, but has to go into Indian territory to save a little girl.  The villains in this movie are also Comanche, don’t know what the Comanche ever did to traumatize Hollywood writers, but they’re the heavies again.  The point is, John Wayne’s character never changed in The Searchers and didn’t have to, Hostiles should have followed similar character development. The climax of Hostiles violent and unnecessary, the whole movie is a wasted opportunity.

Christian Bale is one of the best actors in the world, he’s been acting well since he starred in Empire of The Sun as a 13 year old.  In Hostiles, however, Bale underplays the character so much that he’s barely noticeable.   The script doesn’t help him either, he’s asked to play the character one way for the first half of the movie, and another way during the second half of the movie.  Rosamund Pike has the opposite problem, she overplays the traumatized Rosalie to the point of hysteria, she was not good in Gone Girl either.  Wes Studi plays Yellow Hawk as a sympathetic character, but it’s a small role.

This movie was written and directed by Scott Cooper, who directed the awful Black Mass, and the good Out of The Furnace.  I am hesitant to watch movies written and directed by one person,  because the writer thinks his dialogue is great, so he rambles on, and the director thinks the writer is great, so he doesn’t edit any of the scenes to pick up the pacing.

Hostiles:  Christian should have Bale-d out on this movie.


roman j israel

Roman J. Israel (Denzel Washington) is a partner in a small law firm in Los Angeles, his partner William Jackson, handled the courtroom appearances while Roman handled the behind the scenes legal briefs. After William dies, Roman is recruited by one of William’s former students, George Pierce. (Colin Farrell)  Roman has an idea for a class action lawsuit which will revolutionize plea bargaining, George wants nothing to do with that idea.  Roman also enquires about a job with another job with another acquaintance of Williams’s, Maya (Carmen Ejogo) who rejects his offer, saying that she and others who work there are only volunteers.  Roman has nothing left to do but work with George.

George assigns Roman a client named Derrell Ellerbee (DeRon Horton) who is accused of killing a store clerk.  Derrell accuses his partner in the robbery Carter Johnson, (Amari  Cheatom) but Derrell only shares this information with Roman.  After going to meet with Maya at her organization to give a pep talk, and having his ideas scoffed at by the younger generation,  Roman is mugged by a man who wants money.  Roman has a choice, do something unethical and reap immediate rewards, or stay true to his ideals, and struggle to pay the bills?

This is a dull movie that muddles along with a meandering plot, uninteresting characters, and has such trouble generating  a spark, that it can’t even bring itself to create a genuine love story. Maybe it’s because Denzel Washington is 19 years older than Carmen Ejogo, whatever the case, their relationship is clumsy.  The ending is syrup y sweet, to cover a much more dramatic ending, which should have been the way the movie ended.

After such a powerful, magnetic performance in Fences, it’s quite an adjustment to see Denzel Washington play such a meek, mild-mannered character.  Roman is described as a savant Coli Farrell’s character, maybe Denzel was trying to play someone with Asperger Syndrome, like Christian Bale did in the Big Short.  There was something disconcerting about Washington’s performance, lie he was trying to have a restrained performance.  Colin Farrell wasn’t bad, but he ended up playing a bland character in the end, and the character should have been more ruthless.  Carmen Ejogo is another victim of bad writing, is she a friend of the Washington character, is she a love interest?  Is he a mentor to her?  The vagueness of the script led to her weak performance, and she also had trouble maintaining her American accent, she is British.

The direction is also weak, Dan Gilrpy wrote this movie and directed it, which is apparently one too many jobs for hi.  The pacing is very slow and by the time the story gets interesting it’s 3/4th of the way over, if the viewer is still awake by then, it’s ok for about 20 minutes with a lackluster ending.  He doesn’t get any good performances, and there is nothing eye-catching about any scenes.

Roman J. Israel:  Feed This Roman to the lions.

patrick melrose

Episode 1:  Bad News

Patrick Melrose (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a British addict who learns of his father David’s (Hugo Weaving) death.  Patrick tries to give up heroin, in honor of his dad’s passing, does he succeed?  He also tries to date his girlfriend’s friend Maryanne. (Allison Williams)  How does that go?

What to say of this character and show?  I didn’t sympathize with Patrick, I didn’t pity him, I didn’t laugh at his many travails, because they were of his own making. Patrick is a trust fund baby, who spends his money like water to feed his vices, and he thinks he’s fine.  Then there’s the excuse lurking around. The action that will excuse Patrick’s neediness and behavior,  I know exactly how this is going to end, and I don’t think it’s worth going through five hours just to find out  what happens to a thoroughly despicable character.  Benedict Cumberbatch is fine, it is fun to see him play a creep, but it’s as if he’s doing a one man show and not getting much help from the rest of the cast. The episode is a slog, to see such self-destructive behavior over and over again, is difficult to say the least.

The visual direction is good, as in there are interesting shots from many different angles, but the pacing is very slow, an hour takes forever in this show

Episode 2:  Never Mind

Patrick recalls a trip to Lacoste France in 1967, where something horrific happened to him.

So, now the audience sees what drove Patrick Melrose to his self-destructive excesses.  Many people go through horribly painful  events in their lives, not all of them turn into addicts and fewer still want to kill themselves with an overdose.  These books and this show is glorying drug use by making  it all seem like one big party, other than the withdrawal symptoms, and they become redundant too. Other than good performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugo Weaving, this wouldn’t even be worth watching the story of addiction has been told many times, so what can be added, I don’t know.

Episode 3:  Some Hope

In 1990 Patrick attends a party thrown by Bridget (Holliday Granger)  a woman he first met at the family home in France Bridget is now a countess, and has invited everyone to the party, from Patrick’s friend and fellow addict Johnny Hall (Prasanna Puwanarajah) to Princess Margaret. (Harriet Walter) Patrick makes an important admission to Johnny at the party.

There is a major tonal shift in this episode, there are still flashbacks to remind the viewer of Patrick’s trauma, but it’s also a blistering satire of the idle rich, until the viewer realizes that Patrick is one of the idle rich, that makes the satire a little less effective.  Still the tonal shift is a welcome change. The only issue I have with this episode is that Bridget looks the same 23 years after Patrick first met her.  The makeup people should have aged her a little.  The camera continues to shoot this film from interesting angles.


Episode 4:  Mother’s Milk:

Patrick goes to the South of France to visit his mother in 2003.  He is married now with two young boys, but he still has vices, but does he indulge them?

Patrick is married and has two kids, he could concentrate on them, he could make then the center of his world, he could forget about his past, and concentrate on his future.  In other words, he could be an adult, but does he do that, or does he continue to live a Peter Pan life where he doesn’t want to grow up and face his responsibilities if being a husband and father?  Parts of this episode is funny, but it’s also frustrating to watch.

Episode 5: At Last

In 2005, Patrick must come to terms with his mother’s death, while continuing to self-medicate with alcohol.

At last, this show is over.  The viewer finally sees some consequences of Patrick’s behavior, but even the consequences are clichés , and he never quite seems to understand how his behavior affects other people.  The visual direction continues to be stellar.  But the story is never quite realistic enough to be gripping.  Finally, the flashbacks on this episode are confusing, it is never clear when it’s 2005, and when it’s before 2005.

Impressions of Patrick Melrose

The acting by Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugo Weaving is excellent, and that’s why I kept watching.  But in the end, the story glorifies drug and alcohol abuse.  In the age of rampant opioid addiction, that is a dangerous viewpoint to present.  Patrick has a built in excuse for his excesses, and the consequences of his actions are only briefly mentioned and off he goes again, living his carefree, consequence free lifestyle. When Patrick actually hits rock bottom, it’s so short in duration, that it doesn’t have an impact.

Cumberbatch is good, despite playing a not very likable character, either as needy addict or devil-may care alcoholic, he is kind of a cad.  His character seems to think life owes him something instead of making the most of a very advantageous position. The problem with playing an amoral person is that the audience will never root for Patrick to succeed, because his goals are out of whack.  So it may be a fine performance by Cumberbatch, but the character is pretty despicable.

Hugo Weaving is used to being a bad guy, he played Agent Smith in three Matrix movies.  Here he is relentlessly, one dimensionally evil , playing Patrick’s father David.  He does the best he can, despite being boxed in by the writers.  Jennifer Jason Leigh is not given much to do after the first couple of episodes.

The direction is very visually stimulating throughout, the camera is used in many different angles to give the viewer a lot of different perspectives of what is happening in each episode.  The downside of the direction is the pacing is very slaw, and when the subject matter is difficult, which is often,this show becomes difficult to watch.

Patrick Melrose:  No one comes out smelling like a rose in this show.


a quiet place

On day 89 of a seeming invasion, the Abbot family is besieged by creatures who are rampaging the earth and killing millions of humans. The family’s young patriarch, Lee (John Krasinski) has studied the creatures, and found their Achilles Heel, but he needs to test his hypothesis out on his daughter Regan. (Millicent Simmonds)  Regan is going through some guilt, felt by the whole family, but more acutely by Regan.  Evelyn Abbot, (Emily Blunt) Lee’s wife, is pregnant, and her water has broken while Lee is away with his son, teaching him survival techniques.  Will Lee’s countermeasures against the creatures work?  Will he be able to gather his children and get back to his wife before the creatures do?

The problem with classifying A Quiet Place as a horror movie is this, it’s not scary.  It has elements of other sci fi movies, like scary looking creatures, straight out of Alien, tall corn fields like Children of The Corn, but in the end it’s not a scary film, at all.  Like the movies  It Follows or Goodnight Mommy, A Quiet Place gets a lot of hype for being a different kind of horror film, but it’s not a horror film at all, one can classify it as a character study of a family under great duress, but this is not a horror film.

It’s also a movie filled with plot holes. The movie opens on day 89, and there is no backstory of how these creatures got here, because explaining how they got here would involve telling the audience how non humanoid creatures with big,  sharp teeth are capable of interstellar travel, and that is problematic.   Is Lee Abbot the only man on earth to realize the creatures’ weakness, why can’t he exploit it sooner?

Then there are the little things that don’t quite make sense in a post-apocalyptic world. The movie shows the Abbots eating, what exactly are they eating after 90 days?  How long do batteries last in the post-apocalyptic world?  Why do they say grace?  Are the filmmakers appealing to a certain demographic?  Why are there birds in the sky and woodchucks on the ground on day 89? And the question that applies to all Hollywood films, where are the minorities?

There is a lot of emotional blackmail going on in this film, the audience is made to care, but their emotions are being ruthlessly manipulated.  Regan is deaf,   Evelyn is pregnant, the other kids are cute, so naturally the audience wants nothing to happen to this picture perfect family, and of  course things do happen, so the audience is manipulated throughout.

The acting is good.  Krasinski makes a good leading man, strong in the face of an otherworldly threat, vulnerable when he thinks this wife is in danger, he is the everyman hero, a little too flawless, but that’s got more to do with the writing than the acting.  Emily Blunt is more the damsel in distress and she’s also pregnant, and guilt ridden, which keeps her from defending herself for the most part.  The best acting is by Millicent Simmonds, who wordlessly conveys so much emotion with her face.  Happiness, sadness, anger, it’s all there on her expressive face.

The direction is competent, it does what it needs to do, tells a little about the family and moves the scenes along, the pacing is good, it is not overburdened with special effects, which is also good.  John Krzinski wrote and directed it, and had a hand in producing so it’s his movie.  But people shouldn’t give this movie a free pass because Blunt and Krasinski seem to be Hollywood’s new power couple.

A Quiet Place:  Monstrous plot holes obscure a good character study.


Patti Dombrowski  (Danielle McDonald) is an overweight girl, living in a  dead-end town in New Jersey.  Patti dreams of being a rap star, but right now her life is weighed down by too many problems, her mother, Barb, (Bridget Everett) is a barfly, and an alcoholic who doesn’t pay her bills.  Patti’s grandmother, Nana, (Cathy Moriarty) is a sickly old woman in a wheelchair.  Patti is forced to support her dysfunctional family by becoming a bartender.

Fortunately, for Patti, her friend Jheri (Siddarth Dananjay) shares her dream.  He wants to be a DJ in a rap band.  Jheri has a day job as a pharmacist, but he scrapes together enough money for a recording session, that goes horribly wrong.  One day while tending bar, she meets Basterd (Mamoudou Athie)  he’s playing some thrash guitar over some spoken word poetry, Patti is enthralled.  She finds him again in his hideaway, a run-down shack in the middle of no-where.  Patti asks Basterd to lay down a guitar track on top of  her rapping, and the band PBNJ, Patti Basterd, Nana, and Jheri was born.  With a lot of hard work bartending, and playing clubs, PBNJ make a demo tape. Patti gets a lucky  break while bartending and lands in front of her rap hero, O-Z. (Sahr Ngaujah) She slips him her demo tape. What happens next?

I like this movie because it packs a lot of realism into one movie, Patti is far from the perfect looking girl viewers usually see in these films.  She gets teased for her appearance, she has a far from perfect family, but she has a dream, and she works hard, and with two fellow outcasts follows that dream.  It almost doesn’t matter if the dream comes true or not, this is a story about a girl and her tenacity, she and her friends keep trying no matter what obstacles get in their way.  There is a bit of generalization about New Jersey, not everyone there listens to Springsteen and has big hair, but it captures the mood of the place well.  The ending is somewhat predictable, I figured it out before it happened, but other than that, it was a well-written well-acted movie.

Here’s to the hope that Danielle McDonald is not a one hit wonder, she plays the role with such grit, and yet sweetness that she wins over the audience almost immediately.  She deserves more roles after this stellar performance.  Siddarth Dhananjay plays something of a stereotypical role, he’s the pharmacist, he breaks out of the stereotype a bit by being the DJ, but then again slips back in as Patti’s safe, non-threatening friend.  Mamoudou Athie plays the stoic Basterd with just enough mystery, to have the audience wondering, “What’s with this guy?” It’s a very good understated performance. Cathy Moriarty is sweet as the strong and supportive grandmother, Nana.  She is the role model that Patti needs.  Bridget Everett is also good in a tough role as Patti’s drunk and destitute mother.

The direction has splashes of visual stimulation; Basterd has one blue contact lens in his eye, O-Z is bathed in green and likes green drinks.  The musical numbers are energetically staged, and the pacing is very quick.

Patti cake$: a bittersweet treat.

deadpool 2

After two years of working as a mercenary, and killing many bad guys, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) decides to start a family with girlfriend Vanessa. (Morena Baccarin)  When those plans are interrupted, Deadpool is convinced by Colossus (Stefan Kapcic) to join the X-men as a trainee.  His first mission is to rescue a teen boy named Russell (Julian Dennison) from a home for orphaned mutants, Russell is causing damage with his powers and the police are called, but Deadpool screws up the mission and both he and Russell  go to the Icebox, a mutant prison where their powers are controlled by collars around their necks.  While in prison, Russell seeks revenge on the headmaster(Edde Marsan)  of the orphanage and enlists the aid of Juggernaut,(himself)  the biggest prisoner in the Icebox.

From out of the blue, a soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin) breaks into the Icebox and attacks Russell, but Russell escapes Cable with his new friend Juggernaut, and heads for the orphanage to get his revenge on the headmaster,  Cable follows Russell, and Deadpool with his new ‘family’ the X-Force, which mainly consists of Domino (Zazie Beetz) and they go to find Russell.  Can Deadpool and Domino stop Russell before he and Juggernaut exact their revenge?  Can Deadpool stop Cable from killing Russell.

Deadpool 2 is a mix of a great deal of violence, scatological teenage anatomy humor, both disturbing and derivative plot elements, and what Hollywood does best, explosions substituting for plot.  There’s a joke in the film that refers to Ryan Reynolds saying. “He doesn’t like sharing the screen with others” which is basically wish fulfillment for the rest of the film.  This is Ryan Reynolds’ film, and he chooses to carry the load mostly on his own.  The mood alternates between frathouse humor and some very disturbing allegations at the orphanage, and the film doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious film about serious issues, or Animal House with mutants, and that is part of the problem .  The mood shifts are so sudden and violent that any viewer would suffer from being whipsawed between laughter and angst  It doesn’t make the X-men look very good either, sending a trainee on a mission they should be handling.  The ending is not surprising, because it’s a Marvel movie, and endings don’t matter in Marvel movies.

The acting s ok, just ok, Ryan Reynolds is not a great actor, he’s as average actor, maybe below average.  So maybe,  sarcastic, snide, comic book superhero Is the best he can do for himself.  His best movies are Van Wilder, and Definitely, Maybe, frathouse comedy romantic comedy.  Deadpool weirdly combines both genres, so no wonder he feels comfortable.   Josh Brolin was a serious actor, he was good in No Country For Old Men, he did a good job as George W Bush in W.  But now he’s not in one but two Marvel movies, playing the heavy, Thanos on The Avengers, but playing a more complex role, as Cable.  Since Brolin is not known for comedy, he plays Cable as a straight man.  Here’s a suggestion, how about Larry the Cable Guy plays Cable?  Need an assassin?  Larry would Get ‘er done!  All kidding aside Brolin is quite good in this role.  Zazie Beetz was a breath of fresh air as Domino, she added snark, and a woman’s perspective to the testosterone dominated cast  She almost steals the movie from the incessantly mugging Reynolds. .  Julian Dennison was a bit too whiny, as Russell, he was boxed in by bad writing.  This was not the comic book Russell’s origin story.

The direction was good, pacing was fast, not an over reliance on special effects,  the pacing is good, a few too many explosions.  He gets mostly good performances from the cast.  And the guy is a stuntman, which makes sense for a movie like this which involves big action scenes and lots of stunts.   He directed  Atomic Blonde too, which I did not like.

Deadpool 2:  Not quite dead in the water.

Fahrenheit 451

Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) is a firefighter in the future in Cleveland Ohio.  In this America, firefighters don’t put out fires, they start them.  Specifically they start fires to burn books that are deemed offensive by the government.  The government allows people to read the Bible, In the Lighthouse and Moby Dick, but bans all other literature.  There is a group of people that are fighting this censorship, derisively called Eels by the government and the firefighters.  Under pressure by Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) a young Eel named Clarisse McClellan ( Sophia Boutella) gives Beatty information on one of her fellow resistors, an old woman with a vast library.  When Montag and Beatty get to the location, the old woman burns herself and the library.  Before she burns herself, she yells the word, “Omnis !” The old lady burning herself has a profound effect on Montag.  How does he change?  What is Omnis?

This is not a faithful adaptation of the classic book by Ray Bradbury, and that is not a good thing for viewers of this film.  The central premise of the book involves people turning away from reading books, in favor of other forms of entertainment.  This premise should be more prescient today with the advent of social media, online shopping, and streaming movies, but somehow this adaptation concentrates more on style than substance.  It changes substantial plot points until almost nothing remains of the original book but the title.  This new adaptation adds a meaningless romance to the story and changes the ending to make it look like every other action movie that Hollywood churns out today.  Do yourself a favor, read the book and skip this movie, it will make Ray Bradbury happy and save you the time of comparing this version of the movie to the book.  The book is vastly better anyway.

The acting is above average, for the most part.  Michael B. Jordan is convincing as the conflicted firefighter, where does his loyalty lie, to Beatty or to his conscience? He is boxed in by a script that doesn’t allow for character or plot development Michael Shannon is once again excellent, and turns the intensity up to 11 as Beatty.  He wants to find those eels and stomp out this movement.  Once again, the character is not allowed to develop, and seems one-dimensional.  Sofia Boutella is again hired for her looks and doesn’t even get a chance to show any range in her acting skills.

The direction is more interested in making this a fast-paced glossy image of a movie rather than conveying any big ideas.  So the viewer moves from chase scene to chase scene and images projected on sides of a building.  It’s all style over substance.  The pacing is surprisingly slow for a movie that purports to be an action film.

Fahrenheit 451:  Not So Hot