Posts Tagged ‘gugu mbatha raw’

In the 1950’s, Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a detective investigating the murder of his mentor Frank Minna. (Bruce Willis) Minna was undertaking a secretive corruption investigation involving some of New York City’s most powerful politicians, but he was shot before could finish it. So now, it’s up to Lionel to pick up Minna’s investigation, and try to find out who killed his boss. Using Minna’s notes, Lionel tracks down Laura Rose, (Gugu Mbatha Raw) a crusading lawyer fighting urban renewal. Posing as a reporter, Lionel talks to an idealist named Paul (Willem Dafoe) who says the real power in the city is Parks Commissioner, Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin) a developer, who doesn’t mind displacing a few minorities to see his vision realized. Moses has more than a few secrets as does Paul, but where does Laura fit in, and can Lionel find all the answers, and solve the murder of Frank Minna?

First, and foremost Motherless Brooklyn is a period piece. that makes the storytelling difficult as it is, but the story is a long, meandering story that tries to reinvigorate the noir genre of filmmaking. It tries to combine the film Cotton Club with a Bogart type detective, except that Lionel is not a tough guy, he’s a sensitive guy with Tourette’s Syndrome, unfortunately Lionel is not given many character traits, besides Tourette’s and an eidetic memory, so there’s not much to make the character memorable. The other characters are similarly one dimensional. Motherless Brooklyn could actually be a conscious or unconscious biography of Robert Moses, the master builder of modern New York city. One of the main characters is named Moses Randolph, he is Parks Commissioner, and he’s bullying the mayor for more power. Even if Motherless Brooklyn was a story about Robert Moses it was sloppily told, with a half-hearted romance, and it limps to an anticlimactic finish.

The acting is sub-par. Edward Norton is a good actor, who hit his peak in Fight Club and American History X, but with Lionel, he goes to the well too often with the Tourette’s Syndrome. If he was trying to engender some kind of sympathy for Lionel, it doesn’t work. The Tourette’s utterances after almost every sentence becomes grating, and actually works against him and makes him less likeable. Gugu Mbatha Raw’s character Laura is central to the plot, but her character has very little to say or do, besides be a lukewarm love interest, and that’s not much. Bruce Willis is in this film for a thankfully short time, his whatever charm he had seems to have faded with his looks and he’s not a good enough actor to play character roles. Willem Dafoe can’t help but play a bad guy even when he tries to play an idealist, and that’s what happens here. Alec Baldwin does a passible job as a power-hungry parks commissioner, who wants to be a prime mover in modernizing the city. Baldwin’s voice starts as a guttural groan, and then returns to his normal speaking voice. There are more than a few similarities to another power-hungry New York developer, but he’s done such good comedy work on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, that it’s difficult to take him seriously, even when he’s playing a serious role.

Second-time director Norton makes the mistake many actor/directors make. He thinks that none of the screenplay that he wrote should be edited, so what the viewer ends up watching is a slowly paced, labored piece of filmmaking, that takes forever to come together, and once all the plot points come together, the ending is hardly worth the wait. He doesn’t get inspired performances from his fellow actors, and so the project Norton worked so hard to bring to the screen ultimately falls flat.

Motherless Brooklyn: Not the rebirth of noir that was hoped for.

cloverfield paradox

In the near future, earth is running out of fuel, nations are on the brink of war.  The multination crew of the Cloverfield space station is tasked to test the Sheppard Particle Accelerator, and if see if it’s operational.  If it is, Earth will have a renewable source of energy, and the specter of world war will diminish.  Crew member Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha Raw) is debating whether to join the team or not, she talks it over with her husband, Michael (Roger Davies) and decides to go.

Three years later, the crew is still on the space station and they are nowhere closer to firing up the particle accelerator, but then they have a breakthrough, and they get the particle accelerator to work briefly, and provide energy to the earth.  In doing so, the crew blows the space station wildly off course and off the Earth’s radar. When the station is blown off course, strange things are happening on the ship.  Volkov, (Aksel Hennie) thinks something is wrong with his eye.  The other crew members find a crew member named Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) enmeshed in the wiring of the space station, except no one seems to know her. While sealing the ship’s interior panels, the panels amputate Mundy’s (Chris O’Donnell) arm.  While all this is happening, Tam (Zhang Ziyi) and Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl) are planning something without the knowledge of the commander of the Space Station, Kiel. (David Oyelowo) Did the particle accelerator that threw them into the vast reaches of space, cause these weird occurrences to happen?  Can the crew do anything to repair the accelerator and save themselves and the Earth?

That thud Netflix subscribers heard was this bomb landing in their streaming queue. This is an earth-shatteringly bad film, shockingly produced by JJ Abrams.  Why he would lend his name to this floating piece of excrement is beyond me.  It takes an interesting premise and ruins it.  It starts out as a pretty good mystery, trying to generate the atmospherics of vastly better movies like 2001 or Moon.  The reveal is disappointing, and the ending is a bad joke.  This movie was made to try to explain the original Cloverfield film, which was an awful Godzilla ripoff.  Abrams should have left the Cloverfield movies alone after 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was a decent suspense movie.

Equally shocking is why good actors like David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl and Gugu Mbatha Raw would be in a film like this.  Oyelowo was great in Selma, as Martin Luther King Junior, but he’s given very little to do here.  Daniel Bruhl was very good, as Nicki Lauda in Rush, he was also very good as Lutz Heck in The Zookeeper’s Wife, and again, he’s got a small role.  Mbatha Raw is given the biggest role, and try as she might, she can’t avoid the terrible writing.  Zhang Ziyi, who was great in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and 2046, speaks Mandarin throughout, and that got tiresome.

The direction is quite mundane,and the film feels longer than its 1 hour and 40 minute runtime, Abrams is not the director, and it shows the pacing is sloppy, the performances are lackluster, and the ending is ludicrous.

The Cloverfield Paradox A bad luck Cloverfield for anyone who watches.

miss sloane

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is a lobbyist.  She has engaged in some pretty morally reprehensible things, but she supports her causes unquestioningly. But when her boss, George Dupont, (Sam Waterston) asks her to support a campaign to make women more ardent gun rights supporters, she refuses to work on the campaign and moreover quits the lobbying firm and joins the Brady Campaign, a  gun control organization.  Elizabeth takes along five co-workers, she wants to take a sixth co-worker, but her protégé, Jane Malloy (Allison Pill) stays behind.

Undaunted, Elizabeth joins the Brady campaign, and befriends Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) a fervent believer in gun control who confides her reasons to Elizabeth, but wants to keep her reasons private.  Elizabeth wastes no time in raising money for her new found cause, from wealthy donors like Evelyn Sumner (Christine Baranski) and she gets to work flipping Senators’ votes, 60 is the magic number to withstand a filibuster.  But her slash and burn tactics, and her reckless proclivities anger her political enemies and endanger her friends.  Finally, in a desperate attempt to stop her momentum she is called in front of the Senate Ethics Committee to testify by Senator Ronald Sperling. (John Lithgow)  What comes out at the hearing? Does the bill Elizabeth is championing pass the Senate?

Miss Sloane tries very hard to be a sophisticated version of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  But it really is a sad day in America when a lobbyist is a protagonist in a political drama.  Mr. Smith was a political neophyte and a complete innocent, and that was part of the charm of that movie.  This movie has no charm, it portrays cynical move after another.  And it’s not very realistic, either. If flipping votes in the Senate was as simple as pulling a few political stunts, than fighting the NRA would be easy.  It is not, If Newtown Connecticut can happen and the Congress can’t pass background checks, then nothing will ever defeat the NRA.  So this is just Hollywood wish fulfillment, if Congress can’t pass the real thing, Hollywood can make it up.  And it doesn’t even work as wish fulfillment, because it’s so overtly political, and people, all people, go to movies to escape politics, not to revel in it.

I really love Jessica Chastain, because she enjoys playing a wide variety of roles, and she plays them all pretty well.  She really ties hard to play a tough woman and yet make her likeable, it’s a tough job.  I only wish the script was better and not so contrived, I still like Chastain, but I doubt that anyone could have pulled this role off.  I like Gugu Mbatha Raw too, but the writers make her a victim throughout the film, and she is never allowed to break out of victim mode.  And she disappears almost completely near the end of the film. John Lithgow seems to enjoy playing a puppet politician, but again his role is too predictable.

The direction is nothing special, the pacing is slow at times the movie is very long, and takes a long time to get to its ending.  The director doesn’t get great performances from anyone in particular, and the ending is predictable.

Miss Sloane:  Misses the mark.






In 1862, farmer and Confederate medic Newton Jones (Matthew McConoughey ) becomes disillusioned with the Civil War after his nephew, Daniel, (Jacob Lofland) is killed in battle.  He becomes further disillusioned when a Confederate soldier Lieutenant Barbour (Bill Tangradi) steals corn from the farms in the area including his own.  In October 1862, after the Battle of Corinth, Newt desserts the Confederate army and meets a slave woman named Rachel (Gugu Mbatha Raw) who helps nurse his son back to health.  Later while escaping Confederate troops, Rachel helps Newt into a nearby swamp, where Newt has his hurt leg repaired by another slave named Moses. (Mahershala Ali) From the swamps of Mississippi, Newt and his band of Confederate Army deserters and slaves continue to battle the Confederate army.  But some of the Confederate soldiers resent fighting alongside slaves, can Newt Jones hold his rebellion together?  Can the Confederate army smash the rebellion within their ranks?

The Free State of Jones should have been an interesting movie, but instead, it’s a long, boring tedious movie.  It tries to be a sprawling, sweeping historical epic.  The epic sweep of this film makes the viewer lose focus, because the events span years.  It also splits its time between Newt’s soldiering, and his personal life, which is messy, to say the least.  Finally, it intersperses the story of Newt’s great-great-grandson, and that throws a further monkeywrench in the linear storytelling.

The acting is just ok.  Mathew McConoughey is a great actor, but he’s given very little to do, for the first hour, he literally does nothing.  There are a few compelling scenes for him in this film, and the viewer sees spark of the great skill he possesses, but those scenes are few and far between,  Gugu Mbatha Raw is not given much to do except gaze longingly at McConaughey which she does dutifully, but all romance is inferred, there is not even a kiss between them, and so there is hardly any chemistry to speak of.  Kerri Russell is wasted, she appears in early scenes, disappears and reappears later in the film.

The director also wrote the film, and its length 2 hours and 15 minutes seems much longer as the viewer is dragged along for every inch of Newt Jones journey. The performances aren’t great, and the film is not well lit, the nighttime scenes seem too dark.

The Free State of Jones:  Not Jonesing for this film.


In 1769, Captain Sir John Lindsey  (Matthew Goode) claims her mixed race daughter, Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsey (Lauren Julien-Box, Gugu  Mbatha Raw) and brings her back to the family estate to live with her great uncle, Lord Mansfield, (Tom Wilkinson) Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court.  Belle’s father dies and leaves her a sizable fortune, but she still cannot eat dinner with guests. A young man, John Davinier,(Sam Reid) wants to study the law under the tutelage of Lord Mansfield.  Belle and John quarrel at first, but they seem to be attracted to each other.  John is doing research on the Zong case, a fraudulent insurance case involving a slave ship, which could deal a crippling blow to slavery in England.  Belle helps John find some key papers in the case, but how does Lord Mansfield rule in the case?  Do Belle and John act on their feelings for each other?

Belle is based on a true story, but a true story doesn’t mean it’s a compelling story.  This movie tries to be part Jane Austen type movie about cotillions, and debutantes, and the social niceties of that period, and part Amistad, a movie about a slave ship case.  Add to that the story of a mixed race girl growing up in a mostly white environment.  The trouble is, it’s not enough of Jane Austen, or enough of Amistad.  There are no sparks in the romance, and the slave case seems like an afterthought.  The ending is predictable and didn’t help my opinion of the film.

The acting is not bad.  Gugu Mbatha Raw, tries hard to portray the conflicted nature of being a mixed race woman in the late 1700’s, but the romance which should be a key part of the story falls flat.  There is no chemistry with Sam Reid, no sparks, nothing.  They hug at the end of the movie.  Hug?  Come on.  They are supposed to be in love with each other. Tom Wilkinson tries to class up the picture, but he plays Lord Mansfield as a cantankerous old cuss, who never really warms up to Belle or anyone else.

The pacing is slow and ponderous the movie is long, there are no breathtaking visuals, no great direction.

Belle:  Doesn’t ring true.