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BLACK PANTHER review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 16, 2018 at 6:10 PM

Directed by: Ryan Coogler

Running time: 134 minutes

Release date: February 16, 2018

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


This is an epic saga superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.  It is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  The screenplay is from filmmaker Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole.


The cast consist of Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa/Black Panther: The king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, who gains enhanced strength by ingesting the Heart-Shaped Herb.  After the events of Captain America: Civil War, and the death of his father.  T'Challa is in mourning while ascending to the throne.  But when two enemies conspire to bring down the kingdom, T'Challa must team up, as the Black Panther, with CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) along with is operative and T'Challa's love interest Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), and members of Wakanda's all-female special forces Dora Milaje led by General Okoye (Danal Gurira) to prevent a world war.


In this epic saga the tone is set with elaborate adventurous themes with extravagant and lavash African costumes.  The intense character interaction is highly appreciated as Michael B. Jordan is brought into the film as the villain Erik "Killmonger" Stevens.  He is a Wakanda exile who became an American black-ops soldier and seeks to overthrow T'Challa.  He has his own opinion on how Wakanda has been ruled and should be ruled. 


However, in the background is Ramonda (Angela Bassett), the Queen Mother - T'Challa's mother - who advises T'Challa with some of the answers of what his father might want or might do.  Se may not be exactly right all the time, but she definitely has insights.  T'Challa's 16 year old sister and princess of Wanda is Shuri (Letitia Wright) who designs new technology for the country.  She has an innovative spirit and mind, and wants to take her country forward, while still holding on to her cultural past.  Another cast member is Forest Whitaker as Zuri, an elder statesman in Wakanda and the keeper of the Heart-Shaped Herb.  He is a religious and spiritual figure, and a way to reference the spirituality within Wakanda.


The plot thickens when T'Challa's mettle as king and as Black Panther gets tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk.  Faced with treachery and dange, the new king must rally all of his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.


Additionally, Florence Kasumba and John Kani reprise their roles as Ayo and T'Chaka respectively from Captain America:Civil War.  Sterling K. Brown plays N'Jobu, a figure from T'Challa's past, Isaach de Bankole plays the elder of one of the larget tribes in Wakanda, and Stan Lee has a cameo.  These characters add to the high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises (explosions, disasters, fires, etc.) non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous often two-dimensional 'good guy/gal' heroes and heroines battling 'bad guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism.


As an action tending to feature a resourceful hero(s), the film thrust them into a series of challenges that include physical feats, extended fight scenes and frantic chases as they struggle against incredible odds.  The majority African and African-American ensemble give formidible and engaging performances with advancements in CGI that create significant action sequences and other visual effects.  The production is visionary and imaginative in a sci-fi setting.  It takes the audience to netherworld places and another dimension where events are unlikely to occur in real life.  Yet the plot ties into a moral situation that concerns Africa pertaining to the relationship with African Americans.


Black Panther promotes suspense, a high level of anticipation, nerve-wracking tension, and ultra-heightened expectation.  It is an edgy fantastic science fiction film with a lot of eye candy.


FILM RATING (A)



THE 15:17 TO PARIS review b Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 9, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes

Release date: February 9, 2018

Genre: Drama, Thriller, and History

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG:13


From filmmaker Clint Eastwood comes the real-life story of three American men, portrayed by the real-life men, whose brave act turned them into international heroes in the prevention of a terrorist attack on a Paris bound train travelling from Amsterdam via Brussels in August 2015.  Even more so, this is a character(s) study bio-drama on these three men from their childhood to adulthood.


These men are Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler.  The film picks up as the three are school kids from Sacramento, California, whose mischievious deeds in the Freedom Christian School, forge a close bond.  William Jennings, Bryce Gheisar, and Paul-Mikel Williams respectfully portray the three youths in a fine coming of age performance.  With the focus on Spencer Stone, he grows up with a determination to serve his country and medically save lives in the U.S. Air Force.  While Alek Skarlatos joins the Marine Corp to give his support to the Afghanistan War, Anthony Sadler is left home in California to pursue an undecided career.


Using the three main characters to portray themselves, the film takes on a quasi docu-drama format, as they get on in their lives.  Having them not only play themselves, but star as the three leads in the film, would be an experiment for acclaimed filmmaker Clint Eastwood as well as for Sadler, Skarlatos, amd Stone.  Director Eastwood is quoted by saying, "these three boys really stepped up, and their efforts had a big effect on a lot of people". 


Gaining international fame, the film documents how Stone along with his fellow Americans was recognized by the U.S. Ambassador to France for his actions in saving countless lives and by U.S. President Obama with a ceremony held at the Pentagon .  Oddly enough, The U.S. Air Force broke tradition by within minutes promoting Airman First Class Stone ( a Senior Airman) to a non-commissioned officer to the rank of Staff Sergeant.  However, not shown in the film is the fact that in October 2015, Stone was severely stabbed by a California man during a fight in a downtown Sacramento club.


The 15:17 To Paris is a well structured and clever character(s) study drama of realism displaying great story development and interaction.


FILM RATING (B) 

HOSTILES review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 26, 2018 at 5:05 AM

Directed by: Scott Cooper

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Release date: January 26, 2018

Genre: Drama, Western, Action, and Adaptation

Distributor: Entertainment Studios

MPAA Rating: R


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana.  This is a study of past events connected with a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written, but not always, as a chronological account.  In this American period piece western film written and directed by Scott Cooper, based on an original story by Donald E. Stewart, tells of older years of the Old West and the perils of its western plains. 


Hostiles follows a U.S. Cavalry officer Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) in 1892 who must escort a Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family; son Black Hawk (Adam Beach);  wife of Black Hawk, Elk Woman (Q'orianka Kilcher); and Black Hawk's sister Moon Deer back to their home in Montana.  This is a sentimental request granted by the U.S. government to the dying war chief, and the soon to be retiring Captain Blocker must take on his last order.  Making the harrowing and perilous journey from Fort Berringer, an isolated Army outpost in New Mexico, to the grasslands of Montana, the former rivals in war encounter a young widow Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), whose family family was murdered on the plains by natives.  This suicidal woman joins the band of escorted travelers across treacherous terrain, which determines acceptance of differences.


This is an epic historical costume drama that cover a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.  It is a film that shares elements of the elaborate adventure films genre, taking on an historical time in American society with an extravagant outdoors prairie setting and spectacle.  


The characterization maintains a high standard with brilliant performances all around.  The cast share dramatic scope, high production values, and grandeur.  Each member of the cast add to a serious plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction. 


As a western, the film is a major defining genre of the American film industry.  It is a eulogy to the early days of the expansive American frontier.  It is also, one of the oldest, most enduring genres with very recognizable plots, elements, and characters (six-guns, horses, dusty towns and trails, and Native Americans).  Suspensefully structured and edgy in its delvery, Hostiles promotes a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension.  The texture of the film displays authentic harshness of the times and the gritty performances of life during this era of American history.  These are stories whose central struggle plays out in the midst of a clash of great forces and in the sweep of great historical change.  It is also stories whose central struggle is between a problem and injustice in society where there is a personal stake in the outcome of the struggle, delivering an episodic string of picaresque adventures.   This compliments the brilliant cinematography.


Hostiles is a methodically pace brilliant film that recaptures the life and times of the American frontier in the 19th century.


FILM RATING (A)

DEN OF THIEVES review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 19, 2018 at 2:45 PM

Directed by: Christian Gudegast

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Release date: January 19, 2018

Genre: Drama, Action, and Crime

Distributor: STX Films

MPAA Rating: R


Co-scripted by Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring (WGA credits pending) is a gritty crime thrilling saga that is set in Los Angeles, California.  Starring a stellar cast consisting of Gerard Butler, Paulo Schreiber, O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Brian van Holt, and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson III, is an edge of your seat hardcore gangster tale.


The story depicts a cast of antagonists, avoiding the usual protagonists found in films developed around the sinister actions of criminals and mobsters.  As the cast should consist of good guys and bad guys, this tale consists of all bad guys.  Nick O'Brien (Gerard Butler) is a hard-drinking leader of the Special Crimes Division, an elite unit of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.


Using intense character development and interaction, the focus is the underworld figures and ruthless corrupt police force who operate outside of the law, stealing and murdering their way through life.  The ensemble gives outstanding performances, while supporting a formidably engaging plot of twists and turns.  It is a shocking yet mesmerizing crime story causing its audience not to be able to take its eyes away.  It really pushes the envelope and is emotionally impacting with blazing shoot-outs, car chases, and unnerving harsh dialogue.


While action is always apparent, this movie is high energy with big-budget physical stunts and chases.  Rescues and battles, fights, and escapes are non-stop in motion with spectacular rhythm and pacing.  It is adventurous, often two-dimentional questionable 'good guys' battling 'bad guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism.


As Den Of Thieves is a "throw back" to the British Guy Richie style of crime stories, this Hollywood structured crime thriller is gritty and desolate in nature.  It is a wild ride from start to finish, but the final scenes gives the film all the validity a viewer would want and like.  


This is a rock solid movie!


FILM RATING (B+) 

PADDINGTON 2 review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 12, 2018 at 9:15 AM

Directed by: Paul King

Running time: 1 hr. 43 mins.

Release date: January 12, 2018

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Adaptation, and Sequel

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG


Following the worldwide movie hit Paddington (2014), one of the most successful family films of all time, this much anticipated sequel finds Paddington (voice of Ben Whishaw), the little human-like bear, happily settled with the Brown family in London, where he has become a popular member of the local community, spreading joy and his beloved marmalade wherever he goes.


While searching for the perfect present for his loving Aunt Lucy's (voice of Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday, Paddington sees a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber's (Jim Broadbent) antique shop, and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it.  But when the book is stolen, it is up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief, presumed to be an egotistical has-been actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) set on a revenge scheme.


Reuniting many of the original film's cast while welcoming those in new roles, Paddington 2 stars Golden Globe nominee Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as patriarch Harry Brown, Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) as matriarch Mary Brown, three-time Golden Globe nominee Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, In Bruges, & Into The Storm) as Knuckles McGin, and Oscar nominee Julie Walters (Billy Elliot) as Mrs. Bird.


In this romp, Paddington is wrongly convicted of the theft of the book and is jailed.  While in jail, his marmalade delights the prisoners and staff.  This is when he befriends the short-tempered chef Knuckles McGin (Gleeson), and they escape prison.  Paddington is set on finding the book he wants for his Aunt Lucy's birthday present and thief to prove his innocence.  In the series of adventures set in a comical theme, the tone is developed around the sinister actions of criminals.  The film takes on amusing stories involving intense character development and interaction.  Hugh Grant is a bundle of fun to watch on screen in his villianous character Phoenix Buchanan.  He steals the show.


Paddington 2 is by far a great fun-filled family film.  It is even better the first film Paddington (2014).  Very funny situations that Paddington gets into as he attempts various jobs to earn money for his Aunt's birthday gift is a roller coaster ride of laughs.  This life action animation film offers great visuals and the special effects are fantastic.  This is a must see film by every member of the family.


FILM RATING (A)     



THE POST review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 1, 2018 at 11:05 PM

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Running time: 116 mins.

Release date: January 12, 2018 (wide)

Genre: Drama, Suspense, and History

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

MPAA Rating: PG-13


The Post depicts journalists from The Washington Post and New York Times periodicals who published the leaked documents of the Pentagon Papers regarding the involvement of the U.S. government during the Vietnam War.


This is a film examining the cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) of The Washington Post newpaper, and its hard-driving editor, Ben Bradler (Tom Hanks), to joi an unprecendented battle between journalist and government in publishing The Pentagon Papers.


In understanding the the theme and plot of this film, the backstory and governmental climate of this story must be stated.  The Pentagon Papers, officially titled United States - Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, is a United States Department of Defense history the United States' political-military involement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.  The papers were released by Daniel Ellsber (Matthew Rhys), a government whistle-blower who had worked on the study; first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of The New York Times in 1971.  A 1996 article in The New York Times said that The Pentagon Papers had demonstrated, among other things, that the President Johnson Administration "systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress".  More specifically, the papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.


This is a serious tone film categorizing journalism drama in a contemporary U.S. President Trump era of secrets with a feminist 1970's overtones.  The pacing is of a "tick tock" rythm exercizing suspense and a high level of anticipation as the historical story unfolds.  With supporting characters such as Bruce Greenwood as Robert McNamara who was found lying about the status of the Vietnam War, Carrie Coon as Meg Greenfield, Alison Brie as Lilly Graham, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Abe Roenthal the casr factually depicts the charged conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property.  It also, displays the charges that were later dismissed after prosecutors investigating the Watergate Scandal which discovered that the staff members on the Nixon White House had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.


It is cited by Steven Spielberg after he read the screenplay and decided to direct the film was, "when I read the first draft of the script, this wasn't something that could wait three years - this was a story I felt we needed to tell today."  


This is a good solid narrative.  It is meaningful and relevant to contemporary issues pertaining to journalism and the rights of the press.  It is a well directed suspenseful thriller.



FILM RATING (B)


 

STAR WARS:The Last Jedi review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on December 13, 2017 at 11:25 PM

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Running time: 152 mins.

Release date: December 9, 2017 (L.A.) & December 15, 2017 (NY)

Genre: Science Fiction, Action/Adventure, and Sequel

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


The Star Wars films include two complete trilogies: the original trilogy released between 1977 and 1983, and the prequel trilogy released between 1999 and 2005.  A third that follows the first two began in 2015.  Other films have taken or will take place between the trilogy films.  There have also been several Star Wars television series and films, with the first being released in 1978.  However, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (also known as Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi) is the 2017 epic production.  It is the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).


As the characters are based on the original story by George Lucas, it stars Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Lupita Nyong'o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-P3O), and Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma) in returning roles.  Other cast members include Peter Mayhem and Joonas Suotamo (both returning to portray Chewbacca), Mike Quin as Nien Nunb, Timothy D. Rose as Admiral Ackbar, Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and Benicio del Toro as DJ, along with cameos from Simon Pegg and Tom Hardy to join the cast in this big budget space opera film written and directed by Rian Johnson.


The story picks up from its prequel where Mark Hamil as Luke Skywalker the son of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala, a powerful Jedi Master who has been in self-imposed exile on the planet Ahch-To, must confront his demons.  This is constantly reminded by Rey (Daisy Ridley), a highly Force-sensative scavenger from the desert planet Jakku, who joined the Resistance who finds Luke Sywalker for his reluctant assistance. This assistance is needed to combat Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Supreme Leader Snoke's (Andy Serkis) loyal servant who is strong with the dark side of the Force.


As this action sci-fi film expands its realm with more heroes thrust into the series of challenges that include physical feats, extended fight scenes, violence, and frantic chases, this feature relies on more and more resourceful characterization struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, villains, and pursuits.  This gives advancements in CGI to create action sequences and visual effects that enhances unrealistic and highly unbelievable events on screen.  It gives this film the "WOW" effect.


With the use of grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, and high production values, this extravagant setting special effects adventure, is filled with high energy chases, rescues, battles, and fights.  It is non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, accompanied by intense character development and interaction.  This episode is visionary and imaginative - complete with heroes, aliens, distant planets, impossible quests, great dark and shadowy villians, and extraordinary monsters. 


Filmmaker Rian Johnson creates an edgy suspenseful thriller that promotes a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, and nerve-wracking tension.  I personally find this production in the series to be just as exciting as the original Star Wars (1977), but in a more contemporary atmosphere for the millenial audience.


For pure audience escapism, and pure family enjoyment and fun, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is a sure bet for all movie-goers and die-hard Star War fans everywhere to see.


FILM RATING (A)



2017 NYFCO AWARDS by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on December 10, 2017 at 3:05 AM

                                        NEW YORK FILM CRITICS ONLINE 2017 FILM AWARDS


The New York Film Critics Online is an organization composed of 38 top online film critics in New York City.  It has a rich mix of film reviewers who have carved out original, innovated spaces on the internet for crucial illumination. The group meets once a year in December, and votes its film awards for the year.


PICTURE

The Florida Project (A24) and Mudbound (Netflix) - Tied Titles


DIRECTOR

Dee Rees for Mudbound (Netflix)


ACTOR

Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour (Focus Features)


ACTRESS

Margot Robbie for I, Tonya (Neon Releasing)


SUPPORTING ACTOR

Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project (A24)


SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Allson Janney for I, Tonya (Neon Releasing)


SCREENPLAY

Jordan Peele for Get Out (Universal Pictures)


BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMER

Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classic)


DEBUT DIRECTOR

Jordan Peele for Get Out (Universal Picture)


ENSEMBLE CAST

Mudbound (Netflix)


DOCUMENTARY

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Zeitgeist)


FOREIGN LANGUAGE

In the Fade (Magnolia)


ANIMATION

COCO (Disney/Pixar)


Steven Price (music by) and Kristen Lane (music supervisor) for Baby Driver (TriStar)


                                                       TOP FILMS (Alphabetical Order)

Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)

Dunkirk (Warner Bros.)

The Florida Project (A24)

Get Out (Universal Pictures)

I, Tonya (Neon)

Lady Bird (A24)

Mudbound (Netflix)

Phantom Thread (Focus Features)

The Post (20th Century Fox)

The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)







DOC NYC coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 29, 2017 at 4:45 PM

                                                                          DOC NYC 2017


                AMERICA'S LARGEST DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL - NOVEMBER 9 -16, 2017


This being the 8th edition of the festival, it has assembled a thrilling and highly informative lineup.  The film programming includes various sections, such as,  SPECIAL EVENTS includes Opening Night, The Final Year, an unprecented look at the Obama admistration; Centerpiece, Far From the Tree, based on Andrew Solomon's bestseller; and Closing Night, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.


DOC NYC's competition sections - VIEWFINDERS, highlighting distinct directorial visions; METROPOLIS, for one-of-a-kind New York stories, and SHORTS - feature pioneer women, champion-making coaches, boxing hopefuls and Guardian Angels, among other fascinating subjects.


This year sees the launch of NEW WORLD ORDER, a section reflecting today's most urgent issues; and CENTERSTAGE, which focuses on the performing arts, from stand-up to ballet.  These join popular returning thematic sections on TRUE CRIME:SCIENCE NONFICTION, about sience and technology, with a special focus on energy; ART & DESIGN, profiles of artists and designers; animal-themed WILD LIFE; unconventional MODERN FAMILY portraits; cinephile celebrations BEHIND THE SCENES; activism-oriented FIGHT THE POWER and music doc strand SONIC CINEMA.


AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES presents stories from around the country, from forgotten history of an influential spiritual leader to a portrait of intergenerational learning.  INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES goes globetrotting, visiting India, Cuba, Pakistan. Lebanon, Australia, Canada, and Micronesia.


For more information go to: www.DOCNYC.net


SELECTIVE REVIEW COVERAGE:


MAYNARD

Directed by: Samuel D. Pollard/Sam Pollard

Running time: 99 minutes (USA)

Genre: Documentary and Biography


Academy Award nominee and Emmy winning diector Samuel D. Pollard/Sam Pollard whose body of work includes producing and editing has tackled a personality depicting a historical expance of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop of Atlanta, Georgia. This memorable personality is Maynard Jackson Jr., Atlanta's first black mayor in 1973.  Sam Pollard's work is specifically documentary filmmaking known for 25th Hour (2007), 4 Little Girls (1997), and Clockers (1995). His directorial debut was his 2 episode TV Series documentary was Ain't Gonna Shuffle No More: 1964 - 1972 (1990) and Two Societies: 1965 - 1968 (1990).


Maynard Jackson, Jr., is examined in detail, from the son of pastors raised in the segregated South.  This highly intelligent and charismatic man was a protege who entered college at the age of 14 years old..  His siblings speak of him as a vibrant youngster who was always amiable, but had a serious side to his persona.  With personal and indepth converstions with personal/professional friends such as Vernan Jordan, Andrew Young, and Al Sharpton the audience will understand how and what drove this motivated civil rights activist to become a trailblazer as the three-term first African American mayor of Atlanta, in 1973.  


The film explores the turmoil of the traumatic child murders of the 1990s and his triumph of being the host of the 1996 Olympics.  As racial equality stayed relevant, Maynard Jackson brought some of the bigotted attitudes to a halt.


This is a highly impressive cinematic examination of a civil rights activist turned politician, who navigated a wave of social movements that profited Atlanta, Georgia, along with the nation and the world.


The structure and tone of the film depicts a familial and professional atmosphere focusing on home movies, archival footage, and oral histories that explore Maynard Jackson's life from multiple viewpoints.  This is a highly meaningful and informative film that will enlighten all.


FILM RATING (A) 


MORE COVERAGE TO BE POSTED SOON:


 

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 26, 2017 at 4:25 AM

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Release date: November 10, 2017

Genre: Drama, Crime, and Comedy

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


After months pass without a culprit in her teenage daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton) murder case, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) pays for three signs challenging the authority of William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the town's revered chief of police.  When the second in command, Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a 'mother's boy' adult with a penchant for violence and reknowned racial bigotry, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law inforcement threatens to engulf the town.


The tone is immediately set in the beginning of the film as a darkly comedic drama from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges).  Academy Award winner Frances McDormand portrays a grieving mother, ex-wife of a domestically abusive ex-cop husband Charlie (John Hawkes), and mother of a high school senior (sibling of Angela) son Robbie Hayes (Lucas Hedges).  Mildred makes a bold move, painting three signs on billboards leading into her town with a controversial message directed at Police Chief William "Bill"  Wiiloughby's (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson) cold case.  The tension is exacerbated as clues unviel to the identity of the murderer(s), and how the town's people resolve to being rediculed as being less involved to resolving the case of rape,murder, and burning of Angela.


Though, this is a serious minded 'who done it' crime drama, the dark humored dialogue sets the surrealistic stage in a populism mirror and forming a provocative form of comedy emphasizing the absurdity of the world and the omnipresence of human views.  Unlike populism, which preaches hope after death, the message of this dark comedy is that this story goes beyond a joke or anticomedy, because it fights the new law of laughter by keeping its audience on edge.  It is life like as a narrative, yet the dark comedy is disjointed.  It keeps the viewer off balance with shock effects that are visual, reminiscent to the protruding wood shredder in Fargo (1996).  


The supporting cast members of Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, and Samara Weaving, completes the character study and plot driven presentation.  It is an actual contemporary setting portraying realistic characters involving intense character development and interaction.  Yet, the film focuses on the unsolved crime and the central character Mildred, who finds challlenges in the cold and methodical pursuit of the criminal and the solution to the crirme.  All of these supporting characters promote intense excitement, suspense, a high level of anticipation, and uncertainty in this thrilling narrative.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is raw, gritty, and inticingly darkly funny.  It is a must see film.


FILM RATING (A-)


     

JUSTICE LEAGUE review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 7, 2017 at 3:25 AM

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Running time: 2 hours 1 minute

Release date: November 7, 2017

Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, and Science Fiction

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


From Warner Bros. Pictures comes the first ever Justice League big screen epic action adventure, and starring as the famed lineup of DC Super Heroes: BenAfflect as Batman, Henry Cavil as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, James Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg.  This is the story based on the characters from DC Comics and Superman Comics created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.


Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne aka Batman enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince aka Woner Woamn, to face an even greater enemy.  Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat.  But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes-Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash-it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.  With an ingenious plan the team resurrects Superman to add the necessary help to defy the enemy. 


The film also brings back Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred (Bruce Wayne's butler and Batman's aide),Diane Lane as Martha Kent (Clark Kent aka Superman's mother), Connie Nielson as Queen Hippolyta and Joe Morton as Silas Stone, and expands the universe by introducing J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Ciaran Hinds as Steppenwolf, and Amber Heard as Mera.


Picking up shortly after Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince go their separate ways, the story reconnects these two main characters who may not always see the same road toward their shared goal.  But it is their shared motivation-to do right by the sacrifice of Superman's life- to combat Steppenwolf, an eight foot tall warrior from the nightmare world of Apokolips.  He seeks the power to conquer the world and transform it into his own.  The Justice League is formed from gritty Gotham to Central City, the  populous Paris to the frozen wilds of Iceland, from Themyscira to Atlantis, and from buzzing Metropolis to the serenity of Smallville.  They will come together as the greatest team of Super Heroes in the DC universe.


From start to finish, this is a "super-duper" action hero film - and some.  You can't go wrong with this flick!!


FILM RATING (A)

THOR: Ragnarok review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 3, 2017 at 6:15 PM

Directed by: Taika Waititi

Running time: 130 minutes in 3D, IMAX, and IMAX 3D

Release date: November 3, 2017

Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Science Fiction, Sequel, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG:13


In this sequel to 2011's Thor and 2013's Thor: The Dark World is the seventeenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe series.  The superhero film is based on the Marvel Comics character Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins. 


The plot's setting is four years after the events of Thor: The Dark World, and two years after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is held captive on the planet Sakaar without his hammer Mjolnir.  He is placed in a situation whereas he must win a gladiatorial duel agains an old friend - the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) - in order to return to the planet Asgard in time to stop the villainous Hela (Cate Blanchett) and the impending Ragnorak, the end of all Asgardian civilization.  


The Hulk character played by Mark Ruffalo joined the cast crossing over from other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, adding elements from the 2006 comic storyline "Planet Hulk" specifically adapted for Ragnarok.


Chris Hemsworth is Thor, the crown price of Asgard based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name, who has become a "lone gunsliger" while solving universe-ending perils in his search to learn more about the Infinity Stones.  His strong moral code, including his willingness to risk his own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward is his motivation.


Tom Hiddleston is Loki, Thor's adoptive brother and nemesis based on the deity of the same name.  He is a constant trickster, and is always trying to find new ways to be mischievous.  He is the narcissistic brother who has a chip on his shoulder due to the previous interaction he has had with his brother in The Avengers.  His relationship with his brother Thor isn't hate, but indifference and envy.


Cate Blanchett plays Hela, Thor's sister and the goddess of death, based on the deity Hel, who was been inadvertently released from her prison.  She is an arch enemy of her brothers Thor and Loki, and plans to gain supreme power(s) to gain sole rule of the universe by killing all of her foes.  However, she must make compromizes with a deeper evil doer to accomplish this feat.


Idris Elba is Heimdall, a former all-seeing, all-hearring Asgardian sentry of the Bifrost Bridge, als based on the same named deity.  He has gone into self exile after evil Hela invades Asgard.  He was once an elder statesman of Asgard to a warrior-wizard who lives in the hills with refugees evading persecution from Hela's regime.  His alliance is with Thor and the peace for the people of Asgard.


Jeff Goldblum is Grandmaster, one of the Elders of the Universe.  He has a fascination with gaming and chance who rules the planet Sakaar.  He enjoys manipulating lesser forms life-forms as a self-pleasure seeker.


Mark Ruffalo is Hulk/Bruce Banner, a genius scientist who, because of exposure to gamma radiation, transforms into a monster when enraged or agitated.  He becomes a successful and popular gladiator on Sakaar, as he is pitted against Thor.


Tessa Thompson is a tough, hard-drinking Asgardian warrior, who was once a member of Odin's elite troops and now works as the bounty hunter SR-142 for Grandmaster while hiding out on Sakaar.  She befriends Hulk and they have a hidden relationship.


Karl Urban is Skurge, an Asgardian warrior who is aligned with Hela and the guards of the Bifrost Bridge in Heimdall's absence.  He is Hela's henchman, but it plays on his conscience.


Anthony Hopkins is Odin, the king of Asgard, father of Thor, adopted Loki, and villainous Hela.


As this sci-fi action adventure film is action-packed, the comic book story laces the dialogue with humor.  With the potential of the end of civilizations is due in a post and apocalyptic manner from catastrophe such as warfare, pandemic, and extraterrestrial attack, satirical humor is retained.  The comedic acts anesthetizes emotions to experience both laughter and discomfort, sometimes simultaneously, arising from cynicism and skepticism.  Meanwhile, the science fiction is very imaginative with futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life.  It eschews the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, its imaginary elements are largely plausible within scientifically established context of the story.


Thor: Ragnarok, is a fun ride for audience ecaspism.  Try it - you'll like it!!


FILM RATING (B)


 


NYFF-55 reviews, capsules, editorials , and coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on September 28, 2017 at 11:15 PM

                                                            THE NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

                                                            September 28 - October 15, 2017


The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces 25 films for the Main Slate of the 55th New York Film Festival.


This years Main Slate showcases films honored at Cannes including Ruben Ostlund's Palme d'Or - winner The Square, Robin Campillo's BPM, awarded the Cannes Critics' Prize; and Agnes Varda &Jr.'s Faces Places, which took home the Golden Eye.  From Berlin, Aki Kaurismai's Silver Bear winner The Other Side of Hope and Agnieszka Holland's Alfred Bauer Prize winner Spoor mark the returns of two New York Film Festival veterans, while Luca Guadagnino's acclaimed Call Me by Your Name will be his NYFF debut.  Also returning are Armaud Desplechin, Noah Baumbach, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Claire Denis, Philippe Garnel, Lucrecia Martel, and Hong Sang-soo, who has two features in the lineup this year, while filmmakers new to the festival includes Sean Bean, Greta Gerwig, Serge Bozon, Dee Rees, Chloe Zhao, Joachim Trier, Alain Gomis, and Valeska Grisebach.


The NYFF-55 Opening Night is Richard Linklater's Last Flag Flying, Todd Hayne's Wonderstruck is Centerpiece, and Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel will close the festival.  


Along with the many categories, a Retrospective on Robert Mitchum will be showcased.  Hollywood has had no shortage of men's men, but perhaps no actor advanced so complex and alluring a model as Robert Mitchum. His incomparabe career stretched across five decades from a bit player in war films and westerns in the 1940s into bona fide star working with some of Hollywood's most towering figures (Hawks, Preminger, Tourneur, Minnelli) in nearly every genre.


*OPENING FILM*

LAST FLAG FLYING

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Running time: 124 minutes

Release date: November 3, 2017

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Adaptation, and Sequel

Distributor: Amazon Studios & Lionsgate

MPAA Rating: R


In Richard Linklater's lyrical road movie, as funny as it is, it is heartbreaking, as three aging Vietnamera Navy vets - soft spoken Larry 'Doc' Shepard (Steve Carell), unhinged and unfiltered Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston), and quietly measured Minister Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) - reunite to perform a sacred task: the proper burial of Doc's only child, who was been killed in the early days of the Iraq invasion.  It is a film based on the 2005 novel by the same title and is a sequel to the 1973 Hal Ashby film The Last Detail.


These three men who once served in the same Marine unit together accompany Doc, as old friends, up the Eastern seaboard for the burial.  Now on a different mission, they forgo this mission to bury Doc's son at Arlington Cementary.  The trip up the East Coast with the casket takes on a bittersweet trip to Doc's home in suburban New Hampshire as Doc, Sal, and Mueller reminisce and come to terms with shared memories of the war that continues to shape their lifes.


Director Linklater gives us a rich rendering of freindship, a grand mosaic of common life in the USA during the Bush era, and a striking meditation on the passage of time and the nature of truth.  Meanwhile the individual performances by Carell, Cranston, and Fishburne are brilliant.  Steve Carell portrays a mild mannered, yet stern man determined to bury his son in a meaningful manner.  His demeaner is of a loner who suffered a Bad Conduct Discharge from his Vietnam era military duty.  Though his performance is reserved, it is powerful. Bryan Cranston's performance as Sal is terrific.  He is a wise-cracking sarcastic bar owner who drinks up his profits with a carefree attitude.  His performance is the energy that fuel the pacing of the plot.   Laurence Fishburne delivers an impeccable performance as a once rowdy young Marine now turned into a thoughtful methodic preacher.  The chemistry between these three award winning actors is mesmerizing, as they give emotionally impacting portrayals of their characters.  The film offers a great cameo appearance from Cicely Tyson. And a superb supporting performances by J. Quinton Johnson and Yul Vazquez


This plot driven presentation portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interactions is often a wild and hilarious ride.  Yet, it is also, a fearless cinematic form of surealism.  With the use of great dialogue, this dramedy gives life to a subplotted 'Bromance' offering a heartbreaking and memorable emerging narrative.


In a Q&A session Richard Linklater said, "I read Darryl's book and I decided it would be a war and roadtrip movie about these guys who reflect on combat casualties.  We shot the film on Veteran's Day using actual empty coffins that felt real."  He continued by saying, "the project was in effect in 2005 as a sequel and we developed it.... this was structured directly from the novel."  Bryan Cranston commented about the dark comedy in the story by saying, "the humor gives texture to the grieving story and strengthens the structure."  Laurence Fishburne added, "the vets (three main characters) are more alike because of the people who are left behind in death and who they grieve for."


Last Flag Flying challenges the reality of why men and women are military.  It delves into the reality of combat missions and its reasoning.  And the resolution of death.  This is a brilliant film.


FILM RATING (A)


*CENTERPIECE*

Wonderstruck

Directed by: Todd Haynes

Running time: 117 minutes

Release date: October 20, 2017

Genre: Drama, Family, Mystery, and Adaptation

Distributor: Amazon Studios

MPAA Rating: PG


In the literary environment of family readings, Brian Selznick's 2011 critically acclaimed novel Wonderstruck is recognized as a masterpiece.  It is a vision of imagination and storytelling set in two different eras of two children's lives  who secretly aspire for more out of life.  As the author of the novel, Brian Selznick pens the screenplay and director Todd Haynes adapts this to the large screen with startling depth and beauty.


The film takes place in both 1927 and 1977.  In the earlier time period, 12 year old Rose (Millicent Simmonds) dreams of her mother, a mysterious actress Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook.  Rose lives in New Jersey with a dominate and often abusive father, but she finds her life restrictive, so she runs away from home for the bright lights of New York City's theater district in search of her mother.  In the latter film frame of this dual-level parallel plot, pre-teen Ben (Oakes Fegley) of Minnesota, is a self-determined boy who is raised by a female single parent who abruptly dies, while leaving Ben to be raised by his aunt. However, Ben has a strong inquiry as to who his father is.  Ben discovers a puzzling clue of the identity of his father who lives in New York City.  Motherless Ben sets of in search for his missing father he never met.  What makes both of these scenarios so unique is the fact that both Rose and Ben are deaf children.


These parallel adventures, unfolding largely without dialogue, are exuberant memoiric-style character and plot driven presentations portraying realistic characters, nolstagic settings, and life situations.  The two young actors are brilliant and simultaneously capture their trails to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The flashback scenes of Rose's perils in the 1920s New York City intertwines to the decades later quest of Ben's as he interacts with the sleeze of New York City's 1970s.  It is a lovingly intricate adventure focusing on the power of obsession, with a highly moral tale incoming of age.  The period piece settings cover a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop, which tremendously enhances the film.


Julianne Moore's presence in the latter part of this film as an adult Rose is a marvelous move in Todd Haynes' direction.  In a Q&A with Todd Haynes he explained about the production by saying, "when I read the book it was audible yet cinematical.  I thought it would be really special with relevance to young people."  He also added, "the museum setting from the two time periods assembles the museum backdrop as a venue that holds history."


Wonderstruck is a one of a kind marvel of storytelling.  It is a generation gap plot that brings the generations together.  It is also a historical coming of age that is a body of work that fundamentally tells important elements which each element shares.  The dual plots in the past from where they where centered around are focused mainly for young people on the verge of some maturation process significantly shaping and impacting the rest of their lives.  However, the film distinctly merges into a grander scale providing a broader societal aspect in the outcomes which they resulted in.


FILM RATING (A+)



*CLOSING FILM*

WONDER WHEEL

Directed by Woody Allen

Release date: December 1, 2017

Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes

Genre: Drama

Distributor: Amazon Studios

MPAA Rating: PG-13


Prolific filmmaker Woody Allen, along with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro bring to life recollections of a past era in one of New York City's memorable setting, Coney Island in the 1950s.


Led in a remarkble cast is Kate Winslet as a middle-age Ginny, a mother of a pre-teen boy Richie and wife of widower Humpty (Jim Belusi).  It's a layered story partially narrated by a charismatic Coney Island lifeguard Mickey Rubin (Justin Timberlake), who strikes affection with married Ginny.  Ginny is in a hemmed in and hard-press marital situation who in her own way loves Humpty, a carousel manager.  She works part-time at a diner on the boardwalk, while attempting to keep her cinephile son Richie from setting fires.  Meanwhile, Humpty a recovering alcoholic, relies heavily on Ginny to keep him sober, which resulted from the death of his first wife.


Adding to the layers of this complicated plot, Juno Temple is introduced into the film as Humpty's long lost adult daughter, Caroline.  She left the downtrotting environment of Coney Island to marry a mobster, but her return to home is for security reasons.  She has turned state evidence against her husband and the mob, and there is a 'hit' on her.  Humpty is of course happy for the return of his daughter, but Ginny is reluctant to the threat of violence being placed in their home with Caroline's presence.


As Ginny's demeanor becomes more and more depressed, she meets the suave and young Mickey the Lifegauard (Timberlake) on the beach.  As the partial narrator of the film, he sets the tone for a lonely and once aspiring actress, falls for his charms.  As an extra-marital affairs builds between Ginny and Mickey, Caroline becomes more comfortable with her estrange relationship with her loud and voicetrous father.  Yet, the mob is searching Caroline, as she takes on a part-time position at a diner that Ginny is employed.  The close community of Coney Island is all but too close to elude anyone or for anyone not to find out secrets.


Kate Winslet captures the screen with a remarkably strong presence, while Juno Temple twinkles in a character whose back is to the wall.  Jim Belusi is brilliant in his performance, which adds to a completion to a magnificent story of many dimensions.  The story imbodies memories of a carnival-style era, that set against a detailed backdrop.  The formidable and engaging performances define the characterization of hollow shells of complicated people.  


Wonder Wheel is a creatively embracing film daring its audience to live the life of its characters on their terms.


FILM RATING (A-)


*EDITORIAL: RETROSPECTIVE ON ROBERT MITCHUM*


Robert Charles Durman Mitchum (August 6, 1917 - July 1, 1997) was an American film actor, director, author, poet, composer, and singer.  A man who successfully reinvented himself in his discipline(s) for several decades and is rated number 23 on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest male stars of Classic American Cinema.


Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut into a Methodist family, his mother Ann Harriet Gunderson was a Norwegian immigrant and a sea captain's daughter; his father James Thomas Mitchum of Scotish-Ulster and of Blackfoot Native American decent was a shipyard and railroad worker.  His siblings are Julie and John Mitchum.  


Throughout Robert Mitchum's childhood, he was known as a prankster, often involved in fistfights and mischief. When he was 12 years old, his mother sent him to live with his grandparents in Felton, Delaware, where he was promptly expelled from his middle school for scuffling with the school principal.  He then was sent to live with his sister in Hell'sKitchen, New York City, however he was once again expelled from another school.  He left his sister's home and traveled throughout the country on railroad cars, taking on many different jobs, such as, ditch-digging and professional boxing.  He experienced numerous adventures during his years as one of the Depression era's 'wild boys of the road'.  At the age of 14, in Savannah, Georgia, he was arrested for vagrancy and place on the local chain gang.  By Mitchum's on account, he escaped and returned to his family in Delaware and married Dorothy Spence.  He soon became restless and went back to the rails to California.


In 1936, he arrived in Long Beach, California, again staying with his sister Julie, who now is aspiring to become an actress.  Julie encouraged him to join a local theater group, and Robert Mitchum soon felt the stink from the bug of acting.  He made a living as a stagehand and occasionally took on bit parts in the company's productions. He also, wrote several short pieces that were performed by the theater guild.  Yet, he fell back on steady work as a manual laborer at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation after the birth of his first born child James, in 1940.


As the 1940s began, he got an agent and took small villain parts in B westerns with William Boyd's Hopalong Cassidy series.  Soon he was given parts in Randolf Scott westerns and earned a contract with RKO Pictures where he was groomed for B western stardom in a series of Zane Grey adaptations.


He is initially known for his work in film noir.  The NYFF-55 showcases such films in this genre; Angel Face, Cape Fear, His Kind of Woman, Home from the Hill, Macao, The Name of the Hunter, Farewell My Lovely, Out of the Past, and Pursued.  His work also garnered succes in the western genre; Blood on the Moon, El Dorado, Till the End of Time, The Lusty MenTrack of the Cat, and The Wonderful Country.  However, his dramatic work was powerfully performed in; Cape Fear (remake), The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Thunder Road, Undrcurrent, The Yakuza, and Nice Girl's Stay for Breakfast.


It is amazing how this one man was so deligently successful  in the 1940s westerns and film noir.  Every decade he would reinvent himself in various other genres.  Meanwhile, he remained a successful writer, poet, composer, singer, and musician.  His biography alone is a story ripe for a major picture film. 


 


 

SHOT review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on September 21, 2017 at 10:45 PM

Directed by: Jeremy Kagan

Running time: 89 minutes

Release date: September 22, 2017

Genre: Drama and Crime

Distributor: Paladin

MPAA Rating: Not rated


Feature movie and television director, producer, and writer Jeremy Kagan has a long standing accomplished professional career dating back 30 years.  In his new feature film project Shot, he weaves a multi-layered narrative that tackles issues of domestic union, oppressed bullying, illegal guns, religion, honesty, and forgiveness.


In this stimulating film starring Noah Wyle as Mark Newman, is a Los Angeles man coping with the strains of everyday life, along with the anxiety of the dissolvement of his marriage to his wife Phoebe (Sharon Leal).  As he and Phoebe conclude their lunch encounter, leaving their marraige in a negative balance, and begin to walk down the street, a shot rings out and strikes Mark leaving him severely bleeding on the streets of East Los Angeles.  In a frustrated and confused state, Phoebe attempts to help her husband.


While, in the other layer of this anxious narrative, there is a local teenager Miguel (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), who is a victim of bullying by gang members, receiving the solution of protection -a pistol - from his cousin a block away, accidently fires the weapon hitting Mark.  Miguel tucks the gun under his shirt and flees the area once he sees what he has done.  In this riverting moment, filmmaker Jeremy Kagan splits the screen to energize the narrative by showing each characterization of frustration and fear by all concerned.


Each scenario from the shooting that plagues this situation is explored thoroughly by the filmmaker.  Mark and Phoebe are forced to undergo a resolution concerning their marriage.  Noah Wyle brilliantly portrays a man coming to grips with paralysis of his legs.  The journey of mental and physical therapy is strenuous, but still remains unresolved.  The unresolvement spills over to his relationship with his wife Phoebe, but she stands strong to help him along.  It also, gives Mark a startling reality check, as the multi-plots intertwine.  Rendering Noah Wyle with a powerful final scene.


Meanwhile, Miguel who is a good kid, who comes from a religious family and seeks spiritual relief from the church is confused and scared. However, fear of turning himself into the police is a dangerous remedy, because he must tell the whole truth about who gave him the weapon.  Even his mother knows that this would be the end of Miguel's life if he goes to the hardened gang ridden prison.  This also renders Jorge Lendeborg Jr. with a powerful final scene as the plots merge.


This is a serious, multi-plot driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  However, this is not to spotlight the activities of criminal activities, but to examine the collateral damage the criminal activities project.  And it does offer the audience an abundance of supense promoting intense excitement, a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expection, and uncertainty.  While in another theme of this emerging narrative, it is enhanced as a coming of age scenario, as young Miguel, masterfully played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr., shows he has to make an adult decision, in this challenging role of determination.


As this is emotionally impacting in content, it is also a fearless cinematic form of surrealism.


Shot is a visually extaordinary and philosophically provocative stimulating story about the limits of personal and spiritual limits.  Using crisp pacing in this multi-dimensional movie, it is convincingly a film that redefines forgiveness.  The moral tone is heart-wrenching and the innovated split screen depiction of the characters gives clarity to their excellent performances.  This film is shocking yet mesmerizing.....you won't be able to take your eyes away.


FILM RATING (A-)   


   

MOTHER! review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on September 15, 2017 at 4:35 PM

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Running time: 2 hours 1 minute

Release date: September 15, 2017

Genre: Drama, Horror, and Mystery

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


Acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky who has generated controversy for his often surreal and disturbing films such as, Requiem for a Dream, Below, The Fountain, The Wrestler,Black Swan, and Noah all used the mindset of psychologically enduces his audiences.  With a star clustered cast consisting of Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfieffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Jovan Adepo, Stephen McHattie, and a host of extras this psychological horror film follows a young woman whose tranquil life with her husband at their country home is disruupted by the arrival of mysterious visitors.


In a newly renovated house Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her notable writer husband Him (Javier Bardem).  Him is having a severe writer's block, and it takes its toll on the tranquility of their blissful domestic and sexual relationship.  It also affects the venue itself, by Mother hearing and visualizing a beating heart within the walls.  This is a metaphor for a child to be brought into the world by the couple.  However, this doesn't help Him's writer's block.  


One day, a Man (Ed Harris) turns up at the door of the couple, thinking their home is a 'bed and breakfast' facility. Him welcomes Man to stay, although Mother is reluctant.  The next day Man's wife Woman (Michelle Pfieffer) arrives to stay, and they indicate that they are fans of Him's work.  Him feeds off of the compliments and inspires him to write, as well as, find a sexual explosion with Mother.  Everything is great until Him falls ill, and upsets the balance of the visitors.  Yet, the upcoming joy of Mother expecting a child is fuel for Him to complete his writing and publish.  Or is that enough for Him?  It seems that Him has an enormous thirst for praise for his enormous ego.  And only more fans visiting the house to praise him would satisfy him.


Watching this film may have a David Lynch influence, as the plot thrives on bizarre and absurdity in its tone. Howevver, the close-up shots of Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem gives the production an innovatedly creative look at the characters.  It is quite evident, cinematic influences and themes are reminscent.  The style of this production is of getting down to thrill the soul of the audience, with admiration for such filmmakers as Stanley Kubrick, Federico Felini, Werner Herzog, Jacques Tali, and Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950).  The imaginative sequences of Him's fans invading the home gives a unmanageable circus atmosphere to the setting, much like the classic film Carnival of Souls (1962). This produces the director's knack for building a mood of fatalistic angst.


Much to the build up of this anxiety with apparations, spirtis, and depictions of extraordinary, as the second and third acts takes the audience, it can't execute on its delivery that a David Lynch would have done under the same situation of filmmaking.  I find that Darren Aronofsky's concept is charactized by the assumption of importance, especially when exaggerated by gore and blood scenes, much like a 'livng dead' attack.  The direction of the storyline falls to being pretentious and absurd.  It is a forced attempt to give the audience a chill-up-the-spine. Where as suspense is to be a vehicle to motivate and move the plot onward, there is little substance to promote intense excitement, high level anticipation, or uncertainty in this film.  What happens is that we are presented with a comical and whimsical delivery.  


As this film sparks controversy for being an energizing narrative for its spectacle, the performances by the major characters seemed forced and overacted.  These are accredited actors who have garnered accolades, but they are placed in a situation under Darren Araonofsky's direction to deliver anxious, confused, and troublesome performances.  The problem is that Mother! is penalized for poor execution.


FILM RATING (C+) 




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