A Cruise Of Crime is Made Okay

American

 

 

American politics is a theater that continues to garner more attention than even the biggest award shows.  The players in their games can be just as interesting, especially in how far they go to accomplish their tasks.  My second review of the weekend focuses on one such person named Barry Seal, a famous American pilot who was a cog in so many aspects. What does this movie have in store for us?  Robbie K here to fill in on the latest biography and give you insight into another silver screen story.  Let’s go

 

LIKES:

 

The Setting: Technology’s progression allows us to do many things, and one is recreating the past. American Made is a shining example of Hollywood’s ability to recreate the trends of the decades, from what towns/cities looked like to the fashion and cars that filled them.  You’ll be pulled back in time with this film, and become integrated in the world and fully diving into the world crafted by Seal’s actions. In addition, it’s also fun to see old news’ broadcasts integrated into the mix, further amping up the story.   And for all you nostalgia lovers out there, feel free to have fun remembering the adventures you back then.

 

Cruise’s Acting:  Say what you want about Tom Cruise’s personal life, but the man can certainly play his roles well.  Cruise comes in spades with this film, capturing arrogance, coyness, and that adventurous spirit all in one sitting.  His skills will bring out the emotions of the time period, the fear of being that pivotal chess piece that so many depend on.  Cruise’s chemistry with all his co-actors is favorable, resulting in a performance that feels natural. In addition, his dynamic abilities to transition between sub roles, further brings the character to life, an essential for a key role.

 

Thorough Tale:  Biographies are only as fascinating as the story presented, which often requires details.  Our directors/screenwriters have got you covered in this movie, sparing no time cost to hit all the deals that Seal was involved in.  Their presentation keeps guides you well in this movie, using captioned slide transitions and Cruise’s comedic dialogue to set the time and place of the next adventure.  It’s an easy tale to keep up with and hits so many qualities of Seal’s life in tandem to his antics (including family, friends, and even sanity).  I felt that of all the books brought to life, this was one that hit the closest to home.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Magic vs Reality:  The challenge with these films is determining what is real and what is overdramatized.  There are plenty of moments where that question comes up, as the cast of characters appears with grandiose gestures and presentations to corrupt the system. As the story progresses, the whole conspiracy gets even larger and the drama amps up to levels that are hard to believe.  The over dramatization gets a little cheesy at times, and made me roll my eyes at the extremes the legal system went to and how untrustworthy they were. Fans of this style though, will easily be hooked into the escapades of the movie.

 

Skimped on other factors:  While American Made touches on many aspects of the film, there was an imbalance in how much they would focus on those other aspects.  The family aspect was so heavily influenced at the beginning, but then gets diluted down to background noise and occasional shots.  Same thing goes for a few business partners he contracts as well, a rather focused opening, but then runs out of gas. While I give them props for keeping things concise, the disjunction between these aspects is a little disappointing to me, especially how one would affect the other.  In addition, these rushed elements took the suspense away from me.

 

The wasted sequences:  The most annoying thing for me though, were the tangential flashes that occur in this movie.  Seal’s memories are fascinating to see, but there are a few of them that were pointless to have sequences for.  An example is him randomly saying he had kids, only to flash to a scene of her in labor for a brief comedic relief.  While a noble attempt, it was nothing a well-placed line could have done as well. There are other examples as well that all could have been left out, thereby further reducing the run length.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            American Made is a great biography that has some flare other biographies have lacked for me.  Cruise leads the way in terms of strengths for this movie, but the world and tale itself are an entertaining venue to watch.  Yet, there are plenty of overdramatic moments and wasted shots that have made this a glorified Netflix/History Channel worthy production.  If you are looking for a good biography though, scope this one out, otherwise wait for next week’s releases before going to the theater. 

 

My scores;

 

Action/Biography/Comedy:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

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Don’t Leavey Your Tissues Behind

Leavey

 

This weekend is certainly a mixed bag of movies from adventure/fantasy to horror/mystery. So why not throw in a military/biographical/drama into the fray as well, this time portraying a different, and more realistic, female super hero.  If you are reading past my confusing opening, (and the title of this review), you know I’m talking about Megan Leavey. With leash, and gun, in hand, this movie is the chronicle of her walk into the life of a hero and the struggles she had to climb over to succeed.  What’s the verdict?  You’ll have to read on to find out!

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Kate Mara was a fantastic pick for the lead of this movie.  Based on Leavey’s history (from the little research I’ve done), Mara was able to play the emotional rainbow required of this complicated role.  The angst of a rebellious young adult is perfectly portrayed, with enough saucy edge to keep things spicy, while only going over the line occasionally.  Yet, the real portrayal of her talents is her acting of honor, valor, and trauma that comes with being a real-life hero.  You’ll feel all the emotional turmoil, or in some cases lack of emotional turmoil, associated with marine life and the sense of duty before self.  Many audience members became entangled in all the feelings of the movie, captivating them in the story.

 

Good Pace: We know that many military dramas are a little long winded, whether in build up or the tail end of the spectrum.  Not the case for Megan Leavey.  This movie keeps things moving quite well, blending excitement, suspense, and character development in a decently condensed time.  The training portion of the movie is funny and heartwarming as bond between dog and human is formed, adequately building what will be the key foundation for the rest of the movie. Once the exciting deployment begins, the tension only surmounts and keeps one further fastened into the movie, constantly reeled in with each ticking minute as they perform their duty.  It’s engaging! It’s exciting!  And it is real!

 

The Dog:  Let’s face it though, the best part of this movie for most is going to be getting to see the dog or dogs trained to sniff out bombs.  Megan Leavey may be a tale about a woman transforming into a hero, but the director also does extraordinary work with the developing the dog’s status as a warrior itself.  Watching Rex perform all the duties required of him is awesome, feeling like a human actor himself rather than a four-legged accessory.  If you think Mara is the emotional lure in the film, then yes you are correct, but that would make Rex the lighthouse of emotions drawing you more into the flame of this movie.  Watching Rex with the consistent worry that something will happen is the true suspense of this movie, I myself silently praying he would make it home alive.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Movie magic drama:  We know that when it comes to describing drama, many films can exaggerate the truth.  While I’m not certain how tough Megan’s life was, this movie had many moments and characters that felt a little overdramatic to me.  I’m not talking about the war aspect, we know that’s hell.  No, the real overacted moments come in the form of her family life, primarily the interaction with her mom.  Eye-rolling moments aside, fans who like these overzealous characters are in for a treat, but it hit some nerves and took away from the movie.

 

The Final Act: Megan Leavey’s film is split into three parts for me and the first two parts are epically put together to keep the film exciting.  The third part however, is more on the slower side and not the area I would have spent a great deal of time on.  I can’t say much without ruining things, but here it goes.  This finale is certainly emotional, well designed, and a fine example of character development.  However, the pace changes at this part, doesn’t focus on the chemistry I fell in love with. Yes, it’s emotional, and the parts are well put together, I just wanted a little more time with the dog and woman.

 

Theater Worthy?: This is a tough component because there is a lot about this movie I like.  However, I can’t say the movie was really something that needed to be in theaters.  With few special effects and stunts, and a story that, while touching, isn’t an epic, adventure/book like drama that Hollywood theaters have captured.  Instead, this movie would have been solid on the History Channel or a Netflix original movie where you could enjoy it in the comfort of your own home.  So, don’t behead me people, I’m just trying to save you some money to maximize the quality of the film.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Megan Leavey is one of the better military drams I’ve seen in a while.  A fantastic chemistry between man and dog uniting to portray the honor of military service is a leading factor to see this movie.  With emotional sequences captured by beautiful cinematography and epic acting, you’ll find this at the top of a lot of drama loving lists.  Yet, it still lacks some finesse in terms of perfect pace and even more lacks the theater quality effects that make the expensive ticket worthwhile, unless you get the discount show.  Still it is a movie worth checking out when you can, to pay tribute to an honorable woman, her dog, and the heroes that are our military.

 

Biography/Drama/War:  8.5

Movie Overall: 6.5

Gibson Doesn’t Hack on Hacksaw Ridge: Explosively Awesome Movie

hacksaw ridge.jpg

            American entertainment, most of us know it’s all about the extremes these days (extreme crudeness, extreme drama, extreme stupidity). Well tonight an extreme director, Mel Gibson, takes a shot at making a movie that might defy the simplistic trend of most cinema is today.  Tonight a buddy and I hit the theaters to check out Hacksaw Ridge, a war drama that pegs the life of a rare officer position (the combat medic). Will this interesting spin fit well in the library of battle based films, or has Gibson gone off the deep end.  Let’s get going

 

LIKES:

  • Action Packed
  • Balances faith with honor
  • Inspirational
  • Fantastic effects
  • Good characters

 

Yeah, I have a lot of likes and it starts with the action this movie has to offer.  Hacksaw Ridge can be described as the pacific campaign of Saving Private Ryan, with plenty of explosions, bullets, and flamethrowers to light up the silver screen.  You’ll be cringing as all hell breaks loose in high definition sound and incredible special (not cheesy) effects that will drag you into the depths of battle. You might find yourself at the edge of your seat watching your hero tear through the scarred land, jumping through the carnage to take down a bunker.  Like realistic portrayals of war, this is the film for you.

But Hacksaw ridge isn’t just about soldiers getting dismembered or barbecued. No it’s a tale meant to inspire people to believe in their values, defy the odds, and yes help people without killing them. Gibson and his team have designed emotionally packed scenes where the cinematography alongside the stunning orchestral work bestows the honor of our soldiers. The dialogue also preaches the message Doss’ story is designed to tell, much of which involves faith being tested against tradition.  Sometimes it got a bit cheesy with the blatant, overdramatic deliveries, but it fit so well into the film it really didn’t faze me.  Regardless, both patriots and religious zealots will love the balance of faith with duty, and have a character you latch onto.

As for the cast, well Hacksaw Ridge has a little something for everyone to latch onto. Doss is the picture of a perfect, good spirited southerner, complete with hick like accent (thank you Hollywood stereotype).  His morals, loyalty, determination, and overall nice guy attitude are qualities that many will find endearing.  Too much of a good two shoes?  Well then go for the gung ho Yankee who wields a gun like Rambo named Smitty.  His character is all about the action, the adrenaline, and the war hero pride you love to see in these epics.  Still too serious, then throw in Vince Vaughn as a sergeant who has action, comedy, and a bit of compassion to round out the cast.  The company has strong heroes to lead the charge, amidst the extras whose names you might forget.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Slow to take off/A bit rushed
  • Characters lost in the carnage

 

Hard to find fault in this movie, as Gibson and company did so well making this epic war drama.  However, there were a few things my buddy and I found a little limiting. The main thing was how long it took the movie to take off.  Sure we have to have an origin story and build up how are character had his coming to Jesus moment (a rogue brick to his brother’s head).  Despite how good they did with this, it doesn’t help that it took a while for Hacksaw Ridge to take off.  The first thirty minutes in particular are rushed relationships with his parents and girl, which although establishes Doss’ life, drags at times as you wait for the training to begin.  In addition, some of these arks get dropped into the background, left to simmer until the ending when the campaign is over.

This was especially true for some of the soldiers, who after a five-minute introduction are dropped into a sea of extras almost never to be seen again. Doss and a few other troop members will get much of the screen time, while others will stand out only by looks before violently flopping on the desolate wasteland of the ridge.  You would think a little more involvement after taking the time to name them, but no not the case. In addition, some of the romantic and family dynamics are dropped like a bad grenade, only to be tied up at the end of the show. Outside of these small flaws, the only other thing we agreed on was some random additions of Japanese customs, which while accurate was kind of pointless in the grand scheme of things.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best modern war movies I’ve seen…period.  The nice spin on the protagonist being a pacifist drops a whole new light on the war theater and provided a character who was deeper than the barrel of a rifle.  Doss’ story is certainly inspiring, and it’s nice to see a movie where both faith and honor can work in tandem without being dragged out and dull (Unbreakable).  Yes it does take time to get stoked, but once the spark ignites, it shines in suspenseful, well-shot delight.  Of note, this movie isn’t for the faint of heart. Weak constitutions may get sick, or have nightmares depending on how mutilated, bloody bodies affect you (PLEASE DON’T TAKE SMALL KIDS TO SEE THIS FILM). I strongly encourage a theater visit to this movie, perhaps a couple of times if you’ve got the cash.

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/Romance:  9.0

 

Movie Overall: 8.5-9.0

Say Checkmate to Katwe’s Inspiration

katwe

            Robbie K here with another movie review and this time one focused on the game of…chess?  Disney Studios latest creation Queen of Katwe is a tale on a Phiona Mutesi’s journey to becoming a chess master. As there are few movies where the board game is the focus, I was interested in seeing what the entertainment giant could do with such a tale. As always, I’m here to give my thoughts on the tale. Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

  • Good Chess Montages
  • Major Character Development
  • Inspirational

When it comes to sports movies, we always enjoy seeing scenes that involve the game right? The same thing can be said for a movie about a board game loved by so many. Disney will do their fans justice and give players plenty of shots at our players bouts on the board. Phiona’s numerous challenges are shown throughout the two hour time limit, each showing her evolution into a chess champion. If you’re not a fan of the game, don’t worry too much as the sequences move fast enough to keep it exciting and are often accompanied by her fellow chess players reacting to each move. 

But Robbie, I hate chess and therefore will certainly hate this movie! No problem my friend, Disney’s got you covered. Queen of Katwe is far more than just moving piece on a board. A large part of the plot is focused on Phiona’s life, especially on the struggle she and her family faced.  Drama lovers will eat up the family tension between mother and daughter, or perhaps get caught up in how many people looked down on the young girl and her obsession for a title. I myself appreciated the other characters’ tales running in tandem with Phiona’s tale, especially watching the coach and her fellow players grow alongside her.  The intermingled tales, alongside great actor chemistry, brings a complete tale that makes you feel a part of the Katwe Pioneers.

Amidst the drama and chess though, one will certainly find some inspiration buried in the film. Like all Disney movies, our writers have gone through great lengths to motivate their audiences to accomplish great things. Queen of Katwe is no different, as it uses orchestral work, ideal camera shots, and well written dialogue throw the emotional punch. The coach in particular preaches these lessons, using various analogies and life experiences to make his point across. Whatever message comes across to you, know that Queen of Katwe has a future place in many classrooms and Sunday Schools.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Editing/Plot Gaps
  • Intense focus on close ups instead of the game
  • Family extremes are a little too extreme

 

The major dislike for this reviewer is how unbalanced the editing was in this movie, especially in terms of the plot. As mentioned, Phiona’s tale has a lot of moving pieces, some of which have a lot of buildup and focus such as tensions with her sister or the fears of her fellow teammates). After such focus you would expect a decent wrap up right? To me, many of these plot points were dropped or hastily concluded, probably to allow more “suspenseful” game scenes or another celebration montage to premier. While this helps expand the diversity of the movie, this move weakened the story and made some of the drama kind of pointless in the end.

Plot points aren’t the only editing blunder though. Queen of Katwe’s chess scenes also suffer at times, especially in terms of making dramatic tension in the game.  If you remember movies like Bobby Fisher, you got caught up in the game as you followed each of the protagonist’s moves, with someone explaining the maneuver. The Queen however, sometimes lost that suspense either due to the quick pace they played, or that they chose to put their focus on the player’s faces.  Yes, if you wanted to see numerous close-ups of people looking tense, disappointed, and occasionally happy, you’ve come to the right movie, as our director thought this would bring more suspense. For me though, it only provided more drama and less of the game I wanted to see.

Finally the family extremes were a little too much for me.  You will find in Queen of Katwe that most of the characters are stuck to one major quality, some of which are good and others that get used a tad much.  What do I mean by this? One example is Phiona’s lack of smiling or expression at all, her lines and flat attitude doing nothing to help me relate to the character. Her mother on the other hand, lost her cool at the slightest drop, yelling at everyone, pouting, or dropping to her knees at the drop of a hat. I understand this had much to do with the harsh life, but to be subjected to these and other extremes for two hours didn’t help entertain me as much.

 

The Verdict:

Queen of Katwe gets props for the inspirational power contained in its writing and cinematography. Phiona’s tale is one with many complex pieces that revolve around character developing drama and the thrill of the game. I have no doubt many audience members will find motivation in this movie and use this to teach generations to come.  Unfortunately the editing and direction take away from this tale, and proves yet again that too many things in one movie reduces the quality. Is it worth a trip to the theater? I can’t say it is, but check this one out when it hits shelves in a few months.

 

My Scores:

Biography/Drama/Sport:  7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

Hero or Hack? You Decide in This Riveting Drama!

snowden

            Robbie K back for another review. This time we jump into the biographical/drama realm in the film of Snowden.  The theme of this tale is on Edward Snowden, the former intelligence officer who quickly became a hot topic of debate in the span of five days by revealing the secrets of the government. So does this movie stand up to the hype, or will it be lost to the high flying tale of Sully that came out last week?  Let’s get to it!

LIKES:

  • Great acting
  • Decent pace on the story
  • Technical insight into spying

 

For a movie focused on one man, you need a good actor to portray the title character. So casting Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the key character was a brilliant move to say the least.  Once more the man impresses me with his ability to capture a character’s nuances and bring them to life.  For someone in Snowden’s environment you expect intelligence, moral dilemmas, and most likely some paranoia when dealing with classified secrets.  Gordon-Levitt is able to portray it all, selling that he is a revolutionary programmer capable of changing the world one code at a time. He played geeky well, but he portrayed paranoid even better with all the symptoms common of the disorder. Shailene Woodley again gets the super dramatic role, trading revolutionary leader to concerned liberal girlfriend…who happens to be an exotic dancer/artist. I give the girl props for her ability to maximize a limited part, selling the morals well in her short screen time. Everyone else is pretty much a government extra and adding intensity to the movie and making for big bad enemies.

When it comes to biographies, you often get very slow paced tales that tend to be overdramatized and slow for the most part. I didn’t feel that way in Snowden, or at least I didn’t feel that way most of the time. Snowden keeps the tale going, laying out the foundation of how Snowden fell into his predicament in all the glorious details. One will get immersed in all the technical details and moral dilemmas Edward went through, accompanied with the stress and suspense it brings with it. However, I do fear that such a movie may spur the flames of cyberterrorism with how people are inspired these days, but we won’t hold that against the movie…much.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Overdramatic at times
  • Slow at parts
  • One side portrayal of Snowden

The threat of having Hollywood portray your story is running the risk of movie magic overwriting fact. As there was a warning at the beginning of the film, safe to say there was a lot of dramatic intervention in this film. This does bring an entertaining factor, but it is a little disappointing to wonder what is fact and what is overdramatized fact.  Some of the drama also gets a bit eye rolling at times and robs the film of the emotional punch they were trying for.

The excessive drama in the movie also makes for some slower moments that you may or may not appreciate.  While much of the movie was pertinent to explaining Ed’s rise, there were times when this got a little excessive. This was particularly true for meetings with certain supervisors, moments of jealousy and a delayed explanation of his “flight” that did little for me than extending the run time.  Yes, these are minor dislikes, but editing could have cut a little more and save things for the director’s cut of the film.

  Finally, the movie took a one-sided approach to this story, focusing on making him a hero. I’m not calling him anything negative, but we all know that there are two sides to most tales and it would have been nice to get the antagonizing side of things.  I’m giving the guys props for standing up for his morals, but I feel the drama portrayed things on a grandiose level than what actually happened. The result was making the government eviler, which will certainly split the favor of the audience depending on your like of the audience. A balanced approach may have expanded the audience liking, but hey to each his own.

 

The VERDICT

           Snowden certainly has the dramatic flair that will rope you into this story about the morals behind secrecy.  His tale is certainly intriguing and most will appreciate the added spice the drama brings.  This is certainly one of the better (and more entertaining) biographies I have seen, but most may not find it as gripping (or exciting) as the others. In addition, the one sided portrayal of this political topic may also curb your enjoyment of the movie so I again say take it with a grain of salt. Is it worth a trip to the theater?  I can say only if you are looking for a biography or have strong interest in Snowden’s story. I’d say save this one for a rental.  

 

My scores:

Biography/Drama/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5

Take Flight to Realism and Fantastic Acting.

sully

 

It’s a new weekend and that means a new wave of movies to flood the local theaters. Robbie K here starting the round with the latest drama based on real life events that centers on an American Hero named Captain Sullenberger. Yes, I’m talking about Sully, the film that once again delves into whether or not the pilot who landed on the husband is indeed a hero or a delusional zero.  So fasten your seatbelts, make sure your trays are in the upright position, and cell phones off as we take flight into my review.

 

LIKES:

  • The Realism
  • The insight into Sully’s mind
  • Tom Hanks acting

 

When you look into a movie based on true events you hope there is more truth than Hollywood fiction.  Fortunately, this is one movie that puts reality before fantasy. Sully’s 96 minute run time is a recreation of the treacherous nightmare that plagued the skies in 2009.  Audience members will be wowed as they are dropped into the cockpit of the US airline flight as it soars into the Hudson.  The combination of camerawork and modern computer technology will immerse you into the full experience, perhaps fooling you into thinking you are a passenger on the plane.  In addition, the team manages to give you multiple perspectives of the flight, not only advancing the realism, but also adding more pieces to the proverbial puzzle. Yet, the other component that brings the realism is the airplane jargon that fills a majority of the dialogue. According to the retired pilot sitting next to me, Sully’s writers were very accurate in the technology and maneuvers used to land the plane.  Will most care about this component? Probably not, but this reviewer appreciated the extra effort to make this movie real.

What helps provide more answers to the mystery though is getting a visualization of Sully’s internal thoughts. Much like a book, our team was able to illustrate the dark fears that plagued our captain as he waits for the investigation to finish.  These memories are well placed into the story, helping to develop Sully while also helping advance the plot in a timely manner.  Those who have read the tale and hoping the movie will mirror it are certain to enjoy this presentation, and those who choose a less literature based approach will find this method entertaining and engaging.

But of course the headliner of the movie is by far the legendary Tom Hanks playing Captain Sully.  No surprise that Hanks is capable of bringing this role to life. Hanks certainly commits to his role and manages to mirror the reported personality of the Sully. His lines are delivered with grade A accuracy, and yours truly gives the actor props for handling the lead role with such a powerful performance that will most likely net him an Oscar. While most of the other cast certainly plays a hand in recreating this story, Hanks is by far bearing the brunt of the load and handles that responsibility quite well.

DISLIKES:

  • The Drama Flare Added
  • Some perspectives not needed

As I stated, seldom is a movie safe from getting the dramatic touch added to the tale. Sully is no exception as some components take on that Hollywood magic to spice things up and make them more “entertaining.” Some of this editing is in the nature of the crash itself, the dragged out drop to the river, support personnel going into near break downs to add a touch of sympathy, and even the rather stretched portrayal of Sully’s wife.  Yet all those moments are nothing compared to the direction they took the lead investigator Charles Porter. Instead of playing an agent just looking into the entire scenario, Porter’s character was like the lead marauder in a witch hunt with a single-minded goal to bring Sully down. This could have been fine if this was the true character, or even if they mystery was deeper. Unfortunately, neither of these cases seem true, and Porter’s stubborn as a mule attitude inspired nothing more than anger and eye rolling for me.

The second dislike comes in the form of editing and the director’s decisions to split the incident into so many perspectives.  While I appreciate the integrated approach to fully envelop you into the moment, there were some components that really weren’t necessary.  One major moment was from the civilian perspective watching the plane come to land, or the random passenger trying to swim the cold waters due to their panic.  I appreciate the realism in all manners of this flight, but these moments added little to me other than trying to expand the movie out to a longer run time.  A minor error sure, but the editing could have been tapered down a bit to remove some of these pointless moments.

 

The VERDICT

When it comes to Sully, this reviewer has to give props to this movie. A realistic portrayal of the hero with fantastic acting and attention to detail are sure to attract the nonfiction lovers to the theaters for this one.  Sure it could have found a home on Netflix or PBS as a 1 hour special, but I have to admit that this movie was one of the better productions I’ve seen in a while. So is it worth a trip to the theater?  I would say yes, especially to pay tribute to Hanks’ wonderful performance.  The recommended audience is anyone in love with nonfiction/true stories, Tom Hanks fans, or those looking for another tale of a trip gone wrong (with Hanks again being the captain. Guess I won’t be traveling with him anytime soon.)

 

My scores are:

Biography/Drama: 9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

Streep Leads This Emotional, Classy Movie About Inspiration and Hope

Florence

 

The lovely Meryl Streep is a woman whose legendary performances spread across all genres. Tonight I have the privilege of reviewing her latest film that spans insto historical biography drama. The name of the movie if Florence Foster Jenkins and the game is about uniting a city during troubling times. The trailers made this one look promising, but as always I’m here to see if they deliver on said promises. So let’s get started shall we?

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • Emotional Delivery
  • Great writing

 

Florence Foster Jenkins is certainly a movie that is dependent on its actors to make it entertaining. Meryl Streep’s performance certainly lives up to its legendary standards and brings the iconic character to life in spades. She once more balances all her emotions, covering a diverse spectrum that includes joy, sickness, and fear all brilliantly wrapped in courage. And to see her butcher the musical notes the way she does, only gains further applause from this reviewer. Hugh Laurie, while not my favorite actor, certainly got the supportive husband role down and had a reactive chemistry with not only Streep, but every character in the film. And as for Simon Helberg, he did a decent job. I don’t know the character or the book, but Helberg’s performance was like a creepier version of Wallowitz with more elegant piano work. I warmed up to the character eventually, and soon found the performance much more fitting.

Outside of the acting though, the emotional drama certainly delivers on the promise of playing with your mood. The feelings of joy, pride, empathy, and anger all dance around in a chaotic waltz as the events unfold. While the actors are certainly the primary means of bringing everything to life, the camera work and accompanying orchestra work amplify the emotional turmoil you might feel. And the writing combined with the story certainly establishes a strong framework to guide everything. The dialogue in particular impressed me, so real and yet so clever that you can’t help but feel dropped into the setting. Bottom line is that the production quality is top notch and certainly the best part of the movie for me.

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Pace
  • Ear shrieking gets old after a while

 

With all the great things about this movie, it is unfortunate for me that the pace of the movie was very slow. I’ve seen my share of bibliographies, and many of them had some sort of plot point or engaging suspense to keep you hooked. In this movie I didn’t have those aspects, which often left the movie dragging at points and stuck in repetitive sequences. This error/weakness is mostly on my part and I should have been prepared for some slower moments. However, the rest of the audience had no problems with the speed of the movie and relished in the drama.

The second dislike comes from Florence’s main theme of singing poorly to a number of crowds. At first the gimmick is fun and funny, as Mirren throws off key ballads under the pretense she sings well. However, she soon transitions into opera and the surround sound, high amplitude shrieking becomes quite an ear splitter that may give you a headache. That joke also grew stale for me too, but its relevance to the plot made up for it despite the decibels she reached. It might be a minor point, but it was something I didn’t quite enjoy. In addition the movie itself wasn’t revolutionary as well and therefore wasn’t the masterpiece I thought it would be from the trailers.

 

The VERDICT

 

Overall Florence Foster Jenkins has high production quality and a five star cast that brings the movie to life in more ways than one. However, it probably could have had just a strong impact if it had premiered as a PBS original movie. For me there just wasn’t much theater quality to it (e.g. no special effects, or unique enough story). Therefore I can’t recommend this one is a must see in theaters. Who is the target audience for this movie. Well if my showing is a representative sample, it seems that women greater than the age of 50 are going to enjoy this most.

 

My scores are:

Biography/Comedy/Drama: 7.5

Movie Overall: 7