Managed To Make It Midway To A Quality War Film

Midway Poster

 

War is hell a wise person once said, and in many ways we the general public have no idea what it was like on those battlegrounds where so many sacrificed so much.  Fortunately for many of us, the movies have offered a glimpse into the world, opening our eyes to the world that cares little of its soldiers in regards to decency and humane treatment.  Many of these films are often about the action, and while not as prominent as they once were back in the day, they still offer some intense views of history.  Past this introduction, this weekend, yet another historical remake is flying in to make a landing, in hopes of wowing the group once more with its depiction of the great war.  Robbie K here with yet another review as we look into:

 

Movie: Midway (2019)

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Modern Technology Prowess

Multiple Aspect providing different viewpoints

The Intensity Of Some War Scenes

The Decent Acting

The Intelligence Aspect

 

DISLIKES:

 

Disjointed Plot

Too many Perspectives

The Semi Forced Love Story

The Choppiness of the scenes

Semi-sloppy use of big names

The Action Scenes

 

SUMMARY:

 

Modern technology allows us to make things more realistic and engaging, and should in theory lead to better fights.  In a way Midway accomplishes this by bringing the chaos with speaker booming effects, special effects that light up the screen, and dances with planes that once relied on plywood models.  It is certainly the selling points of the trailers and should appeal to the modern audiences expectations as realism and style come together.  This film though took a different approach compared to the previous theaters of war, not focusing so much on the action from America by itself, but instead dividing the focus between both parties involved.  This dynamic is impressive to see because it helps show the strategy involved in something you have only read about in a history textbook, allowing for a different appreciation of the tactics in war.  In fact, my favorite aspect, as well as my good buddy, both agreed that seeing the intelligence component involved with determining how to fight the Pacific campaign.  Much of the film is dedicated to showing how codes were cracked, departments coordinated, and risks were taken to determine the best places to strike and this new perspective was very strongly placed.  When the battles did finally occur, there are several moments where you get pulled into the intensity, feeling like you are part of the squad and in the cockpit during this operation.  Nice editing on these parts, and quite an adrenaline rush at the times it works.  Finally, the acting is not an issues in this film, as all personalities of war are brought in and everyone executes there roles quite well when they are on stage.  I’m not saying Academy Award Level, but it’s believable and appropriate for this film’s approach.

 

For all its worth though, there are several limitations for this reviewer that make the film a little less impressive compared to its predecessors.  For one thing, the film feels disjointed, as our time hops and evolution of war occur a little too frequently to necessarily keep track of everything.  All the pesrpectives, while again interesting, also have too much going on, leading to breaking up a lot of scenes just as they start cooking with gas.  The result is a rather contained movie that struggles to find the approach it wants, with choppy scenes that sort of scatter the coordination rather than unite it.  This is especially true for the romance story they try to put in here, which was unnecessary giving the presentation and could have been left out.  Throw in several attempts at character development, the potential bonds that can form between a number of characters, and even the squad mates themselves and you again get sort of piece meal presentations that did not achieve what Pearl Harbor did long ago.  Once more, this reviewer feels part of this is due to how many big names they have, trying to get the most out of the big price tags that come with them.  Midway’s crew acts just fine, but there were so many missed elements and character interactions that I feel many of these people were unnecessary.  Certainly they were able to point out all the contributions they did, but to deny the full fledged chemistry and quality, well that was the disappointment for me.  Finally, the action scenes.  An action junky like me always crave for cohesive battle scenes that utilize their groups well, something that the early war movies, and even some films like Saving Private Ryan knew how to do.  In this one, all the perspectives and heroes were scattered that the action scenes felt again very sloppy and short, chopped up moments that ended too fast or how long it took to start.  Again realistically it accomplishes the portrayal, but at this point and with what the trailers built up… I wanted more out of a modern day, technological behemoth like this one looked to be.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Let’s wrap it up then shall we?  Midway accomplishes the idea of putting modern faces in traditional stories, and this theater of wars proves that trying new things does not always come together for this reviewer.  Sure, the technological advantages are good and all the actors recruited do their parts to bring the group of heroes to life and retell the legacies of men who faced the demons of war.  I’ll also again give them props for focusing a lot on the strategy and intelligence required to pull off the miracle that we did.  However, all of these perspectives and approaches to the story made for what looked like a difficulty to focus on the story they wanted to tell.  The result is again a disjointed movie that struggles to bring A games to any perspective, and relies on B and C graded stories.  Your truly would have loved a little more action to come together, as the trailers promised, but at least the intelligence parts work together to make for an engaging plot.  For special effects it qualifies for a theater visit, but outside of that, hold this one for home viewing instead.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/War/History/Action:   6.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Incomplete Artistic Liberties Derail This UnderGround Railroad Story

Harriet Poster

    Historical dramas are another fine genre to grace the new age, but with them you get artistic liberties that sometimes does not go the way they planned.  Yet, we keep trying to make the next ultimate movie to bring these people to modern times, and help teach their contributions to society through the magic of film.  So what does tonight’s film have to offer?  That’s where yours truly comes in and thus Robbie K is here with another review as we check out:

 

Movie: Harriet (2019)

 

Director:

Kasi Lemmons

Writers:

Gregory Allen Howard (screenplay by), Kasi Lemmons(screenplay by)

Stars:

Cynthia ErivoLeslie Odom Jr.Joe Alwyn

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Recreation Of History
  • The Cultural Songs
  • The Dialogue
  • The Acting

 

DISLIKES:

  • Pacing is Off
  • A Little Too Montage Moments
  • Other characters to be integrated
  • Weaker Antagonist Characters
  • The Vision Piece Of The Puzzle
  • The Action Component or lack of

Summary:

 

Movies continue to prove their abilities to act as windows into different worlds, and in this case the budget they have is impressive in recreating the troubled times of our countries past.  Harriet’s dive back into the Civil War comes with impressive recreations of a time forgotten, bringing the simplicity of the plantations and the surrounding towns to full life to immerse one into the culture.  Costumes play a major support adding a subtle edge to the movie that will integrate you into the culture a little more.  This is perhaps the biggest strength of Harriet, showing cultural components of the time period and while the visual elements are impressive the writing only augments that to bigger levels.  Harriet loves showing off the song traditions of that time period, in the power of religious hymns and soul music that not only served to inspire, but acted as a means of signaling to others.  Erivo’s voice holds the power you expect of this music, and while I would have liked more diversity in the song I give props to the use and execution of the power melodies that Tubman held in this film.  Fortunately, this thing is not a musical, and the rest of the spoken word contains a powerful dialogue that makes for a wonderful platform of explaining the story.  Harriet’s dialogue contains the raw passion of the times, bringing out the emotional fury of the times, while also the passion of the people.  It’s deep, metaphor filled writing is the stuff novelists love to unleash, and it will surely be on quotable boards in future classrooms.  As to who unleashes that writing, well the actors get the props and skills from this reviewers to bring that fire to the film.  Erivo leads the group into dealing out how much hurt and anguish the people of this time had, and showing how it fueled their drive to bring people to freedom.  It’s a bit overdramatic I’ll admit, but when honed with the words, you get those models that made the women behind me comment in agreement and potentially act as the focal point of the movie.

 

Yet, for all the passion that the movie has there are some things that I was not impressed with.  For one thing the pacing feels a little off for me, starting out slow and meticulous at the set-up, only to go fast in the journey to freedom, before going slow once more.  The stop and go approach has never been my preference, and based on the expectations from the trailers I had hoped for a little more conflict and impasse to add spark to the mix.  Sadly, the montage approach was used where only small segments took the form of the rescuing scenes and intense moments that was a little disappointing to be honest.  Now let’s take in the characters that were built up in the beginning.  Most of them practically don’t exist, guess that’s why it is called Harriet I guess, and it led to many characters feeling only as afterthoughts and not really involved in the story.  I would have liked to see some of these people work alongside her, have more character involvement, than small exchanges, especially when they went to all the trouble to introduce and try to build them up.  But, the drama aspect takes over and leads to very dramatic, bluntly ended affairs that were almost not needed.  It’s like these intense moments were just the seasoning on a burger, rather than the meat, leading to flat ended plots that were a little boring to say the least.  This is especially true for the antagonists, men I thought would be ruthless hounds in their pursuit of Harriet, with legendary skills that would push Harriet to the heights of her abilities.  Instead, we get egotistical, weaker characters that do little to contribute to the story outside of, looking like grandiose fools and do a little hurting on the side.  I’m with a lot of fans here in stating that if you are going to blur the line of reality and fantasy, do it in a little more style with characters that actually made the journey worthwhile.  Another thing I’m mixed about is the vision aspect of the movie.  Harriet’s connection to the Lord is one I’ll always envy from this film in getting communication back, but the way this movie did it made it like a super power that acted as her means of movie.  An original twist?  Yes!  What was needed for this movie?  I don’t think so and can’t say this vision was my cup of tea.  Finally, I had hoped that the trailers showing Harriet wielding guns and an army was going to add a little more flair to the mix, helping with the pacing and adding that edge that we discussed earlier.  Perhaps then the movie magic decisions would have been worth the effort.

 

The VERDICT:

            Depending on what you are going in here for will determine how much of Harriet you like.  It’s certainly the dramatic flair of modern cinema, taking lots of liberties to make history a little more pleasing to the attention span of today.  If you can appreciate the liberties, the full-on passion and professional writing for powerful monologues then I feel you’re going to enjoy the attitude of this film.  Throw in some impressive visual recreation and acting to bring all this to life, and well you’ve got the world of dramatic Civil War.  However, if you are looking for historical accuracy or at least a dramatic world that has a lot more edge and character involvement, then prepared to be ignorant or disappointed.  Harriet’s  artistic liberties were appreciated, but in the long run it did not come altogether for me and I was left wanting a little more investment to bring this magnificent woman’s story to life. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Biography/Drama:   6.5

Movie Overall: 5.5

On The Basis Of Girl Power

On the Basis of Sex Poster

 

Historical documentaries always fall victim to the dramatization treatment of the cinema world.  As such, we end up eating them up, except for the purists, as we become enthralled in the spark’s notes version of the historical legacy these people left.  So, in the age and time of politics, let’s pick a supreme court justice as the next one and see what stories are told. Robbie K back on review duty as he checks out:

 

 

Film: On The Basis Of Sex (2018)

 

Director:

Mimi Leder

Writer:

Daniel Stiepleman

Stars:

Felicity JonesArmie HammerJustin Theroux

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • Use of most characters
  • Makeup and Costumes
  • Good Writing
  • Jargon translated
  • Message towards key demographic

 

Summary:  You can certainly get this from the trailers, but the hallmark of these movies is often the acting, and this film is no exception. Felicity Jones talents continue to soar in her bravado, mannerisms, and wonderful delivery of a lawyer fighting for what’s right.  Hammer as well finds his stride as the supporting character working to help Ruth’s goals.  The rest of the crew have wonderful acting ability, and most of the characters are well integrated into the tale to really bring the most out of the case that would change so much.  And in regards to looks, the makeup and costume department gets special props as they bring the times of the past into history and capture the looks of that era.

Yet while the look is there, does this film have the feel?  For the most part, yes it does.  On the Basis of Sex has good writing behind it, as a grand display of passionate speeches, impressive vocabulary filled monologues, and fiery, passion filled scenes unfold. It’s smart, witty, and quite fitting of the prowess of the woman and probably something the older audience will enjoy.  Not familiar with the law and all the technical terms that come with it?  No problem!  This film has got the spark’s notes version of relevant information there to keep you integrated into the case and not get too lost in all the convoluted terminology. In addition, the film makes use of the speeches to really try to inspire and fire up the young women watching.  It held the heart and soul of the movie and I think was the central aspect of the film.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Pace
  • Not utilizing other characters
  • A little convoluted
  • The Opening’s necessity

 

Summary:  With these types of films, the key is to work hard to make it entertaining and yet truthful.  On the Basis of Sex’s pace was not for me, becoming a little tedious at times as it hobbled along to get to the big case at hand.  This uneven pace brought rough patches that had me fighting sleep, that took away the momentum of the movie.  What helped amplify this component was the convoluted moments where the law jargon took over the movie magic.  While Basis of Sex has interpreted much of the heavy technical terms there may be some very detailed moments that can bring a fog to your brain and potentially tire you out.  Fantastic attention to details, but not the most engaging at times.

In addition, the other thing that also didn’t woo me was some of the characters they didn’t put as much focus on.  Kathy Bates, the legend herself, has little appearance in the movie despite being a selling point for the trailer.  The rivals led by Sam Watterson  were semi-used, but only in the latter half instead of throughout the movie.  The result is taking away some of the heat and suspense I think they wanted to go for. As for the opening moments of the movie, well they are okay.  Yes, they do justice in setting the stage and introducing all the pieces to the puzzle. However, these rather important moments feel a little fast forwarded to me, rushed over and almost feeling unnecessary as much of the focus is on the big case instead of her entire life as the trailers portrayed.  Thus, I think the direction was not all there in terms of how they wanted to bring her entire life into focus.

 

 

The VERDICT:

On the Basis of Sex accomplishes the goal of appealing to its key demographic, showing off the amazing talents of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and waving the girl power flag high.  It’s acting and character to use are fantastic for the most part, with makeup and writing to really bring out the full prowess of the scene.  However, the movie still needs some balance in terms of using all characters, trying to tone down the legal jargon, and figuring out what they wanted to highlight.  As picky as this sounds, the movie was good and has artistic nature to it, but it didn’t quite deliver the ultimate performance they were going for.  Worth a trip to theater? Not so much, but still worth checking out when it comes to home viewing.

 

My scores are:

Biography/Drama:  7.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

Attempting To Send Us To The Moon. A Review Of First Man

First Man Poster

 

Reaching to the stars, traveling through the final frontier, and making contact with the unknown is what the science fiction authors are all about.  To think that the dream was realized years ago is a feat many still to this day question. Tonight, my review is about the adventure to the stars and the men who led the way.  Wrapping up my revies this week, tonight yours truly analyzes the largely advertised, potentially award winning, biography about Neal Armstrong entitled:

 

Movie:  First Man (2018)

 

Director:

Damien Chazelle

Writers:

Josh Singer (screenplay by), James R. Hansen (based on the book by)

Stars:

Ryan GoslingClaire FoyJason Clarke

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting:  A big role like this requires big talent and Gosling has stepped up to the new psychologically heavy, portrayal of the man who journeyed to the stars.  His depth portrayal of the role is top notch, a balance of a dramatized role that feels realistic and very reflective of the psyche of space travel.  Claire Foy on the other hand drops into a very regal and strong role, expressing the other side of the coin as the wife of an astronaut. Their chemistry works together, and the focus on each one leads to amazing performances that makes for endearing characters.

 

The Immersive Experience: You want to feel like you are blasting off into space?  You’ve got it!  You want to feel like you are being strained by an overwhelming array of G Force?  You’ve got it.  You want? Okay I think you get it.  First Man’s team did their best to get you strapped into the space exploration experience and did a fine job in my opinion.  One will feel like they are experiencing this first hand, with a screen that rattles, sound effects that dropped you into the heart of the mission, and a number of technical terms to further enroll you in the experience.

 

The Setting:  I’m a sucker for movies successfully taking you back in time. First Man takes us back into the time period of the 60s, bringing the cars, looks, houses, and hairstyles to really bring you into the decade of exploration.  First Man keeps all the themes rolling and adds that extra bit of magic by introducing a gritty filter to help you achieve the effects of watching the events through the new reels of yore.  This may not seem super cool or necessary, but that extra nostalgia helps pull the experience to new heights so nice work there.

 

Unique Approach: First Man decides to go a little more abstract in its presentation than the normal historical documentary.  A realistic portrayal with minimal magic, First Man is always about taking an event and then having you reflect on it.  The result is a psychological trial of experiencing the stress of this field of research, that helps with experiencing the historical prowess of this space travel.  While this approach will not be for everyone, it gets points for making an effort to be unique and artistic while also to the point.

 

The Portrayal of Struggle: I agree with my fellow audience members that First Man did a fantastic job expressing the difficulties of getting this mission off the ground.  From the failures of the testing modules, the setbacks of equipment burning out, and to the very stresses of the rocket itself, all of it is nicely detailed in this movie.  You’ll not be subjected to montages or magical findings, but instead get the bare facts to provide the full on knowledge of the issues this program faced.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Other characters:  It’s not that the other characters are bad, it’s the fact that they aren’t utilized as well as I wanted.  Much of Armstrong’s group, with the exception of the wife, are only fragments of the story overall.  I wanted to see more interactions with them, get their input and contributions to the story, instead of the dram filled moping they chose to focus on.  Why they did this I don’t know, but I believe the abstract approach has much to do with this.

 

The Heavy Jargon:  I mentioned earlier how the movie immerses you and sadly it does this a little too well.  The special effects drown out a lot of meaningful conversation in this movie, reducing the lines to mumbling, incoherent rants that aren’t easy to follow. Even for what you can hear, the movie relies very heavily on jargon and technical lingo, which if you don’t subscribe to physics or rocket science may not be the most interesting thing to listen to.

 

Mindset vs Program: The abstract direction taken in this movie works for getting into the head of the characters, and you’ll get plenty of shots of Gosling trapped in his mind, moping in a teary-eyed mess as he relives his experiences.  It’s beautiful artistically, but it’s not the most entertaining as I came to see more of the design to get to the moon.  Like Hidden Figures I wanted character development and integration than psychological reflection that a book is better at hitting. Regardless, this approach didn’t quite work in terms of my expectations or entertainment value

 

Dragging Pace:  The biggest thing for me… is this movie is slow at times.  It has to do with how long it takes for us to get into the meat of the program, only to be then be dogged down by more personal life components than the exciting tests you want to see.  As such, this constant up and down presentation that didn’t quite work for me and had me fighting sleep at times.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            First Man is different from what I expected.  It’s unique presentation is going to be the make or break for modern audiences and whether or not they will enjoy this movie. Those looking for a realistic, well-acted, artistic, immersive approach will enjoy the historical representation of this movie.  However, if you wanted that Hollywood magic, entertainment, and more like a story presentation, than this film is not going to be your cup of tea.  First Man is certainly a piece of work, but it all depends on the type of experience you want.  Worth a trip to the theater?  I think so for the effects and the food for thought, but otherwise hold out until next week when blockbusters return. k

 

My Scores: 

Biography/Drama/History:  7.5-8.0

Movie Overall:  6.5-7.0

It’s the Finale Countdown

Operation Finale Poster

            History teaches us many lessons, but sadly we sometimes are still too stubborn to learn when it things come wrapped in a convenient, shiny package.  Still, there are movies still trying to use their bucks to teach lessons in the tales they have to share. Tonight, yours truly attended the showing of the latest historical, biography, drama that hopes to make a mark.  What is in store?  As always please read to find out as I review:

 

Movie:  Operation Finale (2018)

 

Director:

Chris Weitz

Writer:

Matthew Orton

Stars:

Oscar IsaacBen KingsleyMélanie Laurent

 

LIKES:

 

Pacing:  For the most part, a drama like this is often slower than the movies I prefer, yet Operation Finale managed to meet this expectation. A brisk pace that allowed for detail, the audience was more than capable of finding that balance to tell it’s tale and not leave me falling asleep. 

 

The Class:  A Holocaust movie always runs the risk of diving into the dark, deep end of the horror pool, which can be hard to watch.  Again, Weltz and his team found the balance of making references to the horrible event, but adding a filter that alludes to the event without showing too much.  The result is crafting a piece of work that respectfully shows the events, but not in the distasteful display that many movies relish in.  As such, it doesn’t downplay the significance it, but rather integrates into the story.

 

The Relevance of Characters: A stuffed group into 2 hours is not easy to do, but Operation Finale made sure to integrate as many of the characters as possible and give a point to their inclusion.  No matter how small the role, each character has contributed to the operation in some manner to warrant their time on the silver screen. 

 

The History/Moral Lesson: The movie set out to teach lessons, and it certainly did.  History comes in a variety of forms, but this movie certainly felt like a visual book (yes I get the irony), still it’s an integrated piece of work that achieves the story telling history strives to obtain.  And like history, the moral lessons involves are poetically delivered without all the preachy planned speeches Hollywood writers love.  It’s the realism and musical score that drive all these lessons home, and a fantastic future for using this movie for teaching classes.

 

The Acting:  The movie’s bread and butter though is the acting. Character integration required a lot of dynamic play off of each other, and our cast was up to the challenge of bringing it to life.  At this point, all the secondary/supporting characters get a nod for their work, each member feeling like a part of the team that held their own emotional charge towards the common goal.  However, the key pillars of the movie are Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac the leads of the film. Isaac trades his X-Wing uniform for a more modest suit, and adapts the strong emotional power of an Israeli Jewish man forced to confront a lot of baggage.  It’s realistic, powerful, and the anchor to which much of the movie relies on and he rocks it.  As for Kingsley, the man is a legend for a reason and he beautifully opens the door of the antagonist role and the complexity that can come with it. Another balance of emotional prowess, the man will keep you guessing at what lies within the dark mind of the German War Elite.  The two together play a game of cat and mouse, and while not filled with gun play, or car chases, it’s this emotional tug of war that is immersive and kept me into the drama at hand.  Bravo to the casting director for bringing these powerhouses together.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Pace at times: Pacing is mostly good, but there are some slower moments that didn’t have quite the oomph that the rest of the movie did.  These parts bloated the movie more and didn’t quite deliver the punch for me.  Small dislike, but it leads me to the next limitation for me.

 

The Length:  The movie worked to portray a lot of angles on this historical event.  Operation Finale didn’t quite need to be over 2 hours for me, with probably at least 20 minutes being edited out with ease.  I see where it is going with the length to try and pay homage to those who lost their lives to the greatest tragedy, but in regards to the story it didn’t quite need the extra time.  Especially, when it comes to my next dislike.

 

The Other Character Stories: A lot of characters were introduced at the beginning, each played up for their emotional struggles to bring the former Nazi to justice.  And after a prolonged intro, many of the characters kind of stopped there. Operation Finale showed potential for very deep characters, and while the leads got the most dive into the psyche, the rest of the cast kind of got a fly over.  More integration and struggle would have been much appreciated for me to help further bring the group to life.  It’s not that the others were bad, but by explaining them a little more, the movie might have better utilized the 2 hours it had to have.  While the secondary crew accomplished their mission, some more tweaking could have strengthened things.

 

THE VERDICT: 

 

            For a historical drama. Operation Finale was one of the better ones to grace the silver screen in recent years.  While nothing like the legendary historical dramas that came before it, this film struck a balance I appreciated between historical presentation and dramatizing moments.  The two lead actors soared with their chemistry and by working around this entropy favored performance, brought the heart and soul of the cinematic work to life.  Still, the movie needs a little tweaking in investing in other characters to justify being greater than 2 hours as well as editing a few things out.  Still, this movie is probably a great example of classic story telling, and that element justifies the theater visit despite a lack of Big Screen effects.  Still, give this one a try when you can, I think you will enjoy it.

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/History: 8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

 

 

A Little More Development Would Have Made This 12 Stronger

12 strong.jpg

            The World Trade Center attack, a day that will forever live on in the history of the American society.  From this event, our military launched a new war that targeted terrorism, and the escalating threats that hid in the shadows.  We’ve had plenty of tales about the heroes who acted on that day, uncovered the leads to locating the leaders of the attack, and potential occupations of territories of those who might continue their work.  This weekend, yet another campaign heavy feature comes to theaters entitled 12 strong, the declassified story of the Horsemen who fought back.  What lies in this political drama?  Robbie K here to answer that question in hopes of guiding your viewing pleasures.  Let’s’ move out!

 

LIKES:

 

The Pace:  Some military dramas get lost in all the political jargon and build up, but this movie manages to dive through that medium quickly to get to what you want to see. While the opening hour is on the slower side and dialogue heavy, it eventually takes off when the first battles begin to rock out.  From there, the rest of the movie is tense ride, moving at a consistent speed to bring suspense and intensity at what lies in the Middle Eastern range.

 

The Dialogue:  The story of the horsemen may be action heavy focused, but my buddy and I agreed that the dialogue was well done in this movie.  One component is between the soldiers, a realistic, almost natural, exchange of insults, jabs, and venting that represents the bond the soldiers have.  Well-timed jokes relieve some of the tension, and the comedic punch is subtle but perfect to get a good laugh out of you.  When the action starts up, you’ll get your feel of military jargon, as the soldiers call out strategic maneuvers and call in air strikes utilizing the coordinates.  While not the most creative writing here, it’s a component that helps pull you into the heat of the moment.  The strongest writing though, comes in the philosophical debates between Captain Mitch (Chris Hemsworth) and General Dostum  (Navid Negahban). A contest of wills takes place numerous time between the two leaders, and in it contains Hollywood inspired lines designed to open your minds to bravery, empathy, and what it means to fight.  These moments are the most moving, and in it a great study on the hell war truly is.

 

The Messages:  The dialogue does much of the lifting in this category, but 12 Strong also has enough visual representation on the culture of the battlefield that was the war on terror.  Perhaps there is some studio magic to gloss up things, the movie did a solid job portraying the Arabic cultures and approaches to war on all sides.  Honor and dignity are heavy in the population, and not all factions are as heated as the terrorism associated with it.  Seeing this duality not only supports the dramatic storytelling, but does a solid job at educating the audience that not everyone out there is an enemy.

 

Action: Okay now the part you really want to know about.  The action of 12 Strong delivers what the trailer promised.  Special effects heavy sequences erupt to life as Hemsworth and company unleash their disciplined fury onto the poor extras that are heavy in this film.  Exciting gunplay is the main theme of the mix, all sharing a similar foundation, but with some tweaks to help each battle stand out.  As many of my fellow reviewers agree, the movie’s final battle is the best of the bunch, packed with emotion, tension, and all out courage and glory that America loves to see as they ride their horses into the fray.  A powerful cinematic score will assist in bringing the whole shebang to life.  Not the strongest of all the movies I’ve seen, but dang strong in its own right.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Too Long:  For a movie that is action packed, you would think that the story could be told in under 2 hours.  Yet, this movie was a little too long at points for me.  It starts with the delayed opening, taking nearly an hour to get to the first battle the movie promised.  Sure, the information is presented in a concise manner, but how much of it was really needed is the question that remains.  In addition, the movie took some tangents to give you the whole journey, admirable in terms of capturing every detail, but not done well enough to be fully pertinent to the movie.  This story takes some unnecessary tangents that didn’t get the time it needed, acting as quick acknowledgements to the soldier’s lives and nothing more.

 

Hard To Differentiate Soldiers:  Another problem with this movie is how much the soldiers seem to blend together in this movie.  You’ve got Hemsworth who sticks out like a sore thumb, and a couple of other members that have a unique quality to them to help differentiate them.  Much of the cast though are just bearded big men who all have a vendetta to settle with the terrorists.  Sacrificing logical combat gear choices, like helmets and armor, they try to give some visual cues to help each member stand out, but their identities still aren’t really prominent for the audience to grab onto.  They relied on Hemsworth too much to do the lifting, letting his good looks do most of the eye grabbing.  In addition, none of the other soldiers had strong background development, with only the ones with family getting any glimpse of a life.  They try to give a few of them some screen time at parts of the movie by splitting the team, but most of the supporting antics fall to quick sequences that could have been left out.

 

Army Of One: Exciting as the battles are, 12 strong is more like 1-5 strong in the grand scheme of things.  Hemsworth is the soldier whose perspective you’ll get the most of, despite being the member who has had the least combat experience.  Where other movies do a nice job of integrating all members of the team in some way, but this film sort of glazed over the contributions of the others.  Don’t get me wrong, the other troops have some displays of their skills, but they just don’t have that unique component other military films do.  Even the main villain sometimes get lost to the sea of extras, with only some close ups of sneers to shine the spotlight on.  Again, the movie relies of Hemsworth to do most of the lifting, and it really could have achieved more had the others been more involved.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            When it comes to action films, 12 strong is the leader for the new year at the moment.  While the movie starts out slow, the second act gets things going, primarily thanks to the action sequences that are loaded in this movie. Still, the movie manages to get some good dialogue into the mix that, in tandem with the visual effects, does a nice job delivering the emotional messages about the culture of war.  However, the movie was a little too long, going down too many paths that, while entertaining, did not provide much to the story.  Such a shame, as the other members of the platoon could have used some development to not only add more to the battles, but also help the other cast stand out a little more.  Given all these things though, the movie is the pick of the weekend to go see in theaters, due to the special effects and storytelling at hand.

 

My Scores:

 

Action/Drama/History:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

 

Extra, Extra, See All About It!

Post

 

Hollywood, the new political battleground that continues to take public issues and launch a campaign for their favorite charity.  Assuming you weren’t under a rock over the last few years, you know things have heated up in glamour land, igniting another battle between the government and fine dressed actors/actresses.  One bullet to be fired this weekend is the Post, a tale describing the newspaper’s attempt to fight censorship by the government. With legendary actress Meryl Streep and actor Tom Hanks leading the way under Steven Spielberg’s direction there is much promise held in this film.  What’s the verdict?  Robbie K here to share some opinions and guide your movie going expertise.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Realistic: You want a movie that feels like a capture of real life?  Look no further, because the Post has many components to please the realism fans that flood the theaters these days.  The magical finesse is more of a glaze in this film: a small sound editing here, some dramatic music there, all to help maximize the emotion of the scene. Outside of that though, The Post is more of a recreation of the events of that time period and the life of the press in their pursuit of the truth.  Therefore, you history buffs are really going to fall for this film.

 

Acting:  The highest component of this film is the acting, which is to be expected given the headliners of the film.  Streep continues shine, her talents and skills coming to full front as she plays Kay Graham.  A recent widower, concerned mother, and recent business owner who not only had to balance all these roles, but face the challenges set before by the government.  Streep manages to dive into each of these positions and really portray the struggles Graham felt.  No overacting here, Streep continues to show why she is a champion at the Academy Awards and her ability to blend acting with realism with no divisible lines.

Hanks as her opposite is yet another great move, diving into the stubborn, career driven paper chief of Ben Bradlee.  Where Streep’s character is all about trying to stand up for her paper without compromising her morals, Hank is all about the rough-edged road of getting the story, sometimes ignoring the other things around him to get it.  This performance is powerful again, delivering the lines with that drive and passionate spectrum Hanks is famous for.  Together these two make the world come to life, both able to hold their own, but truly greatest when together on the battlefield of morale grounds. 

 

The Writing: The Post has great writing, no surprise given Spielberg’s ability to make history come to life.  Gone are cheesy one-liners and over the top monologues, and in their place a script that is loaded with a natural dialogue exchange, clever wit, and realistic reactions to these problems.  Strong writing like this makes for a smooth ride for the actors bringing the words to life and developing their characters with little to no fear.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Pace:  A movie like this has to deliver the morals in a manner that is both motivational and entertaining.  It accomplished the motivational component, but sadly lost on the entertainment component for me.  Part of this was due to the pace. The opening scenes tickled my fancy, but that intrigue was lost to a very monotonous speed of slow as dirt.  While the freedom of the press issue is the main topic of discussion, all the other life components were included in great details, which led to tangents not necessarily needed and longer run times.  Seeing the persona life was important, but not worth the dragging velocity this movie hit at various points of the movie, especially at later showings.  Even worse, these tangents led to a delay in getting to the heart of the issue, which is what this movie is all about.

 

The Climax:  While I appreciate the lack of movie magic, this movie needed a little enchantment to pump the tension up and make those lessons come alive even more.  The Post does a nice job of setting up the problem and explaining the information at hand. Yet the buildup would hopefully lead to an emotion/tension packed debate between the two parties to really get the crowd fired up.  Not the case in this film my friends, as much of this part is reduced to a short montage of brilliant sets and well adorned extras.  Spielberg could have had another gold mine of approval by the critics if he had added that little extra oomph to give our characters the satisfying dramatic action they deserved.  I won’t tell you how it goes, but I can say the suspension was practically extinct at the end for this reviewer.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Post is an important movie for many, primarily those who pursue the truth and are hindered by the oppressiveness of power.  Spielberg certainly crafted a winner in regards to realism, writing, and direction in guiding the actors.  With Streep and Hanks really bringing the players to life, this movie is a total Oscar nomination eater in regards to the artistic component.  However, the pace really suffers from the realism and dilutes the climax into an under impressive finale that does not scream of Spielberg’s prime work.  This glorified documentary would have held better premise on Netflix, because this movie was overhyped for me, with the acting being the exception to the rule.  So, save your cash and wait for a RedBox rent in my honest opinion. 

 

Biography/Drama/History:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0