Review: Marshall

Before he stepped up to fight the good fight in Brown v. the Board of Education, the case that swiftly and effectively outlawed racial segregation in American schools and propelled him to a seat in the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall was the NAACP’s main crusader for justice. Marshall, starring the always on-point Chadwick Boseman, chronicled one of early cases in his career.

In 1941, Joseph Spell, an uneducated black man with a checkered history is accused of raping and attempting to murder Eleanor Strubing, a wealthy, educated New England socialite. The NAACP dispatches Marshall to defend Spell and shanghaies him with an insurance lawyer named Sam Friedman to advocate for their client but the court does its most to tie the two’s hands. Essentially, Marshall and Friedman must overcome their differences with each other and their limitations in the courtroom, to see that the truth is clear and that justice is done.

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Image by Open Road Pictures

Upon the conclusion of the film, I found Marshall to be quite mediocre; not exactly meeting my standards in terms of entertainment and educational value but not to the point where I was bored to tears either. If anything, Chadwick Boseman and the rapport he had with his co-star Josh Gad, elevated this simple film to make it watchable from beginning to end.

I cannot give enough credit to Chadwick Boseman! The man is without a doubt building an incredible body of work as an actor and he commands the screen in Marshall! He steps into this role and delivers the right mix of confidence, fierceness, tenderness and intelligence to deliver a rock-solid leading performance.

Josh Gad is strong in his portrayal as Sam Friedman. At times he leans on his humorous side but he is also rock-solid in his supporting performance as his character reluctantly jumps on board Marshall’s crusade and the dynamic between the two characters is ultimately, Marshall’s greatest strength.

I also must credit Sterling K. Brown and Kate Hudson’s key performances for Marshall. Other than Boseman and Gad, they are the best performers in the film by far! The rest of the cast including Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, Keesha Sharp, Roger Guenver Smith, John Magaro, Jussie Smollett, Rozonda Thomas and Darrick Baskin, I don’t think they made a lasting impression as much as they should have.

Director Reginald Hudlin and the Koskoff brothers, who shaped the screenplay of the film, certainly did justice in honoring Marshall’s character by this film but I felt as though they played it safe multiple areas of the production and weighed the film down.

Newton Thomas Sigell’s cinematography was practical, Tom McArdle’s editing also practical, I didn’t think much of Marcus Miller’s music, Richard Hoover’s production design was neater than what I would expect and the costumes of Ruth E. Miller were nice enough.

Marshall, ultimately is a film where you come to watch Chadwick Boseman deliver another solid performance as another prominent African-American historical figure and it leaves you wondering what this film could be if the film was as strong as the dynamic between Boseman and Gad instead of allowing itself to showcase Boseman and Gad’s performances as its main selling point. Take away the two performers and what you are left with is not much to look at.

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Movie of the Week: Marshall

From the pages of history comes this week’s main feature film chronicling the rise of one of this country’s most influential lawmakers. Before he was the first African-American to be nominated to the Supreme Court, he was an African-American with a law degree setting up shop where no one has ever seen a African-American lawyer before. Thurgood Marshall was a hotshot, a fighter and ready to take on the case that would jumpstart his legendary career. Stepping into the role of Marshall is none other than Chadwick Boseman.

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Written by: Jacob and Michael Koskoff

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, Keesha Sharp, Jussie Smollett, John Magaro and Roger Guenver Smith.

What am I expecting to see?: The moment I heard that Boseman was portraying Thurgood Marshall, my reaction was “I’m in!” I think this is going to be another career-defining performance by Chadwick Boseman, once again stepping into the shoes of another prominent African-American historical figure. I expect Marshall to be a rather riveting film providing insight into Marshall’s life before the Supreme Court and I hope to be more educated and entertained.

Review: Blade Runner 2049

Things were simpler in 2019. If a Replicant went rogue, LAPD would dispatch a specialist-you know the one I’m talking about-to “retire” them. Fast-forward 30 years later, what do you have? A Replicant who specializes in retiring fugitive Replicants at the behest of the LAPD. What has this dystopian society come to?

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Image by Warner Bros., Scott Free Productions and Columbia Pictures

Denis Villeneuve takes the helm of Blade Runner 2049, picking up 30 years later from where Ridley Scott left his take on Hampton Fancher and Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi cult classic set in dystopian future Los Angeles.

Ryan Gosling stars as the protagonist of this feature simply lettered K. The film starts with K retiring a fugitive replicant who babbles about seeing a miracle almost 30 years ago. The assignment sets off a chain reaction of events that could send the world as humans and Replicants know it into frenzy, because it involves a frightening revelation that is practically game-changing and the human at the center of it: Rick Deckard, the Blade Runner who hasn’t been seen since his last assignment 30 years ago. K must find Deckard and get to the truth before anyone else finds him first, especially the new father of artificial humans Niander Wallace.

Blade Runner 2049 is a breathtaking and thought-provoking spectacle that captivates and doesn’t apologize for it! If you were a fan of the first film, I’m fairly confident that you will be satisfied by where Denis Villeneuve has taken the brainchild of Ridley Scott, Hampton Fancher and Philip K. Dick.

I’m fairly certain that this film will have Denis Villeneuve in the conversation for Best Director at the Academy Awards for this film blends the right amount of 21st Century cinematic visuals with a plot that has a firm hook in its audience and keeps them guessing about the macguffin of the picture, this secret born from an unburied mystery tied to the original Blade Runner himself. Villeneuve is certainly building an outstanding resume as a filmmaker over the past few years and Blade Runner 2049 is up there with some of the best film’s he has done to date.

Credit should go to Hampton Fancher and Michael Green for crafting a compelling screenplay that pays homage to the original film while also propelling the events and characters from the original plot into a new generation for fans to enjoy and wrap their heads around. What I love most about how this story was told is that once you think you have the mystery solved, the film still plays with you with one final suspenseful twist; it’s amazing.

This cast is superb. Ryan Gosling is great, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, David Dastmalchian, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Lennie James, Barkhad Abdi and of course Harrison Ford, who is well into his tour of reprising his greatest characters, all deliver performances that spur this picture along into a resounding conclusion.

I would say that the true star of Blade Runner 2049: cinematographer extraordinaire Roger Deakins. The camerawork and visual appeal of this picture is exquisite beyond compare and I’m rooting for him in this year’s Oscar race (fun fact: he hasn’t won an Oscar [yet ;)]).

After Deakins, the score courtesy of Benjamin Wallfisch and one of my all time favorite film composers Hans Zimmer, was sensational. They will get awards recognition for this movie as well, I’m sure of it. Joe Walker’s editing, Dennis Gassner’s production design, the art direction, the set decoration by Alessandra Querzola, the top of the line visual effects and the costume design by Renée April, everything technical about this film was sublime to say the least.

Blade Runner 2049 is an awesome cinematic experience and I firmly believe that leading up to Oscar night 2018, you will hear it’s name called multiple times. Highly encourage to see in theaters right now!

Review: Victoria and Abdul

If Abdul Kareem had just paid attention and did what he was told, history would have been robbed of a genuine and touching friendship.

Victoria is the longest reigning monarch of her age, with almost 1 billion citizens and for her life as she knew it was dull, tedious and monotonous to an exhausting degree, until a servant from Agrah presenting a ceremonial coin from the people of India caught her eye and thus took an interest in him because this stranger from a foreign land piqued her curiosity.

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Image by Focus Features and BBC Films

The latest feature from Stephen Frears, starring Dame Judi Dench and Ali Fazal is a rather refreshing period piece about an unlikely friendship between two very different people that would turn the entire royal household upside down! Based on Shabrani Basu’s acclaimed novel, Victoria and Abdul is very engaging film built on the rather delightful chemistry between the two leading performers.

I must be frank when I declare that if Judi Dench doesn’t secure an Academy Award nomination for her resplendent performance as Queen Victoria in this film, I will be royally upset! I dare viewers to see this film and just not love her in this role; she is utterly delightful and in top form as a monarch with a new zest for life.

Judi Dench is practically the crown jewel of the picture. She’s the reason why audiences will go to see this film and you will certainly come away pleased because she simply delivers an effortlessly royal turn as Queen Victoria.

This is the first time I’ve seen Ali Fazal in a feature film and I came away pleased by his performance as her majesty’s new friend, confidant and teacher in all things Indian. What I took away most about Fazal’s performance is his character’s enthusiasm and his loyalty in the face of norms that wanted him removed but in the end, he leaves a lasting impression upon the picture.

The rest of the cast, including Tim Pigott-Smith, Eddie Izzard, Michael Gambon, Adeel Akhtar, Paul Higgins, Olivia Williams, Fenella Woolgar, Julian Wadham, Robin Soans, Ruth McCabe, are moderately entertaining. Watching the royal household gossip and become aghast at the queen’s friendship with Abdul was moderately entertaining to say the least.

Lee Hall’s screenplay is very pleasant and practical; the story of how a servant became a teacher to someone with authority and shake up the status-quo. In a sense, I also saw relevance in how it is a feature that fits the common day; a stranger with a background that is different hold influence on someone powerful and how those who simply don’t understand just hold their tongues until an opportunity arises to remove said influence and restore what they consider “order.” It, in a way, fits today’s societal climate.

Thomas Newman’s music is very fitting, Danny Cohen’s cinematography is splendid and allows for Melanie Oliver’s editing to flow very smoothly, Alan McDonald’s production design is superb as is the art direction of Sarah Finlay and Alan Squires, Consolata Boyle’s costumes were marvelous; this was a rather well-done film in terms of technical aspect.

Victoria and Abdul is a well put-together period piece headlined by a legendary performer who is supported rather well by a relative newcomer. I think it is worth a look and if you look, it leaves a rather pleasant impression.

The Jaeger Uprising Is About to Begin!

The crew of Gypsy Danger thought they sealed the breach from where the creatures known as Kaiju came once and for all. The world prayed that they had seen the last of the monsters, who rose from deep in the Pacific, laying waste to their cities. It was believed that the world no longer needed Jaegers or coastal walls to protect what was left of their civilization. Those thoughts, prayers and believes? Shattered. The demons from the deep have returned and they are bigger, stronger and more dangerous than ever. A new generation of Jaegers and pilots is needed now more than ever. The son of Stacker Pentecost must rally mankind to rise against the coming storm. This is the first look of Pacific Rim: Uprising.

Steven S. DeKnight will take over directorial duties from Guillermo Del Toro, who directed the first Pacific Rim feature. DeKnight also co-wrote the film with T.S. Nowlin. Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi and Burn Gorman will return for the sequel and they will be joined by John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Tian Jing, Dustin Clare, Daniel Feuerriegel, Nick E. Tarrabay, Levi Meaden and Adria Ajorna. The follow-up to Pacific Rim will rise in theaters on March 23, 2018.

Movies of the Week: Victoria and Abdul & Blade Runner 2049

This weekend, I’m going back and forth through time as I watch two of my most anticipated films of 2017. From the director of The Queen, Philomena and Florence Foster Jenkins comes the story of a very unlikely and refreshing friendship between a meager servant and a monarch of great longevity. From the pages of Shabrani Basu’s book, Dame Judi Dench stars as her majesty Queen Victoria who becomes reinvigorated after striking a kinship with a lowly attendant named Abdul. Victoria and Abdul finally makes its way to a theater near me and I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.

Director: Stephen Frears

Written by: Lee Hall

Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Michael Gambon, Tim Pigott-Smith, Adeel Akhtar, Paul Higgins, Olivia Williams, Fenella Woolgar and Julian Wadham.

What am I expecting to see?: Plain and simple, Dame Judi Dench at the top of her game. Stephen Frears’ films, at least for me, I received them in a very lukewarm fashion; I think that they are solid on their own standing with a tremendous leading performance as the headline of why you should see them and Victoria and Abdul doesn’t look any different. I also want to see if newcomer Ali Fazal can hold his own against a acting legend such as Ms. Dench.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the work of the director of films such as Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival. His newest film promises to be one of the most dazzling of the year and his most ambitious to date. We’re going back to Ridley Scott, Philip K. Dick and Hampton Fancher’s post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, where a young cop uncovers a dangerous discovery and must track down Rick Deckard, who hasn’t been seen for three decades. Blade Runner 2049 is ready to get to work.

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Written by: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Lennie James, Barkhad Abdi, Mackenzie Davis and David Dastmalchian.

What am I expecting to see?: This movie has so much going for it, regarding cast and crew, how could I not turn this down? I had the opportunity to see Blade Runner for the first time almost a month ago, so I have an idea of what I may be getting myself into as we find Deckard 30 years later. I want to come away from Blade Runner 2049 blown away, visually and thematically! Denis Villenueve has directed many excellent features over the past few years and I think this has the potential to top them all!

Review: Battle of the Sexes

Oscar winner Emma Stone and Oscar nominee Steve Carell lob it out on the court to determine which gender can truly come out on top in Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ Battle of the Sexes.

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Image by Fox Searchlight Pictures

The draw for this picture is the same as it was back in the early 1970s: male chauvinistic pig vs. hairy legged feminist, who goes on record to say she does shaves her legs. This movie chronicled what led to the historic bout between former Wimbledon champions Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Riggs is a 55 year old has been whose gambling tendencies have landed him in the proverbial doghouse with his wife and King is a 29 year old trailblazer for women tennis players looking to taken seriously as her male counterparts.

It isn’t until roughly 30-40 minutes into the picture, when Carell’s Riggs issues a challenge to Stone’s King and another 30-40 minutes until King accepts after Riggs defeats reigning women’s champion Margaret Court to prove once and for all that women players are just as competitive and entertaining to watch as male characters.

When it comes to Battle of the Sexes, the windup takes too long and the back and forth between King’s plot and Riggs’ silliness is tedious, and when it does finally score, it’s too late to make a difference. Dayton and Faris’ picture plays it too safe in my opinion and though Stone and Carell are remarkably good in their roles, the film’s execution is something of a letdown.

Simon Beaufoy’s writing is not to the standard of what I expected. I think the film wastes too much time on King’s budding relationship between LA hairstylist Marilyn Barnett and how it has affected King’s play on the court and her relationship with her husband Larry. The writing of this picture, compared to what Beaufoy has done with films like 127 Hours, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and his Oscar winning screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire, tried to make a compelling story with what it could and just lacked focus on the film’s major selling point.

Emma Stone does a great job as Billie Jean King though. In her first film since La La Land, she delivers a very vulnerable and nuanced performance to a figure who is bold and yearning to discover who she really is and become a leader for women in a time when the male-patriarchal structure is challenged.

Steve Carell is well in his comfort zone as the kooky, cocky and very damaged Bobby Riggs. Whether he is guzzling down an unhealthy assortment of vitamins, playing tennis with a frying pan or in a dress surrounded by sheep, or getting thrown into the proverbial doghouse with his wife Priscilla, this is the Steve Carell, I like to see on screen. He’s entertaining in this film.

Among the other players who stand out, I liked Alan Cumming, Bill Pullman, Sarah Silverman, Natalie Morales, Andrea Riseborough and Jessica McNamee, while other performers such as Elisabeth Shue, Eric Christian Olsen, Fred Armisen and Austin Stowell just didn’t leave much of an impression.

I can’t say much about Nicholas Britell’s music in this film, nor can I say that Linus Sandgren’s cinematography was a sight to behold. Technically speaking, everything from Pamela Martin’s editing, Judy Becker’s production design, Alexander Wei’s art direction, Matthew Flood Ferguson’s set decoration to Mary Zophres’ costumes were ranged between mediocre and solid.

I think Battle of the Sexes had a very solid message worth hearing and if certain recent political outcomes happened differently, I think this movie’s message would have more profound impact but in all, I was more underwhelmed by Battle of the Sexes more than I was disappointed. I just don’t believe that this movie lived up to its potential.