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.


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.


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?


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.


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.

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.


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.

Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Manners maketh man and movies maketh more movies it seems. More often than not these days, studios and producers opt to go for more sequels for movies that should just leave well-enough alone and there can be no greater evidence than this week’s big release of Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Picking up where its predecessor The Secret Service left off, we find full-fledged special agent Eggsy, alias Galahad, under siege by familiar face in the employ of a new enemy named Poppy Adams, a notorious drug-dealing queenpin who happens to be an aficionado of 1950s American culture with big plans to win the war on drugs. The Kingsman pose the greatest threat to her sinister ambitions and so, she wipes them out. Eggsy and his mentor Merlin are all that’s left of the Kingsman and they must ally with their American counterparts, the Statesmen, to foil Poppy and the Golden Circle once and for all.

I did not enjoy the first Kingsman feature. At all. Why did I see the second of Matthew Vaughn’s spy spoof? Two reasons:

  1. Part of me wanted to know how Colin Firth’s character survived a gunshot to the head in the last movie.
  2. I was bored and had time to kill on a Friday afternoon.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle was just kept building on the ridiculousness of the first movie. Heck, the first five minutes are just an absurd car chase/fight sequence that just strains every sense of credulity; going in, I had great difficulty taking this movie seriously.

Matthew Vaughn certainly had his fun in making this, I could tell in how it was written by him and Jane Goldman, but for all of its bells and whistles, gadgets and gizmos, fancy suits and cowboy hats, I just couldn’t will myself to enjoy this as a whole. Maybe it was because I knew that it was a continuation of Vaughn’s desire to direct a James Bond movie and settle for this substitute of a spoof but my reaction was meh.

Vaughn did collect himself a talented crop of actors for this. Bringing back Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson, Hanna Alström, Thomas Turgoose, Edward Holcroft, Calvin Demba, Tobi Bakare, reuniting Firth with Julianne Moore was smart, bringing in Michael Gambon, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal, Jeff Bridges and Sir Elton John was admittedly enjoyable.

Vaughn and Goldman just offer more of the same, George Richmond’s cinematography is alright, the editing of Eddie Hamilton was okay, Darren Gilford’s production design was fine, the art and set decoration were solid, the costumes by Arianne Phillips were good and the visual effects were hot-and-cold at best; sometimes it was nice to look at, other times, way over the top.

I went into Kingsman: The Golden Circle with a question (see #1 above) and it answered it, and a reason (see #2 above) and the movie was a great way to waste a Friday afternoon but despite it all, what we have here is another wasted and unnecessary Hollywood sequel. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t exactly have a great deal of fun watching it either.

Review: Stronger

Months back, I had the opportunity to watch Peter Berg’s take on one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in modern U.S. history. Patriots Day was a methodical manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers, the bombers that killed, maimed and seriously wounded scores of innocents at the 2013 Boston Marathon, including Jeff Bauman, the subject of Stronger directed by David Gordon Green.

Bauman was at the finish line to support his on-again, off-again girlfriend Erin when the bombs went off. He lost both of his legs and had to be confined to a wheelchair, endure a long period of physical therapy and train to utilize prosthetics and was subjected to become the official “face” of the term Boston Strong, an honor he didn’t ask for and one he certainly didn’t embrace when he was discharged from the hospital.

Stronger is a fascinating film because when you think about it, because it goes past the story of the Marathon Bombings; that was truly a tragic moment that resulted in the loss of many lives but there are hundreds of survivors with stories to tell and Bauman certainly had one to tell considering he was right there when it happened and how what happened not only affected him, but his family, his circle of friends and the entire Boston community but the film just takes the same old predictable inspirational story/overcoming adversity arcs that you can probably expect and the wind is just not in the sails to propel this film to greatness.

Fault in this film is certainly not on Jake Gyllenhaal or Tatiana Maslany who are both very strong in these leading roles. Gyllenhaal as Bauman is practically effortless in his performance as this character who has to become the face of overcoming struggle, while struggling with his new limitation and Maslany gives a great performance as Bauman’s key support who is right there struggling with him and these circumstances.

Perhaps what let this film down the most was that there was no impact from how this film was written by John Pollono, who adapted this from Bauman’s book, which was also written by Bret Witter. It’s told in the way a story is supposed to be told-a beginning, a middle and an end-and it is an inspirational tale but where was the impact of this picture?

David Gordon Green did a nice job directing this, it was a firm tribute to Bauman and his family and the fortitude it took for them to get through this ordeal but again, I just felt as if this movie just went through the motions and delivered something that has been seen over and over again.

The remainder of the cast in this film including Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown, Carlos Sanz, Richard Lane Jr., Lenny Clarke, Patty O’Neil, Danny McCarthy, Kate Fitzgerald, Nate Richman, they’re fine at best.

Sean Bobbitt’s cinematography is okay, Dylan Tichenor’s editing is fluid and it helps keep the film going, Michael Brook’s music is unmemorable on retrospect, Stephen H. Carter’s production design, Paul Richards’ art decoration, Jeanette Scott’s set decoration, Leah Katznelson and Kim Wilcox’s costumes, were all very bland looking back on things. I will say that the visual effects and the measures taken to remove Jake Gyllenhaal’s legs for this picture were impressive.

Stronger just goes through the motions for me. I liked the lead actors but the rest of the film fell flat.

Review: mother!

Darren Aronofsky’s new film is ultimately a story about two characters who yearn to bring life into an empty space in different ways. Oscar winner Javier Bardem is a supposed writer and poet looking to get unblocked and his wife, played by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, toils restoring their old home to its former glory. Their endeavors, or should I say, his endeavors welcome unexpected company as people from parts unknown begin to take up space and the two central characters are ultimately witnesses and central players to the madness that unfolds in the space within their home.


Image by Paramount Pictures and Protozoa

Bearing witness to Aronofsky’s latest venture simply dubbed mother!, I was bewitched by the grandeur and the expertise it took to craft this picture and put it on screen. Going in, I had no idea what I was getting into, watching it, I had no idea where it was going, after it ended, it didn’t dawn on me that the film drew heavy inspiration/was a very radical take on a very familiar book (I won’t spoil it for you) but for all of its mystery, suspense and extensive shock and awe, I can say that mother! is undoubtedly a work of extreme genius and I take my hat of to Darren Aronofsky for writing and directing one of this year’s most elaborate, menacing and heart-stopping pictures.

As someone who has seen almost everything that Jennifer Lawrence has done, I must say that her performance in this film is probably the best she’s done to date. She is completely immersed in this role as the voice of reason, the victim of her husband’s “generosity” and ultimately his power; in the falling action of the film as her house is besieged by her husband’s followers and she navigates through the hell her home has become, going mad in the process and in her condition, she is a powerhouse in this picture.

Lawrence’s co-star Javier Bardem? In my eyes, ever since he debuted as Anton Chighur in the Oscar winning No Country for Old Men, he has always been a powerful performer and he delivers another resplendent performance as this enigmatic and very popular figure. I was on pins and needles watching him because I had no way of knowing what these characters, especially his character, was going to do, where this movie was going to turn; in mother!, Lawrence and Bardem are both Oscar caliber.

The supporting performances of Ed Harris, Michelle Pfieffer, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson, Jovan Adepo, Patricia Summersett, Amanda Chiu and so many were fleeting but resonating; the figures once you start to make the connections as to who they are to the two central characters in the grand scheme of the picture, you begin to understand how prominent they are to the development of the film’s and where it was ultimately going.

Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is tense, unnerving but captures Lawrence’s character as she descends into madness so rivetingly and it compliments the spectacular editing of Andrew Weisblum so well.

I cannot recall if mother! actually used a score, which is credited to Jóhann Jóhannsson, but if it did it may have faded into the background of the action. I actually believe it was better without a score because the tension of the picture would have been stolen if it did use music of any kind; I was just so enthralled with what I witnessed, I must have missed the use of a score anywhere in the film.

Phillip Messina’s production design was outstanding, I thought the art decoration and set decoration added to the overall scope of the picture. Danny Glicker’s costumes and the make-up team did a great job as well.

mother! is a must-see movie! The performances by its two leading actors, the unpredictable and gripping writing, the execution it took to accomplish making it, it all culminates to a work of radical cinematic genius by Darren Aronofsky.