Review: Detroit

Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s newest picture, or should I dub it a docudrama, is a hard-hitting take on the events that transpired in the Motor City in 1967. Detroit follows the individuals and actions that lead to the horrible shootout that took place at the Algiers Motel, where the police shot and killed three African-American boys suspected of firing shots at National Guardsman and the aftermath of their actions.

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Image by Annapurna Pictures

Detroit is a culmination of three subplots carried by a security guard named Melvin Dismukes, a Detroit police officer named Krauss and an aspiring Motown lead singer named Larry and his friend Fred. Each of them are eventually drawn to the Algiers where bedlam, fear and senseless violence take place after the police arrive and take drastic and dangerous steps to determine who fired the suspected gun.

Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have worked together to deliver two of the hardest hitting dramas echoing current cultural and societal issues. Detroit is no exception to the standard as it definitely packs an impact upon viewing it, but unlike The Hurt Locker and unlike Zero Dark Thirty, I found Detroit a mess.

I couldn’t get past the constant shaky Steadicam work. The cinematography of Barry Ackroyd was very unsteady to watch; I get that Bigelow wanted to go for authenticity and I respect for that but the camerawork was so over the top, I couldn’t find a way to settle.

I also found flaws in how this was written. Mark Boal is talented but I can’t help but think that he may have overdone it; especially after the film concluded and Bigelow wrote in a statement stating that a lot of the information about the events of this movie was incomplete. I understand how filmmakers can take certain liberties to enhance the appeal of a film, especially if they are based on true events but it just raises the questions how much of this film was influenced by the modern day news stories about black men killed by police for little to no reason at all.

Also I found that the script left some things unresolved by some of their characters like Dismukes, Krauss, Greene and whoever else was involved in this ordeal and managed to survive; this movie, felt incomplete primarily because of how it was written.

Bigelow made her intentions clear in Detroit and I can definitely see why she was drawn to make this movie; the problems relating to race and police violence are just as relevant and important today as they were back then and the system has not made a difference. The problem is that this film has problems and those problems dragged this film down; the writing muddles the impact and the camerawork hinders the editing of William Goldenberg and Harry Yoon, which felt very sloppy transitioning between Dismukes, Krauss, Larry and the guests at the hotel for a while.

What I can’t say is that the cast and the acting were not a problem. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Nathan Davis Jr., Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever and Jason Mitchell all do a fine job with their roles.

James Newton Howard’s music was fine, Jeremy Hindle’s production design was bold, the set decoration by Dennis Colvin and Kathy Lucas was sharp, the art direction by Greg Barry and Jim Wallis was good, the make-up and sound effects was top notch and the costume design by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck was very precise.

There were times where I tried to force myself to pay attention to this movie and that has never happened to me before with a Kathryn Bigelow movie. Detroit is an impactful film, it is, and it is worth seeing because it has relevance but it also has problems that are difficult to ignore and ultimately, it is disappointing.

Movie of the Week: Detroit

The tandem of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have delivered compelling cinema over the past few years. The Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker was an intense examination of how war can be addictive to man. Zero Dark Thirty was a relentless depiction on the manhunt for the world’s most infamous terrorist and now the two are ready to take audiences back in time to one of the most recent darkest chapters in American history. In 1967, one of America’s most prominent cities was ready to explode due to racial tensions and hostilities toward the police and the incidents which occurred at the Algiers Motel, may as well lit the fuse on those tensions. It’s time to go to Detroit.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Screenwriter: Mark Boal

Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jason Mitchell, Jack Reynor, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Jacob Lattimore, John Krasinski, Kaitlyn Dever and Hannah Murray.

What am I expecting to see?: From what I’ve heard going in, this movie is very polarizing; either people will enjoy it or people will see it as a mess, which is strange considering Bigelow and Boal crafted it. The subject itself is tantalizing considering how societally relevant it seems but even the great ones can make mistakes. I’m looking forward to being enlighted, educated and entertained by Detroit considering how much I enjoyed Bigelow’s last two features but I’m bracing myself for the worst all the same.

Review: The Revenant

For the record, let me make it clear that Leonardo DiCaprio was not raped by a bear! In the discussed sequence, I found that he was more chew-toy than plaything.

Anyway, the new film from last year’s Oscar winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu is a visually gorgeous and heart-racing endeavor; a character driven feature about survival, revenge and family set in the American frontier called The Revenant.

Oscar hopeful Leonardo DiCaprio stars as 19th century trapper Hugh Glass, who after a vicious bear attack is left for dead in the wilderness at the hands of John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, who tried to cover-up his wicked transgressions by killing Glass’ son Hawk, played by Forest Goodluck. After digging himself out of Fitzgerald’s shallow grave, Glass embarks on a harrowing trek through the wilderness, dodging marauding Natives, to find Fitzgerald and savor sweet satisfaction.

I’ve been looking forward to The Revenant for a long time and it was everything I expected it would be. The Revenant is a powerful accomplishment from director Alejandro González Iñárritu carried by Leonardo DiCaprio who is at his most phenomenal, and enhanced by the graceful and stirring cinematography of the legendary Emmanuel Lubezki; virtually everything about this film gets your heart racing and you can’t look away for a second! Heavy on the wow-factor.

Alejandro González Iñárritu has undoubtedly delivered a successful follow-up to his Oscar-winner for Best Picture Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) with this gritty and intense drama about a man who will go to great lengths for family as well as his own survival. Adapted from Michael Punke’s novel, The Revenant is a masterstroke from Iñárritu and screenwriter Mark L. Smith.

Iñárritu sits at the helm of one of 2015’s most emboldened and technically well-endowed features. Obviously, the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki can speak for itself; you could take this movie frame-by-frame blow them all up as individual tableaus and museums could dedicate a wing to showcase The Revenant’s gorgeous visual artistry through the cinematic eye of Lubezki and his camera.

Stephen Mirrione was robbed of an Oscar nomination for his editing last year (Birdman) but I feel that he has a solid chance for recognition this year.

I felt that the music from Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto felt a little out of place at certain intervals of the film but I will recognize how distinct it was.

Jack Fisk’s production design, Michael Diner, Isabelle Duay and Laurel Bergman’s art decoration all exhibited the raw power of shooting in a natural location, Hamish Purdy’s set decoration was amazing, the costumes of Jacqueline West were as authentic as you could ask for, the sound, makeup, the special and visual effects, I was impressed with everything. What’s more is that I’ve heard about the stories recalling how grueling this production was but I must admit that this movie was an example of how suffering creates art and this was stunning to behold!

Image By Siebbi (Leonardo DiCaprio), via Wikimedia Commons

Leonardo DiCaprio has always been an actor who I could count on to deliver an outstanding performance but he went above and beyond with The Revenant as Hugh Glass. The lengths that he went to for this film, were it eating raw bison liver, or sleeping in a carcass or getting mauled and maimed by a possibly 300 lb bear, I could tell that he came committed to this role and he was determined to have the Best Actor Oscar on lock with a performance that touched something primal and fearless. Bravo Mr. DiCaprio!

Tom Hardy has certainly enjoyed 2015 and with The Revenant, he himself turned in a resounding performance as John Fitzgerald, the callous, greedy and deceptive opportunist who would do what needed to be done to save his own skin and make a profit.

The rest of the cast including Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Melah Nakehk’o are minor roles but all is compatible with their performances.

The word “revenant” means “one who has returned.” It applies to Hugh Glass, for he was a man who was left for dead and he returned to exact his revenge. The term “revenant” can also apply to several individuals who had a hand in crafting this gorgeous thriller that will have hearts racing in theaters.

I foresee that Alejandro González Iñárritu, Emmanuel Lubezki and Leonardo DiCaprio will return to the Oscars this February for they should be recognized for their contributions to The Revenant. The Revenant is one of 2015’s most distinguished and exhilarating achievements in film.

There is a new adventure in Narnia

Fox has given the green light to a fourth cinematic installment of “The Chronicles of Narnia” film franchise. Producer Mark Gordon will drive a new installment to the film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ beloved story about the mythical Lion king Aslan, voice of Liam Neeson, and the magical realm of Narnia. According to sources, the fourth chapter of the film franchise will most likely be an adaptation of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair,” which finds Eustance Scrubb, played by Will Poulter in “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” returning to Narnia to find Prince Rilian, the son and heir of the now elderly King Caspian X.

The Chronicles of Narnia franchise continues with news of a fourth installment

My personal thoughts on this are met with skepticism and leaves me a little puzzled to be honest. “The Chronicles of Narnia” franchise, started out very strong with the first installment, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” then the franchise faltered a bit with the following sequels, “Prince Caspian” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” which lost the magic that the first installment contained. I’m skeptical that “The Silver Chair” can find the special flavor that “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” possessed. It will be a challenge, but I’m hopeful that “The Silver Chair” can put fans of the Narnia literary and film sagas into the chairs of movie theaters to enjoy. As of yet, there is no release date for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair” because the movie has yet to be put into production.