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LEE DANIEL’S THE BUTLER serves a up sentimental story

27 Jan

the-butler

The most striking aspect of Lee Daniel’s The Butler is Forest Whitaker’s (Cecil Gaines) in the title role. It was a beautiful performance about a man, a father, and a husband attempting to provide for his family while attempting to come to turns with his role in life and his place in history. At the center of the film is a story about a father and a son at odds with one another about what actions should be taken to make a positive difference in the world. The film begins with the embarrassing truth of America’s most shameful behavior and follows Mr. Gaines as he becomes a butler at the White House, while his son, Louis grows up to become an activist fighting for African-Americans’ civil rights at most of the major points in history. It is a sentimental story that takes on too much at once, but Whitaker should not have been ignored by the Academy Awards.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

LOVELACE doesn’t go deep enough

8 Jan

LOVELACE-FILM

The life of Linda Boreman is dramatized in the biographical film, Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried in the title role.  Her performance along with Peter Sarsgaard as her abusive husband, Chuck Traynor and Sharon Stone as her mother are outstanding. At first, audiences are invited to witness the events that lead to Linda becoming an overnight sensation in America, but the film concludes with events that went on behind her 15 minutes of fame. The strategy works and forces audiences to realize the darkness that pollutes this industry built on sex, drugs, and abuse. However, the rest of the moving parts are mediocre because the film is unable to delve deep enough into any particular event. The film moves quickly, but since it plays the same story twice it seems like it stands still in time like a record skipping on a scratch.

WORD COUNT : 141

Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: C

47 RONIN are turning over in their graves

30 Dec

47-ronin-film

The film’s director, Carl Erik Rinsch is probably kneeling before a room of executives at Universal and offering to perform seppuku for the dismal 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves. Everyone knew the film was in trouble long before its eventual Christmas release date, but I (Chuck) am a martial art film junkie and wanted to give the film a fair viewing. Unfortunately, the film lived up to its bad press by putting together a poorly assembled re-interpretation of the legendary story about Japan’s most famous samurai. There was no cohesion from scene to scene because the production is unable to balance the fantasy with the real story. Rinsch tries to honor both ideas, but it simply does not work. The special effects are distracting and predictable. Also, Universal Studios should be ashamed of themselves for thinking a  story about a group a men known for gaining honor through mass suicide would be a successful holiday blockbuster.

WORD COUNT: 154

Chuck’s Grade: D

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Rush is exhilarating from start to finish

3 Oct

RUSH-2013-film

Director Ron Howard is back in the driver seat with both hands on the steering will his adrenaline fueled film, Rush. Based on the true story of the Formula 1 racing rivalry between English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian professional Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). The film reveals their contrasting personalities and styles, as well as their obsession for becoming world champions.

Howard teams up with writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) who is becoming a master at creating dynamic relationships between opposing character rivals. It truly is the driving force that gets everything going.

Howard put together the perfect vehicle this time. A thrilling score by Hans Zimmers and expert camerawork by Anthony Dod Mantle. Equally important is Hemsworth’s acting. He is maturing into something much more than eye candy and muscles. However, Bruhl’s steals the checker flag and finishes off with a signature performance. Rush is full of life, color, risk and it is exhilarating from start to finish.

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Zodiac is an elusive subject to capture

25 Sep

ZODIAC-FILM

Director David Fincher makes an attempt to capture the most elusive and mysterious figure in law enforcement history. He is no stranger to serial killers, but his interpretation of Zodiac by Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) gives audiences a front row seat to Graysmith’s obsession with the infamous case that terrorized Northern California and frustrated investigators for decades.

Fincher’s visual style and attention to detail are impeccable. He takes his time with the characters and attempts to replicate these events as accurately as possible from Graysmith’s perspective, but it does lead to a slow pace and a long run time. The cast is formidable, however, Gyllenhaal’s performance isn’t nearly as strong  as Mark Ruffalo as Detective Dave Toschi and Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery.  It is difficult to satisfy audiences with such an ending, but Fincher remains true to the story and keeps “Hollywood” out of it as much as possible.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

Into the Wild captures the spirit

16 Aug

INTO-THE-WILD

Sean Penn waited nearly a decade to make the  film about a driven young man’s desire to abandon his comfortable, civilized world and embark on an adventure that would lead him to the Alaskan wilderness. Into the Wild is based on Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction novel about the inspiring, but tragic story of Christopher McCandless. Penn assembles a thought-provoking film filled with refreshing messages about life, passion, and the pursuit of happiness.

The film intermingled a narrative that can become tedious and the 148 minute run time should have been addressed, but there is no denying Emile Hirsch’s hauntingly powerful performance as Christopher. It keeps the film engaging and on a personal level. His journey of self-realization is unforgettable and his decisions become a topic of debate concerning liberation and destruction. Love it or hate it, the film captures the life and death of young man trying to live life on his terms.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

Fruitvale Station is worth a visit

26 Jul

FRUITVALE-STATION

Director Ryan Coogler makes his feature length debut with a heartbreaking film about the story of a young man trying to turn his life around, but derailed from happening because of the tragic events that unfolded on New Year’s Day in 2009. Most people familiar with the incident have seen the YouTube videos of officer John Mehserle shooting Oscar at Fruitvale Station.

Coogler’s film with the same title casts Michael B. Jordan as Oscar and Octavia Spencer as his mother. Both powerful performances that help Coogler win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.  It is a film with a purpose, but at times I think Coogler mishandles the story with foreshadowing, as well as his one-sided depiction of the victim. Fruitvale Station is an important piece of work from a young director attempting to connect, communicate, and understand the repressive state apparatuses and ideological conditions challenging young people today. It is a worth a visit.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Conjuring will scare you immensely

23 Jul

the-conjuring

The Conjuring is based on the true story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who your parents would know from their work on the infamous Amityville house. It has been some time since I have seen a horror film that delivers the kinds of chills that The Conjuring does. I was scared, even though I am old enough to know better.

I love director James Wan’s filmmaking style. His camera movements are executed with precision and contribute to overall performance and production. The film does a fine job at developing the characters simultaneously. When Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) move into a farmhouse with their five daughters, their family is terrorized by a spirit and must ask for help from Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga). The Conjuring uses some old-school horror film tactics to make audiences shriek, which I think is a good thing and a nice change of pace.

WORD COUNT: 155

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A (too scared)

The Impossible is an emotional journey

21 Jun

THE-IMPOSSIBLE

The Impossible is based on a true story about a family caught in the middle of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami devastation.  Director Juan Bayona’s storytelling brings this unreal event to a perspective that is rarely capture in a film. The personal moments between the characters are unforgettable and film’s emotional impact is long-lasting. Bayona balances  the story with strategic special effects and the choice to film sequences in real water allowed the cast to shine through and give some of the best performances of 2012. Watts garnered most of the attention with several nominations, but many would agree this little film showcased a formidable Ewan McGregor. Someone we have not seen for some time. Also, Tom Holland as Lucas (12-year-old) charisma and talent make audiences take note of great things to come from this young actor.

WORD COUNT: 135

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Chasing Mavericks rides a positive wave

26 May

chasing-mavericks

Rarely does a Hollywood “Based on a True Story” movie get it right, but the film about surf legends Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) and Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) rides the perfect wave into people’s hearts. It does not matter if you have never surfed or have never heard of them. Chasing Mavericks is more than your average surfer movie. It is a story filled with meaningful relationships that support a young man’s quest to achieve the improbable. Moriarity looks to Hesson as a father figure and dedicates himself to a strict regimen that most kids his age would give up after the first day. His passion for surfing and his love for his mother (Elisabeth Shue), his best friend (Devin Crittenden) and the girl of his dreams (Leven Rambin) make the perfect script for audiences to get behind. The surfing is amazing, but Butler’s performance serves as the pillar holding this film up as one the best of 2012.

WORD COUNT: 159

Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A