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LEE DANIEL’S THE BUTLER serves a up sentimental story

27 Jan


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.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A


6 Jan


I have not read the books, but everyone tells me the first film was water down when it came to the politics. As for the second film, the same people told me the second installment was closer to the book’s true intention. From an objective point of view, the politics come from  the same oppressive position found in most science fiction films. It was suggested in the first through an ideological state apparatus, whereas in the second film it manifests itself into a repressive state apparatus through military force and law enforcement, which makes it easier for audiences to identify. Both films were good, but the second film is entertaining because the antagonists’ intentions are blurred, making a more complex film for audiences to enjoy. Winning is not the only thing that is important in this film, which creates opportunities for Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to build and explore their characters’ darker side.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: B

Elysium is worth the trip

10 Aug


Elysium is Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up film to his sleeper hit District 9. Set in the year 2154, the wealthy live on a man-made space station called Elysium while the rest of humanity is stuck on Earth working and dying for crumbs. Max (Matt Damon) agrees to sabotage Elysium, but the Secretary Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster), and her key enforcer Kruger (Sharlto Colpey) stand in his way.

Blomkamp’s story can heavy-handed at times because this is non-fiction. The technology and special effects only enhance his metaphors about class, immigration, health care, and the environment. There is a balance, but your politics will impact your perspective and enjoyment of the film. Like District 9 it is difficult to separate the message from the entertainment. For the cast, Damon fits right in while Foster appears lost in space, however her executioner arm, Colpey is menacingly good. I look forward to Blomkamp’s next project. Despite its minor flaws and Jodie Foster, Elysium is still worth the trip.


Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: B-

World War Z adapts to the zombie genre

31 Jul


World War Z wastes no time. The exposition is about five minutes, and then all hell breaks loose as Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his family find themselves in middle of mass hysteria and death as the infected run wild through the city. Gerry is a former UN investigator that is forced into tracking the origin of the virus with a small team. Most good zombie films have been attached to some social/cultural/political metaphors to describe the contemporary condition. There are hints of all of these ingredients in the film, but rabid consumption and depression from lack of stimulus resonated the most with me. I am not a zombie fan and I have not read Max Brooks’ novel, but I will pick up the book and I look forward to the seeing a sequel. It is a serious story that equals 28 Days Later, but like its predecessor finding a suitable ending that will satisfy everyone is its biggest shortcoming.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: C+

Strangers (short film)

11 May


Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor do not need any words to describe the racial tension between Arab and Jewish people. In 2004, the writers/directors put together a seven minute film that reminds everyone of the fear and dislike that exists between these groups. The racial prejudice and religious intolerance is felt between subtle gestures and eye contact as a Jewish man and Arab man sit across from one another on a European subway train. The uncomfortable silence is broken when their mutual distrust is interrupted by a gang of skinheads that wear their over hatred for others on their sleeves. The cast is convincing and the climax gives hope, but in the end, Nattiv and Tadmor remind audiences of the gap between the two sides. A powerful film that will lead to an expanded version a couple of years later, but these seven minutes capture the moment and the message.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Hunger feasts on a powerful story

4 Mar


Writer/Director Steve McQueen’s film is about the 1981 Irish hunger strike at the H.M. Prison Maze. It is divided into three parts, the first involving the daily routines of a prison guard, who is emotionally damaged by his job. The second involves two prisoners who participate in the IRA prisoners’ no wash protest. Finally, the third part involves the hunger strike, led by Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender).

McQueen doesn’t shy away from the brutal conditions endured by Sands and his fellow inmates, and also shows the emotion felt by those involved with minimal dialogue. In this case, silence is not neutral. Fassbender is mesmerizing as Sands, his transformation in the film is raw and brave. There is a twenty minute scene featuring Sands and a priest. It is one of the most impressive pieces of filmmaking I have seen because of its seamless performance. Hunger feasts on a powerful story that leave audiences satisfied with the dramatization of these real-life events.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Campaign…I do not recall

29 Jan


Like most past elections, I cannot remember who was running and what they running for or what issues they were supporting or not supporting. I feel bad because it is something I should remember. Ironically, I had a similar experience with The Campaign. I know I watched the film on DVD Saturday night, but by Tuesday morning I knew I had watched something over the weekend, but I could not remember its name to save the life of me.  That pretty much sums up my recollection of this forgettable political satire about an evil interest group attempting to oust an incumbent politician (Will Ferrell) with a candidate of their “own” (Zack Galifianakis). There are some funny moments between the two gifted comedic actors, but most of the jokes are empty promises that do not deliver. Ferrell is his usual dependable self, but Galifianakis is too whiny and unlikeable.  I was hoping for much more from the film’s leading “candidates.”


Chuck’ Grade: C

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Get Milk!

7 Jan


Gus Van Sant’s biographical film about Harvey Milk is a statement about courage, determination, and sacrifice.  Based on the true story of how Milk (Sean Penn) was elected as San Francisco’s first openly gay city councilor in 1978. The film mixes archival footage from the 1970s into the drama as it shows Harvey and his partner (James Franco) leave New York to open a small camera shop on Castro Street. From there, audiences learn about Harvey’s life and his eventual attempts for political office, as well as the his interactions with fellow supervisor board member Dan White (Josh Brolin).

Dustin Lance Black’s award winning script provides a strong foundation for these talented actors to embody Milk’s spirit. He avoids Hollywood’s insensitive stereotypes of gay men and demonstrates the humanity of a man driven to do something important with his life. Penn reaches mainstream audiences like no other actor before him and he deservedly wins a second Oscar his performance. Get Milk!


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A-

Black Hawk Down remembered for its courage and sacrifice

21 Dec


Screenwriter Ken Nolan adaptation of Mark Bowden’s book, Black Hawk Down is one of the most popular war films among American audiences. Director Ridley Scott puts together an engaging account of the Battle of Mogadishu, where nineteen American soldiers were killed, seventy more injured, and over a thousand Somalis dead. As with most Hollywood films inspired by true events there are many liberties taken to make an entertaining film. Black Hawk Down is no different, but the ultra realistic battle scenes and Scott’s signature action sequences give the film an air of authenticity that audiences can appreciate. As far as war films go, I am not a big fan, but I liked this movie because Scott elected to feature the 75th Rangers and Delta force units as a whole, instead of focusing solely on one or two characters. This ensemble cast is charismatic and a formidable group that will be remembered for its courage and sacrifice, instead of cheesy one-liners.


Chuck’ grade: B

Adam’s grade: B

Killing Them Softly turns up the volume

4 Dec


I want to start by simply saying that I liked this film, but I know many people are going to hate this movie for a variety of reasons. Brad Pitt is a hitman hired to kill who is responsible for someone robbing a mob sanctioned card game. Killing Them Softly is not your ordinary gangster film. Director Andrew Dominik takes the genre and turns it on its head with a series of aesthetic choices that I thought were bold and original. Especially, the stylistic depictions of violence and drug use.

Dominic elects to include tracks from the Bush vs. Obama election throughout the movie to emphasize and identify America’s weakened condition. I did not mind the messages being communicated but their insertions were Brechtian in nature, which made it difficult to stay connected. I assume the director was trying to alienate his audiences on purpose, but I think the film would have been stronger with the volume turned down.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A