Movie Review: Blaze (2018)

Biopics are fascinating. They give us a glimpse into a real life individual’s personal life, while also trying to provide a couple hours of entertainment. And striking the right balance between fact and compelling drama can be tough. But some people manage it.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Blaze”.

The story follows the life and times of Blaze Foley (Ben Dickey), a raggedy man with a talent for music. From his humble beginnings, and through the highs and lows, including his marriage to Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat), we get a good glimpse into Foley’s life. And I think that the plot here is really good. There are elements that we recognize from other biopics, but the way they’re used throughout “Blaze” feels fresh, due to the gentle and nuanced writing. It creates a fascinating tale that can be as heartbreaking as it is warmly nostalgic. The deliberately slow pace might prove a bit frustrating for some, but I thought it worked very well for the story here.

The characters here are flawed, nuanced, charming, and overall feel very real. Ben Dickey plays the titular musician. A likable man with a lot of tragic flaws. Seeing his journey as a character here is really fascinating, and I really grew to care about him. And Dickey is great in the role. Alia Shawkat plays Sybil Rosen, a woman and aspiring actress/writer that Blaze has a committed relationship with. The journey she has here, which really are the ups and downs of being with Blaze, is really interesting, and makes her an interesting and sympathetic character. And Shawkat is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Charlie Sexton, Josh Hamilton, Wyatt Russell, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

As this is a biopic about a musician, it should be expected that one would hear a lot of songs from said artist throughout. You’d be correct in that assumption, you do hear a lot of Foley’s music here… and I love it. Not only because the music is incredibly well written, but also because the way it’s implemented in the storytelling is absolutely wonderful. So yeah, the music here is great.

Based on “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley” (bit of a mouthful) by Sybil Rosen, this movie was written by Ethan Hawke & Sybil Rosen, with Hawke also handling directing. And the craft here is wonderful. It has a warmness to it, and a willingness to just sit down and really get to know these characters, not always feeling the need to get to the next “big event”. Like I said in the story bit, the pacing is deliberately slow, and the direction embraces that and turns it into some truly compelling stuff. And the cinematography by Steve Cosens helps kind of give it all a nostalgic storybook feeling that really adds to the experience.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,7/10.

“Blaze” is a wonderful movie about a very interesting man. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *AHEM*. My final score for “Blaze” is a 9,77/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Blaze” is now completed.

That was a nice experience.

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Series Review: Chernobyl (2019)

Usually I make some kind of cute remarks in these intros that relate to the thing I’m reviewing. But in this case I just can’t. There’s nothing clever I can say. So I guess we should just get into the review itself.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Chernobyl”.

The Chernobyl power plant, Ukraine, April 1986. It’s in the middle of the night. The people working the plant notice something going awry. The core has exploded. So we follow in the aftermath of that, showing how it affects the people either working the plant or trying to stop it from getting worse. We also get to see how scientist Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) tries to figure out ways to fix it, while dealing with all the red tape of the Soviet government. So now we have our historical drama. And man, this is a fucking masterclass in storytelling. Sure, it doesn’t give you any major twists or turns, but it instead takes the relatively straightforward events and tells them in a very nuanced, respectful, and anxiety-inducing way. There isn’t a scene in this show that didn’t have me on the edge of my seat. It may not technically be listed as horror, but it sure as hell felt like it at times.

The characters in this all feel layered, flawed, nuanced, realistic, and overall very interesting. Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov, the scientist put in charge of trying to fix the whole conundrum of the Chernobyl explosion. He’s one of those people who tries to make sense of everything, but also gets frustrated when people won’t listen to him. And it’s interesting to see him go through the various issues he has to deal with in the series. And Harris is fantastic in the role. We also get performances from people like Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley, Barry Keoghan, Con O’Neill, Paul Ritter, David Dencik, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for “Chernobyl” was composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, and it was fantastic. It’s dark, it’s eerie, it’s emotional, it’s anxiety-inducing… it’s exactly the kind of score that is befitting of the storytelling. So yeah, it fits quite well.

Based on the horrifying nuclear disaster in 1986, the show was created and written by Craig Mazin, with Johan Renck directing. And the craft behind this is stellar. The direction is always eerie, never letting up any of the suspense. It’s claustrophobic, but also intimate with its characters, really bringing you into their personal struggles. And the cinematography by Jakob Ihre is quite eerie too.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 9,7/10 and is ranked #1 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“Chernobyl” isn’t a fun show… but it is quite fantastic. It has a great plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Chernobyl” is a 9,94/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Chernobyl” is now completed.

You know what’s interesting? The guy who wrote this show also wrote the “Hangover” sequels and some of the later “Scary Movie” entries.

Movie Review: You Don’t Know Jack (2010)

Oh dear. How do I make a fun intro to this? I mean, I don’t need to, and probably shouldn’t because of the heavy subject matter… but I like making fun intros. What a dilemma.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “You Don’t Know Jack”.

The story follows Jack Kevorkian (Al Pacino), a highly controversial doctor. Why is he controversial? Because he advocates (and leads) for the service of assisted suicide for the terminally ill or severely disabled who no longer want to suffer. So the story is about Kevorkian helping his patients while also fighting the legal battle to have what he’s doing be legal… I told you the themes in this were heavy. But in presentation they’re not overbearingly heavy to just make you depressed every minute of the movie. Not saying that it’s exactly a lighthearted movie, but it knows how to find a tone that emphasizes the drama while keeping it relatively easy to watch. And yeah, the plot here has a lo of nuance and balances tone very well, but it also has some trouble with pacing. I get it, Kevorkian had a long career, and this isn’t a fast-paced action movie, but there are times when the pacing drags a bit. It doesn’t ruin the plot, but it does pull it down a bit in my book. Still, the plot here is good.

The characters in this are colorful, layered, flawed, and overall quite interesting. Al Pacino plays Jack Kevorkian, the man at the center of the story advocating for assisted suicide. He’s a passionate and highly determined man, doing everything in his power to let people (as he puts it) have the choice to suffer or not. He’s also kinda quirky, but it never clashes with his dramatic struggle, as it shows that there’s many sides to him (like with most people). And Pacino is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Danny Huston, Brenda Vaccaro, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Cotter Smith, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

There wasn’t a lot of music composed for this movie, but the little there is was done by Marcelo Zarvos, and the music was good… not much else I can say there. The use of licensed music worked pretty well in the movie too. Yeah, not much else can be said.

Based on the life of actual doctor Jack Kevorkian, this movie was written by Adam Mazer, and directed by Barry Levinson. And their work together was really good. Admittedly the camerawork leaves a little to be desired, as the tv movie constraints really show at times here. But the overall direction here is still good, getting close and intimate with the characters and their struggles in a wonderful way.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,7/10.

While not perfect, “You Don’t Know Jack” is still a really engrossing movie that should spark some interesting discussion. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, okay music, and good writing/directing. As previously stated, it does suffer a bit in pacing and camerawork (but nothing major). Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “You Don’t Know Jack” is an 8,82/10. So while flawed, it’s still definitely worth buying.

My review of “You Don’t Know Jack” is now completed.

I have nothing that’s really related to the movie to end on, so let’s just share one of the most profound quotes of all time. “Hoo-ah” – Al Pacino.

Series Review: The Looming Tower (2018)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Usually I do, but there’s nothing I can think of here. This show deals with some sensitive stuff, so it’s hard to make up an intro that is fun. So let’s just get into it, I guess.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a show… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Looming Tower”.

Set in the late 90s, we follow people from both the FBI and the CIA as they both try to stop the rising threat that is the Al-Qaeda. But their inability to cooperate makes the process a lot more troublesome than it could be. So now we have our historical counter-terrorism drama. And let’s make it clear right now, this isn’t counter-terrorism in the Jack Ryan sense where there’s a bunch of thrilling action scenes. This is a slow burning drama all about investigating and bureaucracy and arguing and such. And I found it all utterly compelling, thanks to calculated writing that prefers to take the realistic and relatively mundane path to its goal, compared to so many counter-terrorism stories, which tend to go for the thrilling sensationalist route. But yeah, I really liked the plot here.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Jeff Daniels as John O’Neill, an FBI agent keen on stopping Al-Qaeda the right way (arrest, court, all that jazz). And while he generally tries to be a good guy, he does have some skeletons in his closet shown throughout that make him quite compelling. And Daniels is fantastic in the role. Next we have Tahar Rahim as Ali Soufan, a new agent within the FBI who gets assigned to work with O’Neill in finding and stopping the various Al-Qaeda members who may exist. And he has some god development throughout that makes him quite interesting. And Rahim is great in the role. And we get supporting performances from people like Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alec Baldwin, Ella Rae Peck, Jamie Neumann, Louis Cancelmi, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Will Bates, who I think did a damn solid job. It goes for a relatively downplayed and somber style. You won’t hear big, tense brass in this to highten the tension of a scene, instead the pieces are smaller, more intimate, almost droning at times to sort of help capture that realistic/slow burning counter-terrorism style that the show’s going for. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on a book by Lawrence Wright, the show was created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright himself, with writing and directing by a whole bunch of people. And the craft here is really tight, giving us close and intimate examinations of all the various situations while also giving us the sweeping storytelling of everything leading up to 9/11. The directing gets in close with the characters and really made me feel like a fly on the wall in these situations, I was fully immersed thanks to the tight work of the crew. And the way the show occasionally splices in real life news footage is pretty damn good.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

“The Looming Tower” is a compelling counter-terrorism drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Looming Tower” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Looming Tower” is now completed.

You know what’s a little funny? I made a comment about this not being Jack Ryan-esque in style, but Alec Baldwin (who once played Jack Ryan) is in the show.

Series Review: A Very English Scandal (2018)

What? You thought I was taking a break from blogging just because it’s christmas? Pffft. Don’t be silly.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a show… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “A Very English Scandal”.

We follow Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), a British politician who’s beloved by many. But that could change if the people found out that he’d had a sexual relationship with a young man named Norman (Ben Whishaw). So really this is all about how Thorpe tries to cover up this part of his life, for fear of Norman exposing him. And I really liked the plot here. It not only gives us an engaging personal journey for both Thorpe and Norman, but we also get a fascinating look at how British politics and such worked in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s mainly steeped in drama, which it already handles very well, but what really gives it an edge is a sort of sly wit that makes it a lot more watchable. So yeah, the plot here is layered, fun, and overall quite engaging.

The characters here are layered, colorful, and just overall interesting. Hugh Grant plays Jeremy Thorpe, a highly charismatic British politician (paradoxical description, I know) who, as I already mentioned, has a secret… a secret that back in those days could be devastating if it would be brought into the light. So seeing him develop throughout the show as he deals with trying to hide his “shameful sins” is quite fascinating. And Hugh Grant is Hugh Great in the role. Ben Whishaw plays Norman Josiffe, the young man that Thorpe has his affair with. After they have a bit of a falling out, Norman kind of tries to expose this affair to the world. And seeing him go through all his struggles in the series is quite interesting. And Whishaw is great in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Alex Jennings, Patricia Hodge, Paul Hilton, Blake Harrison, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Murray Gold, and I think he did a great job with it. Remember how I said the storytelling here has kind of a sly wit to it? That often reflects in the score as well, as it both through its excellent main theme and a few other pieces carries an almost bouncy feel to it that captures the witty style quite well. That’s not to say that it’s all fun, as Gold also knows when to pull it back a bit and create some really good dramatic pieces.

Based on a book by John Preston, the show was written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Stephen Frears, and I think their teamwork here paid off quite well, as I think the craft on display here is really solid. There’s an energy to it all that makes it quite entertaining to follow, Frears (who is a generally a good director) really brought his A-game here. And Davies’ writing here presents all characters here in a way that doesn’t take much of an actual stance. Positives, negatives, both are shown here. The writing here is also surprisingly funny. Not in a straight-up comedy kind of way, but (again) in a sort of sly way.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 84/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“A Very English Scandal” is a surprisingly entertaining political drama filled with great acting. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “A Very English Scandal” is a 9,61/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “A Very English Scandal” is now completed.

Maybe Hugh Grant is more of a character actor than a proper leading man…

Movie Review: Shattered Glass (2003)

Fake news. A topic often brought up in our current environment, especially by a certain cheeto-colored individual. Sometimes what is referred to as “fake news” is just a certain asshole not agreeing with the truth. Other times the call is warranted.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Shattered Glass”.

Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) is a young man who’s made quite a name for himself by writing very successful articles for various magazines, with his main base being the New Republic. But his life will soon get unraveled, when some other journalists start looking into one of Glass’ articles, finding clues to it potentially being fabricated. So now we have our fake news drama. And I was completely riveted by it. The plot here keeps a fairly brisk pace, but never do the degree where it skims over important details, which makes it both a dramatic, in-depth look at this situation and a generally enjoyable watch.

The characters in this are layered, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass, the man at the center of this story. He’s smart, charming, and excellent at bullshitting people in conversation. But when the pressure starts coming down on him, you start seeing the cracks in the glass. And Hayden Christensen is REALLY GOOD in the role. The reason why I emphasized that was because he’s caught so much shit for his acting in the “Star Wars” prequels, that I have to really be clear that he can be a really good actor. Next up we have Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Lane, one of Glass’ co-workers. He is one of those that kind of partakes in unraveling some of the clashing aspects of Glass’ articles, and he’s just really interesting. And Sarsgaard is great in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Hank Azaria, Rosario Dawson, Cas Anvar, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score was composed by Mychael Danna, and it was good. I wouldn’t call it that much of a standout, but it worked well enough within the movie, focusing more in smaller piano pieces than anything else, which I think just fits the various scenes well enough.

This movie was written and directed by Billy Ray, and I think he did a great job with it. What I like about his style here is that it often feels less like some small personal drama, as it often feels a bit more like a political thriller in execution. And that helps keep the movie feel a bit more exciting, it adds a bit of tension to it, which is nice as it makes it stand out a bit. But when it needs to slow down and focus more on the character drama, then Billy Ray’s direction delivers beautifully on that too.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10.

“Shatterd Glass” is a fascinating and engaging look into a very interesting situation/person. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Shattered Glass” is a 9,78/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Shattered Glass”.

Need a movie relevant to today’s society? Here you go.

Movie Review: Jarhead (2005)

*Ron Perlman voice activated*. War… war never changes. *Ron Perlman voice deactivated*.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Jarhead”.

Anthony Swofford is young man who recently enlisted with the United States marines. And we follow him in the time leading up to and during Operation Desert Storm, and how much damage it does to him psychologically. There’s a lot of interesting scenes throughout that does develop the story, and I was somewhat interested in everything that was going on. But I never really felt as engaged as this type of story should’ve gotten me. There was never that emotional hook that a story like this should be able to get. Now, I’m not saying it needs to make me cry, just that it needs to grab me and hold onto me really tightly… which it never really did. I remember some really well done moments throughout, but never was I fully invested in it all. Overall, a fine story.

The characters in this are all assholes… but in a believable way. I really believe that this is what one would become if going through all of that. And I find them all to be quite interesting. Jake Gyllenhaal (as previously mentioned) plays Anthony Swofford, a smart young man who goes through the ups and downs of marine life. Seeing a good guy like him tested like this is quite interesting, and it makes him a pretty compelling character. And Gyllenhaal is of course fantastic in the role. And throughout the movie we get supporting performances from people like Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Foxx, Evan Jones, Brian Geraghty, Lucas Black, Chris Cooper, Dennis Haysbert, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score was composed by Thomas Newman, and it was pretty good. It takes some inspiration from rock and a few middle-eastern influences, all of which comes together to create an interesting atmosphere for the movie. It’s tense, fun, and just overall pretty cool. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout the movie, all of them pleasing to the ear, and all of them working quite well in their respective scenes.

This movie was directed by Sam Mendes, and I think he did a good job. When he wanted to make me feel uneasy, he made me feel uneasy. When he wanted to build some suspense, he built some suspense. Mendes has a good eye for these things. And speaking of seeing things, the cinematography by Roger Deakins? Absolutely fantastic (what else would you expect from that man?).

This movie has gotten some slightly mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 61% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 58/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,0/10.

“Jarhead” has a lot of good things going for it, but it’s far from perfect. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. As previously mentioned, it is brought down quite a bit by a lack of a good emotional hook in the story. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Jarhead” is an 8,54/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Jarhead” is now completed.

Bang a gong, get it on…

Movie Review: Suffragette (2015)

Women. Half the world’s population. The main reason that any of us exist. Without women, the world would be completely fucked. So when I look back on history, I find it quite disheartening that these essential and amazing beings have had to go through so much hardship… and that they still kind of do these days. Hopefully we can better ourselves soon.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Suffragette”.

London, 1912. Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) is a laundry worker. She soon finds herself getting acquainted with the suffragette movement, and eventually joins them in their quest for voting rights. So now we have our historical drama. And is this plot any good? Yeah, it’s really good. It’s an engaging and at times even disturbing narrative, showing what kind of hardships and horrors these women had to go through, just because they wanted to be able to vote. At times it almost slips into pander-y Oscar bait, but it never falls into that trap, succesfully keeping a good balance of historical and emotional storytelling.

While I don’t think any of the characters are necessarily bad, I just didn’t find myself fully interested in all of them… found several of them a little undercooked. Carey Mulligan plays Maud Watts, a young mother and laundry worker who gets involved with the suffragettes. She’s determined and smart, but she does also show a more vulnerable side of herself, giving her a bit more depth as a character, and I actually cared about her quite a bit. And Mulligan is of course fantastic in the role. Helena Bonham Carter plays Edith Ellyn, a pharmacist and suffragette. She’s tough as hell and is always willing to stand up for her rights. And while I applaud those traits, I never found the character to be the most well realized. But I can say that Carter is great in the role. Ben Whishaw plays Sonny, Maud’s husband. While he is supportive of his wife, he is quite torn about her getting involved with the suffragettes’ protests. And while that could be interesting, they don’t go the full length with that and it becomes okay at best. Whishaw is really good at least. And I’m just gonna say it, what I said about Whishaw’s and Carter’s characters kind of goes for all the other ones as well… not bad, just slightly undercooked. At least we get some damn solid performances throughout the movie from people like Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Meryl Streep, Geoff Bell, Romola Garai, Finbar Lynch, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Alexandre Desplat, and I think he did a great job with it. What I liked most about it is that whether a track goes for sweeping and dramatic, or smaller and more personal, it always has a solid emotional core that makes the score some real ear candy. Seriously, it’s fucking beautiful.

This movie was directed by Sarah Gavron and I think she did a really good job with it. What I like about directing is that it’s versatile. When things are a bit more calm and contemplative, the camera is steady. But when things get more intense and (for lack of a better word) action-packed, it gets a bit more shaky, but never so much as to be a pain. I saw one guy describing it as a bit Paul Greengrass-ish, and I think that’s a pretty good description of it. And I think it really adds to the movie.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 72% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 67/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,9/10.

While flawed, I still think “Suffragette” is a really good and important movie. It has a great plot, some okay characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing. As previously mentioned, I found some of the character work here to be a bit lackluster, but that’s about it for flaws. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Suffragette” is an 8,87/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Suffragette” is now completed.

Nice to see Helena Bonham Carter going for a more “normal” role for once.

Movie Review: Fruitvale Station (2013)

I don’t have anything witty to put here. This movie broke me. Ummm… “Black Panther” out this Wednesday (or Friday), I guess.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Fruitvale Station”.

New Year’s Eve 2008. We follow Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) as he goes about his daily business, running into friends, family, and strangers along the way. And really it’s just a sort of look into the life of this young man. And it’s an incredibly interesting and highly affecting story we’re dealing with here. Very early on I found myself sucked into the story, but not because some grandiose event, but rather because of the realistic human drama that this movie portrays. There’s a lot of care given to how this plot is handled. Instead of it feelings like a very typical drama it feels more real, like you’re a fly on the wall in this man’s life. And I found myself truly invested in this plot. It’s engaging, interesting, and at times devastating.

The characters here are all fleshed out, interesting, and fairly realistic. Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant, the young man at the center of this story. He is a person who has done some criminal things in his past, but he’s trying to put that stuff behind him. He’s generally a good guy who has taken some bad turns in his life, and he’s overall a very compelling character. And Michael B. Jordan is fantastic in the role. Then we have Melonie Diaz as Sophina, Oscar’s girlfriend. You can tell that she’s a bit annoyed by some of the things from Oscar’s past, but she still loves him and wants what’s best for him. She’s overall an interesting character. And Diaz is great in the role. Then we have Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mom Wanda. She gets some powerful scenes in this and is pretty serious and worried about her son, but she does love him and she wants him to be a good person. And Spencer is of course fantastic in the role. Then we get to see people like Ahna O’Reilly, Ariana Neal, Trestin George, Kevin Durand, and many more in various supporting roles, all giving really solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ludwig Göransson and I think he did a really good job with it. What’s interesting is that it isn’t very intrusive, staying more in the background almost more as ambient noise rather than a blaring score. But it also doesn’t disappear, as it’s still heard and often helps add some extra emotion to various scenes. There’s also a couple of licensed tracks used throughout and they work pretty well in their scenes.

This movie was written and directed by Ryan Coogler (which is why I alluded to the “Black Panther” release at the start), and he did a really good job with it. Remember the part where I said this felt more like a fly on the wall type of story rather than your typical Hollywood story? Yeah, the directing and camera work kind of adds to that argument. The camera work here is handheld and a little shaky, making it feel a bit like a documentary at times. It also adds a sense of realism to it (hence, fly on the wall) that made me feel even more invested in it all. There’s also a part in the movie where it manages to build a lot of tension in a way that got me even more engaged. No shootout. No car chase. Just pure dramatic tension created by the direction. It’s great.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 85/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10.

“Fruitvale Station” is a stunning portrait of a very important day in this young man’s life. It has a great plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Fruitvale Station” is a 9,86/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Fruitvale Station” is now completed.

That’s one hell of a directorial debut.

Movie Review: American Made (2017)

Don’t do drugs, kids. Also, don’t sell drugs. Or be near drugs. Basically just… to hell with drugs.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gents… “American Made”.

The story follows Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an American pilot who gets hired by the CIA to run guns for them, which eventually also leads him running cocaine for the Medellín cartel. And we follow his insane life as he tries to balance these jobs while also trying to not get arrested. And it’s actually a really interesting plot with some flaw to it. It’s interesting seeing the ins and outs of Barry’s job, the routes he takes as well as how he just runs his operations. It’s overall a really fun and well-paced plot that is really enjoyable. My flaw with the plot is that it does slow down at a point in the movie. Not in the “let’s take some time to develop the characters a lot” (though there’s a little bit of that in there), but more just starts dragging a bit. It’s not too draggy, and it doesn’t go for too long, but it’s definitely worth pointing out as it is quite noticeable.

The characters in this are enjoyable. Some get a bit more development than others, but none of them feel out of place or anything like that. Tom Cruise plays Barry Seal, the pilot who gets dragged into all this crazy shit. He’s a charismatic, funny, and cool guy who not only happens to be a damn good pilot, but also a pretty good family man. And Tom Cruise is really firing on all cylinders here, this is probably the best performance I’ve seen from him since “Tropic Thunder”. Domhnall Gleeson plays Schafer, the CIA agent that recruits Seal for this dangerous mission. He has some charm, and he does share some good chemistry with Cruise throughout. And Gleeson is really good in the role. Then we have Sarah Wright as Barry’s wife Lucy. She’s a somewhat more reasonable person than Barry and does have outbursts when the strange stuff starts seeping into their home life. And Wright is great in the role. Then we have Alejandro Edda, Fredy Yate Escobar, and Mauricio Mejía as the founders of the Medellín cartel (Jorge Ochoa, Carlos Ledher, Pablo Escobar). And I’m lumping them into the same slot because this is my review and I can do whatever I want. But they are all great in their roles… charming yet intimidating. And throughout the movie you get some really solid supporting performances from people like Jesse Plemons, Jayma Mays, Caleb Landry Jones, E. Roger Mitchell, and more. Yeah, this is a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Christophe Beck and it was really good. It was tense, fun, energized, and had a healthy dose of guitar in it to give it a cool sound that worked really well for the movie. Then there were a whole bunch of licensed tracks used throughout, some from the era, and even one or two from around 2012. But they all fit incredibly well with the era the film was set in while also helping to give the movie it’s fun mood. So yeah, this has great music.

This movie was directed by Doug Liman and he did a great job. He gives this movie and interesting style by keeping it mostly handheld and also throwing in a lot of crash-zooms, which is very reminiscent of a documentary. And that makes this movie even more interesting since it now has a somewhat unique style. Liman (together with the production crew) also gives it a very retro vibe, which really helps sell the late 70s/early 80s era. There are also some really tense scenes here, which I didn’t really expect. The movie is also funny. Not “BWAHAHAHAHAHA!” funny, but it still got consistent chuckles/laughter out of me.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10.

“American Made” isn’t perfect, but it’s a highly enjoyable crime movie. It has a good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/editing/cinematography. As previously mentioned, I thought it had some slight flaws, including some pacing issues at one point, and some characters not always being the most interesting. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “American Made” is an 8,98/10. While flawed, it’s definitely worth buying!

My review of “American Made” is now completed.

Tumm Croos.