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.

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: 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: Born to Be Blue (2016)

Jazz. Some like it, some don’t. Me? I like some jazz. so let’s talk about some jazzy stuff.

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… “Born to Be Blue”.

The story here is about jazz musician Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke) as he has fallen from grace due to his drug addiction. And we follow his journey as he tries to find love, redemption, and maybe one day make a comeback. So now we have our musician story. And while the basic setup shows some familiar ideas, ultimately it has a slightly different vibe than most biopics. Most biopics do everything to make the characters and his/her story seem big and romanticized in some way, but this doesn’t do that. It feels smaller and more personal, flaws of the people intact. It’s kind of refreshing to see a biopic plot that isn’t so hagiographic.

What I like about the characters here is that they feel real. They have flaws and layers to them, making them a bit more interesting. Ethan Hawke plays Chet Baker, the troubled musician. He’s a former addict who wants to find love and redemption. He has a lot of determination which is something I respect about him, but they also show that he is far from flawless, making him a bit more believable as a character. And Hawke is fantastic in the role. His performance is less about the big, explosive moments (though he gets one or two in the movie), but more about the subtle nuances in his faical expressions and gestures. Carmen Ejogo plays Jane, an actress that Chet meets and forms a bit of a relationship with. She wants to see Chet do well and get better, but she also wants to do her own things, making her slightly conflicted. And Ejogo is great in the role. Then we have Callum Keith Rennie as Dick, a friend/producer of Chet’s. He wants to see Chet do well, but he can also see that Chet is a troubled man. And he’s decently interesting. And Rennie is really good in the role. Those were the ones worth going more in-depth with, but let it be known that every actor does a good job in this movie.

The score for the movie was composed by David Braid (with some help from Todor Kobakov & Steve London) and I think he did a great job. What we have here is a score that is rooted in jazz (which is fitting since this is about jazz). And I found that the score here often helps to elevate the emotion or overall drama of a scene. So yeah, it’s very well composed and fit the movie perfectly. The few licensed tracks used throughout are also well implemented.

This movie was written and directed by Robert Budreau and I think he did a great job. His directing is pretty chill, complementing the smooth jazz of the movie quite well. And his directing combined with Steve Cosens’ cinematography creates this great mood for the movie that I really liked experiencing. It also looks great, it’s a visually striking movie.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 64/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,9/10.

“Born to Be Blue” is a damn good biopic. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Toots the trumpet*. My final score for “Born to Be Blue” is a 9,83/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Born to Be Blue” is now completed.

Holy chet, that was good.