I Am Mother

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The second science fiction movie that I had picked out for my research to see more of them for 2019 was called I Am Mother, which was found on Netflix.  Released on Netflix June 7th, I Am Mother stars Rose Byrne, Clara Rugaard and Hilary Swank.

In an opportunity to attempt to repopulate a futuristic earth, a robot raises a daughter.  They create a family bond together and the robot helped to instruct the girl to be a productive human.

That is, until an unexpected guest arrives, another human, injured with a whole different story of what was happening outside.

I mean… why do we ever trust robots?

It seems like they are always a trouble.

The film played on the uncertainty of what was happening and who was telling the truth to Daughter.  A good chunk of the film played with what you were supposed to believe.

The young Danish actress, Clara Rugaard, feels like a star in the making.  She was really exceptional with the different tones and emotions in her performances.  Rose Byrne did the voice of Mother and she was great, too.

So far we are two for two in the “I must see more Sci-Fi films” watch.  This will certainly help the Best of the Year list.

4 stars

Freaks (2019)

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As I was working on the lists of best and worst for 2019, I came across the sci-fi films and I realized that there were just not very many that I had written down.  So I did some research to see if there were any science fiction films that I could stream to help fill out the lists.

In the research, I found a listing of the best and the worst sci-fi movies from Rotten Tomatoes and there were several high rated sci-fi films that I had not seen.  One of them was a movie called Freaks, which I had seen on Vudu.  So I went there to give it a watch.

It was excellent.

After being locked inside her house for seven years by her father (Emile Hirsch), Chloe (Lexy Kolker) starts to sneak outside despite the warnings that if she leaves the house, she would be in danger.  Outside, she meets a man claiming to be her grandfather (Bruce Dern) who has some differing stories than her father had.

The world is one where people called “Abnormals” or Freaks by the general public, are people with extra abilities who are hunted and exterminated by the government because of the threat they present.

The film started slowly, in almost a dreamlike state, because it took a while to get things moving, but once it gets going, it goes hard.  The action was intense and the stakes are very high.  I did not know how the film was going to take these characters or exactly what was happening, and I like feeling that way during a movie.

The performances in the film were very well done too.  Bruce Dern never gives a bad performance and this is no exception.  The other actors I did not recognize but they all did a stellar job in their roles.

The story is absolutely tense and dark. The world is not a friendly place for the Abnormals.  The uncertainty of the entire situation is only added to because the adults involved are keeping truths from Chloe, and from us as well.

This felt like a dark X-Men future that you might see in a What If scenario or an alternate future.  It is very well done and the movie was very engaging.  I am glad I took the time to watch it.

4.1 stars 

Uncut Gems

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I hate Adam Sandler movies.

It has been so long since I have liked an Adam Sandler movie.  They are not funny and he does the same shtick in every one.  He has zero range and little to no skill.

Now, I am going to have to revise that thought.

Adam Sandler starred in Uncut Gem, an A24 film, where he plays a New York City jeweler who is out trying to make the big haul and get out from under his money problems.  And Sandler is absolutely spectacular in this role.

Of course, this is not a comedy where he tries to force in poop, drug and vomit jokes as if he were 12-years old.  This is a raw, nuanced performance of a man desperate to right his life but constantly getting in deeper.

Yes, he is more foul mouthed than ever before, and the character he plays, Howard Ratner, is extremely unlikable, but you understand his desperation and I even got to a point that I was connecting with him.  So many things go wrong to him that you can understand his frustrations.  I have to say, the swearing was something that I had to get past, and that is not even something that normally bothers me.  Not only that but everyone seemed to be talking (or yelling) over each other and that was tough to watch, but once I adjusted to it, I started to enjoy this movie.

Howard gets his hand on a rock that contained colored gems and he knew this was his chance.  Unfortunately for Howard, there are several problems that continue to pop up preventing him from taking advantage of his windfall.

There is a gritty feel to the film and you are constantly filled with anxiety about what is going to happen next.  Howard is on his toes, just barely getting through to the next situation that you never have the chance to take a deep breath.

If Adam Sandler continues to give performances like this, perhaps I might have to reconsider my opinion on him.

4 stars

 

Little Women (2019)

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Louisa May Alcott wrote one of the most beloved novels in American literature and it seems as if Hollywood wants to keep making it into a movie.  Greta Gerwig is the third director to put Little Women on the big screen and she does a excellent job in the translation.

Much of the success of this movie would need to be the excellent ensemble cast put together by Gerwig.  Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen play Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth March respectively.  Throw in Timothée Chalamet, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper and Laura Dern and you have quite the acting entourage.

The film follows the lives of the four March sisters as they grow into adulthood and deal with the trials and tribulations of life during the aftermath of the Civil War in America.  The story was told in a non-sequential order, jumping around in time.  There were a few times where I thought that type of storytelling did not work as well as a more typical storytelling technique, but most of the time it was fine.

Saoirse Ronan delivered perhaps the standout performance of the film with her portrayal of Jo March, the feisty, non-conventional writer who did not believe she would ever marry.  Ronan delivered the quirkiness of the character beautifully.  Florence Pugh, who has had a great year with Fighting with my Family and Midsommar, was able to bring layers to the bratty Amy, showing how she grew from a little child into a strong woman.

The film does seem too sweet at times.  There could have been more conflict shown which could have deepened the characters even more.  However, I certainly believed that these four sisters were connected and loved one another.

Greta Gerwig have some wonderful shots in the film and does a fine job bringing the classic tale to life in a lively way.  The performances elevates the film even more.  I had never read the book nor seen the other versions (though I did know a couple of plot points just because they are well known) but I still enjoyed what I saw.

3.8 stars

 

Spies in Disguise

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How can you go wrong with Will Smith and Tom Holland together in an animated movie?  That’s right… you can’t.

I enjoyed the new animated movie from Blue Sky called Spies in Disguise which takes super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and accidentally turns him into a pigeon.  Walter Beckett (Tom Holland), a genius-level Q-type of character has been designing non-lethal ways to carry out their job and winds up involved up to his neck when he goes along with newly-pigeon Lance on a mission to stop the villainous villain with a robot hand (Ben Mendelsohn).

While the story here is predictable, I did admire the message of trying to do this job in a better way, a way that respects life and understands that life is precious.  The gadgets that Walter invents are cute and creative, bringing laughs to the film.

The best part of the movie is definitely the voice acting as Will Smith and Tom Holland are tremendous, both together and separate. There is a clear connection between the two characters that help make this movie more than what is looks to be on paper.  This is a good example of talented actors elevating the material above what it should be at. They bring some solid character moments into the story that were welcome.

The animation is bright and colorful, always engaging to watch.  The set pieces were excellent and various.

The level of animated movies this year has not reached the quality of past years, but Spies in Disguise is a solid, if not spectacular addition to the list and should fly near the top of the list for 2019.

4 stars

Head Count

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During Collider Movie Talk this morning, Perri Nemeroff suggested that her “Best Hidden Gem” of 2019 was Head Count.  It was a horror film that no one else on the panel had seen and that she said was on Netflix.  So I added it to my list on the streaming service for later viewing.

That viewing turned out to be this afternoon and I found the film to be a decent horror film with some clever tricks on the tropes of the genre.

Evan (Isaac Jay) was visiting his brother but instead ditches him for a group of students for a weekend of drinking and drug use.  Unfortunately, a round of telling scary stories lead to Evan accidentally summoning a creature by saying its name five times.  The creature tormented these kids without their knowledge for much of the time they were together.

While the story itself was nothing too original, I did like the way the story progressed and how the film takes its time with some of the main characters.  It avoids much of the gore scare in favor for more of a psychological fright.  The creature was a shapeshifter and played with the heads of these characters to get them paranoid and anxious.

The drugs are an easy excuse for the odd things happening and, before they realize what has happened, the creature had hidden within the group in plain sight.

Elle Callahan directed the movie, her feature film debut, and does a very good job.  The film feels as if it is a small story, but never feels cheap, as some horror movies do.

The ensemble actors do an admirable job despite not having anyone that I recognized.  None of them feel as if they standout in a negative way, which,a gain, is something that some low budget horror films have happen.

The film builds to a frightening finale that leaves a lot of questions in the air.

The movie was fine and I liked watching it.  Horror fans would most likely enjoy the film, but those who are not into this genre would most likely not be changed over by Head Count.

3.2 stars

I See You (2019)

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I was perusing the choices on Vudu this morning looking for an interesting film to fill Christmas morning.  I like the opportunity the streaming site gives me to see some films that are in theaters right now, but are extremely limited in their releases.

I came across one listed as I See You with Helen Hunt on the poster.  The synopsis was intriguing and so I clicked on the trailer, which was available on the site.  It wasn’t half way through the trailer and I turned it off and ordered the film.

Watching this movie was quite a trip.  I loved it, but it was really an experience.

I have said before that I tend to be a difficult person to fool in a movie and those that fail to do so, when trying, usually end up in my dislike column.  I See You succeeds in this area better than any movie since The Sixth Sense.  I never saw any of this coming.

A local police detective Greg Harper (Jon Tenney) is assigned a case of an abducted child, a case that has eerie similarities to a previous case solved from years before.  Meanwhile, Harper is having troubles with his family. His wife Jackie (Helen Hunt) has had an affair.  His son Connor (Judah Lewis) is having issues with his anger over the situation.  Strange things begin happening in their home that hint at something more than human is going on.

Then, it switches gears… and I’m like…”Oh..hey?  What?”

The story goes in a completely different way and then, suddenly, once again swerves, catching you completely unaware.

Every time I thought that I had everything sussed out, the film threw me for a loop.

It was an amazing ride.

The tension created as this movie progressed was real and powerful, aided in the fact that I was not sure what type of movie I was seeing.  The creepiness factor was off the charts.  You weren’t sure what was happening and yet, it all fit together in a very satisfying way.  The director, Adam Randall, doesn’t have much on his IMDB page (iBoy and Level Up, neither of which I had heard), but I was very impressed with the way he played with perspective in this movie and how he created a different feel for scenes that we had seen before.

The tropes of the horror/thriller genre gets a workout here too as they are tossed around and subverted in many ways. Just when you think that you know what you are seeing, something weird happens.

The only spot that I did not love was the very end (which of course I will not spoil), but there is a coincidence that was hard to buy.  Other than that, I thought the writing of this was just tremendous.  It was written by Devon Graye, an actor who does not have any other writing credits on IMDB besides this one.  If this is his debut, I am really looking forward to what he will do next.

I found this to be completely engaging, totally unexpected and thoroughly surprising.  Worth every penny it cost to stream it.

4.6 stars 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

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This is one of the A24 movies that had not wound up in a theater near me this year.  A24 movies have typically been very high in quality, but the small independent nature of this studio some times makes it less likely to see.

So, I had to search this film out on Vudu.

Jimmie Fails (Jimmie Fails) hopes to reclaim a house that had been built by his grandfather in San Francisco.  Joined by his best friend Mont (Jonathan Majors), Jimmie begins a path to discover whether the city has passed him by.

There is a sadness to this movie.  However, there is more to it than just that.  It strives to have you feel for the plight of these characters and it succeeds considerably.

The score is distinct and beautiful.  The music punctuates every scene with power and poignancy.

The film is an odd one, but yet it is quite powerful.  If you have not had the chance to see this, you should search it out as well.

3.7 stars

Togo

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The latest movie to appear on Disney + is a true story of one of the greatest sled dogs of all time.

In 1925, a breakout of diphtheria, mostly among the children, in the small town of Nome, Alaska, led to a desperate attempt to save the kids by transporting life saving serum over 600 miles by dogsled.  A relay across the distance was planned.

Leonhard Seppala (Willem Dafoe) and his dog Togo, the lead dog on his team, went through a terrible storm, dubbed “storm of the century” and traveled across the frozen Norton Sound to cut the time of the journey.

During the Serum Run, we saw flashbacks to the beginnings of the relationship between Seppala and the dog.  We meet Seppala’s wife (Julianne Nicholson) during this time.  I loved this character as she was witty and straight-forward.  These flashbacks felt much more intricate than those during the Aeronauts.  They were used to show how important the bond was between the two and how it developed.

This film has some real intense moments during the serum run, and some wonderful moments between Togo and the Seppalas.  It is a very enjoyable and potentially emotional film to watch with a family and, if Disney + continues to provide this solid of content, then the streaming service will be in great shape.

3.75 stars

The Aeronauts

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This is a biopic of some people I have never heard of that made some major discoveries about the layers of the atmosphere by taking a trip in a balloon.

Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne reunited in The Aeronauts from their previous on screen pairing in Theory of Everything, also a biopic.  Maybe they have a future together in other biopics.

Pilot Amelia Rennes (Felicity Jones) and scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) decide to take her balloon into the sky and go further than anyone else had ever gone before.  They faced daunting challenges as they discovered the dangers of life at 28,000 feet.

Any parts of this movie dealing with the balloon was riveting.  The combination of Jones and Redmayne created some wonderful moments in the balloon and the dangerous situations that they found themselves in were keeping me on the edge of my seat.

However, there was a strange format of storytelling here.  As the balloon continued its voyage, the movie kept taking flashbacks to see how James Glaisher convinced Amelia Rennes to fund his trip.  This was clunky as could be considering we know how that turned out.  We saw them take off together.

There were also some inconsistencies with how Amelia was portrayed.  Was she the flashy, entertainer as she was when they took off or was she the cautious, we’ve-gone-far-enough person aboard the balloon.  It seemed as if she was portrayed the way that the script needed her to be portrayed, which is not strong writing.

The scenes when they have gone too high and everything after that was just fantastic though.  The steps needed to take to survive are powerful and I can excuse the weakness of the earlier part of the film.

The balloon scenes are mostly all exciting and thrilling while the flashbacks are anything but.  I enjoyed the film for the most parts and the exciting conclusion helps to make up for the dragging flashbacks.

3.5 stars 

The Two Popes

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There have been many films like this one over the years.

What do I mean by that?  Certainly, the film The Two Popes is a groundbreaking story of the resignation of Pope Benedict and the rise of Pope Francis.  Yes, this biopic is a story that is unlike any other because of the rarity of the situation.  But that is not what I mean.

What I mean is that this film is one where the movie itself is not the greatest film ever made.  In fact, the story is a tad basic.  However, you have two powerhouse performances from the lead stars, Sir Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis, that elevates the movie into a higher stratosphere that it would have reached had it not been for these two performances.

There have been plenty of movies that have been elevated from being average into exceptional by the actors.  Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Stephen Hawking in Theory of Everything, Benedict Cumberbatch’s role as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady spring to mind.  These are forgettable movies without the lead performances.

The Two Popes is blessed with two such performances.  Hopkins and Pryce are brilliant in this movie and their interaction is what sells the narrative completely.  They dive into the background of each man, but the film truly comes alive when Hopkins and Pryce are exchanging words, no matter which language they used.

In 2012, Cardinal Bergoglio (Pryce), a liberal Cardinal from Argentina, was becoming frustrated with the path of the Catholic Church.  He was preparing to go to the Vatican to offer his resignation to Pope Benedict.  However, Benedict, who had been facing an internal struggle of his own, had other ideas.  Deciding that he was unable to effectively lead the Catholic faith into the new times, Benedict requested to see his old rival with the intention of Bergoglio being the one to announce Benedict’s resignation and, hopefully, assume the mantel of the pontiff.

In the world we live in today, this film is an important one to show how two people with differing viewpoints on just about everything could come together to cross the divide.  This is something that we could look to as inspiration for our own problems.

Both actors brought their best game here and the film is all the better for it.  In what could have been a dull little picture, Pryce and Hopkins make it essential viewing and compelling characterization.

The Two Popes is currently available on Netflix so you should take the opportunity to see this.  Both actors have a chance to be nominated for Academy Awards,as their performances are that good, and makes the movie better.

3.75 stars 

Bombshell

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The #metoo movement was striking some big fishes in the world of news and entertainment and one of the biggest of the fish turned into a scandal that rocked the world of 24 ours news.

Roger Ailes of FOX News was accused of sexual harassment by on-air personality Gretchen Carlson, followed by multiple women.  This would lead to his removal from FOX by Rupert Murdock.

This movie is that story, of Carlson, along with anchor Megyn Kelly, and a third woman (who is a compilation of several women) and their lives behind the scenes at this time.

Nicole Kidman (who played Carlson), Charlize Theron (who played Kelly) and Margot Robbie (who played Kayla, the amalgam character) gave three powerhouse performances in Bombshell.  Each woman provided a different perspective on the horrors that many women faced at the hands of this predator.

Ailes (played by John Lithgow) was shown in Bombshell as, not only the disgusting sexual harasser, but also as an intelligent businessman who helped created the model of FOX News, changing the cable news community forever.

There was one scene in particular that was desperately uncomfortable and disgusting.  It is nearly unconscionable to know what horrendous things these women had to do because Roger Ailes had all the power.  It was a tough scene to watch, but an important one to know.

While this story does not go as deep as it could have gone, Bombshell boasts some great performances and is worth the time to see.

4 stars  

Cats

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I am going to strive to not make any cat puns during this review.  We’ll see how well that goes.

There was a woman in my theater sitting two seats from me who was waving her hands in her face to keep from crying and she was clearly filled with joy over this movie.

I’m glad that she found joy here, because there was little to no joy to be found by me.

This was a total crap-show.

I’ll get the positives out of the way first.  God bless Ian McKellan.  He was the one actor, appearing as Gus the Theater Cat, who seemed to know what movie he was in.  When he meowed, I nearly fell out of my chair.

Second, the musical performance of Memory by Jennifer Hudson was astounding.  Hudson has an amazing voice and she put every last bit of emotion into that version.  I also have a special place in my heart for the song, Mr. Mistoffelees so I liked hearing that song.

That was about it.

You may wonder why I have not done the plot synopsis that I normal do.  Simple.  There is no plot here.  The story is severely lacking at best and at worst non-existent.   From what I can tell, the story was that each new Jellicle cat arrived and sang a song about who they were, hoping to be selected by Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer.  No explanation of what any of that means, mind you, but there it is.

The biggest issue with the movie is the horrific CGI that made these wonderful actors into some kind of nightmarish cat/human hybrid.  It may look somewhat better than that terrible trailer they released earlier this year, but it still looked atrocious.  Jennifer Hudson was frightening as she performed her brilliant version of Memory.

There were times where I simply stared at the screen in utter shock over what I was seeing.

The tone of the film was scattershot.  One minute, it felt like the movie was intended to be a comedy (such as when James Corden and  Rebel Wilson were on screen) and in another minute it felt like a serious drama (when Judi Dench and Hudson were on screen).  Meanwhile, there were dancing and singing cats all over the place.

The size of the cats was inconsistent.  Some times they seemed as if they were supposed to be human sized.  Other times they seemed to be cat sized.  There was even a time, when they were walking on a rail, that they seemed to be tiny, almost mouse-sized.  This is just sloppy editing and direction.

Most of the music could not replace the story and it made much of the movie feel boring.  None of these characters that were introduced, outside of Gus, were interesting at all.  Macavity (Idris Elba) was the main villain, but there was little point to him.  He arrived to spirit away the individual cats so they would not be around for the selection.  This whole subplot was forced and irrelevant.

This may be a film that eventually will find its place as a cult movie or a film to be riffed by RaffTrax Live or some type. That would be purr-fect.

Dang it.  I didn’t make it.

0.9 stars 

 

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

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In the immortal words of LOST’s John Locke, “We’re gonna need to watch that again.”

The LOST allusion is not completely out of left field because I saw Charlie on screen tonight as I was watching the final chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker.  I know Dominic Monaghan has had other roles (including a huge one in Lord of the Rings) but he will always be Charlie Pace from Drive Shaft to me.

After the first viewing of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, I am torn.  I enjoyed the process of watching the movie, yet I have major issues with what I saw.  I was enjoying the film, but I am afraid that this could be one that I have a different opinion of as time movies along.

I am avoiding all spoilers for this movie review which means that there may not be much that I can talk about at this moment.

The Rise of Skywalker wraps up the third Star Wars trilogy in a way that tries to make everyone happy, and I think that many of the Star Wars fans will love this.  There were some really good moments that I liked too.  There was a ton of nostalgia in the film.  There were things that were fun to see.  There was some good humor here and most of the jokes worked for me.

There are some major issues too.  First, it was full of too much exposition.  They felt the need to explain most everything.  Second, the dialogue was not quite the sharpest we have see in this franchise.  Third, the pace of the film was a breakneck speed as the movie flew from point to point in the first part of the film.  fourth, I do not think that the trio of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Finn (John Boyega) had the connection that the film wanted them to have.  We just have not had enough of these three characters together.  I absolutely did not buy the relationship with Rey and Poe.  It felt false.

However, the biggest problem I had with this movie was there were so many scenes that were basically the exact same scenes from previous Star Wars movies.  As I was watching, I kept thinking that, “Oh that was from Empire.  Oh, now we are doing Return of the Jedi.”  It was not even just homages either.  It almost felt as if they took the exact scenes from the previous movies and just flipped around the characters a bit.

That would become very distracting for me as I was thinking about past movies instead of what was happening in the new one.  Because of this choice, there felt to be very little changes taken by J.J. Abrams and the creative forces behind the movie.  That certainly feels like a choice made because of the backlash that The Last Jedi suffered.  No matter what you think of The Last Jedi, you cannot deny that Rian Johnson took some big swings in that movie.  The Rise of Skywalker…not so much.  And some of The Last Jedi seemed to be wiped away with this movie too.  The Rise of Skywalker did not feel to be a follow-up to The Last Jedi, which brings into question the overall planning of the franchise.

And yet even with these problems, I enjoyed myself fairly well.  The third act was shaky for me, but the first hour and an half was a decent time at the movies.  That may sound like I am trying to stay on the fence, and that would sound that way because that is exactly what I am doing.  This is a movie where I need to reflect on what I saw and let my perceptions settle.  I do believe I need to see this again to solidify what I think about it.

I really liked the performances of Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley.  They were stand outs here.  It was heartbreaking to see Carrie Fisher again and watching how they resolved her absence was one of the tougher aspects of The Rise of Skywalker.  The film looked like a Star Wars movie, unlike the entire prequels, which looked like nothing more than a video game/computer graphic background.  There was some good action.  However, the plot is lackluster, if not lazy.  While I enjoyed a good part of the first hour and a half, the story being told was not the best ever.  It was basically a “we have to find this thing so we can go there and do this” type of a story and those are not the deepest plots imaginable.

I’m still not sure what my mind is on The Rise of Skywalker.  The more I type here, the more reflective I am about the film, the more it seems that I am being negative, but there is no denying that I had fun with the movie.  I did not feel that it wasted my time.  I am glad that I was there opening night and that I saw it with a full house.  It was a moment.  Perhaps this truly is a film that I need to see a second time before I commit to what I think.  I am afraid that Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is going to be that type of film where I initially feel one thing, but over time, it slips down the chart.  I don’t know.  But for now, despite the drawbacks I have, I am going to give it …

3.25 stars

That still feels too high of a number, but, for now, that is what I am going with.  You should see this movie for sure to allow yourself to make up your own mind.  Maybe some of the problems I have are not going to bother you.  I hope you all enjoy the movie.

Richard Jewell

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In my opinion, Clint Eastwood has not made a really good movie for awhile.  He made some okay ones (The Mule, Sully, American Sniper) and some really bad ones (The 15:17 to Paris, Jersey Boys, J. Edgar).  This time, with Richard Jewell, Eastwood feels as if he is back on track.

This is the true story of security guard Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) who was the person to discover the backpack that contained the bomb at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  After a few days of calling him a hero, the FBI began looking at him as a suspect and the papers took that tidbit and ran with it.  Jewell had to face pressure on himself individually and with his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates) from the media constantly following him, camped outside their home and the perception of Richard as a bomber.

There are several strong performances in this movie that really help carry it.  The lead performance of Paul Walter Hauser is truly powerful.  He portrayed Richard as a man of principle and honor who had great respect for law enforcement until he could take it no longer.  His mother, played brilliantly by Kathy Bates, showed the pain and fear in every scene she was in.  Kathy Bates should really receive an Oscar nomination for this role.  Sam Rockwell was great as always as Richard’s lawyer, Watson Bryant, the eccentric lawyer who battled to give this man his life back.

There is a definite theme about the dangers of the media with how an untrue story can decimate a family, especially if the authority is not acting on facts.  The film also has some stings toward the FBI as well, as FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) tried several sneaky, underhanded tricks to try and get the naive Richard to implicate himself.  Shaw had formulated a theory and nothing was going to break him from that path.  Both of these can be plugged into today’s society easily.

The news media, in particular one journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) is portrayed in a very cartoonish light, which makes her very two-dimensional instead of the potentially fully filled out character she could have been.  It is interesting that Kathy Scruggs was a real person, but the FBI Agent Shaw is a fictionalized compilation of an agent.  Neither character gets much in way of development with Shaw never admitting that Jewell was not guilty.

I think an argument could be made about this film being too political and aspiring to present Eastwood’s side of thought, but, during the film, I did not feel as if it was tilted.  It was only after reading some background info on the situation that I thought there may be some fire to go with the smoke.

Either way, I did like this movie much more than Eastwood’s recent work and it does provide three top notch quality performances from three great actors.  If you keep it at that, Richard Jewell is an enjoyable watch.

3.7 stars