2017-03-23

20170323: Drama Review--Sicario





Name: Sicario (2015)
IMDb: link to Sicario page

Genres: Drama.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Benicio del Toro as Alejandro.  In a sense, there are no other actors in the film.  The movie is about Alejandro.

Emily Blunt as Kate Macer, Josh Brolin as Matt Graver, Victor Garber as Dave Jennings, Jeffrey Donovan as Steve Forsing, Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne, Jon Bernthal as Ted.

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve.  Written by: Taylor Sheridan.
Emily Blunt

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
FBI agent Kate Macer and her team break kidnapping rings in the American Southwest.  After a fruitful discovery of dead kidnap victims, a booby trap kills two of her team.  The strength of the find and the horror of the bombing bring Kate to the attention of the CIA.  Her FBI boss Jennings and CIA straw boss Graver enable the transfer.

Delineation of conflicts:
Kate would like to operate within the laws of the United States.  Her ally Reggie wants her to stay alive and out of trouble.

Graver, the CIA, and various freelance special forces want to disrupt Mexican drug cartel operations regardless of the legality of their methods.

Alejandro and the CIA have a strong bond.  He supplies actionable intelligence; they let him operate on targets of his choice.  Kate considers this bovine nonsense, but is shouted down by several methods.

Resolution: Illegal operations by Mexico and by the US continue without meaningful opposition.

One line summary: Idealistic FBI agent joins covert operations.
del Toro

Statistics:


Cinematography: 7/10 Some of the camera work inspired awe (as opposed to being awesome, which means nothing) because it was both beautiful and well thought out.  Other parts were well beneath ordinary, which is common in any film that includes a large percentage of night scenes and night-vision scenes.  Shaky cam was kept to a minimum.

Sound: 5/10 IMDb lists six tunes played in the background for this film  Meh; nothing added.

Acting: 7/10 Del Toro: excellent.  Brolin: so good.  Garber, Donovan, Kaluuya, Bernthal: just fine.  Blunt: who the hell is this?  How could she be worse?

Screenplay: 6/10 The story moves right along, except when it concentrates too much on Blunt's witless pawn character.  This ruins everything else.  Still, I liked the story, despite Blunt's taint on it.  The real story was about del Toro's character.  If this had been the steady focus, I would have rated the film's screenplay at least 9/10.

Final rating: 6/10

2017-03-22

20170322: Drama Review--Catch Me If You Can





Name: Catch Me If You Can (2002)
IMDb: link to Catch Me If You Can page

Genres: Drama.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, Jr, Christopher Walken as Frank Abagnale Sr, Tom Hanks as Carl Hanratty.

Directed by: Steven Spielberg.  Written by: Jeff Nathanson (screenplay), Frank Abagnale (book).
DiCaprio in Pan Am uniform

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Conman Frank Abagnale Sr has legal troubles, plus the IRS is after him.  His life is spiraling down as the justice system crushes him.  He loses his reputation.  He loses his business.  He loses his wife.  He goes to work for the Post Office.

Frank Abagnale Jr idolizes his father.  He thinks that obtaining money and access, by whatever means, might help his father and bring his parents back together.  He enjoys success for a time.

Frank shows up on FBI agent Carl Hanratty's radar as a skilled paperhanger (check forger).  Carl makes his case to his superiors that Frank needs to be stopped, and gets two agents to help him.

Delineation of conflicts:
Frank Jr wants to help his father, but everything he tries fails at that goal.  However, his efforts at getting money attract Carl's attention.  Frank is often on the run, sometimes just one step ahead of Carl.  The pursuit is long since Frank is good at narrow escapes.

Resolution: Despite Frank's talents, the law does catch up with him.  However,  the long conflict between Carl and Frank changes them, and creates a better future for both.

One line summary:
Semi-biographical rendering of Frank Abagnale's exploits.
DiCaprio as Frank, Hanks as Carl

Statistics:


Cinematography: 10/10 Well done.

Sound: 10/10 The actors were miked sufficiently. The music soundtrack was marvelous, IMDb music credits.

Acting: 10/10 The three principal actors were wonderful.

Screenplay: 10/10 Well executed: some dry humor, narrow escapes, slow burns (Mr Hanks), and a fine build to the conclusion.

Final rating: 10/10

2017-03-01

20170301: Drama Review--Manchester by the Sea





Name: Manchester by the Sea (2016)
IMDb: link to Manchester by the Sea page

Genres: Drama.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, Michelle Williams as Randi Chandler, Kyle Chandler as Joe Chandler, Gretchen Mol as Elise Chandler, Lucas Hedges as Patrick Chandler.

Written and directed by: Kenneth Lonergan.
Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Lee Chandler is the jack of all trades supervisor of a so-so apartment building.  He is frank and unapologetic is his assessments of the tenants problems.  They complain; his boss transmits the thunder to him; he does not care.

His brother Joe dies.  He has to pick up the pieces, including deciding whether to take care of his nephew Patrick, Joe's son.

Delineation of conflicts:
Lee has to deal with his memories of living with his ex-wife Randi and their three children, plus the fire that ended the marriage.  After Joe dies, he deals with Patrick and Randi.  His brother's will expresses Joe's desire that Lee be Patrick's guardian.

If he decides to be Patrick's guardian, he has to move back to Manchester, where his life was destroyed of his own hand.

Resolution: There is nothing that can be resolved.  Life sucks for Lee, mostly by his own doing.  Can he find a better place?  It does not matter.  His life will still suck.

One line summary:
Reckless drunk loses family in fire.
Michelle Williams as Randi Chandler; Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler

Statistics:


Cinematography: 3/10 This was quite variable.  Much of it looks like bad TV photography.  Other parts look rich and detailed and beautiful.  The mix is distracting.  I expect to remember none of the visuals.

Sound: 5/10 Noisy.  Most of the sound seems pointless or irrelevant, like much of the background music.

Acting: 4/10 Acting?  High-end high school plays have comparable performances.

Screenplay: 2/10 The main character is worthless.  I do not care whether he redeems his life after his brother dies or not.  In terms of plot flow, I disliked the many flashbacks.  In the first third of the film, I lost track of where the film's shattered narrative was in time.  About that time, I quit caring.

Final rating: 3/10 Please Amazon, I hope future productions feature better writing.

2017-02-18

20170219: Drama Review--Sully





Name: Sully (2016)
IMDb: link to the Sully page

Genres: Drama.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger, Aaron Eckhart as Jeff Skiles, Valerie Mahaffey as Diane Higgins, Laura Linney as Lorraine Sullenberger, Anna Gunn as Elizabeth Davis, Autumn Reeser as Tess Soza, Holt McCallany as Mike Cleary.

Directed by: Clint Eastwood.  Written by: Todd Komarnicki (screenplay), Chesley Sullenberger (book).
Just after the crash

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
On January 15, 2009, Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger piloted flight US Airways 1549 out of Laguardia Airport in NYC.  Under 4 minutes later, the airplane encounters a flock of birds.  The collision disables both engines.  Sully makes a command decision to ditch in the Hudson River, rather than attempting a return to La Guardia.

Delineation of conflicts:
After the landing in the Hudson, Sully faces multiple investigations.  He'd like to get his normal life back.  Agencies and people want his time and his attention.

The airline would like to attribute the damage to the airplane to pilot error.  The NTSB is cooperative with the airline's case, knowing that the airline can recoup insurance money if the pilot is tagged with responsibility.

The squeeze on Sully is pretty intense and long lasting.  Meanwhile, Sully and Jeff Skiles are feted in the media.  It's the carrot and the stick at the same time.

Resolution: Sully convinces the NTSB that their simulation protocols are flawed.  The standard cover-up was turned into a cause for corrections.  The stupid blind trust in possibly false data received a kick in the pants.

One line summary:
Tough aftermath of a safe emergency landing.
Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart

Statistics:


Cinematography: 10/10 Professionally done, realistic, and smooth.

Sound: 10/10 Same description as for the cinematography.

Acting: 10/10 Director Clint Eastwood can get good performances out of just about any actor.  This film was no exception, and he had some good people to start with.

Screenplay: 7/10 I suppose it's hard to avoid all flashbacks, but I would have much preferred a narrative that was much more linear in time.  Showing the same (in time) activity from different human and geographical perspectives was great.  It was the intermix of present events with Sully flashing back in time (to his childhood, to his prime, and so on) that made me want to puke.

Final rating: 9/10

2017-02-17

20170217: Drama Review--The Ghost Writer





Name: The Ghost Writer (2010)
IMDb: link to The Ghost Writer

Genres: Action.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang, Pierce Brosnan as Adam Lang, Ewan McGregor as The Ghost, Tom Wilkinson as Paul Emmitt, Eli Wallach as Old Man, Cattrall as Amelia Bly, Jon Bernthal as Rik Ricardelli, Jim Belushi as John Maddox, Robert Pugh as Richard Rycart.

Directed by: Roman Polanski.  Written by: Robert Harris, Roman Polanski.
Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Adam Lang, the former Prime Minister of the UK, had a biography commissioned.  The writer was quite far into the project when he died suddenly.

2. The Ghost is a ghostwriter but not a star writer.  He is interviewed to take up completing the manuscript.  His interview shows his moxie, his cleverness, and his unwillingness to give up looking for truth.  It's a fine Roman Polanski beginning.

3. Adam Lang is at one of his retreats, an island off the east coast of the United States, during his time with The Ghost.  Security is rather tight, and restrictions abound.

Delineation of conflicts:
The Ghost wants to finish the book and show the truth about Lang's career.  To do this, he investigates how his predecessor died.  However, Lang's camp is secretive which slows things down.  To make things even more interesting, legal proceedings start in the UK against Lang for consequences of wartime decisions.  The press descend on the island, as does the father of a soldier killed as a result of Lang's policies.  As the chaos rises, The Ghost finds more and more material about Lang's history.  Not everybody is happy about his efforts.

Resolution: Harsh, definitive.  The Ghost's pursuit of truth is his undoing.
Pierce Brosnan as Adam Lang; Ewan McGregor as The Ghost

One line summary:
1. A reluctant writer contracts to ghost the autobiography of a slimy politician.
or
2. Ghostwriter finds more truth than is good for him.
Decisions, decisions.

Statistics:


Cinematography: 10/10 Amazing, gorgeous.

Sound: 10/10 Excellent, whether catching the mood of the sea, or the sense of danger that situations bring.

Acting: 10/10 The direction and performances made this film.  I don't always like Ewan McGregor, but when he is good, he's really good.  This was one of Pierce Brosnan's better performances.  Olivia Williams was wonderful, as were Tom Wilkinson and Robert Pugh in limited roles.

Screenplay: 10/10 Good writing well executed under Polanski's direction.

Final rating: 10/10 This is a new entry in my list of favourite movies.

2017-02-16

20170216: comedy review--florence foster jenkins





Name: Florence Foster Jeknkins (2016)
IMDb: link to Florence Foster Jenkins page

Genres: Comedy, drama.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Hugh Grant as St. Martin Bayfield, Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon.

Directed by: Stephen Frears.  Written by: Nicholas Martin.

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. It's World War II in NYC, USA.

2. Florence Foster Jenkins is an heiress who thinks she is a fine coloratura singer.  Her second husband, St. Martin Bayfield, does his best to keep her fragile ego from imploding.  He hires Cosme Bayfield to accompany her on piano for singing lessons.  Together they keep up the charade.

Delineation of conflicts:
Jenkins think she can sing quite well.  Cosme knows she cannot.  Bayfield knows this as well.  Cosme thinks the truth should be evident, and the fiction dispelled. Bayfield convinces, at least temporarily, Cosme and others to go along with the outrageous lie, often by bribery and other types of coercion.

Resolution: Bayfield keeps the fiction going far too long, but Jenkins makes a huge and disastrous public appearance.

One line summary: Lying leads to disaster.

Statistics:


Cinematography: 9/10 The film is pretty enough.  The shooting was evidently done by professionals.  I am no expert about how World War II upper crust New York City looked, but I did not see too many obvious foul-ups.

Sound: 5/10 Very unfortunately, the recording quality was rather good.  Streep's voice (as Jenkins, not as Streep) is sooooooooo horrible that I wished to be anywhere but watching this damned film.  So, this was a decision from the director (to the actress) to torture the audience.

Acting: 5/10 Hugh Grant was wonderful, but then he's one of my favourites.  I was glad to see Simon Helberg doing well in something other than The Big Bang Theory.   I liked the players in the lesser roles. A good lead actress would have meant a positive reversal of my view of the film.

Screenplay: 4/10 The script was meant to spotlight the Jenkins character, but the casting doomed the film.  The writing for Grant and Helberg was witty enough.

Final rating: 5/10 Film ruined by directorial contempt.

2017-02-07

20170207: Thriller Review--The Accountant





Name: The Accountant (2016)
IMDb: link to The Accountant page

Genres: Thriller.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Ben Affleck as Christian Wolff, Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings, J. K. Simmons as Ray King, Jon Bernthal as Braxton Wolff, Jeffrey Tambor as Francis Silverberg, Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Marybeth Medina, Jean Smart as Rita Blackburn, John Lithgow as Lamar Blackburn.

Directed by: Gavin O'Connor.   Written by: Bill Dubuque.
Ben Affleck as Christian Wolff

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Christian is strongly autistic, needs to concentrate on single tasks, and finish them or else.  For instance, missing one puzzle piece spurs him to violent rage, not to finding the God-damned piece.  His childhood is troubled, to say the least.  On the other hand, his raw intelligence is immense, and his ability to concentrate (when not distracted) is staggering.  Clearly, he is bound for prison.

2. Christian has a huge stroke of luck.  His cellmate Francis is a genius who is well-versed in money flows among criminal organisations.  Christian learns sophisticated and highly detailed transactional rules.

3. Christian sets himself up as an accountant as his outward facing work.  He assassinates criminals for other criminals as his darkside employment.

4. Ray King wants to retire in seven months with the capture of Christian as his crowning achievement.  He blackmails the talented but flawed Marybeth Medina to ferret out Christian. (She does the capture, or she loses her career for a well-covered over childhood felony.)

5. Brax, Chris' brother, has similar talents and training, but not the autism.  He takes up the same line of work.

Delineation of conflicts:
Ray wants to go out a winner.  Christian wants to handle his stress and keep both jobs.  Marybeth wants to keep her good name and fine job.  All three of these cannot go on forever.  Just to add to the mix, Christian's younger brotherhood Braxton, who has similar skills, is an enforcer in the same game.  Will Brax and Chris cross paths again?

Resolution: Marybeth does her job; Ray looks for a successor.  Christian needs to finish, and Braxton is the consummate professional.

One line summary: Talented autistic assassin faces brother.
Anna Kendrick, Ben Affleck


Statistics:


Cinematography: 8/10 Good camera work throughout, save for a few intervals of pure shaky cam horseshit.

Sound: 8/10 I could hear the dialog, and the musical accompaniment was fine.

Acting: 6/10 Ben Affleck, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, and veterans Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart, and John Lithgow were just fine.  I do not recall seeing Jon Bernthal (Braxton) before, but I thought his performance was excellent.

On the downside, Anna Kendrick is in the film.  Probably no director can get a good performance out of her.  All scenes that included her performances were compromised, rather like rotting fish in a green salad.  JK Simmons played his usual ho-hum asocial monster, to which I say, who cares?  Why is this man accorded sacred cow status?

Screenplay: 9/10 Surprisingly good.  Moves right along, and is engaging throughout.  Well, except when Anna Kendrick was permitted to speak.

Final rating: 8/10

2017-01-19

20170119: Comedy Review--Jersey Girl





Name: Jersey Girl (2016)
IMDb: link to Jersey Girl page

Genres: Comedy.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Ben Affleck as Oliver Trinke, Raquel Castro as Gertie Trinke, Liv Tyler as Maya, George Carlin as Bart Trinke, Mike Starr as Block, Stephen Root as Greenie, Matt Damon as PR Exec #2, Jason Biggs as Arthur Brickman, Jennifer Lopez as Gertie Steiney.

Directed and written by: Kevin Smith.
Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Oliver is a publicist working in NYC with a good success rate and a demanding schedule.  He meets Gertie Steiney and his life is changed.  The second huge change in his life comes when Gertie gets pregnant and dies giving birth to their daughter.

2. Oliver's father Bart helps him out with daughter Gertie up to a point.  Then Bart demands that Oliver start acting like Gertie's father.  The third huge change in Oliver's life comes when he makes the mistake of taking his daughter to work, resulting in his catastrophic firing.

3. Most of the film is about the period seven years after the firing, when Oliver meets Maya, and Gertie's big personality starts to show itself.

Delineation of conflicts:
Oliver wants his old life back (NYC, lots of money, fast life) and to leave New Jersey and his life as a municipal worker with Bart.  Gertie wants a father.  Bart wants his son to do the honorable thing and take care of Bart's granddaughter.  Maya wants to be closer to Oliver, who still cannot let go of his dead wife.

Resolution: Oliver, after years of horrible failed interviews, finally gets a shot at a likely hire as a publicist.  However, the interview comes the same day as young Gertie's big event at school.  What will Oliver do?

One line summary: Sad and sweet.
Raquel Castro, Ben Affleck

Statistics:


Cinematography: 9/10 Nothing majestic, but good camera work throughout.

Sound: 8/10 I could hear the dialog, and the musical accompaniment was fine.

Acting: 8/10 Raquel Castro gave a marvelous performance.  George Carlin was delightful.  In general I do not care for Ben Affleck, but I liked his acting throughout the film, especially with Castro and Carlin.  Liv Tyler, Mike Starr, and Stephen Root were good as the rest of Oliver's extended family in Jersey.

On the downside, Jason Biggs and Jennifer Lopez reminded me of why they are deal breakers for me. If I had known Will Smith was in the film (my mistake in not doing research), I would not have watched it at all.  Fortunately Smith's role was short and did serve a purpose in plot exposition.

Screenplay: 7/10 I got quite a few laughs from the film, which lets me excuse all sorts of problem areas.  The plot knot at the end was such a cliche that I nearly skipped reviewing the piece, but most of the film was fine.

Final rating: 8/10

2017-01-14

20170115: Action Review--Jason Bourne





Name: Jason Bourne (2016)
IMDb: link to Jason Bourne (2016) page

Genres: Action.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast:
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, Tommy Lee Jones as CIA Director Robert Dewey, Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee, Vincent Cassel as Asset, Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons, Riz Ahmed as Kalloor.

Directed by: Paul Greengrass.  Written by: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse.

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Ho-hum.  Another Bourne film, unfortunately with Matt Damon, again.  I liked Jeremy Renner's film, which was alive, and thoughtful, and had something to say.  Jason Bourne, though, was just another damned rehash.

2. Jason is clearly lost.  He makes money by bare knuckles fist-fighting.  The CIA is not aware of him.  Of course, the film defeats that 'happy' steady state.  It's just as well: Jason is subject to frequent hallucinations and fits of depression.  He's clearly getting older, slower, and more subject to his own death wishes.

3. The CIA's dumb shit moves early on in the film galvanize Jason, and end up damaging the CIA more than could be expected.  All of this is unnecessary.  Jason should have been left alone, in which case he would have left the CIA alone.

Delineation of conflicts:
The CIA wants Jason dead.  Jason wishes they would leave him alone.  There is nothing new in this third horrible retread of the rather fine first film.  Nicky hopes to get Jason to oppose horrible processes undertaken by the CIA, but Jason is not all that interested, at first.

Resolution: There is none.  In terms of business logic, Damon and co seem to think that more blood can be drawn from this long-dead corpse in yet another sequel to come.  Bringing back Aaron Cross as played by Jeremy Renner would be a breath of fresh air.  More of Damon would just be more swamp gas.

One line summary: Worthless sequel wanted by nobody.

Statistics:


Cinematography: 0/10 Horrible.  Take your fracking shaky vomit cam and shove it back up where it came from.  Bad focusing, bad framing, bad lighting, indifferent ability to focus on subjects.

Sound: 6/10 I can hear the dialog, which is good.  The incidental music is moderately effective in heightening suspense and the sense of threat.

Acting: 0/10 Matt Damon seems to have dropped into 'phone in the performance' mode, like Bruce Willis and Robert De Niro.  After The Martian I expected something better or at least competent.  I don't like Alicia Vikander, I have never liked Alicia Vikander, and never will like Alicia Vikander in any role.

In general I like the performances of Julia Stiles and Tommy Lee Jones, but this boring repeat would defeat the good efforts of any actor.

Screenplay: 0/10 I hate motorcycle chases.  I hate the endless rebirth of Treadstone under different names.  I hate seeing Nicky in jeopardy for no good reason.  I hate this avalanche of cliches and retread ideas.

Final rating: 0/10