20170323: Drama Review--Sicario

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

Genres: Drama.   Country of origin: USA.

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


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


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.

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


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


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.

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


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.