Fences: A “premium” slice of Denzel

Denzel’s film challenges you in several ways.

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“Some folks build fences to keep people out. Some build them to keep people in.”

The relentless new film “Fences” will simply wear you down, but its skill and moral are hard to deny. Like a boxer with pinpoint accuracy, it beats you up for two hours with timely fundamentals and powerful lessons.

When Denzel Washington directs films, he joins the “Not Messing Around Crew”. An esteemed area of the filmmaking ring where he tells pitbull-tough stories about family, risk, race and the repercussions of one’s decisions. This is premium Denzel territory; “Fences” doesn’t pull a single punch in its tale of a father coming to terms with the events of his life while living a working class life in Pittsburgh in the 1950’s.

The main thread of this film is that Washington treats the film like an extra shiny rendition of the play. He doesn’t wish to add much else to the table. When you have a script carrying this much power and juice, you can leave the seasoning in the cupboard. There’s no extra helpings of style thrown on top or additional plot lines.

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The plot seems simple, yet carries extra bite marks. Washington’s Troy Maxson has a monstrous chip on his shoulder, and it has to do with a life he feels has under-whelmed. He used to be a great slugger in the Negro Leagues and had the goods to hit Major-League pitching, but he was too old by the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Now, he hauls trash five days a week, brings home $75 and hands most of it to his loving wife Rose(Viola Davis, matching Denzel blow for blow) to pay the bills and fill the body of their son Corey(Jovan Adepo) with food.  Continue reading “Fences: A “premium” slice of Denzel”

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ nomination completes Mel Gibson’s comeback trail

After nearly a decade of absence, Mel Gibson is officially back.

Remember way back when Mel Gibson was a legit movie star and Oscar winning director? Yeah, it’s been a while since the Australian bred actor was seen in good spirits with Hollywood, but the Oscar nominations announced on Tuesday have completely turned the tide.

For the first time since 1996, Gibson is headed to the Academy Awards as a nominee for directing Hacksaw Ridge. The film is also up for Best Picture among other awards, but the directing nomination officially completes the comeback trail for Gibson. The odds aren’t in Gibson’s favor, but win or lose, it’s a triumph for the 61 year old actor/director.

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Icon Productions/Summit Entertainment

The road back hasn’t been easy for Gibson. He hasn’t headlined a mainstream film since 2010’s Edge of Darkness, and recently it’s direct to DVD clunkers like Blood Father and bad guy foreplay in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 3. Gibson hasn’t produced a hit since 2002’s Signs, and he’s starred in a handful of films since(The Beaver, Machete Kills, and Get Him To The Gringo among them). Continue reading “‘Hacksaw Ridge’ nomination completes Mel Gibson’s comeback trail”

Collateral Beauty: A tearjerker that earns its stripes

Collateral Beauty’s holiday release served as its greatest ally, because you have to let it hit you.

The sad Will Smith film, Collateral Beauty, is going to do one of three things.

  1. Make you cry.
  2. Make you be better tomorrow.
  3. Make you mad.

In the end, for a film with enough emotion to fill a river, it may do all three.

One thing is for sure. David Frankel’s new film is a tearjerker of the highest order. It assembles a beautiful and talented cast, hands them a depressing tale, sprinkles some hope on the table, and decorates all of it with the lucid cinematic world of New York City. It’s an unconventional holiday film that requires the audience to buy into the sappy and melodramatic idea of what Christmas brings to people. The idea is simple. Love, peace, togetherness, remembrance, sadness, and most of all, hope.

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Smith’s Howard is a brilliant yet sad man, and one full of self-inflicted torture. He’s been struck with a terrible tragedy, and it’s affected his work and the future of his advertising company. A company that rides on three main things. Love, time, and death. Howard is numb to the world, and the holiday season isn’t making things better. His partners are afraid his misery will bury the company, which is close to be sold. Continue reading “Collateral Beauty: A tearjerker that earns its stripes”

‘Manchester by the Sea’: An uncompromising masterpiece

Manchester by the Sea doesn’t care about your feelings and that’s its greatest asset.

Manchester by the Sea doesn’t play by the rules and that is its greatest asset as a film.

Writer/Director Kenneth Lonergan(You Can Count on Me) places his characters in a pot and puts the heat on low for his two hour plus film that is equal parts heartbreaking, compassionate, honest, and ruthlessly unconventional. If you want a film with a nicely tightened bow on the final act of the film, go elsewhere. Lonergan cares more about his characters than the audience’s feelings of complacency.

Lee Chandler(Casey Affleck, better than ever) is a sad man and you don’t know why. He’s unclogging toilets and fixing showers while his heart noticeably remains overstuffed and in need of repair. He keeps to himself, drinks like a fish, and gets into random fights that his fists dictate. He is one of those people who doesn’t mind if you place you burden on his shoulders, as long as you don’t ask him about his own. He doesn’t want to talk. As he tells another late in the film, “I can’t beat it.” What it is will break your heart? Continue reading “‘Manchester by the Sea’: An uncompromising masterpiece”

‘Rogue One’: A soulful addition to ‘Star Wars’ universe

Jyn Erso(Felicity Jones) learned at a very young age what it feels like to lose everything you love. When her father Galen(Mads Mikkelson), one of the architects behind the Death Star, is taken in to finish plans for construction of the evil empire vessel, she is forced to grow up the hard way. Without parents to guide her upbringing, life leads her on a path towards criminality, and into the hands of the rebellion, led by Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor.

Welcome to a prequel that works and aides the following films instead of feeling tacked on for good measure and money clip tightening.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story skips the usual opening quirks and exerts itself quickly. It is director Gareth Edwards’ attempt to make his own Star Wars saga and also properly introduce new exciting characters like Jyn, Cassian, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut, Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook, and Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. While lacking the slam bang spectacle of 2015’s Star Wars: A Force Awakens, this prequel to the very first film, A New Hope, is an exciting addition to the family that will quench the thirst of Star Wars addicts needing something before the next sequel that is set to arrive next December. Continue reading “‘Rogue One’: A soulful addition to ‘Star Wars’ universe”

Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool: From zero to Golden Globe hero

Many believe that Deadpool is a long shot to win Best Motion Picture-Musical or a Comedy at the 2017 Golden Globes, but producer and star Ryan Reynolds is used to those odds.

After all, it took eleven years for Ryan Reynolds to convince Hollywood to let him make his version of Deadpool, but sometimes the long game is what wins in the land of make believe. The wait has paid off, as it shattered box office records, made an R-rated comic book film and comedy sexy again, and finds itself nominated for two Golden Globe awards.

The merc with a dark sense of humor was one of the most highly anticipated releases coming into the 2016 movie season, but it blew projections out of the water. On a 58 million dollar budget(basically the salary of one huge fight scene in an Avengers movie), Deadpool grossed 135 million on its opening weekend. It went on to clear 363 million domestically and over 763 million worldwide. How about that for some fresh chimichangas!

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20th Century Fox

The movie, now playing on premium cable, holds up well after multiple viewings. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s script is chock full of juicy one liners and extreme hilarity that hit the mark just as smooth as they did the first time. The quiet slams and high brow nods to previous superhero flicks is also well done. The movie simply doesn’t get old.

Reynolds, 40 years old in October, needed Deadpool as much as the source material needed him. He was working steadily in Hollywood, but hadn’t carved a spot for himself or truly found a role to call his own. A sense of humor and a few mildly successful comedies don’t carry you far unless you do something incredible, especially after you turn the corner on 40. Playing Wade Wilson and helping produce was the icebreaker for Reynolds and his career.

R-rated comedies don’t gross 763 million anywhere. R-rated Marvel comedies with one main character/anti-hero don’t come close to that number. Deadpool’s wild success paved the way for a sequel(coming in 2018) and transferred Reynolds to the A-list.

Reynolds isn’t favored to win the Best Actor-Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, but he can take solace in rewriting the book on how a wild idea can turn into a monster hit with the right brain trust and energy behind it. He created something unique with Deadpool, and Hollywood took notice while fans wanted more.