Just Mercy (2019) Movie Review

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham (Screenplay) Bryan Stevenson (Book)

Starring: Michael B Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, Marcus A Griffin Jr, O’Shea Jackson Jr

Plot: World-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson works to free a wrongly condemned death row prisoner.

Runtime: 2 Hours 17 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Eye Opening

Story: Just Mercy starts when Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) learns the struggles of the poor, mostly black men on death row for crimes they didn’t get proper representation in court. Gaining the funding to start helping these men, one case Walter McMillian (Foxx) takes centre stage.

Bryan must battle a legal system that doesn’t seem to want to let a black man have a fair trial, to prove that Walter never committed a murder that was convicted on just one witness statement, no evidence was false, to save a man’s life and change the system forever.

Thoughts on Just Mercy

Characters – The characters here are based on real people, which shows the incredible work they went through, Bryan has just qualified as a lawyer and is willing to give up massive paydays to help the men trapped on death row, to get a fair trial and save lives. He will risk his life, reputation and career on proving, fairly that Walter isn’t a murderer. Walter McMillian has worked hard his whole life, his one mistake made him an easy target for the police who wanted to frame a black man, now on death row, he doesn’t have much faith of getting out, until he meets Bryan who shows him that somebody is willing to fight for him, even though he has always claimed his innocence and helped keep the fellow inmates believing they could get out. Eva Ansley works with Bryan, she leads more of the campaign, while helping study the law side, not fighting in the courtroom, she is the person that keeps Bryan going through it all, though not seeing her involved more in the courtroom, is slightly disappointing.

PerformancesMichael B Jordan steps up here to prove he will be able to take leading roles in a more serious environment once again, he shows all the calm his character needs during the testing times. Jamie Foxx is wonderful as the wrongly convicted killer, showing how the system has beaten him down more than anything else. Brie Larson gets great scenes, but it is a mix of her character not getting enough scenes and seemingly more we don’t learn about her character which leaves us wanting more.

StoryThe story here follows the young lawyer that wants to fight for the rights of the men on death row, with his first major case being defending Walter McMillian, a man believed to be wrongfully convicted a crime he could never have committed. This is an important story, it shows how hard the people worked to campaign to give people a fair trial in a system which has shown countless cases of corruption, he shows all the struggles they would face and how the law will always hold people back from getting the truth out there fairly. We focus on one major case, while it does feel like we could watch many cases this man worked on, just to show us how unfair the law can be on the poor.

SettingsThe film uses a few settings, the prison for the interviews, the courtroom, which as you all know is one of my favourite settings in film, offices and homes which show how hard everybody worked to get this story out there.


Scene of the Movie – The supreme courtroom.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The law being this bad.

Final Thoughts This is a wonderful important look at how the law works, not always as fairly as it should do, we have a massive story and brilliant performances from the cast.

Overall: Important.

ABC Film Challenge – Catch-Up 2019 – E – Jacob’s Ladder (2019) Movie Review

This is under E because of star Michael Ealy

Director: David M Rosenthal

Writer: Jeff Buhler, Sarah Thorpe (Screenplay) Bruce Joel Rubin (Original Screenplay)

Starring: Michael Ealy, Guy Burnett, Jesse Williams, Nicole Beharie, Joseph Sikora

Plot: After his brother returns home from war, Jacob Singer struggles to maintain his sanity. Plagued by hallucinations and flashbacks, Singer rapidly falls apart as the world and people around him morph and twist into disturbing images. 

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Another Pointless Remake

Story: Jacob’s Ladder starts as Jacob Singer (Ealy) returns home after a stint in the military, where his brother Isaac (Williams) is killed in action, with Jacob unable to save him, taking up his job in the local hospital as a trauma surgeon, starting a family with his wife Samantha (Beharie), he looks to get on with his life.

Jacob’s life is turned upside down, when he starts meeting deceased war veterans which leads him to find his brother, alive, bringing him home, only learning about the changes he has been through, not being the man, he once knew.

Thoughts on Jacob’s Ladder

Characters – Jacob is a military surgeon that saw traumas of war first hand, including what he thought was his brother’s death, back home he returns to the hospital for work as he starts his own family. It soon takes a twist for the worst when his brother isn’t dead and he starts seeing things that aren’t there, needing to piece together everything. Isaac is Jacob’s brother that he thought died in the war, he comes back dealing with his own problems, needing his brother’s support, being one of many survivors from the war. Samantha is the wife and mother that is always around the brother’s she wants to help them both sort out the problems they are dealing with. Louis is the doctor that has been treating Jacob and his return and wants to try and help Isaac too, being the closest to help they will face after leaving the military.

PerformancesMichael Ealy takes the leading role in this film, he struggles to make an impact here, which might be more because of the awful character twists he must try to go through. Jesse Williams and Nicole Beharie both do what they can with their supporting roles, which are mostly in the background.

StoryThe story here follows a war veteran who has returned from war believing his brother died only to learn his is still alive and he starts seeing his life unravel on front of his eyes. This is a remake of one of the most popular stories ever, we do try to see something different only to give us one of the most confusing stories of the year, where the film throws out a twist that makes zero sense. You will find yourself scratching your head more than often than not, which will only leave you disappointed with any directions we are given.

Horror/MysteryThe horror is more about the imagery that we are put through, rather than being anything that is scary, while the mystery is there, only not interesting enough to solve, seemingly having little to do with what we saw in the original.

SettingsThe film uses the modern-day settings which are meant to show how difficult it is meant to be for a war veteran to return home.

Special EffectsThe effects are not designed well, with most just being disjointed throughout.


Scene of the Movie – Nothing.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – That different twist.

Final Thoughts This is a largely disappointing remake that just looks like a mess, doesn’t adding up in anyway through the film.

Overall: Poor and Pointless Remake.

Jojo Rabbit (2019) Movie Review

Director: Taika Waititi

Writer: Taika Waititi (Screenplay) Christine Leunens (Novel)

Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant

Plot: a young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Funny & Heart Breaking

Story: Jojo Rabbit starts when a young boy Jojo (Davis) is going to a camp to learn to be part of the Nazi army being taught by Captain Klenzendorf (Rockwell), he has an imaginary friend in Adolf Hitler (Waititi) who is always there to help him through the difficult decisions. Only the training doesn’t go well, when he ends up nearly blowing himself up, being reduced down to help with the propaganda campaign.

When Jojo learns this his mother Rosie (Johansson) has been hiding a Jewish girl Elsa (McKenzie) in her walls, he gets conflicted on what to do, wanting to follow his leaders beliefs about Jews or learning that Jews are people, not a threat and his leader isn’t everything he believed him to be.

Thoughts on Jojo Rabbit

Characters – Jojo is a young boy that is living in German during World War II, he knows his father went to war and now he wants to do his part, he idolises Hitler having his own version guiding him through the difficult decisions he will face, his life is turned upside down when he learns he has a Jew living in his walls and wants to get to know her before deciding whether to do his duty or not. Elsa is the young lady hiding in the walls of Jojo’s house, she is Jewish which Jojo sees as a threat. She does show Jojo about the truth about how they are both the same and they shouldn’t be treated differently. Rosie is the mother of Jojo, she is raising him alone and she has chosen to let Elsa stay in their home, she won’t risk her own son’s life though, she does know how pointless the war is from what the Nazi’s were planning. Adolf is Jojo’s imaginary friend, he is always around when Jojo isn’t complete sure what to do next in a flamboyant way.

PerformancesRoman Griffin Davis in the leading role here is fantastic, he shows us the breaking of innocence his characters goes through in such a beautiful way, while Thomasin McKenzie is wonderful too, showing the different levels of strength she needs to get through each day in hiding. Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi and Sam Rockwell shine in the supporting roles of the movie too.

StoryThe story here follows a young boy who is living through World War II and wants to be part of the fighting like his father, he is blindly led into believing Hitler is right, showing his passionate following, only to learn the errors of his ways once he finds a Jew hiding in his house. This story is done in a satirical way, it still manages to get the serious side of the story over though, we see just how easily people would have been left blindly follow Hitler, while the true horrors of the war are slowly shown through what happens to Jojo. We are going to get plenty of moments that are enjoyed, plenty that will be emotional broken too. This is done in such a beautiful way that does show the breaking of innocence that Jojo goes through.

ComedyThe comedy in this film is satirical and will give you plenty of laugh out loud moments through the film.

SettingsThe film is set in the small German town which is preparing for an attack during the war, it shows us how they were prepared and still tried to remain the same as normal.


Scene of the Movie – The training camp.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Nothing.

Final Thoughts This is one of best comedies that will get laughs and shows the horrors of war for the children involved, with heart breaking effects.

Overall: Outrageously Entertaining.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) Movie Review

Director: Jake Kasdan

Writer: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg (Screenplay) Chris Van Allsburg (Book)

Starring: Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Madison Iseman, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Awkwafina

Plot: In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to rescue one of their own, the players will have to brave parts unknown from arid deserts to snowy mountains, to escape the world’s most dangerous game.

Runtime: 2 Hours 3 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Popcorn Fun

Story: Jumanji: The Next Level starts a couple of years after the first adventure, Martha, Bethany, Fridge and Spencer have moved onto the next stage of their lives, heading home for the Christmas holiday, Spencer however has started to become distant from the rest, he finds his room being shared with Grampa Ed (DeVito) and decides to try and fix Jumanji.

After Spencer doesn’t arrive for the meet up with the old gang, the friends find themselves sucked into the game, along with Grampa Ed and his old business partner Mile (Glover) as they must complete a new challenge in the world of Jumanji.

Thoughts on Jumanji: The Next Level

Characters – Outside the game Spencer has found himself alone in New York for university, he has a job in a shop which has seen him starting to wonder what is life is actually going to be about, broken up with Martha, he doesn’t know where what to do next, ignore his friends and home just to see his family. He decides to try and rebuild the game, so he could return to being Dr Smolder Bravestone to regain his confidence. Bethany has continued to travel the world, Martha has found popularity in college, despite still being incredibly insecure and Fridge has continued to build his sports career. These three are still close and want to keep Spencer in their circle, only they have continued to be positive in life. Grampa Ed is now living in with Spencer’s mum, in his room after a hip operation, he has fallen out with his old business partner Milo, Milo has come to try and make up with Ed after their lifelong friendship ended suddenly. Inside the game we get the same characters Smolder Bravestone, Franklin Finbar, Dr Shelly Oberon and Ruby Roundhouse, they are the same basic character with a few new additions, much like any video game sequel, with that we get new additions in Ming who has a whole new set of skills and a horse. There are some mix ups to who are each of the characters in the game.

PerformancesDwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are strangely two of the weaker points in the movie, this is because this time around they have to almost be parodies of well-known actors instead of reacting to traits characters are meant to have, while Hart is more restrained, Johnson does crack his role on this side of the film enough. Jack Black and Karen Gillan have excellent comic chemistry which shines through in the film, while the addition of Awkwafina is great for laughs, coming off stronger in the second half do the film than the first.

StoryThe story here follows the friends return into the game of Jumanji joined with a couple of new characters, where they need to travel their way through the game one more time to save Jumanji from a new enemy. While the adventure inside the game side of the story is bigger and the entertaining part of the story, where we try to put a big emphasis on the story is on friendship, we see how people can become more distant, how you should always try to make time, no matter where you are in life and even see the consequences of not always being there for somebody. The story really doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, nor did it need to.

Adventure/ComedyThe adventure side of the film does give us a brand-new adventure within the game, new dangers, new locations, it feels like we are getting a brand-new video game with the same loved characters. The comedy here is a mix, because a lot of the old people jokes get tiresome quickly, but once the statue quo is returned to normal the comedy is back to its best, just takes too long getting there.

SettingsThe film uses the new locations within the game, including the desert, mountain range and amazing bridge crossing location.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film can be mixed too, it doesn’t help with the pure ambition behind the set pieces which are needed for the CGI moments.


Scene of the Movie – The bridge crossing, such a unique creation.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Certain body swaps.

Final Thoughts This is a fun sequel that once again gets stolen by the supporting cast of Karen Gillan, Jack Black and newcomer Awkwafina that get most of the laughs.

Overall: Fun Sequel.

ABC Film Challenge – Horror – J – Jackals (2017)

Director: Kevin Greutert

Writer: Jared Rivet (Screenplay)

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Deborah Kara Unger, Johnathon Schaech, Alyssa Julya Smith, Jason Scott Jenkins, Nico Roux, Chelsea Ricketts

 

Plot: Set in the 1980s, an estranged family hires a cult deprogrammer to take back their teenage son from a murderous cult, but find themselves under siege when the cultists surround their cabin, demanding the boy back.


Tagline – Family First

Runtime: 1 Hour 25 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Disturbing Home Invasion Movie

 

Story: Jackals starts as Jimmy Levine (Dorff) is hired to help the Powell family, Kathy (Unger), Andrew (Schaech) whose son Justin (Sullivan) has turned his back on his family including his girlfriend Samantha (Ricketts) and daughter, has joined a cult. Jimmy is hired to help deprogram him for the beliefs he now has.

The cult Justin has joined aren’t going to let one of their brothers be taken so easily, which sees them target the house, with Justin claiming that they have come for the baby, the family must put aside their differences to work together fighting for their loved ones.

 

Thoughts on Jackals

 

Characters – Jimmy Levine has been deprogramming cult members for years, after being part of one before, he will push Justin, but this time he may have met his match. Kathy is the mother of the family, she has turned to drink after her marriage fell apart, she does enjoy the grandmother role though. Andrew is the father that brings in Jimmy, willing to face his own mistakes to save his son from the cult. Justin is the son that joined the cult, he believes he is part of a new family and they have come in search for his baby daughter to join the cult.

PerformancesWe do have a couple of well-known actors in this film, Stephen Dorff, Deborah Kara Unger and Johnathon Schaech being the big three, the problem is with the story, the three actors struggle to make the impact in this film they could have. Nobody gets to make the most of their work in this film apart from the cult members that makes us feel like we are watching the creepy crazed figures.

StoryThe story follows a family try to save their son from a cult he joined, only the cult isn’t accepting one of their members to leaving, even if he doesn’t want to leave. This does take a spin on the home invasion film because we have a ready made established member of the cult being taken against his will, the cult size is scary big with the action against being deadly. The problems with the story come from the idea that we don’t learn the true motives of the people in the cult, why he joined them in the first place and with the ending feeling like they just ran out of money. This story has so much more potential, it feels like something was just missing in the execution as the ending is completely rushed.

Horror The horror in the film comes from just what the cult is willing to do, they will make you feel uneasy every time they are just stood in the shadows, this is easily the highlight of the film. we are left to keep guessing on just what will happen in the film too.

SettingsThe film is set in a cabin the woods, we have no signal, the cars are the only way out, but taken away early meaning the family is isolated and trapped, perfect for what the cult want to do to them.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are solid enough, we see most of the aftermath of any damage, which the one time we get to see the shocking damage we can easily turn away from that.


Scene of the Movie –
The figures in the shadows.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The ending.

Final ThoughtsThis is a horror film that was filled with potential, we could have seen so much more even if the horror side of the film is the highlight of the film.

 

Overall: Disturbing, yet unfulfilling horror.

Rating