ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nomination – R – Ray (2004)

Director: Taylor Hackford

Writer: Taylor Hackford, James L White (Screenplay) James L White (Story)

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix, Bokeem Woodbine

 

Plot: The story of the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles, from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven, to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s


Tagline – The extraordinary life story of Ray Charles.

Runtime: 2 Hours 32 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Brilliant Biopic

 

Story: Ray starts as Ray Robinson (Foxx) leaves his hometown to make it in the music industry, it doesn’t take long for him to make an impact in the industry, he does get walked over by managers who take advantage of the fact that he is blind, Ray also learns bad habits which includes his drug abuse.

When Ray finally gets his solo chance, he becomes Ray Charles, marries Della Bea (Washington) and his rise to stardom is in full flow. Ray continued to bring new sound in his music, though his addiction and women including backup singer Margie Hendricks (King) start making his life very difficult.

 

Thoughts on Ray

 

Characters – Ray Charles is the blind jazz musician, we see how he became blind at a young age, learned to use his ears to pick up music which made him know how to mimic the stars of the era. Ray starts out as part of a band and soon wants to become a solo star, which he does, only with his rise in fame, comes his addiction to heroin and the women, which leads to him nearly throwing away his marriage on the way to the legendary status we know him as today. Della Bea is the woman Ray fell in love with, she becomes his wife, though stays away from his musical career, she helps him when he needs it most and never leaves his side. Margie Hendricks is one of the backup singers that Ray has an affair with, she becomes his on tour girlfriend and what happens to her helps Ray learn about the chance he needs to make with his own life. Jeff Brown is one of the most loyal man that handles Ray’s money through his career.

PerformancesJamie Foxx is fantastic in the leading role he does give the performance of his career here. Kerry Washington and Regina King bring us wonderful supporting role that show two very different women in Ray’s life. If we look further into the cast we have great performances from everybody in the film.

StoryThe story here shows the rise of Ray Charles, one of the most famous musicians of the 1950s and 60s, we see how his talent made him the star, his ability to mimic the stars showed the world what he was capable of despite being blind, we get to see his own vices which nearly saw his career come crashing down before him. If you want to see how to make a biopic story that will show both the good and bad of a life this is one of the most important because Ray did make mistakes which could have derailed his career. We do also get a glimpse into how he helped with the end of the segregation laws in America which made him get banned in one state. The way the story is told gives us the information we need to learn about each moment of his career too.

Biopic/MusicThe biopic for musicians is always one of the most talked about things in the movie community, some only show the good, this was brave enough to show both sides of this man Ray Charles career. The music involved in a string of the hits the fans will enjoy watching being performed.

SettingsThe film recreates the settings for some of the most iconic performances of Ray’s career, to make us feel like audience member, while away from the stage we see how his life felt like it was separate with his wife at home and his on the road events.


Scene of the Movie –
The song performances.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Not learning the truth about what happened between two friends.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the best musical biopics you will see, the performances are brilliant, the ability to capture the moments through the career help move the story along feeling like we are learning the behind stories of Ray.

 

Overall: Biopic masterpiece.

Rating

 

 

Kinsey (2004)

Director: Bill Condon

Writer: Bill Condon (Screenplay)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliva Platt

Plot: A look at the life of Alfred Kinsey, a pioneer in the area of human sexuality research, whose 1948 publication “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” was one of the first recorded works that saw science address sexual behavior.


Tagline – Let’s talk about sex.

Runtime: 1 Hour 58 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: History Lesson 101

Story: Kinsey starts as we meet Alfred Kinsey (Neeson) has started to teach his students about how to ask the neutral questions to their candidates, we dive into his past where his father Alfred Seguine Kinsey (Lithgow) didn’t want him going anywhere needed around science, which his son Alfred learns, he meets his wife Clara (Linney) and when they have their own sexual problems, it inspires Alfred to open up the idea of teaching sex in school.

Professor Kinsey starts a marriage class with Clyde Martin (Sarsgaard) becoming his assistant in the class, as the students and married couples learn more about how to open people can be sharing their sexual experiences and preference, changing how people study sex.

Thoughts on Kinsey

Characters – Alfred Kinsey Jr breaks his family traditions by heading into the field of biology, he soon sees his worked praised, but nothing coming from it, it is when his wife and himself struggle in the bedroom, that he learns not enough research has been done in the field of sexual activity which sees him change history and the field of its study. Clara is the wife of Alfred’s, it is their problem which opens up the eyes, as they work together to learn about sexual choices, she supports from home for the most part. Wardell, Paul and Clyde are three of the assistants that work with Alfred learning as they discover more about everything in the sexual world. We do meet the professors that will support Kinsey’s work along with the ones that go against him.

PerformancesLiam Neeson is wonderful in this leading role, he gets to follow through many years of Kinsey’s life which shows the different moments of success and struggles he faced trying to open the eyes of the world. Laura Linney is great in the supporting role showing the supportive side to Kinsey’s work, with the whole supporting cast being strong through the film not putting a foot wrong anywhere through the film.

StoryThe story does follow Professor Alfred Kinsey as he went to onto change the mindset of the educational system that has shied away from for years, he pushes the limits and educates the generation about sex. This is an interesting look at how the education system was used to open up the world of sex to a new generation, we get to see just how difficult the fight to get everything through a system that wouldn’t accept anything outside the traditions and wanted to put an end his research. For a history lesson this is interesting and well worth watching because the story does show different ages opening up in ways that we would consider almost normal now.

Biopic/RomanceWe do get to see most of Alfred Kinsey life and career, how his work changed research already the world and educated people to be safer when engaged in sexual activities. The romance is mostly about how Alfred and Clara are open to working together and show how they are going to exploring themselves along with others.

SettingsThe film is set through different times of history from how the small classroom to the full department being used for research.


Scene of the Movie – The first class.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We don’t get to learn just how much he changed everything.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting history lesson that shows us just how sex was needed to be taught from everyone to everyone.

Overall: Interesting history lesson.

Seth Green Weekend – Without a Paddle (2004) Movie Review

Director: Steven Brill

Writer: Jay Leggett, Mitch Rouse (Screenplay) Fred Wolf, Harris Goldberg, Tom Nursall (Story)

Starring: Dax Shepard, Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, Ethan Suplee, Rachel Blanchard, Ray Baker, Burt Reynolds

Plot: After their friend dies, three men decide to fulfill their childhood dream by going on a camping expedition for the lost D. B. Cooper bounty, with calamitous results.


Tagline – Three lifelong friends… One lost treasure… What could go wrong?

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Enjoyable

Story: Without a Paddle starts as three best friends Tom (Shepard), Jerry (Lillard) and Dan (Green) return home after the sudden death of their fourth member Billy, spending time together they remember a promise they once made when they were children about searching for D.B. Cooper Bounty.

The three head off into the wilderness following a map that Billy left them, on an adventure they couldn’t imagine, search for a treasure and learning the importance of life.

Thoughts on Without a Paddle

Characters – Jerry has become a businessman, he isn’t enjoying this career choice, he likes to surf and isn’t the most committed in remember important dates in his relationship, he must bring the guys back together for the funeral, he is on the edge of a mid-life crisis, which will get the focus of his decision making process on this adventure. Tom is the lose cannon of the friends, he has always got a story from what he has been doing in his life, while most seem to be tall tales, which often get them in trouble. Dan has become a doctor that is nervous in life, he keeps everything safe and this adventure is completely against his lifestyle, where he spends most of his time worried about what happens.

PerformancesMatthew Lillard, Seth Green and Dax Shepard are the three friends, they do have great chemistry, they play into their comedy strengths and make this movie more enjoyable with their performances.

StoryThe story follows three friends that go on an adventure in the woods in search for D.B. Cooper’s treasure in memory of their friend who passed away. This is a story that is about finding themselves, learning to overcome their fears in life, learn their place in life and making the most of the life they are given. While some of what happens is silly and plays into parodies of many films, it is an enjoyable story that shows the strength of friendship through the good times and the bad.

Adventure/ComedyThe adventure shows us how friends will need that moment in life where the can be together even through the adult struggles in life. The comedy can be silly at times, which does take away from the serious time of the story.

SettingsThe film is set in the wilderness, which sees how the different locations from the river rapids to the cannabis farm they stumble along, it plays into the fears of going into the wild.


Scene of the Movie – The treehouse of memories.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Some of the comedy.

Final Thoughts This is a fun adventure about finding yourself in life, the cast has a great chemistry only for the comedy to come off slightly short at times.

Overall: Fun Adventure.

Ben Stiller Weekend – Dodgeball (2004)

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber (Screenplay)

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Stephen Root, Joel David Moore, Alan Tudyk, Gary Cole

 

Plot: A group of misfits enter a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament in order to save their cherished local gym from the onslaught of a corporate health fitness chain.


Tagline – Grab Life by the Balls 

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: One of the Best Sports Comedies

 

Story: Dodgeball starts as we meet the two gym owners, White Goodman (Stiller) who is obsessed with perfection with bodies only accepting beautiful model like members, on the other side of the street we have Peter La Fleur (Vaughn) owner of Average’s Joe a gym that is open to all, with the regulars and staff including Justin (Long), Gordon (Root), Owen (Moore), Dwight (Williams) and Steve the Pirate (Tudyk).

When Average Joe’s is facing a financial crisis with lawyer Kate Veatch (Taylor) preparing to close them in 30 days with White Goodman wanting to buy it and demolish it. The only plan is to train and enter a dodgeball competition where the prize is the money they require, only problem is, White has made his own team of super-athletes to stop Average Joe’s winning.  

 

Thoughts on Dodgeball

 

Characters – Peter La Fleur is a gym owner, he is laidback and willing to let anybody join at their own pace, this mentality has left him facing financial crisis and he reluctantly accepts entering a dodgeball tournament, he can bring the team together as he gives the whole team hope. White Goodman is the owner of Globo Gym he only accepts beautiful people in his gym even offering cosmetic surgery for his members. He is completely over the top believing he is God’s gift to women with his success coming from his family’s money, he will do anything to eliminate Average Joe’s. Kate Veatch is the lawyer that is assigned to study the finances of Average Joe’s, she becomes the love interest for both men even though she has no interest in White, she joins the team to help eliminate Globo Gym. Patches O’Houlihan is the dodgeball expert, he trains the Average Joe’s to help become competitive in the competition. The rest of the cast include the Average Joe’s members Justin, Gordon, Owen, Dwight and Steve the Pirate that each have their own stories behind their characters to help motivate them to compete.

PerformancesVince Vaughn is one of those actors whose comedy can go either way, it is a laidback style which work perfectly for his character here, because he brings us a real person compared to Ben Stiller. Stiller on the other hand nails his completely over the top character that you are meant to be laughing at with everything he does and says. Christine Taylor is good in her role which like the rest of the cast shine, we get a mix of different comedies from the supporting cast which blend together to show the different styles of real life people.

StoryThe story here follows to rival gyms going to compete for a dodgeball tournament to help keep the little gym with no money a chance to stay afloat before the global franchise closes them down. The story does botte down to a simple underdog story which is fine we can all enjoy a story about an underdog, we do get moments in the film from the Average Joe’s characters that help them learn to become more than they are which is the whole point of a gym, to improve yourself in your own way and everything Globo Gym shouldn’t be. If you want a simple fun sports comedy to watch, this is going to be the one for you without a question.

ComedyThe comedy in this film comes from many different levels, we get moments of slapstick with the dodgeball scenes, we get over the top characters in White Goodman and his team and finally each member of Joe’s team has their own quirky to make them funny.

SettingsThe look at the different gyms helps the settings because it shows how people can be intimidated by certain gyms over others, when we head to Vegas for the tournament the competition feels are authentic as you would imagine.


Scene of the Movie –
Most of the dodgeball scenes.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Lance Armstrong scene is awkward now.

Final ThoughtsFor a sports comedy this has laughs, heart and quality performances from the whole cast, this is one that will stick with you for years to come and I hope to see everyone else enjoy it.

 

Overall: Sports comedy done to near perfection.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Crime – T – Taking Lives (2004)

Director: D.J. Caruso

Writer: Jon Bokenkamp (Screenplay) Michael Pye (Novel)

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands, Oliver Martinez, Tcheky Karyo, Jean-Hugues Andlande, Paul Dano

 

Plot: An FBI profiler is called in by French Canadian police to catch a serial killer who takes on the identity of each new victim.


Tagline – He Would Kill To Be You.

Runtime: 1 Hour 43 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Not as Good as it Should Be

 

Story: Taking Lives starts as we see a young man kill another young man to steal his identity, years later a body is discovered in Canada which leads to the local French-Canadian police to call in FBI profiler Illeana (Jolie) to help with the new mystery body. Things take a turn when a man Costa (Hawke) believes he interrupted the next attempted murder before the killer is finished dealing with the body.

When the police learn this killer has been killing and stealing identities the case takes a turn and now they must figure out who the latest victim is and who he has become.

 

Thoughts on Taking Lives

 

Characters – Illeane Scott is an FBI Profiler bought in to help with the case of a killer that is stealing identities of the people he is murdering, she gets the profile correct and wants to had home after starting to become interested in one of the key witnesses. Costa is a key witness who interrupts one of the murders before the killer can complete his plan, he gives the information to track the killer. Hart is a man that soon enters Costa’s life after the incident making him the prime suspect as the killer.

PerformancesAngelina Jolie is solid enough in this leading role which disappoints because we know she can be a fantastic cop figure. Ethan Hawke struggles with his role too which is only really filled with disappointment as he never convinces in his witness role. Kiefer Sutherland disappoints because we know how good he can be and want to see him more often in a film.

StoryThe story is a FBI agent needing to help track down a serial killer who steals identity, yeah these are usually entertaining to watch but this just doesn’t reach the levels of mystery it needs, this might be because this is a repeat viewing and I know the ending, but there are never really any hints or suspects to work with through the film. the film lacks the true tension needed in a film that is filled with twisted crimes going on.

Crime/MysteryThe crime is interesting for a killer to be acting the way they do, the weakest part is the mystery as we just don’t meet enough potential suspects.

SettingsThe film is sent in a big city which plays into the idea that someone could steal and identity and kill someone without people noticing someone going missing.

Special EffectsThe effects are good because we get to see practical effects when it comes to the kills and aftermath from them.


Scene of the Movie –
The lift opening.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Not enough suspects.

Final ThoughtsThis is a crime thriller that lacks the punch to make it stand out from the crowded market, we always need a large group of suspects, but this didn’t give us enough, while it did create a great killer.

 

Overall: Lacklustre crime thriller

Rating