ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nominations – Z – American Gangster (2007) Movie Review

This is under Z because of the screenplay writer Steven Zaillian.

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Steven Zaillian (Screenplay) Mark Jacobson (Article)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine

Plot: An outcast New York City cop is charged with bringing down Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, whose real life inspired this partly biographical film.

Tagline – When Hoodlum Bumpy influences American Gangster Frank Lucas

Runtime: 2 Hours 37 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Overly Long Gangster Film

Story: American Gangster starts with the death of the most powerful man in Harlem, Frank Lucas (Washington) his righthand man steps up to take control of the business, where he first sees everything getting out of hand before making a major move to bring the heroin directly to America for his own team to cut and profit for.

Richie Roberts (Crowe) has been tackling the drug problem in Harlem for years, losing friends and a marriage to the world, he is given a team to look to take down the biggest people involved in the industry, in what becomes a battle of wits between Frank and Richie.

Thoughts on American Gangster

Characters – Frank Lucas steps into the role of Drug Lord of Harlem, he builds the business bigger than his mentor, he increases the money, bringing in a new deadly wave of drug usage, he will kill anyone that gets in his business, he will not accept loose ends in any of his dealings, which sees him become the biggest drug lord in the country. Richie Roberts is the New York prosecutor that has been trying to take down the drug world for years, it has cost him friendships, his marriage and soon to be son, he is one of the few remaining honest cops and gets given a team of his own choice to track the new increase in drug usage in the city. We do meet Frank’s family that are all in the business with him, working for him helping him raise his power in the city, his wife Eva who knows he has been breaking the law, but enjoys the money that comes with him and Detective Trupo an FBI agent that is on the take to keep Frank safe, he will always look to collect his payments no matter what is going on.

PerformancesDenzel Washington and Russell Crowe are both great in this film, they both bring the characters to life as we understand both sides of their lives through the film. We do have an excellent supporting cast too who are all flawless in the film.

StoryThe story here follows the rise of drug lord in New York where he become the most powerful man in the city and how one prosecutor risked everything to try and stop him, turning everyone in his own life against him. This is based on the real drug lord and the man that tried to track him down, it shows how both men’s lives changed through these years, one rose to fame, while the other lose everything because of his determination to stop the drug trade. We do get some excellent scenes which show the different lives the people have been living through this time, usually the holiday times, though we don’t get enough of the smaller details.

Biopic/CrimeLooking at the two main men’s lives show us how things changed and were risked to make the moves to do what they thought was right, it does show the criminal actions being conducted by Frank and his people.

SettingsThe New York setting will show how the neighbourhoods would work together to make the business strong.

Scene of the Movie – The solo conversation.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It is too long.

Final ThoughtsThis is an interesting look at one of the biggest gangsters in the history of America and what he did to change the system forever.

Overall: Strong Story, Too Long Film.

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Movie Review

Judas and the Black Messiah – Powerhouse Performances.

Director: Shaka King

Writer: Will Berson, Shaka King (Screenplay) Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenneth Lucas, Keith Lucas (Story)

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith

Plot: The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal.

Runtime: 2 Hours 6 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Judas and the Black Messiah starts as we see a small-time car thief Bill O’Neal (Stanfield) get caught by FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Plemons) who cuts him a deal. The deal will see Bill avoid any jail time, if he will undercover in the Black Panther.

Bill needs to get close to the Chairman of the Illinois party Fred Hampton (Kaluuya) who has been spreading the word to bring about equality in America. Here Bill will find himself trapped by Roy who threatens him with jail or the Panthers who have the rumours of torturing someone who betrays them.

Thoughts on Judas and the Black Messiah

Characters & Performances – Fred Hampton is the charismatic leader of the Black Panthers in Illinois. He will give speeches that will motive people to follow him and learn from the messages he is trying to spread to the world, without resorting to violence. Away from the spotlight, Fred is a calm presence who just wants what everyone else does, a quiet life. Daniel Kaluuya gives us a brilliant performance, rightfully involved in the award conversation, the speeches grab your attention. Bill O’Neal is a car thief that pretends to be an FBI agent to rob other black men, caught in the act by real FBI agent Roy Mitchell. He is left to face a decision, jail time or go undercover in the Black Panther party. He does have the confidence to step into the position, but he is also filled with fear about what will happen if he gets caught, he is always looking over his shoulder in fear. LaKeith Stanfield is also brilliant here, with the performance that is filled with the uncertainty he is facing. Roy Mitchell is the FBI agent that recruits Bill, he seems to try and play it fair to start with, before changing as the time roles on, I do believe we did need more from this character, was he trying to help or just following orders. We do also get to meet different members of the Black Panther, each member wants the same things, but does have a different way of wanting to bring the change.

StoryThe story here follows an FBI informant who gets recruited to go undercover in the Black Panther party to get close to the local chairman Fred Hampton. This is a story style we have seen before with many films where a person goes undercover in a gang/mob or in this case a political party and must keep their identity secret or face the consequences. We get to see how the man is recruited and gets left in the middle of no man’s land, facing jail or betrayal. We do focus more on this character’s different decisions over what the Black Panthers stood for and their battle against the Law who constantly framed them. We might have gotten more time looking at this side of the discussion, as it would put the spotlight on the people who did or didn’t make the right decisions.

ThemesJudas and the Black Messiah is a biopic looking at a great leader who was helping to make a change the right way and how he was betrayed. We do seem to focus more on the betrayal over the movement Fred Hampton was part of. The film does recreate the look of the late 1960s very well too.

Judas and the Black Messiah is an important drama that does have powerful performances from the lead stars.

ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nominations – O – Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Movie Thoughts

This is under O because of Peter O’Toole leading performance.

Director: David Lean

Writer: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson (Screenplay) T.E. Lawrence (Writings)

Starring: Peter O’Toole, Alex Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif

Plot: The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.

Tagline – A mighty spectacle of action and adventure!

Runtime: 3 Hours 48 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Epic

Story: Lawrence of Arabia starts as we see how people remember T.E. Lawrence in his time as an English Officer fighting in the desert, where he looks to unite the Arab Tribes during World War I, he looks to unite them to stop killing each other over small matter, when a bigger threat the Turks are waiting to walk through Arabia, knowing the tribes would be easy to defeat.

Thoughts on Lawrence of Arabia

Final Thoughts Lawrence of Arabia is considered one of the greatest movies of all time, you can see why, the epic production value, the pure scale of everything in the film is massive. The story leads us down the trail of dealing with endless amounts of military power that the English had, the stuck up nature of the leaders who only cared about the prim and proper side to how everything is achieved, rather than dealing with the proper problems required. This does have amazing performances with Peter O’Toole standing head and shoulders above everyone else and will fill you in on one of the biggest changes created in human history. It might not be as assessable for the new film audience with a runtime of close to four hours, which is clearly doesn’t need to be, if we are being honest.

Overall: A Movie that defines epic scale.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) Movie Review

Director: Justin Chadwick

Writer: William Nicholson (Screenplay)

Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Zolani Mkiva, Simon Mogwaza

Plot: A chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

Tagline – It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Runtime: 2 Hours 21 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Too Much to Fit In

Story: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom starts as we see how the young lawyer Nelson Mandela (Elba) fought for equal rights in South Africa, he helped black people get their time in court, to fight for what was right, before finding himself mixed up in a activist group, one that would bring damage to the world.

Nelson is caught, thrown in prison for life, instead of executed, his wife Winnie (Harris) continues to fight peacefully for what is right on the outside, while Nelson builds his reputation within the prison, to the level where the white government officials turn to him, in hope of bringing peace to the country.

Thoughts on Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Final Thoughts When it comes to Nelson Mandela, we do have one of the most important men in history, his story is beyond amazing, with this film telling his story from his early lawyer days, until he becomes the leader of South Africa. The film does have a lot to get in, which is disappointing, because there is so much to tell, it just feels like we are skipping over the major events without getting the main details of what is happening. We can’t fault the performances with Idris Elba being fantastic, with Naomie Harris being strong in the supporting role. This film would have been nicer to see more, or focus on just a smaller part, but trying to cover such a great man’s whole life, is nearly impossible in film format.

Overall: We could have seen more.

ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nominations – H – Harriet (2019) Movie Review

Director: Kasi Lemmons

Writer: Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons (Screenplay)

Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr, Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Janelle Monae

Plot: The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman‘s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

Tagline – The unbelievable true story of Harriet Tubman, an American legend

Runtime: 2 Hours 5 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Harriet starts as slave Minty (Erivo) is looking to have her freedom with her husband, only her owner isn’t going to let her be free, despite her time being up with them. Minty decides to run away risking her life to escape joining William Still (Odom Jr) and Marie Buchanon (Monae) to help rescue other slaves.

Minty takes the name Harriet Tubman as her free name and fast becomes one of the leading freedom fighters for slaves, breaking many out of their plantations giving them the freedom they deserve, making history with her efforts.

Thoughts on Harriet

Characters – Minty was the name from slavery, a woman looking to get her freedom with her husband to start their own family, not being granted this, she runs for her freedom, becoming Harriet Tubman, her free name, working with other people to help free slaves from different locations, risking more, saving more, being one of the most important people in the rescuing of slaves. William Still has been running an operation to help escaped slaves have normal lives, he welcomes and shows Harriet how to achieve this. We do get to meet plenty of other people involved in the rescues, as well as the people trying to stop this happening, preventing the freedom the slaves should have.

PerformancesCynthia Erivo in the leading role is sensational getting her Oscar nomination for her work, always being a signal for strength through the film. The rest of the cast give us strong performances throughout, without needing to reach the levels of Cynthia.

StoryThe story here follows Harriet Tubman rise from slave to leader in rescuing slaves from across America, branded Moses, saving thousands. This is a story that will show how the country was against letting black people have their freedom and how they need to work with the few good people that would risk everything to grant them the freedom they deserved, it shows us how Harriet used her determination to make more of the rescues to make sure she helped as many people as possible, teaching us the importance of the history of her actions.

BiopicThis is an important history lesson telling us the story of one of the people that risked their own life, to save many more in a world where being black was considered a crime if you were free.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show the conditions the slaves must work in as well as the condition their journey to freedom would take them through.

Scene of the Movie – The calls.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The white people turning on each other feels like it should have had a more shocking moment.

Final ThoughtsHarriet is an important story about an incredible woman, that should be seen by all to show what people risked to save others, with Cynthia Erivo shining through the film.