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 – N – Vox Lux (2018) Movie Review

This is under N because of Natalie Portman performance in the film.

Director: Brady Corbet

Writer: Brad Corbet, Mona Fastvold (Screenplay)

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Jennifer Ehle, Raffey Cassidy, Christopher Abbott

Plot: An unusual set of circumstances brings unexpected success to a pop star.

Tagline – A Twenty-First Century Portrait

Runtime: 1 Hour 54 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Plenty of Flash, No Substance

Story: Vox Lux starts in 2000 when high school student Celeste (Cassidy) is one of the many victims of a shooting in the school, left with spinal injuries, she must learn to walk and function again, turning to music with her sister Eleanor (Martin) to find peace in her life over the next days, weeks and months where she becomes an international music sensation, bringing the country together.

Jumping forward to 2017 another terrorist attack using the masks from Celeste first video might put a shadow over her latest performance, now Celeste (Portman) must work with her Manager (Law) to give a calm statement about the incident as we learn how much she has changed over the years

Thoughts on Vox Lux

Characters – Celeste can be split into two, first the school girl that was one of the victims of school shooting, who became an international music success over night, she kept her feet on the ground and found ways to continue to spread the world of her music despite only being 14/15 during this time. The second one the 31-year-old that has been working for nearly two decades in the industry, a mother that doesn’t always make time for her kid that her sister raised and is always thinking of the next big thing in her career. Celeste’s Manager has always seen the star making power and has always found a way to make Celeste the most important person in the room. Eleanor is the older sister of Celeste, she has promised to never leave her sister’s side and supports her through her career, despite her ending up with different mindset by the second part of her career. Albertine is the daughter of Celeste who is being raised by Eleanor, wanting to avoid the spotlight her mother is stuck in and isn’t as close as she should be to her mother.

PerformancesNatalie Portman gives us a wonderful performance in her role, while Jude Law is equally as strong, it is Raffey Cassidy that must be considered the best performer though, taking on two roles, first as young Celeste where we see the innocent nature and then as the daughter of the Celeste who feels neglected.

StoryThe story here follows a young teenage girl that is a victim of a high school shooting that suddenly becomes an international music sensation and we see how her career goes in a strange direction after jumping forward 17 years to her homecoming tour. Deep down you can see a message that seems to be focusing on the celebrity mentality being mixed into the cowardly terrorism action, showing how they can be used to capture quick headlines in the media. Outside of this, we do seem to jump from of the innocent nature of Celeste to the popstar that has been through the drug, drink and personal problems which has changed her nature dramatically. We do see how fame can change people with this and how life can go in strange directions, the down on the story is the random narration over everything which fills in blanks for a random reason and we won’t talk about the actual music, because that is awful to listen to, but it isn’t the point of the story.

SettingsThe film uses the main settings to show us just how much Celeste’s life changes, from schoolgirl to a European party trip before the big concert location.

Scene of the Movie – The first song.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Not a fan of the narration style even if Dafoe does make it enjoyable.

Final Thoughts This is one of the flashiest movies you will see, the performances are fantastic throughout, though we do focus on a couple of concert moments for too long and have a random narration which sees out of nowhere at times.

Overall: Concert Film Flashiness.

The Escape (2017)

Director: Dominic Savage

Writer: Dominic Savage (Screenplay)

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Frances Barber, Marthe Keller, Laura Donoughue

Plot: An ordinary woman makes an extraordinary decision which will change her life forever.

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Slow and Draw Out

Story: The Escape starts as we meet everyday wife and mother Tara (Arterton) who when her husband Mark (Cooper) is at work and children at school, is left with the everyday household routine, which is causing her to feel distant from her own life, which is getting boring in her eyes.

Wanting something more Tara starts learning about art, wanting to look to take classes during the days, but Mark doesn’t think it will be good for her, as she is dealing with a problem child. Does Tara just need a break or can she escape the life she feels trapped in.

Thoughts on The Escape

Characters – Tara has been married for years now, has two children, a successful husband, but her life is going nowhere, she feels alone, trapped in a cycle where she doesn’t get time to do anything for herself, she is getting unhappier as the days pass until she finally breaks, will she just need a break or can she cope without the things she has in her life. Mark is her husband and spends most of his time working and expecting things to be ready when he gets home, he can’t handle Tara’s feelings which only makes him more controlling that he wants to be.

PerformancesGemma Arterton does all she can with the role, she is meant to be playing a down character, so we don’t expect her to do anything wildly over the top, just be plain, everyday, which is what we get here. Dominic Cooper in the support role does a solid enough job with his role too.

StoryThe story here follows an everyday wife and mother that is going through an early mid-life crisis, trying to figure out what she wants from her life, feeling lonely and unfulfilled, until she decides to escape for a while. This story is meant to show us how dull married life can be if you don’t find a way to keep the excitement in it, how you could blink one day and realize you are following a basic routine which isn’t going anywhere and that you need to break out. It doesn’t give us the true length of time as to why she is feeling this way and ends up leaving us wondering why more people aren’t around to help her, like friends or family outside of her husband. The pacing of the film is very slow, which doesn’t give us enough time to get invested in the film.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show just how plain and boring Tara’s life is, it doesn’t give us much else, only it does help to show how lonely she has become.

Scene of the Movie – Snapping at her kids.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It just isn’t very interesting.

Final Thoughts This is a film that is meant to show how difficult adult life can become, it shows us just how routine can drive us insane if we let ourselves get bogged down by it.

Overall: Basic life drama.

State Like Sleep (2018) Movie Review

Director: Meredith Danluck

Writer: Meredith Danluck (Screenplay)

Starring: Katherine Waterston, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Michiel Huisman, Mary Kay Place, Julie Khaner, Bo Martyn

Plot: A woman grapples with the consequences of her celebrity husband’s double life after he commits suicide.

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: No Intensity

Story: State Like Sleep starts when photographer Katherine’s (Waterston) actor husband suddenly commits suicide, which shines the spotlight on her life and her relationship with Stefan (Huisman). With her mother Elaine (Place) latest visit seeing her end up in hospital, Katherine much look after her mother in Belgium, who is there to help her deal with the grief she is facing.

As Katherine starts looking into Stefan’s life, she starts learning about his secrets including Emile (Evans) who supplied him with drugs and maybe more, while turning to American Edward (Shannon) for support in her troubled time.

Thoughts on State Like Sleep

Characters – Katherine is a photographer who is in a marriage which is starting to fall apart, things get worse when her husband commits suicide, which puts her in the spotlight, dealing with the aftermath with an overly attached mother-in-law and secrets which she is only searching to unlock to learn why he took his life. Edward is a neighbour in the hotel, he offers her friendship in her time of need. Emile is one of the secrets from Stefan’s life, he is from a club, which isn’t afraid to supply the drugs which is one of his vices. Stefan is the actor husband, about to get his worldwide break, only his strange actions have led to his suicide, his secret life is what is driving his wife in search for answers.

PerformancesKatherine Waterston does every she can to make her character seem more interesting, but the character is written into grief to be so dull, it is hard to follow her journey, with only her haircuts to tell apart the two times. Michael Shannon does all he needs to without every reaching his best, while Luke Evans gives one of the most disappointing roles of his career to date, he just never gets going in his role. Michiel Huisman likewise doesn’t get too much to work with here.

StoryThe story here follows a grieving wife that must look into her husband’s last few days and learn about his secrets to see if she every really knew him before he passed away. While the core of this story should be very interesting to follow, it does seem to fall into the slower paced style, we could focus on grief of a celebrity spouse dealing with added pressure after a suicide, only we get a weak look into his secret life and Katherine’s search for something new in her life. There was so much more we could have explored here only we get the very basics covered, with a mystery that just doesn’t get going or give answers that make much sense.

SettingsThe film is mostly set in Belgium, which is different for a mainstream drama, it does have chance to go to the bigger known locations, but they don’t seem important to what is going on.

Scene of the Movie – The bar dinner.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It just doesn’t get the going.

Final Thoughts This is a film that just feels like it is clogged down by not much going on, which only just about gets solid performances out of the cast.

Overall: Disappointing drama.

The Furnace (2019 Movie Review

Director: Darrell Roodt

Writer: Darrell Roodt, P.G. de Jonge (Screenplay)

Starring: Jamie Bernadette, Luthuli Dlamini, Laura Linn, Thandi Puren, Armand Aucamp

Plot: Newlyweds Mary and Matt celebrate Christmas, and their passion for running, with two honeymoon tickets to Africa’s ultimate footrace, The Furnace. Their excitement to race together across the biggest animal reserve in the world has them inspired. Then in a horrific flash, everything’s gone including Mary’s purpose for living. A year later, Mary is grieving. Struggling to breathe with an oxygen tank, she cries out her anger at God. Standing nearby, a man sees her suffering, and shares his own story of loss. Once a doctor in Africa, he fled to America when civil war annihilated his town. Now known by the nickname, Coffin, he digs graves after losing his practice. Coffin urges Mary to keep on believing, push through and recover, offering his help as a doctor and friend. Over time Coffin’s dedicated support and intense training helps Mary grow strong, and live to run again. But what will it take to let go of her pain .

Runtime: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Inspiring Faith Based Drama

Story: The Furnace starts on the first Christmas days after Mary (Bernadette) and Matt’s (Aucamp) wedding, who have plans to challenge themselves to a race known as The Furnace 150km across African wild reserve, tragedy strikes though, leaving Mary needing an oxygen mask to get through the days.

Spending her time at her husband’s grave Mary meets the gravedigger Coffin (Dlamini) who consoles her, telling her his own story, offering to try and help her recover to the levels of fitness she is used to, so she can use her new found faith to complete the Furnace herself.

Thoughts on The Furnace

Characters – Mary starts this film married and about to go on a honeymoon the pair had been dreaming off, this goes in an instant, leaving her needing an oxygen tank to get through the day, with any hopes of running dashed. Angry at the world, she starts to close off, finding any attempts at returning to her passion ending in hospital trips, until she meets Coffin, here she learns about faith and new technology to overcome her odds to compete in the race that was her honeymoon plan, one that is a test for even the toughest runners in the world. Coffin is a gravedigger in America, even though he is trained as a doctor back in Africa, he offers to help Mary get back to her former self, teaching her to pace herself, preparing her for the impossible sounding race. He must watch from the side lines, with hope that she will make it through each stage of the race. Raphaella is a fellow runner that Mary meets along the way, one to help support her over the course of the journey.

PerformancesJamie Bernadette steps away from the action horror roles we have seen her in recently for a much more serious role, one that does play into her strengths, she deals with the athletic demand of the performance with ease, while bringing the emotional impact of her character’s journey through the film. Luthuli Dlamini does a wonderful job in his role too bringing the calmness to help make Mary strong through the film.

StoryThe story here follows one woman that loses everything she had a dreamt off until she finds her faith and pushes herself to get back on the track and complete the race she was meant to do with her husband. This is a story that shows the inspiration of wanting to overcome tragedy and finding a way to achieve this in a world you wouldn’t normal consider. We do get a normal montage of training, while a large part of the story follows the race being competed in. we do get to see just how much needed to be overcome, though it could have given us more of a time frame and just what the injury Mary had, like how likely it is to overcome, or would it be something she was meant to be living with for the rest of her life.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show us just how her life changes in America, while it does get the beauty shots of the African wild reserve seeing the different animals around area.

Scene of the Movie – The race final leg.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Not getting a full look at the time frame.

Final Thoughts This is an inspiring story of overcoming tragedy to get back to the former strength, with powerful performances throughout.

Overall: Inspiring Throughout.