ABC Film Challenge – Biopic – L – Life (2015)

Director: Anton Corbijn

Writer: Luke Davies (Screenplay)

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Peter Lucas, Lauren Gallagher, Alessandra Mastronardi, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley

 

Plot: A photographer for Life Magazine is assigned to shoot pictures of James Dean.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Good Look at the Hollywood Life

 

Story: Life starts as Dennis Stock (Pattinson) enters a party where fresh face actor James Dean (DeHaan) is away from the crowd which grabs the attention of Dennis who believes he can make James a star with a report in Life Magazine.

As Dennis looks to learn more about James he starts to put his career on the line as his boss John Morris (Edgerton) calls off the job unless James starts playing along because his attitude shows him distant from the rest of the Hollywood community as he is waiting to hear if he can get the role in Rebel Without a Cause. The two become friends and Dennis gets to look behind the curtain of the life of James Dean before he became the big star.

 

Thoughts on Life

 

Characters – James Dean is one of the most iconic actors of all time, taken too soon but seeing this we learn about the time before East of Eden was released as we focus on whether the film would make him the star, he comes off very isolated and not ready for the spotlight. Dennis is a young photographer looking to make a name for himself at Life Magazine where he is granted set access unlike many other reporters, he wants to be the man to get the first big story on James before he hits the big time but has his own life problems to deal with.

PerformanceRobert Pattinson and Dane DeHaan are both brilliant in this movie, they show that the two could be giving heavyweight performances for years to come.

StoryA film about Hollywood is not always the most interesting, focusing on a small part of an iconic actors life could also become a stumbling block, we do have mostly conversation about what the two men would like from this one article and see just how humble at times James Dean was. This won’t be for everyone because it does come off slow at times but is still interesting.

BiographyThis small snippet into James Dean’s life before super stardom is interesting because we could see this in many actors now and understand who they really are.

SettingsWe see how James Dean didn’t like the famous settings around a Hollywood stardom and this reflects in everything we have seen for the settings in this movie.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It does feel slow in places.

Final ThoughtsWonderfully acted look at one of the talents Hollywood lost to early.

 

Overall: Must watch for fans of Hollywood stories.

Rating

 

 

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ABC Film Challenge – Action – J – Jane Got a Gun (2015)

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Writer: Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis, Joel Edgerton (Screenplay) Brian Duffield (Story)

Starring: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, Boyd Holbrook, Rodrigo Santoro

 

Plot: A woman asks her ex-lover for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him.


Tagline –  Strength, justice, power, vengeance

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow and Boring

 

Story: Jane Got a Gun starts when Jane’s (Portman) husband returns home shot up on deaths door, she nurses him back to health while preparing or the Bishop boys led by John (McGregor) to come and finish off the job, she turns to her ex-lover and soldier Dan Frost (Edgerton) to assist her in the battle.

We watch how the two look back on a life they once had and prepare the ranch for attack with traps as they know they will be facing large numbers when they finally arrive.

 

Thoughts on Jane Got a Gun

 

Characters – Jane is the wife that needs to look into her past to keep her husband and child safe from outlaws that are not afraid to kill anyone that gets in their way. Even though the film is titled after Jane, we don’t learn too much else about her. Dan Frost however is her ex-lover and former soldier, one with stories behind his time in the war, he drinks too much while reluctantly helping Jane defend herself against the outlaws. John Bishop is the leader of the gang, he is conducting the business of taking women one of which was Jane, now he wants to clean up his loose ends which includes Jane and her husband Bill, he is ruthless and demanding of his men and wants to be treated like a true authority over them. Bill Hammond is the husband of Jane’s that returns home shot, he was part of the gang, but left once things got too far.

PerformancesNatalie Portman is fine, though it just doesn’t reach the levels we know from her through the years. Joel Edgerton is solid enough and seemingly just about the best performer in the film. Ewan McGregor did need more screen time for his character which was meant to be psychotic business man in the wild west. The rest of the performers are fine, but no one stands out.

StoryThe story follows a reluctant wife that will do anything to protect her house, husband and future from a gang of outlaws who want him dead, we see the set up, the build up and the flashbacks to how everything ended up where we are now before finally getting to see the showdown. Most of this involves a lot of talking about where the former lovers could have gone after crossing paths. The pace of the story telling is very slow and focusing on the talking for such a large period of time, doesn’t give us the character development needed for any of the three main characters. this is one that could easily be missed because it doesn’t offer anything new to the western genre either.

Action/WesternThe action is left for one final showdown with bullets flying, though placing it in complete darkness makes it hard to see everything going on. The film does have a western feel with the use of setting, weapons and storytelling, though it just doesn’t stand close to the levels of the good ones, let alone the great ones.

SettingsMost of the film is set on he isolated farmhouse Jane lives on, the setting up for the defence of the home, this however slows the film down and when we leave it just becomes worse too because they are generic locations.

Special EffectsThe effects are solid enough with the bullets flying around with the impacts showing the blood splatter.


Scene of the Movie –
The showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The pacing is so slow.

Final ThoughtsThis is a slow paced western that just doesn’t deliver the way it should, it had potential only it doesn’t make Jane a strong enough character with her being the title one.

 

Overall: Slow, pace less and boring.

Rating

 

 

Michael Rooker Weekend – Whisper (2007)

Director: Stewart Hendler

Writer: Christopher Borrelli (Screenplay)

StarringMichael Rooker, Josh Holloway, Blake Woodruff, Sarah Wayne Callies, Julian Christopher, Joel Edgerton, Dule Hill 

 

Plot: Sinister things begin happening to kidnappers who are holding a young boy for ransom in a remote cabin.


Tagline – The devil’s work is childs play

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Nice Little Horror

 

Story: Whisper starts when a group of criminals Max (Holoway), Sidney (Rooker), Roxanne (Callies) and Vince (Edgerton) kidnap a young boy David (Woodruff) in an attempt to gain a large ransom, as they look to sort their lives out.

Once David is in their possession, the four criminals soon learn that they have bitten off more than they can chew, when it turns out David has some kind of power which he will use against them as he is pure evil.

 

Thoughts on Whisper

 

Characters – Max is the member of the gang that wants to go clean, he wants his own business, but doesn’t have the capital to achieve this, he take the job in hopes that it will give him the money required to get the business and seems to be the only one that can keep it together through the events of the kidnapping. David is the boy that has been kidnapped, he is shown to be a loner even at his own birthday party, but it soon becomes clear that he has some form of powers that even his mother is scared off, using them to trick the criminals. Roxanne is the girlfriend of Max’s she is the first one to fold and want to quit the job as the mother instincts start taking over. Sidney is the leader of the gang that is putting the job together, he knows who to pick which does make this easier for him, though he isn’t prepared for this job.

PerformancesThis is a strange one for performances because our leads are Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies who at the time were involved in two of the biggest television shows, they both do an acceptable enough job playing to their strengths. Michael Rooker brings the strength in his performance, while young Blake Woodruff makes for an evil child with ease.

StoryThe story here is interesting because it does take a different turn when it comes to the kidnapping genre, by adding the horror elements. It does seem like everything is going to be by the book, until we learn early on when David is pure evil and turns the tables on the kidnappers. Now this should all work well and for the most part is an enjoyable enough watch, only we get a third act twist which only leaves us question large parts of the first act along with certain characters decisions.

Crime/HorrorThe crime side of the film follows the kidnapping which seems to have gone smoothly for the criminals, the don’t get enough focus on the investigation though, which does feel like it could be an important part of the film. The horror side of the film focuses on the idea of the pure evil that David is and just how he uses his powers to make the people do the terrible things.

SettingsThe film has a couple of settings with the safehouse being the cabin in the woods away from any visitors, the small town just helps show how desperate the criminals are too.

Special EffectsWhen it comes to the effects, we get a true mixed bag because the film doesn’t seem to commit on the levels needed to create the scares required.


Scene of the Movie –
The final fight.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The shower scene is shot badly.

Final ThoughtsThis is an easy to watch horror that is all we ask for at times, this isn’t the scariest film you will see and by the end it does have enough surprises to turn heads.

 

Overall: Simple and easy to watch horror.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nomination – L – Loving (2016)

Director: Jeff Nichols

Writer: Jeff Nichols (Screenplay)

Starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton, Terri Abney, Alano Miller

 

Plot: The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple whose arrest for interracial marriage in 1960s Virginia began a legal battle that would end with the Supreme Court’s historic 1967 decision.


Tagline – All love is created equal.

Runtime: 2 Hours 3 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Important Drama

 

Story: Loving starts as we meet our interracial couple Mildred (Negga) and Richard (Edgerton) living in Virginia in the 1960s, the two start a family and get married, breaking the laws of the state. The couple are forced to leave the state or face prison time which turns out to be harder than they thought.

The couple look to fight against the ruling which is a battle which will go right up to the supreme court for one of the most important historic decisions.

 

Thoughts on Loving

 

Characters – Mildred is a black woman living in Virginia, she has a close family and is in love with Richard, she wants to be with him no matter what the law says and will lead the fight for them to be together in there home state. Richard is a white man, a builder for trade who is happily in love, he wants to be able to fight for their love even if the law prevents him. The other characters in this true story include the family members, the people against them and the lawyers that support them.

PerformancesRuth Negga was nominated for an Oscar for her performance, you can see why because she is fantastic, Joel Edgerton also shines in his role which does focus on him bottling in the troubles he is going through. The supporting cast doesn’t get as much time to shine, but they all do good when they are on screen, letting to two stars shine.

StoryThe story follows one of the biggest and most important cases in American law, the married couple that are threatened with jail for getting married if they stay in the Virginia. The story follows a decade of their life from the moment they got married to the moment they have their trial. It would be fair to say we could have seen some more of the cases taking place, but for what their story did for the law, the story is important.

Biopic/Romance This is the real story between Mildred and Richard, an interracial couple that were guilty of marrying when it was considered illegal. The romance shows us just how love can bring people together.

SettingsThe film shows us just where Virginia was during the 60s, though the settings not being overly important to the visual but more about the laws.


Scene of the Movie –
The photo shoot.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We don’t see enough of the court case.

Final ThoughtsThis is an important story that shows us how the law in America needed to be changed, it showed us how naïve they were once and how this story helped show us one story that helped change it.

 

Overall: Important drama that shows how backwards America once was.

Rating

 

 

Red Sparrow (2018)

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writer: Justin Haythe (Screenplay) Jason Matthews (Novel)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Jeremy Irons

 

Plot: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.


Tagline –  I Know Your Secrets.

Runtime: 2 Hours 20 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Slow Espionage Movie

 

Story: Red Sparrow starts when CIA agent Nate Nash (Edgerton) blows his cover in Russia just as brilliant ballerina Dominika (Lawrence) breaks her leg during a performance, 3 months later her Uncle Vanya (Schoenaerts) offers to help with the new financial crisis her family would be facing, by bringing her into the Sparrow school.

The Sparrow program teaches the subjects to use their bodies to seduce the enemies of the Russia as Nate is forced back into the field as he is the only contact to a source within Russia. Dominika’s first assignment is to track down and seduce Nate bring stopping him from getting the security information he is after in Hungry, the cat-n-mouse chase is now on.

 

Thoughts on Red Sparrow

 

Characters – Dominika was once a brilliant ballerina, destine to be one of the top stars of the dancing world, after an accident her priorities change as she is desperately trying to keep the roof over her sick mother’s head. She is recruited to become a Sparrow, an agent that seduces the enemy in hopes of getting secrets, she isn’t like the other sparrows though, she has a way about getting the job done. Nate Nash is a CIA agent undercover in Russia, he does blow his cover landing him back home, but when his source will only talk to him he enters the field again, he uses his skills to get the information and stay ahead of Dominika. Vanya is the Uncle of Dominika, he recruits her with his government position believing that her family connection will help get results.

PerformancesJennifer Lawrence is good even if her accent comes in and out way too often for a consistent level required in the film. Joel Edgerton is good throughout, we can always count on his to give us strong performances throughout any film though. Matthias Schoenaerts is the best performer in the film in the supporting role and to say how many big names we have in the supporting roles we get to see some of the best actors in the industry here.

StoryThe story takes us into the espionage style movie where we follow a reluctant young Russian woman being forced into working for the Russian government and an American CIA agent looking to finish a case he should have been removed from. This does fall into the cat-n-mouse style story which will try to keep you guessing along the way and shows how both sides of the intelligence war are operating, leaving you to figure out who is the mole for the Americans. It should have higher levels of suspense for the subject matter, but just doesn’t suck you into the film on the levels you are expecting.

Mystery/ThrillerThe film uses the mystery side of the story to keep us guessing to who the contact in Russia is, what are the secrets that are being released and which side will get the upper hand, the Russians or the Americans. The film doesn’t feel like the highest tension level that it should though.

SettingsThe film does have some beautiful shots as we learn where the film is being set, we do move around Europe for the film though, which takes away moments of suspense we could receive.


Scene of the Movie –
The weapon of choice for the assassin.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It has slow pacing.

Final ThoughtsThis is a slow paced spy thriller, it does try to keep us guessing throughout only to end up failing to give us any suspense or use any of the sexual skills we are forced to watch the training side of things.

 

Overall: Thriller that just doesn’t hit the suspense levels required.

Rating