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

 

 

Richard Gere Weekend – An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

Director: Taylor Hackford

Writer: Douglas Day Stewart (Screenplay)

Starring: Richard Gere, Debra Winger, David Keith, Robert Loggia, Lisa Blount, Lisa Eilbacher, Louis Gossett Jr

 

Plot: A young man must complete his work at a Navy Officer Candidate School to become an aviator, with the help of a tough Gunnery Sergeant and his new girlfriend.


Tagline – It will lift you up where you belong.

Runtime: 2 Hours 4 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Love Changes Everyone

 

Story: An Officer and a Gentleman starts when the rebellious Zack Mayo (Gere) tired of living in his father’s Bryon (Loggia) shadow, enlists in the navy, Zack goes through the strict training regime by Sgt Emil Foley (Gossett Jr), here he shines, finding it almost too easy to get through, he even starts his own business to make sure everyone has extra clean material.

Zack makes friends where he needs them with Sid Worley (Keith) helping him with paperwork side of being in the navy, the job he desires most, in flight. Zack soon finds himself meeting Paula Pokrifki (Winger) who always attend the parties looking for their own soldiers. Zack must learn to balance his training with his new girlfriend, finally learning to grow up in his own life.

 

Thoughts on An Officer and a Gentleman

 

Characters – Zack Mayo has grown up under his father that never believed he could achieve anything, he decides to sign up for the navy to follow his dreams of being a pilot, he believes he can just coast through the training alone, only for his way to see him needing to learn to let people in, meet a girl decide whether love is the most important thing in his life or whether he can balance everything together. Paula is a factory worker that goes for parties around the naval candidates, she meets Zack seeing him as different from the rest and gets left constantly wondering if he is willing to change his lone wolf nature. Sid is fellow naval candidate that becomes Zack’s best friend, he pushes him to open up and is the brains that could help Zack through the side that he is struggling through. Sgt Emil Foley is drill sergeant that is training the candidates, he is strict and doesn’t like how Zack thinks he can breeze through the training.

PerformancesRichard Gere in this leading role shows us all that he was going on to have a wonderful run as a leading actor, he could play the loveable rogue that wants to find his place in the world. Debra Winger is great here showing how her character is going through a difficult lifetime, where love can make things even more difficult. David Keith brings us a performance which does show us how depression can be hidden from the world. Louis Gossett Jr does bring us one of the best drill sergeants in film here that did get him an Oscar.

StoryThe story here follows a rebellious young man that finds his place in the navy, where he learns to work with others and to fall in love, to motivate and find himself a career along the way, he will need to overcome life challenges which will shape his future. We do get to see many different challenges that young people could face when they reach a certain age, this will show us just how difficult people will need to overcome to be the people they were always meant to be. We do get to see the darker side of the services because they will show us just how people can hide the emotional troubles which could bring a life changing  moment in their life.

RomanceThe love story in this film shows how a rebel meets a girl searching for hope and fall madly in love either though neither of them were really looking for it.

SettingsThe film uses a couple of main settings, with the training camp being one of the most iconic for the film, the most iconic comes from warehouse where Paula works, which will be the shot everybody remembers from this film.


Scene of the Movie –
Zack breaks to learn to help others.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Lynette wouldn’t still be Paula’s friend by the end of the film.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the classic romantic films out there, one that everybody knows and can enjoy.

 

Overall: Romance to enjoy.

Rating

 

 

Against All Odds (1984)

Director: Taylor Hackford

Writer:  Eric Hughes, Daniel Mainwaring (Screenplay)

Starring: Rachel Ward, Jeff Bridges, James Woods, Alex Karras, Jane Greer, Richard Widmark

 

Plot: A gangster hires an ex-football player to find his girlfriend. When he finds her, they fall in love, and the twists start to appear.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Twisty Thriller

 

Story: Against All Odds starts as veteran American football Terry Brogan (Bridges) gets cu from his team, wanting to take legal action it is his former friend and gangster Jake Wise (Woods) that hires him to track down a woman Jessie Wyler (Ward) daughter of Terry’s former employer.

Terry ends up doing the job with both sides fighting to pay him to finds Jessie, Terry uses this as a chance for a paid vacation even after locating Jessie who he gets to spend time with and fall in love with. Soon not everything is as it seems and Terry finds himself needing to fight for his own life too.

 

Thoughts on Against All Odds

 

Characters/PerformanceTerry Brogan is a veteran American footballer, his career is about to be ended on the field due to injuries and after not saving money in his life, he finds himself with nothing. Terry finds himself needing to work for both Mrs Wyler and Jake Wise from different sides to locate Jessie but soon he finds himself in bigger trouble. Jessie is the daughter of the owner of the football team and former lover of Jake Wise, she has gone into hiding for her own reasons with Terry searching for her to hopefully return to the States. Jake is the gangster that has details on Terry which could ruin his legacy but offers him money to find Jessie for him.

Performance wise, Jeff Bridges is good as he always is through any film he steps into and shows that he was always going to be a big name, Rachel Ward is good but doesn’t reach the levels of Bridges and James Woods can always splay the creepy figure which is why we love him so.

StoryA former sports star needs money and takes a risky job for a shady figure to earn the money and not have his career exposed. This all seems like a simple enough story and one we can all follow nicely. We have twists along the way which try to put u in the wrong direction but otherwise everything is all simple enough to enjoy for an 80s style of film.

Action/Adventure/Crime/RomanceWhen we break down the genres we get plenty to go through but the reality is that because we focus on too many we don’t get a strong enough side to any of them with each part being the first part of the generic of any of them.

SettingsThe two main settings are LA which is the one we can all understand as being the glitz and glamour with the crimes taking place in while the Mexico setting shows us the calm before the storm.

Final ThoughtsThe 80s were a decade of films with unlikely heroes taking over the leading roles in action like films and this was no different, it can be enjoyed throughout the film.

 

Overall: Thriller that just says 80s all over it.   

Rating

 

 

Halloween Kingathon – Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Banner-3logoDirector: Taylor Hackford

Writer: Tony Gilroy (Screenplay) Stephen King (Novel)

Starring: Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judy Parfitt, Christopher Plummer, David Strathairn, Eric Boogosian, John C Reilly, Ellen Muth, Bob Gunton

Plot: A big-city reporter travels to the small town where her mother has been arrested for the murder of an elderly woman that she works for as a maid.

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

Verdict: Brilliant Story

Story: Dolores Claiborne starts with a fight between Dolores (Bates) and Vera Donovan (Parfitt) which leads to a witness walking in on Dolores standing over the body of Vera. When hot shot reporter Selena St. George (Leigh) hears about what has happened she has to return home to look into the story. Det John Mackey (Plummer) is the lead investigator on the case with an old friend police officer Frank Stamshaw (Reilly) trying to keep things together.

Dolores didn’t want Selena too be involved in the case and didn’t even recognized Selena, it becomes clear the too have become very distant and that Dolores is very confrontational. We watch the flashbacks of Dolores as she had to deal with an abusive husband Joe (Strathairn) who also had a mysterious death. Dolores also recounts how she ended up working for Vera and her obsessive ways but how it was all work to help Selena.

We are left with Dolores and Selena dealing with the past as the truths come back to haunt them both while they uncover the truth about what really happened all while dealing with John who was determined to catch Dolores this time.

Dolores Claiborne tells the story of how difficult facing your past can be, but it also shows how just because you remember event one way they could be a different side to the story. The story manages to get the balance of flashbacks down perfectly only just showing parts before finally giving us the final reveals. This shows just how to tell a story the right well giving us enough to keep us guessing and surprise by the end. (8/10)

Actor Review

Kathy Bates: Dolores Claiborne is the long suffering carer who is being charged with her murder, she has been through hell in life just working to make sure her daughter got a chance escape the dead end job. She has had a troubled relationship with her daughter and this case could be the final nail in the coffin for them both. Kathy gives a very powerful performance that could easily be one of her best. (9/10)

Jennifer Jason Leigh: Selena St. George is the big shot reporter who has to return home to help defend her mother from a murder charge but coming home only shows how the memories from her past have scared her life, but this does give her a chance to bury the memories. Jennifer gives us a great performance. (8/10)

Judy Parfitt: Vera Donovan is the victim that Dolores is meant to have killed, she is the lady that Dolores has been working for, for years and as the story continues we learn how they became quiet close. Judy gives a great performance in the supporting role. (8/10)

Christopher Plummer: Det. John Mackey has had it out for Dolores ever since her husband’s death which he still suspects her of committing till this day. He has taken this case personally and wants to throw the books at her. Christopher gives a good villainous performance but I do feel we need a little more from his character. (7/10)

David Strathairn: Joe St. George is the abusive husband of Dolores who died under suspicious circumstances but did he really die in an accident or was he murdered. David gives us a good performance in what is a very dark role. (8/10)

Support Cast: Dolores Claiborne has a supporting cast that are only small part in the final story, focusing mostly on the relationship between Dolores and Selena.

Director Review: Taylor HackfordTaylor brings us a brilliantly told story from start to finish keeping everything simple. (9/10)

Crime: Dolores Claiborne puts us into a story where we have to try and figure out what happened in the case. (9/10)

Drama: Dolores Claiborne shows how the relationship has effected the lives of of both Dolores and Selena. (9/10)

Mystery: Dolores Claiborne creates a mystery about what really happened. (9/10)

Settings: Dolores Claiborne puts nearly the whole story in a small remote town showing how determined Dolores was to get Selena out. (10/10)

Suggestion: Dolores Claiborne is one for all the murder mystery fans to enjoy but the whole film could be enjoyed by all. (Watch)

Best Part: Kathy Bates is brilliant.

Worst Part: Hard to find one.

Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

Oscar Chances: No

Box Office: $24 Million

Runtime: 2 Hours 12 Minute

Tagline: Sometimes, an accident can be an unhappy woman’s best friend

Trivia: Judy Parfitt was recommended for the role of Vera by director Taylor Hackford‘s wife,Helen Mirren. Parfitt, who had largely confined her career to the stage, was virtually unknown to film audiences at the time. After auditioning with Kathy Bates, Bates reportedly turned to Hackford and gasped “Who was that?” They agreed to cast Parfitt on the spot.

Overall: A must watch for all Stephen King fans, a real gem in the collection.

Rating 85

Devil’s Advocate (1997)

logoDirector: Taylor Hackford

Writer: Jonathan Lemkin, Tony Gilroy (Screenplay) Andrew Neiderman (Novel)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron, Jeffrey Jones, Judith Ivey, Connie Nielsen, Craig T Nelson, Tamara Tunie

 

Plot: An exceptionally adept Florida lawyer is offered a job to work in New York City for a high-end law firm with a high-end boss – the biggest opportunity of his career to date.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Damned if you, Damned if you don’t

 

Story: Devil’s Advocate starts with defence lawyer Kevin Lomax (Reeves) defending a paedophile who Lomax knows is guilty but he hasn’t lost a case before isn’t prepared to give up his undefeated streak. After doing the seemingly impossible Kevin proves himself to be one of the best trial lawyers in Florida.

This latest win grabs the attention of Milton, Chadwick & Waters attorneys in New York and along with his wife Mary Ann (Theron) head of firstly to just pick a jury for them. Kevin gets the case won in record time which leads him to meet John Milton (Pacino) who offers him a job in the firm. Kevin gets all the perks of a partner and gets put on his first case which is a simple health code case, which of course he wins with ease.

When one of the biggest clients on the books gets charged with triple homicide Alex Cullen (Nelson) get given Kevin to prove he is innocent even when the city has already decided he is guilty. Kevin is being a success Mary Ann is struggling to cope with the lifestyle in New York and her only to friends are all about the spending their husband’s money and starts to have the beginning of a breakdown.

The further Mary Ann falls into madness the more Kevin discovers that he is in fact working for a company that doesn’t do everything by the books and maybe after something else.

Devil’s Advocate manages to put the characters that could be conceded evil in defence lawyers be turned into the actual home of the devil. It is hinted heavily throughout and the lack of real involvement in what actually is happening in the case shows us the cases are not the most important side of the story. Showing the mental stat of Mary Ann works well because as she loses her mind and the parallels between Mary Ann and Kevin’s transformations become important to the final outcome. This is a very well told story that tries to keep you guessing throughout. (7/10)

 

Actor Review

 

Keanu Reeves: Kevin Lomax hot young lawyer who doesn’t seem to lose a case, he gets recruited by one of the top law firms in New York where he continues to shine in the courtroom. Keanu gives a good performance and shows he can have the intense scenes. (7/10)

 keanu

Al Pacino: John Milton the senior partner of the firm who has taken an interest in Kevin, he shows him around and becomes part father mentor to Kevin, John decides to give Kevin the biggest case in the city. Al gives a good performance who makes the scenes look effortless. (7/10)

pacino

Charlize Theron: Mary Ann Lomax, Kevin’s wife who loves the idea of moving to the big city but she soon starts to become unhinged by being alone in the apartment and making no new friends. Charlize does a good job showing she was a rising star in the business. (7/10)

 charlize

Support Cast: Devil’s Advocate has a supporting cast that includes fellow lawyers, clients and wives who mislead Mary Ann. They all help our characters end up with the decision they have to make.

 

Director Review: Taylor Hackford – Taylor does a good job directing by balancing between the two changes the married couple go through. (7/10)

 

Mystery: Devil’s Advocate does keep you guessing throughout to what is really going on. (8/10)

Thriller: Devil’s Advocate keeps you at the edge of your seat with how the case could go. (8/10)

Settings: Devil’s Advocate uses New York as the primary setting showing how easily looks can be deceiving. (9/10)

Suggestion: Devil’s Advocate is one to try, I don’t think it will be for everyone but it can be enjoyed. (Try It)

 

Best Part: Kevin’s ability to turn any case.

Worst Part: Slightly too long.

 

Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Oscar Chances: No

Box Office: $152 Million

Budget: $57 Million

Runtime: 2 Hours 24 Minutes

Tagline: Don’t trust the devil

Trivia: Originally the film was a more special-effects oriented, blockbuster-type movie and was turned down by Al Pacino five times. But when Taylor Hackford went through a few script re-writes he offered it to Pacino again. Pacino liked it, but didn’t think he could portray Milton properly, and suggested Sean Connery or Robert Redford instead.

 

Overall: Devil’s Advocate is one of the most interesting films because it shows how it is about how far you would go for success.

Rating 72