ABC Film Challenge – Action – N – The Negotiator (2018)

Director: Brad Anderson

Writer: Tony Gilroy (Screenplay)

Starring: Jon Hamm, Khalid Benchgra, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Shea Whigham, Douglas Hodge

 

Plot: Caught in the crossfires of civil war, CIA operatives must send a former U.S. diplomat to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind.


Tagline – The Americans want to keep their secrets. The Israelis want to raise the stakes. He only wants to save a life.

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes  

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Never Hits the Levels it Should

 

Story: The Negotiator starts as we see American Diplomat Mason Skiles (Hamm) involved in a tragic event in Beirut. Walking away from this career, he is dragged out of retirement when his old friend Cal (Pellegrino) is taken hostage by the Israelis.

Mason working with Sandy (Pike), Gary (Whigham) and Donald Gaines (Norris) must enter negotiations to free Cal without a body count in a high-tension situation in Beirut.

 

Thoughts on The Negotiator

 

Characters – Mason Skiles has been working in a diplomatic position for years, until a tragic event sees his wife killed in Beirut, he steps away from that world, living a business life back in America. He gets pushed back into the field when his friend is kidnapped and one of his former connections is the prime suspect to everything going on, he must use his connections to try and get a peaceful end to the situation. Sandy is the connection that must keep an eye on Mason, she is considered the skirt that will entertain the America to keep him there, she has her own connections though and will be the one that is happy to let Mason off his leash. Donald Gaines and Gary Ruzak are both involved in the operation with their own agendas coming through.

PerformancesJon Hamm in the leading role is the strongest part of the film as he has the most about his character who has been through the trauma and must use this mission to redeem himself.  Rosamund Pike struggles to make the impact you feel her character is meant to, while the rest of the cast just don’t get the time to make any sort of impact.

StoryThe story follows a negotiator that has walked away from the diplomatic position only to be forced back into the field to help his old friend who has become the latest kidnapping victim by terrorist group. This tries to create the same sort of atmosphere as the true events that went on during the Beirut problems with the Israeli terrorist groups that were at war with the Americans, we struggle to get sucked into the movie because the tension is never given to us enough to make us become interested in what is happening to the characters. the one that does have an arc is Mason which gets glanced over more than anything as we try to show him in the middle of a situation he knows how to play, though he isn’t meant to be in control of.

ThrillerThe thriller side of the film struggles to come through as strong as it should because of the lack of tension in the film, while the stacks are high, nothing seems in any way out of control.

SettingsThe film does keep the settings being used in the streets of Beirut which does show us how much trouble the city was in during the terrorist attacks.


Scene of the Movie –
The deal.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The political side.

Final ThoughtsThis is a weak tension based movie that just never hits the levels it should do like many of the films in this genre.

 

Overall: Just not on the strongest levels.

Rating

 

 

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The Great Wall (2016)

Director: Yimou Zhang

Writer: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Tony Gilroy (Screenplay) Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz (Story)

Starring: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Pedro Pascal, Hanyu Zhang

 

Plot: European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Big Bad, Forgettable

 

Story: The Great Wall starts with a Great Wall history lesson as we learn the wall was constructed to keep enemies out some known others are legend, this is one of the legends. We meet the European mercenaries William (Damon), Tovar (Pascal) and their men on the run. Finding themselves under attack William and Tovar find an enemy unlike anything they have seen before but that is the least of their worries as they are still being hunted down but find themselves at the mercy of the Chinese.

Captured by the Chinese, Commander Lin Mae (Jing), General Shao (Zhang) and Strategist Wang (Lau) must decide what to do with the men and if their story is true. William and Tovar find themselves trapped in the middle of a battle between the Chinese and their defensive wall and blood thirsty creatures, a war their never asked for but a battle they were always ready to fight in.

 

Thoughts on The Great Wall

 

Characters/PerformanceWilliam is one of the Europeans who finds himself using all his combat skills to help the Chinese fight the creatures that terrorise their people and if they can get through the world. This battle gives William a chance at redemption for the wrongs he has committed in life. Tovar is his partner who wants to continue the darker path but his loyalty to William keeps him stuck between the lines.  Commander Lin is the strong leading women, she is willing to sacrifice herself to protect her people and he combat skills excel. Ballard is the once captured man who has become part of the battle but against his own will. The rest of the characters are all what you would expect in the wildly over the top action fantasy adventure films.

Performance wise, Matt Damon does struggle in this role, his accent skills are terrible as he bounces between most European from scene to scene even though he holds his own in the action sequences. Pedro Pascal is fun getting most of the comic relief throughout the film. Willem Defoe is the usual odd ball supporting role with Tian Jing being the star of the show.

StoryThe story does work in places, the mystery about the Great Wall will always make for an appealing story, while most of the history is known it is always interesting to see a twist on what could be a story about the history behind it all. The fantasy elements of the story is what drives this but in the end it is nothing more humans versus monsters with people needing to work together to make them win.

Action/Adventure/FantasyThe action is big, but at times hard to follow with the adventure coming from how the humans battle to survive. The fantasy side does work but also feels like something we have seen way too often.

SettingsHaving the film set mostly on the Great Wall works in my opinion because it plays into the fantasy idea of the wall being built to fight an ancient enemy.

Special EffectsThis is a film that is very heavy on the CGI and you can tell because a lot of them miss and look bad for the overall quality of the film.

Final ThoughtsI found this to be over the top, unoriginal but easy to watch, I don’t think this will be up for any awards just become forgettable.

 

Overall: This is an easy film to watch but nowhere near a classic

Rating

 

 

Rogue One (2016)

rogueDirector: Gareth Edwards

Writer: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy (Screenplay) John Knoll, Gary Whitta (Story)

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen

 

Plot: The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Franchise Filling

 

Story: Rogue One starts Galen Erso (Mikkelsen) and his family hiding on a planet from the Empire with Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn) hunting them down. Jyn (Jones) rescued by Saw Gerrera (Whitaker) grows up to be captured by the imperial guards.

With Jyn broken out of an Imperial labour prison by the rebels who want to use her to find her father who could be working on the Deathstar. Cassian Andor (Luna) is leading an attempt to stop the final preparation of the Deathstar with the connection with Saw Gerrera being important to finding her father.

What follows is the adventure before the saga begins, as the unlikely rebels must steal the plans for the Deathstar to stop the empire from rising to complete power in the universe.

 

Thoughts on Rogue One

 

StoryThis is the prequel to the loved trilogy that is actually a sequel to the disliked trilogy. We only get a snippet into the world of Star Wars with mentions of the force but nothing much going on around the force which is a good plus. This is does feel like a darker story to anything we have seen before with it feeling like a gritter side to the battle rather than the lightsabre action we are used too. Now I don’t want to be a negative person but if this was the first story in the saga I feel it wouldn’t be up to scratch with where the franchise goes, but if this was just a standalone space film it would feel empty of the final impact needed.

Action/Adventure/Sci-FiThe action is all grand and what you would expect from the Star Wars universe with the adventure being something we are also used to seeing. The sci-fi world is all fine even though the film tries hard to stay serious and down to Earth throughout.

Characters/PerformanceThe characters do all feel like they are from the middle of a rebel fight all coming from different worlds to fight which is all good, the lead character Jyn well she is strong but she is no Rey so don’t go in there expecting a character that strong. The most annoying character to me was voiced brilliantly so nothing against Alan Tudyk but the robot character felt like it had been stolen from Interstellar’s Tars.  When it comes to the performances everyone does a good job throughout so I can’t complain or criticise them in anyway.

SettingsThe settings do all feel gritter making us feel like we are in the war without the force powers going on later in the saga but we do have too many planets to keep on top of which are relevant to later chapters in the story.

Special EffectsYou can’t fault any of the special effects because it is all brilliant like you would expect from a film of this reputation.

Final ThoughtsStretching the universe once more filling in the gaps that didn’t need filling to cover up the wait until the next chapter in the main saga. This is an easy watch but in the end, will struggle to make the top 3 of any Star Wars fans list.

 

Overall: Franchise filler that didn’t need to be made that doesn’t capture the spirit of this franchise.

Ratingcard

 

 

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