CONCUSSION (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

Who doesn’t love Will Smith? Dude’s a jack of all trades and many of us grew up on his movies. He’s a 90’s icon and, oh let’s cut the bullshit, he’s an icon no matter what day and age we’re in. We don’t (kinda) care that you are into Scientology, Mr. Smith, we still love you. To boot, he’s often considered a really good guy. But enough about what we already love about him. This is about his latest doctor-sports movie. Although I was planning to see this movie anyway, did anyone else get the feeling that this was Oscar-bait too? I mean, Smith’s got an accent that he seems to be flaunting rather well and the trailer made it out to be pretty damn atmospheric. I guess it didn’t matter, I was sold on this movie and had pretty high expectations. Did it measure up?

Starring: Will Smith (COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], I AM LEGEND [2007], MEN IN BLACK [1997], and upcoming films BRIGHT [2017] and ALADDIN [2019]), Alec Baldwin (THE BOSS BABY [2017], SUBURBAN GIRL [2007], THE JUROR [1996], and upcoming film M:I 6 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE [2018] and TV movie A FEW GOOD MEN [2018]), Albert Brooks (THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS [2016], THE SIMPSONS MOVIE [2007], and TAXI DRIVER [1976]), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017], BELLE [2013], LARRY CROWNE [2011], and upcoming films A WRINKLE IN TIME [2018] and an untitled Cloverfield movie [2018]), and David Morse (HORNS [2013], DISTURBIA [2007], CONTACT [1997], and the upcoming THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS [2017]).

Support: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], CONGO [1996], and TV show LOST [2004 – 2010]), Richard T. Jones (A QUESTION OF FAITH [2017], WHY DID I GET MARRIED? [2007], and KISS THE GIRLS [1997]), Paul Reiser (I DO… UNTIL I DON’T [2017], FUNNY PEOPLE [2009], and ALIENS [1986]), Luke Wilson (BRAD’S STATUS [2017], 3:10 TO YUMA [2007], SCREAM 2 [1997], and upcoming films MEASURE OF A MAN [2018] and BERLIN, I LOVE YOU [2018]), and Stephen Moyer (PRIEST [2011], 88 MINUTES [2007], and TV show THE GIFTED [2017 – ongoing]).

Director: Peter Landesman (MARK FELT [2017] and the upcoming THE LAST BATTLE [2018]). Writer: Peter Landesman (MARK FELT, KILL THE MESSENGER [2014], and the upcoming THE LAST BATTLE). Composer: James Newton Howard (ROMAN J. ISRAEL. ESQ [2017], THE GREAT DEBATERS [2007], MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING [1997], and upcoming films RED SPARROW [2018] and FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD [2018]). Cinematographer: Salvatore Totino (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING [2017], PEOPLE LIKE US [2012], and THE DA VINCI CODE [2006]).

This is my honest opinion of: CONCUSSION

(SUMMARY)

Based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, Bennet (Will Smith) is a Nigerian doctor, eager to be an American citizen, and happens to be a talented pathologist, even though his methods are considered odd. Unbenownst to the good doctor, a series of horrible events are about to unfold. Famed football star Mike Webster (David Morse) has suffered through hard times, becoming a paranoid psychotic and eventually commits suicide, despite the valiant attempts of his doctor, Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin). When Webster’s body is brought to Bennet for examination, he soon discovers that football might have been the reason why the star became crazy, not because of drugs or alcohol, but because of the game itself causing severe brain trauma over the course of the man’s entire football career. While his findings are ignored or ridiculed, Julian believes that Bennet is right and as the NFL tries its hardest to discredit Bennet, more football players begin to suffer the same tragedies and the truth becomes harder to hide.

(REVIEW)

Fun fact: I actually kind of saw this movie twice. The first time I saw it was after I saw JOY (2015), but I was way too hammered and fell asleep a couple times, missing a healthy chunk of the movie. Deciding that sobriety was king, I saw this movie again… still kind of fell asleep (fatigue this time from working six days a week), but caught up on everything I missed.

You know what, this story had some serious potential, but then Peter Landesman (director and writer of the movie) got his hands on it and proved that maybe he should have stuck with just directing because the writing is… all over the damn place.

What do I mean by that? Well, Bennet’s opening scene. He’s in a court room doing… I don’t know what, but someone asks him what Bennet can add to their case. I shit you not, he goes on and on and @#$%ing on about where he went to school and all the different degrees he has. The dude literally spoke exposition. It was painful.

For those of you who remember the trailer, where at the end he is giving an off-screen character the business, saying, “tell the truth. Tell the truth.” Yeah, he says that four times in that entire scene. It’s kind of awkward.

There’s a random sub-plot of how Bennet wants to have a family with Prema, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the plot didn’t come out of nowhere. I understand that Prema must have been a huge factor in Bennet’s attempts to expose CTE to the NFL, but there’s no build-up to their desires for this family they want. Prema got pregnant, has a miscarriage… and then two scenes later, it’s three years later in the story and they have one child and a second on the way. If you want to tell the story of a husband and wife struggling to have a family after a miscarriage, then leave out the story of how the man is a doctor and wants to enlighten the nation about a horrible condition the players face. Or put a lot more emphasis on the desired-family instead of just hammering it in JUST to show what else Bennet had to go through. It was an unnecessary plot-point.

UPDATE: Granted, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen this movie, but I think it’s wrong of me to say Bennet’s personal life isn’t necessary, the loss that that he experienced. This is Bennet’s story and both his professional and personal life need to have equal exposure. Having said that, based on what I’m reading, my issues come from how poorly written his relationship with Prema is. It sounds like their relationship wasn’t built up properly. Furthermore, it also seems like the miscarriage wasn’t very impactful or necessary to the overall story presented here. Maybe a few more scenes of him and Prema struggling with the decision to try again, as I’m sure after one miscarriage, there’d be a ton of fear for a couple to try and make another baby.

Don’t even get me started on how pro-‘Murica this movie is. It’s giving such a patriotic handjob that even Michael Bay is looking away in embarrassment. I can’t count how many times Bennet mentions how great America is and how great the opportunities are despite the fact that the movie seems to portray Americans as ignorant and uncaring about Bennet’s research into the problems the players of the NFL are facing. The movie does a better job telling how America sucks rather than why it’s so great and how that has anything to do with the plot. We get it dude, you want to be an American citizen, bully for you, please keep your shit focused on what’s really important.

I know we Americans suffered a big tragedy when it came to the San Bernardino shooting and, similar to what happened in France, we need to feel united. We need reasons to keep our heads up and show our enemies that we are still standing in the face of their threats and maybe a movie like this could be great propoganda to ourselves by nearly comparing this country to Heaven, but… @#$%, there was less obnoxious ways of pulling that off. If this is the movie that gave you hope that America will survive in the face of death and destruction, then don’t let anyone take that away from you, but I think if we need to pep talk ourselves, we can do better than this.

Let me say something good about the movie. Yes, Smith delivers a damn fine performance. Unlike Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, whom I thought was trying to play the role, I believe that Smith is Bennet. I felt like he put in some great effort into bringing this man’s life to the big screen and it pays off. Baldwin does a fairly decent job. Mbatha-Raw’s character was dull, but I believe she can act. Prema just wasn’t very interesting to me.

The acting is fine, the story is interesting, but it goes about it in such a self-absorbed way that I just can’t find myself liking the movie as a whole. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but it’s pretty hard to see myself watching this a third time.

My honest rating for CONCUSSIONa weak 3/5

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THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE review

Back to back roles of playing servicemen of some kind, eh, Miles Teller?

Based on true events, it follows a group of men in the military who return home from Iraq and struggle with PTSD, readjusting to their home lives. It sounds pretty standard as this isn’t an idea that hasn’t been tackled before. Having said that, it’s probably going to be decently acted.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Miles Teller (ONLY THE BRAVE [2017], DIVERGENT [2014], and 21 & OVER [2013]), Haley Bennett (RULES DON’T APPLY [2016], THE EQUALIZER [2014], and MUSIC AND LYRICS [2007]), and Beulah Koale (6 episodes of TV show HAWAII FIVE-0 [2010 – ongoing]). In support, we have Amy Schumer (SNATCHED [2017], TRAINWRECK [2015], and SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD [2012]), Brad Beyer (42 [2013], THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER [1999], and TV show JERICHO [2006 – 2008]), Joe Cole (WOODSHOCK [2017], GREEN ROOM [2016], and SECRET IN THEIR EYES [2015]), Keisha Castle-Hughes (STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH [2005] and WHALE RIDER [2002]), and Kerry Cahill (FREE STATE OF JONES [2016], TERMINATOR: GENISYS [2015], and SNITCH [2013]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Jason Hall, making his directorial debut as a director, but he’s previously written AMERICAN SNIPER (2014) and PARANOIA (2013). Composing the score is Thomas Newman, known for VICTORIA & ABDUL (2017), JARHEAD (2005), and PHENOMENON (1996). Finally, the cinematographer is Roman Vasyanov, known for THE WALL (2017), FURY (2014), and END OF WATCH (2012).

Overall, this is probably going to be pretty good, so I remain optimistic.

This is my honest opinion of: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

(SUMMARY)

Set in 2008. Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), Solo (Beulah Koale), and Billy Waller (Joe Cole) are army veterans who just came back from Iraq. Adam pretends that he’s okay coming home to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett), his daughter, and their infant son, but he’s struggling with what he’s experienced overseas. Solo’s girlfriend is pregnant with their first kid and he struggles with hallucinations and reverting back to his past drug addiction. Billy’s girlfriend took all their furniture, leaving him with nothing, and shoots himself in the head right in front of her at her work. Adam and Solo continue to seek help for their trauma, but things are never that easy, and their reactions aren’t always the best choices.

(REVIEW)

I think I’m still processing it for the most part. I think my true feelings about the film will be spewed out in the review as I write it. As it stands though, it’s a very interesting take on a topic that’s been done before and I learned a thing or two, which is probably one of the more important aspects this movie gets right: education for the uninformed.

So as per usual, Teller delivers a solid performance. He’s engaging, nuanced, delivers a likability to Adam Schumann, he’s pretty good. Adam comes home and at first, you think he’s adjusting well enough, doing the typical thing. Spending time with his family, going to the bar with his boys and blowing off steam, making laughable asses of themselves. But the more the movie unravels, you see that it’s all an act. He has suicidal thoughts, wishing he was dead, but you would never really get his feelings as you see him playing with his daughter. And if there’s anyone that delivers an equally solid performance is Koale for his role as Solo (apologies for not knowing the man’s full name). If Adam suffers from more subtle PTSD, then Solo suffers worse. Whereas Adam just has dreams reliving the worst of his experiences, Solo has hallucinations, mood swings, even violent outbursts. And because we learned that he was a former drug addict prior to his service in the military, it doesn’t become a shock when he starts to relapse. And it’s not as simple as just having that urge either. He tries seeking help, but it’s constantly not granted, so in spite of how heartbreaking it is, you get why.

That’s another thing that I really appreciated about this film. Very little is sugar-coated. This isn’t a story about soldiers coming home and denying that they’re traumatized with rage outbursts, screaming that they’re okay and they don’t need help until the very end of the movie. No, this is the story of soldiers who know they’re messed up in the head and actively seek and want help, especially after their friend and comrade, Billy, commits suicide. Thing is, the help is denied to them. Not because they system is being run by sick assholes who don’t give a shit about them, but rather this film acknowledges that the system is just overbooked. Thousands upon thousands of war veterans seek help every day from all over the country and the system just can’t help them all.

Oh, and bar none, even though she’s only in a support role, this is Schumer’s best performance in her entire career. How she got to be a part of this project, I’m positive I don’t know, but that she’s here and does a solid job is not an unwelcomed sight.

***SPOILERS***

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If I had a complaint about the film, and I genuinely do, it’s how Adam’s trauma is presented. We know half of it is because Michael Emory (Scott Haze) was shot in head, the bullet taking two inches off his brain, and as Adam tries to carry him down a flight of stairs, he accidentally drops him and nearly kills him. The other half is when James Doster (Brad Beyer) tells Adam to stay behind and he take his place on his rounds to Adam can talk to his wife, Doster is instead killed in action from an explosive and Solo unknowingly blamed Adam out loud to him. I Neither reason is bad or doesn’t make sense, but what doesn’t make sense is this: why are they particular shocks to us?

Here, let me explain. The opening sequence of the film is the aforementioned Adam accidentally dropping Emory. We largely assume for the entire story that this is the reason why he’s traumatized. But we don’t learn about the circumstances of Doster’s death and its effect on Adam until the end of the film. Why? I simply do not believe that the causes of PTSD should be treated like some big dramatic twist. Neither explanation is any more or less dramatic for Adam’s trauma, so why treat one reason that way over the other?

If I were to change anything, I would say that in order to maximize the shock or empathetic value of Adam’s trauma, either explain it by revealing both reasons in the beginning, or save them for the third act. If the movie wants us to understand what Adam is going through and why he’s reacting the way he does, then put all the cards on the table in the beginning and let the events unfold as they may. Or the movie can have the audience be like Saskia and keep us in the dark as to why he’s traumatized until later on for the big reveal, showing us the events themselves. As it stands, it feels odd and I didn’t agree with the choice.

***

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this movie is good. It’s an eye-opener and even a little hard to sit through knowing certain facts about the realities of war vets with PTSD. But it’s effective and provides a level of understanding that many may not have. It’s a respectable film and it’s very much worth watching. I question the placement of certain events in the story, but I do recommend the film. It’s an important one, in my opinion.

My honest rating for THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE: it’s a must-see

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ONLY THE BRAVE review

Alright, so a little back story. And since it was best explained on its Wikipedia page, I’ll just copy the information provided there.

“The Yarnell Hill Fire was a wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona, ignited by lightning on June 28, 2013. On June 30, it overran and killed 19 City of Prescott firefighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. It was the third deadliest U.S. wildfire since the 1991 East Bay Hills fire, which killed 25 people; and the 2017 Northern California wildfires, which killed over 40, the deadliest wildland fire for U.S. firefighters since the 1933 Griffith Park Fire, which killed 29; and the deadliest incident of any kind for U.S. firefighters since the September 11, 2001, attacks, which killed 343. It is the sixth-deadliest American firefighter disaster overall and the deadliest wildfire ever in Arizona.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarnell_Hill_Fire

As I understand it, of the twenty firefighters that were involved, there was only one survivor. This film is essentially dedicated to those men who gave their lives.

On a personal level, I’ve never heard of this event. What can I say? I don’t watch the news. And weirdly enough, I’ve actually not seen a trailer for the film. I have no idea how I managed that. I guess weeks of not seeing as many films, I’ll end up missing a few trailers. All I know is that it’s got some great reviews and ratings, so it’s probably a safe bet to assume it’s good.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Miles Teller (BLEED FOR THIS [2016], WHIPLASH [2014], and FOOTLOOSE [2011]), Josh Brolin (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN [2007], MIMIC [1997], and upcoming films SOLDAD [2018] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Jeff Bridges (KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE [2017], SEABISCUIT [2003], and TRON [1982]), Taylor Kitsch (AMERICAN ASSASSIN [2017], SAVAGES [2012], and THE COVENANT [2006]), and Geoff Stults (UNFORGETTABLE [2017], and TV shows ENLISTED [2014] and THE FINDER [2012]). In support, we have Jennifer Connelly (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING [2017], RESERVATION ROAD [2007], THE ROCKETEER [1991], and upcoming film ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL [2018] and TV show SNOWPIERCER [2018]) and Andie MacDowell (MAGIC MIKE XXL [2015], BARNYARD [2006], and GROUNDHOG DAY [1993]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Joseph Kosinski, known for OBLIVION (2013) and TRON: LEGACY (2010). Penning the screenplay are Ken Nolan (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT [2017] and BLACK HAWK DOWN [2001]) and Eric Warren Singer (AMERICAN HUSTLE [2013] and THE INTERNATIONAL [2009]). Composing the score is Joseph Trapanese, known for ALLEGIANT (2016), EARTH TO ECHO (2014), and THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011). Finally, the cinematographer is Claudio Miranda, known for TOMORROWLAND (2015), LIFE OF PI (2012), FAILURE TO LAUNCH (2006), and the upcoming 100 YEARS (2115).

Overall, I’m actually very interested in seeing this.

This is my honest opinion of: ONLY THE BRAVE

(SUMMARY)

Set in Phoenix, Arizona, circa 2013. The story follows firefighters, specifically rookie Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), and veteran Eric “Supes” Marsh (Josh Brolin). Brendan was once a loser drug user who eventually had himself a daughter and decided to get his life in order and become a firefighter. Eric is a no nonsense kind of leader who wants his crew to be hotshots, the firefighters that fight the fires head-on, rather than play support, which his men have been primarily relegated to for four years. But pulling some strings, he and his crew are given the chance they’ve been wanting and pull it off. Traveling the country, making a name for themselves as local heroes, the day comes when Yarnell Hill Fire shows up.

(REVIEW)

This is a powerful movie, probably one of the better ones this year. Powerful enough to make me cry. Yup, it’s that good.

For those of you that don’t know, I think crying during a movie is the most incredible experience anyone can have. It means you found something to emotionally invest in. The characters were so well-written to your taste that when something tragic or triumphant happens, you respectively cried in sadness or happiness. The rawest and most honest of emotions. That’s how you know you aren’t just watching a movie. You’re watching something real. Something that made you feel or think. In the end, isn’t that was great art is?

But enough sap. This is probably one of the best performances I’ve seen out of Teller. Brendan is clearly a well-meaning young man who’s made some awful decisions and is trying to turn it all around for the sake of his daughter. He’s clearly out of his element in just about every sense of the word, being pushed so far as to vomit because of how much he’s pushed himself physically. But for as many stumbles and mistakes as he makes, he does eventually make his way to being an equal in the group. He makes friends, earns respect, and becomes a vital and integral member of the team and really puts forth the effort in being a supporting father to his daughter. Effort that isn’t ignored and his baby mama Natalie (Natalie Hall) and his own mother (Rachel Singer) see the changes he’s made. What I find refreshing is that there’s no scene where either Natalie or Brendan’s mother take a beat to say, “I’m so proud of how much you’ve changed,” or anything like that. It’s almost like the movie knows that cliché would happen, but decides to skip it and let the reality sink in and show that side of Brendan’s life as a unified front. The simple visual alone is enough to know that they had that talk anyway. No use wasting everyone’s time by actually filming it. And it is just me, or does Teller look skinnier than usual? I mean, it’s not like he’s had a career playing beefcakes, and I sure don’t want to make it sound like he looks anorexic or anything, but he looks pretty skinny in this movie. This is by no means a flaw. In fact, it adds a real level of realism to the role. Brendan was a drug user, and a slacker with no motivation in his life, so I can imagine that he wouldn’t look very toned, muscle-wise. It also makes almost a haunting kind of sense when he’s out for that jog when he’s recruited and he’s keeling over vomiting his guts out. It’s an interesting detail that I noticed.

But of course, none of that goodwill and hard work would have been possible for Brendan if he wasn’t given that chance, and that’s all thanks to Supes. He’s a loving husband to the impossibly gorgeous Amanda. Or am I referring to Jennifer Connolly? It’s hard to tell. Anyway, they are very in love, but like any married couple when both parties have wills stronger than graphene, they butt heads. Hard. When he makes a decision that she disagrees with, she’s not subtle, or calm about it. She’s not afraid to raise her voice, or full on scream at him. And he doesn’t try to diffuse the situation. Nope, she raises her voice, he matches it with equal ferocity. Also like any other couple, they are quick to acknowledge what they did wrong and try to correct it, know when they say something stupid and want to make up for it, and ultimately remain a functioning, supportive couple. But then again, you can totally make the argument that he’s only this way because of his own past, which he is deeply ashamed of, making for some surprisingly vulnerable scenes despite Supes’ gruff and authoritative demeanor.

But honestly, as great as the core cast is, my absolute favorite performance has to go to Connolly. Perhaps it’s simply because she hasn’t had this good of a performance in years. Hell, the last great and memorable performance that comes to my mind is BLOOD DIAMOND (2006). Which is a shame because she is such a terrific actress, but few movies under her belt truly do her justice. I mean, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008)? HULK (2003)? Come on, Hollywood, don’t do that to her. She’s way too good for that shit. But enough gushing, there is a serious fire and passion in her performance. Amanda is a naturally loving and supportive wife, but that’s not to say that she doesn’t wish for something a little easier. She’s practically a single woman while her husband is off around the country fighting fires. It’s a very complex set of emotions going through her and she knows she can’t full-on tell him to quit his job because that wouldn’t be fair, plus, she knows that this job means the world to him. Still, she’s a married woman with a husband who’s barely around, so you can still get an idea as to why she feels this way and it’s hard to argue with her. But more than anything, acting or not, Connelly is scary when she’s mad, so… note to self. Don’t make her mad.

The rest of the support does pretty well too. You do feel a genuine sense of comradery within the hotshots. They joke around, give each other shit, get maybe a little misogynistic, but you know that they’re good men at heart who know their jobs and do it well, making it a legitimate heartbreak when the inevitable happens. As I said, I did cry a little.

But I guess with a movie based on a true story, it’s probably best to question how accurate the movie is to the real thing. I’ll post a link to the best article I could find regarding the film, but I’ll try to sum it up as best I can.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/nation-now/2017/10/20/how-accurate-only-brave-heres-what-movie-gets-right-and-wrong/786466001/

The short answer would be, where it counts. For much of the film’s runtime, it’s more about the creation of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and their certification, and a lot of that was fabricated. But as for the day of the Yarnell Hill Fire itself, it sticks to the facts. As for the before and after, it gets a little loosey goosey. For example, there’s a scene where Brendan wants to step away from the Granite Mountain Hotshots and be in a safer environment to be closer to his daughter and give her the attention he wants to give. However, when he confronts Supes with the notion, the movie portrays him as hostile, reacting negatively. In real life, to my understanding, the real man was supportive right out of the gate. Even for dramatic purposes, that seems a little odd to throw in that level of unlikability for the man. Even if it is explained why in the next scene, it’s not true to the man himself, which doesn’t feel very respectful. But then again, the movie is accurate enough to shed light on Supes’ dark past as a substance abuser, same with Brendan’s. Even down to little details, like Christopher MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) being the guy who took the pictures for the crew. As previously mentioned, it seems odd why details like that were faithfully enacted for the film, but character traits and personalities, the cornerstone for any portrayal of someone on screen, is messed around with. There’s also a lot about how the families of the hotshots who financially struggled after the event, but I think that’s another story altogether and this movie wanted to keeps its focus on the men, rather than the backlash. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, that does seem particularly questionable why the filmmakers would leave that out. I think even a post-movie text would have been fine enough. After all, these men didn’t exist just to die doing their jobs. They had families, wives, and children, and it’s kind of a shame that the movie only focuses on two men in depth. But I guess that’s what documentaries are for. In any case, the article I posted above goes into a little more detail about the facts and fiction. I recommend giving it a glance. It’s pretty interesting.

While it’s a shame that the movie wasn’t all-encompassing with the men of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, giving each of them more time in the sun, the movie could have shown a greater lack of respect had they completely fabricated the Yarnell Hill Fire itself. And in the end, especially for anyone who’s like myself and not always aware of current events, this is probably one of the most powerful ways to be made aware. And ultimately, it shows respect for the men themselves and that can arguably be the most important aspect to get right. Equally important, the film is a fascinating look into the lives of firefighters, their specific jobs, the numerous ways in which they deal with fires, it’s pretty damn interesting. But on the dramatic side, it’s intense, engaging, and almost portrays wildfires into horror monsters. I can definitely see someone losing sleep over this, but I mean that in the best way. This movie will renew your respect for the brave men and women that do this every day. I highly recommend this film to everyone. It has fantastic performances, intense and horrific imagery, but it’s a fantastic film that will make you feel. The Granite Mountain Hotshots will never be forgotten.

My honest opinion for ONLY THE BRAVE: It’s a must see.

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6 BELOW: MIRACLE ON THE MOUNTAIN review

Josh Harnett is back. Interesting. I mean, it’s not like the guy’s gone very far, he’s done mostly indie films and smaller projects, as well as television, but it’s still not very often you see him. You really have to look for him and mainstream audiences probably aren’t savvy to his indie projects. In any case, it’s good to see him again.

The story is based on true events about Eric LeMarque, a guy who was stranded in the snowy mountains and managed to survive his ordeal. Sadly, I don’t know much about the real event, but if the trailer is any way truthful, it looks like Eric is a troubled dude who gets into a lot of legal trouble. In order to clear his mind, he goes on trip, alone, to snowboard, but gets caught in said storm. So… 127 HOURS (2010), but in the snow?

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Josh Hartnett (30 DAYS OF NIGHT [2007], HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER [1998], and TV show PENNY DREADFULL [2014 – 2016]), Mira Sorvino (MIMIC [1997] and TV show FALLING SKIES [2011 – 2015]), and Sarah Dumont (SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE [2015] and DON JON [2013]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Scott Waugh, known for NEED FOR SPEED (2014) and ACT OF VALOR (2012). Penning the screenplay is Madison Turner, making her screen writing debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Nathan Furst, known for NEED FOR SPEED, ACT OF VALOR, and LAKE PLACID 2 (2007). Finally, the cinematographer is Michael Svitak, known for a ton of short films, but making his feature-length debut. Congrats, sir.

Overall, this looks like it could be good, but I also recall seeing a lot of, “Don’t lose your faith” taglines, which makes me think this is secretly a religious film, but faith doesn’t always have to pertain to a religious deity.

This is my honest opinion of: 6 BELOW: MIRACLE ON THE MOUNTAIN

(SUMMARY)

Based on true events, circa 2004. Eric LaMarque (Josh Hartnett) is a former hockey player who eventually became addicted to meth. After a reckless night of being high and driving, getting into a car accident, he is scheduled for a court hearing. Desperate to clear his head before the hearing, he takes a small trip to the Sierra Mountains to snowboard. However a storm is slowly encroaching, and just before the mountain is closed off to tourists, Eric boards off, takes a wrong turn and gets lost for nine days in the coldest winter seen in years.

(REVIEW)

You know what? I get it. I get why the critics are so hard on this film. But you know what? I still liked it for the most part.

First thing’s first, Hartnett is fantastic. Whether it’s him freezing his ass off in the snow, or pouring his heart and soul out in the flashback scenes, he’s really great. While the character is certainly nothing new, and I’m going to take a wild guess as to that being the reason why there’s so many negative reviews of the flick, but I think he brings enough charm and talent to hold his own, performance-wise. His interpretation of Eric does seem like he laments his decisions and genuinely wants to change his ways, so even if you don’t think he’s any ground-breaking character, Hartnett, you can’t deny that he’s at least sympathetic. In one scene when he unknowningly walks on a frozen lake and falls inside. He has his drugs in hand but accidentally lets it go. Before even knowing where to escape, he immediately swims after the drugs, gets them, and swims to safety, albeit freezing cold. In order to warm himself up, he strips naked and hugs his entire body, soon looking at his drugs and dumps them in the snow. I thought this scene was pretty powerful. I wrote down in my notes that I would have preferred to have this scene played out later in the film, but I don’t think it would have mattered. On the hand, getting rid of the drugs sooner shows that he acknowledges what just happened and what it almost cost him. As it were, the final straw, and didn’t want to put his addiction over his survival. On the other hand, I would have expected that he’d use the drugs in an attempt to, I don’t know, numb his senses to the freezing cold temperature his body dropped to, using the drugs to move himself along a little easier. But then again, I have no idea if that’s what meth would do, or even if that would be how it works, if he wouldn’t have all his senses on alert and not take proper care of himself. So in retrospect, I think him giving it up on his own early on was more practical and smarter.

Hartnett’s not the only good actor in here. Sorvino will tear your heart out. She plays Eric’s mother, Susan, who obviously loves her son, but because he’s sunk so low in his addiction, she’s at her wits end and gives up on him, even going so far as to not answer her phone when he tries to call her. But as soon as he goes missing and she doesn’t hear back from him, her performance is heartbreaking.

Now, this isn’t to say that the movie is perfect. In fact, there are some pretty terrible moments. The opening titles are downright cringeworthy. Whoever did the camera work either must have been a teenager who didn’t know what the hell he was doing, or he was given awful direction from the director because it’s absolutely annoying. It starts off nice enough, showing pretty scenery of the snowy mountain, but then it will spontaneously pan downward to look at trees for no reason and then back up to the mountain. Uh… okay… If that wasn’t bad enough, Hartnett has a long opening narration that comes and goes as the credits wiz by, as if giving time for the audience to read the names of the actors, and then listen to Hartnett when the name fades out. It’s really obnoxious. And the editing is so random in this movie too. Eric’s past and the events that lead him to this point of him being lost on the mountain are atrociously out of control and there never seems to a rhyme, reason, or even a proper segue into them. They appear out of nowhere and some of them I swear don’t even happen in chronological order.

I suppose in this particular movie’s case, I was pretty forgiving. I consider myself a fan of Hartnett’s, so when he’s part of something that’s in theaters, I get a little giddy. Sure, the movie’s not great, and there are certainly things that are beyond terrible. But Hartnett is acting his ass off and really sells this movie for me. I don’t think it’s as bad as the critics were saying. So I recommend it. Muscle through some of the bad parts and I think Hartnett will get you through this picture alright. I say, this film set is set six below freezing, but the film itself is above average.

My honest rating for 6 BELOW: MIRACLE ON THE MOUNTAIN: a strong 3/5

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GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN review

This will be the first of two “Christopher Robin” films coming out. Granted, the other one, CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, which is starting to look like HOOK (1991) but with Christopher Robin as the grown up and slated to star Ewan McGregor as the titular character, isn’t coming out until 2018. Seriously, it’s been a year of doubles.

Anywho, this film looks like it’s a biopic of the author of the beloved kids books, later beloved animated series, Winnie the Pooh. The author, A.A. Milne, is a war veteran and is tired of writing stories that make people laugh and wants to create one that makes people think. Taking a page from his son, Christopher Robin, he creates the beloved books.

Here’s the on-screen talent. Starring we have Domhnall Gleeson (AMERICAN MADE [2017], BROOKLYN [2015], DREDD [2011], and upcoming films STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PETER RABBIT [2018]), Margot Robbie (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], THE WOLF OF WALL STREET [2013], TV show PAN AM [2011 – 2012], and upcoming films I, TONYA [2017] and MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS [2018]), Kelly Macdonald (T2 TRAINSPOTTING [2017], BRAVE [2012], NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN [2007], and upcoming films HOLMES AND WATSON [2018] and RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]), and Will Tilston, making his film debut. Congrats, young sir.

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing, we have Simon Curtis, known for WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) and MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011). Co-writing the screenplay, we have Frank Cottrell Bryce (known for stuff I’ve never heard of) and Simon Vaughan (A BEAR NAMED WINNIE [2004]). Composing the score is Carter Burwell, known for THE FOUNDER (2017), NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, FARGO (1996), and upcoming films WONDERSTRUCK (2017) and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Smithard, known for THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (2015), BELLE (2013), THE TRIP (2010), and the upcoming THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (2017).

Overall, I really want to love this film. I love the cast and I love the idea of the creation of Winnie the Pooh. I also really love the countryside visuals, as well as the brief imagination bits. It looks like it’s got some cuteness, some heavy drama, it looks pretty all encompassing. About the only thing that I’m predicting is that the little kid might not be a very good actor. I don’t know, every time he shows up on screen, he has big ole wide eyes and looks like he’s about to murder his parents. But here’s hoping that his acting in the actual movie overshadows the… aesthetic.

This is my honest opinion of: GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

(SUMMARY)

Set in post-World War I. Alan Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) is a successful comedy playwright. He is also a war veteran suffering from PTSD and has had enough of making plays that make people laugh and decides to move his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and their son William “Billy” (Will Tilston) into a cabin in the woods, against the wishes of Daphne. All Alan wants is a little piece and quiet, away from the pressures of writing, but Daphne isn’t settling in well, especially since Alan wasn’t writing much, causing a rift in their marriage and a separation. In that time, Alan and Billy start to bond by spending lots of time together, creating adventures with Billy’s beloved stuffed animals. But more than that, there is struggle with child fame and a family’s struggle to stay together.

(REVIEW)

I liked it. Probably not as good as I’d hoped, but it’s far more interesting than I expected.

For one thing, I didn’t expect this to be a tragic story. I went in thinking it was going to be a happy peppy tale about how Winnie the Pooh brought so much joy to the world and maybe dabble in how the real Christopher Robin got a little hot under the collar from all the exposure at such a young and fragile age. While technically that’s kind of what this movie is about, it’s more about how this innocent children’s character caused such damage to the family as a whole. Alan is blissfully riding the waves of his book’s success, barely ever considering whether or not Christopher wants to be a part of it. Even when it occurs to him that the boy doesn’t want any part of this anymore, his fame follows him to school where he’s bullied until he enlists into the military at eighteen years, saying that as soon as he joined, it’d been the happiest he’s felt in years. That’s a powerful thing to grow up hating something so innocent and pure. It’s totally understandable though.

The acting is, frankly, phenomenal. Gleeson once again shines as a rising talent and this film is no exception. He plays a man who is desperate to say something profound in his writing that will prevent war. But because of his PTSD, he has a hard time living in city with all the attention and fame. Even when he gets out into the woods with his family, his life isn’t all that much more improved. His wife leaves him because she’s a bitch, and despite his peace and quiet, he can’t seem to write anything. It’s not until he spends more time with Christopher that things turn around for him and happiness and inspiration hit him as hard as the things he experienced in war. It’s heartwarming and certainly made me smile. This is either on par with his performance in EX MACHINA (2015) or even better.

But despite that, if anyone gets an award for favorite character, it’s MacDonald as Olive. You ever meet that person you love so much it makes you sick that you kind of hate them and want to beat them to death with rainbows and happiness, but you can’t because it’s literally impossible? That’s Olive to me. She has been with the family since Christopher was born, basically raising him far more than her actual mother did. She’s always by his side, allowing him to be a child, letting him know how important he is even if his parents fail to do so. Hell, she does a better job of protecting the boy from over-exposure than her parents do. She’s the one that saw the damage that was being done to him before the parents do. And it’s within these scenes where MacDonald and Tilston are together, they’re probably among the sweetest in the film.

And now for young Tilston. This kid is a bit of a hit and miss for me. Some scenes, his lines are the equivalent to a classroom reading of a boring textbook. Other scenes, yeah, my initial impression of him was correct. His eyes are so wide that you’d swear he was going to slit his parents’ throats while they were sleeping. He just seems really awkward at times. But then again, there’s some legitimately great scenes that he does. After the soaring popularity of the Winnie the Pooh books and Daphne has rejoined the family, she tries to do the voices of the animals like she used to. But because he’s spent so much time developing the characters with his father while having such a great time doing it, he almost snaps at his mom, claiming that she can’t do the voices right anymore. And there are moments when he truly doesn’t understand why everyone refers to him as Christopher Robin the character, even though he isn’t that character. He has such a difficult time grasping the concept of his own popularity, even his own identity, which is unbelievably heartbreaking when you watch him get increasingly scared or frustrated.  You could even argue that this is what any kid with famous parents go through, especially if they involve them. They can run that risk of not growing up like any other kid and will be treated differently, for better or worse. And of course, any time he’s with MacDonald is really tender and sweet.

There is one huge problem that I had with the movie, and that’s Daphne. This is probably the most deplorable character that I could have expected in a story like this. Daphne is an awful person. I might understand a woman who doesn’t want to move far away from her friends and family, but it comes off more like she’d rather party and have fun than spend time with her husband and son. Hell, even Alan didn’t seem to want to spend time with Christopher. The scene I’m referring to is Daphne leaving and Alan tells her to take the boy with her, to which she basically refuses. It’s honestly not a wonder how Christopher grew up the way he did. Perhaps there’s more to the real story, but as presented here, it’s pretty despicable. But it’s not like this separation is permanent. Oh no, Alan and Daphne never divorce, despite how loveless their marriage is. She comes back when his book is finally written and flies off the shelves. Daphne quite literally wouldn’t have come back to her family had Alan not written the book. Her love has always had conditions and this movie never addresses it. Give Alan some credit, he does spend time with his son and the two create the characters through fun, imagination, finding true happiness together. And Alan does eventually see the error in exposing his son to such… well, exposure, and acknowledges the trouble it causes Christopher and calls it quits on writing anymore about Winnie the Pooh. What does Daphne ever do? She’s a spiteful woman, a neglectful mother, disgustingly not supportive, even taking a great deal of pleasure in exploiting her son. She has zero redeeming value. I love Robbie as an actress, and by all accounts, she’s good in this movie, I just wish the character was written better. Daphne doesn’t have to be a saint, but she had very little humanity to her character that I saw.

Overall, I really like the movie. It’s cute, it’s emotional, and it’s unexpected. It’s a beautiful story about a man and his son and what they created together, and how it saved and destroyed them. Were it not for how consistently unlikable Daphne was throughout the film as a character, I would have loved this movie. But as it stands, it’s still a good film and very much worth seeing.

My honest rating for GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: 4/5

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MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE quick review

You’d have to pay me a significant amount of money for me to not be interested in anything that Liam Neeson does, and I don’t care what kind of negative reviews are out there.

The story is based on true events. I can’t claim to have paid attention in history class, so all I can recall about the Watergate Scandal is that… well, it was bad. Yeah, I paid that little attention in school. Politics and history and I never got along. Well, let’s hope this movie provides a level of education for me, or enough to pique my interest in learning the facts that this movie fudged or overlooked.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Liam Neeson (A MONSTER CALLS [2016], TAKEN [2008], LES MISÉRABLES [1998], and the upcoming THE COMMUTER [2018]) and Diane Lane (PARIS CAN WAIT [2017], JUMPER [2008], JACK [1996], and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017]). In support, we have Marton Csokas (LOVING [2016], THE DEBT [2010], and THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING [2001]), Maika Monroe (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE [2016], IT FOLLOWS [2014], and LABOR DAY [2014]), Michael C. Hall (GAMER [2009], PAYCHECK [2003], and TV show DEXTER [2006 – 2013]), Tom Sizemore (BLACK HAWK DOWN [2002], SAVING PRIVATE RYAN [1998], and HEAT [1995]), and Bruce Greenwood (KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE [2017], BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD [2010], THE CORE [2003], and upcoming films GERALD’S GAME [2017] and BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT [2018]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Peter Landesman, known for CONCUSSION (2015). Composing the score is Daniel Pemberton, known for KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (2017), THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015), video game LITTLEBIGPLANET (2008), and the upcoming MOLLY’S GAME (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Adam Kimmel, known for LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (2007) and CAPOTE (2005).

Overall, if I were to hazard a guess, most of the negative reviews are due to an abundance of historical inaccuracies and such like that. There’s probably nothing wrong with the acting or the drama, or the writing outside of the historical hiccups. I suspect I’ll be in the minority when it comes to liking it.

This is my honest opinion of: MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE

(SUMMARY)

Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) has been a career agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for thirty years. Though he was up for J. Edgar Hoover’s position upon his death, it was given to Pat Gray (Marton Csokas). But Mark’s disappointment doesn’t last long as he becomes embroiled in what is now known as the Watergate Scandal and his information leaks to the press.

(QUICK REVIEW)

And… yeah, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy some of it. It is fun to see Neeson get his G-Man on, but it’s a pretty forgettable film.

I could tell pretty early on that I wouldn’t understand this film, with all its political talk and what not. Hell, it got to a point where I stopped bothering to take notes because I didn’t know what to write down. I couldn’t even follow the main plot point. Even if I went full kindergarten on this, I wouldn’t understand anything. So, I know that Mark leaked information to the press. I don’t know what he leaked. The best I understood was that he bugged the homes of political rivals, but I never saw him or anyone shadily under his employment do that, so the connection between what he was doing and what he was leaking to the press didn’t feel very strong, or even all that relevant to each other. This is kind of a shame because that’s probably what would have made the film a lot more interesting, watching these FBI guys listening in on politicians secrets that would ultimately be filed away. Not that this movie wouldn’t tread into the territory of “slander” if they had gone that route, but something along those lines would have made this film much juicier. Instead, what you get is a ton of scenes showing a frustrated Neeson with a bunch of talking about why, instead of showing why.

It also doesn’t look like I’m wrong about all the negativity surrounding the film: inaccuracies. Apparently, Felt didn’t leak information to the press because of patriotism, but rather to fuel his ambitions, he never wanted to get Nixon out of office, he really wasn’t “the” guy that “brought down the White House” as there were a dozen factors that lead to that, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m sure more informed people can list for me. I think the ultimate reason why this film was made was to show the parallels between what was going on in the White House then and comparing it to who we have now (Trump). If I remember correctly, the FBI was investigating Trump and he fired the director of the FBI, or something to that effect. Like I said, more informed people can point that stuff out.

All I can say is that this film is pretty boring, and that’s not how I want a Liam Neeson film to be described. Even if his movie isn’t good, it’s still fun to watch him do things and that’s precisely what we don’t get: things. We just get a crap-load of talking and that’s not very riveting. My recommendation is… viewer beware. I may not recommend it in theaters. Save it for a rental at best. I’ll leave the politically savvy folks to tear apart the inaccuracies, but as for me, it’s pretty blah as a movie. The man who brought down the White House also brought down my interest in the subject matter.

My honest rating for MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE: a weak 3/5

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VICTORIA & ABDUL review

Say what now?! This is a sequel?! *Wikipedia search* Well skin me alive and call me naked, this is a sequel! Specifically to the film MRS. BROWN (1997), and Judi Dench is reprising her role as Queen Victoria. I guess if you wanted to make another movie about her and her wacky adventures in her later years, why not make it a sequel? Oh, and it’s also based on a book? Jeez, this Queen certainly gets around in media.

The story looks like it’s about Victoria and she’s become tired with her life and role. But then she meets a young Indian servant and the two strike up a friendship, asking him to teach her all about his culture and reinvigorates her love of life. But it comes at a cost. Her peers start to think that she’s lost her mind, playing nice with a servant. Hence the conflict. It looks like it could be decent and anything Dench touches is golden, so I’m all on board.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Judi Dench (TULIP FEVER [2017], CASINO ROYALE [2006], SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE [1998], and the upcoming MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017]) and Ali Fazal (FURIOUS 7 [2015] and 3 IDIOTS [2009]). In support, we have Eddie Izzard (ROCK DOG [2017], ACROSS THE UNIVERSE [2007], and THE AVENGERS [1998]), Michael Gambon (KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE [2017], THE GOOD SHEPHERD [2006], and SLEEPY HOLLOW [1999]), Tim Pigott-Smith (JUPITER ASCENDING [2015], V FOR VENDETTA [2005], and CLASH OF THE TITANS [1981]), Adeel Akhtar (THE BIG SICK [2017], PAN [2015], and THE DICTATOR [2012]), and Olivia Williams (MAN UP [2015], PETER PAN [2003], and THE SIXTH SENSE [1999]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Stephen Frears, known for FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016), THE QUEEN (2006), and HIGH FIDELITY (2000). Penning the screenplay is Lee Hall, known for WAR HORSE (2011) and BILLY ELLIOT (2000). Composing the score is Thomas Newman, known for PASSENGERS (2016), WALL·E (2008), THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), and the upcoming THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Danny Cohen, known for FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, ROOM (2015), and PIRATE RADIO (2009).

Overall, I’m very curious. Not super hyped, but call me eager.

This is my honest opinion of: VICTORIA & ABDUL

(SUMMARY)

Set in early 1900. Queen Victoria (Judy Dench) is still a revered queen, now serving as the longest running monarch in history. However, she’s grown tired of her position. Her loved ones have passed on and she’s become both apathetic to her own appearance and position. But all of that changes when she meets Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), an Indian servant, who eventually becomes Victoria’s closest friend, teaching her of Indian culture and slowly regains her love of life, despite the deeply rooted arguments from her staff.

(REVIEW)

This was a really good movie. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

The movie opens on a pretty humorous line. “Based on real events” pause for a second, “… mostly.” This movie had me at “hello” and I was already giggling.

However, and this is pretty consistent for the first half hour or so, the movie loses its momentum. There’s clichés, like the intro of the protagonist running late for work, and the movie isn’t all that funny for awhile. I mean, some gags land, like when a servant tries to wake up Victoria, but all she does is groan. I thought that was hilarious. But for awhile, the humor really falls flat. Hell, fifteen, maybe even twenty minutes into the movie is when the title of the movie appears. That was weird. Why bother by that point?

Having said all that, there is a… I’m not sure how to describe it, but a level of engagement to Dench’s performance in the beginning. She’s so tired, possibly bored, and gives zero shits about everything that’s going on around her. She eats at her own pace, forcing her peers around her to eat quickly, or else their food will be taken away.

About the only saving grace in the film’s comedy in the beginning is Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), who coud have so easily been that panicky hysterical character that no one likes, but for whatever reason, his exaggerations of what he believes the English do in their spare time is so funny. He does get a little grating later in the film, but he has a bad-ass scene that makes up for all of it.

But honestly, after that first half hour of lackluster comedy, the laughs, as well as the story, pick up immensely. Abdul is impossibly charming and likable. You immediately feel for Victoria and everything that she’s lived through. All of her loved ones are gone and all that’s left is her position and her ambitious and unlikable children who want her power. But meeting Abdul, she learns to find happiness and learns about the Indian culture. There’s this infectious chemistry that Dench and Fazal share, an energy that constantly makes you smile as he describes the Taj Mahal, or teaches her Indian languages and how her eyes light up as she learns, it’s such a beautiful connection that they share. At some point, Dench’s performance gets a little hammy, but it’s so brief that you almost have to remember that it gets there, and it’s not like it isn’t explained (she gets a little drunk), but this is what makes up the entire movie: their friendship and it is really heart-warming to watch just how much she defends him despite all the criticism from those around her.

As much praise as I have with the film, there are a couple elements that I complain about.

A smaller issue is that we never see enough of Abdul and Mohammad interacting. Every scene they share is Abdul being excited, and Mohammad being nervous. We don’t see enough of the two actually being friends. Sure, that would take away from the focus of the relationship between him and Victoria, but it still would have been nice to dedicate a five minute scene of the two men really interacting like friends.

But the bigger issue I took was Abdul’s wife. I believe her involvement in this story is pure fluff. We don’t see hide or hair of her, or even get a single reference to her existence until the one hour mark, and even when she does show up, for all the build-up to her, she barely contributes to the story. Sure, sure, you could argue that it’s all a set up to learn about Abdul’s… procreation issues, or whatever that was, and Victoria’s council to try and get him sent back to India, but I feel like this is where creative liberties would have been needed and find something more sensible to get that kind of information.

Also, there were two incidences that involve Victoria being upset with Abdul. One being when she discovered that it was Muslims, or another Indian group that I can’t remember, were at the head of some revolt that took the lives of British soldiers and then later for another reason that I can’t remember either. All I remember is that these two scenes were resolved as quickly as they were introduced and happen pretty close to each other, so I kept wondering why the writer didn’t just pick a problem and go all the way with it, or combine the two problems into one dramatic scene.

Overall, I really liked this movie. The core characters are ridiculously wonderful to watch and hang out with, it’s funny, dramatic, all around fun for anyone even half interested in this story. I highly recommend this in theaters. It doesn’t have the widest of releases, so you may need to really look for it, but I say it’s worth the effort to see in theaters. History’s most unlikely friendship is arguably one of its most endearing.

My honest rating for VICTORIA & ABDUL: a strong 4/5

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