[#2020oscardeathrace] Richard Jewell (2019)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Paul Walter Hauser

Screenplay: Billy Ray

131 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references, and brief bloody images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role [Kathy Bates] [PENDING]

 

Director Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, The 15:17 to Paris) is back again with another true life tale, this time surrounding the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing and the aftermath. It’s interesting that Eastwood’s films just kind of show up with a trailer for a movie I didn’t even know existed, and I loved the trailer for this one, so I was quite eager to see it. I only hoped that the film would live up to the hype.

Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser, I, Tonya, Late Night) is a security guard tasked with patrolling Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympic Games. On July 27th, Richard discovers a suspicious package at the park and he makes a call that saves many lives when the package is revealed to be a bomb. Richard is seen as a hero. But FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm, Between Two Ferns: The Movie, TV’s Mad Men) believes that Richard may have actually been the man who placed the bomb in Centennial Park. Add to that the story published on the front page of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution written by Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde, Tron: Legacy, Life Itself) revealing that Jewell is a suspect, and suddenly Richard is no longer the hero but the prime suspect in the eyes of members of the public, the United States government, and the media. Enter Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell, Moon, TV’s Fosse/Verdon), an attorney who befriended Jewell a decade prior, who is out to protect Jewell’s rights and, hopefully, keep him out of jail.

Paul Walter Hauser may not be a bankable leading man, but he knocks his performance out of the park here. I’ve been a fan of Hauser’s since I, Tonya, and he was a standout in BlacKkKlansman and several other films, but he’s at the forefront here, and he does not disappoint.

Hauser is also surrounded by a bevy of big-screen talent. Kathy Bates (Misery, The Highwaymen) portrays Bobi Jewell, Richard’s mother, and while she doesn’t get a lot of screen time, she makes use of it, culminating in a powerful scene that earned her an Oscar nomination. Rockwell is also at the top of his game as Bryant, a man trying to help his friend who seemingly doesn’t understand the politics of his situation. Richard keeps saying the wrong thing and Bryant’s biggest battle is not against the FBI or the media but actually changing Richard’s mindset into that of a fighter.

On the opposite side of things, I really didn’t like the characters of Tom Shaw and Kathy Scruggs. From the writing and characterization to the directing, I was unimpressed with these two antagonists that were reduced to mustache-twirling stock villains. I don’t really get Shaw’s motivation for targeting Richard Jewell, and I feel like Scruggs has a motivation, but it’s never really confirmed and only ever inferred. Much love for Hamm and Wilde who did the best with the material, but these were bad characters.

There’s another small detail of the film that took me out of it. Recently, there’s been a trend of using real footage in films based on true events. Several films have enacted this idea, perhaps in an attempt to remind us as viewers that this actually happened, but it only serves to take me out of the film and remind me that I’m watching a recreation. It happens in when an interview between Richard and Katie Couric occurs that uses Hauser’s voice but real footage of Jewell, and I really don’t like it. It loses the realness and the concoction of the actor voice and the subject visual really doesn’t work. It is a small moment, but it does detract from the viewing experience.

I think that Richard Jewell is a fine film, but it suffers from a lack of elements that draw in the viewer. I liked several pieces of the puzzle, but the way Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Gemini Man) deal with their antagonists absolutely falls flat. Hauser is at the top of his game here as is Bates and Rockwell, and overall they keep the film moving in a mostly-satisfying way. This is still one worth seeing, but it feels like the overall impact of the film is missing.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, click here.

[Early Review] The Beguiled (2017)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning

Screenplay: Sofia Coppola

93 mins. Rated R for some sexuality.

 

The Beguiled is the second adaptation of the 1966 novel A Painted Devil (rather than a remake of the 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood) and features Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as a Civil War soldier taken in by Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman, TV’s Big Little Lies, The Hours) after he is found injured nearby. Miss Martha runs a girls’ school in Virginia, and Corporal McBurney is the first interaction many of the women have had with the war. Miss Martha is untrusting of the man and how quickly he gains the trust of teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst, Spider-Man, Hidden Figures) and the girls of the school. Miss Martha continues to remind him that he will leave as soon as he is healed and repeatedly threatens to turn him over to the Confederate Army. The house is very quickly altered by McBurney’s presence, bubbling with sexual tension and jealousy among the inhabitants until finally it takes a shocking and unexpected turn, putting them all in grave danger.

I had to really tiptoe around this synopsis as I dare not spoil the events depicted in this new film from Writer/Director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, A Very Murray Christmas). I would also advise you to avoid trailers for the film as they give away a bit too much. Overall, I enjoyed The Beguiled much more than I expected to.

I’ll start with what I didn’t like about the film. First, the writing of Colin Farrell’s character. I love Colin Farrell when he gets it right. Sure, he’s had stumbles in his career, but when he nails it, he really nails it. And he is great in The Beguiled, but the manner in which his character is written doesn’t feel like a fully-formed arc. His performance is top notch but there isn’t enough screen time for us as viewers to accept the journey his character takes.

I also didn’t really like the ending. It felt almost too easy, and there’s a near-horrific plot point that gets brushed away too easily that would’ve made things more interesting. Overall, the ending does linger with you, but I think there could’ve been more to it.

Everything else in the film is amazing, most notably the incredible performance from Nicole Kidman. Coming off her Oscar-nominated performance in Lion, Kidman is chillingly cold as Miss Martha, a motivated and strong woman who takes charge of her situation. There’s a beauty to her performance with an underlying uneasiness, especially when she shares the screen with Farrell. The rest of the performances are great as well, but I want to recognize Elle Fanning (Maleficent, 20th Century Women) and Angourie Rice (who you may remember from last year’s The Nice Guys, if anyone else actually saw it) for their turns as members of the school. Both of these actresses give impressive turns in every film and The Beguiled is no exception.

Sofia Coppola became the second female director ever to win Best Director at Cannes (and hopefully we won’t wait 50 years for another), and The Beguiled is a worthy film of such an award. Its tension and drama is all based around its characters , usually a win for Coppola. The film stumbles rarely, but manages to pick itself up rather quickly and recover. It’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year, and it is worth your time to catch it when it expands to wide release this weekend.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

American Sniper (2014)

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Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Screenplay: Jason Hall

132 mins. Rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Bradley Cooper)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

 

American Sniper is the true story of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, Serena), the most lethal sniper in US military history and the effect his fame, and sometimes infamy, has on his life in the states with the woman he loves, Taya (Sienna Miller, Foxcatcher, Unfinished Business).

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I enjoyed the film immensely, although I did have one major fault. I believe that this film spends too much time out of the country when the real heart of the film lies in the problematic yet loving relationship he has with Taya. I enjoyed Cooper’s character arc in the film, but there were sequences that could’ve been trimmed down to streamline Kyle’s story to something slightly more engaging, especially under the powerful work, both physically and emotionally, given by Bradley Cooper.

The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic, and director Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Jersey Boys) presents his audience with a completely engrossing near-masterpiece on the effects of PTSD on the armed forces. His cinematography is exquisite, the score is engaging and simple, and the sets are so real that I got lost in them. This film is an expertly crafted piece of moviemaking.

Now, many have described American Sniper as a pandering film, but I feel it provides an unbiased look at a man’s life. This was a man who was serving his country. This was a man with morals who gave his all to protect the people he loved. I personally didn’t agree with the decision to go to war with the amount of intelligence we had, but that doesn’t mean that I have a problem with the decisions that Chris Kyle made in defense of his country. No matter how you feel about the subject matter presented, this is an epic tale of what we pay to keep others safe.

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Bradley Cooper definitely does justice to the late Kyle, and he gives perhaps the most engaging performance of his career, proving yet again that the funny man can continue to surprise. Under the expert eye of seasoned director Eastwood, American Sniper is a slightly flawed but certainly engaging film. Definitely worth the time, no matter your thoughts on the man.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

June 2014 Preview

Just putting this out there again, I have not seen the following films. I have prided myself on being pretty good at guessing a movie’s place on the awesome-meter (shut up, it’s a thing!), so I have compiled a list of the film releases in June of this year for you to make the best possible choice when heading to the theater this month.

 

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars premiered last week at the Seattle International Film Festival, and will have its wide release on June 6th. Based on the popular novel by John Green, Fault tells the story of Hazel (Shailene Woodley, TV’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Divergent), a terminally-ill girl who meets Augustus Waters at a support group meeting. Their relationship changes everything for Hazel. Now, this film irked me a little with its bad marketing earlier this year. I trust Shailene Woodley, who has proven herself in the past. I feel like this will be the teen release of the year, so if you read the book, I’m feeling good about this release.

 

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22 Jump Street

I was actually surprised and happy to discover that 21 Jump Street, the 2012 action-comedy based on 1987’s television star vehicle for actor Johnny Depp, was pretty damn funny. It looked to me like the kind of film with all the best moments in the trailer. I admit I was wrong. As far as a sequel goes, under any other directors I would be nervous, but returning director team Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, this year’s hit The Lego Movie) alongside writer-star Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum flexing his funny bone again, I have to say I am excited. Here’s hoping it won’t be another Hangover sequel fiasco.

 

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

This was another film with a quality that shocked me. I initially thought How to Train Your Dragon was going to be likable but not loveable with either two much focus on cuteness or too much focus on goofiness. Again, happily surprised.  I’m going to say go for this sequel, which sees Hiccup and Toothless as they find themselves in the middle of a bigger conflict between humans and dragons. As much as I would’ve liked to see the film take the direction of the book series a little more (the second book was entitled How to Be a Pirate and, understandably so, would’ve caused a pretty sizeable risk for the filmmakers in terms of its overall plot), I like the idea of turning this into a film trilogy and being so adult while still being a family film. Kudos.

 

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Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood is back! It has been three years since J. Edgar’s release, a film that labeled Eastwood as tamer than hoped, but I have always been impressed with the actor-turned-director’s time behind the camera. There hasn’t been a film of his that I was disappointed in. This is a new risk for Clint as well, a musical. I love seeing musicals from directors not usually tapped for such projects. I am stoked to see his take on the four men who grouped together to become The Four Seasons.

 

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Think Like a Man Too

Wow, another sequel to a 2012 film, and I have to say, the first film didn’t interest me enough to actually sit through it. I will say this, if you truly liked the first film, you may enjoy this installment, but it seems like a gimmick sequel (a film that takes implausible measures to bring the characters into wacky situations) and I don’t think it has the chops to seem less stupid. A Vegas bachelor/bachelorette party? I think it will sink, and I wouldn’t want to be in the theater watching it sink.

 

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Transformers: Age of Extinction

If you had asked me back in early 2007 if I would be here in 2014 discussing a fourth Transformers film, I would have responded with awe at the specifics of your question. After I got over it, however, I would be shocked to say yes. Don’t get me wrong; the first Transformers was a long-shot hit and I personally had fun with the sequels, though I accept their collective non-greatness. Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up a few years after the finale of Dark of the Moon, following Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, 2 Guns) and his daughter (Nicola Peltz, The Last Airbender, Deck the Halls) who come across Optimus Prime and get involved in a plot involving, shockingly, Dinobots. Never thought we would see them, but I guess it is time. This will be the first Transformers film without the involvement of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). I’m personally excited about a possible new direction for the series. I was getting a little tired of LaBeouf’s constant freaking out and screaming. Wahlberg has the potential to carry this franchise to success.

 

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Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

I seriously had to look this movie up. I have no freaking clue what this is. I guess it is based on a sitcom. I’ll make this pretty simple. If you have heard of the show and liked it, you may want to see. Otherwise, stay the hell away because it sounds like a turd. There, I said it. A turd.

 

 

 

There you have it, June 2014 in Preview. Final tally:

Best Bets: 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Jersey Boys

On the Bubble: The Fault in Our Stars, Transformers: Age of Extinction

Likely Misses: Think Like a Man Too, Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

 

As before, I gave you the tools. It all depends on you to use them. What do you think? How do you feel about this month’s upcoming releases? What are you most looking forward to? Comment below.

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