Marshall (2017)

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown, James Cromwell

Screenplay: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Koskoff

118 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War, Gods of Egypt) has played a lot of biopics, this one being the fourth time. Is it his best?

Marshall is the story of Thurgood Marshall (Boseman) and his teaming up with Insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast) to defend Joseph Spell (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, TV’s This is Us), a colored man accused of raping a woman he works for in one of Marshall’s early cases.

There are no noticeably poor actors in the film, but the standouts come in Boseman and Brown.  Brown himself turns in an incredible performance as Spell, a man who is so terrified of his situation that he doesn’t know to trust, who to talk to, and how to act. His is a stoic thoughtful performance. Boseman, too, disappears into his role as Thurgood Marshall. Boseman is no stranger to playing real life men, having already become James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Floyd Little in his career, and his performance as the future Supreme Court Justice is exemplary.

Credit should be given to Josh Gad, Dan Stevens (Kill Switch, TV’s Downton Abbey) as the prosecutor Loren Willis, and James Cromwell (The Green Mile, The Promise) as Judge Foster, a noticeably bigoted man who attempts to stop Marshall and Friedman at every attempt to prove innocence.

Director Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Serving Sara) hasn’t had a lot of experience in directing these types of films, but he holds his own quite nicely. There isn’t a lot of visual flair, but his attention to detail aids the intensity. I remember a moment when the inclusion of car lights outside made me uncomfortable for the characters knowing the situation these two men were in. The car lights were unneeded, but having them raised the intensity level just a bit more. The cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel again has moments of greatness littered throughout mixed with the restraint that you often see in courtroom dramas. The same can be said of the music. Sometimes it really works, but it doesn’t jump out at you.

Marshall is a great character piece, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find Boseman and Brown on the Oscar ballot come January, and the rest of the cast performs rather admirably. There isn’t a lot of technical flair on display here, though that isn’t really a bad thing. Marshall is a strong outing, a biopic focused on one incident and how it changed those involved. This is a film that you won’t want to miss.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Marshall yet? What did you think? And what’s the best Chadwick Boseman-led biopic? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra MacDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

129 mins. Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.

 

It’s a tale as old as time but now Disney has turned it into a twice-told tale, but is it any good the second time around?

Belle (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Circle) is a bookworm and inventor living with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda, Dean) in the small village of Villeneuve. Belle deals daily with the advances of the slimy and arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, The Fate of the Furious) and his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, Frozen, A Dog’s Purpose) as well as the looks from the townspeople who find the young woman rather odd. When Maurice is lost in the woods, he comes across a castle inhabited by a terrible Beast (Dan Stevens, TV’s Downton Abbey, Colossal) who trades Maurice for Belle. Then, Belle and the Beast find themselves falling for one another in the best adaptation of an animated Buffalo-Human Romance film ever to grace the silver screen.

But how about the actual film?

Well, in the world of adaptations, I found that this 2017 iteration from director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) has some improvements on the original and some elements that didn’t work. Mostly, though, it’s the same film. And in a lot of ways, that lessens it. There are very few liberties taken here, and overall it gives the film a very tame feeling which never really drew me in.

Let’s start with what works. The amount of respect given to the French location of the film is strong. Most of the accents work and even little touches like French subtitles in the end credits give flair. There’s also a sense of theatricality to the film due to Condon’s decision to treat this like a tale you’ve seen before. I highly suggest watching the film with the overture as it harkens back to the classic tale from decades back. I thought the treatment of Disney’s first gay character LeFou was respectful. I thought the tightening up of plot points in the prince’s age and in his ability to read (a major change to the character from the 1991 film) work well here. I also really liked a lot of the personalities and performances from the various living pieces of furniture, most notably Lumiere (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, American Pastoral), Cogsworth (Ian McKellan, TV’s Vicious, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Baby). I am very thankful, however, that the director decided to cut the character known as Monsieur Toilette, played by Stephen Merchant, who would have been, you guessed it, a toilet.

And of course, the film looks gorgeous. There are a number of images I’d love to have on my wall from this film. Everything here looks astounding with a tremendous attention to detail.

Now, the issues with the film are glaring. I thought “Be Our Guest” was grossly over-animated and looked terrible. I felt like the film’s forcefulness to sticking to the source material made the film feel like it was dragging on forever. The musical numbers felt very autotuned and unrealistic and none of them really enhanced the original pieces. The issues amount to very simply not improving the original. This film is essentially a shot-for-shot remake in a lot of ways, and we’ve seen how that works out a number of times, most notably with Psycho and The Omen. It never seems to work, and it only reminds you how superior the original is.

Overall, I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast much more than I thought I would. Disney continues to create enjoyable experience rehashing old tales. The biggest problem with Beauty and the Beast is that I don’t see why anyone would choose to watch it again if they have the original film to go to. It just feels forgettable for all of its 129 minutes. There’s just a better version already out.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Russia to Ban Live-Action Beauty and the Beast Over Gay Character?

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It would seem that Russia has no interest in Disney’s newest film.

Recently, it was announced that actor Josh Gad’s character LeFou would be portrayed as Disney’s first openly-gay character in the live-action Beauty and the Beast film, set to hit U.S. theaters later this month. The news is apparently not sitting well over in Russia, where many are claiming the film breaks a law from 2013 condemning “gay propaganda” targeting children.

This isn’t the first instance of banning the new film. A theater in Alabama announced earlier this week that it would not show the film as well due the sexual orientation of LeFou. The theater’s Facebook page did not shy away from its reasons.

I think this is the dumbest piece of news that I’ve read in some time. Banning a movie for gay propaganda? Seriously? That’s insane. It’s all the more disappointing in this day for a United States theater to ban the film for this reason. My biggest frustration is that, if you watch the 90s animated film, it isn’t much of a stretch to assume LeFou is gay. It just isn’t flat-out stated.

All in all, there’s a reason I don’t live in Russia. But c’mon Alabama, you are better than this. Their loss, though, as Beauty and the Beast is set to possibly break some records in late March in terms of domestic box-office and opening weekend numbers. I still have my tickets.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Short Film Sunday] Frozen Fever (2015)

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Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad

Screenplay: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Marc Smith

8 mins. Rated G.

 

Frozen Fever is perhaps the best title for this week’s short film. It happens to embody the main plot of the piece and also the ongoing love for this small but mighty franchise. Everyone is apeshit for Frozen (and I mean that in the best possible way, I also really enjoyed the film).

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In this short film continuation of the original movie, released as an opener for last year’s Cinderella, we see that some major changes have to come to Arendelle since the finale of Frozen. Today is the 19th birthday for Anna (Kristen Bell, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Zootopia), and her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel, Enchanted, Rent) wants to throw a massive party to make up for the last several years of isolated birthdays. The problem: Elsa has a fever, and she can’t stop sneezing little snowmen into existence. As Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, TV’s Looking, The Normal Heart) and Olaf (Josh Gad, Love & Other Drugs, Pixels) struggles to maintain the little critters, Anna desperately tries to convince her sister to cancel the whole thing.

Frozen Fever is a cute little one-off slice of life. I liked the addition of the Snowgies, as they are termed, as they provide a little chorus for fan-favorite Olaf. I also really enjoyed the closer examination of Elsa’s powers, as it doesn’t detract from the magic of the original film. Sadly, the short doesn’t carry much weight and is, apart from the above wins, largely forgettable. “Making Today a Perfect Day,” the new song, isn’t all that entertaining or catchy upon first glance, and the short feels like more of an afterthought of unused ideas for a Frozen sequel.

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All in all, I like my franchise shorts to feel like something special for the fans, an addition to the larger mythos of the regular series that adds and progresses the story in some way. To that note, Frozen Fever both meets and misses the mark. I enjoyed it mildly and can see why any other fan would too (mostly the younglings), but it isn’t the near-perfect display that its predecessor is.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Wedding Ringer (2015)

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Director: Jeremy Garelick

Cast: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting

Screenplay: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender

101 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity.

 

When a comedy is released in January, it isn’t a great sign. When that comedy is a Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Get Hard) film, it isn’t even a good sign (I do happen to like Mr. Hart, but he picks some real shit to step it). When the film starts with “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, it is a downright bad sign. Well, here we have it: The Wedding Ringer. Full of bad signs, but is it bad?

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As Doug Harris (Josh Gad, TV’s 1600 Penn, Frozen) gets closer and closer to his upcoming wedding, he comes closer and closer to the painful truth: Doug has no friends. He has no Groomsmen. He has no Best Man. That is, until he hears about Jimmy Callahan (Hart) and his job as a freelance Best Man. Now, Doug has not only hired Jimmy, but wants a full group of Groomsmen. When Jimmy becomes Bic Mitchum, he must pull off the ultimate wedding with the ultimate heist, and convince bride-to-be Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, TV’s The Big Bang Theory, Hop) that it is all for real.

I enjoyed much more of The Wedding Ringer than I thought. I’ve seen a lot of Kevin Hart films and I haven’t seen a lot of good ones. I think he is an absolutely hilarious comedian, but I think he’s a disappointing actor. He just can’t carry an entire film. In The Wedding Ringer, we see him carry a film almost well enough to work. It doesn’t all work. It really doesn’t, but the fact that it is the closest I have seen to a good Kevin Hart film.

The chemistry between Hart and Gad is great here and mostly makes the film, much more so than Cuoco-Sweeting’s completely horrendous performance, especially in her scenes with Gad.

The most fun in this film comes from the cadre of fake Groomsmen. I especially like Jorge Garcia and his subtle (albeit late-to-the-game) Lost reference. I also really loved the idea of the wedding being played like a heist. It isn’t mined very well, but it has enough likability to get you through the film.

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Now, the film itself isn’t very good. It isn’t. It’s just a lot better than this film should’ve been. This time in 2016, the film won’t be a thought in the back of my mind whatsoever, but it was worth a view. Just one.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of The Wedding Ringer? Have you seen it? Did you hear wedding bells or are you a runaway bride? Let me know!

 

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