[#2015oscardeathrace] Selma (2014)

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Director: Ava DuVernay

Cast: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Stephen James, Wendell Pierce, Common, Alessandro Nivola, Keith Stanfield, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dylan Baker, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey

Screenplay: Paul Webb

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Glory” by Common, John Legend) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

Selma is the story of a key moment in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr (David Oyelowo, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year): the fight for the right to vote. King has tries to get help from President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins, The Grand Budapest Hotel), but to no avail. His wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo, TV’s Zero Hour, The Purge: Anarchy), would hope to keep him out of harm’s way. But in Selma, Alabama, a woman named Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple, The Butler) can’t even get registered to vote. King takes his civil rights movement to Selma in hopes of swaying Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth, TV’s Lie to Me, Pulp Fiction) to let them vote.

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While the film Selma isn’t perfect, it does contain some of the more perfect casting and performance work of the past year. David Oyelowo is the spitting visage of the late Dr. King. He has the look, he has the voice, and he has the mannerisms down to a science. Tom Wilkinson plays the former President filled with self-doubt and delusion. Rapper Common (TV’s Hell on Wheels, Smokin’ Aces) gives one of his best roles as James Bevel, as does Wendell Pierce (TV’s The Wire, Parker) in the position of Reverand Hosea Williams. We also get some great turns from some major Hollywood players, like Martin Sheen and Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), in small roles to elevate the craft of the other actors to something truly great.

Director Ava DuVernay’s camera is more stoic than static, offering what feels more like a live docu-drama than a sweeping picture, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did mess with the flow slightly.

I really enjoyed the song “Glory” from Common and John Legend that plays over the closing credits. It displays a plethora of African-American cultural music from the time of Dr. King to present day.

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Ava DuVernay’s Selma is a film that must be watched, if only for the powerful messages it conveys. I honestly did not know as much about this facet of the Civil Rights Movement, in particular the events in Selma, Alabama, and so I found the film engaging and shocking at times, and definitely worth your time.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Let’s Be Cops (2014)

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Director: Luke Greenfield

Cast: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr., Nina Dobrev, Rob Riggle, Keegan-Michael Key

Screenplay: Luke Greenfield, Nicholas Thomas

104 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use.

 

When an actor tries to make that jump from television to film, it’s a big deal. The transition can go three different ways. 1) Success: the actor creates a film career practically overnight, or 2) Failure: the actor can lose all chances of a film career, but will at least exist on the small screen, 3) Super Failure: the actor loses his television career in the process. I’m hoping Jake Johnson (TV’s New Girl, Neighbors) is only #2.

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Let’s Be Cops stars Johnson as Ryan, a guy who had all the chances after high school, but who never really took off the way he thought. The same is true of his friend Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr., TV’s Happy Endings, Big Hero 6). Yeah, seriously the same character practically. When the two come across some truly lifelike cop costumes for what they think is a costume party, they decide to just pretend they are cops, which gets them into deep doo-doo when they get involved in a major drug crime in this new film from director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door, Something Borrowed).

This film’s tone is all over the place. It tries too hard to be a comedy when it should be serious, and it comes off as too serious when it tries to be a comedy. These main characters are all so flat and similar that I wasn’t interested at all. I liked Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street, Dumb and Dumber To) as fellow real cop Segars. He was a nice infusion of actual comedy.

Johnson and Wayans are both funny when they get the chance to shine, but Greenfield’s script with Nicholas Thomas is riddled with unfunny moments throughout.

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I started out liking Let’s Be Cops, but soon it became a film with somewhat unlikable and terribly underwritten characters just kind of doing things in front of the camera. It’s a shame because I really like Jake Johnson and I want to see his career continue. Fingers crossed that everyone else finds this film as forgettable as I did.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Have you seen Let’s Be Cops? What did you think? Was it an undercover success or a Super Failure? Let me know!

[Happy 30th Birthday!] Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

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Director: Martin Brest

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton

Screenplay: Daniel Petrie, Jr.

105 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

 

Can you already hear the song? I know I can, because thirty years ago today, the world was introduced to Axel F, and alongside it, Beverly Hills Cop, a rollicking good time at the movies that doubles as a pretty taut thriller.

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Beverly Hills Cop boasts one of the best soundtracks in motion picture history as it tells the story of Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy, Trading Places, A Thousand Words), a Detroit cop who just got forced into vacation after a close friend with a troubling past is killed right in his apartment. He decides to take his vacation in Beverly Hills and, along the way, try to solve the murder. Aiding him, whether they like it or not and whether or not they know it, are Beverly Hills’ Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold, The Santa Clause, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts) and Sargent Taggart (John Ashton, Gone Baby Gone, Middle Men).

Beverly Hills Cop is an early work for major director Martin Brest (Scent of a Woman, Gigli) and boasts some of his craziest attempts at weaving thrilling set pieces with laugh-out-loud, and crazily enough, it works. Murphy is at the top of his game here, absolutely everything he throws at the screen lands perfectly, and he is equally matched by the bumbling (but not over-bumbling) Reinhold and Ashton, a perfect buddy-cop duo if there ever was one.

The screenplay from Daniel Petrie, Jr. (Turner & Hooch, In the Army Now) is a smart and simple one, but never tries too hard to convolute itself. Director Brest is able to work from so many angles here, it is incredible how well it all works together. We believe that Axel Foley is the kind of guy that can weasel his way into the enemy’s office, or into a luxury suite hotel room, or for that matter, evading the arrest and termination of his employment multiple times.

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I have to say that the Beverly Hills Cop grew on me. The first viewing didn’t go as well as I thought it might, but it just sticks with you. The musical work by Harold Faltermeyer and the incredible supporting work from Paul Reiser, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, and Jonathan Banks do not go unnoticed. If you haven’t seen Beverly Hills Cop in its first thirty years, don’t wait another thirty. See it now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 30th Birthday!] Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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Director: Charles E. Sellier, Jr.

Cast: Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley

Screenplay: Michael Hickey

79 mins. Rated R.

 

Today, the horror community celebrates two major 30th Anniversary milestones. One has been heralded as one of the greatest horror films of all time. The other is Silent Night, Deadly Night. Yes, A Nightmare on Elm Street came out on this day in 1984, but today we are going to examine Silent Night, Deadly Night instead. I’d never seen this movie before today, so I needed to explore it for the first time.

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Silent Night, Deadly Night is just bad. It exists in that realm of so bad it’s good, and that’s something. Right? Right? Please? Okay, not so much. I can see the cult status of it. There’s a lot of moments here when I giggled. There’s a lot of raunchy partial violence and partial nudity and partial oddity. Yes, Silent Night, Deadly Night exists in a vacuum of awful, and I can live with that.

It is the story of a tragic Christmas Eve many years ago, when Billy witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a psycho killer dressed as Santa. Instead of becoming Batman, he chose to go insane. Through a series of devastating series of very unfortunate and detrimental events, Billy goes batshit crazy and on Christmas Eve years later, an eighteen-year-old Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) goes on a killing spree leading towards the woman who helped make him the monster he became, the Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin, Catch Me If You Can, The Man Who Wasn’t There) of the nunnery he grew up in.

That is literally the plot. Somewhere, Linnea Quigley shows up too. She gets naked and murdered. Standard Linnea Quigley performance (not hating).

None of these actors are really actor. The screenplay isn’t good enough to ask anything of them. In fact, most of the elements of this film are too underwhelming to enjoy. Even the director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. couldn’t handle the gore aspects, so editor Michael Spence stepped in.

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Bad movies can breed fun movie times, and Silent Night, Deadly Night does, at least for some. I can’t guarantee you’ll have a good time, but it is pretty stupidly Grindhouse-y. Worth a viewing, but not worth much.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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