Bombshell (2019)

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell, Allison Janney

Screenplay: Charles Randolph

109 mins. Rated R for sexual material and language throughout.

 

Bombshell is a movie I was very excited to see as soon as I caught the trailer. First of all, I didn’t realize it was Charlize Theron (Monster, Atomic Blonde) under all that makeup, and that shocked and excited me. Also, I was a big fan of Vice, which follows people I don’t much like doing bad things, and I felt like Bombshell had a lot in common with Vice tonally, so that made me all the more excited.

It’s 2016, and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (Theron) has made an enemy of Donald Trump by asking him about his comments toward women. Meanwhile, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, TV’s Big Little Lies) has been removed from her place on Fox & Friends, and she is contemplating a lawsuit. At the same time, Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad, Peter Rabbit) has just been hired and she wants to get to the top. When she reaches out to the Head of Fox News, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow, Late Night, TV’s 3rd Rock from the Sun), she is put into an inappropriate situation by Ailes. Soon after, Gretchen begins a firestorm when she comes forward with sexual harassment claims against Ailes, and Fox News begins to implode in the process.

This movie was painful to watch, and that’s kind of the point. The film’s trailers presented a very chic and stylized film, and while the style is definitely there, the story made me really uncomfortable, and in that way, I really found it to be an effective drama. It’s hard to really explain the techniques, but I think mostly it came from the tremendous acting work across the board and the sharp writing from Charles Randolph (The Big Short, Exposed). Director Jay Roach (Trumbo, All the Way) also elected to focus his camerawork on the performances and the story, which I really respect. The film’s overall effect on me was powerful.

Our three female leads are all incredible, each one owning their screen time quite well. The fact that Margot Robbie is able to hold her own against Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman is astounding considering the latter two actresses have been around for awhile and are playing real-life humans, whereas Robbie is an amalgam of other people. Their interactions are fiery and full of so much humanity. It’s astoundingly-performed.

John Lithgow is a disturbing presence as Roger Ailes. I never would have placed him in the role, but he is incredibly slimy and full of so much villainy. His makeup as well as that for Theron and Kidman is incredible, and their strong performances work all the better for the makeup. Having seen recent films like The Grudge, I can say that a poor makeup prosthetic can ruin a good performance and a good one can elevate it.

I also have to throw some love to Connie Britton (American Ultra, TV’s Dirty John) because she won’t get the attention she deserves for her work as Beth Ailes, Roger’s adoring wife. She doesn’t have a lot of scenes in the film, but with that time, she disappears in this role and showcases a woman who believes with all her heart that her husband couldn’t have done anything wrong (that, or she willing ignores it), and it’s shocking how long she is able to keep up with the scandal. In a lot of ways, we like to believe that our loved ones could never do anything to hurt us, and Britton exemplifies that.

Outside of the writing and acting work, there’s nothing too flashy in the film other than the strong production design, which recreates an environment like Fox News, and I think it creates a sense of realism in the film. Director Jay Roach also capably creates connections with people that I don’t really know and makes them realistic.

Bombshell is a strong performance-laden film with some shockingly-good acting work from pretty much the entire team, and its screenplay is incredibly well-constructed to connect with its audience on a cerebral level. It’s not an easy viewing experience but it is well worth it. Outside of those elements, there isn’t a lot of notable wins here, but I highly recommend the film to anyone, whether or not you like the people being portrayed.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jay Roach’s All the Way, click here.

[Early Review] Boy Erased (2018)

Director: Joel Edgerton

Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Joe Alwin, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Cherry Jones, Flea

Screenplay: Joel Edgerton

114 mins. Rated R for sexual content including an assault, some language and brief drug use.

 

Joel Edgerton (The Gift) just kind of came out of nowhere. Sure, he had been acting for several years, but I never would have placed him as a more-than-competent director and writer, but he did just that with his first film. Now, he seeks to follow-up The Gift with the true-life family drama, Boy Erased.

Boy Erased is the story of Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea, Mid90s), a college student who is having a crisis of faith. He has impure thoughts about men. His mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, TV’s Big Little Lies), and father, Marshall (Russell Crowe, Les Miserables, The Mummy), sign him up for a gay conversion therapy. His father is a Baptist preacher who will not allow Jared to live in his house or visit if he remains the way he is. Jared attends classes everyday with head therapist Victor Sykes (Edgerton), a firm believer in the process who pushes Jared and others to the extreme in his quest to make them “normal” heterosexual boys again. As time goes on, Lucas comes to the realization that he is who he is and “changing” is not an option.

Boy Erased takes a while before it really kicks into high gear. The first half of the film to me was a little lost in trying to find its footing. I’m not sure what the big problem is because I like the film’s structure of beginning in media res. The writing is fine but the slow build nature mixed with some pacing issues in editing likely created this problem.

That being said, when it does get going, the last half of this film is an absolute powerhouse. Hedges and Crowe are, in particular, revelatory. There is one scene in particular toward the end of the film that these two share that brought me to tears. The raw emotion of a father and son on two completely different wavelengths is something so heartbreaking.

Writer/Director/Supporting Actor Edgerton holds a capable lens to the proceedings and he tends to just let the performances do the heavy lifting. His work as Sykes in a little disturbing and very saddening. As I said before, I think his writing stumbles a bit at the beginning, but all in all, he is a talent worthy of watching.

Edgerton has a moral focus with the film and its presentation of this conversion therapy. There are a lot of horrific things happening here and it’s made all the more shocking with his choice to end the film with some follow-up on the characters but also some facts about conversion therapy that really hit home with me. These types of endings don’t always work, but Boy Erased is a film that definitely sticks the landing. It’s just sad that a film like this even had to be made, but conversion therapy is a very real and frightening thing for LGBTQ people, especially the young ones who are already going through so much in their adolescence.

Boy Erased struggles a bit out of the gate, but when it finds its footing, Joel Edgerton proves to be a force both behind and in front of the camera. He fills his films with impactful performances that elevate his own craft in the process. It’s not an easy film to view, even with a few peppered moments of levity, particularly from Jared’s mother, but it’s an incredible moving tale about the human spirit and one man’s journey to accept himself. See this movie as soon as you can.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[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

Secret in Their Eyes (2015)

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Director: Billy Ray

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Michael Kelly, Joe Cole, Alfred Molina

Screenplay: Billy Ray

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material including disturbing violent content, language and some sexual references.

 

Secret in Their Eyes is an American remake of a 2009 Oscar-winning foreign language film. The original 2009 film is a celebrated masterpiece (honestly, this writer has not seen the original film, but hey, I just watched the remake), and the remake stars three big players in the acting world. What could go wrong?

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Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, Triple 9) and fellow investigator Jessica Cobb (Julia Roberts, Notting Hill, The Normal Heart) respond to a report of a body found near a mosque they are monitoring back in 2002, three months after 9/11. When the body found is Cobb’s daughter, their lives are forever strained and torn as Ray finds his allegiance to a counter-terrorism task force pulling him away from uncovering the truth about the murder. He is further tormented by the love he has for superior Claire Sloane (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, Before I Go to Sleep). Years later, Ray’s lust for answers brings him back to the case and a shocking realization he isn’t quite ready for.

Secret in Their Eyes starts out interestingly enough. I really wanted to uncover the truth after a fantastic scene where Julia Roberts becomes hysterical at the sight of her daughter’s body. After that powerful sequences, the film comes to a crashing halt as the film seemingly goes nowhere for the next ninety minutes. Damn, it got boring real fast.

Ejiofor and Kidman are barely awake in their roles, and Roberts bounds between incredible performance and out-of-tune dialogue that she cannot latch onto. It would seem that Secret in Their Eyes has everything going for it, and yet nothing here works. Writer-director Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Breach) has a poor screenplay and cannot seem to handle his actors, even while maintaining moments of sheer beauty in the cinematography and the occasional gripping sequence.

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Overall, Secret in Their Eyes struggles to find a purpose, even after having tailored itself to a tragic period in recent American history. The film scours for reason and just cannot find it. Everything that it tries to accomplish is outdone by a similar film Prisoners, which came out back in 2013. The performances are bland and the story goes nowhere. A true disappointment.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

September 2014 Preview

I just want to get this out on the table. I have not seen any of the films on this list. This is only an assumption of the films’ merit based on the information I have on them. But, I should point out that I have a pretty good knack for this kind of stuff.

 

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Before I Go to Sleep

This is the story of Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, Paddington), who gets into a car accident which causes her to have deep memory loss. She awakens every morning with memory loss. Then, one day, the memories flow back to her, and she questions the nature of the car accident and what really happened. I can see this movie trying to do the kinds of things that Memento got away with. The problem being that this film would really have to have a unique style, and from what I have seen, it isn’t really there.

 

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The Identical

Twin brothers (both played by newcomer Blake Rayne) are separated at birth and lead different lives. One of them becomes a famous singer, the other struggles between his love of music and his place in his family. This movie puts a lot of faith in Blake Rayne, and he doesn’t have the ability to carry this movie. It has a nice supporting cast in Seth Green, Ray Liotta, and Ashley Judd, but can it carry? Probably not.

 

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Mary Kom

This is based on the real-life Mary Kom, a female boxer of Indian descent. I’m not saying this film will be great. I’m not saying it will be bad. I’m saying it will be meh. The plot should be very interesting, as Kom had a very interesting life, but the crew isn’t anyone memorable.

 

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Horns

I’ve been waiting a long time to see Horns, from the incredible horror film director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D). It also happens to have some really good source material with the novel by Joe Hill. Daniel Radcliffe rounds out this crew starring in the film as Ig, short for Ignatius, a man who awakens one morning to the discovery of two large horns protruding from his head that give him dark thoughts and powers. Horns has the potential to be the standout horror film of the year, and a great way to get into the mood for Halloween.

 

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Ned Rifle

Ned Rifle is the third film of a trilogy. No, I actually knew very little about the previous entries before discovering this third film. The first film is Henry Fool, and the followup is Fay Grim, and the the trilogy follows these same characters. Ned Rifle is the son of Henry Fool and Fay Grim, and this is the story of Ned trying to murder his father. From the footage I have seen, I wouldn’t mind watching this trilogy, but I would say watch the other two and if you like them, I have very good feelings about Ned Rifle.

 

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Dolphin Tale 2

Wow, this movie looks terrible. I mean it, really bad, but then again, I have been saying that about the first film for a while now. If you enjoy Dolphin Tale, you will probably still buy a ticket and have a good time, but I’m going to tell you that you are wrong.

 

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The Drop

I just want to point out that this is a beautiful poster. If the film is even partially as good as its poster, I’ll get chills. This is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, and like everything else he touches, it will be good. Lehane is known for his crime stories and thrillers, and chances are, the plot will have some difficult and disturbing turns along the way, but this is worth the ticket money. It also contains the final performance of deceased actor James Gandolfini.

 

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No Good Deed

Don’t see it. See The Drop!

 

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The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner has the ability to be the next Hunger Games. It is the story of Thomas, a young man who awakens in a maze with several others without any memory of what exists outside the maze. Together with the other maze runners, he must escape the maze and discover the purpose. Someone see this and tell me how it is. I’m feeling good.

 

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This is Where I Leave You

This seems like a good one. We have Jason Bateman and Tina Fey leading a breakout cast full of interesting personalities as four siblings return home to sit Shiva after the death of the family patriarch. Honestly, it just seems like much more interesting dramedy concept than I have seen recently.

 

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Tusk

I’ve already spoken about my thoughts on this movie. It has so many talented people adding to it. I just have no idea how a movie like this is going to work. This is a risk.

 

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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson hunts a kidnapper…

I’ve gotten into this habit of understanding that Liam Neeson kicks ass. Not all of his films do, but Liam Neeson kicks ass nonetheless. In order to properly decide the merit of a Liam Neeson, look at the release date. Non-Stop came out in February. Not great. A Walk Among the Tombstones releases in September. I’m thinking a hit.

 

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Finding Fanny

Finding Fanny is a road trip movie, and a pretty generic one at that. Skip.

 

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The Equalizer

Damn, I loved watching the television series The Equalizer. That series was awesome. Denzel Washington is perfect in the role Robert McCall, an ex-spec op who wages war on the Russian mob. Antoine Fuqua knows this kind of film and it is going to rock. I’m pretty sure.

 

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Believe Me

This is the tale of a bunch of college students who fake a church group to use donation money to pay their student tuition. Man, this movie is going to piss people off. I have nothing against the subject material, but I have seen footage and am doubtful about the technical aspects. It doesn’t look very cleaned up. I’m leaning on skip.

 

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The Good Lie

No. Nope. I don’t think so. Probably not. No.

 

So there you have it. Here is a final tally.

Best Bets: Horns, The Drop, This is Where I Leave You, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Equalizer

On the Bubble: Before I Go to Sleep, Ned Rifle, The Maze Runner, Tusk, Believe Me

Likely Misses: The Identical, Mary Kom, Dolphin Tale 2, No Good Deed, Finding Fanny, The Good Lie

 

As before, these are the tools. Use them however you wish. What do you think of this month’s releases? What do you want to see most? Let me know!

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